Go Tell It on (and from) the Mountain!

Paul Travers on Mt. Katahdin

Paul Travers on Mt. Katahdin

Dear Herm’s Hikers,

Go tell it on and from the mountain - MOUNTain KATAHDIN that is! As promised, it’s time to backtrack (That’s the last thing an AT hiker wants to do, but we do as we must.) and fill in the gap between Monson and Millinocket. After arriving in Monson, I quickly grew restless (That’s an AT affliction that makes the transition to the civiiian world difficult.) while waiting for the arrival of Rainbow Brite (RB), also known as Mrs. T, Mrs. Travers, or simply Cathy. So instead of relaxing and recupurating for a couple of days, I decided to hike part of The Wilderness so that RB and I would have only 50+ miles to go. This proved to be a wise decison because it definitely saved time and some wear and tear on my new hiking partner. The first 50+ miles of The Wilderness had some mountains that reached a top elevation of 3,650 feet at White Cap Mountain, but after The Whites, the difficulty of climbing any mountain in the north seemed to decrease. No doubt, most of this was psychological because after New Hampshire and Southern Maine, anything and everything seemed less difficult. So for a seasoned AT hiker, “The Wilderness” was in reality “The Milderness.” However, once again, I kept chanting in the back of my mind the AT mantra “there are no easy miles on the AT.” The main difficulty with this 100 mile stretch was resupply. Basically, a hiker is on their own until the White House Landing, a lodge and hostel that requires a boat ride across a lake, about 48 miles from Katahdin. There were a number of deserted logging roads that crossed the trail but they were 16+ miles from the main road and any chance of hitchhiking to civilization was non-existent.

After meeting with RB in Monson, we drove to Millinocket, our departure point south for the rest of The Wildernerss. Except for two days of rain and one rainy and cramped night in the woods (Thank goodness for the Big Agnes. The SL2 tent once again proved to be waterproof.), the hike was a sheer delight, a dream-come-true for AT hikers. For the last 50 miles, the trail snaked around a number of ponds and lakes on “relatively” flat ground with a trail bed of pine needles and leaves. Throw in an occasional glimpse of Mount Katahdin and you had a hiker’s paradise. Of course, there were sections of R&R, rocks and roots, but nothing like the past 300 miles. At Abol Bridge, a squat, unimpressive wood traffic bridge across the Penobscot River that looked like it came out of the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, we were able to get a panoramic view of the mountain only fifteen miles in the distance. It was almost as if you could reach out and touch it. It seemed that close after hiking over 2,000 miles. Inspiring and intimidating were my immediate thoughts! So close and yet so far away! But RB and I were confident about finishing. At last, I had my old hiking partner by my side and all was well. For the past week, I had spent most of the time hiking by myself, catching up with some other hikers at one of the shelters or hostels. Hiking by yourself is good at time, but it gets old in a hurry, especially in The Wilderness. Read more »


******NEWS BULLETIN*****

Son-Dance, a thru-hiker who also goes by the alias of Paul Travers, summited Mount Katahdin on Wednesday at 11:26 a.m to finish his hike of the Appalachian Trail. The trip took 9 hours in near perfect condtions, sunny and clear with temperatures in the 70’s with moderate winds at 5 to 10 MPH. Details on the climb and the hike through the 100 Mile Wilderness to follow. _____________________________________________________________

Dear Herm’s Hikers,

Yes, Herm’s Hike is now part of AT history and lore. Mount Katahdin was summited on Wednesday. Had a magnificent hiking day with Rainbow Brite and Squeezecheese, my hiking partner throughout parts of Maine. After many, many months, I was finally was able to place the memorial rock and prayer bundles under the Mount Katahdin sign on the top of the mountain. More on the rock and hike later when I return home. All is all, it was a very, very emotional day. Not a dry eye was to be found on top of the mountain. Thank you for your prayers and support. More later, and I mean more later. The hike came full circle, spiritually and emotionally, in the town of Monson and Millinocket when I met fellow hikers from last year’s AT adventure. STAY TUNED for the next trail entry. It shoiuld be the most interesting, fascinating and intriguing of all entries.

As always, hike in peace and hike with your angels!


The Last Town (not the last man standing) on the Trail!

Dear Herm’s Hikers,

Greetings from Monson, Maine, the gateway to Katahdin and the beginning of The Wilderness, the last 100 miles of the trail. Southern Maine has been a hiking adventure. The mountains are not as tall as the Whites, but at times, they are just as difficult. Hiking in Maine can be best described as rocks, roots, and stretches of something that resembles a hiking trail. The good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful! There have been a number of steep mountain climbs with hiking above the ridge line for a few miles. Descending the mountains, there have been numerous bogs, marshes, and muddy boots, but NO MOOSE sighting to date. I do have a rather fine collection of moose (metal, plastic and wood) from various commercial establishments in the trail towns. Everybody’s cashing in on the moose craze. Now I just have to see one. Guess, I will have to take one of those moose sightseeing tours when the hike is over if I don’t see any between Monson and Katahdin. But there’s more to Maine than moose and lobster? Yeah, I know rather hard to believe. So the question remains - what does Maine have that the other states on the trail do not? Ponds ponds and more ponds,hundreds of scenic ponds tucked against the mountains. If Minnesota is the land of a thousand lakes, then Maine is the land of a thousand ponds. Seems that many New Englanders have waterfront cabins as a summer getaways. What a fantastic way to spend a summer vacation. And surprisingly, the water is not that cold. Believe me, after being in the green tunnel for over 1,500 miles, it is emotionally and spiritually refreshing to see water. Ah, clear, cool water (Hey that’s what the Beach Boys once sang about). Water, a baptism a rebirth, the essential of life.

Stayed at the Gull Pond Lodge in Rangeley, a great little hostel right on a pond, Gull Pond as a matter of fact. Even had a chance to take out the kayak in search of the elusive loon. Talk about a tough bird to capture on film, it’s the loon. Every time I got within camera range, the duck would dive and surface about 30 to 50 yards away. I did manage to sneak up and take a great picture of a beautiful duck which looked like a loon. For some unexplained reason, the duck set on the water floating rather casually. Upon closer inspection (I was wondering why the duck didn’t dive or fly away), I quickly discovered, my duck was a decoy that was anchored to the bottom of the pond. You can take Son-Dance out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of Son-Dance. At least I got a great picture of a decoy. What a wonderful stay at the Gull Pond. My special thanks to Bob, the owner, and Bonnie for their hospitality. However, there’s was some sadness mixed with the happiness. While at the hostel, Bob’s 14 year-old Chocolate labrador named Gwendy (now that’s one old dog) started to experience difficulties in walking and standing. It was a tender and heartfelt moment to watch Bob care for his faithful canine companion of so many years. The next day I drove with Bob to the vet’s in Farmington. They keep Gwendy overnight, and since I was back on the trail that day, I didn’t find out what happened at the vet’s. But Bob had come to terms with the likelihood that Gwendy would have to be put to sleep. She was suffering, and it was plain to see that Bob was also suffering. Read more »

Insane in Maine! And the Toughest Mile(s) on the Trail!

Dear Herm’s Hikers,

Greetings from Rangeley, Maine! Finally crossed New Hampshire/Maine border (There was a sign on the trail to let you know.) to enter the last state on the trail. If New Hampshire chewed us up, then Maine is quickly spitting us out, and we are only in the southern part of the state.

Entered Maine with some anxiety (Nah, entered Maine with a lot of anxiety) about the toughest mile on the trail. Well, I’m hear to tell you that all of the stories about the toughest mile on the trail are absolutely true. No false advertising here! After hiking five miles across three mountain ranges above 3,500 feet, I finally arrived at the Mahoosuc Notch, the infamous toughest miles on the AT. Tough, not really! Impossible at times is more like it, especially for a Greyhound hiker (over 50) like myself. What the literature doesn’t tell you is that to get to the notch trail you have to hike down the side of a mountain, a 1,000 ft. drop in exactly a mile. It’s a thousand feet of rocks, roots, and loose stones, a deadly combination. It took me just over an hour to navigate this section of the trail. I only stumbled once when I slipped on some loose gravel which resulted in a slight ankle sprain. Once at the bottom, the real work began. The Mahoosuc Notch is a gap, maybe 10 to 20 yards wide, in a walled-canyon. The only way out is to crawl over, under and around the boulders that range in such from a sedan to a tractor-trailer. There are no side exit trails unless you climb straight up a 300 ft. canyon wall. So for just over a mile, I worked my way inch by inch through the notch with a bum ankle. Hey, gang talk about true grit and guts and glory. This was it. Every few yards, I had to stop and plan the best way to attack the next series of boulders. It was all climbing, leaping, and then sliding down on the seat of my pants. I believe that I have just about worn out the backside of my hiking pants. Had to place my sleeping pad inside the backpack to save it from being shredded. Two hikers before me forgot to do it, and it cost them a sleeping pad or mattress. The leaping from rock to rock was something that took a lot of very, very, very, careful consideration because I had to consider the weight of my backpack and the shifting of the weight. Pretty dicey stuff at times! Once thing I found is that people over 50, especially me, do not have the agility and balance of people under 30. I mean the hand and eye coordination is still there, but the balancing ability faded years ago. Yep, I should have retired 30 years ago. I keep telling the Youngbloods (hikers in their 20’s) that they should have seen me 35 years ago. Geez, I’d giv’em a run for their money and show’em how to hike the damn mountains. Okay, I’m digressing and daydreaming here. Son-Dance, you aren’t getting any younger so hurry up and get this trail journal entry finished. Read more »

Knights of the Whites! (Turn out the lights on the Whites!)

Dear Herm’s Hiker’s,

In the words of Rod Serling from the Twilight Zone, “Tonight meet our good friend Son-Dance, a gypsy trail hiker who once traveled to the White Mountains in search of perfect knowledge and spiritual enlightment. Tonight meet our good friend Son-Dance, a mystic voyager who survived his trip in another mythical and magical dimension known as the Alpine Zone.” Cue to music (theme from the Twilight Zone!)

Did I just refer to myself as a trail hiker in the Whites? No, no, no! Let me correct that mistake! A more accurate description would be rock climber. For you see, for most of the Whites from Mount Washington to Gorahm, there is no trail, just mountains of rocks with a few white blazes if you’re lucky. Most of trail is marked by cairns. Sounds easy enough to follow, but when you get to the top of a mountain ridge where trails intersect (and there are lots of side trails in the Whites for day and weekend hikers), there are cairns standing eveywhere like silent traffic cops. They know the right direction, but they’re not saying a word. If you’re lucky there might be a signpost giving you some additional directions. Sure glad that I bought the trail maps from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy! Read more »

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