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Gentian Pond Camp Site on a Stormy Night

Let me start out by saying that the AT through New Hampshire and Maine is tough. Some say it's the toughest section of the whole trail... Thru hikers often say that they grossly underestimate the Whites and Maine. So, yeah.. I'm heading to the border of Maine this weekend by way of the AT. Let me also say that I started hiking the AT with Isis because I wanted us to have fun and enjoy the adventure... This was an adventure all right. We started on 7/1/16 at the Centennial Trail head just off North Road and hiked down to the trail on the logging road. For 2.9 miles up to the junction with Mt. Hayes, you get a nice meandering trail before it begins to climb. I began meeting up with Thru Hikers heading south within a short distance. At the first real up section, one was coming down and stumbling. I stopped him to chat and he said he was dehydrated. I gave him some of my water to at least get him to the road. It's very dry as we have had little rain. Continuing on, the rocks start building and soon, I am finding myself on some pretty steep scrambles. It's dry right now but I do think of my return on Monday and the steepness with Isis in tow. This might be tough but I keep going. Frequent breaks and trying to conserve water as I do not know when I will get anymore. There's 3 or 4 scrambles on this section (I lost track) and all are very difficult. My pack is at 35lbs and my one saving grace was that it would be lighter on the return. It seemed to take forever to reach the junction with Mt. Hayes. I stopped to take a big deep breath before continuing on. 

Turning onto the Mahoosuc trail for the next 5.3 miles is another mix bag of scrambling some pretty steep climbs, mud, ponds, and then some decent flatter sections with my favorite bog bridges to cruise on. The clouds have been building and the temps are fluctuating on this section but we press on again. When I reached the Trident Col tent site, I briefly thought of calling it there for the day but I would have had to use my tent in the rain storm and I was hoping for the shelter so I would not have to use it. I ran into a few other Thru hikers that were taking it pretty slow as well. Everyone was agreeing that this was difficult. Everyone also agreeing that taking your time was best. This seems to be where everyones pace slows to about a mile an hour. You can't help it when you are carrying everything you need on your back and trying to get up some pretty steep trail. It feels frustrating to move so slow but you just have to push on and break when your body needs it. Isis and I negotiate Page Pond, Wocket Ledge, and finally reach Dream Lake. I now have 2miles to shelter for the night and it's 4pm.

Isis doesn't even care about the mud anymore. She is just powering through this section. I met a branch that really left it's mark on my leg... More swearing and a few more up sections but not as bad as the open scrambles. Well, except they are wet... The 2 miles to shelter is wet and muddy but you get bog bridges which help out tremendously. One more push up a side trail and you land yourself at Gentian Pond Campsite. We arrived at a little after 5pm... Not bad at 2mph BUT this section was kind. You can't expect that on other sections. There are 2 Thru Hikers already at the shelter but no one else... Yet. I asked them both if they would mind me using the shelter with Isis. As long as she doesn't snore is what I am told. So, I am good to go and not using my tent for the night. Still intent on making it to the border, we all set about our chores in a kind of silent dance around one another. It's the dance of being tired and trail worn. We are joined by another Canadian Southbounder who has a great spirit. He took a swim in the pond and was lapped by the resident beaver! He joined the silent dance until we all settled in for dinner after the rain had started. It was so very nice to sit in the shelter as the storm built and chat with the 5 Thru Hikers that were staying there. Two section hikers opted to tent in the rain. We chatted about the Whites as I am the only one who is a resident of New Hampshire and everyone agreed that they grossly underestimated them and Maine. As dinner winded down and people got ready for bed, we chatted about cravings and trails we loved and hated. It felt so good to be in this conversation. It was positive and uplifting even as we talked of altering our plans (the section hikers, myself included). Sleep was on and off due to thunder and lightning and some snoring. The rain and the cool temps were fantastic once the storm died out. I will say here that I was testing my Klymet Static V sleeping pad, new 50* sleeping bag from Field and Stream, and testing the limit of my toe socks (2 days is good!). Everything was a complete success and about the only thing I learned on my shake down was that it's my water weight... Not sure what I can do about that as I carry for Isis too. We woke up sun shining and clouds swirling and beautiful colors. A rose breasted grosbeak was also playing around in the trees. Today was a push for sure...

The plan is to press on to Carlo Col Shelter just over the Maine border. We set out under wet conditions that seemed to continue. Then the first section of scrambling up wet slabs.... Tedious at best. Dangerous at worst. I made a deal with myself and with Isis that if it got to be too much, we'd head back to the shelter. The trail in this section is over grown in places which makes me a little chilled and wet but on the other hand washed some of the dirt off me. There are also some great flat stretches. You just have to climb to get to them. I grab some water from a good flowing stream. We head up another one and I almost take a tumble. I'm starting to feel uneasy now. It begins to rain a little too. This is a 3.2 miles stretch of the AT that got really slick really fast. Steep slabs with water running down them are not safe for myself and Isis. I stood at the top of one and debated. I tried to push a little more but got a look at Mt. Successes steepness and about cried. I also gagged and almost vomited but that's only because of the effort I put forth (dry mouth). Took some water and felt better. I looked at my map and saw how close together the contour lines were and that was it... No more. This was mostly because I would be doing this trail in reverse if I was to keep going and I no longer thought that was a great plan. We doubled back and arrived back at the Gentian Pond Shelter to head down the Austin Brook Trail, which would set me up for a road walk back to my car. I'll take it.

I didn't take any pictures until I reached the road... I had my mind set on bailing and I wanted to make time I guess. But at the junction for the Peabody Brook Trail, I ran into familiar faces of Barb and Mike. Nice to chat, even if I was a space case who looked like death and my dog was a grouch. She's a one owner dog and lives to protect me. Not a fan of most anything else, I'm afraid but I love her all the same. I really just put it into autopilot to get out. I think I was just concentrated on the road walk I had ahead of me. This journey was quick coming an end but sometimes not quick enough. Isis and I walked the road for a while. A woman from the White Mountain Lodge stopped me and asked if I was a Thru Hiker lost... Nope, just a section hiker bailing on her plan... After not really understanding her intent, I just kept walking as I really didn't want to stop and chat in the first place. I had to pee in all honesty when she interrupted me. As I got closer to the car, Mike and Barb offered a ride but within the next 5 minutes, I was at my car so, no big deal. I am not sure how long the road walk was as there is no mileage on my map. Once at the car though, I load Isis in and start digging out my gear for the ride home (food, charger, zip lock wallet, and treats for Isis). I was grabbing my bag out of the trunk when up walks one of the Thru Hikers from the shelter last night. He seems tired and a little disheartened. I offer him a ride since I have to go that way to head home... At first he didn't want it but I insisted. We had a great chat on our way into town. I told him all I know of the Whites and he told me that he'd completely underestimated the trail and New Hampshire and Maine in general. He was feeling pretty discouraged. I gave him some good sections to look out for which seemed to give him hope. Added in some advise about the Presidential Range as well as other sections. We parted at Pizza Hut in town where he said he felt bad that I bailed on my plans... I thanked him but also said something that I firmly believe... I don't have to hike every inch of the AT and bailing on my plan just means that something better will happen. I have no regrets as this has prepped me for the trip that matters. My LT finish coming up in 2 weeks. He smiled and totally got it. He said that was a great way to be. I wished him well and told him to get his butt to Georgia. He said he was going to do that, which was a total change of tune from when we pulled away from the trail head. That's what it's all about folks... Helping one another feel good. Plans are always changeable on the trail. You have to be flexible and sometimes choose safety over adventure.

This little girl is my heart and soul... I never want to see her hurt. We have some down time prior to the LT to rest and prepare. I'll be getting m house in order and finalizing my pack. The next time you hear from me might well be once I return from Canada! What happens after Canada remains to be seen...

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