Bird Man's AT Journal
Trail Updates and Photos from the 2002 AT "Flip-Flap"
© Bruce Nichols - 2002
Through the Notch
|Dear Family and Friends,
I'm taking my first "0" day of the trip in Gorham, NH. I've
walked just over 300 miles South on the AT from
The walking has definitely been a little more challenging since leaving
Stratton, the town from which I last had access to email. I've been
up over quite a few 4000 ft. peaks, usually starting from a valley that
was at 2000 ft or less. The climbs have been long, steep, and unseasonably
hot for Maine. But the rewards have also been great. High rocky [image]
summits and ridges with impressive views of Mt. Washington and the long
rolling hills of eastern Maine have paraded off before me at every turn
[image]. Berries have been abundant
and I've enjoyed blueberries and mountain cranberries at higher elivations
and rasberries and blackberries in the valleys. I've met a few more
hikers from my days in the south, including a fellow named Paul who
is a student at Duke Uniersity who was one of a small band of 4 that
I shared the trail from Damascus to to Waynesboro - about 400 miles.
We didn't walk together often but ususally wound up in the same place
each night and shared our days journey.
The "Notch" mentioned in the header is Mahoosic Notch and
is deservedly called the hardest mile on the AT.
The weather forcasts when I left Andover had been for several days
of clear weather so when I woke at
When I awoke at first light it was not raining but everything was damp and the mountain enshrouded in thick misty fog. You could see the droplets of moisture floating through the dim light. Still there was no point in waiting. I had an appointment, and I ate a quick cold breakfast, put on my shoes and started out. The South Arm is the passageway down to the Notch. It's a steep, slick trail that runs along long stretches of smooth rock bordered by rooty, knarled small pines. I picked my way slowly down this mile long descent staying mostly to the edges where more solid footing could be found and where I could grab onto trees to assist when necessary. About half way down it started to rain again.
The South Arm negotiated I now had to make my way through the mile
long labarynth of Mahossic Notch.
At the Cabin I'd met "Uncle Gus" who had managed a few days before to fall head first into a fissure between two boulders. His pack wedged and saved him from serious injury but it had taken him a full half hour to extract himself and he had scabs on elbows and knees to attest to his trials. This was on my mind as I started into the first section of rock. To add to the uneasiness, just as I was starting through there was a loud crack high up on the right cliff face and I heard the unmistakable sound of large rocks cascading down into the notch. After what seemed like a very long time the crashing ceased somewhere upslope and ahead of me lost in the trees that blocked most of the view of the surrounding cliffs.
I started cautiously, and remained so through the entire section of
trail. And in this I think there was an advantage. If the rocks had
been dry, I might have been a little less cautious in seeking hand and
foot holds as I went through, and it's usually when one's guard is down
that things go amiss. I'd actually falled down twice the day before
on relatively flat, dry trail when in moments of inattention I'd managed
to catch my feet on small but
The Notch was a differnt matter. A slip in the wrong place could definitely have serious consequences. Roots and rocks that normally are the bane of the trail actually became my friends offering hand holds and foot placements as I scrambled along. I think that some of the rock climbing skills I developed when I persued that sport in the 70's were also a big asset and offered me opportunites to navigate some areas much more quickly than I might have without that experience. I think I became a bit more comfortable with the situation as I made steady progress over the succession of obstacles the notch presented. Still, it was with some relief that I came through the final boulders and out onto the typically rocky pavement of the regular trail.
Just before I exited the notch the rain had stopped and flecks of blue
began appearing in the cloud cover overhead. As I climbed up the steep
trail that exited to the south, sun would occasionally break through
For the rest of the day I climbed up and down wonderful waves of the rocky Mahoosic range. On the summits I could see Mt Washington slowly approaching to the South West as I walked on. Around the horizon to the North, East, and South the mountains of western Maine sprawled like some gigantic storm tossed ocean frozen in time. On one peak four ravens played in the gusty updrafts, soaring up on outstreched wings then folding them close to their bodies and plummeting downward then spreading their wings agin and soaring back up. It reminded me of the book "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" in which the main character, a gull, performs a similar manuver. Two of the ravens also did a little aerial jousting. Flying at one another, tangling talons and wings and tumbling a bit before making smooth recoveries. I couldn't figure out if this was some kind of mock fighting or just a wild avian dance in the rolliking wind. It certainly was a joy to behold.
I ended the day a bit sore and tired after a long, knee aching descent of Mt. Success. And now have taken a day off in Gorham to recover, eat a whole lot, and get ready for the long rocky climbs and descents of the Whites.
I did sneak in another 21 mile slack yesterday from Pinkham Notch back
to Gorham over the Carter-Moriah
My next serious mail pick up will take place in Hanover, New Hampshire
in about 8-10 days. After the
Peace, Blessings, and Love to All,
Bruce "Bird Man"
page created - 11/09/2002
updated - 11/22/2002
All text and photos © Bruce Nichols