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Hello all!

My mother and I traveled to Maine last week for a few days.  We enjoyed our time there especially early Fall season and received wonderful hospitality among friends and people of Maine.  The reason we went to the Pine Tree State is that I am chosen to receive an award as well as Roger by the Maine Commission for the Deaf, hard of Hearing, and Late Deafened.  Roger was not able to make it to Annual Tea Awards held at Maine State House in Augusta, Maine because he currently works and lives in Seattle and has an upcoming trip to Europe which starts this week for six weeks.

On the behalf of the Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Late Deafened (CDHHLD), I am recipient of an award, “Meritorious Support Services Provider Award” – This award is given to a trained support service provider. This year’s award is in recognition of exceptional support of Roger Poulin in his quest to complete the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Roger received an award, “Special Commendation Award” – This award is given to an individual or agency whose activities in and with the Deaf community deserves recognition.

We want to say our heartfelt thanks to the Maine Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened, DeafBlind, Interpreter, and Hearing community and CDHHLD for their generous and amazing support for Roger’s quest with AT and my work.  People said that I am now “Honorary Mainer” since I am now embraced by the people of Maine.  🙂  

Annual Tea Awards - Meritorious SSP and Special Commendation

Annual Tea Awards


Image description: Two plaque awards are displayed with a picture of the State of Maine Seal on top part of award.

On left, Roni’s award – “Presented to Roni Lepore – Meritorious Support Service Provider – In Recognition of Exceptional Support of Roger Poulin in His Quest to Complete the Appalachian Trail – September 18, 2014 – The Deaf Community of Maine”.

On right, Roger’s award – “Presented to Roger Poulin – Special Commendation Award – September 18, 2014 – The Deaf Community of Maine”.

 

Here is a copy of my acceptance speech upon receiving my award – “Meritorious Support Service Provider” (be mindful that my speech at Annual Tea was not exactly same – upon giving my speech, I was flooded with generosity and gratitude from the audience that my speech altered in some ways for some wonderful reasons!) –

Hello, my name is Roni Lepore and my name sign is . I hail from New Jersey and my mother is here in the audience. I travel to Maine from time to time, not only for hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but also to work, teach, and enjoy the beautiful scenes here in the Pine Tree State. Each time I come here, I am always welcomed by the warm and friendly people of this state. That’s why I keep coming back as much as I can!

When I first found out that I am nominated to receive this award, I was not sure if it was a mistake since it goes to Mainers as I do not live here. Once I learned that it was an exception due to my role as a SSP to Roger Poulin, AT DeafBlind hiker, it is truly an honor to be recognized for my commitment and work. My journey of becoming SSP is probably unique as I received various training, not only here in USA, but around the globe – Australia, Europe, Asia, and Africa. I have worked with amazing and diversified DeafBlind clients from many walks of life – age, gender, race, ethnics, experience, and forth on. Each one of their requests to work with me was never the same. I relish and thrive on some challenges that come with SSP work. Yes, some days, there are difficult or bad moments. It requires one’s courage, faith, and belief to get through and move on. The communication and teamwork between SSPs and DeafBlind clients demand that each person understands the needs of each other’s as it becomes a critical two-way journey of enjoyment and respect.

So, being SSP for Roger Poulin was a completely “different zoo” for me. Roger got to witness my good and ugly sides and still worked together! I vividly recalled that when we first hiked for 3 months in our first year of hiking on the Appalachian Trail in 2010, it was a rough and bumpy road between us. It was 24/7 experience for both of us and we were trying to figure out how to work together and balance our control and power over each other. I wore many hats – hiker, first-aid provider, counselor, water girl, and so forth on, and best of all, a friend. It was probably an unorthodox practice of professional SSP as I may have broken most of rules, but it was Appalachian Trail – that’s where one discovers “true self” after going through phrases of man vs. wild, man vs. man, and man vs. self. That’s the true beauty of realizing one’s potentials through this kind of experience. Once Roger and I conquered Mt. Katahdin with David Whitney and his son, Ateon, we didn’t do it by ourselves. It was our friends, family, community – both hikers, Deaf, and DeafBlind – and even strangers backing us up. The most important of all about being a good SSP is to take a good care of yourself – mentally, physically, and emotionally – and ability to prepare and anticipate as much as one can.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank to the Maine Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened, and DeafBlind community for recognizing my tireless work and my friends and especially my family for supporting my work. Lastly, Roger is a special person who taught a great deal about how to collaborate with a DeafBlind client even through difficult periods. Patience and respect are valuable legacies that come through Roger and me. Thank you, Roger, for allowing me to be me and being part of your dream to hike on the AT.

Here is Roger Poulin’s acceptance speech for his award, “Special Commendation Award” shown at Annual Tea – in ASL only. English Subtitles and/or text shall be available at later date. Roger gave me his blessings to publish his video here.

Roger’s quote from his interview with The Bangor Daily News was displayed at the Annual Tea –

Roger Poulin's quote

Image description: “My goal is to show that dreams can become a reality for anyone, regardless of their personal challenges and struggles. I also want to expose the world to understand why SSP (Support Service Person) is extremely important to DeafBlind community.” — Roger “Ad-Cane” Poulin

 

Here is the list of who’s who on CDHHLD who nominated me and Roger to receive the awards – special thanks go out to them!

Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened Members

Last Updated; August 29, 2014

Patty Sarchi, Deaf Consumer
Sitara Sheikh, Vice-Chair, Deaf Consumer Christy Callahan, Deaf Consumer
Karen Keim, Hard-of-Hearing Consumer Conrad Strack, Chair, Deaf Consumer
Kate Strack, Deaf Consumer Vacant, Deaf Consumer
Mary Hamlin, Hard-of-Hearing Consumer Vacant, Deaf Consumer
Vacant, Family Member of Deaf/HoH/Late-Deaf Individual w/Intellectual Disability or Mental Illness Vacant, Parent of Deaf or HoH Student
Vacant, Parent of Deaf or HoH Student Cathy Glover, Educator of the Deaf
David Sherry, Superintendent or his/her Designee of the Maine Educational Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing/Governor Baxter School for the Deaf Nicole Duncan, Audiologist
Susan Nay, Dept. of Education Representative Vacant, Local Educational Administrator
Theresa Jack, Rep. State/Fed Meryl Troop, Civil Rights Director
Emily Cain, Legislator Elyzabeth Smith, RID Interpreter
Vacant, Legal Rep. Vacant, Member-at-Large, Medical or Health Care Professional
Stephan Bunker, Member-at-Large Vacant, Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Student
Marty Golden, Member-at-Large Romy Spitz, Late-Deafened Consumer

Hello folks!

The Spring is around the corner with Phil the Groundhog taunts at us for a long and *wonderful* Winter….plenty of snow up here in Mid-Atlantic and New England states!  Anyhow, let’s start with a sad news that I received a couple of days ago…..Bill Irwin, First Blind-Hiker to hike the AT, has died over this past weekend.  Bill inspired Cane and myself before we started to hike the AT in 2010.  Cane had his book and he lent this book to me to read….I admired Bill’s courage and perseverance to complete the AT.  It did open up conversation between Cane and myself on many areas such as risks, preparations, communication system, and etc.  Cane and I had an honor or meeting him while we were hiking on the AT in 2011 at Pine Grove Furnace State Park – the midway point on the AT and where the AT museum is.  Bill happened to be there to give a presentation as we hiked through….perfect timing!  We were in heavens getting to chat with him with a help from wonderful staff at AT Museum who knew some sign language.  Bill is now joined with his beloved and loyal guide dog, Orient who hiked with him from start to end on the AT, in the heaven.  May they continue to hike in the heaven and remembered forever for their courage and steadfastness.

Now, here is a good news…..Cane, the team, and I are booked for a week from Sunday 22-June-2014 through Saturday 28-June-2014 to make a big climb at the Mt. Katahdin.  The details will come out soon, so keep your eyes out for that.

It is gonna be a short note if I can help with that.  🙂  We hiked hard and long for around 48.5 miles for 5 days in row with support and help from our incredible AT Crew – David W. (hiked with us from Jo-Mary Road to Pollywog Stream – around 31.5 miles), Daren R. (hiked with us from Pollywog Stream to Golden Road – around 17 miles), and Priscilla R.  We arrived at Daicey Pond in Baxter State Park tonight (Thursday) with *gasp* remaining 7.5 miles to complete our AT journey….gosh!  Cane and I became more aware and emotion as we got closer and closer to Katahdin (known as the Big K or K) and saw how majestic mountain was!  At Rainbow Ledge, Cane was looking at the Big K for 3rd time and began to weep….the ripple effect began….I weeped, then Daren R. weeped in turn.  Such a heart-touching moment to realize that Cane’s dream is within his reach….

Upon our arrival at the Golden Road, Cane and I hiked on our own – slackpacking – a special thanks to Daren R. and Priscilla R. for picking up our equipment, so we can hike lightly and easier.  Cane and I started to realize that we were abt to enter into the Baxter State Park and saw the Big K again….we cried!  *sniff*  All the way from Golden Road to Daicey Pond, it was our moment of reflection “walking” – remembering and talking abt our ordeals over 4 years of our journey….people we met and befriended with….and etc…

Ok, I should hit the sack right now…..plans to share some more stories later today (Friday).  Before I sign off, we plans to climb the Big K this Saturday!!  Woo-hoo! 

Crocs – I lost one of my crocs while fording Little Wilson Stream (it was not “little” stream, to be frank with y’all – due to recent all-day long rain and rising level of water).  Paul A. did advised me to keep my boots on, but naturally, I detest hiking in wet boots that may lead to terrible “bleeding cracks” on bottom of my feet as it happened in the past.  I elected to don on my crocs and prayed for the best.  I made it across, but not my one of crocs as I wedged myself against the large boulder under “swift” channel of flowing water.  As I attempted to move, my leg hit the boulder and slipped my crocs’ strap off from me.  *sigh*  I said to myself, at least my backpack made it across with help of Paul and I made it across….so, I counted my blessings.  It was funny to hop around the campsite with one crocs on….Cane was kind to lend me one of his crocs when I needed to go somewhere….at shelter, he lent both of his crocs, so I can go to my hammock without having to worry abt stubbing my toes.

Cane texted his mother asking her to buy me a new “earth-tone” crocs.  After end of our first section and meeting up with David W. (He met Cane’s parents as they were dropping off some supplies with him last Friday), I got a nice surprise when I first saw my new crocs!  It is really crocidile-textured crocs!  The color is green, just like crocidile’s color!  Wow…..I emailed Cane’s mother thanking her and how much I like it so much….that I am gonna be one of cool crocs on the trail!  Lol! 

Trekking poles – After leaving Rt. 15 Monson for 45 minutes, Cane managed to break one of his poles.  A couple of hikers came upon on us and whittled Cane a new wooden stick.  Paul A. rigged the stick with rope acting as a grip for Cane to use.  Paul A. texted David W. asking for a new set of poles which Cane had in his supplies which we left with David W.  David dropped it off at the next shelter the day before we were to arrive.  He left the message in the register letting hikers know that the poles were for Cane.  Upon our arrival at the shelter, the poles were there waiting to be used.  Cane was thrilled and got to use it right away.  We kept beaten up pole with us and left another terrible shape pole at the shelter for any hiker who might needs to use it. 

Guess what….after one hour of hiking, Cane happened to bend one of his brand new poles!  Poor Cane!  So, Paul A. whipped out Cane’s beaten up pole.  I picked up his new bent pole and attached it to my backpack.  Later on, Paul and I took a look at the pole and fixed it by breaking off the lower part of the pole, so it can be re-used as a back-up pole.  It is his 18th and 19th break of the trekking poles so far.  19th broken part has Cane’s autograph and mascot on it and it is given to David W. as requested.  It is on his mantle among his trophies.  😉

That’s our total mileage to reach the northern terminus of the AT at Mt. Katahdin.  We concluded our first section of hiking between Rt. 15 Monson and Katahdin Iron Works Road – total of 29.9 miles completed.  It leaves us with 84.6 miles left to go.  Wooowww….it took us 5 days to hike and we did well.  Today is our zero day….discussing, making some plannings, re-supplying, getting some rest, and hanging out at David W.’s place (nice of him to offer us a place to recuperate and getting ready for next section).  David W. hiked with us twice making some videos and pictures of Cane’s journey.  So cool!  Daren R. and Priscilla R. came up yesterday to provide us some support.  Great team of Paul A., Daren R., Priscilla R., and David W.  We communicate in creative way – instant messaging, texting, writing on paper, gesturing, and trying some sign language.  Cane and I wish we could fully participate with them in their conversation, but we know that we do our best to make sure all of us are on same page and not to leave out too often/too much.  Cane and I converse in ASL and they cannot follow our conversation.  The bridge is existed between us and our team and we respect and tolerate each other.  It is very good for all of us to be patient and work together toward common goals – 1) helping Cane making his dream coming true, 2) making sure team is on the same page and good rapport with each other, and 3) having time of our lifetime in the 100-wilderness journey toward Mt. Katahdin. 

Tomorrow, we plan to begin our section 2 from Katahdin Iron Works Road to Jo-Mary Rd – 28.6 miles in total.  It may be another 5 days of hiking that section.  Wish us a good luck to get through this section as we ford two rivers and climb over the mountain range – White Cap Mountain. 

Hi Folks,

We successfully closed out on our Bigelow Mtn leg for 3 days from Monday through Wednesday (From East Flagstaff Road to Rt. 27 Stratton).  Cane struggled from time to time during 2nd day of hiking due to 1) his old hiking boots (he misplaced his hiking boots and had to wear his old ones – it has pretty “bald” spots on his rubber soles), and 2) challenging terrain to climb up and down, and 3) over-work and sweat out a lot on his body which drain his water and salt level away from his body.  Cane eventually made it on last day of hiking pretty exhausted and happy.  We enjoyed the spectacular view at top of Avery Peak and had a lunch in the Col.  We met the trail angels at Rt.27 – some snack, drinks, and small sack of first aid, treats, and supplies for us.  Such a sweet people!  I plan to update here once I find the information on these people.   I found the note (used as bookmark for my book)!!!!  These people’s names were Teacher & Snacktime.  They have a page on the Facebook – “Eddie’s Challenge II – An Appalachian Trail Adventure”.  Check it out in the Facebook.  Here are a couple of pictures taken and along with comments by them:

Dead Car Battery

RamSham’s car battery was dead, so Ed and I set up the jumper cables while Paul read the manual on our car to find out where the battery was hidden.

Trail Magic!!!

At the Stratton Trailhead we encountered AdCane, RamSham, Paul and Machine Gun Jim. RamSham is deaf, and taught Ed a little sign language during our break. AdCane is deaf and blind, and being assisted by RamSham http//atdeafblind.dream.wordpress.com

Woo hoo!  We are done with the Saddleback Mountain – 7.0 miles of hiking in gorgeous and bug-free weather – in 70’s and sunny!  So happy and proud for all of us!!!!!

Now, we are concentrating on starting our hiking over the Bigelow Mountain in Stratton, Maine – 16.7 miles to hike.  Paul A. will join with us to provide some support for Cane and me.  Abby A. will drop us off at the trail head and go home thinking how lucky she will get to sip her drink and sit down in the comfy chair.  😎

With Cane’s average of hiking 5 miles per day, it may take 3 days.  If we can push it more further and finish it in two days, but we are not going to get crazy about that.  Safety comes first for all of us.  I cannot wait to check out the Bigelow Col which one of my dear friends, Christopher L., told me about how he came upon and surprised the cow moose and her calf (baby moose) in the Bigelow Col.  The weather is iffy for next 3 days with 30 – 40% chance of shower, rain, and/or thunderstorm.  Typical Maine weather – it is never accurate.  We will just go ahead and hope to get through.  Once we are done with the leg of climbing the Bigelow Mountain, we plan to drive to Bethel to visit Patti & Jeff P,, Daren & Priscilla R., and all of folks at BOA (Bethel Outdoor Adventure).  We will join the potluck party this Thursday at BOA and to celebrate Jeff’s special day – his birthday!  At BOA, I am going to work on the plans right away for our last haul – Monson to Katahdin.  To keep my story short, Daren R. gave me a contact person who knows 100-mile Wilderness very well.  His name is David W.  David W. is more than happy to help us with planning 100-mile Wilderness to make sure we hike safely and figure out how to get re-supply from side trail or access road.  I plan to talk more about it after this Bigelow Mountain leg.  Pray for us, Cane, Paul A. , and me, to stay safe and complete climbing the Bigelow Mountain.

I will be back in the civilization by this Wednesday or Tuesday.  We are getting almost there – Mt. Katahdin!!!!  🙂

We plan to commerce our hiking at the Saddleback Mountain – 6 miles from Rt. 4 Rangeley to top part of the Saddleback Mountain, then go down on the side trail toward the ski resort area – around 7 miles of day hiking today.  It will conclude our leg of the Saddleback Mountain.  We plan to go to Stratton to hike the Bigelow Mountains – 16.7 miles from end to end.  It may take 3 days of hiking.  We hope to conclude this leg by this Wednesday.  Paul A. and Abby A. join with us to provide some support.  It is good to have them with us again.  Sorry that it is haste as we are about to leave for Rangeley from Augusta.  I shall write some more at other time.  Have a good day, folks!

We plans to resume our hiking this Monday 29-July from Caribou Valley Road going south toward Rt. 4 Rangeley through picturesque Saddleback Mountains.  It will be around 24 miles stretch without any road access in between.  We asked a couple of hikers to join and support us and they agreed.  They are a couple named Abby and Paul A.  Paul was on Op. MNOB crew and had some experience working with Cane.  We had a meeting at our friend’s home in Bethel, ME.  Her name is Margaret H. and she is an interpreter.  We asked her if it was ok with her to interpret the meeting between us and the hikers and she was more than happy to help (a huge gratitude to her from us).  Cane said it was going to be half-hour meeting, but guess what….it ended up as two hour productive meeting.  😉  Paul, Abby, and I plan to support Cane by taking some of Cane’s gear and supplies and distributing some weight among us, so Cane can hike with less weight of 5 days’ worth of backpack weight.  We hope that it will reduce a chance of him developing some heat rashes and helping him to hike and negotiate a bit easier with reduced backpack weight.  In summary, Paul, Abby, and I will be Cane’s “pack mules” or “sherpas”.  😎  It is going to be five days of hiking, but we hope to make it 4 days instead.

After completing the Saddelback leg, Paul and Abby will return to Bethel Outdoor Adventure while Cane and I will go to Cane’s parents’ home in Augusta, ME.  I will be driving back to NJ to join with my family’s NJ beach house vacation for a week.  Cane will fly out to Seattle for his job orientation and training for 3 weeks.  Cane plans to fly back to the East Coast on Saturday 24-August and resume our hiking leg in the Bigelows area then our “last haul” leg – Monson – Katahdin.  It looks like we may summit the Katahdin in mid- to end of September.  We pray and hope that we will be able to complete this year with our AT journey.  *crossing fingers*

Cane and I are going to greatly miss Bethel Outdoor Adventure and RV folks after we leave tomorrow night – we are part of their “circle” just like a family.  We have a roof over our heads, place to cook our food, to work, plan our hiking, and socialize with folks.  Our stresses of trying to manage our financial situation, hiking plans, and resources (both personal and AT journey) are more manageable this month as opposed to last month.  Last month, our plans changed many times which ate up much of our time and money allocation along with our sanity and well-being.  Our courage and belief in ourselves began to chip away when we couldn’t find a support system on the trail once we realize how challenging trail in NH and ME posed to Cane.  We assured to ourselves that we must move on with positive outlook as we both experience hardship growing up with our disabilities and didn’t permit any of our doubtfulness and pessimism seeping into our soul.  We had a wonderful support system off trail in Andover, ME.  However, as we continued to hike with a strong determination, we slowly began to realize how our anxiety and insecurity started to get to us  as we hike on trail for miles and miles without any road access (allowing us to get back into town to re-supply).  *sigh*  The poor weather really sapped our energy and well-being – a big factor, indeed!  That was why we decided to pause our AT journey a few days before the last weekend of June to allow us to re-collect our strengths and passion to resume our AT journey in beginning of July – with renewed hope and intention.  After our difficult hiking from Carter Notch to Rt. 2 Gorham, we needed to do something about Cane’s busted bike helmet and worn-out shin guards.  We were planning on hiking from Grafton Notch to Rt. 2 Gorham, so we traveled to Bethel, ME.  We remembered how sweet and helpful Pattie was with us back in June, so we decided to stop by Bethel Outdoor Adventure to inquire where we can buy to replace them.  It is remarkable how our path crossed with Jeff and Pattie last month when we first began our AT journey without any thought that our path will be crossed again a month later and forever intertwined into their community and life.

We had a potluck dinner with Bethel Outdoor Adventure twice – celebration of our hiking leg – 1) from Mahoosuc Notch Trail to Rt. 2 Gorham and 2) Grafton Notch to Mahoosuc Notch Trail including Mahoosuc Notch.  Tomorrow night will be our last potluck dinner and it is not going to be a farewell dinner because these folks are our “backbone” toward our AT journey by providing us unconditional support and love.  We are “adopted” by two families in ME – one in Andover, ME (Ilene and David) and one in Bethel, ME.  Despite how New Hampshire and Maine AT continues to challenge Cane and me, we are showered with positive messages and encouragement not only from these “adopted” families, Bethel Outdoor Adventure and RV folks, but our dear hikers, trail angels, friends, loved ones, and families via online, video phone, email, cards/letters/postcards, and in person.  They forever leave impression on our heart, memories, and soul with their endless source of beautiful patronage and blessing.  That is the real example – the beauty of kindred human spirits among the community across the globe.

After completing the leg from Carter Notch to Rt. 2 in Gorham and taking a couple of days of zero, we started to plan for hiking in Mahoosuc Notch area between Grafton Notch (Rt. 26) to Mahoosuc Notch Trail (side trail).  It was going to be 8.2 miles in length rather than hiking from Grafton Notch to Rt. 2 in Gorham – 31 miles in length.  It is done on purpose to keep our backpack light as possible to get through infamous “toughest one mile of entire AT” Mahoosuc Notch.  You can google it up to watch some videos to check out these size of unbelievable boulders – VW cars!  The hikers go through this particular area are required to scramble.  With easy trail to hike on for 1 mile, it may take around 1/2 hour, but it is not the case with Mahoosuc Notch.  For the most of hikers, it may take them around 2 hours to scramble through merely 1 mile of the notch!  The blind man named Bulldog went through this area and it took him 9.5 hours.  We stopped by Bethel Outdoor Adventure on our zero day to inquire where we can buy Cane’s frayed bicycle helmet and shin guards to replace them.  Pattie was thrilled to see us again and to our surprise, she offered Cane a choice of used bicycle helmet from shelf which was used for rental bicycle ride.  Cane found perfectly fitted bicycle helmet.  Yay!  We were going to hunt on shin guards and Pattie was helpful by giving us a place to check out – Bethel Bicycle Center.  They didn’t have the certain shin guards Cane wanted, so we asked Alyssa G. to buy one for him from Portland before she made her trip to Bethel.  Jeff, Pattie’s husband (which I finally learned his name on that day which we didn’t catch his name when he first dropped us off to begin our hiking from Grafton Notch toward Stratton this past June), showed up and was delighted to see us again.  We ended up making a plan for hiking between Grafton Notch and Mahoosuc Notch Trail for a couple of hours via paper and pen.  Jeff has an invaluable and wealth of knowledge and experience from his Outward Bound days.  We left with the solid plans, good feeling, and motivated/determined to get that “under our belt” for once and all!

Alyssa G. came up on Monday night – 7-July, to join with Cane and me to hike through Mahoosuc Notch as an additional support team member.  However, with the terrible weather we had for a couple of days – rain, foggy, and wet – we weren’t sure if it was a wise decision to make an attempt.  After chatting with Kevin and Polly – owner of lovely Mahoosuc Mountain Lodge – and Jeff and Pattie – owner of Bethel Outdoor Adventure -, we decided that it was best to postpone our attempt to later date with better weather forecast as it was critical factor for us to hike safely for all of us especially for Cane.  In addition, Alyssa was available until Friday morning.  We made a decision on Tuesday morning.  We were crushed and disappointed, but felt comfortable with our decision.  We decided to make a phone call to Bethel Outdoor Adventure to see if we can talk with Jeff and Pattie about revising our plans and was told that we are more than welcome to show up at 4 pm for a tea time.  We went ahead and bought Irish shortbread that ought “blend well” with English Tea Time.  We showed up and found ourselves on the “round table” with Jeff, Pattie, Daren R., Priscilla R. and Molly along with Alyssa G. interpreting and Pattie making English tea for all of us.  With Alyssa’s presence, it helped to make our communication smoothly and at ease.  We were thankful for her willing to bridge our communication.  We came up with the plans from Mahoosuc Notch Trail to Rt. 2 – around 23 miles in total with 5 days – breaking up around 5 miles each for shelter/campsite knowing that Cane requiring more time to hike through trail filled with exposed tree roots, wet rocks/slabs, bogs, and etc.  His average of hiking remained at 5 miles a day for around 10 hours to 12 hours.  Daren and Molly volunteered to be our re-supply team at Carlo Col shelter, so we can carry 2 days worth of food to start with then carry 3 days worth of food for rest of the trail to help Cane managing his weight on his backpack.  The weight on his backpack is challenging for him because when he slips or falls, the weight may easily pull down or throw him off the trail due to his challenging balance condition.  We felt better knowing that we didn’t have to deal with carrying 5 days worth of food.  At end of the meeting, Jeff told us that he would be disappointed if we didn’t show up at Bethel Outdoor Adventure after completing our leg between Mahoosuc Notch Trail and Rt.2.  At that time, we began to realize how supportive  from Bethel Outdoor Adventure community/staff toward Cane’s attempt to complete his AT dream/journey.  What is even more is that not only it comes with Jeff’s knowledge and experience, but his and Pattie’s resources are open to us to help us out.

Kevin gave us a lift going to Mahoosuc Notch Trail (2 hours of traveling one way – dropping off our re-supply food at Bethel Outdoor Adventure, dropping off my car at Rt. 2, then driving on dirt road for around 11 miles to trail head).  We began our hiking on Mahoosuch Notch Trail with exciting anticipation of trying to beat the rain by arriving at the shelter in early afternoon.  Upon our arrival at AT junction, we took a peek at Mahoosuc Notch and began our hiking going south.  It was a bit challenging of climbing which required us to use hand-to-hand climbing from time to time on our ascent.   After getting to the top, we encountered countless bogs with some depreciating, rotten, missing and/or underwater planks to walk over….sometimes we had to walk, perhaps more of “swim”, through.  At one point, I almost lost my boot in one of these deep bogs!!!!!  We arrived at Full Goose Shelter around 2 pm beating the heavy pouring of rain!  We remained at the shelter rest of the day keeping ourselves dry and warm.  A group of female hikers arrived and stayed overnight.  For the first time, Cane was finally a “minority” – surrounded by female hikers!  😉

On 2nd day of our hiking, we hiked toward Carlo Col Shelter which was 4.7 miles, but took us 9 hours.  We arrived finding Daren chilling out around his hammock – yay, one of hammock fiends!  I proceeded to set up mine with excitement having a hammock neighbor at last!  Daren, Cane, and I got to chat via Daren’s notebook – getting each other know a bit more.  Jeff left us a trail magic – sugar cookies.  Cane happily wolfed down his and mine (I am allergic to wheat/gluten which Jeff and Pattie do not know yet.).  Daren told us that he will join us hiking on section of AT to next side trail, Success Trail, to get off next day.  Wow, nice to have a company on the trail for while!  🙂

3rd day of hiking – We left Carlo Col Shelter early in the morning by 7:00 am heading for Gentian Pond Shelter which was around 5.7 miles away.  Immediately, we faced with a huge obstacle to overcome – using our rock climbing skills to climb ledge and large boulders straight up!  Without any doubts in my mind that Daren must have said Holy Mackerel due to his ancestral root – Scottish!    😉  We hiked for around 2 miles along with crossing the state line from Maine into New Hampshire (we are almost done with NH…..hardly WAIT!!!!)  until we arrived the side trail where we said our farewell to Daren going down that way.  The trail continued to be challenging – bogs, hand climbing, exposed tree roots, and wet slabs on top of hot and humidity weather.  We arrived at the shelter 10 hours and 30 minutes later – around 5:30 pm.  Whew!  The shelter gave us a nice view of the valley.  Awesome!

At 4th day of hiking, I began to notice how much the ongoing challenges of trail began to toll on Cane’s physical and well-being.  He began to suffer terrible heat rashes on his both hips and shoulders from his heavy backpack and aching knee from previous injury he sustained.  After lengthy discussion between Cane and myself, we agreed that I was to text Jeff, Pattie, John W., and Daren asking if they were available to assist us either on that day or next day.  That was something that we wanted to make sure if we absolutely needed the support system on the trail knowing that it was around 12 miles ahead – 12 LONG miles for Cane to finish out.  We came to the last side trail and I asked Cane if he felt the necessary to bail out and he said no and wanted to continue to finish out rest of the AT toward Rt. 2.  I did a quick evaluation of his health and well-being state and agreed with him that he was “hike-able”.  Originally, he wanted to hike out to Rt. 2, but he realized that he couldn’t do it and accepted that we will camp out at Trident Campsite – around 7 miles from Rt. 2.  We arrived at Trident Campsite by 3 pm and had time for Cane to get some rest and tended after his injuries.

On 5th day of hiking, Daren volunteered to assist us, so we got an early start to begin our hiking at 7:30 am for last 7 miles.  It was very hot and humid day.  I gave one of my mantras to Cane – “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” and “Keep going and it will make you strong as a bull!”  I texted Daren saying that we may have a long day of hiking and Daren replied that we hoped that we will make it in time for 6 pm dinner to celebrate.  At that time, I wasn’t sure if he was being serious or joking.  Cane sluggishly climbed the Cascade Mountain both ways before coming to the brook around 3 hours and half later.  We were re-filling water and Daren showed up hiking around 4 miles from Rt. 2.  I was overwhelmed with joy and a bit tears in my eyes knowing that we have the support system helping to seeing Cane hiking out.  Daren brought another trail magic – at this time from Molly – banana walnut brownie along with the message on the brown paper, “I believe in you!  YOU CAN DO IT!”.  Wow, what a wonderful treat with inspiring message.  We took some weight off from Cane’s backpack by transferring most of Cane’s gears to Daren’s backpack.  We began our hiking and saw how much Cane was struggling with his hiking – he was pretty exhausted with 5th day of hiking on challenging trail without a long period of rest.  He climbed to top of Mt. Hayes in late afternoon and had hard time coming down a long descent – most of trail consisted many rocks and exposed tree roots for him to hike over.  He fell down many times along the way on top of being exhausted and frustrated.  For around last 2.5 miles, Daren encountered 3 hikers that he met in the 100-Mile Wilderness.  What an amazing coincidence!  After the hikers leaving us, Cane’s ability to hike deteriorated rapidly to the point where he fell down on frequent basis.  At point of Cane’s nasty fall, Daren and I decided that Daren should hike out to drop off his backpack and hike back to assist Cane hiking out.  Daren left us and I made a decision which I accepted with full responsibility of my own – commenced my “insulting machine” with Cane.  I told him like oh, do you want Daren to carry you out?, If you say you are weak, then you are weak!, You have to finish AT or just sit down and not finish AT!, and etc. etc.  It got him standing up and hiking (more like chasing after me!!!) for some time before he fell down.  His eyes were “brightened up” just like “blue-eyed demon on the run”!!!!!  I can clearly see his raging and strong desire to continue before his body defeated him a few minutes later.  Wow……I had to give him some space to get some rest and started up hiking again despite the attack of bugs on me from time to time.  It has been going on for who knows – perhaps 45 minutes.  I began to realize how close we were to the trail head and saw Daren beginning to hike to meet us.  His face was priceless – shocked and surprised to see us hiking out under our power especially CANE!!!!!  I sheepishly said….well, it was one of my doings and will tell you about it later on.  (On the same night, Cane and I had the discussion if he wished me not to employ my “insulting machine” on him ever again.  He said it helped him tremendously for being so raging angry with me – not taken personal or being offended by that – and able to continue hiking with whatever left what he has in him.)   We didn’t finish out last 0.5 mile, but we quickly decided that we can do that next day, anyway.  We got a ride in Daren’s and Priscilla’s car to get my car.  We finally realized that we do have 6 pm dinner to join.  We went to Bethel Outdoor Adventure – around 30 minutes of driving from Gorham.  We got showered and dressed up for dinner.  When we arrived and saw many people gathering, Jeff wrote to Cane, “This is for YOU!!!!!”  We were flabbergasted and shocked that these people from RV and Bethel Outdoor Adventure taking time to make potluck dinner and celebrating our completion of Mahoosuc Range section between Mahoosuc Notch Trail and Rt. 2 in Gorham.  We wolfed down the delicious food – cleaning out the full plate TWICE and gulping down the bottle of Raspberry Iced Tea, Pina Colada Polar, and Water!!!!!!!!  We were deeply touched by presence of these people even though we missed out what Jeff has to say about us, but knew in our heart that Jeff said how much we meant and inspired to him and others through our perseverance and determination and not allowing our disability stand in our way.  We enjoyed the company with these folks and headed over to the inn across the road to get a well-deserved good night’s sleep in air-conditioned and bug-free room with a HUGE smile on our face knowing we accomplished a big time, not only for ourselves, but with Bethel Outdoor Adventure community behind us!

The next day, Monday 15-July, John W. decided it was time for him to go home.  We met up in Gorham to chat for a while.  Cane asked him if it was ok for him to give us a ride to the trail head where we left off with remaining 0.5 miles toward Rt. 2 in Gorham to conclude our Mahoosuc Range section in honest and “purist” (Jeff calls us that) way.  John was happy to do that for us.  We thanked him for being part of our AT journey/experience for past two weeks and would love to see him at the base of Mt. Katahdin before we start to climb.  After walking the way of 0.5 mile,  YEAH , WE NOW CAN SAY THAT WE ARE OFFICIALLY DONE/CONQUERED WITH NH which has been eluded us since last year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Maine is the last and 14th state for us to conclude our AT journey!!!!!  YAY!  Katahdin is getting closer and closer……we calculated and found out that we have 163.3 miles left to GOOOOOOOOO!  Woo hoo!  😎

September 2020
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Appalachian Trail

Map of entire Appalachian Trail - 2,179 miles/3,507 km - through 14 states - Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine

Map of entire Appalachian Trail - 2,179 miles/3,507 km

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