The epic journey of a sibling pair as they trek 2,181 miles from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachia Trail.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Notch and Furry Friends


The final state!  At the state line, Hansel and Gretel have covered 1,896.9 miles and have only 281.4 miles to go!

Gretel at the NH/ME State Line!

"Yesterday, there were two eventful things that happened," Gretel said at the beginning of the regular Trail Check-In.  The first was that they completed what has been called the most technical mile of the trail.  Basically, you are bouldering/rock climbing for an entire mile.  This particular mile is called "The Notch."

"It looks like someone threw a bunch of car-sized boulders into a hole!" Gretel said.  Sometimes you are leaping from boulder to boulder; other times your have to climb down in between boulders.  Hansel and Gretel were constantly taking off their packs and handing them to one another since there was no way they would have been able to fit through with their pack still attached to their back.  "There was lots of weird maneuvering."  When they climbed down into the holes between boulders, the temperature would drop up to 20 degrees and they could see ice and snow down in the crevices left over from the winter!

In some ways, The Notch is kind of fun and it's a great example of how Mother Nature can be an expert when it comes to designing play grounds.  In other ways The Notch can be rather dangerous and should be handled with extreme caution.  Very early on in their mile of madness, Hansel climbing up a rock and lost his footing taking a 5 foot fall straight down into a hole!  He was very lucky to have had his pack on, because he managed to slide perfectly into a hole, wedged in between his pack and the rock he had been trying to climb.  Miraculously, he barely hurt himself.  He came out of the hole with a scrape on his shin and a slightly banged up shoulder, but nothing too serious.  "We both have taken a lot of spills in this last part of the trail.  We're looking pretty beat up at this point."  Gretel described Hansel's fall as being "Tetris style."  He just slid into perfectly into place.  We can chuckle at this little slip now, but the truth is, Hansel and Gretel were both a bit "freaked out" after it happened.  Falling 5 feet into a rocky crevice would be enough to rattle anyone's nerves!  I think that qualifies as being stuck between a rock and a hard place.  It took them 2 hours and 15 minutes to hike 1 mile today.  That was by far the slowest mile they have hiked yet.  I'll remind you that when they did the Maryland Challenge, they were covering about 3 miles per hour!

The other point of interest the Gretel wanted to share was in reference to their stay at the Mahoosuc Mountain Lodge.  They found the phone number for this hostel in the AT Guide book, but were very confused when the answering machine said they had reached the Mahoosuc Guide Service.  As it turns out, the hostel doubles as a lodge for leading sled dog trips in the winter time.  When Hansel and Gretel arrived, they spent the first hour just going from fence to fence, petting beautiful sled dogs.  They had 35-40 dogs on the property, all of which were a very unique breed that is actually indigenous to the Yukon.  They are not bred for anything except for sledding and there are no two dogs that look alike.  Some looked like a great pyrenees, others looked like huskies.  They are pretty tall dogs and the males are usually between 80-100 pounds.

The lodge itself was recently refurbished.  The top floor has bed rooms and kitchen space, while the first floor was left open, making it the perfect site for barn dances!  Hansel and Gretel got an entire room to themselves and they were also given a bunch of ingredients to make their own burritos.  Chef Gretel was all over that, and cooked up a delicious dinner!

Other than that, their day was mostly uneventful.  They have been passing more south bound hikers and not many north bounders with the exception of one rather large group that started their thru-hike in February.  The Mahoosuc Mountains, although challenging (i.g. The Notch) are not nearly as scenic as the Whites were.  Some hikers have dubbed the mountain range "Mahoo-suck" since there are never any views and some of the rock faces on the Trail are really difficult.  Many of them are very flat so you are either climbing up on your hands and knees, or sliding down on your butt.  Gretel actually tore a huge hole in her rain pants from sliding down.  Good thing they are almost to the end!

Happy trails and happy dogs!

The Notch- note the ice that is visible in the crevices!

Hansel making his way through The Notch

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