The hardcore hill ladies

We referred to the spot as the hill, because the house was situated at the top of a giant hill overlooking a large canyon. It was definitely the most beautiful view I have ever had out of my bedroom window. My next few months on the hill were mostly comprised of work, so I don’t have too much news from them. But, I can tell you a bit about my co-workers.

Never in my life have I met such tough confident women as when I worked on this farm.

I say they are tough, because they didn’t take shit from anyone. They built shelves, they fixed things, they drove motorcycles, and when they entered a room everyone inside was intimidated, especially me…at first. I felt really alienated and cast-out, even though they were really sweet to me. I just thought they were so badass, I felt like chop liver.

Having Briggs as a sister, though, gives you a certain amount of prestige as soon as you enter the room. People automatically assume you are a badass when your sister is that insanely tough. So, they were really awesome to me, and eventually I came around and stopped being so shy and wimpy. So, I rolled up my sleeves and started doing what I do best, adapting to any situation. They were all tall, beautiful, and capable. Now, I’m not a wimp. I know how to work hard on a farm. I can roll a round bale, haul a square bale, and shovel shit with the toughest farm hands, but I am not what people call handy. I can not work a screw gun to save my life. I have no idea how to work on cars, or build things. But, these ladies really made me want to know how.

No miracles happened. I didn’t leave that farm a carpenter, but I got some groundwork laid for what I would need to know on order to be an apprentice. I’ll need to know too, if my sister and I are ever going to get our farm built.

Its hard work in itself getting along with seven other ladies and keeping a pleasant working environment, but with these ladies it was easy. They were fun and told it how it was without being passive aggressive. If they had a problem, they said so immediately and so we were able to all stay friends.

The work was tedious and we had few outings to town, so when we did, we really cut loose. Once we went to the corn maze and had a blast sneaking off into the corn to pound beers and then coming out and getting scared by the people in costumes. Other times we went ice skating, to roller derby tournaments, or bowling. Those ladies knew how to kick it. I stayed for a total of two months, choosing to meet my parents in Kansas for Christmas.

I had to be at the train station at three a.m. again, so me and two of the ladies stayed out all night drinking and then they dropped me off for the train. A bit of a mistake since I woke up for my flight hungover and feeling mean. But, it was a fun sendoff. The train took me to Sacramento, which by the way is literally the nicest city I have ever been in. I have never met more sweet well-meaning folk in four hours in my life. I was strolling around with my backpack and in the first hour a gentleman bought me some fresh donuts. A guy wearing a taffy necklace came and had a hilarious conversation with me about Oprah and a man working a candy shop gave me free taffy, which I handed out to all the kind people I encountered afterwards, including a woman who offered me a place to spend the holidays. I definitely plan on returning there before long and meeting more great people.

I made it to Kansas well and happy and was very glad to see my folks. I am from Michigan, but all of my relatives, including my folks and sister are from Kansas. So, I go there quite a bit and have a good relationship with the place. My family actually owns a beautiful 400 acre ranch in the boondocks of the flint hills and I can remember catching crawdads and scorpions there when I was shorter than the table.

I hadn’t spent much more than a week there for ten years or so. It was really nice to catch up with my Aunt Laura and Grandpa Phil and all. My Grandfather is a remarkable man with fire in his heart. In an earlier post, I spoke of having the warrior spirit. Well, he found his cause and he has it. It’s for fellow veterans. He has done so much for the veteran’s of the state of Kansas. He is amazing. He actually has a day named after him, “Phil Blake Day.” It’s pretty commonplace to see him in the newspaper. He gets interviewed all the time. So, speaking to him, is like tapping into a spring of knowledge. It’s not often you can sit for hours with a 90 year old man and talk about the injustices of mainstream religion, and then get a history lesson of what really happened with the Cuban Bay of Pigs.

My grandpa let me use his giant SUV for my entire stay, so with my home base as my Aunt Laura’s, I could go and see the rest of the family. I can’t lie, though. I spent most of my time relaxing in my Aunt Laura’s house, eating her fabulous cooking and enjoying the company of my Uncle Bill, cousin Sally, and their “Aged P” Grandpa Auchterlonie.

We girls like to watch movies all together, they’ve always got some movie that I just gotta see. Sometimes it’s not really my type of movie, but I always enjoy hanging out with them anyways. I can recall numerous heart-to-hearts in my Aunties kitchen after everyone had left and it was just me and her, my belly full of homemade bread and a tasty chili relleno omelet with a cup of coffee clutched in my hands. Sometimes getting spoiled for a while is just what you need. Maybe always.

It was good for me to get to know my relations again, especially since my next trip was about to be so drastic. I was about to fly to Peru for a two month excursion. I used the wholesome state of Kansas for my sponge-like launch pad. I was almost completely sucked in before I finally worked up the nerve to purchase my plane tickets and get my final preparations in order. I was in for another adventure.

California Bound

I stayed a couple of weeks with my folks, soaking up the relax time, then I spent the night at my friend, Hailey’s house before we set off on the road westward. We started out by taking the car ferry across Lake Michigan from Western Michigan to Eastern Wisconsin. It was a blast, but we got hungry half-way through and had to eat in their nasty cafe.

We stayed in decent hotels the whole way and ate pretty good, stopping in South Dakota to feed the prairie dogs and check out the badlands. The badlands are seriously beautiful. I have never seen anything like them. You feel like you have landed on the planet Mars when you drive into the park. They are huge clay formations that tower up from high-desert looking earth. When there is a coat of snow on the ground, they are even more imposing, deep brown and red rocks soaring out of thick white snow. one day we stayed in Wall Drug, where we got to wake up to the smell of the Spam factory. In the morning, though we stopped at Wall Drug and bought ourselves some cheap coffee before hitting it.

My favorite place we stayed was at the very end. Hailey’s mom said she had been saving the best for last. So, we pulled in to The Fairmont Hotel and my jaw dropped. I had never seen a velvet elevator before. It was so fancy I couldn’t believe it. We had a couple of days here to relax and lay low. So, I split off to give them some mother-daughter time and took myself downstairs to the spa. Holy crap. There’s a song I love to play on my sister’s banjolele called, “Once I lived the life of a millionaire.” I think I can safely say that for real after my experience at The Fairmont. I soaked myself in the hot tub, took a rose scented bath, and then returned to the room where I ate some chocolate covered salted caramels and drank  a beer. Hailey and her mom got back from some shopping to find me laying on the bed, eating caramels, in my hotel provided robe and slippers with a beer. The lap of luxury. Did I mention I was watching the Bourne Supremacy?

Well, It was nice while it lasted, but all good things come to an end. I was only in Seattle and I had a job offer through my sister down in Northern California, so I had to get moving. I had considered hitchhiking, but after my experience with luxury and the fact that my birthday was one day away, I decided to go ahead and take the Amtrak down. So, I packed up and then went down to the front desk and said in my best snobby woman from the 20′s accent, “Call me a car, sir, and make it quick.” I wasn’t fooling anyone. They all knew I wasn’t rich-I was carrying a dirty red backpack, and wearing scruffy old clothes- but it was still fun to pretend.

The train was a beautiful ride. The stretch from Seattle to Eugene is really amazing. The sun set over the mountains, purpley and orange. As we passed the trains, I searched for train riders like Briggs, who is my sister, but no luck.

I made some friends on board, and we drank some beers and played cards together. One of the guys was very strange, but nice, he worked as security in a mental hospital. He told us about all the times he got beat up. The other guy worked with movies and was meeting his friend to help work on a movie set.

The train reached Chico at three in the morning. I had tried to tell my sister that I would just sleep on one of the benches off the trail near the train station, but she would not hear of it, and neither would her friends. There to meet me when I got off was a very sweet couple, the brother of someone who would soon come to be my friend. His name was Robert and he had his lady Riley with him. They were very cool and I was glad to meet them, but I also felt pretty bad about having them come get me at that hour. They escorted me into the house before heading to bed and I crashed on the leather chair against the wall. I couldn’t wait till the morning when I would see my big sister and meet my new roommates for the next two months.

Back to being a land lubber

As soon as I left the boat, I found a craigslist ad  for a rideshare leaving from Belfast, Maine and headed north through Canada, down into Michigan and then West to Northern, California. It is ridiculous how perfect it was. That was exactly what I wanted to do. To top it, it was with an adorable couple from Humboldt who were safe friendly and not creepy in the least. An extremely ideal craigslist ride.

So, I stayed with Mariel and her dad another couple days going to the gym and to ice-cream with them and cooking their meals. I really enjoyed hanging out with them. They were both really cool people and had an amazing father-daughter relationship that was refreshing to be around. Mariel took me to Belfast after a couple of days and I called up some friends to see if I had places to stay.

My friend Scott got back to me immediately and answered yes without hesitation when I asked if I could stay. He had a son on the road similarly and was always eager to pay it forward. He picked me up from town after work and drove me out to his cabin in the woods. I got to help him do some carpentry, as he was in the process of building a new cabin for him and his girlfriend. They both had great ideas on how to live sustainably and happily. She worked with the Main Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, providing farmers with the farms they need for cheep prices on order to ensure the proper stewardship of the land with organic only farms. He worked a lot with natural building. They both basically had a farm stead out there in the woods with a cozy little cabin that I enjoyed sharing dinner with them in. That night, I sat out on the porch of the new cabin where I was sleeping on the couch and played my sister’s banjolele to the stars. They said that they heard me playing just barely and that it was the perfect lullaby for both of them.

In the morning, Scott took me to the Co Op and I played some spades with all the boys and him. It was fun to be back, but I was ready to be on the road waving goodbye to Maine from the rear windshield. The couple Arianna and Alex met me at the Co Op and were very late. This was a good reflection on their personalities. I am late to everything except my job also, so we were three of a kind. We had fun driving together through the sparsely populated parts of Maine, entering into Canada around one a.m. and then going to camp in what we thought was a free campground. Turns out is was some guys back yard and he came in the morning to check on us, asking if we were staying another night and if we had been warm enough. Canadians are so amazing and sweet. I always have to remind myself the difference. When someone comes up to talk to you it only means they want something if they’re not Canadian. On the trip, it was Alex’s birthday. We were supposed to stop and see a concert of one of his favorite bands, but it was cancelled a couple days before. Alex told me that he had a cursed birthday and that every year on his birthday horrible things happened. I didn’t know what he meant until we parked his car in London, ON  to go for a walk. When we returned 45 minutes latter, his back window had been shattered and Arianna’s purse had been stolen. Tough break for a guys birthday.

Since we were passing through right where my parents lived, I knew they could stay with us. So, my parents got the camper prepared for their stay, putting a heater in it and placing out sheets. We got in very late, so she left some stew out for all of us. I have some great parents. They ended up staying two days with us, just relaxing and enjoying the food I was cooking up. Mostly combinations of our garden fresh ingredients. I had debated going with them, but my friend Hailley had told me an even sweeter deal. I was paying them a third of the gas for everywhere I went, and they weren’t really taking the shortest way. They were making a vacation of it, visiting relatives and seeing sights. Hailley and her mom were driving to Seattle, Washington right around the time I needed to go and they wanted to pay for all the gas, food and accommodations in hotels! I love camping, and would choose camping over paying for a hotel any day, but when its free, I’m in!!

The Nathaniel Bowditch- sailing the open Bay

I had never sailed before, never even been out on the ocean. So, there was a lot of room for disaster when I signed myself up for a six day trip straight from the shore. Luckily, I have a little sailors blood in me, and I ended up falling in love with the open bay. We sailed primarily in the Penobscot Bay, only going out into the great blue for four or six day trips with good wind.

Maine is known for its rocky coasts and islands, and Penobscot Bay was full of them. Picture light blue water with the purple clouds of a sunrise reflected in it, then add in black rocks jutting from the water through the light fog.

My first trip was a lot of learning, but it was an absolute blast. I loved the feel of the scupper carving through the water. A man on board, who was a mathematician said something to me I found absolutely poetic. “Sailing is an act of science. You are balancing between two liquids.”

I knew nothing about the sails, the ropes, or really anything that has to do with boats. Contrary to being a fish out of water, I was a bison off of land. I stumbled around that ship getting into everyone’s way and clumsily yanking on ropes. Well, at least that’s how I felt. My crew members actually said I was doing pretty good.

It did take a while to get the hang of it all, though. But when I did, I loved it! I could hoist a sail with the best of them, coil a perfectly neat rope, and come about quickly and efficiently. I literally jumped for joy whenever Cap yelled out for us to bring out the fisherman, because it increased our speed by at least three knots. For people with sailing knowledge, I was sailing on an 82 foot schooner. For those of us with limited sailing knowledge, I was sailing on an 82 foot pirate-looking boat with two masts, the second from the bow being the taller. It had a total of five normal sails: the stay, jib, fore, main, and topsail. And then when Cap Owen was feeling salty or when the wind demanded it, we would hoist the fisherman.

Here’s the Bowditch (Frommer.com)

We had two day, four day, and six day trips available. Living on boats leaves you no personal space if your crew. You live in what I like to call a shoebox with only a curtain covering the outside. The “shoebox” is nothing more than a bunk with about three feet breathing room.  You have to be careful how much water you use, because they only bring a limited supply on board, so no water for teeth brushing, and definitely none for showering. Because of this rule, a cremate, Craig and I started taking daily dips into the ocean at six a.m. It was very, very cold, but I loved it. Besides, I spent a lot of my life swimming in The Great Lakes of Michigan. I can handle cold water. Squirt a little soap on your head and body, and that’s what I call a good shower.

Every trip, we had a lobster bake. This is when we buy some fresh lobsters and then motor and row out onto an island and steam the lobsters in fresh salt water over a wood fire. Mainers (people from Main) call lobsters, bugs. And since my crew mate Justin was a full blood Mainer, we got into the habit, too. So, we cooked the bugs up with some corn on the cob and hotdogs, with fresh homemade buns and had ourselves an island feast.

Some trips we would take boats out and explore little inlets, or take trips to festivals and get out on shore to walk around. One of my favorites was the Mussel Festival where we got free all-you-can-eat mussels. Almost every trip we would head out to some port city and allow the guests to walk around. Sometimes crew got to as well, but other times we were needed to help with some meal Paul was preparing.

Paul was a massive asshole. He was severely mean to the crew and even mean to the guests. Honestly, though it just sort of added to the historical value for me. The mean boat cook feels like a main stay in most pirate novels. His food was good, anyways, so I didn’t mind.

We would have pancakes for breakfast almost everyday, some sort of chowder for lunch, and the dinners varied widely. My favorite being the squash lasagna. Paul made some mean pumpkin pancakes, his fish chowder was creamy and wonderful on a cool day, and squash lasagna has always been one of my favorites. We also got desert with lunch and dinner and the leftover deserts were placed on board. I’m afraid I ate about six cookie bar squares a day and accompanied it with a hot cocoa coffee mixture. We had a full coffee bar available all day. If we had had winches on our sails (something to help raise them) I think I would have been pretty fat. As it was, I worked very hard hoisting those sails and anchor, and still ended up a little chubby.

I stayed sailing on that boat for just about one month, and would have stayed a month and a half, except I injured myself on the giant wooden cooler on board. I had to quit with a wrist contusion. I was really upset. I had gained a strong bond with my crew mates and captain, and an even stronger one with the sea. There was nothing I could do, though. They offered to take me out anyways, feeding me and letting me sail for free, but I opted to try and find a way to get back to Michigan. If I hurried, I could catch a ride west with one of my best friends, on my way to California. Sometimes these things happen for a reason.

Traveling Maine, solo

After leaving Tommy in Rhinebeck, I headed North again. This time for Portland, Maine. I ended up taking a series of buses to get there and arrived around three in the morning. Marion being the sweet and wonderful person she is came and got me from the bus stop. The next morning after she did a bit of work, we were planning on going all the way to Machias, Maine for an event known as The Black Fly Ball. This is put on each year by a badass organization called, The Beehive Collective, a group of anarchist farmer artists who live in a co-op where the event is held. Their art is on display throughout the festival.

The Black Fly Ball is a dress-up dance party for all ages. No alcohol is sold, but people end up smuggling it in usually. Though, honestly, you don’t need it. It’s an absolute blast. I wore a crazy outfit involving a mask and danced my fanny off. One of my new favorite bands that was there was called the “What? Cheer! Brigade”. Here’s a video:

They put on an amazing show. Go and see them if you ever get the chance.

After a night of camping they dropped me off in Belfast, Maine where I had left behind my sister’s banjolele for repairs with a good friend of ours. I went immediately out to see Harold Wilson. Here’s a brief introduction to the Wilson brothers. Harold’s brother had fixed my sister’s bike a couple of weeks before, putting gears on it so that she could better navigate the hills of Maine. Harold did an equally amazing job repairing her banjolele. A drunk man had stumbled over it, cracking off the entire neck, and Harold fixed it up so well, you couldn’t even tell it had happened. He was an interesting and generous man of mind and spirit. I really enjoyed hanging out with him in his ridiculously cluttered shop, and look foreword to when I’m next in Maine to see him and his brother.

After that, I went into town and played spades with a group of sassy old guys and one sweet old lady to balance them out. It was really fun! I love spades, and they were pros. They taught me how to play well. Here, I would like to give my thanks to libraries. It was because of libraries that I met a lot of the people I did, and they were my only way of accessing the internet. Outside of the Belfast library I met a biker named Andrew and ended up hitting it off and walking to his home with him where I stayed the night with him and his eighty year old parents. They were really cute, and I had a great time hanging out with them. I played spades again the next day and got some breakfast at the soup kitchen that felt more like a homey diner.

That afternoon, I saw a chick walking down the road wearing a backpack and met up with her thinking she was a fellow traveler. Turned out she had just been kicked out of her parents house. She invited me to come and camp out with her friends and her and I figured , what the hell, why not. Her friends ended up being a group of skater punks all around the age of 18 and I was the only legal age.

I bought them a thirty rack of beer and we headed out into the woods for the night. I admit it was nice to be among young people, but they were a little too wild for me. Plus some 19 year old kept hitting on me. I was not interested.

The next day I woke up and decided it was time to leave town. One of the kids ended up following me around like a lost puppy most of the day, but I finally ditched him and  set out on the road. I had found a guy to stay with in Rockland, Maine until I was able to get ahold of a friend of Tommys. The guy in Rockland was so cool. He was a tree climber who lived on a cabin in the middle of the woods that he had built himself. We shared an amazing night of wild mushrooms, a beautiful bright moon, and a little instrument playing.  Him and his lady friend had done well for themselves and had a good life out there in the boonies.

I had found out from Tommy about a position available on a passenger sailboat as deckhand, no experience required. So, I gave them a call and they told me to come out on a sail and give it a try.

I still had four days till the sailing trip. I finally got ahold of Tommy’s friend Aaron and he told me to come on out to stay with him. He lived on a farm. The first day was haying and showing me the cabin he was building in the woods. I helped him add a few logs to build up the walls and then we drank a couple beers. I ended up really hitting it off with his neighbors, though and moved next door after a couple days. They were super sweet, a cute father daughter team. Mariel was a school teacher and lived with her father in her childhood home in the boonies. They had a pet goose and chicken that roamed the yard, coming into roost at nightfall.

Neither one of them knew how to cook, they admitted to me. So, I took over cooking them meals, making them shrimp alfredo one night with fried parsnips.

It turned out that Mariel’s boyfriend knew the captain of the Nathaniel Bowditch and was pretty good buddies with him. So I had a shoe in the door before I even met anyone. And he knew where the Bowditch docked, so he dropped me off there the morning we were set to leave. I met my fellow deckhands, Courinne and Justin, as well as the cook Paul, and captain, Owen.

Traveling Maine: Adventures with Tommy

When I got off the trail, my friend Tommy who had been traveling with Megan gave me a call and said we should meet up. I agreed and we met a few days later in Belfast, Maine. We decided to hitchhike north and see the Arcadia National Park for my third time. I love that park. Every time I go there I see some new beautiful hike.

As luck would have it,  we got picked up by an amazing and generous man named, Josh. He took us to the north coast of Maine and we shared our first lobster dinner. Then he took us to the top of Gorham Mountain in Arcadia National Park and we watched the sunset.

It was after, when we were at a fancy motel checking prices for a night’s sleep that we realized we had the same last name! The receptionist thought that we were married and gave us a good price. The next day, Tommy and I decided to accompany Josh  south to see other states in New England.

He left us in Burlington, Vermont, where we kicked the syringes out of the way before setting up our tents in a roadside forest. It was about midnight when we got in. We stayed in Burlington a total of three days, long enough for me to drunkenly skinny-dip in Lake Champlain at midnight one night and jump seven feet from a bridge in daylight.

We were a little disappointed with Burlington, because of the numerous home bums and drug problems. But, it turned out that we got picked up by one of the sweetest most generous ladies I have ever met on the road. We told her where we were headed and that we were bummed we couldn’t take the ferry across Lake Champlain to get to New York, and she just up and bought us tickets. Then she bought us lunch from a fancy organic restaurant on the way, getting us a soda and tasty bar of Vermont chocolate to accompany it. Salted caramel surrounded by dark chocolate, my favorite!

The ferry ride was awesome. I really enjoyed the cool fresh air in my face, it reminded me of Lake Superior. On the other side, we arrived at Essex, New York where we immediately got back on the road. We were picked up by a hip, beautiful girl who took us and set us on the highway.

I hate hitchhiking on the highway. The strangest  people always stop. This time, a white van almost ran over our backpacks pulling over. The driver was wearing a pink fro wig and seemed like the most messed up of the lot. The van had a total of eight people, completely loaded, with the two girls in the back drinking beers. The driver started to explain to us why he couldn’t pick us up, but then he stared intently a the road in front of him and yelled, “Woah, look at that!” And then the tires squealed and he was gone, almost running over our toes. Entertaining, at least.

After this, two cars pulled over. We talked to the truck driver. It was a sweet guy who said he and his friend were going camping and he invited us to come along and play some music. There was only space for one of us in each of the cars. I chose to check out the car in front and sit with whoever that was. I chose right. She was the sweetest lady. They were both nurses who were planning on becoming traveling nurses and were dating.

Our destination was Lake Placid. It was beautiful, but popular. We ended up having to share a campsite with a bunch of nerdy climbers. I hadn’t known that New York had so much great climbing. We all ended up hitting it off and after a roaring campfire, we had a great time hanging out. We even went on a hike down to the lake and got to look up at the stars, drinking beer the whole time that they lovingly gave us. Sweet people.

The next day we were dropped off on the highway again and I checked out some cool rock seepage that would maybe become a good ice climbing spot in the winter. We were helped out just before a cop rolled up on us by a very cool guy who had once moved houses with all of his things via hitchhiking.

We got picked up by a lot of interesting people in New York: a hotel DJ, a father who took his kids to a birthday party before dropping us off, and a lady on her way to see her son. Finally we made it to Albany, New York. I had never seen the capital, and was impressed with all the grand buildings. There, we got ahold of Tommy’s ex-girlfriend Casey.

She was a badass. That night, she took us to a free punk show in an art gallery, and we put some holes in the wall, drinking beer in the streets and moshing. It was typical punk, but good punk. The lead singer was wearing a hawaiian t-shirt and wailing into the microphone. It was the drummers last night, because he had been busted for drugs and was headed to jail the next day. We had a blast kicking it with them, heading to a bar after the show that was playing 60s disco.

Tommy’s ultimate goal was to make it to Rhinebeck, New York where he would be working at the Omega Institution. We accomplished this goal the next day when Casey drove us the hour and a half down there.

I stayed there with him about a week, soaking up the good vibes, taking advantage of the warm sauna, and interacting with the cool people. Then, I took a free bus, heading back to Portland, Maine solo.

After the farm- Traveling Maine (The Appalachian Trail)

I can not tell you the relief I felt in leaving the farm. I was so ready.

The last day, I cooked breakfast for everyone and then my friend Megan showed up at the farm and I packed all my things and headed out. They dropped us off on a busy street and I stuck out my thumb, ready to catch a quick ride. It turned out that I had left a group of emotionally strained people at the farm only to latch onto another with Megan. I only spent about a week with the traveling trio; Megan, Tommy, and Kevin, deciding instead to split off by myself, but not before meeting an amazing person through them. Her name was Marion and she lived in Portland, ME.

After promising to be back to see her again, I left Marion and hitchhiked to a town on the border of Maine and met up with my sister. We decided to hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail together. We met in Bethel, Maine and then hitchhiked to Gorham, New Hampshire to start our trek. We planned to do fifty miles of the trail, starting at Pinkham Notch and then ending at Dolly Copp Campground.

The first day we stayed at Highland Notch in the White Mountain National Forest. Then got up early and set out on the trail. It was hard climbing work, but it was beautiful! We summated our first few mountains that day. We were hiking along the Presidential range, so all of the mountains were named after presidents. It was strangely empowering to step all over the tops of past presidents. Madison was the first mountain that we saw the top of, climbing over a string of small mountains afterwards. Mount Washington was to be the center of our trip and the crowning achievement.

We stopped at the first hut we passed and ate some of the famous soup, hiking past to camp for free just below the alpine tree zone. Along the trail, we were surrounded by the short green trees and could see deep green forests all around below. It was surreal beauty. I couldn’t believe I was really there. The trail we were walking on was rock, the naked mountain.

The day came to hike to Mount Washington, and of course it was blustering, cold, and rainy. We hiked up the side, huffing and puffing and when we finally capped off, we were greeted by nothing but fog. It was a little disorienting at the top, as we were surrounded by people who had driven up or rode the train. It was us in our hiking clothes, sweaty, our hair slicked from three days without a shower and them all freshly starched. We ate our lunch up there, and then ended up getting stranded at the top because of thunder and lightning storms. I ate like seven pieces of extremely expensive cafeteria pizza. Hiking really takes it out of you, that’s my excuse.

When we were finally allowed to go down, we still hadn’t seen the view. We hiked back down to Lake in the Clouds Hut, hoping to stay for free and then try the hike again the next day. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any room. We were bummed, but we decided to push on even though it was late. We hiked alone on the trail, which is rare for the AT, but watching the sunset was beautiful. The views from up there were insane. The trees rolling over the mountains and sheer rocky edges were unlike anything I had ever seen. The air smelled clean and fresh, the way only a mountain could smell.

When it was just starting to get dark, we finally entered The Great Gulf Wilderness and saw a huge sign that said camping allowed anywhere. This was exactly what we wanted. The wilderness was beautiful, full of great slabs of granite colored volcanic rock against the backdrop of deep emerald green trees at the mouth of its namesake, the great gulf. We found a good nook in the trees and then then hiked off to go and find a spot to hang our food.

We came through cusp of trees forcing them out of the way, and found there a large triangle shaped object. My sister, thinking it was a tent called out, “Hello?” She yelled. It was a very still night, but when she called this, the wind swirled together throughout the tress and it sounded like someone whispered back, “Hello.” I don’t believe in fairy tales or ghosts, but when I heard this I was positive that it was the spirit of the trees whispering through. It was eerie, but beautiful. We realized just how silent this place was.

It was a great capstone to our trip along the appalachian. The next day we attempted to hike the presidential range to no luck. It was snowing and a huge storm was blowing right at us. My sisters lips were blue despite wearing one of my sweaters. So we hiked back to the great gulf and took the trail down into the gulf. A beautiful hike almost straight down along waterfalls on slippery rocks. We stayed the night once it was flat and then hiked out back into the real world the next day.

We were sad to leave the trail, but grateful for a shower and some normalcy when we hitchhiked into town and stayed at a motel in Bethel where my sister knew the owners. Patti and Bob bought us Chinese food and played cards with us all night. Another wonderful adventure with my sister.