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Gonzos Disjointed

It was 10 days of disjointment/jointment, there were Gonzos everywhere, groups of 1, groups of 2, groups of 3, groups of 4, and at various times these groups became jointed and became 6, 7, up to a group of 9. These groups were in Quebec, New Hampshire (at totally different times-it seems our honorary Maine Gonzo, Milt Wright, was in the Mahoosuc Notch the week before us), and Maine. The most common denominators were-- they were at times climbing mountains and at times at MacDonalds.

In the life of the Sungod it began Tuesday, September 4 at 5:00am when the Dipper swooped through his Lakeview Kennel to abscond off to Gorham, NH.

-It should be noted at this time that the Dipper had just arrived home in Dartmouth Monday night at 9:00pm, with nothing packed for this trip, after spending 3 full days north of Quebec city paddling his Sprint kayak, and various War Canoes, for Banook in the Canadian Championships- 3 silver medals for our buddy.

Our day was uneventfull, breakfast at Sackville, NB (Mickie D's) and A Subway (somewhere?) for lunch. As we arrived at Gorham, there sitting in an open field were the Viking and the Scrounger.

-It should be noted Viking, the Scrounger, Goat, and the newly named Guzzler (formally I'm Sellin Halifax) had left Fall River at 4:00am Sunday morning and were just completing an aggresive 2 day hike from Pinkham Notch over the Wildcat and Carter Range and it's 6, 4000+ foot peaks. (Scrounger to detail)

We sat in the sun waiting for Goat and Guzzler who had jogged down the road to get their car.

We were now partialy jointed ---- and it started to pour rain/thunder. We immediately hightailed it for a local motel, Goat getting us a deal, senior citizen that he is. Supper and to bed.

Up early Wednesday, and off to the trail head of the Mahoosuc where the logistics of moving a car to the finish of the trail began. After leaving Viking, Goat, and Scrounger at the trail start, Dipper, Guzzler, and Sungod took the two vehicles over 14 miles of dirt, what most of the time could be called, a road, leaving one car at the finish and then returning to the start, an almost 2 hour trip.

Finally we were on our feet, hoisting our 35-40 pound packs and away we go up a gentle hour hike to the start of the Mahoosuc Notch, what is commonly called in most books, 'THE HARDEST MILE ON THE APPALACIAN TRAIL.' It met it's billing, it was a hoot, taking 2 hours to cover the distance. The Notch is an approximate 25 foot wide trail, 1 mile long, at the base of 2 // mountains. The main problem (and fun) being this 25 foot wide swath is filled with large rocks, some the size of the average garage, most the size of half ton trucks, which have fallen down the mountain over the past million, or so, years.

We went over the rocks, we went around the rocks, we went under the rocks through small openings. I threw my pack over a rock and climbed after it, I took it off, since it and me together would not fit through the opening. It was as much fun as I have had hiking ever.

Lunch and then up the Mahoosuc Arm, a steady 2 mile climb, some very steep, hands on rocks, etc. The fun had stopped and the work had begun. Up, up, up, down, up, and down to Spec Pond and our Adirondack, three sided, shelter. Dipper and Goat off for a swim, supper, talk, etc. I met a couple that will be my competion at Kenduskeag next year in the mixed division. It was cold over night, down to 5*C--a good test for Dippers magic blanket.

Thursday, 6:00am, stoves heating water, typical porridge crud for breakfast--7:00 am off we go, up, up, to Spec Peak---what a view!!!!!!!! Then Dipper and Guzzler are off down the mountain ahead of us to go back and get the car--remember that 2 hour drive. Same both ways. The rest of us climbed down 1/2 hour, rest in the sun 15 minutes, down 1/2 hour, rest in the sun 15 minutes, down 15 minutes, rest in the sun 15 minutes---WHAT A WAY TO HIKE!

We arrived at the parking lot and proceded to rest in the sun for 30 minutes until our chauffers arrived. The Dipper and I were directly off to Millinocket, ME, while Guzzler, Goat, Viking, and Scrounger did some shopping along the way.

Checked into Pamola Lodge, got groceries, Chinese supper next door (with the exception of Goat-can you imagine, a Restaurant that doesn't serve coffee-Goat had a coniption!)

1:00am, that night, came the arrival of Imax, Fireball, and the Geezer who had left Halifax at supper time.


5:30am Friday we started to move around, off to the $2.99 breakfast buffet-lots of grease, ham, french toast, beans, etc. BURP!

Off to Baxter State Park and the 9--Count them-- were on the Chimney Pond Trail, 2 hours covered the 3.3 mile, 1,500 foot, hike into our campsite in the South Basin at the base of the massive Katahdin range. Just a nice walk---still with 35 pounds on the back though.

Viking, Scrounger, Goat, having been on the trail since Sunday, and Fireball decided to vege and take in some rays for the afternoon.

Imax and Geezer, having only been on the Knife Edge once before were hot to trot to do it again. AND GUZZLER WAS A VIRGIN. The Dipper and Sungod, though veterens of the Edge, did not want to miss the opportunity to do it again, so at 11:00 were off.

Leaving Chimney Pond (2,900 feet) first up Dudley Trail, that is, 'straight up' Dudley, 1.1 mile, large rocks, hand over hand over foot, resting at regular intervals-WHAT VIEWS-STUPENDOUS. Arrived at Pamola Peak (4,900 feet), straight down 100 feet, flat edge 20 feet, straight up 100 feet, to Chimney Peak. We were now on the infamous Knife Edge, 1.1 miles, an arrete, sometimes 3-4 feet wide, mostly 6-8 feet wide, always 1,500-2,000 feet down on each side. A real feeling that you are on top of the world. The last third of the Edge was a 300 foot increase in elevation, to South Peak, and then Baxter Peak, the high point of the Katahdin Range at 5,271 feet, and the Northern Terminus of the 2,000 mile long Appalacian Trail.

We then proceded down the north side of Baxter to the Saddle Trail and back to Chimney Pond by 5:30 for supper.

Saturday morning, 6:00am up, breakfast of crud, 7:00am departure for Davis Pond/Russell Pond. The morning brought an extreme change in the weather, already 68*C, with forcast of going to 80*C. I thought we were in the mountains? I thought it was September? Jerome had come down (up?) not feeling well and decided to head out to Roaring Brook and the rest of us were off climbing steady toward the Saddle Slide in full, 35 pound, gear. About 1/2 way into the 1,700 foot climb, I realized how poorly I work in heat and humidity. I also realized that my body was telling me it was not happy and didn't want to move any more. Not wanting to slow the party down too much (stop?) and put anyone in a position they may have to abort to assist, I decided at that time I would join the Geezer at Roaring Brook and do a day hike in the west part of the Park.

We were disjointed again.

Without detail, since I wasn't there, the rest of the group arrived at Davis Pond by lunch where Imax, Dipper and Fireball stayed; Viking, Goat, Guzzler, and Scrounger going a further 4 hours to Russell Pond. This part of hike will be detailed in another story by another author.

The next 24 hours were simplistic for Geezer and I, get a Leanto at Abol for Sat/Sun, drive to Abol, have a nap, have supper, sleep, eat crud, transfer to a Leanto at Roaring Brook, drive to Roaring Brook, have a snack.

Day hike, but not any day hike. If you are looking for a hike from Roaring Brook, South Turner Mountain is the one. It is one of those stories--'One of the best returns for the amount of work.' Well don't read that as an easy hike, about 3 hours return, but it is not bad--And it is the best of the best for a view--You are at 3,118 feet, looking due West straight into the South Basin, the North Basin, and the Little North Basin--a perfect view of Helon Taylor, Pamola, Chimney, the Edge, South, Baxter, the Catherdral, Hamlin Ridge, etc. READ THE WHOLE MOUNTAIN.

Sunday night, back at our Leanto, big bonfire, into bed, up early, crud for breakfast, clean up, pack the car and hike 30 minutes toward Russell to meet Imax, Dipper, and Fireball. (Others had come out the previous day.)

Now Monday morning, into cars at 11:00am, into Millinocket (Mickie D's), gas and pee in Sackville, NB, home at 8:00 to be greeted by wife and dog.

Got up the next morning to find New York going up in smoke-Wish I was still in the woods.


The Sun god

The Education of a Grayhound

Oh those memories! September was once a time to head to New Hampshire for Grayhounds, and sometime Wannabe Grayhounds. The Grayhounds are, as the jacket proudly states, a Masters Running Team.

September 2, 2001 offered a return to September glories in New Hampshire for certain hounds whose running experience is almost legendary (in our own minds). Who wouldn't aspire to a t-shirt worn by admiring fans attesting to his victories (moral and physical) as Gordon "Viking" Warnica has achieved on his 55 short years on this planet.

This year's "running" excursion to New Hampshire resembled a race primarily in its head start that was not called back.

The congregation gathered, fittingly on Sunday, in Goreham, having joined with thousands of other Americans, in the ritual of Labour Day Sales. Since this was an initiation of sorts, for this scribe, it was necessary to display a certain amount of bravado in the face of some of the local colour that Gordon "Viking" arranged for our group of four. He had located a Hiker's Hostel in Goreham for the four of us at one princely sum of $11.00 per night. Here we were introduced to hiking legend "Ox" who was in the final stages of organizing a Keg Party for "through hikers" at the Rattle River Shelter, and our chauffeur "Tiny", who would drive us to Pinkham Notch the following morning, refusing all efforts to compensate him.

"Ox's" impact on our group was the most immediate. As the last to bed of our group, I met Ox first, when he wandered past me while I watched the Red Sox and Yankees in the common room. He shortly returned after finding Viking, I'm-Selling-Halifax, and Goat asleep on the three other beds in the room at the end of the hall that he would now have to share. My bed was in a short hallway area where the others would pass through on those frequent nightly washroom visits.

"Ox" cordially explained that he was a snorer and had been known to drive people from his room. He wanted to know if I would trade beds. I looked him over circumspectly, concluded that he had already slept on those sheets, and reasonably concluded I would stick with my own clean, if well worn, linen. Besides how bad could "Ox" snore?

This was a portent of my capacity to underestimate things on this trip. When Ox wasn't sounding like a diesel truck being started all night long, he talked about his failed relationship with someone. I could hear this quite well from the next room, so I could relate to Viking's recollections of Ox's nightlong blathering the following morning. Viking seemed to think I might have saved the others some sleep if I had accepted Ox's offer to switch beds. The notion of what might have been on those sheets after Ox's ramblings about the failed relationship still frightens me, so no regrets here Viking, and besides Viking, I saved you from that midnight collision with a closed door on the way to the washroom. Ah, the abuse one take from fellow hikers.

Then there was the more effervescent "Tiny", our chauffeur, who regaled us with tales of alligators escaping from a touring circus to infest certain mountain lakes in the summer. Other than his hospitality, Tiny introduced our group of four to a continuing element of controversy. As is common with hikers, Tiny asked our trail names. "Tiny" had no problem with Viking, Goat and Scrounger, but when it came to I'm Selling Halifax, Tiny displayed an economy with words, and shortened this lengthy trail moniker to "Halifax". This, of course, loses any sense of meaning for those of us who live in that fair city. The rest of the trip was consumed by a recurring controversy over what should be Mark's shortened trail name.

Day one of hiking from Pinkham Notch to Imp shelter, over five 4000' peaks, saw conversation regularly come back to the topic of Mark's trail name. I am convinced this was a small element of escapism from the arduous task at hand. Malcolm named him Guzzler, because of his water consumption, but that quickly deteriorated into less complimentary versions around that same theme. Mark seemed to have some trouble with these less complimentary names, so the debate continued over what should be Mark's trail name.

Does anyone out there want to make a contribution?

I have to confess that this climb over the Wildcat and Carter Peaks was one of the toughest days I can remember, and that compares it to five marathons, and three ultra-marathons. I added to the difficulty by not wearing my new backpack properly, with the weight on my hips. I had it hanging off my shoulders, which resulted in my shoulders becoming extremely sore. I didn't realize until the following day that I had actually worn the skin off my right shoulder, and bruised my left.

By the time we reached the hut at Carter Notch, I was secretly thinking five miles isn't a bad first day in this terrain, but I was definitely in the minority. We were getting pushed along by younger trail toughened through, hikers, who said they were headed for the Keg Party at Rattle River, another five miles beyond the Imp Shelter that was our destination. On the vertical ascent of Carter Dome, we learned to be more specific in our questions. We spoke briefly with a young male hiker descending, and asked "how far to the summit"? He responded "another 1000 feet", after checking his handheld altimeter. You can't leave home without one now, but as we pushed on for another twenty minutes without finding the summit, we silently cursed this young man and his useless tool that doesn't measure distance.

It was in this stretch that I gained the reputation as the policeman of the water break. Every 20 minutes in the difficult sections sliding up to a half-hour and forty minutes in the easier terrain that we would encounter later in the week.

We found some easier going through the Zeta Pass, but we paid for that at dusk when we descended North Carter the last of the 4000 footers for this day. The book says the trail "makes a steep and rough descent". These words are hardly adequate. At the bottom, with darkness settling in, I was ready for improvising (no pun intended) a campsite, but Viking, Goat and What's-his-name insisted in pushing on. Soon those three had extracted their lights, while I discovered another fundamental truth. It is far better to keep pace with your friends in the dark than to take the time to get your light out of your pack and continue in lighted loneliness. The rest of the way to Imp Shelter I would periodically call out as we passed a level spot on the trail "that looked like a good one for camping, but I was ignored.

No more stops, just my curses as I stumbled on the trail in the dark, and even after Goat offered to have me walk ahead, where he felt he would be secure if I was to unexpectely discover any sudden dips in the trail. My spirit was finally lifted when Gordon spotted the sign for the Imp Shelter Spur - 0.2 miles to the left.

Many more stumbling steps, and what do I see - a sign saying caretaker that Viking and What's-his-name had already passed. I was so fearful they might have missed a sign of habitation and shelter I called after them. Apparently some others may have heard my joyful cry as well. "Frankly, I don't give a damn".

I was so exhausted I didn't have the energy to light my stove. I nibbled at raw carrots, an apple, bread and beef jerky, and managed to scrounge some pasta off of Mark, I mean What's-his-name.

Day 2:

A day I would like to forget. After a pleasant breakfast at the hut, and a brief 50 meter walk to a great look-off, we loaded up our packs and headed up Mount Moriah, the last of the New Hampshire 4000 footers. A half-hour later, my breakfast and I parted company, and the rest of the ascent of Moriah and the long sharp descent into Goreham was spent trying to sort out how much fluid I could keep down. This was made all the more devastating to my spirit as we met a succession of Southbound Through Hikers who had partied much of the night at the Keg Party in Rattle River. They were obviously handling their beer intake better than I could handle Instant Quaker Oatmeal.

Suffice it to say, I survived, got to Goreham, ate some greasy food, took a shower, got a bandage for my shoulder, ate more grease, and miraculously felt better.

Day 3:

Mahousac Notch to Speck Pond (highest lake in Maine)

From this pint on, I will only offer highlights and observations as others have covered this part in greater detail. Goat took the time to show me how to put the weight of my pack on my hips while we waited for the shuttling of the cars to Grafton Notch where we would emerge the next day. I could feel the immediate improvement.

The Notch offered spectacular scenery as we climbed over rocks and under rocks, looking up at sheer cliff walls and views ahead out of the Notch. It requires patience and caution and a commitment to enjoy the views, something I almost forgot in the first two days.

Speck Pond Shelter was the coldest night of the trip, with gloves and tights carried for this one night. Sunset on the lakeshore was great, with some interesting chat with a couple, formerly of Maine, but now residents of Manchester, New Hampshire and veterans of the Kenduskeag Canoe Race.

Day 4:

After the climb to the tower on Old Speck Mountain, we began a gradual descent to Route 26 at Grafton Notch with the younger guys - Dipper and What's-his-name descending a little more rapidly to shuttle the cars.

Day 5:

Chimney Pond is definitely one of my favourite places in the World, so why not spend the afternoon by the pond soaking up sun and those great views up to the Peaks.

In a few private moments my thoughts wandered to my daughter, who is 13,000 miles away in Hong Kong. The last two times I had been to Chimney Pond was with her and her friend Shelly. Here's to new hikes we will do a World away from Chimney Pond!

Day 6:

This day provided the line of the trip, which of course was uttered by Greg Vail at the top of Saddle Trail after the steep gravelly ascent up to the plateau. While we are standing / sitting in the shelter, out of a raging wind waiting for Dipper and Imax to join us, Greg, feeling a little proud of his climb announced to all that he had trained all summer by "humping gravel". Then, in his mysterious way, he became silent, leaving us to speculate. "Is Gravel a pet name for someone"? Perhaps he has discovered from some secret research in the Department of Transportation that gravel spreads better when it is kept moist? With some trepidation, I find myself wondering what he might have meant?

As four of us pressed on to Russell Pond, the wildlife became more abundant. A young moose scampered away from us on the plateau as we left Davis Pond heading for Russell Pond. At Russell Pond I had one of my trip highlights. The others were in bed before dusk on a very warm evening. I was determined not to go to bed until dark, so I sat by the site's fire pit and read, only to be interrupted by a female deer that came as close as ten feet from me, and would stop and wiggle her tail each time Goat would snore. She apparently did not find either Goat's snoring or my presence upsetting. When some more raucous neighbours yelled something at a nearby campsite, the doe wiggled her tail one last time and disappeared into the trees.

Day 7:

Russell Pond to Roaring Brook, a relaxed four-hour hike with lots of water breaks and a refreshing wade across a river barefoot.

Drove back to Millinocket for an afternoon of football, showers and a motel bed. It is amazing how good a regular mattress feels after one, two or three days on one or two inches of air foam.

BaxterPK39 & Mahoosuc


I have enjoyed the e-mails about the Gonzos and I read them all.

Surprise. I hiked through Mahoosuc Notch yesterday, September 2, with a hiking friend of mine who also hiked with me to Davis Pond this summer in late July. We hiked to Davis Pond from Russell Pond Campground as a day hike. We had backpacked into Russell Pond to use Russell Pond as a base camp for day hiking. We also went to spectacular Wassataquoik Lake and canoed its length and went to Greene Falls. We also hiked to Grand Falls of the Wassataquoik. My hiking partner had never been to these places. I had hiked into all of these places at about age 21 the first time and I have repeated that trek many a time since.

My mother passed away at age 91 and a memorial service will be held on September 8 in Bangor. She died in Connecticut and her remains will be cremated tomorrow. I do not weep for her passing as she was deaf, had macular degeneration that had greatly progressed, had some speech difficulty from a stroke five or more years ago and her mind faded in and out. Mother was a terrific mother, highly ethical and a super human being. I will miss her, but her time had come and she died without pain.

Enjoy your trip into Baxter State Park. I think of it as heaven on earth. I hiked to Baxter Peak for the 53rd consecutive year on August 2. It was hot and Tom Higgins and I hiked the Abol Trail--by far my least favorite.


A Tale Of Two Night Hikes

Goat Scrounger, Halifax and the Viking drove down to the the presidentials for another fantastic week of hiking and burping and farting and bulls****ing, but you knew that part. A small but brave and hardy band of hikers ( now a sub group called the Grayhounds) set off at 0800 on Labour Day Monday to do 12 mile 12 hour hike up and over the Wildcat Ridge and then on the Carter Moriah Trail to Imp Shelter. We did know that it was 12 miles, we didn't know that it was 12 hours. The first night hike was not planned but then all the good ones come by accident anyway. The climb up Wildcat was as to be expected, hard sort of like Falling Waters but twice as long followed by MUDS ( mindless ups and downs) till we crested Carter. About seven at night the sun fell behind Mt Madison, putting us in that eerie sort of half daylight half darkness. But easy to get your night vision. Imp was still some way off. The Gonzo rule of no lights was easy to handle at this stage. The white blazes make for easy following, although they don't do much for telling you where the rocks are. Rocks smocks just keep moving.Finally - the sign. Imp Shelter only 800 yds down a side trail. Suddenly what had been a walk in the park had become real tough sledding. Down hill and dark in the trees. Off we trod. A mere half hour later (it seemed a lot longer than a half an hour) we spotted the sign for the caretaker for the shelter. Quickly and quietly, we hopped by heading for the shelter, but alas twas not to be Hawkeye aka the Scrounger spotted the sign. "Hey guys, the caretakers shelter is this way" Oh about US$24 later we were duly registered and paid. It was certainly the longest toughest day yet in my hiking life. It was a tough hike but maybe it was the 10 and half hour warm up that was so tiring.

Of course two nights later the Team Grayhound dogs were joined by a couple of like-minded ( DIpper and Sun God) hikers for a short two day trip through the Mahoosuc Notch (toughest 1 mile on the AT) and up the arm to Speck Pond. We arrived early to the shelter, thus allowing Dipper and Goat to do their thing (Speck Pond - highest lake in Maine) All had a rest and supper. Hey we aren't tired and there is still time to play. What could we do? How about a night hike? Dipper, with his nice new vest, was a gimmee and it didn't take much to get the rest off of the porch. Sure just a mile hike up Old Speck Mountain (another 4000 footer but who keeps track anymore?) . Wow, even a 25 foot tower at the peak to get the full 360 degree view of all around. The twinkling lights of Success Pond only about 10 miles away. Sort of neat trying to figure why there is a light all by itself in the middle of nowhere. What is behind that light off in the distance? A beautiful night and nice and cool for the jaunt back to Speck Pond. Lights were now necessary as we were moving quickly.

Another awesome Gonzo night hike. Where were you and what were you doing?