July 9. Woke up early in my tent…not because I wanted to, but because someone’s phone alarm clock was going off. Another hiker rolled in late, after dark, not a problem. He also had a dog with him and as the hiker headed down to get water he left his dog at the tent pad and it whimpered the whole time…not that much of a problem. In the morning the hiker’s phone alarm went off at 5 AM…ok. Then, the alarm went off again at 5:30 AM…hmmm. Then, it went off one more time at 6, not cool. If you are going to bring an alarm to the woods, at least get up when it goes off. Right after the third ring Rafiki walked over to my tent and stomped across the alarm guy’s wooden tent pad, thank you! We packed up and hit the trail by 6:15, we had a full day ahead. We climbed 500 feet out of camp and hit Mahoosuc Notch first thing in the morning. The guide book says Mahoosuc Notch is “the most difficult or fun mile of the AT. Make your way through a jumbled pit of boulders.” We had heard about it and were ready. It was tough! I had to take my pack off at least 3 times to slide it through cracks in boulders and then get down and slide myself through. We were climbing through caves under big rocks and squeezing out the other side. We finally cleared the notch after an hour and a half…maybe the slowest mile I have had on the trail! It was fun, not too tough, but slow! Right after the notch we had another long climb up and we hit a shelter 5 miles from the start of the day at 10:30 and I was exhausted…but we still had a full day to go! Just out of the shelter I missed my footing on a board and my left foot sunk into the mud up to my shin…when I pulled it out my shoe was soaked and covered in mud. We hiked on to Grafton Notch and started seeing more people on the trail. Southbounders, Northbounders, day and weekend hikers…busy for a Monday! After Grafton came Baldpate, a pretty popular bald mountain with great views. I passed several groups of girl scouts out on hikes. The first group was really young and one of the girls said “You walked here from Georgia? You’re amazing” and then after talking a few minutes I left and the whole group gave me a round of applause as I headed on up the trail. I passed a day hiking couple and they also gave me great feedback and positive words, but I was still having a rough day! I passed another group of girlscouts before Baldpate and as I climbed up the bare rock wall I heard then down below yell in unison “Go Tarzan!” Even with all of the fanfare, the trail today was killing me…I was trying really hard to keep up with Rafiki and having a hard time. I was getting really down, wondering if I’d be able to keep up with him to the end. I was getting down on myself for my pack weight and gear…I was impressed that with a heavy pack I had caught up with and passed lots of ultralight, ultra-fast hikers, but now I was worried I wouldn’t be able to stay with them. If I had spent a few hundred bucks I could have dropped some 5 lbs in pack and sleeping bag weight…and though 5 pounds doesn’t sound like much, it was killing me now. On the way down another hill I fell again and this time jabbed my hand into some sticks and gashed my finger. It was going to bleed everywhere so I sucked out the dirt and debris, coated it with Neosporin and used a bandaid for the second time on this trip. We had been seeing moose droppings for the past several days on the trail but had yet to see a moose…I was keeping a lookout! We passed another shelter at 4 PM and had 10 miles to go to our target camp. We did another big climb and I finally gave in and got my headphones out and listened to music for the last 6 miles. We were racing the sun now, trying to get to camp before dark. With the music in my ears I was able to forget about my pain and paced with Rafiki, staying right behind him. It was another beautiful fire red sunset and we hiked hard until 9 PM when we rolled into the shelter. It was hard to see the trail, but I didn’t need my headlamp for the trail! We found some tent spots and set up camp, ate some snacks, and passed out. It had been a full 15 hours since we left the shelter in the morning…a 15 hour hiking day to get 26 miles down…slower than my pace a few weeks ago, but these mountains are killer! I felt better when we made camp, but the hike today was dragging me down…feeling the accomplishment of a big day was nice though. Amy said someone had asked her what I do in the evenings…she said I hike. They said, no, in the evenings after hiking…she said pretty much all that I do is hike, that was very true for this day and most of my other days on the trail! Tomorrow we would be up early so we could hike into Andover for a resupply and town food. Rafiki and I decided to break up Maine by stopping in towns basically once every 3 days…Gorham to Andover, then Stratton, Monson, a hostel, and Katahdin! We camped at mile 1,933.3, only 250.9 miles from Kathadin!