Monson, Maine

Yesterday I walked about 26.something miles. A full marathon. Not bad considering the last 11 miles were in the rain and the last 8 in the dark. Seen as my “Packa” has the worst hood in the world I can’t use a headlamp in the rain and therefore had to hold the headlamp up my sleeve the whole way! Though it held up well against the pounding rain and my torso kept dry the whole time. Not bad. It was fine though because the terrain was pretty easy, with the exception of two river fordings. The rain was pounding down and the wind howling as I set up my tent. Right next to a cooler full of sodas! Right at the finish line of my marathon! What a stroke of good luck, hey?! Plus a granola bar. This spurred me on to completion as a southbounder told me about it, plus the idea of a beautiful “nearo” in Monson, Maine today. A “nearo” is a near zero hike. This classes now as anything less than 10 miles now. 5 months ago this was a reasonably big day.

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This morning I arrived before 9:30 after 7 miles for a four of everything breakfast at Shaw’s bunkhouse. It was beautiful and greasy and heaven! All I did today was eat that, a Ruben, a few packs of cookies and a round of All-American Trivial Pursuit. Oh, and a shower. It was my first shower in a long, long time. I won’t tell you exactly when, but it was longer ago than any of you would probably ever like to take. After 5.5 months in the woods it becomes the norm. I can see how homeless people get so filthy and not seem to care. Us humans can get used to any sort of filth.

Tomorrow morning I head out to the 100-mile wilderness.I will spend 4 days hiking the 65-70 miles of the last 117 miles to the summit of Katahdin. Then I’ll take 24 hours off before I hike for 24 hours with the aim of completing around 40 miles in order to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

One in three of us will get cancer and it’s the toughest thing most of us will ever face. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, or a loved one has, you’ll want a team of people in your corner supporting you every step of the way.

Macmillan Cancer Support provide practical, medical and financial support and push for better cancer care.

Please donate if you haven’t already! 

Click below to see my recent photos including my moose encounter!

Photos

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2000 Mexican moose…err…miles

I just got to Horn Pond shelter (lean-to is just silly, let’s face it) and no fires allowed. aghhh I wanted to cook some mac n cheese (no stove) and get warm as it’s mighty chilly up this mountain.

I just passed the 2000 mile marker! Wooo only about 183 to go! Not bad, hey?! I’m really looking forward to being done now. It’s still great but really, why more than 2000?! Is it really necessary?! 😉 well yeah because I still have my 24 hour hike to do for Macmillan Charity. I’ve raised about $750 so far. That’s amazing! Thank you to all who have donated. Please do if you haven’t! I’ll give you a foot rub post-hike if you do!

http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/jakerussell

I’m looking forward to going home to my adopted country, Mexico. By the way, happy 202nd birthday, Mexico! ¡VIVA! I’m missing some great parties tonight! It’ll be great to see everyone and catch up. That in itself will be exhausting! Plus I’m really excited to be going home to spend time with my family and friends at Christmas. No rushing around, just lazing around and catching up! While doing as much exercise as possible. I’m 100% determined not to be one of the vast mjority of thru hikers who put all their weight back on!

Anyway, I’m still on trail and most people that read my blog are people I don’t know, so back to the trail!

Maine has been pretty challenging and very unique. The Whites were beautiful and the views were breathtaking but it’s great to be out of AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) territory and into the wilderness again. I might tackle this subject another day. Maine is where we have been aiming for this whole time! so YEAH!!! “no rain, no Maine” so they say. B******t, I say. You could easily have arrived in Maine even if you didn’t walk every day it rained this year. We have been very very fortunate. My feet didn’t even get wet till Hot Springs! Good luck class of 2013! I’m sure you’ll have a wet one to make up for this year! mwahahaha!

I met a moose yesterday. It was HUGE. At least 8 foot high with his antlers (are they called that?!) I know this because his eyes on his GIGANTIC head were a clear 6″ higher than mine. How do I know? Because he was 2 yards in front of me. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest. I stalked one at Eddy Pond at 5.55am in the near dark but there was another just behind me!!! He walked right up to me. I was mainly in awe but pretty terrified too as I have no idea what bull mooses do or how they react! Needless to say, they’re not called bulls for nothing. I was next to a big tree so I had that as a shield and knew I could outmanouve the 1500lb + (?) beast but he just loped over to me, there was no agression or fear in either of our movements. We stared at eachother for probably 20 seconds and he walked around me giving me lots of space. The only animal I could think of at the time in terms of comparative size was a small elephant. It was HUGE.

Unfortunately the light was so low the pictures I got are dreadful as I had the wrong setting and I genuinly feared a flash would have possibly resulted in me being crushed, kicked or antler-mauled to death. Or some combination of the three! I pursued him though through the bush to try and get more shots, but to no avail. On returning to pack up my tent about 15 minutes later I heard Sir. Moose-a-lot over on the other side of the pond and have some sweet shots and a cool video. I’ll link photos once I get a real computer.

So yeah, that was pretty awesome. I’d like to see more moose but nothing would top yesterday morning!


Screwing up

I’m almost out of New Hampshire now. Going into Maine in the morning! The last of 14 states. About 290 some miles till the end!

It’s raining and I’m in my tent. I’m pretty wet and so is a lot of my stuff! Oops. It went wrong quick. Coming down from Cascades Mountain it started raining a lil bit. Just enough to threaten wet feet. Found a spring then decided to camp off trail. Seen as a caretaker says I can camp wherever I like in this park so long as I’m 200 ft off trail I decided to do so. That was mistake 1, cue heavy downpour at this point. Bushwacking near a spring: very wet feet! Mistake 2 was putting my tent up at the velocity of an unenthused scout. The third, allowing my other stuff to get wet while doing so….the list goes on. Anyway, today has a list of mistakes the length of the Franconia Ridge that started at about 8am. The fact I’ve been on trail for 5 months and I messed up like I’d have exected in April makes me chuckle.

My sleeping bag’s dry and I have tons of food and a good book. Not that bad, ey?! Though a cold beer, chinese food and friends in Gorham does sound better! (been off the sauce for a while though now, feeling good for it and it will continue)

The White Mountains were pretty spectacular! Franconia Ridge was by far my favourite (minus daywalkers as I summited late and got sunrise(ish) as I did work for stay at Greenleaf hut. But all the other mountains were equally as awesome. Steep, steep, steep, but nothing like the SOBOs were banging on about “oh, NOBOs, you just don’t know…..” PAH! Amazing views all round, exciting climbs and a decent workout at last! Photos to come once I get to Rangely. The Presidentials on the other hand. I hated them. Webster Cliffs, I hadn’t expected such a challenging and dangerous climb (raining and alone!) but they were so much fun and really exciting. So that was great. Then I got sick. Mispah Spring…was it the food? wasn’t it? who knows. But I chundered like a beast! Then no views and I fell over on the rocks about 6 times. Horrendous. No wonder you guys name those wet, slimy, dangerous, repetitive rockpiles after politicians!

Now, don’t get offended, my good American friends. The weather was awful, I could see 2 cairns ahead of me and I was sick. I cursed every ex-president mountain as I climbed over and vomited on it.

Right, on to Maine. I aim to summit between 26th and 28th September. Probably the 27th. Naysay if you dare and I’ll call you a section hiker!


Entering the Whites!

Finally, after the past 1000 or so miles of rolling hills, small rocks and mediocre views (though it was all fantastic) I’m about to enter the Whites! Now for steep and insane mountains, huge boulders and awesome (dictionary definition) views. Today it feels pretty good to be alive! This is what I signed up for! On Smarts Mountain fire tower looking out to my upcoming days! 🙂


New Hampshire!

Here I am in Hanover, New Hampshire. We crossed the state line yesterday from Norwich, VT and were bombarded with free stuff! We first got a free $4 egg salad sandwich from the general store in Norwich. A guy whose brother hiked the trail gave us a box of $5 ginger cookies. Plus there were numerous coolers along the way into town outside local homes that contained cookies, watermelon, all sorts of stuff! And all for us! Coz we’re real hikers or something, I guess! ha

Then in Hanover (a college town – Dartmouth College is here – an Ivy League school) we got a free bagel with cream cheese, a free slice of pizza and I think there was something else. Then off I went for some not so free, but delicious IPAs in the local boozer, the Salt Hill Tavern, or something. I love the ale scene in the USA (did I already mention this?!). There are hundreds and thousands of local brews all over, just like the UK, except it feels way more young and vibrant as opposed to the British, equally as delicious though very doddery old scene of geezers in the corner of the pub.

So, starting hiking in New Hampshire! We’ll be climbing into the White Mountains in a couple of days! Pretty excited and slightly (though only slightly) nervous! We have REAL mountains to climb! LOOK:

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I have recently inflamed my old injury in my right achilles tendon and also I have some weird muscle problem in my left calf. It doesn’t hurt but the muscle kinda bulges out in one spot. Pretty freaky, but whatever, worse things happen at sea.

Anyway, I’m going to wait until I get home to worry about that. The lack of universal healthcare in the United States means I would pay $100 just to speak to a doctor, never mind any type of treatment or medication. RIDICULOUS! You guys are insane. Really 🙂

For this reason I’m going to delay my charity 24 hour hike until the end of the 100 mile wilderness so that if I do cripple myself, I’ll be right at the end and can just crawl up the final mountain, Katahdin! So that means there’s still time to donate to my excellent cause! Macmillan Cancer. Please do, because none of my blog readers have thus far donated! GUILT TRIP! Here is a recent news article about me in my hometown’s paper.

DONATE HERE! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

ImageDONATE HERE! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


Vermont

I have less than 500 miles to go! I WAS in the Yellow Deli hostel in Rutland, Vermont. A slightly strange place that I’d heard at least two people refer to as a cult beforehand. So, now my hair is braided and I’m about to drink some foul-tasting chemical substance from a communal trough on a farm in southern Idaho.

Is this really what I came here for?! I’m still unsure, but Jerimiah assures me it will all soon become clear.

Not really, I’m in my bunk waiting on my hiking buddy to catch some more Zs before we hit the road again. The people that run the group are a loving people that are religious (kinda Jewish and Christian without the book or something) and drink lots of mate. They eat western food with chopsticks (to slow the process down) and dance Israeli folk dances and sing on sabbath. I’m always prepared to pray and praise whichever lord or spaghetti monster is on offer when a free delicious meal and bunk is the carrot. So strike me down. Sure, they’re a little quirky but why are mainstream groups “religion” and small groups like this “cults”?! An unfair use of a very heavy word, I say. Either that or we use cult for all religion.
Anyway, we’ll be climbing Mount Killington today. The White Mountains are tantalisingly close. The feeling is a mixture of excitement and nerves. It just gets more difficult and beautiful from here on out. So the SOBOs say (southbounders) anyway. SOBOs must be sick of NOBOs. (I’m sick of us, too) I went to the pub with two last night. They’ve only done 500 miles so some NOBOs (especially those at the front who have no finished) are pretty douchy and know-it-all with them. But they’re not bitter. They’re having an awesome time, aww those were the days (just kidding!). Another 500 miles and some will be suffering like many a fallen nobo in late Virginia. At least they won’t have the heat! Good luck Tush and Greenthumb!

Also on my mind – I’m in my local paper, the Shrewsbury Chronicle! I was picked up by Daniel in Manchester, VT and welcomed into his family for a shower and a meal (Thankyou!!! photo to come). I’m getting somewhere close to what some people would call skinny in the right light. My legs are crazy muscular. I have a weird muscle problem on one calf that is unsightly and slightly worrying though painfree: I have to delay the 24 hour hike till the end. I want but don’t want to finish. I miss both homes and the people in them. I know my future but yet still unsure. I have answered many questions I had before and on trail. I have, however, asked many more. I could go on for days with simple sentences like this. Some cool, others deep, others depressing, disgusting, embarrassing….oh here goes the list of adjectives. A blog does NOT do the trail justice. Get out here and do it!

So much happens in a seemingly simple lifestyle. The physical hiking is considerably easier (though still very tough) than I expected. Everything else, the psychological and emotional battles are the real challenge.


24 Hour Sponsored Hike!!!

Ok guys.

This is it.

This is where I see how much you value me as a blogger, friend, colleague or family member!

A very good friend of mine was recently diagnosed with liver cancer. This was obviously a huge shock to everyone who knows him. I felt in need of doing something to help in some way but I didn’t know how.

He receives help from Macmillan Cancer Support and I know that they have really helped him and his family. I’m going to do a 24 hour sponsored hike to help this WONDERFUL charity. 

I’m currently at mile 1490 of 2183 of the Appalachian Trail. I’m in New England and now the terrain is starting to get really tough! And will get much much much harder soon. I’ll be hiking some HUGE mountains before I know it! And will be in the sponsored section.I aim to do a 24 hour hike, starting at midnight and ending at midnight the following day. I hope to cover around 40 miles in that time. But who knows, maybe it could be much more! I will take short breaks during and will try to keep up a speed of approximately 2mph. This will likely take place in Vermont.

Click here to DONATE NOW! Two miles per hour might not seem much but I will be going up and down huge mountains, clambering over rocks, through muddy swamps and more than that I’m already exhausted! Trust me, this is going to be hard, if not hell at times. I know I will try my very hardest.

Please donate what you can!
$1 would be greatly appreciated.
$10 would be AMAZING!
$100 and I will give you a foot rub!
$1000 and I will likely marry you!
PLEASE PLEASE donate what you can, even if it’s the smallest amount! If I ever made you laugh out loud or provided you with some mild entertainment or tip or advice, that’s worth at least a dollar or pound!
I know my friend, his family and many many others like him will greatly appreciate all the help you can give to Macmillan Cancer Support and therefore to those directly affected by cancer.
Macmillan Cancer Support supports local information and support centres, cancer support groups, benefits advisers and cancer support specialists, and can help with practical, medical, financial and emotional support.