At long last the weather clears and I am treated with the most stunning views on the Appalachian Trail. The White Mountains are insanely beautiful.
Here’s my latest video showing you all the amazing views of New Hampshire before the White Mountains!
Service in the White Mountains has been scant. I’m trying to get you caught up on the last week or so. Hopefully I will have service as I go into more remote areas of New Hampshire and Maine to keep you in the loop!
It was a wet morning waking up at Eliza Springs Shelter. My tent fly was soaked when I packed it away. I saw Trailfish in the shelter. I hadn’t seen him since Virginia. I also met Happy Feet, No Excuses, and Good Push. They were a 420 crowd as they rolled some joints at 7:30am.
I set off on the trail. It was overcast but no rain. Everything was super green and wet from the night’s storm.
I had worn my waterproof socks and it was a good thing. The trail had puddles and mud in many places. The rocks were slick and I had lots of them to climb up and down. The White Mountains seem to be compromised of rocky, rooty terrain with fir trees and lots of moss.
I ran into No Excuses, Trailfish, Happy Feet, and Good Push multiple times throughout the day as we both passed each other. We were united at the summit of Kinsman Mountain. The climb had been steep and the view unrewarding. We were in a cloud with nothing to see.
I stopped at the Kinsman Pond Shelter to have a pizza burrito lunch. A bit later I arrived at Lonesome Lake Hut. In the Whites they have shelters which you have to pay to stay at or camp. They also have huts which you always pay for but they are nicer, enclosed bunk rooms with meals for overnight guests. People pay $100+ to hike into the wilderness and stay in a bunk room with strangers and pit toilets with no showers. At Lonesome Lake Hut the staff had set out the breakfast leftovers for us thru-hikers to devour like the hiker trash we are. I had some cold sausages, oatmeal, chicken, and eggs.
Clouds still covered the peaks as I left Lonesome Lake but the sun did peek out now and again. I began climbing up into the clouds. It was grueling and my knees and legs were dying.
At last I reached Little Haystack Mountain. Of course, no view, just clouds. As I hiked, the water vapor collected on my beard, mustache, and eyelashes. I would blink and tears fell and each step I took shook beads of water off my beard.
I was hiking along the Franconia Ridge. It was above tree line with rock cairns marking the trail. This section should have been gorgeous on a clear day with 360° views of the mountains. I was very disappointed and thought maybe after the AT I could return here to walk the ridge on a clear day. I saw some good stealth campsites and would have camped with the hope that the next day would be clear. Unfortunately I had barely any water to last me until the next source.
I summited Mount Lincoln and then Mount Lafeyette along the ridge. As I was descending the ridge I stopped to rest my legs. All of a sudden the clouds blew right up and over the mountains. Slowly but surely they began to clear and a spectacular panorama of the White Mountains appeared. I could even see Mount Washington in the distance. It was quite the sight to see the Presidential Range.
As I hiked down with Trailfish and Good Push, my knees aches and a new blister hurt. I’m not sure if my waterproof socks completely worked. We were all beat from the long day of climbs but happy we got a view.
Finally we reached Garfield Pond where plenty of stealth campsites were available. The pond was our water source but we all soaked and muddied our shoes trying to get close enough to gather water. Soon enough I was eating as much food as I could for dinner. I thought my sweat might have smelled like ammonia early in the day which indicates your body is burning muscle. I needed to increase my calorie intake.
My aching knees and feet hopefully would enjoy the Aleve I took. The directions had worn off the bottle and so I didn’t know how many I could take at a time. Man did the Whites really make you work! Constant steep climbs for miles. This has been the hardest workout of my life.
Day’s Mileage: 18.3
Total Miles Hiked: 1,836.1
Remaining Miles: 363.6
I slept in until 7:45. It was a chilly morning. I did not regret switching back to my winter sleeping bag for the Whites. When I had sent the bag back to Wisconsin originally, my friend Leslie said it smelled. I didn’t notice any smell. I guess I’ve gotten used to my musk.
As I packed up, I grabbed some Clif bars from my food bag. They were wet. I wondered how water had gotten into my waterproof food bag. I took a sniff and had a suspicion. And then just like in the movies, I licked the mysterious liquid. Mmmmm…it was honey. The bottle of honey I had was leaking and the ziplock bag it was inside also must have leaked. I spent a good ten minutes taking everything out of my food bag, inspecting each item for honey residue, and using my wet wipes to clean any contaminated objects. I can’t believe no mice or larger animals hadn’t been attracted to my tent in the night. I’d been lazy and slept with my food bag right next to my face.
And thus, it was a very late start around 9am when I began hiking. It felt like the Smokies all over again where I had to put on my rain jacket to keep warm. My tent fly was soaked and my hands freezing.
It was a steep but relatively short climb up Mount Garfield. Clouds and fog covered everything so no views. The descent was very slippery. The rocks were wet and there were lots of them. For a brief moment it hailed just a bit.
After Garfield I arrived at Galehead Hut. Trailfish and Good Push were there. I devoured at least a pound or two of leftover pancakes. As we ate, the sun started to poke out and burn off some of the clouds.
Next up was Twin Mountain. In 0.8 miles I climbed 1,100 feet up. It was like a stair master from hell but the pancakes had renewed my spirits and I zipped up the mountain. The sun and wind had pushed most of the clouds away and the views were out of this world. Mount Lafeyette and the rest of the Franconia Ridge were to one side and Mount Washington and the Presidential Range to the other.
I could have stayed on top of the mountain for an hour but the wind and temperature at that elevation were quite cold. I took it all in before marching on.
Back in Rutland, VT, the Yellow Deli hostel had told me they had another hostel in the Whites area. I had one bar of service and called the number I’d been given for this hostel. It turns out they don’t service hikers until July (it’s only June). Now I had to figure out a new place to stay for the night.
As I climbed down from Twin Mountain, the rocks and steep descent took their toll on me. I slipped several times but luckily no injury. I had been taking my time and being as careful as ever but the terrain was just that difficult at times. I slipped on one particular rock face and fell on my ass and there was a loud snap.
I saw two streaks of red across my left wrist and my right palm hurt. I popped up off the ground rather quickly. My palm would be fine and the cuts across my wrist luckily were shallow and had just missed any important arteries. My left trekking pole, however, was cracked in half. It was utterly useless now. At least I wasn’t badly hurt and it was just a pole. But if there were ever a time I needed my poles for balance and support, it was here in the Whites. I didn’t have cell service anymore so I couldn’t even get the ball rolling on having a replacement mailed out to me.
One pole in hand and the other strapped to my pack, I continued on. The sun shone down and it was a gorgeous day. There was a swampy fork in the trail with a view off to one direction. I took a look and it was incredible. The mountains were gorgeous.
A little ways on was Zealand Falls Hut. There was a smooth rocky face with a stream/waterfall flowing down. There were no leftovers at this hut but I stopped and made myself lunch and let my feet, socks, and shoes air out. Trailfish and Good Push showed up and told me they planned on staying at the next campground. I figured I’d do the same.
Onward the trail became flat and quite enjoyable. I was cruising along. Was I rushing through the Whites? I’ll probably never be back here again but one never knows. Should I have waited yesterday for this good weather before tackling Franconia Ridge? Was I racing to finish? I was trying to make sure to enjoy each moment.
It was strange though, I always imagined spending lots of time in the Whites, soaking in the views. But now when I’ve gotten great views, it’s been freezing with the wind and temperatures. It’s funny how my expectations have been different from reality. Someone once told me to stop having expectations because then I will never be disappointed. I could see the wisdom in that but I don’t think I’ve been disappointed on this journey. In fact, though it may have been different than I planned it, the Whites have so far been beautiful. And I thought, I could end my hike now and be content. I’m happy and have gotten to enjoy nature. I’ve proven that I’m physically capable of hiking over 1,800 miles over countless mountains. I’ve overcome obstacles such as snow, hail, rain, soaked clothes, gear failures, blisters, etc. I’m mentally capable of slogging along through said obstacles, making the most of each situation, planning out my days, and fighting off boredom. And I’ve thought a lot about myself and what I want out of life. I’ve also met some really great people and had a blast hiking with them. With approximately three weeks left of my hike, I felt pretty happy with what I’ve accomplished.
I reached the spur trail to the campsite and decided to keep going. The trail was an easy descent down to Crawford Notch where I would have been picked up to go to the hostel, had it been open. Instead, I had heard there were some good stealth campsites by the river. I was in a state park and camping was prohibited. I found a descent spot that was closer to the road than the trail. Hopefully it was hidden enough. I ate dinner on the bridge crossing the river. As I went to sleep I could hear many animals nearby in the woods. Once again I hadn’t hung my food bag.
Day’s Mileage: 18.3
Total Miles Hiked: 1,854.4
Remaining Miles: 345.3
I’m glad my hike didn’t end the day before because day 119 ended up being spectacular; maybe my all-time favorite day of the hike. I packed up camp and filtered some water from the river for the big climb ahead. I had descended down to the river the night before and now had to climb back up into the mountains, Mount Webster to be specific.
Webster proved to be a strenuous climb to start my morning. I had energy but it was thousands of feet up. There were amazing views as I neared the top with multiple cliffs. I spent ten minutes at one of these overlooks taking it all in.
At one of these overlooks Transformer came hiking along. I didn’t know how I’d gotten ahead of him. It was good to see a familiar face and we hiked on together.
We were hiking the presidential range and it was incredible. Webster had awesome views and then it was on to Mount Jackson.
We stopped at one of the huts to see if they had any leftover food. They had some measly turkey scraps which I ate along with my own lunch. It appeared as if someone had left two Snickers bars next to the hiker log, though the hut also sold Snickers. I mentioned this to Transformer. As we left the hut he handed me a snickers as he ate one. Hiker morals?
We continued on over Mount Pierce. The trail skirted around Eisenhower. Many people took the trail to the summit, though the AT went around it. Apparently it’s a thing to try and summit all the presidential mountains or all the peaks over 4,000 feet on the east coast. We were in alpine ecosystems so the trees were stunted, if there even were any. Most of the flora was shrubbery.
When we got to Mount Monroe, the AT trail was closed for maintenance and they redirected you to the Monroe summit. I didn’t want to skip the 0.65 miles of official AT trail so I ignored the $5,000 fine warning and hiked the closed trail. Hiker morals? I was at least two-thirds along when I came across the volunteer workers. I offered to help with the work and feigned ignorance. They told me the best way to get through was to go back and over Monroe. I guess that’s karma.
At the Lake of the Clouds Hut we met up with Landfill. I hadn’t seen him since Pennsylvania. He and Transformer decided to do work-for-stay at the hut. I pressed on. I had only planned to hike to this hut but the clear skies were too good to pass up. It was also supposed to rain in two days so I wanted to see as much of the Whites as I could in good weather.
From Lake of the Clouds it was a short but steep and rocky ascent to Mount Washington. It loomed above at 6,288 feet above sea level. I hauled ass to make it to the top before the snack bar closed. I succeeded and bought 1,600 calories worth of Whoopie Pies (2 pies).
The views were breathtaking from the summit. The National Weather Observatory sits on top of the mountain and the highest wind speed ever recorded by man was here (231mph). It experiences some of the most extreme weather on Earth. It was incredibly windy and I had to put on my gloves and jacket. Many tourists wandered around the summit buildings. One can reach the summit by driving, hiking, or taking a cog railway.
At last I hiked on around 6pm. I had six miles to go to the next hut. I wasn’t allowed to camp above tree line and the next six miles were definitely well above it.
The trail was extremely rocky and my knees were taking a beating. In fact my whole body was a bit scraped up from my time in the Whites. I was doing okay with one trekking pole so far.
It felt like Lord of the Rings hiking along the ridge with mountains everywhere I looked. I don’t know how else to describe how beautiful it all was.
I hiked around Mount Clay and Mount Jefferson. The wind picked up in gusts of 40mph that nearly knocked me over. I was the only person on the trail.
The full moon rose as the sun dipped down. I crossed over a patch of snow that hung on even in June. I was slowing down. The terrain was difficult with the rocks everywhere but the views were never better.
As dusk fell I hobbled my way to the Madison Hut. Two other hikers were already doing work-for-stay and I couldn’t find any staff to ask if I could do the same. Guests milled about. I couldn’t believe people payed $100+ a night to sleep in bunks out here. It wasn’t a hotel and there were no showers or flush toilets.
I decided against waiting to find a staff member. If I did work-for-stay I’d probably have to stay until 10am doing chores instead of hiking. My guide said there was a camp down a side trail nearby.
I put my headlamp on and set off. My body was exhausted and lucky me, the side trail was a difficult, rocky descent for 0.6 miles. Of course all the campsites were full. I guess this was penance for my earlier mischief on the closed trail.
I squeezed in my tent on a flat spot. The trees creaked in the wind and I hoped they didn’t fall on me. I loved how small my tent is and can fit in the tiniest of spaces. It was almost 10pm and I was so tired I wasn’t even hungry. I ate a quick dinner of Cheez-Its and KitKats with peanut butter.
It was a long day and that’s an understatement. But it was also a most incredible day with the best views of the entire trail! I’m so glad I got to enjoy this section with sun and clear skies. Now if only my body could heal from the scrapes, bruises, blisters, and infected toenail! I’ve completed 85% of the trail and am on track to finish in three weeks.
Day’s Mileage: 18.1
Total Miles Hiked: 1,872.5
Remaining Miles: 327.2
Daily Average: 15.7
THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES
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