Sometimes when I work on my computer, be it for this blog, or for various projects for work, I work better if I venture out of the house. Today's forecast had me headed towards downtown OKC and landing in the magical area of Hudson and 8th Street....at Elemental Coffee. The weather was right, so I took my car and made an afternoon of it! I spent the time working on the next Appalachian Trail entry and hope to have it ready in the next few days.
Elemental is an excellent hang. They're self-described as a small-batch roastery and cafe. I've had several of their deli foods and have always been impressed. The twist is that I hate coffee. Always have. Every once in a while someone will nag me enough to try theirs (oh, but you'll like this)....which serves to confirm that I do not enjoy the way coffee tastes when I drink it. It tastes bad. I don't like it. I don't want any. I DO like the smell however...and I appreciate the process, as it is similar in ways to brewing beer. What I WILL tell you, is that Element has EXCELLENT coffee! I know this because my friend Justin is a connoisseur, and says they know their stuff. I trust Justin. If he told me the world was flat, I'd start strapping down my vehicles so they didn't roll off the edge. Elemental also has kombucha...which is what I order. Like all good coffee shops, they have wifi....so you're only cool there if you have a laptop. I take two just to be safe.
But seriously....the real reason I left the house....was to drive my car. I absolutely...love...driving...this...car.
1976 BMW 2002
This car came to me in June of 1999. My parents helped me buy it, with me saving money mowing yards and doing odd jobs, and them matching my contributions. I was 15 years old. I couldn't even drive it for three months until I got my permit that August. Let me tell you, this car had so many coats of wax on it that airplanes couldn't fly over our house. It was my only vehicle for many years. These days I have a Toyota Tacoma for my daily driver, and am able to get the 02 (oh-two) out when I want.
As silly as it sounds, I relate to the 02 in so many ways. It looks pretty good, but is not perfect. It's not all souped up and muscular, but rather quick and nimble. It's kind of weird, occasionally cantankerous, makes odd sounds at odd times, and has a distinct olfactory note about its person. I love it.
It's also tough. It can take abuse, work really hard, and push limits like you'd never imagine. It will bring laughter, excitement, anguish, and heartache. It takes the basics to operate and will run really hard on very little. It's a machine. I love it.
So, go visit Elemental Coffee sometime, tell me how delicious it is, and have some kombucha too.
And if you ever want to roll in the car....let me know. I don't need my arm twisted to get out and rip.
Get outside this week!
Welcome to the second installment of my 2017 Appalachian Trail hike. I'm breaking the trip down into several blog entries so if this is your first look, make sure you click back over to the first entry!
My hair sure looks clean here. But we all know that looks are deceiving.
Making my way up and across the Barren Ledges. I loved the exposure, the fog, and the evergreen lined trail. The AT presents such a diverse array of topography that you often change from one environment to another within minutes.
Approaching an old fire tower. This one was a bit rickety to climb...even for me. Don't think for a second that I didn't start to though...but it was wet from the heavy fog...and though I vehemently subscribe to one of my favorite mottos, 'Safety Third'...I knew better on this one. I'm sure my mom is happy.
The blankets of green moss are like carpet across the top of the ridge. It really muffles sound and creates a hushed environment...perfect for a quick break, a snack, and a photo pose that is CERTAIN to intrigue all you fine ladies...
Entering Fourth Mountain Bog. Often these high gaps (the valley between two peaks - sometimes also called a saddle) hold water due to the topography, resulting in thick bogs that never really dry out. Fourth Mountain Bog can be seen below...
Thankfully many bogs are maintained with bog bridges, similar to this one. The game begins though, as soon as you step onto the first log. They're usually slick (this one happened to be dry) and occasionally they are floating...which means once they're weighted....they sink. That's like....science or physics or something. When they SINK...you foot (that's anatomy) goes into the slop. Then you yell profanity into the lush forest to release your anger (that, friends...is psychology....I think...). Anyhow, tread lightly.
Surprise! Just past Fourth Mountain Bog is Fourth Mountain. Some aspects of the Appalachian Trail are perfectly simpleton. Nice little view over the trees and into the fog.
Squeezed in tightly between the roots.
A peek inside the castle. I'm not sure what's up with that weird eye....maybe I was delirious from bog fumes or something. A little shop talk - my sleeping bag is a Marmot, is synthetic (insulates when wet), and is rated at 45 degrees. The model name escapes me, but I've had it a number of years, so it likely is called something else now (pretty common in the outdoor gear industry). It is light and packs very small. My sleeping pad (yellow) is the very first model of the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir series. I picked it up years ago when they first landed on the market and I've never regretted spending that money. It sounds like a bag of Fritos anytime you twitch, sneeze, roll over, sneeze, fart, or make any movement beyond blinking...but I sleep great on it, it packs small, and I can inflate it without hyperventilating. Therm-A-Rest has since released many different versions, but I have no reason to replace this one.
Have you driven a ford lately?
Fortunately it was raining....so I managed to not only get my feet wet, but to get my head wet too.
Looking downstream....from in the stream.
Not super deep....but water knows no boundaries.
Narrowing the gap to Katahdin! 83.9 miles remaining. I thought this old sign was really cool too! I'm a little surprised it hadn't been replaced already. The MATC is pretty on top of things regarding their sign maintenance along the trail.
The rain let up...and then...nothing really needs to be said.
Up on Gulf Hagas. It is easy to read elevation signs in Maine (and really the bulk of the AT) and think that because they're not 10,000 foot mountains, that they're not 'mountains.' I can assure you, when you're on foot, that elevation number becomes a lot more real.
Free snacks up on top! I only ate three.
Ferns appear all along the trail from Georgia to Maine and never disappoint.
Summit of Hay Mountain. Haaaayyyyy!!!!
Reached the top of White Cap Mountain! The following shots are some views from the summit...
But the best is the one below...
Yep....that's the one. Mt. Katahdin. The northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Baxter Peak as it is sometimes referred. The end of the journey. Well...the end of the physical journey. I sat on top of White Cap for a time....because now it was undoubtedly real. Seventeen years chasing a name on a sign, of being wet and tired, of hurting so good that it draws a sly grin, of flights, shuttles, and hostels, of hunger, of filth, of joy and hurt, of thankfulness for strong feet and able body, but most importantly...of always ALWAYS traveling along a linear path without looking back, without fear or regret, and without self-doubt....in the woods....and in life.
Thanks for reading, supporting, believing, or whatever else you've done. You are important to me.
Check back for more soon!
2017 marked the final leg of my 17 year section hike of the Appalachian Trail. It was very surreal to step into the woods for the last 'first step' from the trailhead just outside Monson. I had to finish out the trail in Maine, making my way through the famed Hundred Mile Wilderness, and up to the summit of the grandaddy...Mt. Katahdin.
The trip began, of course, with a buffet of airline tickets. OKC to Newark, NJ for a five hour (yes..five) layover.
This was actually by design, as the only other option was a layover of less than an hour. I generally avoid layovers that short, even when not flying to the trail. When flying to hike, my backpack, which is checked luggage, MUST arrive. This causes me more concern than anything because no pack equals no hike. I couldn't afford, nor find, all of the gear necessary to salvage the trip. Nose pressed against the terminal window, I'm always eager to see it gliding up the conveyor into an open hatch of the next plane. I saw it this year, as I often do, which brought great relief...especially when you're in Newark for five hours...with little to do but think about your pack not joining you in Maine.
After a delay in New Jersey (five hours magically became 6 1/2!) I arrived in Bangor, ME and caught my shuttle to Monson, an hour and a half north, and the launching point for this year.
I spent Wednesday night in the charming Lakeshore House in Monson. After breakfast next door at Pete's, the folks from Lakeshore shuttled me the three miles or so up to the trail crossing.
The trailhead on the highway north of Monson. It was bittersweet to take the last 'start' picture.
I quickly entered the famed Hundred Mile Wilderness. Contrary to popular hiker lore, there are some roads (though infrequent) through the Hundred. There are just no paved roads, and the gravel logging roads that do intersect on occasion are not heavily traveled. I didn't see any vehicles in motion through the entire wilderness, only a couple parked (likely local day-hikers). It's definitely remote!
That diarrhea-streak through middle of the photo....is the trail in the Hundred Mile Wilderness.
And here's another helping of slop in case your feet are too dry or clean.
Maine has many lakes and ponds, each seemingly more picturesque than the last.
Little Wilson Falls - these continued down into a fantastic canyon of huge rock slabs. The photos do little justice....and the roar was incredible!
Ford number one for the day. Four more would follow before it was time to camp for the night.
After crossing. Four of the day's crossings were about mid-thigh like this one. One was only about mid shin, but much wider. This is why I don't hike in Gore-Tex shoes. The water WILL eventually be inside your shoes...and then it stays. Even without, my shoes were wet for about three days before I got into enough dry trail and no rain to dry them out. It's all part of the grand process.
All of that moisture leads to vibrant shades of green though!
Looking back from above.
No option for rock-hopping here. Another wet crossing in the Hundred!
Embracing the comfort of constantly wet feet.
My first camp of this trip. I've been so pleased with this tent. It's a Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 and it has really served me well. I've had it for a few years now and am still impressed every time I climb in!
These are black fly bites. They bleed...a lot. And you usually don't feel the bite....you just find the blood. Then you think, "Well, at least it doesn't hurt." Then, about a day later, you have an itchy bump that you're tempted to lop off with a pocket knife. It's good I don't hike with a gun (I don't actually do anything with one...) because I'd constantly fire at those little suckers.
This is a typical AT shelter (or lean-to as they're referred in the northern sections of the trail). I really don't sleep in them much anymore because the bugs tend to be so bad. I also have really come to like my little cocoon of privacy. I like to read and write fairly late into the evening, past hiker midnight (about 9:00pm), so wearing a headlamp is akin to putting your face up to the light on your porch....at night...in the summer. I opt for my tent 99% of the time.
I'll leave you there for now....dreaming of bugs, wet feet, and hiker funk. The next installment will hit sooner rather than later so stay tuned!