The Unposted Blogs – after the fact

Some of the stories I didn’t want to share at the time it happened :

Murder on the Trail

We heard rumours about a hiker going by the trail name of Sovereign who has been behaving strangely, including walking around with a machete. He had a guitar and pit bull terrier with him. I have a vague recollection of seeing him heading in the opposite direction to NOBO on the first stop we made at a shelter to make coffee, but my memory of those first days are hazy.

On the day we were Zeroing in Damascus (early May) news broke that a part of the trail (about 3 or 4 days ahead of where we were, if I recall correctly) had been closed for a criminal investigation which was under way in the area.

Soon the full story became known. Sovereign has attacked a group of hikers at their tenting spot in the early hours of the morning. Two ran and got away, one man was killed and one girl got badly cut up, but was saved as she played dead and Sovereign left.

He was found and arrested very quickly. We saw the surviving girl at a hostel when we stopped by for a coolie (what other reason could there be!!) and she came round to thank the hostel owner for letting her friends use the owner’s car to visit her in hospital.

Hikers were naturally upset and sad, but nobody I know of left the trail after this.

Sovereign was sent for observation and committed to an asylum – found to be not mentally fit to stand trial.

Snakes

Mathilda gave us a crash course in snakes – there are 3 venomous types to stay away from: rattle snakes, copper mouths and cotton mouths.

In Virginia we started seeing a lot of snakes. Very common was the Black Racer, not a threat to us but still quite a shock when it suddenly slither across the trail in front of you; they can be quite long.

One day I saw something moving in a tree and got the fright of my life when I saw this biggie (which I found out later to be an innocent Rat Snake)

We saw all three of the venomous types, I have photos but no point of freaking everybody out šŸ˜€.

Was it a Bear or was it a Deer?

Occasionally notices are being put up warning hikers to avoid camping in an area because of an aggressive bear being active in the area. The night before we walked into Fort Montgommery we tented at one of these shelters. You may wonder why we stayed there given the warning. We already had a long and tough day in 30 plus degree temperatures and my feet were at their worst. We arrived at the shelter after 7pm. We really COULDN’T walk on any further. Besides, we don’t know the size of a bear’s territory: would 1km further make a difference? Or would we need to walk on 3 or 5km to be out of his territory? The area also didn’t have many spots suitable for stealth camping.

Staying there was our only option. There were 3 people sleeping in the shelter and 2 tenting above the shelter, we were tenting alone a bit lower, 150m below the shelter.

We set up camp quite far from where a bear trap was set up, but Trevor later pointed out a motion detector camera on one of the trees close to where we were…..were we in his approach path šŸ˜¬…?

We were very diligent that night, made sure no Snickers papers in our backpacks, and even our plates and toothbrushes and toothpaste were stored away in our bear cannisters.

We had mash (which is one of the 3 meals on our menu) and bacon jerkey (we don’t like beef jerkey but the bacon jerkey is real good) with a very strong smokey smell for dinner.

In the middle of the night Trevor woke me and said “quiet, I think the bear is here”. I asked why he thought that. He said he could hear it snorting. I then heard it too, and it was moving around, not right at our tent but I would estimate 30m away. We were dead quiet and didn’t move. I just thought how pointless it was that I stored away everything food-smelly in our cannisters but the most food smelling thing were my hands!!! (No I didn’t wash my hands – if you struggle to get enough water to drink you certainly don’t wash your hands!)

I was awake for long, thinking about a night in the Drakensberg when we camped in snow, and a wind came up that flattened all 5 tents in the valley. That night I thought we would die but then woke up the next morning realising the sun was rising and that we were alive!

So eventually I decided to sleep. I woke up the next morning and the sun was rising and we were alive!

Trevor now says he no longer thinks it was a bear, he thinks it was a deer. I don’t know deer so I don’t know how aggressively they can snort, but to me that snorting couldn’t have been from an innocent little deer. We were mocked charged by a bear a few weeks ago (I can’t even remember if I blogged about that) and the sound we heard at Fingerboard Shelter was very much the snorting sound I recall from that incident.

Mt Madison

Mt Madison was the peak after Mt Washington. We did Work For Stay at Madison hut the night before and woke up with howling wind outside. We set out early to do the very short climb (maybe a kilometre) to the top of Madison, which is one big rock pile. It started raining and the wind speed increased. We got to the top in wind so strong it almost blew me off my feet a few times. Visibility was terrible. We had to walk from cairn to cairn, at each cairn looking to find the next one. It was freezing. I was wearing my gloves but they were not water proof and got soaking wet in the rain. We started the long, slow climb downwards. At some stage my foot got stuck between two rocks and I couldn’t get it out. Eventually I pulled my foot out of the shoe, then managed to wiggle the shoe out. I sat on a rock putting my shoe on again. When I removed my gloves to get the shoe laced up I realised how wet they were so I wrung them out. In the mean time Trevor stood waiting, afterwards telling me he thought we were going to die from hypethermia. My morale was very low, I was thinking this is insane and dangerous. Trevor afterwards admitted he was thinking the same, but he knew he had to keep our spirits up so he was making up songs about finding the next cairn/blaze.

It took us hours to get down that mountain and was definitely one of the toughest days of the trip.

Falls

We both had several falls. Sometimes harmless ones and sometimes scary ones.

Trevor fell so badly once that I was convinced he was going to not be able to get up. He stepped up and his foot got caught in a root but his hands were not in a position to protect his fall so he fell on his face, and then his backpack thudded down and slapped him into the ground a second time. There was blood all over his face.

I fell in Mahoosuc Notch. As with Trevor’s fall described above the fall itself was half the story, the backpack slamming your body down a second time the other part. After I fell I just hear Trevor screaming “don’t roll don’t roll” and I realised a bigger injury was possible if I couldn’t stabilise my position. I suspect I cracked a rib and it made walking the next day even harder as my upper body strength was impacted, pulling myself up on roots when we were scrambling up rocks and rock faces were not easy and quite sore. About four days after that I fell twice and one of those times hurt the rib again. Unpleasant.

Trevor had several more falls where he landed on his face. At some point he had 3 of them in 2 days and I was getting worried about concussion when one fall left him with a swelling on side of his head. It would have been interesting to count our falls, in Maine there was hardly a day that at least one of us didn’t fall, and on many days we both fell more than once.

My final fall as mentioned in another post came on our final (pre-summit) day, 8km from the end. This was my worst fall of the trip. I am – 2 days after the incident – still in agony

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