I wanted to be in a nice trail town on my birthday and I was hoping to make it to Gorham for it, but unfortunately I had not taken the terrain into my consideration. And so I was way too late and I ended up doing Mahoosuc Notch on my birthday. Mahoosuc Notch is just 1 mile long but it is considered the most difficult mile of the whole AT. And I think that is right. For 1 mile you climb over and under all sorts of huge, slippery boulders. It took me three hours to do that mile. In the beginning I thought that it would be a nice birthday present just to survive that climb. Everything worked out fine - in the beginning.
Rock climbing on the AT
And then it started to rain, not like a normal German rain, no, it was a bad-ass American downpour. And I was right in the middle of Mahoosuc Notch on slippery man-sized rocks. Everything was out there to kill me. When I saw a moose carcass in the rocks that just matched my mood.... and it smelled pretty bad. Then I saw Tibetan prayer flags on the rocks - and remembered the reason for them. A young AT hiker had died there - not by accident, but because of a brain hemorrhage and his parents had erected the flags as a memorial. Somehow I made it out of the damn notch UNHARMED! I don't know how I managed but I survived and had only lost the mouth piece of my platypus bottle. When I arrived at the next shelter it was totally full. At least I managed to secure the last tent platform next to the shelter. I was so exhausted that I did not want to talk to anyone. I just went to sleep in my damp tent... pretty exciting birthday!
Out of Mahoosuc Notch
I finally arrived in Gorham 2 days late, but I decided to take a single room in a motel in order to celebrate. But it was a weekend and everything was booked so I ended in a dump called hiker hostel. I had even invested in an expensive room but the owners were incredibly unfriendly. After having checked out on time the next morning I was not even allowed to stay in the hostel's common room for another hour. I guess they had made bad experiences with other AT hikers. I decided to leave town and just forget about birthday celebrations. But I got lucky when I was about to leave Gorham. I went to a very nice local cafe and wanted to at least splurge on a luxurious breakfast - but all the tables where taken. The waitress made me share a table "with our nice Gary" who introduced himself with: "I love my country but I hate the government."
Very nice introduction indeed and it got more interesting from there on. In the end he invited me back to his home. I wanted to have a zero day anyway so I came along. He had sort of forgotten to tell me though that his home was build somewhere in the 1700s - and not much restoration had been done in the meantime. The place was heated by a woodburner, water came from a well and everything was damp - but at least it was a roof over my head. I got to know the magazine "Mother Jones" and learnt everything about recycling in the US. Gary had a garage with a self-built tractor, a timber-mover and a century old welding machine. I have never seen so much junk in one place but it was fascinating. So in the end I had had a very nice birthday - just a little bit late.