July 26, 2013
Today’s mileage: 9.5
Total mileage: 1914.1
It took us almost 10 hours to hike 9.5 miles. Normally, we hike about 2.5 to 3 miles per hour. Not today. Welcome to Maine!
We slept in until 7:30 since we were tired from the past few days. We started the day off with a climb up Mt. Carlo. From there, we hiked the three peaks of Goose Eye. This was a tough section with several steep ascents and hand-over-hand climbing. Ladders and wooden staircases were involved as well. On top of one of the peaks, I managed to slip off a boardwalk and land in knee-deep mud. My shoe was soaked and my leg was covered in mud. We took things slow today because not only was the terrain difficult, but it was wet. It rained just enough today to make most of the rocks wet. The slickness slows us down even more because of the increased danger of falling. On the easiest part of the day, a small bit of trail that was fairly flat and less dangerous, Miles slipped on a rock and took off an entire layer of skin on his kneecap. It looked pretty bad when we stopped at the shelter, bright red blood streaking down his leg. He cleaned it up as best he could, and after eating some food, we headed on to Mahoosuc Notch.
Mahoosuc Notch is considered either the most fun or the most difficult mile of the AT. I consider it both. For 1.2 miles, we climbed up and over a field of boulders, some slick and others questionable. It took us about two hours to get through the section. We put our poles away and took full advantage of our hands to hoist ourselves up boulders and hang on to trees as we jumped down to the ground. We went through caves, jumped over deep crevasses, and slid down slick granite rock faces. It was a challenge and my wrists hurt a lot near the end, but it was also exciting. I had to take my pack off a few times to get through some parts and I had to be sure of every step. One misstep and you may have a bad fall that could put you in a deep hole still full of winter’s ice. The air was cool in the notch and some rocks never dried out. There are usually multiple ways to traverse the notch, and most of them pose some type of risk. There was a tall rock slab without any great footholds. As I tried to climb up, my foot slipped off the small outlet and I slid about three feet to the ground landing on my Achilles, which was already sore from the steep hiking of yesterday. I was okay, but it was a close call. Thankfully, we made it out alive with no injuries.
The hard part wasn’t over yet. We still had a steep climb up Mahoosuc Arm up steep rock slabs that were soaked with water. We didn’t fall, but we came close a few times. Not only is this type of hiking physically exhausting, but mentally exhausting. You can’t really think of much else but where you’re going to take your next step.
We’re staying at the shelter tonight with Hiccup and Forge and two weekend hikers. One of them is snoring. It made me remember why we don’t stay in shelters anymore. As we hiked by Speck Pond, the fog added a mystical quality to it. It looked more like the ocean than a pond.
Another tough day ahead tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes though. There are three people snoring now in this shelter. One of them is right next to me and I think you all know who that might be.