Homer's Travels: July 2022

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #26

After taking off a week to reassess things after my aborted attempt at finishing the Appalachian Trail (AT),  this week I restarted my routine.

  • On Thursday I went out to lunch with my Mom.  We tried out a fast casual place called Foodies.  It was good enough.  The ice cream afterwards was yum.
  • I restarted walking going out for three walks this week.  I started out slow with short walks as my legs were still a little achy from my AT experience.  Despite walking less than seven miles each outing, I managed to reach my twenty mile weekly goal I'd set earlier this year.  In the end I walked 20.7 miles (33.3 km).

    This coming week is going to be a really hot one with temps above 95℉ (35℃) with heat indexes substantially higher.  I haven't decided what I am going to do.  I will either do very short walks (5 miles or less), catch up on some shows in our cool basement, or a combination of both.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Book: Jack Weatherford's "Genghis Khan And The Making Of The Modern World"

Earlier this year I read "The Ottomans" in an attempt to fill holes in my knowledge of history.  Continuing this hole filling my next book, suggested to me by a friend of mine (VagabondZebra247), was Jack Weatherford's "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World".

This book, about the life of Genghis Khan and the creation of the Mongol empire, is written as a history book should be written.  The book reads like a novel.  You get invested in Genghis Khan's life and his ascendancy to the leadership of the Mongol empire that he built.

I knew very little about the Mongols just like I knew little about the Ottomans.  The little I knew was skewed by the eurocentric view of modern historical education.  This bias is so unfair to these asian civilizations who often develop government and social structures before the Europeans.  For example, while the Europeans were obsessed with Christianity the Mongols practiced an aggressive freedom of religion.  I never knew that many Mongol leaders were christian.

The Mongol empire started with massive conquest of the asian continent, transformed into a mercantile and trade behemoth, before succumbing to the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) which their trade routes spread to Europe.  Along the way Genghis Khan and his descendants changed the world and made it what it is today.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  An excellent history and a true eye opener.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Relief, Disappointment, And The End Of A Dream

When I ended my 2019 Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike attempt one of the factors that convinced me to stop were the shakiness of my legs.  Every step up was a challenge, every step down felt like my leg would collapse.  Three years later, by the end of the first day back on the trail, my legs felt the same as they did in the White Mountains - shaky, unstable, and weak.  My legs never actually gave out and I wonder if my true problem was a loss of confidence.  My 2011 Camino had given me my confidence and the AT took it away.  

Over the past week my feelings have fluctuated from relief of being off the trail, wondering if I gave up too quickly, and mourning for the end of my AT dream.

Every SOBO I ran into talked about how beautiful Maine was and the pictures I took supported the veracity of their statements.  I'd been looking forward to the ponds, rivers, and mountain views that would be the crown of my AT adventure.  But this was my third strike.  I tried three times to complete the AT (2017, 2019, and this year).  There will not be a fourth.  And I mourn my loss.

I told other hikers that this was my last big solo outing.  I can't say I'm not disappointed..  But my adventures will become our adventures and the Wife and I will explore the world together and that will make it all better.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022


I was going to celebrate my fifty-ninth birthday by hiking into Kingfield, ME and spending a zero day there but instead I will clean the kitchen and bathrooms.

Happy Birthday to me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Appalachian Trail: Gorham, NH (Rattle River Hostel, US 2) To Grafton Notch (ME 26) … And Back

Last week I was back on the Appalachian Trail (AT).  I was hopeful.  I was excited to be back on the trail.  I was looking forward to seeing and experiencing all the AT and Maine had to offer.  Let's see what actually happened. 

Crossing the Androscoggin River.
Day 1 - The shuttle dropped me off at the location of the now defunct Rattle River Hostel where I ended my AT attempt in 2019.  The first half mile was a road walk along North Road, across the Androscoggin River, and Hogan Road before I left the road and entered the wilderness.

The trail started out similar to how I remembered it: a little rocky, a little rooty, not too difficult.  That changed quickly.  The rocks and roots became more numerous.  I was slowed down quite a bit but it was still within my AT hiking experience.  Near the top of Flat Mountain the views reminded me of what I enjoyed the most about AT.  The weather was perfect and the sky was blue and the mountains went on forever.  I was also starting to meet other hikers, both south bound (SOBO) and north bound (NOBO).

Not far from this first summit I passed by the 1,900 mile (3,057 km) mark.  If I'd continued back in 2019 this would have gotten me exited.  This time it didn't have the meaning it would have had.

It started out so innocent looking.
As the trail continued it got harsher, rockier, rootier, and downright annoying.  Somewhere along the trail I took my first tumble and banged up my left knee.  It wasn't a show topper or anything but in the south it had taken a couple months before I took my first fall on the trail.  I found myself being more careful with foot placement which meant constantly staring at my feet.

Despite all the foot staring I still noticed the views at Page Pond and the summits I crossed on the trail.  This first day was a preview of what was coming ahead in Maine and I couldn't wait.

When I reached my goal for the day, Gentian Pond Shelter and Campsite, I was exhausted.  I know I had long, tired days in the south but this felt different.  This was beyond normal exhaustion.  I could hardly walk.  I was too tired to do anything.  I tried to make a meal but that didn't go well as I'd rather just lay on the floor of the shelter and moan.

Page Pond.
This was not a good start.

My first day.  11.7 miles (18.8 km)

Day 2 -  Normally I was the first to get up.  The Sun was rising at 5:15am so I saw me getting up soon after.  That didn't happen. I stayed in my sleeping bag until other people got up at 5:40am  I ate breakfast, packed up my gear, and headed out to my next goal around 9.6 miles (15.4 km) away.  Between me and that goal were Mount Success, Mount Carlo, and several versions of Goose Eye Mountain (west, east, north).

Gentian Pond in the morning sun.
It was during the climb up and over Mount Success that I realized I'd bitten off more than I could chew.  The trail was like an unending Stairmaster.  The unending rocks, varying from baby step ups to the stride of a giant troll, just beat up my legs.  It wasn't long before my legs were shaky (more about that in a future post).

Mountains as far as you can see.
I decided that, unless things got better or I felt better, I would quit when I got to Andover, ME.

My last state on the AT (#14)
I crossed into Maine, which was kinda cool, before I reached the turn off to the Carlo Col Shelter and Campsite.  I was exhausted … again … so I took the turn off and cursed the difficult 0.3 mile (0.5 km) side trail to the shelter.  I had three and a half swallows of water left when I got to the shelter.

With the decision to stop at Carlo Col Shelter, I missed my goal of the day by over 4 miles.  This was not a good sign and I decided to get off before Andover at Grafton Notch.  I figured I could get there in two 7 mile (11 km) days. 

That night I was joined by other hikers and a gaggle of fifteen plus pre-teen French speaking school girls (I presume they were from Quebec).

My second day.  5.2 miles (8.4 km)

Day 3 - Over the past few days SOBOs kept mentioning the Mahoosuc Notch and the Mahoosuc Arm.  I looked it up in my guide book and saw the description (Not sure how I had missed it during my planning).  It said: "Most difficult or fun mile of the the AT. Make way through jumbled pit of boulders."  *sigh*  My goal for the day had been a campsite between the Mahoosuc Notch descent and the Mahoosuc Arm climb roughly at the 7 mile point.  I changed my goal to make it easier.

Mountains, trees, and bogs.
I left camp and headed north over the peaks I'd missed the day before - Mount Carlo and the several versions of Goose Eye Mountain. To my surprise it was hard (🌵).  This was a relatively dry part of the trail which meant I was carrying more water.  It didn't help too much as I was still conserving water before I reached the Full Goose Shelter and Campsite.  I said it was dry.  By that I'm referring to drinking water.  It did rain on me this morning … the only day when I had rain.

I looked at the miles ahead of me and decided, instead of the two sevens I'd planned, I would do three 5 mile (8 km) sections instead.  My restriction was food but … I wasn't doing a very good job of eating all my daily food so extending this section to five days instead of four wasn't a problem.

Did I hike over there … I think so.
I had my second fall on the way to the shelter.  Banged up my right knee.  Nothing major.  I always wanted a matching set of banged up knees.

I arrived at the shelter at 12:30pm and just slept and forced myself to eat all afternoon.  Forced because I had zero appetite … no hiker hunger.

A SOBO stopped here for the evening too.  He talked about how beautiful Maine was and how much he enjoyed it.  All I could think was how bad my body felt and wondered just how deep of an exhaustion a person could bear.

My third day. 4.4 miles (7.1 km)

Day 4 - I woke up in a mild panic.  I'd been dreaming of going through the Mahoosuc Notch and falling to my doom.  Not a good way to start your day.  I had two days to go to get off the trail and my subconscious and conscious minds were both concerned about getting off alive.

Surprised they actually gave us rebar steps.
I left camp and went up and over the Fulling Mountain south peak before I arrived at the start of the boulder jumble.

To get through this part of the AT it is best to put your poles in your pack since you will need free hands to climb.  I put my poles away and started rock hopping until I caught up with a NOBO from Georgia named Trouble.  We talked a little while we slowly made our way up, over, under, and around large boulders.  We both said it was nice to have someone to do this part with so there was someone to call 911 if the other got injured.

The start of the boulder jumble of Mahoosuc notch.
The hard part of the notch decent, besides having to climb up and down rocks with a pack on your back, was figuring out how to get through it.  There were white blazes (AT markers) on some of the rocks but the path to those blazes wasn't always obvious.  Several times Trouble and I just stood there looking trying to figure the best way through some rocks that wouldn't kill us.  Trouble was surprised we hadn't come across any skeletons and I said "that is probably the only trail maintenance they do around here" which made us both laugh.

There were three places where you were expected to go through a tunnel formed by boulders.  You had to take your pack off to squeeze through.  We decided to find alternative routes to skip most of these.

Despite the potential danger, the rock hop was pretty cool.  Between some of the larger boulders you could still see ice and snow.  When you walked by cave-like openings it felt like you were walking in front of an air conditioner.  We stopped at an accessible stream between the rocks and had our fill of water so cold it almost gave us brain freeze.  Was it difficult?  Yes, this wasn't hiking, it was rock climbing.  Was it fun too? I'd have to say yes.  One thing I am sure of … I would never try to do this in the rain.

The arrow says go in but we climbed around.
We passed the campsite I'd considered going to the day before.  It was very nice but I'm glad I didn't push it. The trail then went straight up the mountain to a point known as the Mahoosuc Arm.  This trail was mostly long solid slabs of stone at a slight angle off vertical.  I think they expected you to trust the soles of your shoes to stick to that rock.  I used trees and roots along the side of the rocks to climb instead.

Trouble and I arrived at the Speck Pond Shelter and Campsite soon after.  Another hiker showed up and briefly disappeared.  When he reappeared his hair was wet.  Apparently he likes visiting ponds.  He likes to put on goggles and stick his head in the ponds he visits to see if there is anything interesting.  He then moved on ... I presume to another pond to stick his head in.

Having someone with me through this section helped a lot.  Trouble was continuing on to Grafton Notch.  I was too tired to continue on and spent the night in the shelter.  We thanked each other and said our goodbyes.  I think she will make it to Katahdin.

My fourth day. 5.1 miles (8.2 km)

Day 5 - So … this four day stage turned into a five day stage and covered 10 miles (16 km) less than I'd planned.  This didn't go as I expected.

Speck Pond.
I got up and had a slow morning around the shelter.  I went behind the shelter and walked down to the edge of Speck Pond.  It was a nice morning.  The water was like glass.  I noticed some ripples and saw a beaver apparently doing laps since it really didn't seem like it was going anywhere in particular.  I'd seen a small snake the day before at the same spot.

On top of Old Speck Mountain.
I left the shelter and climbed up Old Speck Mountain.  I sat at the peak and turned on my phone.  I called a shuttle to pick me up and made a hotel reservation.  I gave myself too much time to get down the mountain.

My last white blaze.
The descent was over 2,600 feet (792.5 m) but, compared to some of the other trails, it was relatively gentle.  I made it down to the road without incident.

My shuttle pick up time was at 2:00pm and I was there at 11:30am.  I sat with some SOBOs and told them about the Mahoosuc notch coming ahead for them.  It was more of a "It's not so bad" talk.  They were all young and I was feeling old.

My shuttle picked me up early just before the rain returned and I was dropped off in Gorham.

This … whatever this was … was over.

My last day on trail. 4.6 miles (7.4 km)
Pictures can be found in my 2022 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album. 

Total Distance*: 1,927.0 Miles (3,101.2 km)
Section Distance: 32.0 Miles (51.5 km)
Section Elevation Up: 11,632 ft (3,545 m)
Section Elevation Down: 10,778 ft (3,285 m)
Total Distance includes the distance I hiked in 2019.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Another State In The Rear View ... Another Year Together

If everything is on schedule then today I will leave New Hampshire and enter the state of Maine for the first time.  What a way to celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.


It turns out we probably have only spent half of our anniversaries together.  I always seem to be travelling for work or on the Appalachian Trail.

As for my current progress, I've been trying to get into Maine since at least 2015 when we went on our New England trip.  I'd hoped to get there that trip but time was limited and Maine was dropped from our itinerary.  In 2019 I'd hope to get there on the Appalachian Trail but, once again, I didn't make it, stopping only two days before I would have crossed the border.  Since you are reading this, I think I made it this time.

I only have two more states to visit: North Dakota and Delaware.  Not sure when I will visit this odd pair of states but I think I should put some effort into it.  Maybe during another of our anniversaries.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Here We Go Again ...

I left this morning, taking a shuttle, for the Rattle River trailhead.  This trailhead was a short distance down the road from the Rattle River Lodge (closed - a victim of COVID) where I ended my Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike attempt in 2019.  If everything goes as planned (it never does) in thirty days I will reach the peak of Katahdin and my AT journey, which started with a few thoughts back in 2011-2012, will finally come to an end.

The next two weeks, more or less, are going to be hell.  The terrain will be difficult and I will be out of shape but I'm going to try my best to push through.  The days are long and my miles are relatively short at the beginning so I can take my time and enjoy where I am.  The description of the last three hundred miles of the AT sounds awesome with mountain views, camping near ponds, fording rivers, and even a two person ferry.

I avoided checking the weather forecast for Maine until this week and I was pleasantly surprised.  Highs around 75℉ (~23℃) and evening lows around 50℉ (~10℃).  No rain for the first half of the first stage with a 50% chance of rain on the back half.  Since I will be hiking at elevation the temps will most likely be a few degrees cooler - perfect hiking weather.

My next stop is Andover, ME.  It will be a short one night stay at a hostel (most likely) with a post office resupply.  See you then!

Saturday, July 09, 2022

To Start Early Or Not

On Friday I finished my supply.  I picked up my box from the post office with my first four days of food and a lot of my gear.  I had to buy a new box as mine had a big gash in it from rough handling.  I mailed the extra supplies three stops ahead.  I stopped by the sporting goods place and purchased two camp stove gas canisters (I'm always paranoid about running out of stove gas even tho one canister would probably be enough).  I purchased a bottle of Smart Water (for the thicker water bottle more than the intelligence of the water in it) to use as my main water bottle.  By noon I was ready to go except for actually packing. 

Since everything went so smoothly I considered rescheduling my shuttle from Sunday to Saturday. I ran a couple scenarios to see if it would work.

Scenario #1: I'm currently scheduled to arrive in Rangely, ME on a Sunday afternoon. Since the post office is closed on Sunday I will have to pick up my resupply Monday morning thus having a late start to the hiking day. Moving the shuttle pick up to Saturday would get me to Rangely on Saturday afternoon.
Downside: Unfortunately the post office closes at noon on Saturday so I would still have to wait until Monday to get my resupply.

Scenario #2: Move the shuttle pick up to Saturday then do longer days to shave another day off so that I arrive in Rangely on Friday afternoon. I could pick up my resupply and still be two days ahead.
Downside: pushing the first eight days would not be good especially since I have no idea how my body will be holding up and how difficult the terrain will be. The terrain looks strenuous in my guide book.

Both scenarios look bad, frankly, so I decided to stick to my original schedule and save the pushing for the second half when I know how I'm feeling.  Now to pack and repack until I return to how I packed everything during my 2019 Appalachian Trail attempt.

P. S. I was considering taking an Uber to the nearest movie theater to see "Thor: Love and Thunder" but the Uber ride would have been $45 one way.  I think I'll watch it when I get home and it's on Disney+. 

Friday, July 08, 2022

Getting To The Beginning Of The End

Traveling to my starting point, Gorham, NH, went very smoothly.  The Wife dropped me off at the airport around 4:30 am and my flight left on time at 6:05 am.  Not only was it on time but I was upgraded to first class without me asking.  I was in the first row.

My Chicago flight left twenty minutes late but we arrived in Boston only five minutes late so that worked out great.  While I wasn't upgraded on this flight I wasn't very far from the front so I got off the plane fairly quickly. 

Since I mailed my food and all the pointy bits that I couldn't bring onboard the plane before I left, I only had a carry-on which made it easy getting off the plane and to the 'Scheduled' bus stop with plenty of time to spare.

The next two hours felt like they lasted forever as I waited for my bus to arrive and I sat there inhaling diesel fumes.  Everytime a bus from Concord bus line came by I jumped just to be disappointed when it was not the right one or it was just dropping people off. The bus I was waiting for arrived on schedule and I thought about reading on the way but I was too tired so I just vegged out for most of the five hour ride.

As the bus got closer to Gorham and the scenery became more familiar my palms started sweating and I thought "What the hell am I doing?" I think I was having flashbacks to how I felt when I last hiked through the White Mountains.  I think I will do better than last time.  I am nearly ten pounds lighter and my hiking diet is better balanced. The only things still giving me pause are logistical issues which shouldn't be too difficult to iron out. 

The bus dumped me off in front of the Circle K convenience store and I walked the two to three blocks to my cheap motor inn I'd booked.  It turned out to be nicer than I expected. 

The office was closed when I got there but I'd given them heads up that I would be arriving later than the 8:00 pm check in time and they left my room info in the mail box on the office door.

It was a long sixteen hour travel day and I didn't sleep much on the plane so I got a quick meal at McDonalds and went to bed shortly after.  Hopefully a good night's sleep will calm my nerves. 

The sporting goods store where I will buy my stove fuel opens this morning at 8:00 am and the post office opens at 8:30 am and there is a mile and a half of walking to do to get there.

After that it's just time to psych myself up so I'm ready to go when the shuttle picks me up on Sunday morning. 

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #25

 Besides worrying about my upcoming Appalachian Trail (AT) hike I also:

  • Distracted myself by watching Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Orville: New Horizons, the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, and the final two episodes of Stranger Things season four.  I enjoyed all of them.
  • The Wife and I visited the Brother-in-Law's house on Lake Cornelia on Saturday for an early July Fourth observance.  The Wife got in the lake for the first time since 1997 (right before our wedding).  I enjoyed the wonderful weather from the deck.
  • Sunday was spent catching up on chores and starting to make packing lists for my AT trip.  The fourth holiday feels a bit tarnished this year.  An independence day with less independence for half the population.

Friday, July 01, 2022

The Wife And I Going Beyond Van Gogh

Yesterday the Wife and I got out of the house and went to Council Bluffs to visit the Beyond Van Gogh Exhibit at the Mid-America Center.

Our experience started off on a weird note when we went to use the washroom before we went into the exhibit.  By the snack bar in a lounge the dulcet tones of Guns-N-Roses "Sweet Child of Mine" ... on piano ... wafted through the air.  The Wife and I agreed that it was so wrong.

We entered the exhibit and passed through the first part, a history of Vincent Van Gogh, the jobs he worked at, and failed at, before becoming a painter.  We learned about his relationship with his brother and the sad ending of his life.

A colorful explosion of art all around us.
You left this section, passed along a dark corridor that opened into a large hall.  Van Gogh artwork was projected on the four walls and the floor.  The projections were animated and full of flowing motion morphing from one piece to another.

Van Gogh enjoyed painting nature.
The Wife and I wandered around the floor taking in all the show enjoying everything.  The movement of the colors, especially on the floor was a bit disorienting.  The Wife got dizzy a few times.  The show continued for a long time.  We noticed the long loop repeating so we exited through the gift shop, leaving with a t-shirt and a magnet for our collection.

A sweeping seascape.
You can see pictures I took in my 2022-06-30 Beyond Van Gogh Google Photos album.

How I see the Wife and I in the future - in a small hamlet in Europe.