Tuesday, July 7, 2020
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Glaskogens Naturreservat

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Glaskogens Naturreservat

As Fabian and I finished our canoeing trip we had three days left in Sweden before we had to head back to Germany. What should you do with three days of free time in a country with lovely landscapes and tons of lakes? …. of course go on a hiking trip! I did a short Google search about hiking trails around our location. The search wasn’t that successful. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland I mostly use OutdoorActive for searching for hiking trails. It’s very popular in these locations. Well, I found the perfect tour.

The tour is considered as a 3 day tour with a middle degree of difficulty and 41 km (26 miles).

Our trip displayed on Google Maps

Day 1

After a two hour drive to the Glaskogens naturreservat we parked our car at a local campsite. They offer free parking! Btw, by swedish standards it’s a very popular hiking area. If you’re an European it feels like there is almost nobody around! Besides the first and the last mile, where the trail meets the day hike trails, we only met one single person on the trail.

It was already 5pm as we started our hike. There weren’t any mosquitoes or black flies the last days as we were close to the big lakes. There is always a slight breeze around. Different situation in the woods, bogs and small lakes. We hiked about 8 km (5 miles) in as we arrived at the first lake. There are a total of 16 lakes on the whole tour. We stopped at a neat looking camp spot just besides the lake and had some bars. We didn’t feel like already setting up our tents. So we continued our hike. Poor us, we would realize this was the only camp spot directly at a lake, even there were tons of them at the trail. At the next lake, around 12 km (7.5 miles) in we found a spot right in the woods on an abandoned forest road. Finding a spot in the swedish woods isn’t that easy. The ground isn’t level at all and there are roots and rocks just everywhere. After filling up all our water bottles we cooked some food and went straight into our tents. Mosquitoes all over the place! We listened to a famous german travel podcast and felt asleep.

Day 2

The next morning was a calm one. There was no noise to hear at all. Lovely! We knew this day would be a long and harsh one. The weather forecast predicted sunshine all the day with very warm temperatures and no wind at all. At least no rain though 😉 The trail itself doesn’t have a lot of elevation. But the trail is mostly overgrown with bushes which slows down your speed a lot. After breakfast we packed our camp and started hiking again. Even though we had a lot of miles to hike this day we somehow weren’t in a hurry at all. We just enjoyed the different landscapes. The woods with the super green moss everywhere, lovely calm little lakes and of course the bogs. We had to fill up our water at a lake which was surrounded by a bog. It’s not that easy to keep your feet dry. You could sink in literally with every step you take. On top of that we were attacked by thousands of mosquitoes. This wasn’t fun at all! Getting water this day was crucial. Because of the hot temperatures we had to plan our water stops precisely.

At our lunch break I took a look on the map. The trail should cross a lake. Little did we know it shouldn’t be a bridge. Crossing a lake in Sweden is an adventure! 🙂 There was one rowing boat on each side. We took the one on our side and paddled over to the other side. Always leave on boat on each side! So, we paddled back with two boats. As there was nobody around at all waiting for a boat we took a break in the middle of the lake and just enjoyed the beautiful weather. A well earned break!

At the evening we spotted a shelter with lots of tenting space close to another big lake. Guess what? There were a lot of people there! No hikers though. They all came in their canoes. We haven’t met a single person and than we found a crowded shelter?! We decided not to stay there and did another loop around the lake on an abandoned forest road. The road itself had some perfect camp spots with lots of flat terrain. Because we did way over 20 km (12.4 miles) this day we were pretty tired and had a good night sleep.

Day 3

This should be the last day on our Sweden trip. Nothing fancy this day. Besides we met the first person on trail! We just enjoyed the last steps and headed back to the campsite where our car was parked. As soon as we saw the “standard tourist hikers” we knew we must be close 😉 After a well needed shower we packed the car and drove back to Germany.

Canoeing in Sweden

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Canoeing in Sweden

I was looking forward to this two week Sweden trip for a long time. Sweden is one of my most favorite countries. The landscape is simply stunning and the people are very friendly. Summer in Sweden isn’t that long. The best time to visit Sweden is June or July. If you’ve never been to Sweden you’ll be amazed about the Scandinavian summer. It gets dark during the night time. But not that long as you’re used to! Sunset was around 11pm. Sunrise already at 3am. Which leads to 4 hours of night time. Amazing! Fabian, a good friend of mine and myself decided to spend two weeks in Sweden. Our plan was to do a 8 day canoeing trip and some hiking afterwards.

On my last trips to Sweden I always took the ferry from Travemünde to Trelleborg. I never went over the bridges from Denmark to Sweden. This time I had to drive over this huge bridges. It was crazy. I never drove over such huge bridges. I mean the big container ships just go under them. Btw, a car trip from southern Germany to southern Sweden takes about 18 hours. Which is quite a lot for Europeans 😉 Nevertheless, I always enjoy driving a car through Sweden. Not on the highways though, which is pretty boring. But the small streets in the inner country… you can just enjoy the landscape around you.

We arrived in Bengtsfors earlier than expected. We rented a canoe from a company called KanuKing. Check them out! Nothing bad to say at all. Very friendly people and fair prices. They let us sleep on their campground for free! As we had plenty of time, we organized our stuff and packed all things we needed for a 8 day canoeing trip into four waterproof barrels. We had waaaaaaaay too much food with us. But as we had some empty space, we packed all of it! Other than that, we basically had our normal camping gear with some extras and a lot of luxury items. There was no need to pack lightweight. Tents, hammocks, camping chairs, sleeping bags, etc.

Our trip displayed on Google Maps

Day 1

The weather on the first day was mostly sunny with some clouds during the daytime (which isn’t bad when you’re exposed to the sun all day). In the camp it was all sunny!

We got a short introduction on how to steer a canoe. As I was on a canoeing trip before, I did the job as a steersman. After one hour on the first small lake we paddled through a small cannel to a lake called Lelång where we would spend most of our time. Because of the introduction which took place pretty late, we only paddled for three hours this day. Our intention wasn’t to make big stretches. It was vacation time. So our focus was enjoying our time outdoors. We found a small camp spot over two floors made for exactly two tents. I had to set up my tent on a rock plate without stakes. This was a premiere for me! After setting up camp we had to try out all our new gear (hammock, axe and saw).

Day 2

Sun all day!!!

First things first. Cooking breakfast on a spirit stove. I never cooked on a spirit stove before. We got one from the canoe rental company. After using the spirit stove for eight days I definitively prefer a gas stove. Way easier to handle! We spent our lunch break at a lovely bay, which was the most beautiful bay on our whole trip. That’s why we spent a lot of time there. We walked all over the island and discovered a lot of camp spots. This place looked crowdy, although we were the only ones! It was the perfect spot to chill and go for a swim. Nevertheless we continued our trip. This days camp spot was gorgeous once more. I was able to set up my tent on a little plateau with a perfect view all over the lake!

Day 3

Sunny all day until our camp spot. Strong winds in the evening and some thunderstorms further away. The weather calmed down for a perfect sunset with almost no clouds and no wind at all.

Every morning we cooked porridge and of course coffee! Whoever of us woke up first had to make coffee 🙂 On day 3 we wanted to paddle to the next lake. We had to pass a sluice which was a little exciting in a canoe. Right after the sluice we followed a pretty narrow river for over an hour. It was all shade… a well wanted change after paddling in the sun all the time! At around 4pm we spotted a huge plateau which led to a perfect spot for our camp. As on the last day, just as we set up our tents, it got very windy and clouds were rolling in. It also got pretty chilly in the wind. We put our sleeping bags in our hammocks and were fine. The next three hours we did a nap in our hammocks. As the wind calmed down we came back to life again!

Day 4

A bit cloudly, but absolutely no wind at all in the beginning. The water was almost like a mirror.

Fabian slept in his hammock this night. I prefer sleeping in my tent though! He slept very well, so I had to make coffee this morning. As the water was very calm we were pretty fast this day. We reached our planned spot already at lunch. Paddling further wasn’t an option as all the upcoming area was a conservation area. Camping was strictly prohibited! On our way down we came by a beautiful bay. That’s why we paddled the same way back for a bit. It has been worth it. We enjoyed a perfect view of sunset this evening. Once more my tent was right besides the lake with also a perfect view of sunset.

Day 5

Mainly sunny with rain forecast for around 5pm

Today was all about efficiency. We wanted to be at camp before the rain. We had an early start this day and paddled back to the sluice. There was some drizzling for about 10 minutes. Nothing bad at all as the sun was out. The combination of drizzle and the sun lead to an awesome rainbow right over the lake. Around lunch time the sluice was already behind us. Plenty of time to find the right spot. We were quite in hurry while setting up our tents. This time we also set up a tarp to be perfectly prepared against the rain! Guess what?! It didn’t rain at all!!

Day 6

Pretty cloudy in the morning, sun all around noon, some clouds in the evening

Because of all the clouds and also fog we weren’t in a hurry at all this morning. We cooked some bacon on top of our normal breakfast. As the sun came out we packed all our stuff. Today’s plan was to paddle only a bit towards an island and look for a spot on the island. Just at the beginning of this island we found a perfect rock to take a nap on. Awesome! A little further we arrived in another bay. Time to set up camp. This bay was also the home of some seagulls.

Day 7

Mix of sun and clouds. Pretty windy in the afternoon

Paddling on the lakes the last days was a lot of fun. Not today!! It got very windy in the afternoon. With all the wind it got pretty rough on the water. A lot of big waves and steering the canoe wasn’t that easy any more. After a while the waves got bigger and bigger. I didn’t feel comfortable being on the water any more. Our only option was to land at a private landing stage. The landowner came down and helped us getting our canoe out of the water. He offered us to stay in his garden as long as we wanted to. He also offered us to set up our tents in his garden. I really love the kindness of the Swedish people! We relaxed in his garden and watched the weather. The waves calmed down a bit and we continued paddling after two hours.

Day 8

Very windy throughout the whole day. At least the sun was out.

We had to paddle back to the canoe renting company. A long stretch left for one day. Because of the rough water on the day before we didn’t paddle a lot. The morning wasn’t easy paddling at all. Pretty big waves once more. It was pretty exhausting. That’s why we took a lot of short breaks to regain some energy. After around a third back to the campground there were a lot of small island which blocked the big waves. We reached the campground in time. On our last day we paddled the biggest stretch!

All in all this eight day canoeing trip was amazing. Being out in the nature always fills up my energy level!

I Was On The Radio

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After my successful Thru-Hike of the Appalachian Trail, I did an interview with a local journalist. He wrote an awesome article about my 6 month journey. The article was printed in two local newspapers (Gmünder Tagespost and Schwäbische Post). You can read the article on their homepage. Sadly, the full article is only readable if you have an account.

Nevertheless, one week after the article was in the newspaper, I got a phone call. The phone call was from the radio (SWR ULM). Wtf? I never got a call from the radio 😉 They asked my if I wanna visit them in the studio for an interview which should be on a local show. Of course I said yes!

I drove to Ulm and did a 16 minute interview with Volker Wüst. They also filmed the whole interview. You can watch the cut version of the interview on their homepage. As it’s a german radio the whole interview is in german.

Aggenstein

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Aggenstein

Two weeks after my Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike my buddy Johannes asked my if I wanna join him on a day hike in the alps up to a mountain called Aggenstein. Even I had two weeks of resting time my body still was very tired. My muscles weren’t sore, but walking somehow hurt. Nevertheless, the weather on the weekend was just perfect. I had to join him!

I picked him up at 5am and we drove two hours to our destination in Pfronten. We just reached the parking lot at sunrise time. What an epic sunrise with all the clouds surrounding the mountains! It was spectacular! After a short flat stretch it got steep pretty soon. I started with long pants and a fleece jacket. Pretty bad idea. About 5 minutes later I changed to shorts and a shirt.

Initially, we planned a 12 mile (18.5 kilometers) route. The signs leading to the summit showed a slightly other direction. We decided to follow the signs up to the summit instead of following our GPS. There is also a gondola going up to the start of the real climb. It wasn’t open yet. Nevertheless, we never would have used the gondola! We reached the top of the gondola about 1.5 hours after we started our hike and did a first short break to take a second breakfast. From now on we had awesome views down the valley and we were surrounded by all these beautiful mountains. It felt so great to be back in the alps.

The next stretch led us to the Kissinger hut. A nice little hut just at the mountain face. We took a longer break just before the hut after an exhausting climb up a pass. Just as we reached the hut there were a lot of people coming up on the other side of the mountain. That’s why we decided to push on instead of chilling at the hut. We really pushed hard the last stretch up to the summit. On the last stretch you shouldn’t be afraid of heights and be really aware of your steps. It’s pretty steep. There is a steel cable, but the rocks were really slippery. That’s why we climbed some stretches slightly besides the rope.

We reached the summit as one of the first people on this day, slightly 3 hours after we started the tour. We enjoyed our time up there and also fed some birds, which were definitely waiting for some food. The view was amazing once more. It took about 15 to 20 minutes and there were at least 20 people on the small summit. I cannot blame them. The weather and the views were just perfect. We started our descent. While going down, there were tons of people coming up. Worth the early start! We took a last break at another hut and I enjoyed a Radler. There were two possibilities going down the mountain. A longer route which would lead us walking along a road for quite a while and once more a steep black route down the rock face. Of course, we decided to hike down the steep one. Bad idea… While I haven’t had any issues with my knees going up, going down this steep trail was very bad on my knees. Johannes struggled a bit too and we took our time.

All in all a perfect first tour back at home. In total, we hiked 11.25 miles (18 kilometers) with an elevation of 5100 feet (1700 meters). I gave Johannes the nickname tour god. He always finds this amazing hiking trails. I have no clue how he does that, but I’m glad I’m able to join him on this hikes!

Summit Day

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Summit Day

Having the opportunity to stay at the lovely cabin, which Sherpa‘s parents rented, was amazing. Little did we know that we should stay another night at the cabin pretty soon.

We only had one set of four climbs left until our last big climb up to Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The last one, called White Cap Mountain, should be the biggest one. Our packs were pretty light this time. Bob and Rosemary (Sherpa‘s parents) planned another food drop for us. So we only carried two days worth of food. Initially we wanted to hike all the climbs and camp at a shelter just at the descent. This would lead us to about 13 miles (21 km). Somehow we were way faster than expected and ended up at the planned shelter at 3pm – way to early to stop the day. We did another 4 miles to the next shelter and found an awesome camp spot just besides the trail with a view to the nearby pond. As we did a longer day than we initially planned we reached the planned road crossing for our food drop already at noon the next day. Bob and Rosemary came an hour after we reached the crossing. Their truck was not only loaded with our food, they setup a whole trail magic in the wilderness. About 10 hikers crossed the road while we were sitting there. All of them were pretty exited. Nobody expected trail magic in the 100 mile wilderness! We got so comfy that we decided to head back to the cabin once more and get a shower. But only if we would start our next day early to gain some miles. So should it be!

The next day we started before 7am. Sadly, we couldn’t start earlier. The only way to get into the 100 mile wilderness via car is to use the logging roads. These roads are private and the gate opens at 6am. We heard about hurricane Florence. Our planned summit date was September, 17th. The hurricane should bring a lot of rain on this date. Our plans changed. We decided to summit Katahdin already at September, 16th. That means we had to hike two 25 mile (40 km) days and than do the summit push. As always Sherpa speeded hard. Big Bunny and I haven’t seen him the whole day. He even wasn’t at our planned lunch spot – he already headed out as we reached the spot. Big Bunny and I did 26 miles (42 km) that day and it already got dark. We were pretty exhausted and decided to stay at a shelter. We haven’t slept in a shelter for months. Sherpa was ahead of us and camped at a pond. Big Bunny and I started our day at 5am the next morning (we wanted to start at 4am, but somehow the alarm didn’t work). As we reached the pond, Sherpa was just ready to hike out. We did another long day – all the way to the border of the Baxter State Park. Baxter Peak aka Katahdin is located in the park. There are tons of strict rules in the park. For example you’re only allowed to camp at certain spots. All of them, besides a 12 person shelter with some tent spots, cost money. Nevertheless they were all booked. We had to change our plans once more. So we headed back to the cabin. The new plan was to start our summit push at 11pm and do all the climb in the dark. This should lead to a sunrise on the summit und hopefully not too many people at the summit. As the summit is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, we could choose any trail down the mountain. Of course I wanted to do the most difficult one 😂 The trail down the mountain I wanted hike is called Knife Edge. It is a ridge line walk with some technical climbing in between. We packed our packs only with the needed stuff, so they were pretty light. We went to bed very early. Nobody had a long sleep – I would say about one or max two hours. We were just way to excited for our last day on the trail.

Bob and Rosemary drove us to the border of Baxter State Park and so we started our last day on the trail. The first 5 miles (8 km) were pretty flat. We hat to hike through two campgrounds and I think we woke up tons of people 😂 A summit push wouldn’t be possible without a climb. Absolutely nobody told us about what should be ahead of us! The climb got steeper and steeper. Just as we reached the tree line we took a break. Even it was nighttime it was pretty warm. We all sweated and had to dry out a bit before we were out in the elements without any cover. We continued our climb. Oh my gosh. The climb got quite technical in between. How the hell are the older people on the trail doing that? Not thinking about the eleven blind guys who finished the trail so far. Or pappy, the 87 year old man, who is on the trail right now. He could be the oldest man ever completing the Appalachian Trail.

All in all we were good in time. The summit and the long awaited summit sign couldn’t be too far away. Out of the sudden we saw the sign. Nobody was ready for this. Big Bunny ran to the sign to touch it. I just screamed as loud as I could. What a feeling to reach your goal after almost 2200 miles (3520 km)! We reached the summit at about 5:30am. The summit was covered in clouds and it didn’t look like a good spot for a sunrise. But we were lucky. Just as is got brighter the clouds cleared up. OMG… what a view. It was simply amazing. We couldn’t see anything and out of the sudden we had this view. Wow! After soaking up this view we did our obligatory summit pictures.

As we were pretty exhausted from the long climb and almost no sleep at all we took a nap. It was pretty cold up on the summit. Luckily, we had our sleeping bags in our packs. I looked for a flat spot. As the summit is covered with rocks and big boulders I just chose a flat rock and immediately felt asleep. More and more thru-hikers showed up on the summit. It was interesting to watch them as they reached the summit sign. Soooo many emotions!

After about 4 hours on the summit it was time to push on. The trail down the mountain should be the very famous Knife Edge. Sherpa wanted to join me. Big Bunny thought about hiking the Knife Edge and then turn around to hike the same trail down as we came up. Someone had to register us as the ranger station (we had no permit so far). As his ankle didn’t feel to good, he decided to turn around pretty soon. Sherpa and I went on. The beginning of the Knife Edge was pretty scenic, although we had no view at all. More and more clouds came in. We had a lot of fun. We came into one very scary stretch with a lot of technical climbing. We literally had to climb an almost vertical rock wall. Without any security a false step could mean death! Our hands were shaking at the Pamola summit sign – which is the end of the Knife Edge. I just had to climb the summit sign itself to show myself that I successfully conquered the Knife Edge. What a feeling. The rest of the descent was pretty easy. The views tough were amazing once more!

We reached the parking lot and had no idea when someone shows up to pick us up. We relaxed there for about four hours and enjoyed our time. Being done after 5 months just felt so unreal! The time to realize what we all just achieved wasn’t there yet. Big Bunny showed up with his parents, which was quite a surprise. We knew they would drive up to Maine, but nobody expected them in Baxter State Park. But, this amazing day shouldn’t end there! As we drove out of the park we saw a car at the side of the street. All the people got out of the car and stared towards a pond besides the street. What we saw in the pond was the perfect ending for an amazing journey. A whole moose family including a cub! Only a few people are lucky to see a whole family.

We drove back to the cabin where Sherpa‘s parents were already waiting. I had a great sleep this night. The next morning we packed all our stuff and headed towards New York. I drove with Big Bunny’s parents. Sherpa and his parents were also heading to New York. We spent the night at Big Bunny’s house. Sherpa‘s parents live in Alabama. They offered to drive me all the way to my friends house in Columbia, SC. This meant at least 6 hours more of driving for them. I was so thankful! We had to say goodbye to Big Bunny. Hiking such a long time together means you really get to know the persons you’re hiking with. So saying goodbye was very hard. The tears just started and we all cried! I love these two guys! I definitely made two lifelong friends!!!

Back in Columbia my friend Cindy picked me up. As she had to work and her husband wasn’t there, I had their lovely house on my own during the day. She even gave me the keys for one of their cars. Cindy is amazing!

Nevertheless I have mixed feeling right now. I look forward to see my family and friends again. On the other side I have to leave some amazing people and new friends. I’ll also miss the lifestyle out on the trail. This won’t be my last adventure in the states!

Bernie out.

The 100 Mile Wilderness

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The 100 Mile Wilderness

We totally enjoyed our nero day in Stratton. Nowadays we realize that our bodies are kind of running out of energy. My body feels just like the battery is getting empty. I’m pretty much exhausted all the time. Because of all the big climbs the last 200 miles (320 km) – my knees are really bothering me right now. They definitely hurt a lot, especially going downhill. Thinking about all that stuff gets me in a bad mood. On the other hand – I know I have less than 200 miles (320 km) to go and there is absolutely no way I would quit the trail right now. Even with a broken leg I would try to summit Katahdin! We also realize that we’re almost done with our journey. We all have mixed feelings about that. Speaking for myself, I’m looking forward to see my family and friends again. On the other hand I made some amazing new friends on the trail. I might not see them ever again, or for a long time. Also, going back to normal life will be weird. There is definitely going to be a tradition period. All these little things which are normal to most of the people. Running water, a flushing toilet, food to order, etc. Out on the trail you realize how special these things really are. I’ll have a different perspective for sure!

Out of Stratton we should have 80 miles (128 km) left to the start of the 100 mile (160 km) wilderness. There was a set of another climbs. After these climbs we should have an almost completely flat stretch. Yes, no climbs at all for at least a whole day! We haven’t had such a terrain for weeks. We always have a late start out of town. The last minute before the checkout is used wisely with relaxing time. That’s why out of Stratton we only did the first big climb up and to the first shelter. This shelter has a caretaker to maintain the site and educate the people about proper leave no trace principles. We were all surprised that we all knew the caretaker, Master Splinter. He’s the guy who did the introduction at Amicalola State Park, right at the start of the Appalachian Trail. It was very foggy the next morning as we started the climb up to our last 4000 footers, the Bigelows. The Bigelows are very popular for day and weekend hikers. The view from the top is simply amazing. You can see Mt. Katahdin (on a clear day), the target of the AT, and some beautiful lakes down in the valley. Just as we reached the second summit the view cleared up. We were standing up there just stunned. It was amazing to be up on the summit not seeing anything and suddenly having this amazing view. Sadly, it wasn’t clear enough to see Katahdin. A local said the view distance was limited because of all the wildfires in the western United States.

We were flying the next two days. No mountains at all, just some little speed bumps. The trail gets so flat because it’s routed alongside some ponds. Speaking about ponds in Maine… we asked ourselves what is the difference between a pond and a lake? We thought it’s the size. But man, these ponds here are huge lakes! We took the opportunity, enjoyed our time and camped just besides a beautiful beach. It almost felt like a vacation trip. Sherpa just bought a fishing license in Stratton and carries a fishing pole. Of course, he went fishing. He caught two little ones and let them back in.

The next day we had 14 miles (22 km) left to Monson. Monson is the last town before the 100 mile wilderness. Seven miles in, the trail crosses a road. Sherpa’s parents surprised us with cold beers and a lot of food. We dropped our packs and switched to some light day packs. The last 7 miles to town felt so good without a heavy pack. We spent the night in town. Sherpa’s parent took care of everything. They booked the motel rooms and drove us around in town. What an amazing help! We did our last resupply and bought food for 10 days. As Sherpa’s parents should be in Maine the rest of the trip, so we basically have a support vehicle, even the 100 mile wilderness is not easy accessible via car.

Guess what? We headed out late again the next day. This time the clock already showed 5pm. We only did 1.2 miles (2 km) in. A new record for the shortest day on trail for all of us. And again we camped just besides a pond. The days are getting shorter it’s definitely getting way colder during the night. Temperatures are close to the freezing point. I’m glad I carry all my winter gear these days! We did 19.2 miles (31 km) the next day. We haven’t done such a long distance for weeks. We were all pretty exhausted and tired this evening. This lead us to a great night sleep.

Sherpa’s parents should pick us up the next day. They rented a lake cabin at the base of Katahdin. You can see Katahdin from the backyard. As it was supposed to rain the whole next day, we planned our last zero day. What an opportunity. Getting out of the rain, spend a zero day in an awesome cabin at a lake with a view to your goal, for which you walked over 2000 miles (3200 km). Thank you Robert and Rosemary!!!

70 miles (112 km) left in the 100 mile wilderness. 95 miles (152 km) left in total. 4 days of hiking and one day to summit Katahdin. We’re almost done with this journey!

The Last State

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The Last State

Our zero day in Gorham was amazing. Big Bunny’s parents came to visit us and payed us a wonderful hotel room, food and gave us some rides. They are both very kind persons! We went to Walmart, which should be the last one on our way to Katahdin, and bought a bunch of food. As we basically had a car, because of Big Bunny’s parents, we drove some of our stuff to an upcoming hostel. We headed out pretty late. The upcoming stretch of 21 miles includes some steep climbs up to the Wildcat Mountains and it’s also the last stretch in the Whites. We hiked up to the very last hut, filled up on water and went on. Initially we wanted to find a spot on our next climb. Finally we ended up on the first summit. The spots up there weren’t to good and there were already some guys camping. We pushed on to the next summit and found an awesome spot just before the alpine zone. My last day in the White Mountains and I enjoyed a 360 view including sunset and sunrise. It really couldn’t be any better than that!

The next day we soon reached the hostel and grabbed all our forwarded stuff. We hiked all the way to the border to Maine. The last state on the entire Appalachian Trail. We were all so excited about the state sign. It took us to a long day. We set up our camp just besides the state sign.

Maine had some great stuff on our first day. We should reach the hardest mile and the steepest climb on the entire trail. All that within a day. The hardest mile on the trail is called Mahoosuc Notch. It’s basically a lot of big boulder climbing and there are also some holes where you need to climb through. I had a lot of fun going through that stretch. Just after Mahoosuc Notch there is the steepest climb on the trail. We went up pretty fast. There were some sketchy stretches in between which were crazy steep and there was very little to get some good footing on. Pretty much – just never look down!

As we waited for some rain to go over, we ran out of food. We initially wanted to hike one or two more days to a further town. But, we had to go into Bethel, Maine – a distant trail town (a 30 minutes ride from trail). It all worked out perfectly. We got a hitch to a restaurant brewery. Enjoyed a huge burger and a well deserved “welcome to Maine” beer. After the meal we received a ride to the grocery store. From there the plan was unknown. Coincidentally, there was a nice little motel just besides the store, and just in waking distance an amazing cafe! This cafe had an amazing breakfast. New York style, hand-made bagels. Oh, it was delicious! Months without quality food will really make you appreciate a fine meal when you have one.

There really wasn’t anything special the next few days. The terrain just kept being pretty tough. Big elevation gain and losses mixed with some pristine bald alpine vegetation. It’s peaceful walking through these areas. You get lost in the environment. At least until you step on these bridges that seem to be sink holes that eat hikers. Out of nowhere you will be walking along these boardwalks until you see a wet board. Along side these wet boards is a swamp with craters of footprints from fallen hikers. Here is where you need to get off trail to save yourself (your dry shoes and “clean” legs). Sherpa crossed a false board and was nearly eaten by the mud swamp creature going crotch deep on the fall.

It seems to be an ongoing challenge out here, staying dry and relatively clean.

Every day seemed to have some rain, even if it wasn’t in the forecast. But every day we seemed to avoid it perfectly. That was perfect and so were our campsites. One was by a 40 meter (120 foot) waterfall that assisted us in a restful sleep. The other was on a mountain with a prime sunrise spot – to which we took full advantage of.

This time we got to our planned town without running out of food. We hitched into Stratton, Maine. Big Bunny already booked the rooms the night before as we camped on top of the last mountain. Just two miles before town we crossed 2000 miles. What an epic mark on the trail! We were all se excited! It also means we got less than 200 miles to go. This should lead us to about two weeks until our last climb to Katahdin. For a decent day hiker 200 miles sounds like a lot. For us it means we’re almost at the end of our journey. We all got mixed feelings!

Nevertheless there’s some amazing stuff waiting for us. In about 80 miles we should reach the “100 mile wilderness”. A 100 miles without any town nearby. Sounds like fun. All the exhausting climbs should also end pretty soon. We’re looking forward for the last 190 miles!

Co-Author “Big Bunny”

White Mountains

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White Mountains

As we celebrated Sherpa‘s birthday the other day, we already knew that we would stay another day in town. We went to the Yellow Deli. I would say it’s kind of a religious cult. They have an amazing restaurant in town. Just besides the restaurant they do have a donation based hiker hostel. The people from the Yellow Deli were all amazing! The rooms were clean. The bathroom was clean. The food at their restaurant was just incredible. They also own a farm and brew their own Mate tea.

We headed back out to the trail the next morning. The mountains got higher, the trail got harder, but the views also got way better. Soon, we crossed the border to New Hampshire. Only two states left. But definitely one of the toughest ones. Just a mile after the border the trail goes right through a town called Hanover. We mailed some stuff ahead. Mainly food and also some winter gear. Hanover is the last big city before reaching the White Mountains. You should always expect cold weather high up in the mountains above tree line. That’s why I switched back to my warmer sleeping bag, fleece jacket, gloves and a merino leggings. We decided to stay in town for one night. The next morning we did a resupply and mailed some more stuff ahead. Bigger towns with grocery stores near to the trail are getting rare.

We headed out of town pretty late. It was incredible hot and humid that day. We only did 3 miles until we heard thunder rolling in. So we set up all our tents and it began raining. We stayed dry. Perfect timing! We should reach the White Mountains pretty soon. Our pace slowed down a lot. Instead of about 20 miles a day, we were only able to do about 12 miles a day. The first big climb in the Whites is Mount Moosilauke. Down in the valley, just before the climb starts, there is a hiker hostel and a post office. We wanted to get our stuff at the post office. Unfortunately, the post office is only open between 12am – 2pm. The hostel owners offered to slack pack us over the mountain and grab our package. Slack packing means we dropped all our heavy gear. Tents, sleeping bags, food, etc. Our packs were pretty light on that first big climb. We had to climb almost 4000 feet. It was very exhausting. But the views up there were so incredible! We enjoyed our time up there. Although, there were a lot of day hikers. The downhill was crazy steep. Almost like a vertical down. One mile took us one hour. It felt like forever.

After we did the downhill, the hostel owners dropped all our stuff at a parking lot. Big Bunny‘s cousin lives about an hour south of our location and offered to pick us up. She cooked Tortellini for all of us. We were able to take a shower and do laundry. I met her husband, her two daughters and her dad. All of them were very kind. They had an awesome property with a camper in the backyard. Obviously, we had to sleep in that camper! The next day Big Bunny’s cousin drove us through town. At first, we went to an outfitter to buy some fuel and other random stuff. Next, we did our food resupply. Finally, we went to a shoe store to buy some new hiking socks. And the day somehow got better because they carried the new Altra Lone Peak 4.0 trail runners. This shoe was just released a week ago and were mostly already sold out. Sherpa and I got very lucky. We both found the right size and started the day in new hiking shoes. These shoes should feel amazing the next few days. I already ordered an extra pair! We spent a lot of time in town and hiked out very late. We only hiked about 3 miles to a stealth site. Within this three miles we met a guy. I cannot remember his name. He told us he walked 15.000 miles the last years. At first, we thought he misspoke himself. But, he does the Appalachian Trail the forth time this year! Crazy!!!

The next big mountain on the list was Mount Lafayette. Another steep 4000 foot climb. The last few miles before the summit is on a ridge above tree line. It’s supposed to be a very scenic stretch on the trail. Unfortunately, we got pretty shitty weather. It rained a lot. When there was no rain, we were in the clouds all day. But, walking on a ridge in high wind is also kind of nice. In late afternoon it finally cleared up and we were able to set up our camp besides a pond up in the mountains.

As the White Mountains are a National Forest and not a National Park you’re allowed to basically camp everywhere. As there are a lot of stretches above tree line and a lot of ridge line walks we had to plan our spots accordingly! We also hit the Presidential Range including Mount Washington. Mount Washington is known for one of the worst weather in the whole states. You don’t wanna camp up there in a storm. Another option in the Whites, as there are a lot of day hikers, are the Huts. The Huts are kind of hostels in the mountains. They’re pretty expensive and booked all over the season. But, as a thru hiker, you can get the food leftovers! There is also a work for stay option, but we wanted so camp through the whole Whites!

The next big climb should be Mount Washington. It is a 5.000 foot climb over 13 miles with no option to camp at the top. We hiked up to a view point called Webster Cliffs. The views up there were amazing and we had the second day of good weather in the Whites. We set up our tents just besides the cliffs at 2pm and relaxed the whole day. We had rain in the night. The next morning we started our hike at 5am and planned to hike 20 miles including Mount Washington and the whole downhill down to the valley afterwards. We had a lot of fog and rain in the morning. As it was dark outside we had to use our headlamps. The day also started with some serious climbing on wet, slippery rocks. In total, a very bad and miserable start for such a tough day. At least the rain stopped and we got free breakfast including scrambled eggs and pancakes in one of the huts. The final climb to the summit of Mount Washington was crazy. We got wind speed up to 64 mph. Finally, we reached the summit. There were tons of tourists on top of the mountain. You can either drive up there or take a train. And they all wanted to take a picture of the summit sign. There was even a line to take a picture! Wtf, we walked all the way up to the summit and had to wait for that tourists driving up the mountain to take a picture!? The wind up there was that crazy that we could lean into it just as we started the descent. As we did the first descent stretch the weather finally turned great. We got sunshine and fantastic views. We’ve been waiting for that moment! I definitely enjoyed my time up there and we did a lot of breaks. It got late and there was no way we could do all the descent down to the valley campsite. We camped near to last hut before the last descent.

That leads to 8 miles the following day down the the visitor center. We planned to do a zero day in town. We were all pretty exhausted from all the climbs the last days. As there was a bike race the next day up the road to Mount Washington all the motels in town were already booked. We had to go to the next town 20 miles away to get a room. The weather is supposed to be pretty rainy the next two days. Perfect timing for doing a zero day!

A Visit From Germany

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A Visit From Germany

As we watched the World Cup Final at Big Bunnies house, he offered to pick Emanuel up on the train station in Brewster. Big Bunny is such a friendly and helpful guy. I was really looking forward to my friend Emanuel. He’s gonna come all the way from Germany to hike with me for two weeks. The next morning Big Bunny drove all the other hikers out on the trail. After that we picked Emanuel up on the train station, did a little resupply and headed back out on the trail.

I was really excited to show Emanuel the life out on the trail. The extensive heat wave just continued like the last weeks. It was very hot and humid that day. Emanuel definitely had a hard time. Not that it was easy for myself. Every day out on the trail is pretty tough. The first 7 miles we had a very gradual elevation and hiked besides a pretty big pond. We got at a shelter at around 5 pm. There was a climb after the shelter. We wanted to do that climb on the same day. At the shelter there were a lot of people who told us to stop there because of a trail magic which should start pretty soon. It was Emanuel’s first day out on the trail and he got his first trail magic. What an amazing way to start his first day out there. These guys served us Burgers, Hot Dogs, Salads, Desserts and beverages.

We sat there for a while, also because there was a thunderstorm rolling in. Luckily the storm missed us slightly. So we continued our journey and started the climb to reach our camp for the night. On the last 2 miles to the camp Emanuel rolled his ankle ? Because it was quite painful we just took the next spot we could find. We set up our tents and had a great talk before we went to bed. The next morning we hiked 3 miles to a road crossing. That’s where we ran into all the guys I watched the soccer final with at Big Bunnies house. As Emanuel’s ankle wasn’t any better he decided to go into town. So I continued my hike with Sherpa again.

We did some big mile days again. We did solid over 20 miles every single day and soon reached the border to Connecticut. In Connecticut we passed the 1500 mile marker. The terrain in Connecticut definitely got way harder compared to the states before. It’s like a training for the White Mountains. As the stretch in the state Connecticut isn’t too long we soon got into Massachusetts. Massachusetts started with some pretty views. But I miss my stealth camp spots. The last few states hadn’t much of those stealth camp spots. What a bummer. Mostly we had to camp at official campsites or shelters. And the weather got worse again. The forecast said a lot of rain to come.

The next day we ran into Big Bunny. He told us he’s gonna take a zero day at his house again the next day. Because of the weather forecast I asked him if I could join them. He said yes. I was so happy not to hike in the rain the next day. At that time I didn’t know what would happen on this evening. Big Bunny’s niece had her first birthday. So all his family went to a famous mexican restaurant to celebrate her first birthday. And guess what? Sherpa and myself were invited to join the party! I definitely crushed an american cliche ? it was an amazing evening. The food was absolutely awesome and I had the ability to get to know Big Bunny’s family. We also bought some new shoes in town, went to the theater and did a resupply.

The next day we went back to the trail again. As the rain continued we tried to hide from the rain in shelters when it was possible. So we continued slowly and mostly did only 15 mile days. Soon, we reached the border to Vermont. That means 11 states down and only 3 to go. That’s a good way to raise my mood in all this rainy weather. The climbs got harder, but also the views got better. So, worth all the climbs. We went into a town called Manchester Center. A nice town within a huge skiing area. We did a resupply and booked a motel room for the night.

We started very late the next morning. Late check out was at 11 am. So that’s what we did. We had to hike up a mountain which is a famous skiing place. On top you could see all the lifts and slopes. It was pretty cool up there. So we chilled there for at least two hours. The next days we were pretty lazy because of tons of rain. Once we stopped our day already at 11 am and only did 12 miles that day. We got to a shelter before the rain started and the rain just didn’t stop at all.

We crossed the 500 miles left to Katahdin sign, we crossed 1700 miles and we headed into town. It was Sherpa’s birthday and the weather forecast looked horrible. As we were lazy the days before we had a 25 mile day with a lot of climbs left. At least it wasn’t supposed to rain that day. We had to climb the second tallest mountain in Vermont. A hell of a climb. We started that climb just after our lunch break. At the top there was a little side trail to the summit. The side trail was the steepest climb I did so far on the AT. But worth the view up there. It was amazing! We took a long break up there and still had over 6 miles left to the parking lot to hitchhike into town. So, we got into town pretty late. We had some awesome food and drinks at Applebee’s to celebrate Sherpa’s birthday.

The Heat

The Heat

As I left Delaware Water Gap the extensive heat continued. Right after the town there was a pretty far bridge crossing. This crossing was the border from Pennsylvania into New Jersey.

The trail in New Jersey is almost as rocky as in Pennsylvania plus there were a lot more climbs. So, it got way harder. But, New Jersey was awesome! The first day in New Jersey I got Trail Magic three times. I literally didn’t touch my food bag at all that day. The first Trail Magic had everything a hiker could imagine. Hot Dogs, Burgers, Lasagne, fresh fruits, cake, all kind of beverages and a lot of beer. I chilled there for at least three hours. After another two hours of hiking there was the second Trail Magic. Just as I got hungry again. Perfect timing ? These guys even had cereals and fresh cold milk. Just before I reached my camp spot for the night there was this cooler in the woods. The cooler was full of gatorades and bananas. Perfect way to end a nice hiking day.

The water situation got very bad these days. There wasn’t any rain for two weeks. As the trail is mostly up on the ridge line all the water sources were completely dry. Thank god there were a lot of former thru hiker living nearby. They put gallons of water in every road crossing on the AT. It wouldn’t be doable without the help of these guys. I’m sad I never met one of them to thank them.

The next day I ran into a guy called Sherpa. We met each other at least five times that day. There was a Ranger Station a little bit off the AT. They had a spigot outside. This was the only way do get some water this evening. Just as I was ready to hike out, Sherpa came in. We decided to hike out together and look for a camp spot. The next couple of days I hiked with him. We just went over the border into New York.

New York is an awesome state on the trail. Very beautiful landscape and a lot of fun climbs in between. The next day Sherpa and myself decided to go into town to watch some soccer. It was the semi-final between Russia and Croatia. We met some guys who started the trail with Sherpa. How cool is that? We had a lot of fun in the bar and even played some pool after the game. I ripped them all off ? We got so drunk in the bar. We even didn’t realize that it got dark outside. As we had no place in town to sleep at, we used our headlamps and hiked out. Going up a steep mountain in the dark while being drunk isn’t a lot of fun at all ?

The guys wanted to spend a zero day at a hikers house. The hikers name is Big Bunny. He lives in Brewster, New York. They asked me if I wanna join to watch the final of the World Cup. Of course I would join them! They picked us up at a parking lot just in the evening before the final. There were about 15 hikers in Big Bunny’s house. We set up our tents in his backyard. Just right before it started raining. Perfect timing. And, what an awesome place to stay at. He has an amazing house with a perfect view down the lake.

So, the next day, we all watched the final of the World Cup. I voted for Croatia. What a bummer that they lost. It was the best zero day I had so far. It was a lot of fun!!! I was also very excited about a friend from Germany to visit me. Big Bunny offered to pick him up at the train station the next day. He’s such a friendly guy.

My name is Matthias, also known as "Bernie". I'm a sofware engineer. But I'm also addicted to hiking and beeing outdoors.