Wet, Muddy Rocks

28 Jul

Since we left Rumford after Emily’s recovery we have had a challenging, but wonderful 4 days. Wednesday we took a taxi back to East B Hill Road to pick up the trail where we left off from Andover. We did 8 miles to Baldplate Lean-To, where there were tons of people going North, South and all directions in between. We were able to meet up with Green Thumb, Tush, and AO who we hadn’t seen in awhile and enjoyed catching up.
Thursday we got up at 5:30am to get an earlier start for what we knew would be a big day.

We had some oatmeal, dried fruit and coffee and then headed off. Two huge barriers loomed in front of us- the Mahoosuc Arm and the Mahoosuc Notch. The Arm is a mile straight down on slick rock slabs. The Notch is known as the “toughest mile on the trail”- an endless boulder field that requires a mix of climbing, caving and navigating skills. We had been anticipating both for a long time and kept our fingers crossed for a sunny day. Unfortunately it started to rain early in the day and continued off and on all day. Oof. So we started off with a 3,000 foot climb up to Old Speck and then stopped for lunch at Speck Pond Shelter to have some lunch before we faced the Arm. Considering the rain, Emily’s knee issues, and her new fear of steep downhills we made it down the Arm relatively unscathed. However, when we got to the bottom of the Arm the Notch awaited us. At this point it was 4:30pm, we had hiked over 9 miles already and were exhausted. We had to decide- do we go for it or camp before the notch and do it in the morning?
For better or worse we went for it. It was a brutal 2+ hours of climbing up boulders, taking off our packs to crawl through caves, and finding tiny finger holds to hold on to as we crossed crevasses our mothers do not want to know about. The notch seemed to go on forever, but we found out the white blazes did not. At one point, 1.5 hours in, we were lost. The only blazes we could find went back to the north. It was getting late and dark and all three of us (especially Bear) were getting worried. After 30 minutes of near panic we found our way again and got out of the notch at 7pm. We did a quick map check at that point and realized we now faced another 1,000foot climb in 1 mile and then a 0.5mile descent to Full Goose Shelter. Neither of us were happy but we bucked up and charged up the hill and got to the shelter a little after 8pm. The site was packed with people, but there were a couple spaces left in the Shelter and the people were nice enough to make room for us two, soaked, smelly, tired hikers. We cooked up some Mac and cheese (comfort food) and were fast asleep.
The next morning started slowly after the exhausting previous day. We headed out around 9am after meeting some great hikers from Hanover who gave us their information for when we get that far south. Emily and I were both giddy at the possibility of finally finishing Maine. We had just 5 miles left and hoped to knock them out fast. Ha! It took us over 3.5 hours to do just 5 miles and they were brutal. Intense climbs, ladders in the rocks, rebar hand holds for safety and more boulder fields. As our friend Mike Carr said- “Maine went out like a lion”. It did help make the border crossing that much sweeter though! We linked arms and crossed the state line together before breaking into a New Hampshire dance we made up on the spot. This was followed by a long photo shoot of us with the state line sign. It felt like a huge accomplishment- 281 miles, hard fought! We then finished the day up at Gentian Pond Shelter which had a beautiful mountain view out the front.

Today we woke up early in an effort to get to town in time to do all our errands before tomorrow. We hiked about 12 miles into town and were able to really pick up the pace a bit. We got in around 2pm and got set up at a motel in Gorham, NH after being rejected by the hostels because of Bear. Apparently New Hampshire requires special licensing for dogs in hostels so we are out of luck. We went to the post office and were able to finally get our “bounce box” which had been lost! We were excited to have all our luxuries, medications, and clean clothes. However before we could get our showers we prioritized our hiker meal- piles of fried food, salads and brownie sundaes. Delicious! On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a local bike shop and were able to rent bikes for the night to get us around town. Look below for pics of Emily biking around town with a giant box behind her.

Tonight we will be food shopping and showering and then tomorrow we will head into the White Moutains. There is a big debate on which is the hardest portion of the trail- Maine or the Whites. Soon we will be able to weigh in!
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