Day 2- Glasgow to Edinburgh

Day 2- Glasgow to Edinburgh

Apparently I’m the best sleeper out of the bunch. My prize was sleeping the most on the plane, however I was still the first to fall asleep tonight. I’m actually writing this on the third as we take a train back to Glasgow. Not to spoil the ending, but we were all asleep by 7:30 last night.

As we got off the plane, I had enough WiFi to connect with Richard Hall, one of my professors from UGA who is over here. He also happened to be the person who taught me how to bird in Central and North America. He was at the botanical gardens in Glasgow and invited us to meet up with him.

Off planing was much less eventful, customs wasn’t bad though we did get pulled aside for questioning. The guy wanted to know if we had weapons on us, and we laughed considering how many flights we had taken (afterwards not directly to him).

We caught a bus to Glasgow from the airport then an Uber (using the bus’s WiFi) to the botanical gardens. We got to the tea room for breakfast. The tearoom was an outdoor patio with tables and little umbrellas surrounded by wonderful lawn, some nicely pruned trees and bushes. Emily and I got tea and a bacon bap (almost like a bacon panini) and Goose, AK, and myself got fruit scones and clotted cream. I’m sure any British reader will be offended by this characterization but clotted cream tastes like a rich creamy butter. It was wonderful. The scones here are different then what I’ve always made at home. They’re darker in appearance (I’m sure they don’t sure all purpose flour like I do…) and we’re much more biscuit shaped. They were probably 3.5 to 4 inches in diameter with a similar height. I’m writing this more for myself in the future. The fruit was something like a golden raisin. I need to look more into that. I wish clotted cream was more available in Georgia. I’ve tried to make it before but the unavailability of the right cream and the long baking time has prohibited it so far. It’s nice to see what it should be though.

The tea was great as well. It was just a breakfast tea. It was served with milk and sugar, with each person getting a personal tea pot. I had the first cup “Black” and the added cream to the rest. It was a wonderfully spiced tea, that wasn’t overly powerful, but warm and comforting.

We talked with Richard for a while and got some suggestions for the last morning when we’re here again. He then headed off to Manchester to head home.

We took the opportunity to explore the gardens and get out into the sunshine for a bit. We went into the gardens greenhouse and saw beautiful plants from all over the world. There were many different rooms featuring vastly different environments, from begonias to epiphytes to cacti. My descriptions I’m sure are vague and uninteresting, but the gardens were quite overwhelming in my jet lagged state. I hope you forgive me. I did take quite the portfolio of photos, and I’ll try to post some to make up for my limited memory.

Ak volunteered to use her data to get an uber but it ended up not working. We walked down a bit to a cafe where Goose and AK got some drinks in exchange for the connection. They ordered an Uber and we went through the city to queens station. The train station was pretty hectic, but we managed to get tickets and get to the platform in time for the train.

I was very unimpressed with the unorderly que that formed for the train. With all the y’all about brits and their ques I expected more. Emily and I grabbed a seat, however we got one of the few seats without a view. The train carried us through the country side with a passive buzz and mild rocking. I’m pretty sure I was the only one not to fall asleep.

We arrived at the station in Edinburgh and it took a bit to get us all up and out again. We filed out of the station and we’re greeted with a cobble stone street, old stone houses, great churches with evil spires, and a huge castle on the hill. It happened to be the town where J.K. Rowling wrote the First Harry Potter and you could feel the atmosphere she used as her inspiration. It was drizzling a bit, so we headed to the hostel. We were staying at the Rock Hostel, just a stones throw from the Castle. The Edinburgh Castle is a imposing fortress that overlooks the city. It’s firmly imbedded in the slippery rock. It hardly took an imagination to be on the lookout for a dragon, or royalty.

The Hostel was rated one of the best mega hostels for a few years now and it didn’t disappoint. We had four rooms in the Scotland Football room. Each bed had a different football team as the name. I was in hearts.

We dropped our stuff and walked back out to the town. We slipped into an alley called Brodie’s Close to a little cafe called the Deacon’s House. We had another scone with tea and a sandwich. The English mustard is a spicy hard ground mustard that really came out in the sandwich. This scone was plane and served with butter and a raspberry jam. It was shaped very similarly as the one in the tea room. We went to an outdoor shop for Ben and Ak to get gas and hiking poles and for Emily and I to get alcohol for our stove. I could only buy it by the liter, though I only needed an ounce for both of us for the whole trip. I’ll leave it at a hostel for some other hiker to find. At the store we met a guy who had hiked a bit of the Appalachian Trail and biked the west Highland way. He ended up giving us a discount on all of our stuff.

We walked by and were greeted by another spectacular view of the castle. We dropped the stuff and went up to your the castle.

By the time we got up there we only were going to have an hour to go through the whole castle and the tickets were 20 pounds each, so we decided not to go in after all. Instead we walked around some more before ending up at a pub called brew dogs recommend by Clay Rowe. It was pretty American than we expected, but everything we had was good.

The rain had started again and we were getting tired so we headed out to find dinner. Not many places were open and didn’t require reservations so we ended up at a a little side street restaurant. Emily had a Hampshire pudding which was sausage and mash in a pastry like bowl and I had the fish and chips. I want to try haggis and blood pudding, but I think I’m going to let me stomach acclimate a bit first. A note about table service here, we haven’t figured out how to get a check without having to stare down and make multiple gestures to the waiter. Maybe they don’t want to intrude, but we have to spend the last 10 minutes of dinner trying to flag down our bill.

We almost fell asleep at dinner, but managed to get back to the hostel before falling asleep. We all sat down on the bed on our phones and next thing we knew it was 7:30 the next day.

West Highland Way Day 1- Travel

Hello again,

It’s great to be writing here again. I’m currently sitting in an airport in Nova Scotia waiting to hop the pond. Goose and I are back at it again, this time with our wives. We’ll be attempting another thru hike, this one a little smaller. We’re going on the 96 mile West Highland Way in Scotland. This trip has been in the making for the 12-18 months and it’s crazy that it’s actually happening. With everything that has happened the last two weeks (Beau, our lab, ate a large stuffed rabbit and had to get it surgically removed, but not before making us think he had cancer, long story) it’s great to start this adventure. I guess I’ll start with the beginning.
It’s been quite the day. As I write this it’s 9:42 pm (8:42 pm EST) and we’ve been on the go since 4 this morning. We started this journey with my dad taking Emily (trail name pending) and I to the airport. We got left Atlanta at 7:30 and got to Boston around 10. We caught an Uber out to the main city and had a great lunch at the beerworks in town. Ben and I had a bbq sandwich on rye with mustard with a side clam chowder and it was wonderful.
We left lunch and walked over to the Faneuil Hall. There we listened to a very passionate Park ranger give a speech in the old hall about its history. I was pretty spellbound by the acoustics in the room. You could only imagine the debates that went on there. The way his words bounced around, you could tell it would be crazy there back during the revolution.
From there we crossed over to marketplace next door. It was very crowded and a little overwhelming, but since it had started to rain we decided to stay in for a bit. It cleared up soon and we headed to Paul Revere house.
 We stopped at a bakery to get coffee but between some bad communication and it being busy we ended up not getting anything. Goose and AK got a pastry there. Emily and I ended up going across the street to get coffee since the line was too long to get back in.
 We got some coffee at a place called thinking cup and a split a Boston cream pie. It was my first. The crust was light and flakey, the filling was sweet but not overwhelming and the chocolate was wonderful. I was obviously a huge fan.
 From there we followed the freedom trail, a trail through the city’s historical landmarks demarcated by a double brick line. It took us past Paul’s house, but since there was a fee to enter we kept walking.
 We passed a statue of him, the church where they hung the lanterns, and ended at Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, which had tombs dating back to the 1660’s. By that point it had gotten to be around 2:30 the time we were going to head back to the airport to catch our next flight.
We had a quiet uber ride back were I awkwardly tried to talk to the guy about the NPR station he had on mute. I don’t know if both uber drivers just happened to be listening to NPR or if they were just trying to appease the four white people in their car. Either way, he didn’t say much.
When we were checking in for our flight, the gentleman at the counter told us that our flight was going to be delayed more. We didn’t know it had been delayed at all. Over the next hour, the flight bumped back almost an hour and a half. We used the time to charge our phones and played heads up. It was really a good time.
As a group we decided to go grab dinner an hour before we left. While we were sitting in the booth, the boarding time jumped up from 6:30 to 5:50 (It was 5:30 and we had just ordered).
I went to the gate to see what was up and the rest of the group got our food to go. As we sat waiting for our food it got to be 5:45 so Emily went to the gate to stall. As soon as she got there she called saying they had called for final boarding. Our food just happened to arrive and we grabbed it and we’re the last people on the plane. We stunk up the entire 60 seater propeller plane with our food.
I sat by an understanding lady while I ate my veggie burger. We talked a bit. She was from a little town where the ferry from Nova Scotia and either Prince Edward’s Island or Newfoundland. She was in Boston trying to get small cruse ships to come to her town. We talked about the international Appalachian Trail a bit. Apparently it goes through her town.
Our little prop plane landed and off boarded onto the tarmac. It was my first time doing that. We went through immigration, and got to our gate in plenty of time. We have about a half hour until we get on our last flight, and should land in Glasgow around 8:30 local time (3:30am est). I think we’re all pretty tired, so we should sleep well on this flight. I hope that’s the case.
Were boarding now. I’ll try to get photos on here tomorrow!

Day 156+

Thank you all for bearing so long for me to post this. It still isn’t real to me. Four days after I returned home, I had an interview with the Entomology department at UGA. 11 days later and I got the job. Less than a month later and I started. The funniest part is, is that I’m working with black flies. Anyone who has hiked in the north knows how bad they can get. I proposed to my beautiful Fiancee in November, and were looking forward to an early wedding in the Smokies (hopefully without Noro).There are days where I look back and it doesn’t seem like I was the one who did all of these crazy adventures. Im a month out from the anniversary of when we started. Im sorry it took me so long. Doing this just makes it seem final, which is scary.

I never felt the mountains call until I spent so much time. Now they call to me often. It’s a feeling, about an inch above my sternum, about a half inch in. Its a tug, pulling towards my core. It comes about when I see the mountains. I think I miss the freedom. Everyday you saw your progress, what you earned. Now, my reward is money, which is already half spent.

To anyone looking to thru hike. Do it. You can. Ive met people in every situation. You are not alone, and you are not all that different. It doesnt matter your gear, but your mental strength. Its not all too hard to walk, but its difficult to do it every day. In the end, i think I learned to live simply. For six months, everything I owned I used. Every day. Heck, I can Count it. I have it listed somewhere. It was maybe 25 things. And I was happy. Things don’t make you happy. Things distract. Love people, love what you do, make goals, make unattainable goals, make friends, make food, make converstaion. Pick up a hitch-hiker (by a trail) HYOH (Hike your own hike).

I don’t think I ever mentioned this, but I signed almost every trail journal for the last thousand miles. ❤ Always-Ribbit

Day 155, August 12


Day 155, August 12

Katahdin Stream Campsite (Abol Campsite) to Baxter Peak

2189.1 miles total

Today started early. My alarm was set for 2:30, but I didn’t need it. I woke up right at 2:28 and got up. I snuck all my stuff out and made breakfast and got packed up at the ranger’s station. Echo had given me her spare filter and it was a life saver. I was all packed up and ready by 3:30 and started my two mile hike back to the trail. I got to the bottom and signed it at 4:17. The first mile flew by. I was worried. I knew that I still had to go up 4000 feet in 5 miles, and the first mile apparently didn’t have much elevation gain at all. After Katahdin falls, the uphill started. It was crazy. There were definitely easier ways, and everyone else didn’t have their entire pack with them, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to come down knife’s edge which would have put me on the other side of the park and around a hours drive away from where I would have left my stuff. I also wanted to get the real Katahdin experience, and not take the easy side trails. I honestly loved it, it was like a jungle gym.

Things really got real once I popped out of tree line. It was like changing over from hard mode to expert. There was one point where it was just a monkey bar to pull yourself up an 8 foot ledge. That kind of crazy. The crazy section ended at the Tablelands, a mile section leading to Baxter Peak that is relatively flat. The second I got up to the table lands, the rain started. I put on my poncho and kept pushing. The wind started up soon, and when I finally got to the top it was miserable. I knew there were a few guys up there so I called out, and behind the sign, from a little cave created by a rock I got a response. Shiver, Flickr, and Top Knot were there. They took some photos of me, and I of them. I tried to call my family and Emily, but there wasn’t any service. I was miserable and cold, and everything was wet, so I soon decided to head back down. Top Knot and Shiver came down with me. When we got back to the tablelands, we looked back and for one glorious second, the summit cleared. We thought about going back, but before we could even finish the sentence it was eaten by clouds. We made our way down the steep crazy section into the woods. From there we took the easy ways around the tougher sections. I made it out around 11:30 just as the rain was really getting bad. I met a family whose attempt summit of Katahdin had been rained out and the congratulated me. I got a ride to the town of Millinocket from Top Knot’s parents and stayed at the AT Lodge with Shiver and Flickr. We all went out and had dinner and celebrated the closing of our hike.

It never felt real to me. I wasn’t done with my hike. I was just in for a town stop. It was amazing and hard at the same time. Everything I had worked hard for, had been accomplished. Nothing remained. I don’t know how I feel about any of this. Im done.

Day 154, August 11

20160811-imgp721920160811-imgp722220160811-imgp722520160811-imgp722720160811-imgp723020160811-imgp723320160811-imgp7245Day 154, August 11Rainbow lake campsite to Katahdin Steam Campsite (Abol Campsite)

2183.9 miles total
So today is my last full day of hiking. I woke up with 3 days left, and now it’s tomorrow. The storm is looking worse and worse and I was worried they would close the park. I called my folks and Emily after leaving and they both agreed that Friday is the safest. It’s so weird not having any service. I have to 100% rely on southbounders and their information. It must be real, dr perky pulled 42 miles and got in at 4 am. He was getting ready when I was, and after talking to some section hikers who somehow had weather info I was certain I was going on Friday.

I hiked with him the morning for a while so I could borrow his water filter. He soon started lagging, so I filled up and left. He caught back up when I was talking with my folks. I hiked with figgy and echo, a couple I’ve known for a while for a few miles. I ended the last 2 miles to abol bridge campground by myself.

Shiver and flicker were at the restaurant and I joined them while I waited for echo, figgy, and dr perky. We ended up eating together with round 2. Echo bought me my first whoopie pie ever for dessert. It was so good. I resupplied for tomorrow and got two more. Echo, dr. Perky, shiver, top knot, and I hiked together and sang Taylor swift.

Finally at the ranger station, we all got situated with where we were staying. I’m with echo and figgy in a small lean to two miles from the trail head. The rain starts early tomorrow so I’m planning on waking up at 2:30 to get an early start. My last night here. Goodnight.

Day 153, August 10

20160810-imgp721020160810-imgp7216Day 153, August 10

Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to to Rainbow Lake Campsite

2162.8 miles total

Today was probably my hardest day on the trail. I woke up early and looked for the o ring for my filter, It woulnt work without it. After an unfruitful half hour, I gave up. I used Banana pants again for the morning, but he was quickly off never to be seen again. I cruised the first 10 miles of the day without going through too much water. When I reached the first shelter I saw there was still a person there. I asked to use their filter and chugged a liter or two before topping off my clean bottle. I only have one bottle that didn’t have dirty water in it at any point, so it was the only one I could fill. When I was about to leave, a couple who was day hiking asked if I had heard about the tropical depression that was coming. Obviously since I was in the literal middle of no where I hadn’t. They told me Friday night, all day Saturday, and all day Sunday had thunderstorms forecasted. Considering I was planning on summiting Saturday and my plane left on Sunday night that was alarming.

I put it in the back of my mind and kept hiking.

I went another 10 miles to the next shelter on one liter of water. It was getting hotter and frankly one liter was way to little. I made it last though and finally go to the shelter. The southbounders there didn’t have water and told me it was dry for the next four miles. The other NOBO there only had one liter of water left too. I traded him an extra poptart for half his water. He was really low on food, so he agreed. You have to do what you have to do. The next four miles were the worst.

They take you up a mountain called Nesuntabunt that frankly is pointless. You can see Katahdin from the top, but it almost killed me. My water didn’t last long in the afternoon heat. The climb was tough, and I was dehydrated. When I got off the mountain, there was a pond so I took a half hour to boil some pond water, and tried to let it cool down. I was impatent and it tried to drink it and it was very hot. I poured my last flavor packet in it since it had a strong smell/taste of pond. I poured it still very hot into my water bottle, and it warped it a little. I kept hiking and a mile later found a lady with excess water who topped off my till very hot bottle. That lasted me the mile and a half to the next water source. It was getting late and my luck changed when I met a guy setting up camp near the river. I chugged two or three liters, filled my bottle again with his filter and chatted with him. His friends were at the next shelter and could get me some more water. I hiked the few miles and me them at the shelter. They did indeed allow me to refill my bottle again. I finished off my 34 mile day around 8. I set up my tent, and talked with the NOBO who had traded me water. I overheard a gentleman with service reading off the weather, and the forecast had only gotten worse. I decided that I would try to make it to the base of Katahdin the next day. I ran into Echo and Figgy who were at the same campsite while getting water from the spring.

Day 152, August 9

20160809-imgp718520160809-imgp718720160809-imgp718920160809-imgp720520160809-imgp7209Day 152, August 9

West branch Pleasant River to Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to

2129.4 miles total

Even though I passed out before dark last night, I didn’t wake up until 7:30 which was a lot later than normal. I wasn’t ready to even leave camp until right before 9. After I crossed the river (In my crocs just in case) Dangles and his girlfriend started crossing. They both fell in so I waited to talk to them. They had already done a few miles that day. They are planning on summiting a few days after me.

The day started with a long gradual uphill to the first mountain of the Whitecap Range. The whitecaps are the first look of Katahdin, and the last big range before Katahdin. I wanted top get to the last mountain where you can actually see Katahdin, but I wasn’t sure if I would make it due to my late start.

I pushed super hard and eventually made it to the White cap mountain a little after 2. At the top I looked and didn’t see Katadhin. They said it should be all alone, but all I saw were chains. I looked at my watch and the sun and realized the lookout was facing the wrong direction. I walked the direction it should have been and saw “View” painted on the rocks with an almost indistinguishable path leading out from behind it. I followed it back and heard some familiar voices. Pie and another guy were back there taking photos. I covered my eyes, and made them take a “First reveal” photo for me. It was breathe taking. The other guys left pretty soon, so Lady K and I had a lunch date. I could look out and see the land that separated me from her, and it was one of the most exciting feelings I could have asked for. When I was getting ready to leave, banana pants walked in. I took some photos for him and we left together. I didn’t plan on pushing all the way to the next shelter, but banana I was feeling good and pants convinced me. Once at the shelter, I set up camp, and went down to take a dip and get water. There is a really nice swimming hole in front of the shelter and plenty of camping. I ended up just soaking my legs and eating a snickers. When I went to get water, the o-ring from my filer was gone. I looked everywhere on the rocks and just couldn’t find it. I borrowed Banana pant’s filter for the night, to get water for food and for the night. I figured I would probably find it in the morning when there was better light. After looking at the terrain I think I can make my first 30 mile day.

Day 151, August 8

20160808-IMGP7183.jpgDay 151, August 8

Wilson Valley Lean-to to West Branch Pleasant River

2104.9 miles total

Today is all about getting over the Chairback Range. It really only contains 5 mountains. I started off pretty strong getting up to Barren mountain pretty early. There is definitely a larger amount of section hikers in the hundred miles than in other places. I was aware of this, but I’ve already passed like 5 people by the first mountain. I got some water and hung out at the top of the mountain. At the bottom was Fourth Mountain Bog (Fourth Mountain, Mount Three-And-A-Half, and Third Mountain are in this range). There was a sign that there was some rare plants so obviously I got my camera out. There were some cool pitcher plants there, and I snapped some shots. I kept rolling through the mountains and there were some beautiful lookouts.

At the end of the day I stopped at Chairback Gap Lean-to for a snack and Dr. Perky came over. He was planning on stopping there, but since my knees were already warmed up, I wanted to keep hiking. The water there was pretty bad and I think I convinced him to keep going as well. We had heard so many complaints about the next mountain (Chairback) that we were a little worried. It turned out to be a 50 ft section of rocks comparable to what the whites were like. After I passed through that I kept looking for the bad part, but after walking for an hour or two I realized that was it.

I got to camp right at 6. I wanted to cross the river that night, but there wasn’t any camping on the north side. There wasn’t anything so I recrossed the river. I fell on the way back and got my shoes wet. I set up camp on the south side, and was the only one there for a while. I listened to Avett’s new CD while setting up camp. After cooking, an older lady and her daughter came into camp and set up. I fell asleep pretty early.

Day 150, August 7

20160807-imgp717320160807-imgp717420160807-imgp7177Day 150, August 7

ME 15 to Wilson Valley Lean-to

2085.0 miles total


It was so hard to leave Monson today. I don’t know if it was the people I was with (Thanks Mamba) or the fact I knew it was my last town, but I just couldn’t leave. Breakfast was at 7 and it was sausage and eggs which were followed by all-you-can-eat pancakes. I didn’t eat as many pancakes as I wanted, but what are you going to do. I was planning on leaving after breakfast, but then I remembered about the whoopie pie that the lady at the bakery promised. I sauntered down to the bakery. When I got there mamba was already there getting second breakfast. I asked about the whoopie pies, but they didn’t make them. The lady didn’t leave until late and was tired. I was a little disappointed but I understood so I purchased a cinnamon roll instead. I sat outside and ate it. The weather here is simply perfect. A slight chill even in the summer. Mamba had to go get some resupply at the gas station, so I watched her bags while I called Emily. She was getting excited about coming up to see me, and im excitd to see her. When mamba got back we headed back together. Dr. perky was thinking about heading out around noon, and I was planning on heading with him. Mamba isn’t sure. She has some friends who may be as close as a day behind.

Noon turned to One, and One turned to 1:30. We finally headed out but not before poet (the owner) gave us a Haiku. Ive been trying to remember what it was all day, but the jist was “enjoy the end, because the richest things settle in the bottom.” I liked it. When we got dropped off we headed to the famed sign that we had all seen. It warns hikers not to enter without 10 days of food. I currently have around 5. Oops. We took photos then headed in. We all decided to get to the shelter 10 miles in. It was already late, and its not like I cant push big miles. The miles weren’t tough, mostly just rolling hills. I got into the shelter just as it was starting to rain. I decided just to stay in the shelter for the night. There was already a SOBO there. While the rain was picking up Mamba, Dr. Perky, and Shutterbug rolled in. It stopped raining after a bit and Shutterbug and Dr. Perky set up their tents. I didn’t really want all my stuff to get wet so I just stayed in.

My plan for the 100 mile is as followed: get over the Chairback Range tomorrow, get over the White Caps the next day, then get to Millinock on the 11th. I think it should be very possible.


Day 149, August 6

Day 149, August 6Moxie Bald Mountain Lean-to to ME 15 (Monson)

2074.6 miles total
In to Monson! The trail all day was pretty downhill and smooth, there were a couple parts, but overall it wasn’t bad. There are two exits in to Monson, and I was planning on taking the farther one. Around 3 miles from the first one a storm rolled in. I booked it, but after a small drizzle, it passed and was nice again. I had thought about changing up and hitting the first exit, but after the rain stopped I stayed with the plan. 

My hitch into Monson came from a traveling preacher who said I looked “calm and peaceful.” Maybe I was just tried from running away from the rainstorm.

In Monson I stayed at Shaw’s hostel. It’s a pretty nice place and I got a bed in a room with 6 other beds. I walked over to the AT center there and they answered all the questions I could think of about the park. I feel like Baxter is such a mystery and there are so many rumors. I signed up to summit on the 13th, that should give me plenty of time to get through the 100 mile wilderness. When I left I walked “Main street” and went to the bakery and the gas station. They were out of whoopie pies when I got there. The lady told me she wasn’t going to make more the next day either. When I told her I had never had one, she told me she would make me one if she found the time. I’ll go back and check. At the gas station I got a half gallon of milk and two powerades. I’m super dehydrated for some reason.

For dinner we ate at the lake shore restaurant. The food was great but it took almost an hour and a half to get our food, no refills or anything. We actually went to the kitchen and asked and we happened to be “next up”. The top of the menu said “if you’re in a rush, this isn’t the place for you.” I guess they weren’t lying. 

Tonight I talked to my folks and Emily to try and finalize plans. I’m getting excited. It’s so close.