Cold Brew Completion
What a whirlwind the last two weeks have been. I haven't mentioned much about our son's Appalachian Trail thru-hike so not to steal any of his thunder. But now that he has completed his adventure, I can let the praises and accolades fly. Warning: this is a long post.
April 27, 2022 our son Patrick, aka - Patch, set off from Amicalola State Park in Georgia to begin his Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike. He was accompanied by Bruce, his dad/my hubby and our other son, Stephen. Brittany, Patches wife and myself didn't hike the 9-mile approach trail with them. Instead, we drove around to the trailhead that was only one mile from the summit of Springer Mountain, the southern terminus for the Appalachian Trail. We meet them there. The kids (young adults, but they will always be our kids) camped at the top while Bruce, Ziggy and I camped at the parking lot.
Lots of miles, sweat, blisters, and miles were had from that date to the present. Bruce left the trek at Neel Gap, about 42 miles - that dreadful four-lettered word "work" got in the way. Stephen stayed out all the way through Georgia, past the first 100 miles, and we picked him up in Franklin, North Carolina, he too had a job calling him. That left Patch to his own adventure.
Bruce and I hung out in North Carolina at our friends house for awhile until Trail Days in mid May where we sold books and crafts at the authors tent. We meet some wonderful authors and hikers that weekend. We love being connected to the trail. It is an incredible community. I won't go into details for each day or each week from then til now. I'll just fast forward to the last two weeks.
Once Patch reached a days-drive away, I was itching to go see him. If it were up to me, I would have been at every trailhead. But this was his adventure, not mine and I squashed the urge to helicopter him, so I waited my turn while his wife Brittany joined in the fun along with Stephen joining him again for weekend hikes. But once I got the okay to come visit I was off. I met him in the sleepy little rural town of Andover, Maine, a wonder place to visit. I shuttled him from the trail to the hostel, resupply, and treated him and his hiking buddy, Stubz to lunch. Then another time I met him at the Flagstaff Lake road crossing. Then I had to be patient and couldn't see him until he reached Monson. As much as I wanted to do full-spread trail magic for Patch, Stubz, and the other hikers, I could only muster up Moxie and Creme Pies. Time and space in the vehicle limited my offerings.
Patch hiked over 1,800 miles before earning a trail name. I tried several times to bestow one on him. I threw out Wayside, Pumpkin Patch, Baby Bear, Pumpkin Bear, Yukon Cornelius, and a few others I can't remember. But he rejected them all. He wasn't going to be named by his mom. He settled on Cold Brew. I vaguely, remember saying he should have a name related to coffee, he drinks a ton of it. Each time I met him, I tried to have a bottle of cold brew for him. It was hard to come by.
Finally, things lined up on a weekend so Bruce was able to join me on a trip to a trailhead to meet Patch. This time is was at the Pleasant Pond Lean-to. We actually met them at the parking area. Stephen also drove over for another hiking stint with Cold Brew and Stubz. He would hike to Monson with them and we would move his car up the trail to Monson. But Bruce and I were also out for the night. We visited with the hikers by the car for supper then they headed up the blue-blaze to their tenting area and Bruce and I drove to another trail head close by and camped. It was a beautiful night so I set up my hammock while Bruce tented and Ziggy slept in his crate in the car. Before we called it a night, we played cards by the glow of our headlamps, then I read to Bruce from the current book we were in. I will be getting back to my book reviews soon. It took us longer than expected to finish the current title. I'll also being doing a Ziggy Tails soon.
We said good-bye to the guys after dinner, but the next day we drove around to the next trailhead as a surprise. They would be crossing Moxie Stream. One can't cross that without first having a Moxie. But in Stubz case, one can do just that. He is not a fan of the Maine-famous beverage that is a cross between cough syrup and motor oil. The Moxie beverage company is now owned by Coca-Cola and the formula for Moxie has changed. The original is way better or worse depending on your taste.
Next stop, Monson. Monson, Maine is a huge milestone for northbound thru-hikers. Most of the hard hiking has been done. Here, they enter the 100-Mile Wilderness. It is the most remote place on the Appalachian Trail making resupply more challenging. Unless hikers hire someone to do a food-drop (many hikers do just that), one must carry 5-10 days worth of food depending on one's ability. Fast hikers can do it much quicker.
Patch, Stephen, and Stubz were greeted by Bruce and I and also by Bruce's parents, Wendall and Josephine. They hadn't seen Patch or Cold Brew since Easter. Facebook posts and following along via his Garmin InReach tracking points were their only connection. It was a happy reunion for all. We collected the hikers and off to Greenville we went 12 miles away. We asked if the guys wanted to hit the showers first at the hostel in Monson but they said food was first on their minds, hygiene could wait. A typical thru-hiker response. It's amazing how spending time in the woods with nature reprograms one's priorities.
(No, that's not an empty pitcher of beer, it's an empty pitcher of H20)
Wow! Monson. It seemed like it took Cold Brew forever to reach this point even though he was actually flying through the miles. It was just my wanting to be with him that made the waiting difficult. Dinner was over and it was time to say good-bye once more. They headed to the hostel for a zero day to rest up and regroup for their final push to Katahdin and us parents and grandparents headed home.
We kept several friends updated on Cold Brew's progress over the course of his adventure. When he reached Monson we sent out an update. One friend advised us not to offer help or food to him so he wouldn't later feel bad that he didn't do it alone. In my Black Bear-ish motherly way, I replied, "I am a mom and I am not, not going to offer food." That's all we did. We provided trail magic like we would for any hiker.
In 2015 on my first AT hike, Bruce delivered pizza at the first accessible place within the 100-Mile Wilderness. Little did he know then, that would become our own little tradition. He has delivered pizza to that spot to several hikers since then. This year for Cold Brew and Stubz, it would be no different. Before they could partake in a carb-loading pizza from Pat's Pizza, another Maine delicacy, they had to earn their prize by fording a stream. While we waited for them a few section hikers let me film their crossing.
We also brought a food drop box for Cold Brew that was late being delivered to our house with new shoes and a love note from his sweet wife.
The box also contained a pair of much needed sneakers. Cold Brew sported wild colors. His previous pair of shoes were translucent yellow. He told us that early on another hiker said he looked like a box of highlighters. Maybe that should have been his trail name.
With the pizza devoured, new shoes laced up, and food repacked, the boys headed up the AT while Bruce, Ziggy, and I hiked a blue blaze up Barren Ledges. The two trails intersected about a mile up the trail for them and only half a mile for us. It wasn't long before the hikers passed us slower, older day-hikers. They disappeared further into the woods and we eventually headed back home.
Time may have seemed to stand still when we were waiting for Cold Brew to reach Maine, but now that he was here and in the wilderness, time was cruising. When we met him again he was halfway through the 100-MW. This time we met at the Jo-Mary Road for a food drop. Our car was loaded to the max because we were headed to Nahmakanta Lake for a couple nights of remote camping. The guys would hike through there in the morning.
These guys were doing big miles - 20 + and they still had time to sit and relax for a few hours just chillin. I just love the smiles on their faces. They looked so happy and full of energy. Most of the hikers by now on a northbound thru-hike have a look of "I just wanna get this done." Not these two Jolly-Joes. They seemed ready for more.
I love the differences in these two guys. Look at Cold Brew's picture. He is surrounded by boxes and bags of food spread all around. Then look at Stubz, he has a neatly packed small food bag and one box of oatmeal. Cold Brew proudly proclaims not to have lost any weight on his thru-hike.
The long break was over. They headed into the woods once more and we headed to claim our camping spot on the shores of Nahmakanta Lake for what we were hoping was to be two restful nights of backwoods camping with nothing to do but play with Ziggy, hike, and listen to the loons. The camping area was a walk-in, meaning we had to carry all our gear about 100 yards.
Once we had everything at the site and the tent erected, Bruce headed off for a hike. I stayed and played with Ziggy and set up my hammock. I have grown to love hammocking. Nothing hurts when I am craddled in my fabric cocoon. My night at Pleasant Pond though confirmed the fact that an under-quilt is needed when hammocking in cold weather. It wasn't even cold that night. I don't own a true backpacking hammock set up. I have been using my L.L.Bean day hammock with a random mosquito net draped over it held in place with twist-ties. One has to be innovative. This time I brought a down comforter to suspend under the hammock and draped a blanket and tarp over the top. No rain was forecasted but I didn't want to get wet from the dew like last time. At Pleasant Pond I was uncomfortably cool but managed to still be able to sleep. This time I made adjustments and I roasted. I was so hot I had to remove the top blanket and tarp and only use my sleeping bag as a quilt wrapped half on me. I really want to hammock instead of tent so I have been upping my research on hammock gear and set-ups.
It isn't the most efficient set-up but it worked.
The next morning was my time to shine. I was going to do what I do best. And that is to feed hikers. We had the usual Moxie to give out but I also was cooking donuts to orders. I wasn't sure how that was going to work since I had never done this before outside of my kitchen. The four hikers who camped with us did not want to wait for me to heat up the oil. They had big miles planned for the day. Poor Habib was the tester, being the first hiker to come through. His donut was a little doughy, but he said it still tasted fantastic. By the fourth donut, I was cooking up perfect deep-fried calorie-rich treats coated in a sweet glaze. Hikers were in heaven. By the time Cold Brew and Stubz arrived, bacon, sausage, homefries, farm-fresh scrambled eggs, fruit, and juice covered the picnic table. It was quite the spread. A few other hikers joined us for the feast as well.
The two nights planned changed to only one night when the boys informed us they were going to summit a day early. So we carried all our stuff for just the one night. No worries. It was a mini adventure for us as well.
Once the boys headed out, we packed up. So much for our two nights of solitude. With the car packed we headed out to civilization then home only to unpack and repack for the final countdown. So much was to be done with the change in plans. Reservations were needed for not just us but for Ziggy since animals are not allowed in the park. It was going to be tough to get it all to work out. We had plans A, B, and C all sketched out. Plan A of course being a reservation in Baxter at Katahdin Stream campground but that would be a Hail Mary since the reservation site showed full every place in the park. We were praying for a cancellation.
With only one vehicle, we called upon our wonderful cousin David to help out. In the hopes of snagging a spot in the park, Bruce left the house about 2:30am to get in line at the gate by 4:30am. But that left me home with Ziggy since the kennel didn't open until 8am on Sunday. David gave me a ride to the kennel then all the way to Abol Bridge on the Golden road where I would reunite with Bruce. On the way up we first connected with Brittany at the Irving in Millinocket who had driven from her home in New Hampshire. We followed each other to the trailhead.
Bruce had hiked in so he wasn't at the car when we arrived. It wasn't long and we heard the hoots and hollers of hikers exiting the woods, which is the end of the 100-Mile Wilderness. Another mile-stone completed.
Across Abol Bridge they proceed but stopping first to glance upon the goal that had been their destination since they both started their AT hike. Stubz and Patch each leaning on the railing of the bridge eyes fixed on the prize - Katahdin.
Once more the guys hiked on and we drove. They had another 10 miles to cover.
The Birches campsite is reserved for thru-hikers only so if Cold Brew stayed there, his wife would not be able to. But as luck or blessings offered, Cold Brew was able to get a signal while in the 100-MW and reserved the last lean-to available at Katahdin Stream. It could hold four, so Cold Brew, Brittany, Stubz, and Stephen would stay there. Bruce's early morning escapades paid off. He snagged us Plan-B, a spot at Abol Campsite in the park only two miles from the kids. It seemed like the last several days, all the hoops were lining up and we were able to leap right through them.
The eve of Cold Brew's summit was upon us and while it was his hike, not mine, all the emotions I had in 2015 where filling my soul. I was going through it all over again and it was unbelievably overwhelming. Not only did I have my emotions, I knew exactly how my son must have been feeling so I had a double whammy. There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishing something great, but when you are a parent and one of your kids goes through it, it is even a greater joy. Then to have his brother also joining him on the finish was just a thrill.
We said good night to Cold Brew, Brittany, and Stubz early enough so they could contemplate on their own without us around. Stephen had not arrived yet. While we could have stayed with them until bed time we knew it was best to let them have their space. We enjoyed the fact that he let us meet him a handful of times in Maine. It would have been easy for me to be there at every crossing with loads of food and services, but I didn't. I stepped back and only showed up at his choosing. Even then, I confirmed I was not overstepping my boundaries. This was his hike to be done his way. Anything we provided was only in the context of trail magic like he could have encountered anywhere else along the trail. Like all the other hikers who were excited to have food in the 100-MW, so was he. I am just so very grateful that Bruce and I were able to be a small part in his awesome adventure.
Continuing to keep our distance, we did not show up bright and early at the trailhead to see him off. We let him set out at his own time and space. Bruce shuttled Stephen to the Hunt Trail which is the route for the AT up Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Stephen got in later than expected so he camped with us. I drove our vehicle around the mountain to the other trailhead parking lot to claim a spot before the park gate opened for day-use.
Brittany was already there since Cold Brew and Stubz started their summit hikes at 3:30am and 4:00am respectively lead by the rays of a full moon. They hiked solo for this final stretch. Stephen started about an hour and a half after them. They all meet at the summit. They could have been up and down before most hikers even begin to step foot on the trail but they took advantage of the uncharacteristically warm weather and grandeur views at the top. After a leisure three hour summit break they headed down the mountain buy way of the infamous Knife's Edge then to Helon Taylor Trail where they would exit and see us waiting for them with a bottle of cold brew.
And with eyes filling with tears, I watched my son complete his first Appalachian Trial hike as he hugged his wife.
And just like that, it is over!
Thank you Stephen, Stubz, and Patch for letting us be a part of your hiking adventures this summer. Congratulations on your accomplishments.