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