Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pati-O's Pati-Wagon and Little Dipper Meets Lil' Dipper--The Face Off!

Trail names are very useful. Their bizarreness makes them unique (For example I met Uncle Bivy Sac, Spicoli, Limbo, Sippy Cup, and Brave Little Toaster). And their meaning can be more fitting than a person's given name (There may be 100+ Robs on the trail, but only one is lost....Lost Rob).

So I, Little Dipper, didn't expect to be told, "Hey, there's another one of you heading north!"  Apparently another hiker had acquired a similar name and we were heading straight toward each other.

The guys thought we should battle.  I had my reservations.  I mean, what if she were...nice?

Northbounder after northbounder, I would introduce myself and they would tell me of my doppelganger.  I was getting close.  I even heard of a "Big Dipper" heading north, and eventually met him too.  The man was sizable and had earned his name from his love of food and not from the stars.

One average afternoon, Gooch and I were hiking together near the Seth Warren Shelter when we came upon an average road.  We saw that Bacon had stopped and dropped his pack and was now enjoying a drink with two other hikers out of the back of a man's pick-up truck. The host of this celebration called himself "Pati-O" and his car was appropriately called the "Pati-Wagon."  He had stopped by the road hoping to catch a specific hiker, but got us instead and decided that was enough of a reason for a small party.

Gooch and I approached the bunch and Bacon came up to us excitedly.  "Hey, Little Dipper, meet Lil' Dipper!" and he motioned to the other female hiker.  I was delighted and she seemed plenty nice.  We lowered our swords.  We quickly began sharing stories over drinks.  Her real name was Loretta, and she had acquired the similar name (hers was Lil' Dipper, and mine was Little Dipper) in a very different way.  She and Early Bear (the other hiker there) had been enjoying themselves and taking their time heading north, trying to stretch the trail out as long as it would go.  This same effort would be made by me as I approached my end of the trail months later.

That night, Pati-O made us bacon-cheddar dogs, barbecued ribs, trail-bombs (akin to Irish Car Bombs) and chocolate donuts.  He fed us well, and answered almost any request. He even had both milk options: chocolate and vitamin D!  He proved to be a man of amazing presence and knowledge.  Much of the night we listened to him tell us stories about Elvis and Frank Sinatra all while he filled the woods with music from these greats.  He told us about JFK, and John Denver.  He quizzed us.  He informed us.  Lil' Dipper taught me how to "kick ball change" and Early Bear taught me how to swing.  We all celebrated for no other reason than to celebrate long past hiker midnight.

So, when the Dippers of the world collide, there is no cause to worry.  Only cause to celebrate.

Pati-O, there's no other name like yours.  Please, if you ever read this, contact me.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gooch and Bacon: Not Just a Breakfast Food

Gooch and Bacon were celebrities to me. And Lost Rob, their old hiking partner, had been raving about them every day for the last couple of weeks. It was always “Gooch this...” and “Bacon that...," "They’re so wonderful, blah, blah, blah." And really, he had to be right.

Lost Rob had dislocated his finger in one crazy and gory episode back near the 100-mile wilderness. Gooch tried to phone for help (a hard task in Maine, unless you climb a couple 1000 feet), and Bacon helped Rob to the highway carrying the weight of 2, so that Gooch could do all that running. Eventually they got Rob to the hospital. He ended up taking about 4 days off, and then got back on the trail. In the meantime, Gooch and Bacon had continued on south, believing that their friend had gone home and would finish the trail next year. Rob had been trying to catch them ever since.

I wanted to meet the men that had inspired this heroic tale. They had to be amazing. I would read their entries in the registers religiously and would ponder what they looked like. I even felt a little like the heroin in the movie “Southbounders.” And when I lost my hiking group in Vermont and had no idea how far they were behind me, I made it a goal to catch these boys.

It took me 2, maybe 3 days to catch them. I was doing big miles for the first time, driven by pure curiosity. The night before I met them I stayed at Lula Tye Shelter and they stayed at Big Branch Shelter. I was only 3 miles from them and seriously resisting a night hike.

Now, before I reveal the completely awkward display I made of myself when I met these two gentlemen, I want you to understand what its like for a thru-hiker to meet another thru-hiker ahead of them. The one behind has been reading about the one ahead for weeks, maybe months. You can start crushing on people just through what they say in those registers. You can also grow to dislike them. Either way, you want to meet them dearly, even though part of you feels like you know them already. When you meet them, its like meeting a movie star. You’re their biggest fan, and they have no clue who you are.

So the next day, I got up early without breakfast, flew through those 3 miles, and rolled into their camp before they were even out of bed. When I saw them, I was star-struck and speechless. But recovered quickly and soon I was bonkers, excited. I remember my arms tightened and I clapped my hands as a penguin might. Then, I made my introduction. Breathing perhaps twice, I'm sure I was nothing but impressive with my stream of consciousness speed. I told them of Rob, of myself, of my journey to catch them and of how long I had waited for this very moment.

Gooch was still in his sleeping bag with a groggy look. Embarrassed, I bit my lip and thought, “Daaaang." Then I left almost as quickly as I came, and hoped they wouldn’t decide to become northbounders.

I’m really glad that I didn’t touch them or ask for an autograph.

But, the damage couldn’t have been all that bad, since they made good time meeting me at Baker Peak. They revealed the secret of who was Gooch and who was Bacon, we talked about Rob, the others I had been hiking with, when I started, how many miles we averaged, our projected Springer date. The typical. They asked most of the questions. I already knew more about them than I cared to admit.

I did tell them that I was going to sleep on the top of Bromley Mtn that night. There isn’t an AT shelter up there, but there is a ski hut that’s open and a really great view from the observation tower. It was sure to be loads of fun...if they came along.

They told me they were going at least 3 miles beyond Bromley, into town to resupply and hike out.

Did I mention the excellent view ontop of Bromley?

I was really hoping they’d change their mind. I wanted to get to know them, and their plan meant that they'd get ahead of me again. It had taken 3 weeks worth of gaining to meet them at Big Branch Shelter that morning and I didn't know how long it would be until I saw them again this time. But I wasn’t going to change my plans.

I met up with them periodically throughout the day, and then Gooch and I finished it out together. That has always been my favorite way to get to know a person—over a walk.

When we climbed Bromley Peak I wasn’t expecting to see Bacon. I thought he’d be halfway down the mountain. But there he was, waiting with Six String, another thru hiker I had been dying to meet. They had decided to spend the night there with me. I was thrilled.

The sky was fairly clear, but had enough clouds to make for an interesting and beautiful sunset. I unrolled my gear on the deck--determined to sleep under the stars. The guys had put their stuff inside the hut below, where it was warmer and rain wasn’t a threat, but I hoped they’d join me.

And soon enough, Gooch and Bacon were up in the tower with their bags. When it became dark, I pointed out the constellations I knew, and we chatted until we grew tired. I, like really cool. Before we went to sleep one of them said, “I’m glad we met you Little Dipper.” And the other agreed. I loved that.

I hadn’t gotten to know Bacon that day, I’m sure I only scratch the surface of what it means to know Gooch, and I don’t think our conversations were what one might consider “deep.” But, in a day I trusted them completely, felt like I knew them and they knew me, and was certain that I’d miss them tomorrow. I felt wanted. That’s how most friendships go on the trail. You have your friends, your own strength, and that’s it. Its kindergarten friendship simple. :)

Of course, that isn't the end to the Dipper, Gooch and Bacon saga, but that's how it began. And, its not necessasarily a good story, but its one of the first I think of when someone says, "tell me about your favorite day on the trail."
Thanks guys.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Zack visits the Trail

Hello, Friends!

It is I, Zack Ferraro, your merry zephyr. I zip by so quick and all you feel is a quick passing of gas. That is not exactly what I mean. What I really mean is that I am in and out so fast you hardly knew I was there. I don't think that is what I really mean either. Man, this writing for Karrie's blog is hard. NOT AS HARD AS -- the trail!

After only two days of what I've come to learn is an easy section, I can hardly move. I think my body was built for this kind of activity, but I've neglected it so much that now that it got a chance to shine, it was like turning on a 50 Amp light with no time to warm up. I blew my filament. Shake me! I'm sure you'll hear something rattle.

Anyway, enough whining from me. You didn't come here to read about some slow poke whining his face off. You came to read about the wonderful Karrie! And boy, she has her trail legs on now. We got to the first shelter and she wanted to go for a walk. A WALK! This woman is cut from granite -- nay, diamond. She is so hardcore, she makes compressed buckminsterfullerene nanorods look softer than a down blanket.

I joined up with her in the wonderful Hanover, NH and after two days and about 20 miles of hiking, I left her in South Pomfret, VT.

Somewhere in the middle, we came across this sweet chair that someone had lugged all the way up the hillside. It had a wonderful view but sitting and relaxing were high on my priority (she asked me not to post this picture, but we can all agree she looks great and she shouldn't remove this picture when she gets to a computer).

Up on the hills, some raspberries were coming into their own. They were practically screaming, "Please eat me and spread my seeds all around!" Oh, I ate you all right, Mr. and Mrs. raspberries. After you drink all your water, little tiny bits of fruit are so delicious. I kind of wish I had pictures of them, but I eated them faster than the shutter speed. The second day we (Karrie, Travis, Adam, Tom, Rob and myself) stopped at this deli in West Hartford, VT. It is right off the trail and it is tasty. They tole me that it was the tastiest food they had since they started. It was good, so if you're ever in West Hartford, VT, check it out, it is literally on the trail (even though the trail is road at that point).

Then we camped at this barn in South Pomfret, VT called Cloudland Farm. They had good ice-cream and great soda. They let us stay in their barn, and even had a cot for Karrie! I figured since I was chickening out at that point and she still had 1700 more miles to go, she could have the cot (I'm such a nice guy, I know). After a rousing discussion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness it was bed time, it grew dark and my time w/ Karrie drew to a close. She continues off to Killington, VT where the trail cuts south again. I imagine she'll be in Massachusetts by the beginning of next week, and my little state only takes a couple of days to walk through, especially at her lightning fast speed. If you live in New England, you gotta catch her fast! zoomzoomzoom!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Mt. Washington

The climb up Mt. Madison to the Presidential Range was a hard one. We had to hiked up over 3,300 vertical feet with several false peaks--5, if I recall correctly. The wind was fierce, liable to sweep you off the mountain side. We leaned so hard into it that on occasion when it would stop we would have to quickly brace ourselves to prevent a blunt rock to the head. It was hard to hear each other and it was hard to see the blazes. But it was fun, more than anything else.

Luckily, the day Curse, Yeti and I climbed Madison, we met up with Happy Feet and Navajo, a hiking duo of very good humor. I had been wanting to get to know them and they were going just my speed, so I latched onto them.

I firmly believe that life is always that much more fun when you can turn it into a sick joke. And that’s what we did much of the afternoon.

In an excerpt from my journal:
Monday 07.06.09
...many raunchy comments were made this afternoon as we summited Mt. Madison. Happy Feet noted what “a hard (and long) f***, it was.” Navajo supposed that due to the crazy wind speed “it wasn’t consensual.” Upon summiting Madison, I declared: “I just mounted Madison, and I’d do it again.” To which Happy Feet added, “He’s trying to buck me off. I think he’d prefer to be on top.” Navajo shrugs his shoulders: “He likes to blow. Such a giver!”

And those are just a few.

The morning I summited Washington (teehee), I first summited Adams, and then crossed the Cog rail without mooning it. It's an old thru-hiker tradition, perhaps, but now its one that can get you arrested. I waved, disappointed. I had never mooned anyone before. I kind of wanted to.

I took my time climbing. It wasn’t hard, but the trail was loaded with people and I had to have a conversation with all of them. Then, around noon, I found myself standing in a line, waiting my turn to touch the Mt. Washington summit sign. Everyone else in the line had on flip flops, visors, huge cameras, and 1990s fashion. They smelled nice. And understandably, as my family had done when I was young, these families had driven up to the top of Mt. Washington for the view, to say they did it and to put that bumper sticker on the back of their car, “This car climbed Mt. Washington.” I really want to see one that says, “You won’t believe what I did in this car while it climbed Mt. Washington.” But I never have.

People were eager to get a picture by the sign, and I found some people “budging”, in front of me. I wasn’t upset. But I didn’t want to wait any longer. So, before the next set of people went up, I tapped one of them on the shoulder and said,
“Hi, I’m sorry I don’t need a picture, but I would like to touch the sign really quickly, if that’s alright.”
The woman looked me over. “You climbed all the way up here?”
“Yes m’am.” I answered
“Oh sweetie. Where did you start?”
“Um, Maine, actually.”
“Maine? Oh my...” She started waving her hand. “You go right on ahead and touch that sign. Hey everybody! This young lady just hiked here all the way here from Maine!” I had the crowd's attention as I approached the sign. I gave it a tap and made a triumphant pose. The crowd burst into applause for me. It was the very best way to summit. I then made my way through the crowd, shaking hands, and getting pats on the backs from complete strangers.
Then a man yelled to me, “Hey little lady, where are ya going?” He and the crowd waited for reply.
“Georgia.” I replied. “I’m going to Georgia.”
“Best of luck to ya.”
The crowd smiled, and I heard a couple people say, “well, I'll be.”

Yeah, I’m going to Georgia. This is for real.