Slack packing is amazing. I just took some water and lunch with me and I couldn’t feel my pack at all. As I hit the first climb up to the top of the Wildcat ski resort, it was a blast to move so quickly up and over the big boulders. Once I got up and over the first climb, I came upon a beautiful cold mountain lake and jumped in for a quick swim before the next series of summits.
I felt great after he swim and stopped at the top of the next climb for a quick lunch. It was a grab and go because the black flies were ferocious and wouldn’t leave me alone for an a second. I am trying my best not to use deet products for the bugs but today was testing my limits. That is probably why I started to go a little crazy today and started seeing faces in the rocks. At least they aren’t talking to me – yet.
The only thing I don’t like about slacking is that it really changes my focus. Since I can go faster without my equipment, I am focused on that more than the beautiful surroundings. I did stop several times at the lookouts for some great views and a cool breeze on this really hot day. It got over 90 degrees today and the heat was pretty intense as I dropped back down into the valley.
After the last climb of the Whites, the Trail flattened out pretty nicely but the mosquitoes came out in force along the river and I had to break into a jog to try to get away from them. As I got within a few miles of the inn, I called and ordered a pizza and salad and it showed up a few minutes after I got in. I am taking a rest day today and picked up all of my resupply items including my last box from Outdoor Herbivore. They included a sweet note on my invoice and I can’t believe that this really is the final push. I’ll be in Maine on Sunday afternoon! I’ll take tomorrow off from blogging but will be back on Monday. Thanks again for following and I love all the comments.
Back in March when I started the Trail, I met a delightful young lady named Taylor from New Hampshire. I remember being very impressed with her hiking fitness as I watched her glide up those steep hills in North Carolina and asked her how she got so strong. New Hampshire, she explained. She was used to hiking the Whites so everything else seemed like child’s play! That was when I started to get worried. Taylor left the Trail back in March because of the virus but I kept her number handy and contacted her as soon as I got here. She sweetly offered to come out and hike with me for the day.
It was a warm day already when I got started on my “Prezie Traverse” around 6:00. The hike that I had planned was a twenty mile stretch across famous Mt. Washington and her slightly shorter sisters called Eisenhower, Adams, Madison and Pierce. They are steep like the rest of the Whites but what makes them really hard is the terrain. They are a jumble of huge jagged boulders that are really slow to hike. Every step is calculated as you balance your pack and hope you don’t make the wrong move. Some of these sections were taking nearly an hour to finish a mile.
The weather was clear but hot. The sun was beating down on me all day and finding water up here is a real challenge. Fortunately, one of the huts had a working spigot but I had to seriously ration my fluids to get through the day. Taylor started hiking on at Pinkerton and headed south and we met up right around then Madison Hut. It was great to catch up with her and share Trail gossip. She has seen a few hikers come through over the past few days and it was interesting to find out that I’ve caught up with a few groups that I thought were way ahead of me. Cant help that competitive spirit!
We slowly pecked our way down into the valley and got back to her car around 7:45. We ran into Fire (Dustin) on the Trail and he joined us for a ride into town for McDonalds. I had Taylor drop us off at the inn where we are going to be staying for the next few nights so we can slack pack the section today. Slack packing is where you take only the essentials that you need for that day and it really feels amazing to have such a light pack.
I’ll end with a few cool videos that I wanted to share with you now that I have WiFi. We are headed out shortly to complete the next twenty one mile section and will finish back here at the inn tonight. And then . . . a beautiful zero to celebrate getting through the Whites and less than 300 miles to go.
I think today was the hardest day I’ve had yet. I got up early to get started on what I knew was going to be a sporty 27 mile day over some of the toughest terrain in the Whites. The adventure started early with a nearly vertical descent down from the campsite on a part of the Trail that also serves as a small stream. It was tough navigating those wet rocks with my peanut butter bagel breakfast in hand.
The views from the summits and ridge lines were spectacular this morning. I came around the corner and was faced with this beautifully framed view of the mountain I was coming down and the ones that I had waiting for me this afternoon. I took an extra long lunch by a fast waterfall, showered in the cold water and then laid out in the sun on a rock and drank a cup of coffee. It was great but I had to get back on the Trail to finish the last fourteen miles of the day.
After lunch, I was treated to a chill section of flat Trail and I could relax a little and enjoy the easy hike. That all changed pretty quickly when I crossed the road and started the long six mile climb headed to our campsite. Once I got up on the ridge there were several boulder climbing sections that are really fun and I’m starting to get the hang of how I can use my pack weight to help it hurl me up over some of the big ones.
I finally got to the campsite around 8:00 and found it nearly destroyed with huge trees blown down everywhere. It looks like a tornado or microburst went through here recently and they made haven’t had a chance to clean it up. Fortunately, a few of the tent platforms were still intact and the privy was open for business.
I am looking forward to tomorrow. I am meeting up with Taylor. She lives here in New Hampshire and we hiked together for the first couple of weeks of March before she got off for the virus. She is a super strong hiker an an expert on the Whites. More importantly, she is going to hike me in a cold Coke!
We had a perfect plan today. An easy five mile hike to the road intersection and then Pancho (yes – crazy Pancho is in New Hampshire) was going to drive us in to Lincoln for a quick resupply to get is through the rest of the Whites. Just one problem – there was a mix up and Pancho was waiting for us a couple of miles down the road. To top it off, he was sitting in a cell dead zone so we had no idea where he was or how to reach him. He tried to hitch but that isn’t happening right now so after a while we were able to find another shuttle driver to take us into town.
I actually love these moments when the wheels come off. It reminds me that I am on this crazy adventure and it’s fun to problem solve these logistics. Plus, we have a great story about that time we were stumbling around on the side of the road starving and cranky and then all was good when we got to the Mexican restaurant. Ahhhh. The Mexican food was amazing and we got our resupply done and even a couple scoops of ice cream. Pancho finally tracked us down and gave us a ride back to the Trail at 2:00.
We still had over fifteen miles to go and it included some intense climbs and beautiful ridge hiking to Mt. Lafayette. It was so clear out today that we could see for hundreds of miles in every direction. Several of our climbs were nearly vertical boulder scrambles and those are fun but exhausting with a heavy pack with all of my resupply items.
Around 5:30 we still had another ten steep technical miles to go so we decided to cut it a little short and stay at the Garfield campsite. The campsite in the Whites are really amazing. They built tent platforms to protect the vegetation and the entire campsite is beautifully maintained by caretakers. Even the composting privies are nice. There is a lot of love that goes into these sites and it is so nice to get to enjoy these remote spots high up on the range.
So we are off schedule a bit but I am in the hands of the Whites now. I’ve decided to take the next few days as they come. This extreme terrain is fun but it doesn’t care one bit about tour plans. Oh, you want to push twenty miles each day through the Whites? We’ll see about that. 😮
I was pretty nervous about my first day in the Whites but it turned into my favorite day on the Trail. The climbs are intense but the views are worth it. I started with Mt. Mousilake this morning and got to the summit just as the clouds were rolling away. It was a bright blue cold day with a brisk wind coming from the north. The hike across that ridge line was a blast and I took some great video to show you when I get to WiFi this weekend.
As if that wasn’t enough for one day, I got a text message from Bryan about the wonderful SCOTUS decision that employment discrimination against LGBTQ persons is unlawful under the Civil Rights Act. I had been following one of the cases that had been consolidated into the opinion and didn’t expect to get this decision. I was high as a kite for the rest of the day. I called my colleagues Kim and Leslie from Kutak with whom I had been working alongside for years on our inclusiveness and diversity efforts. Bryan read pieces of the decision to me and I read the full decision this afternoon. What incredible news at such a dark time.
The hiking for the rest of the day was tough as heck but a lot of fun. It was more like bouldering than hiking and it was a full body experience hauling ourselves up and over these peaks. I tried to get a few shots of the New Hampshire style of trail but I don’t think it does it justice. There were a few times when I just stood at a wall of rock and laughed before throwing my body at it and hoping my pack didn’t drag me backwards. It worked most of the time and was slow going for sure. I decided that the Whites are not impressed with my prior hiking pace and that I needed to forget about that for the next week or so.
Our campsite is nestled on the lake of this beautiful alpine pond and we are going to get up early to see if we can spot a moose. They left large clues on the Trail today that they are around. Astronaut said this is the perfect habitat to spot them in the morning. I’ll make sure to have my camera ready for you.
Ok. I think I just needed some sleep and I had a great rest last night and felt much better today. I had the strangest dreams but I woke feeling rested and ready to go. I am so glad that I decided to wait to do that climb until this morning. I got up early and on Trail by 6:00 and the sunrise was amazing climbing up to Smarts Peak with a cup of coffee.
The views from the ridge lines were so big. It was so clear and sunny that it looked like I could see forever. After some fun but technical hiking across some of the smaller peaks, I stopped for lunch at a stream. An older gentleman stopped and asked if I was a thru hiker and wanted to take my picture. I told him my story and he snapped a shot and recorded my trail name in his journal. Later this evening, my hiker buddies told me that they also ran into the same gentlemen and he told them that he thought I was lying. He said there was no way a thru hiker would be in New Hampshire already. They laughed and assured him that we all started at Springer on the same day.
We are officially in the White Mountain range and it is going to be a challenging couple of days. My strategy is to get up early and hike these big climbs steady and slow. Once I get into camp then it will be rest and stretching to get ready for the next day. Here is our profile for the first climb! The exciting part is that we will have amazing views from all of these peaks we will be climbing and I am looking forward to seeing the summit of Mt. Washington later this week where they have recorded the strongest winds in the world. Let’s hope it’s a tailwind.
It’s hard to believe that I am in the 13th state on the Appalachian Trail. My mind can’t catch up but my body sure has. I couldn’t get to sleep last night in that nice bed and am feeling exhausted today. The three cup of ambition that I had this morning got me out of the door but I was dragging all day. I didn’t feel like making one more big climb today so I am solo stealth camping and will get up early and attack it with fresh legs.
As tired as I am, I nailed my bear hang on the first try! It is perfect. High, far away from the tree trunk and a good distance from my tent. It is the little things like this that cheer me up on an otherwise grumpy Trail day. I’ve been sore all over the last few days and I think the stress of that is also adding up. I am going to take it a bit slower over the next few days and see if that helps. If not, just push harder – right?
This part of the thru hike is really where the mental game is coming in. I don’t feel stressed about resupply or the other logistics but it is the everyday aches and pains that are adding up. I have been trying to focus more on my surroundings and taking more mini breaks to help with this and I think it is working. It’s also getting so close to the end but I still have the hardest mountains to climb. Literally and figuratively. I hope this is where all that great personal growth stuff that I’ve been hearing about is going to happen!
Today was also hard because there were so many dogs on the Trail and I am missing Chuck in a bad way. Do you remember that scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure movie right after he realized that his bike has been stolen? Pee Wee is sitting on a park bench and every kind of bicycle that you could imagine rides by. Yup, that’s what I feel like.
I’m hanging in there though. I didn’t expect every day to be happy clappy but no matter how much this can hurt it sure beats my desk at work. I texted a few trail buddies that are a little ways behind me and they are all doing great. I like giving them recommendations on places we have camped out at or stayed. I hope I can also spend some time giving them Trail magic when I get done.
There really isn’t any better hiking music for me than Dolly Parton. I’m not a country music fan but after recently listing to the podcast Dolly Parton‘s America, I’ve been really interested in her music. Her voice and lyrics are so perfect for the Trail. She was born and raised in Appalachia and maybe that is why she seems so perfect for me now.
I was listening to her essentials today when I came to a Trail intersection and wasn’t paying much attention to the blazes. I got off course and ended up backtracking southbound for over two miles before I finished a nasty climb up to a beautiful field of thistles. Damn it. I’ve been to this beautiful field of thistles before – just an hour ago. I felt pretty silly but Dolly led me astray. Her songs just take me somewhere else and this time it took me in the exact wrong direction!
It wasn’t a great day to add extra miles. We were pushing over 28 miles to get into Hanover, New Hampshire and this little detour took me over 30 for sure. There is a big difference to me between doing a 20-25 mile day and anything more than that. It is really about having enough down time in camp to recover. If I can get in by 7:00 or so then I feel pretty good the next day. Tonight we got into Hanover around 8:30 and found out there wasn’t anywhere to stay.
In a normal year, the Dartmouth Outing Club invites thru hikers to camp in the green space on the main campus quad. Because of the virus this year, they are not allowing this and all of the hotels in town are closed. I saw an add for an inn that was still open in Norwich and thankfully they had space available for us at the last minute and came and picked us up. It was great to get a shower and a bed for the night and not really sure what we would have done otherwise.
We are officially in the next to the last state – New Hampshire. I’m going to take the next two days a little easier to get rested up for the White Mountain range. I’m looking forward to it but they are going to be a challenge for sure.
There was an ominous sign at the start of the Trail this morning. It said “YOU ARE ENTERING BEAR COUNTRY” and reminded us of the food storage requirements. Less than two miles into this section, I spotted a large black bear running away from the Trail after he sensed me getting closer. He was a good five footer and it was such a thrill to be together in the same space. Such a beautiful animal.
It rained pretty hard all morning but my spirits were way up because I was picking up my new shoes that Bryan shipped to me. He was so sweet to also pack in two new shirts. He knows better than anyone how much I don’t want this trip to end and he bought me a shirt with the phrase “The Trail Never Ends.” I hope so and what a great gift for me right now. Two points for Bryan.
The post office in Killington was next to a deli and I had a nice breakfast and coffee while I laced up my new shoes. They felt amazing but one of the first things I did was take a hard fall on the road as I hiked out. I slipped on a piece of plastic and went sprawling all over the road. I’ve found that once you slip with a pack on you are almost guaranteed to fall backwards with all that weight. Best to just go along for the ride. Luckily, I was fine and back on my feet in no time. I wasn’t long on the Trail before I christened my new shoes in a big pile of moose scat. Well, they are broken in now.
The rain cleared and the rest of the hike was great. I saw a hundred or so of our orange gecko friends and a friendly snake that was out sunning in the Trail. I am still seeing a lot of frogs and butterflies. I have my eyes peeled for a moose and I am just hoping the iPhone is out and ready to capture a shot for you.
Ahhhh. So happy to get back on the Trail this morning. The double zero was nice but I was anxious to get back into the woods. It was a beautiful cool morning when our shuttle driver Steamboat picked us up. He is an avid trail runner and was excited to run the ski trails near our condo where we were staying. He parked his truck in front of our place early in the morning and went for a long run and then shuttled us back to the Trail promptly at 9:00.
The Trail section we did today was fantastic. We are still deep in Vermont ski country and today we climbed up and over Killington Peak. There was a soft rain all day that just made everything look even more lush and green. I really enjoyed the steady climb up the mountain and rediscovered my Trail legs (and the aches and pains too!).
The transition from town to the Trail is really interesting to me. I first notice how much softer everything looks back on the Trail and I love hearing all of my familiar bird friends greet me. Things start to slow down. Mostly my mind. I take softer steps and as I get deeper into the woods I can start to let go of whatever I was holding. The news over the last few days has been especially disturbing and it took me pretty much all day to feel my shoulders start to relax.
I saw a huge frog and I was surrounded for several hours by tiny white butterflies. They were riding the stiff breeze that was blowing all day and they sure beat the black flies and mosquitoes that we had in southern Vermont. I also saw this odd looking snake/salamander thing that I haven’t been able to identify.
I am also feeling a little pre-nostalgia as we are reaching our last 500 miles. I was thinking a lot about my first 500 miles today and that was the night we spent with the wild ponies at Grayson Highlands. So many awesome experiences that I’ve had on this trip. I know I have a lot more coming but I truly don’t want this to end.
Except for one thing. Well, three actually. Bryan and Chuck. Oh, and LD too. I’m missing my buddies back home bad and can’t wait to be with them. I just wish they could come join me on the Trail and we could spend the day hunting down fun critters.