I am Done Walking

8/21 Katahdin Stream Campground to Baxter Peak (Northern Terminus of AT) to Roaring Book Campground (5.2 AT miles, 9.5 total miles)

We had planned to leave by 5am this morning but none of our alarms went off due to user error, so we didn’t end up heading out until 5:30.  We arrived at the park entrance at around 6 and there was a pretty big line (as the ranger had warned yesterday) to get into the park.  We ended up getting to the base of the mountain at around 7am.  This is later than we had planned, but there was nothing we could do about it at that point.

The hike up was mostly how I remembered it.  The first mile is not to steep, but then it gets steeper and more difficult, until you hit a false summit plateau (it even has a sign to fool you).  All of us (including my dad) were making pretty good time up the mountain, but the higher we got the more that we realized there would not be much of a view from the summit, since it would be clouded in.  We also felt the wind picking up and temperatures dropping.  I had to put a rain coat on (pretty unusual for me) about 700 feet from the summit.We enjoyed a few good views before we became completely fogged in on the southern half of the mountain (there were still some views off the northern side). But we started passing people who were descending from the top, and knew how close we were to the finish.


We finally reached the top, I went directly over to the sign and finished the trail.  It was pretty cold and windy up there so we immediately went about taking our summit photos.  It was pretty disappointing to not have many views from the top, but there’s no way to make the weather co-operate.  It was pretty surreal standing there in the photo that I had imagined taking for the last 5 months.

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Unlike most other thru hikers, we decided to descend the north side of the mountain over Knife Edge, which is a very narrow ridgeline across the summit.  At the start we we got to look down on Chimney Pond, which was really pretty, but other than that we were totally fogged in, but still could tell that there were very substantial drops.


Th trail was probably the 2nd hardest mile that I have done yet.  It was very rocky, hilly, and required numerous rock scrambles.  The very very strong winds (sometimes you couldn’t hear yourself talk) and significant fog made the climbing even more challenging.  It was once again disappointing that there weren’t any views, but the fog also made the hiking really cool.

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We finally reached the end of the Knife Edge trail and the northern peak, and began our descent down.  Luckily, we quickly got below the clouds and were able to get some truly spectacular views.

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I still haven’t fully processed finishing the trail, but there are definitely mixed emotions.  I may put up another post about finishing the trail in the next month or so.

 

The 2nd to last day

8/20 Hurd Brook Lean-To to Katahdin Stream Campground (13.4 miles)

It was a very odd feeling this morning taking down my tent, knowing that it would be the last time that I do it on the trail.  Stitch and I had a light breakfast since we were going to be stopping at the Abol Bridge (end of the 100 Mile Wilderness) to eat breakfast.

I was disappointed when we got to Abol Bridge.  Our guidebook said that they had subs and breakfast sandwiches.  Instead when we got there all they had was a pretty bad hotel breakfast.  However, we were out of food so we sat down and ate with several other thru hikers.

The rest of the day had some of the easiest trail that we have had on the whole AT.  Not very many roots and really flat.  I was very excited to get to the base of Katahdin, so I was walking very quickly, and reflecting on my whole trip.  It was surprising to me how much I remembered from the last time I did this last section of the AT.

There is so much more water in Maine than the rest of the trail and this last day was a great reminder of that.  We walked along the Penobscot River for awhile, and along or across many of the streams that feed it.  There is just more water moving way faster.  We stopped by the Big Niagara Falls, which was probably the most powerful that we saw on the whole AT.


We arrived at the Katahdin Stream Campground at the 378th and 379th Northbound thru hikers according to the Baxter State Park Register.  I had expected a lot more people to have finished already considering how slow we did the VT and ME.


We waited at the campground for my parents to pick us up since we would be spending the night with them in Millinocket before we summitted the following day.  They came around 2 and took us into town (about an hour drive from the base of the mountain).


We showered, got food for our hike tomorrow, and then went out to dinner.  We all were in bed by 8:30 in preparation for an early start tomorrow.

 

 

The 100 mile wilderness


8/14 Monson, ME to Scout and Birman’s Cabin (13.3 miles)

We got off to a late start today since the hostel didn’t start shuttles until 830. Sadly it rained on us all morning. This hasn’t happened in awhile, so we can’t complain too much, but it still put a serious damper on our first day in the 100 mile wilderness.

The terrain today was also rocky and rooty, which was made much more challenging by the the wetness. I had two pretty good falls in the morning, but thankfully I was able to get up with just some scrapes and dirty legs.

We also did our first real ford of a river today. With all the rain the last two days, it was impossible to get across without getting your feet wet. The rocks on the bottom were very slippery, so I had to force myself to go slow and make sure the foothold was secure.


About two miles from our planned stop we came across a trail magic sign. We had been told about this at the hostel, but it was still an awesome way to end the day. Every year Scout and Birdman come out for a few weeks and have hikers over to their cabin (0.2 off the AT) for food and drinks, in memory of Scout’s son who was an avid hiker. It’s these sorts of places that I will miss most about the trail. People opening up their homes to a bunch of random people who are hiking the trail. It’s awesome to hear their stories.

8/15 Scout and Birdman’s Cabin to East Chairback Pond (15.2 miles)

We got off to a late start this morning because Birdman made us (6 total thruhikers) a great blueberry pancake, sausage, and bacon breakfast.

The day ended up being surprisingly challenging. The rocks and roots were still mostly wet, and there were a lot of short and steep ups and downs. It was much more like southern Maine than the type of terrain we have had more recently. There were some pretty good views, and wild blueberries, but nothing as good as what we have seen in southern ME.


We ended up at an awesome campsite right along a pond. It was super peaceful and one of the few times I have had a really nice view right out of my tent.

8/16 East Chairback Pond to Logan Brook Lean-To (15.2 miles)

Today we had our last real climb before Katahdin up White Cap Mountain. At the top we had our first real view of the whole mountain and it’s crazy to know that I have walked all this way and can now finally see the end (even if it looks really far away). I have definitely reached the point of having mixed feeling about finishing. I am excited for it, but also don’t want this experience to end. Listening to other thruhikers talk about when they are finishing(and their attempt to delay it) lets me know I’m not the only one feeling this way.


Stitch and I decided to call in quits early today since we are already ahead of schedule and it is supposed to pour rain tonight, so we wanted to make sure we had space in the shelter. It was nice to have a lazy afternoon, and be in my sleeping bag early.

For the first time on the trip I am nervous I won’t have enough food, and might still be hungry after eating my daily rations. This is in part because we were carrying so much food at the start, but also because I have been extra hungry. I am not sure why, but at least I will be finishing with an empty food bag.

8/17 Logan Brook Lean-To to Antlers campsite (19.6 miles)

I was thankful to be in the shelter last night since it did end up pouring rain.  The day started off quite dreary, with light rain until a little after lunch. However the terrain has really flattened out and become a lot less rocky and rooty. Despite the longer distance (at least compared to recently) we were in camp by 3:30 since we were able to move so quickly. It felt more like the mid-Atlantic states than the rest of New England, which was awesome.

When we arrived to camp another thruhiker (Monster) was there with meat that had been left by some other hikers. We got a fire going and reheated it. I probably wouldn’t have eaten it in normal life, but I was pretty hungry and it looked delicious.


The evening turned out to be one of the prettiest on the trail. The sun came out and this campsite is on a lake, so I spent most of the afternoon and evening looking out over it all, taking in my last few days on the trail.

8/18 Antlers Campsite to West Shore of Nahmakanta Lake (13.2 miles)

I woke up to a beautiful sunrise and then got off to a later start since we were doing a shorter day to get back on schedule.

The walk today was very rooty, but since it was so flat we still managed to make good time and were at our campsite by 2pm. It has been really cool in Maine , particularly northern Maine, that we spend so much time walking along larger streams or lakes. It makes the flat sections a lot prettier.

Since it was hot and sunny we decided to go for a swim in the lake when we got here. It was very refreshing, and nice to wash of the sweat and dirt from the past 5 days. However, much to my disappointment, it started to drizzle just as I was drying off. I quickly set up my tent and got myself and belongings inside. It started to rain a little harder, but stopped after about 20 minutes and nothing got too wet. However, the clouds stayed for most of the rest of the afternoon.

It ended up being a beautiful evening to lookout across the lake. The campsites that we have had the last few days have been some of the best on the trail. Sites like these are probably my favorite part about ME.

8/19 West Shore of Nahmakanta Lake to Hurd Brook Lean-To (20.0 miles)

Today was my last day waking up and going to sleep in my tent. I still have not fully comprehended that tomorrow I will be at the base of Katahdin, and will be done the following day.

Today started off with another great sunrise over the lake. The morning had a small climb which once again gave us great views of Katahdin. We were 15 line of sight miles from the peak, but 36 trail miles. Part of this is terrain, but most of it is because the trail zig zags its way up there.



The terrain for the rest of the day was pretty flat and easy once again giving us great views of different bodies of water. We are still running into people who we haven’t seen since the southern states, which has been really cool.

The last few days have been good reminders how much terrain plays into a day’s difficulty. There have been other days when we have done far fewer miles, but climbed mountains over tough terrain, and gotten into camp way later and exhausted. The last few days we have not had any ups and downs and been able to move a lot faster.

Nearing the end

8/6-8/10 Stratton, ME to Pierce Pond Leanto (33 miles)

We did our last major climbs before the 100 mile wilderness. They were tough, but we were treated to some truly awesome views.

The weather continued to be very dry, with all but the large rivers dry. This has meant that we have had to be a little more strategic about where we camp.

Stitch’s friend joined us for the last two days here, luckily after we had finished our big climbs. She did a good job keeping up with us, even though we started doing bigger miles.

Maine has had some very large ponds that often seen more like lakes than they do like ponds. They were mostly a great temperature for swimming so I took advantage of them.


8/10 Pierce Pond Lean to Moxie Pond (15.9 miles)

Today we crossed the Kennebec River by ferry. We got there a little before it opened and there was already a line of 6 hikers waiting for the ferry. The water level of the river was very low (probably 3 feet at its deepest) due to the dry weather. The ferry operator said the river had dropped about 1 ft in the last week.

On the other side of the river we found a hostel that served burgers and milkshakes. We didn’t want to pass up that opportunity, so we stopped in. The waiting for the ferry, coupled with the burger stop, put us well behind schedule.
There was a reasonably big climb in the afternoon, but there weren’t many good views since the river was below 500 feet.

Overall Maine has definitely flattened out. Many of the stream beds are dry, and all of the rivers that often need to be forded are so low they can easily be crossed without getting our feet wet.

8/11 Moxie Pond to Horseshoe Canyon lean to (16 miles)
Last night was a terrible temperature. It was too hot in my sleeping bag and too cold out of  it, along with high humidity. That made it tough for us to sleep well.
We had a steep climb early in the morning, but other than that it was very flat today walking along rivers and streams. This made the miles fly by and was a good reminder about how fast we can go.

8/11 Horseshoe Cayon to Monson, ME (9 miles)

We had a short hike into town, but it started drizzling on us. Thankfully it wasn’t too bad and we managed to stay mostly dry before we got picked up by the hostel.

Since I have already done the 100 mile wilderness (the last 114 miles of trail with very limited road access) I have now hiked the entire trail.  It was a very weird feeling knowing that, particularly because I still had a week of hiking left. I suspect it will take awhile for it all to sink in, even when I complete my thruhike.

After shower and doing laundry we went to the BBQ restaurant (one of two restaurants in town). It was amazing. This is definitely a place that doesn’t have a lot going on in the summer outside of tourism, particularly from the AT. It really started raining in the afternoon, so the hostel really filled up.  I felt lucky that we are going to be inside for the rain for the next two nights.

8/13 Zero in Monson, ME

We had a very lazy zero today.  It was raining on and off all day so we hung out at the hostel.

We decided not to to a food drop in the 100 mile wilderness, so will be carrying 7 days of food. This is the most that I have carried yet, but hopefully it won’t be too bad.

2000 miles

8/3 -8/6 Rangely ME to Stratton ME (32.2 miles)

I have lost some of my blogging motivation so I combined some days.

When we were leaving Rangely Garfield decided that he wanted to go faster than the pace Stitch and I were going to meet our families. We were sad to see him go, but I was happy to have spent so much time with him.

We did a 2 of the 3 big climbs left for us before we reach the 100 mile wilderness. We were treated to some very nice views and have been thoroughly impressed with Maine’s trail maintenance, even if there are a lot of rocks and roots.
There have been several rivers that normally need to be forded, but we were fortunate that it has been so dry that all have been cross able by rock hopping.

We crossed the 2000 mile mark shortly before entering town. It’s odd to think about how that doesn’t seem nearly as far as it did at the beginning.


Gear update: My pole strap broke a few weeks ago, and I was lucky enough to find a broken pole in a hiker box that had a strap I could replace it with. It took awhile to figure out how to do it, but I was able to. It’s amazing how gross they have gotten.

Vacationland

7/31 East B road to South Arm Road (10.1 miles)
Today we did a short slackpack between the two road crossings that go into Andover, ME. The day wasn’t to0 bad at all and we finished our day around 1 pm (although we had to wait another hour for our shuttle to arrive).
Overall, it was a pretty uneventful day of hiking, but we have definitely come to hate seeing a notch on our trail maps for the day. Pretty much all of them involve at least a 1000 ft very steep descent followed by an equal steep ascent afterwards. We can definitely feel our miles slow down the more that we have in a single day.
After making some phone calls I hung out with the owner of the hostel we are staying at for a couple of hours along with a fellow hiker. It was interesting hearing him talk about how his goal each year for the hostel is to break even. They don’t even count the money when you pay them. Moreover, they are staffed by former hikers, many of whom seem to mostly (if not exclusively) get paid with room and board. They are definitely not running a typical business. It seems many, if not most, hostels on the AT operate with this same sort of attitude.


8/1 South Arm Road to Bemis Stream (12.4 miles)
We got off to a late start today, and didn’t hit the trail until 9am. We started the day with a very steep climb that was harder than we had expected looking at the map. It really sucked the energy out of me, and I wasn’t really feeling it most of the day.
We summited a few mountains today, but none of them had spectacular views. I suspect it will continue to be like this (possibly with a few exceptions) for the rest of the trail until we hit Katahdin.
We ended up cutting the day short since we have a short day tomorrow, it looked like it was going to rain, and none of us really wanted to keep going. It ended up being a great choice as it started to rain as we were finishing up dinner.


8/2 Bemis Stream to Rangely, ME (14.0 miles)
Today the terrain really flattened out, and we were able to do 14 miles by a little before 2. This is very different from the last couple weeks when we would be struggling at the end of a 14 mile day. Overall the day was mostly flat terrain. There are definitely a lot of roots and super rocky/root filled steep sections in ME.
We got to the hostel around 2:30 took care of our showers and laundry and headed into town for dinner. The was a BBQ restaurant in town, and we were all able to enjoy it.
We also set our schedule for the rest of the trail.We will be hitting all the big towns in ME, since our finish date to coordinate with our families is pretty late. While the slow pace might be tough on some days, I am looking forward to extending this awesome adventure.
8/3 Zero in Rangely, ME
We all woke up much earlier than we had hoped today. We headed into town to get breakfast and then went out on a canoe for an hour. It was fun the hang out on the water.
After that we went up to the grocery store for a resupply. The store had pretty slim pickings and was overall pretty pricey. It’s weird to think I only have two resupply trips left before we finish.

We hung out at the hostel for the rest of the afternoon and it was nice and relaxing.

Into Maine 

7/26 Zero in Gorham, NH
We took a zero today. It was much needed for Stitch who hadn’t zeroed in over 300 miles as she caught up to us.
The hostel was a great place to zero and was a very relaxing day. We even made lasagna for Garfields favorite meal.

7/27 Pinkham Notch to Imp Shelter (13.1 miles) 
Today was a tough day for me. I had a fall very early in the day. I was totally fine after it, but it soured my mood for the rest of the morning.
Today was our last serious notch climb in the Whites. It did give us some nice views, but sadly the Presidential traverse that we did over the weekend was pretty much totally clouded in.

The afternoon was better, but had a very steep climb down to the shelter. We did a lot of rock scrambling, but thankfully we all made it without any bad falls.
7/28 The Imp Campsite to Trident Col Campsite (14.9 miles) 



We got off to an early start and were treated to some great views of mountains that we had spent the last week conquering. It was really cool to see all of it.
We stopped at a hostel and ordered a pizza and ate ice cream. 

Since today was a shorter day we hung out there for awhile.

After lunch we had a pretty long steep climb, and it was very, very hot. The heat, more than any climbing, really wears me out. We got to the campsite on the earlier side for us, which was a nice change of pace.

We are definitely in another bubble of people. There were about 15-20 people at the campsite with 5 tent spots. I hopefully this will change as we get into more remote locations, but I suspect that it won’t.

7/29 Trident Col Campsite to Full Goose Campsite (14.5 miles)



Today we made it into Maine, our 14th and final state. It’s pretty crazy that I am not less than 300 miles from Katahdin. 


We knew that the Whites were supposed to be tough, but it hasn’t seemed to get much easier. Every day we are summitting 3-6 mountains, each usually with about 1000 ft of climbing and descent. All of us have been pretty beat at the end of the day, even though we are doing a lot less mileage. The heat has definitely also made it a lot harder for me personally. No matter how much water I chug and try to drink throughout the day, I still seem to always be very thirsty.
We were treated to some more awesome views today, which served as a good reminder of how far we have come.

We have set a target finish date of August 22, to make sure all of our families can join us. It’s sad to think how little we have left.

7/30 Full Goose Campsite to Baldpate Leanto (12.0 miles) 

Today we did Mahoosuc Notch, which is widely considered the hardest (and for others the most fun) mile on the AT. It is essentially traverses a large bolder field between two mountains. There was still snow in parts deep between boulders and it was really cool how the temperature dropped 10 degrees within 10 feet of descending between boulder piles. The blazing was pretty crazy throughout with no clear path at many points, so we mostly just headed through it. The mile took us about an hour and half. After that was a very steep 1500 foot climb. We only got 5 miles done in the first 4.5 hours. It is amazing how much the terrain can slow us down.


I have finally really started to get tired of my dinners. I might even start packing in hot meals and borrow Stitch or Garfields stove. Hopefully I will get over it soon. We ended up having too much food this time so we had a pretty serious feast for dinner.


7/30 Baldpate Leanto to Andover, ME (8.0 miles)

Today was a shorter day as we headed into town. There are going to be a number of these since we have are finishing on the later side in order to make sure all of our families can make it.

The day started off with a climb up Baldpate mountain which had great views in all directions. Both the ascent and descent we entirely on rock, so we were very glad that it was a dry day.


We were definitely moving faster today since the terrain was quite a bit easier, with less climbing and fewer rock scrambles. It was nice to pick up the pace, even if it was a short day.

About a mile before the road crossing we did a short side trail to a waterfall. It has an awesome swim spot (although the water was very cold). I was the only one who partook in the swim, but I very much enjoyed it.

We got to the trailhead at about noon and called up the hostel to come pick us up. We were treated toleftovers for lunch. The hostel started when the owners were section hiking in NC and invited a bunch of thruhikers they met to stay with them in ME. They added a bunch of bunks to their house and have been hosting hikers ever since.

The Whites 

7/17 Hanover to Tentsite just past the Ice Cream Man (18.1 miles)

Today we got off to a later start since we slept in and our host had made us breakfast. With the extra time Garfield was able to take off my old pole tips and install new ones. After breakfast our host (who normally doesn’t offer rides) gave us a ride the 2 miles back to the trail so we didn’t have to do the miles again. That was a great start to the morning. We ended up getting back on the trail at 10 am.The morning was mostly consumed by getting Stitch up to speed on each of our books and hearing about the wedding. There was a vintage Stitch moment this morning when she just burst into a laughing fit when telling a story. Garfield and I started cracking up too. These are the types of trail moments I hope to remember (along with the more obvious accomplishments).

There were several 1000 ft ups and downs today that yielded some very cool views. At one point we even accidentally got off the AT since we were distracted by the views. Having Guthooks with GPS was particularly great for knowing this.

At the bottom of the hill we ran into some trail magic of a couple serving hotdogs. It was a great treat after lunch. We continued on with a plan to camp at the “ice cream man’s” house. He was a trail angle (who passed away earlier this year) who provided ice cream, water, wifi, electricity, and a place to stay. His family has been generous enough to keep it going in his honor for one last summer.

 

Sadly when we got there the ice cream was gone and there weren’t any spots for Garfield to set up his hammock. We decided to eat dinner there and then try to find a spot along the trail to set up for the night. After about a half mile we found a workable spot. It was nearly 8pm since we already ate and got to a late start, so I quickly got set up and then headed to bed.

7/18 Tentsite to One Hill Campsite (17.8 miles)

As I write this there is a huge thunderstorm happening (with a little hail). I was lucky that I had my tent set up and I finished dinner before it started and jumped into my tent just as it started to drizzle. While it was really pouring, there was a 1 inch deep puddle forming in my tent vestibule and under where my head would be. Thankfully the downpour only lasted about 20 minutes so the puddle disappeared before I had to sleep on it. This is the first time in awhile that we have really been poured on, while not in a building /shelter. I was incredibly thankful I stayed mostly dry.

Other than that, today was a tough day. All of us thought that we would have done more. However, that’s what happens when we finally really start climbing mountains (we did 2 today). We did get some nice views from the top, which were good rewards for the climbs. Overall it was a good day, but we were all pretty beat (and very hungry) by the end of the day.

Today did serve as a good reminder that 20 mile days aren’t a good idea with all this elevation. We are definitely going to need to shorten our days.

I’m going to be leaving early tomorrow since I am meeting my dad for the second half for the day and need to finish about 7 miles by 10am.

7/19 One Hill camp site to Beaver Brook Shelter

Q in writing for Secret Agent on 7/19 and 7/20.

Secret Agent got an early start to meet with Q.  I drove up early in the morning and parked at the Beaver Brook Trail head.  Then I took a hiker shuttle to where the AT crosses Route 302 at Crawford Notch where Secret Agent was waiting for me after hiking the roughly 6 miles to the meeting place.  From there it was a roughly 8 mile hike up and over Mount Moosilauke to the Beaver Brook Shelter.  There was a very good breeze up on top of Moussilauke which made it feel like the temperature was in the 40’s. But there were great unimpeded views in all directions.

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The descent down was quite steep, but next to a waterfall with views typical of hiking in the Whites in the summer time.

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Garfield and Stitch started the morning a little bit behind Secret Agent and I.  They arrived at the trail head just a little bit after we did.  We spent the night at the Autumn Breeze in North Woodstock.  This motel was recently purchased by a woman from Florida, and it is highly recommended for AT thru hikers.  The motel offers shuttle service, laundry and clean rooms at a great hiker rate.  The owner is very nice and friendly.

7/20 Beaver Brook Shelter to Franconia Notch – Happy Birthday Secret Agent

We left my car at the Autumn Breeze and the owner took us to the trail head.  This day was a 15 mile hike over Mount Kinsman to the Liberty Springs Trail Head in Franconia Notch.  The day started well, but around lunch time it was apparent it was going to be a long day for me.  The hike up Mount Kinsman was quite steep and I fell well behind the pace set by the group.  Given the timing, we decided the thru hiker group would go ahead to the Franconia Notch campground, get a shuttle and retrieve my car.  Meanwhile, I would detour off at the Lonesome Lake hut and head on the Lonesome Lake trail to the Lafayette campground shaving about 2 miles off the total distance I would have to hike.  I arrived at the Lonesome Lake campground about 20 to 25 minutes behind Garfield and Stitch.  Somehow, I wound up taking the Lonesome Lake trail in the wrong direction.  It was about 2 miles later that I realized my mistake.  By this time, Secret Agent had the car at the Lafayette campground.  I texted him to meet me back at the hut, which he did, and we then walked the 1.5 miles to the car.  Stitch and Garfield, who had been waiting at the car, came up the hill to meet us on our way down.  By the time we got to the car, it was around 8:30 pm.  One of our family’s friends has a house in Meredith, NH.  It was Secret Agent’s birthday, and he had planned a dinner for him.  We wound up arriving at the house around 9:15.  On arrival, there was champagne and hors d’oeuvres (bruschetta and chinese sausage), followed by wood grilled dry aged bone in rib eye steaks and smashed potatoes. And, of course, birthday cake.  A fabulous meal at the end of a long day made longer for the thru hikers by a rookie mistake.

7/21 Franconia Notch to Garfield Shelter (10.1 miles)

We got off to a very late start today (10:30) since we didn’t get to bed until late and we were treated to a delicious breakfast. The morning started with a very short and steep climb up out of Franconia Notch. It was steep and tough, but not nearly as bad as I had expected. There was almost no rock scrambling or the need to use our hands to get up.

When we got to the top of the steep climb there was a we .3 miles and 200 ft side trail up to Liberty Mountain. It is one of the 4,000 ft mountains in the Whites. There are 48 in total, and Greg Cook (who we stayed with in Norwich) had completed all of them and the family friend we stayed with the night prior was doing them as well. We decided that if time and weather permits we are going to do all the ones that are short side trails off the trail. The view from the top was spectacular. It’s very cool to see the different mountains we have climbed.

After we headed down that we were on a exposed ridge line for two miles that had great views in both directions. The weather was perfect and it was one of the prettiest sections of trail that we have had yet. We summitted two more mountains in this traverse before heading down. The trail got quite tough with numerous sections requiring rock scrambling, but they were well worth the great views. 

The last mountain we summitted was Garfield. It was not nearly as fun as the other parts. It was mostly below tree line, steep, and I think that we were all pretty tired. We pushed through and made it over, and Garfield got his picture taken on his peak, and we got to see all of the mountains that we summitted today, which was awesome.

While today was definitely tiring and we got to camp late, it was still a great day. We had perfect weather and beautiful views, and couldn’t have asked for a much better day. I hope the weather stays nice like this for the rest of our time in the whites, but I suspect we won’t be that lucky.

7/22 Garfield Shelter to Ethan Pond Shelter (14.5 miles)

We started out today descending Mt Garfield. The descent was not much better then the climb. After that we headed up to North Twin peak which had some great views. The climbs here are definitely tough, but the views make them worth it.

We stopped in at two of the AMC huts (pretty much backcountry hostels) that offer leftovers for thru hikers and have baked goods for sale. They can be a nice place to stop on a day of hiking. We got second breakfast at one today which was very good.

We headed on a short side trail to the peak of Mt Zealand. There weren’t any views from the top, but it was another 4,000 footer. The last five miles today were really easy. They were pretty much totally flat and not too rocky, which was a nice change of pace. That gave us time to play a game of Machi Koro and sit by the very pretty pond.

7/23 Ethan Pond Shelter to Lake of the Clouds Hut (13.9 miles)
It poured rain and thunderstormed all night. Thankfully I was in the shelter, although there was some spray that was getting into the shelter. I woke up early to make it down to my friend Dan at the next road crossing.

We met up and began the steep long climb out of Crawford Notch. The weather mostly cooperated with us during the morning. There were some really cool views in the morning. It was fun to catch up with him. We stopped at a hut for lunch, and the weather started looking a little more threatening.

We decided to press on and make it to the Lake of the Cloud Hut.
The weather was pretty good for the mile (of 5), but after that it started raining and thunder storming. At this point we decided the best option was to keep hiking across the ridge line and on to the hut. It was pretty bad for awhile, but eventually the weather cleared up for a bit and we got to see some of the spectacular views from the Presidential Traverse. However, for the last 2 miles it started pouring, thunderstorming, and the temperature dropped. It was a long final two miles to the hut.

We had been told by southbound hikers that the hut allowed thru hikers to sleep in the dining area. After some initial confusion, we were told that we could stay the night in the dining area. There were about 15 other thru hikers doing the same thing. We were thankful for this because there aren’t any good spots to stop for over 5 miles in either direction. The hut seemed like very expensive adult summer camp to me. There was shouting, chanting, family style meals, and triple decker bunks for people’s air mattresses and sleeping bags.

Dan picked a very rough day to join us for the hike, but did a great job keeping up with us. It was a lot of fun to have him with us.

7/24 Lake of the Clouds Hut to Pinkham Notch (15.0 miles)

We got up this morning and started a short steep climb up Mt Washington. I put on my pant legs for the first time since I have been hiking with Stitch and Garfield (in TN). While it was initially very cloudy, as soon as we were within 100 ft of the top it pretty much totally cleared up and we were treated to incredible views from the top. It was very odd climbing to the top of a mountain on trails that stress minimizing impact to the top, which had huge buildings and a giant parking lot. We hung out at the top and enjoyed the spectacular views for about an hour. We were very lucky that we had good weather at the top, since a lot of people reach the summit and can’t see anything.

After Washington we skirted around several more of the 4000 ft peaks and decided to head up one of them Jefferson since it was not too far off trail. The trail today before lunch was spectacular. There was great weather and views for pretty much the whole time. The terrain was quite tough and slow, but was still a lot of fun (often less than 1 mph).

After lunch we headed up and over Madison Mountain. This was our last climb of the Presidential Traverse, and after that we had a very steep descent into Pinkham Notch.

Dan did a great job keeping up with us. Without the trail legs that we have I was super impressed by his ability to stay with us. The weather mostly cooperated with us (except for yesterdays afternoon thunderstorms). I was really glad he came out for a couple of days and hope that we didn’t wear him out too much.

My dad and some of our family friends met us at the hostel we are staying at. We had pizza and drinks with them and it was awesome to see them.

There are more photos from my while AT trip here (https://1drv.ms/a/s!Am2vocdR42EL4lqanQjytTteD4FB). There were too many photos in the Whites to include.

Finishing up VT

7/12 Churchill Scott Shelter to Stony Brook Shelter (12.0 miles)

A few miles into our hike today we reached the Maine Junction. At this point the AT turns east towards NH and ME, while the Long Trail continues north thru Vermont until Canada. I suspect the trail will become less busy for awhile since there were a lot of LT thru hikers.

Since today was a short day, Garfield and I decided to do two blue blazes off the AT. While both were reasonably short they added an extra 2 miles of distance  and nearly 1000 ft of elevation gain. The first was to Deer Leap Overlook, which was supposed to be 0.3 miles off the trail, but turned out to be about 0.5. It was an OK view, but not worth walking so far off trail. The giant parking lots for the ski hill along with the loud highway definitely detracted from the view.


We also did 0.5 off to the Long Trail Inn. I feel sympathetic towards the owners since it used to be located on the AT and LT, but both have since been rerouted so it is .5 from the AT and 1 mile from the LT. We got on the wifi, charged my phone there and hung out on their lawn for a few hours to pass the time before heading out. The climb from there back to the trail was very steep and I probably wouldn’t do either of them again, but at least it was on a short day.

We walked across a pretty boardwalk in the afternoon. It was a shorter version of the one we saw in NJ.


After the boardwalk there was a very steep climb, but thankfully it wasn’t too long (>1300 ft). Garfield and I were both still drenched in sweat at the top. Sadly it was clearly in the PUD category.

We got to the shelter and we’re looking around for spots when some other hikers told us about a great spot next to the river (the nearest water source). We went down and decided to stay there for the night. It was another sweet spot where you can hear the running water.

7/13 Stony Brook Shelter to Pomfert Road Campsite (17.7 miles)

Garfield and I got off to an early start today. In the morning I was waking very quickly because the slow pace of the last few days had been getting to me and I just felt I needed to crank out some miles. About halfway through the morning we got to a private cabin that the owners allow hikers to stay at. It had a lookout on the roof that had great views. It was a little too hot up there for me at the peak so I went down and hung out in the shade on the porch. We stayed there for about 30 minutes and allowed our shirts to dry off. It has been very hot over the last few miles.


After that we headed down to a store at a road crossing. They had some nice picnic tables outside, but wasn’t anything special. It was a good place to hang out for a few hours.

There were a few more hills before our campsite. They were very representative of the PUDs that we had all day. The brook we stayed next to was a good place to swim so I went in for a rinse. It felt great.

One plus side of going slow is seeing a bunch of people who were behind us. We have seen numerous people that I hadn’t seen since VA or TN, so it was cool to talk to them and hear about the other people that I knew around them.

7/14 Pomfert Road Campsite to West Hartford, VT (8.9 miles)

This morning was pretty boring hiking with lots of PUDs as has been the MO of VT. We came down into town and as we crossed a large river we were waved over to a house with a large AT sign on their barn. We had been told about a family here that feeds hikers and let them stay the night by Sobos so we headed over.

We were greeted by the owner asking if we were hungry, which of course we were and he treated us to a delicious breakfast/lunch. We hung out on the porch talking with him and some fellow thruhikers before heading over to the library and using their wifi and computer.

We came back over around 4. They had just come back from the store with hamburgers and beer, a combo that is hard to beat with thruhikers. By this time there were probably 15 hikers here, many of whom we haven’t seen before. A lot of people were staying here for the night to avoid the rain was supposed to come in the early evening. It proved to be a good choice since it started pouring around 5.

We had a delicious dinner. It is amazing how quickly thruhikers can consume food.

This family is a great example of the community that has developed around the AT. They just have a house along the trail and treat hikers to soda, beer, food, and shelter out of the kindness of their heart. They don’t ask for donations (although they accepted them). I will really miss these types of people and this type of interactions once I finish the trail.

7/16 West Hartford, VT to Hanover, NH (9.9 miles)

Today was another day blessed with incredible people and more trail magic. We started the day with about 8 miles through the woods and I was brought up to speed on a book Garfield has been reading. It is very complex so it has taken several hours over the last few days.

When we hit the road (there was about 2 miles of road waking at the end) we were treated to banana bread and watermelon in a cooler for hikers. It really hit the spot on a hot day. Just after that we arrived in Norwich we took a slight detour to a General Store that gives thruhikers free day old sandwiches. When we got there they didn’t have any, but gave us some breakfast sandwiches for free. It was an awesome way to be welcomed into town.

After that we headed another mile across the Connecticut River into Hanover, NH. Another state down and only 2 left.

We then hung out in Hanover for the afternoon. We grabbed lunch at a Nepalese restaurant. Garfield is a big fan of trying food for other countries, and they also ended up having great food. After lunch we headed to a local restaurant that gives thruhikers free donuts. It was the perfect dessert and another great piece of trail magic.

The best trail magic of the day came from Greg Cook. He is one of several trail angels in Hanover/Norwich who provide hikers with either lodging or transport. He picked us in Hanover and drove us to his house. He welcomed us into his beautiful home. He even let us shower, do laundry, and gave us a ride to the grocery store. It was an awesome relaxing afternoon and evening.

We are the 33rd and 34th hikers he had hosted this year. He has hosted over 400 since he started doing this several years ago. He takes a picture of each hiker and writes a blurb about them, which his sons compile into a “yearbook” at the end of every year. It was very cool to read through his old ones as we waited for our laundry.


Hanover/Norwich is probably the best trail town we have been to yet. With all of the well organized trail angels who will host you, to the business that provide free food, it has been a wonderful place to stay. It will be fun spending a semi zero here tomorrow (a friend is coming up and we are going on a day hike of a nearby mountain that isn’t on the AT).

Garfield and I ate and entire 5 pound 10 ounce lasagna (3500 calories) in about 20 minutes. Garfield definitely ate more than me, but we throughly impressed our host.


Stitch has been doing some big miles so will be meeting us here tomorrow. We are both really excited to have her hiking with us again!

7/16 Zero in Hanover

Garfield and I both woke up very full from our large late night meal. Thankfully we had some time before my friend and his wife (Lee and Melissa) came for breakfast, which I spent going through more of Greg’s books. While we were waiting I exchanged some texts with my coworker/mentor/boss (Kathleen), and we arranged for her to meet up with all of us in the afternoon.

We went and all had breakfast, and then dropped up Garfield in Hanover and I went to do a day hike with Lee and Melissa that had been recommended by Greg. Another local described it as “the best ratio of hike to view”. We were not disappointed. The views from the top were spectacular, far better than we usually get on the AT for comparable hike.

After the hike the three of us went out to lunch, after which we we went to the Dartmouth College campus and hung out on a big field with Kathleen, her kids, Garfield, Lee, and Melissa. It was a ton of fun to hang out and catch up with all of them. I feel very lucky to have friends who would drive so far to see me for the day, it was really nice of them!
They headed out around 5:30 and Garfield had arranged for us to stay with another trail angle back in Norwich (2 miles away), where Stitch had stopped in to shower. We waited about 20 minutes for her to reach town and our little family was Stitched back together!
We went out to dinner and it was great to catch up with her and hear all about her adventures! I really missed have her around.
After dinner we still had to walk back to the trail angel’s house. We were resigned to walk ing the whole way back, but I figured I would try to hitch a ride anyway. To our luck, about 0.25 miles in a man pulled over and gave us a ride all the way there. It was a great way to end the day.
These trail angels had hosting hikers down to a science, including signs with instructions. They were incredibly nice and generous to us (and the 5 other hikers staying with us).

They told us the story about why they started hosting hikers (and are responsible for organizing all the trail angels in this area). A family in TN took in their son and let him stay with them for a week while he recovered from down foot problems. All they asked for in return was for them to pay the kindness forward. They do that by hosting hikers and asking them to do pay it forward as well. It is a great example of what the community around the AT is all about.
Gear update: One of my pole tips finally broke about a week ago. Since most other people had already broken one, I was hoping to make it the whole way without replacing them, but I wasn’t able to. Lee was nice enough to bring me a new pair.

Killington 

7/11 Governor Clement Shelter to Churchill Scott Shelter (8.7 miles)
We got off to a slow start today because we knew it was going to be a short day to get up and over Killington. We got to the shelter (the highest the AT goes up the mountain) and took a short very steep blue blaze to the actual summit of the mountain. The views were great, so we hung out there for awhile. After that we took another short trail to the peak lodge that is open during the summer (the gondola runs for hikers and bikers). We ended up hanging out there for 3 hours since there was free wifi and a place to charge our phones. There were also tables and chairs which is always a huge plus.


The rest of the day was pretty boring. However the trail continued to be very muddy with numerous points where one needs to take very large steps to avoid stepping in puddles or very deep mud.