AT RunVenture Project Segment No. 14 Part 2
AT Segment #14 July 16-31, 2022 Pomfret Rd- Katahdin, ME miles 1733.5- 2194.1
We took off early, as usual and climbed and climbed until we officially entered the Mahoosucs. A gorgeous sunrise arrived as we hit the 1900 mile marker together. We descended and ascended and Celia was moving well, until she wasn’t. She was nauseated pretty early on and her stomach was very unhappy. By the time we’d climbed to Wocket Ledge we’d dropped to 1.2 mph pace and Celia was running off trail every few minutes. Whether it was the Ghee, the exhaustion, or her other GI health issues… Celia was losing calories and fluid. She looked exhausted. Every time I asked her though, she was determined to continue.
We climbed Mount Success to find no view. We continued on to the NH- ME state line, that was a great feeling! 13 states done, 1 more to go. We continued across rock ledges to the Goose Eye mountains. These had awesome views, fun climbs and fun descents. Descending here, Celia confirmed she still wanted to stick to the plan and go through Mahoosuc Notch.
We climbed Fulling Mill Mtn and arrived at the Notch. This is supposed to be the hardest 0.9 miles of the trail. It was a giant boulder playground. It was hardly a challenge to me, it seemed easier than most everything we’d done in the prior 4 days. Celia likely would not agree. I waited for her every quarter mile. At the halfway point we stopped so she could eat and we both enjoyed some ice cold clear water. The Notch was cool and even had some snow left in some of the deeper cavernous areas.
After the notch, we ascended Mahoosuc Arm. It was long, so long, and so steep. It took a lot of effort to get to the top. There I rested with two other hikers and waited for Celia. By now, her stomach was better and she was holding calories but there was no way to account for loss. She was still going strong, but surprised by how hard the climb was. I wish that was all for the day but we still had to ascend Old Speck.
We climbed more and then the mountain turned back into boulders and took us up to 4170’ at the peak and a breathtaking sunset. I snapped a photo of us before we descended. Celia was exhausted. I was tired, it was a hard long day, but I had no complaints. My Chinese food had buffered my caloric deficiencies.
All we had left was the descent but moving a bit under 2mph, that took us well into darkness. After 17.5 hrs we came out at the parking lot in Grafton Notch and met Warren and “Orca”, the Van.
We hustled through our self care and Celia planned to sleep outside, she felt she might sleep better. I stayed in the van with doors propped for a cool breeze.
The next morning we had essentially 3 x 10ish mile segments, so we would see Warren 10 miles in, 20 miles and at the end of the day at 34 miles. Celia made it clear she did not know what she was going to do, whether she’d make it that day or stop for a Nero (nearly zero mile day).
We had chatted about it for months and revisited the plan that morning. If she stopped, I was to keep going. This final segment would be the exception to our prior “togetherness.” We invested so much that we agreed the “injured” or “unwell” one would crew the other. I was worried though, that we’d be stuck facing that decision midday.
I hiked my own pace that morning knowing it was another long, hard day. With 267 miles to go, I climbed hard. Due to our late arrival the prior night we opted for a 6am start. I personally do not like starting late so I wanted to cover ground before it got too hot. I climbed Baldpate West and East and took in the views while enjoying the smooth rock surface.
I immediately felt the sun beating down on my shoulders and face across these peaks. I made sure to stay on top of my hydration and move smoothly so as to not overheat or spend too much extra time in the direct sun. I felt my feet that morning, the pain started on the solid rock surfaces but I pushed through.
After the first road crossing I moved swiftly, I was feeling well enough but tired, hot and worried about Celia. I continued on. I ascended Wyman Mountain and descended. Then it was time for Moody Mountain. Warren told me, it would make me “moody” ha! It was a tough climb, but somewhere in here I ran into “Zippy” and we synced paces.
The sun beat down, the trail seemingly rolled upwards and around rocks for a long time before we reached the top and then descended to the next road crossing where I immediately saw Celia. She looked tired, slightly sad but smiling of course. She told me she stopped at mile 10 and would reevaluate after she rested, but for now, she was done. I was already 10 miles past her so it left me know room to question my next move.
I packed up and left out with “Zippy” for the last 14 miles of the day. I don’t recall much from this afternoon. I was focused on my conversation with “Zippy” and pushed through what felt like the hardest day so far. We climbed Old Blue Mtn and Bemis Mtn. I was so hot, my feet throbbed, my emotions waxed and waned but I continued onward pushing my pace but remaining at a hike. We did get to enjoy fresh blueberries on top of the mountains and that was pretty great! The day went on for so long before a very steep climb to the parking lot.
I was struggling but didn’t let it show too much, I don’t think. I ate two cheeseburgers Celia had gotten for me and got myself prepared for the next day. I’d be alone the next day, which terrified me, but I had no other options. Celia did not intend to start with me.
We slept at an overlook with this ridiculously gorgeous view. I slept some that night for the first time in quite a few nights. The next morning I got up and kept my routine from the prior 8 days. Celia continued to sleep and I ignored my internal fears and anxieties about starting alone.
I took off just before 5am knowing I had a flatter and easier 13 miles to begin the day. I moved smoothly and made fantastic time. I ran the majority of the section and popped out to ME Route 4 before 9am. The next 20 something miles would take me over the Saddleback range. I was ready, I thought. I packed my pack and took off.
I ascended Saddleback mountain with ease and had grown to love the time above tree line so I enjoyed the rocky trail and continued on to the Horn and then after a long descent I climbed up Saddleback Junior and down the other side. I honestly don’t recall any specifics of this day after this point. The map and my photos let me know I climbed Lone Mtn, Spaulding Mountain and continued past Sugarloaf Mountain peak. I was feeling wrecked. I was hot, tired and my feet were on fire. I wanted to cry but I was working too hard.
Finally, I sat on a rock, I cried and with 1 bar of cell service and called my Mother. I was hoping to talk to my Dad, who had seemed more interested in my AT run, but my Mom answered. I asked her how she was and she immediately began to vent about being hot and tired. I laughed a bit and said, “Me too.” I cried for a moment as I shared my location, my efforts and my current state of emotional lability. She did her best to be supportive and we hung up soon after as I lost service within a few steps after leaving my “chair” rock. I continued descending down a very steep trail, boulders, loose rocks, the works.
I stopped at the Carrabassett River and sat in the cool water and let my feet soak freely. The pain was intense. Then I replaced just my shoes on my throbbing feet and carried my socks the remaining half mile to Caribou Valley Road.
I ripped my shoes off as soon as I stopped. My feet hurt so much. I ate and cared for myself but I was in pain. I was becoming afraid of the following miles to come. I had only one more mountain range before I was out of the “toughest 227 miles of the AT” and I knew I would be okay after that. I was really hurting and really afraid of hurting more. Celia was no longer experiencing the trail with me and so I also felt very alone. She was an amazing supporter but the aloneness of my pain was deep.
The next morning my motivation was weak. I did not feel excited to get moving, but I went through the motions, oatmeal, greens drink, coffee, packing up, shoes and then I had to go. I had to go hike alone in the dark up another very steep mountain which would only be the first of five more that day. Luckily, I actually felt surprisingly well once I got moving.
I climbed South and North Crocker Mountains and passed the 2000 mile marker. That felt substantial. I only had 194 more miles to go, that almost seemed doable. The morning had been gray thus far but no actual rain fell on me, other than what the wind and trees carried. I reached ME Route 27 and I was in good spirits. I grabbed what I needed and packed up, it would be a long section ahead through the Bigelows.
I climbed for a long time, mentally tired of pushing and trying to be cautious with my feet. They never felt too terrible until later in the day but I still wanted to avoid trips, stubs and bangs at all costs. I remember very little of the Bigelows in story form. I recall vast green moss against the gray day. I climbed and descended for hours. The highlight was the caretaker sitting in a shelter playing his guitar. I stopped and chatted with him about my 7 year old coming to Katahdin and the best hikes for him. It was a nice chat and I was more excited than ever that my husband and oldest child would be joining me to finish the AT.
Eventually those big mountains ended. I was exhausted, and the sun was hot again by early afternoon. I met Warren and Celia and East Flagstaff Rd and allowed myself to collapse onto a sleeping pad Celia had outside the van. “Calories! I need to eat, a lot and real food,” I said as I slurped down a Ginger Ale. I then ate 2 packets of salmon on potato rolls with lots of mustard. I immediately began to come back to life. I had a whole second half of the day to go. I got myself up and ready, but surely didn’t rush. Emotionally I needed to take my time here.
When I felt ready I took off running a 3 mile section. I brought nothing- no pack, no extra weight and ran well. I also got attacked by horse flies. I arrived to Warren and Celia in less than an hour and grabbed my pack and Celia sprayed me down with bug spray. I took off quickly, excited by being able to move more quickly on this surprisingly flat terrain (still full of roots and rocks).
I swatted horse flies, and was drenched by a 10 minute Thunderstorm but held onto a 3mph pace for the rest of the day. I stopped and swam in a lake. It was beautiful and felt good, except the rocky bottom on my macerated feet which were now approaching a serious level of pain, felt like I was walking on glass. I looked for blood as I literally felt like I had been sliced by the rocks but there was nothing. I got my socks and shoes back on my feet and continued on.
I was loving the trail but my feet again became a distraction. They felt so intense, 8/10 sharp pain. In hindsight and after some research I believe the symptoms to be that of Trench foot. My feet were trapped even in the best socks and breathable shoes, they were suffocating, and my nerves were screaming. I eventually made it to Otter Pond Rd and collapsed and ripped my shoes off again, gasping, as I had the night before. Celia said something about doing extra miles and in my mind I was screaming profanities, outwardly I said, “Nope, nope, nope, not today.”
I was feeling desperate, pain does that to you. I cried again that night, terrified of how much more pain I would feel in the remaining few days. I applied my CBD cream out of desperation and massaged my feet.
To Be Continued...