I keep on pushing myself through the White Mountains to beat the coming rains but it takes a toll on my body.
If you missed the last post, here’s my latest video showing you all the amazing views of New Hampshire before the White Mountains!
I packed up camp and was on the trail by 7:45am. Except I wasn’t on the AT; I was on the Valley Way Trail that connects to the AT. The night before I had such a hard time finding a campsite, I had to hike 0.6 miles down a steep, rocky slope that was more like a drainage ditch. So now I had to hike back up to reach the trail.
Fortunately the Madison Spring Hut was back where I left the trail. I headed inside and asked if there were any leftovers from breakfast. The staff had heaps of pancakes and maple syrup of which I shoveled into my mouth. As I ate, Transformer showed up. I had left him the night before and hiked on at least five more miles. He told me he had left at 5am to start hiking. He also told me that the work-for-stay at the last hut was not worth it. The work part was easy but sleeping on the floor in the dining room sucked. He said he didn’t sleep at all because people kept getting up to go to the bathroom all night and walked right through the dining room. I had made the right decision in hiking on and I felt validated.
After breakfast I scaled rocky Mt. Madison. The rocks were sharp and I had to follow rock cairns since there was no trail. It was a choose your own adventure in finding your way amongst the boulder field to each cairn.
As I hiked I noticed pain in my feet between the ball of my big toe toward the arch. It was on the inside side of each foot and definitely more prevalent in my left foot. I assumed it was from all the rocks I’ve been balancing on the last few days and especially at the moment. I was constantly stepping on jagged rocks and balancing on the arches of my feet. Just add it to the list of aliments I’ve accumulated on the trail! My trigger finger still affects me in the mornings where my pinky and ring fingers remain curled up for the first few hours of the day. At least that has shown some improvement. And my blisters at least have gone away. I do look like an old man with a cane as I hobble around with just one trekking pole!
The descent amongst the jagged rocks was arduous. At the bottom the terrain leveled out. I had essentially descended from the Presidential Range around 5,000 feet of elevation to the 1,000s in about three miles. It was an odd change to be back in the woods and on relatively flat terrain for a bit.
Soon I reached Pinkham Notch. Back in the South they called a mountain pass a gap. Here in the North they call them a notch. And out West they’re called a pass. Anyway, at Pinkham Notch was a visitor center with a cafeteria. Transformer was here with another hiker named Hawk. I spent almost $20 treating myself to a sandwich, salad, and pint of ice cream. We were pretty worn out from the Whites and still had a bit left. My phone had service so I took a moment and called REI. They were very helpful shipping out new trekking poles to me. I’d pick them up a few days down the trail.
Back to the grind, Transformer and I set off to tackle Wildcat Ridge. It was a series of peaks that were all part of Wildcat Mountain. So we ascended 2,000 feet back up into the Whites. It was extremely steep and exhausting.
At the top of one peak was a ski gondola, part of a ski resort. Transformer led us down a ski run for a hundred yards before we realized it wasn’t the trail.
After Wildcat Ridge we descended back into a valley where we arrived at Carter Notch Hut. It was about 6:30pm and the guests of the hut were being served dinner. There were already five SOBO hikers outside waiting to do work-for-stay. Transformer tried to get in on the action but was denied. It was a small hut and five was already a lot for work-for-stay. But we were absolutely exhausted.
I sat inside and made some pizza burritos and observed the dinner ritual at the hut. It was family-style with a guy and two girls in their early-20s running the shelter: cooking, serving, cleaning, etc. Seemed like it made for a fun summer job.
Rain was forecast that night and all the next day. Part of the reason I had been pushing myself through the Whites was because of this. I wanted to see as much of them as I could in the good weather and avoid climbing wet rocks. I decided to push on as far as I could that night. Somehow Transformer was convinced as well, though he was nearing death. He was absolutely exhausted from his night of no sleep and the ridiculous amount of miles he had already hiked today. The hut already had too many work-for-stay hikers staying the night and so he joined me as I hiked onward and upward.
We began scaling straight up Carter Mountain. It was grueling and steep. Halfway up Transformer stopped and told me to go on. “Leave me to die” seemed the sentiment. After all, he’s been hiking since 5am and it was almost 8pm. I had some renewed energy from dinner and summited.
There were decent tent sites at the top but I needed to push more miles before the rain. I did not want to be on the mountain descending in the rain on slippery rocks. All of a sudden Transformer showed up with a vigor. His caffeine granola bar seemed to have kicked in.
Fog rolled in as we summited the multiple peaks of Carter Mountain. The full-ish moon was obscured by clouds and it got dark quickly. It began to rain lightly but not too badly. The rocks became slick as we descended. It was insanity. We both remarked that this would be extremely creepy and scary to hike alone in the dark. We were constantly lowering ourselves down vertical rock faces. It was like a rocky slip-n-slide of death.
From the hut it was only seven miles to a campsite and should have taken 3.5 hours at my normal 2mph pace. We were taking much longer. The terrain became easier as we closed in on the campsite. My headlamp batteries were dying and it was almost useless. I had to use my iPhone tied onto my forehead with my bandana as a makeshift hiker trash headlamp…life hack.
Sometime after 11pm we arrived at Imp Shelter and Campground. They had tent platforms set up which actually were annoying because you can’t put tent stakes into wood planks. I set up my tent as best I could as the rain became harder. I was drained, bruised, and my body felt miserable. My foot pain was bad and they were bruised on the arches of my feet. My knees were throbbing with soreness. I took an Aleve and ate some snacks. As I tried to sleep, I woke up at 4am with my knees so sore I had to take another Aleve to fall asleep again. I had been trudging along to beat the rain and I had made it, but at what cost? With three weeks left of my hike and the best part of the Whites behind me I was ready to be done. This was my longest day of hiking and the latest I had ever hiked.
Day’s Mileage: 20.9
Total Miles Hiked: 1,893.4
Remaining Miles: 306.3
The rain wasn’t bad in the morning. It was mostly misty as I packed up. Water had gotten into my tent from the poor set-up with lack of tent stakes on the wood platform. My sleeping bag was a bit wet in spots. I left the campsite forgetting I was supposed to pay the caretaker. He or she probably didn’t even know I had camped as I got in after 11pm and left before 8am. Transformer was already gone.
There was a small mountain to climb and my feet really hurt. The rain eventually came but it was never a hard rain. I only had eight miles to hike until a hostel and it was all downhill. My plan had worked where I hiked as much as I could the day before to minimize the amount I hiked in the rain today. It wasn’t very enjoyable. I just wanted to get the miles done. I caught up with Transformer and we hiked to the Rattle River Hostel.
There were loads of NOBO hikers there. Everyone was taking the day off from the rain. I met two girls named Zoom Zoom and Honey Bear. Trademark showed up as well and there were a bunch of other hikers I met like Fat Tony, The Kid, Relentless, 2 Clicks, and the list goes on. I showered and we all took a shuttle into town for pizza and a Walmart run. I came back with too much food.
I picked up a package of more food I had sent to the hostel. I also was expecting my summer sleeping bag that I sent to the hostel to switch back to, now that the Whites were over. For some reason it hadn’t arrived and my tracking number wasn’t working. Good news was I had my winter bag at least, but the bad news was I didn’t know where my summer bag was at the moment.
I also bought some Epsom salts at Walmart and soaked my feet in them. I was hoping it would help my bruised feet and also my infected ingrown toenail. The latter had been healing from the antibiotics but being stuck in a sweaty sock everyday and pounded against rocks was slowing down the healing. I FaceTimed with my friend, Dr. Stephanie, and she said my toe was looking good but that my bruised feet really should rest a whole day. She also laughed at how ridiculously huge my beard had gotten (my clean, shampooed beard likes to fro out with extra volume). So I decided to follow the doctor’s orders and take the following day off. My foot was in pain and really needed the rest. I looked at my mileage for the past week and realized I had been doing an average of 18 miles a day through the Whites and even bigger miles in the days before! Less than 300 miles to go!
Day’s Mileage: 8.0
Total Miles Hiked: 1,901.4
Remaining Miles: 298.3
I did not sleep well at all. It was horribly hot in the hostel. And of course everyone got up early. When I got out of bed at 8am, nearly everyone was gone out of the 20+ guests. I made waffles for breakfast and watched some TV and soaked my feet in Epsom salts. They were feeling much better. Transformer hung around until noon before going back to the trail. He looked like he could’ve used a zero day.
I took a trip to Walmart for dinner foods. I called the post office in Glencliff where my lost package was last seen and they couldn’t help me. After Walmart when I arrived back at the hostel my missing box was sitting on the doorstep! Life has a funny way of throwing obstacles my way and then resolving them. I guess I should learn to worry and stress less since it always seems to work out in the end.
The caretakers at the hostel were all previous hikers and everyone was super chill and cool. The few remaining hikers were fun to talk to as well. I laid my tent and other wet items outside to dry in the sun. I was so glad my summer sleeping bag was back as it was hot and humid! Summer had arrived.
I packed up my bag to get it ready for my next day of hiking. There was a scale and with my ridiculous amount of food from Walmart that barely fit in my pack it surprisingly weighed in at 43 pounds! I thought surely I’d be pushing over 45. (My pack only weighed 35 pounds on my first day on the trail) I also weighed myself and was 152 pounds. I was impressed; my normal weight hovers between 150 to 155 so I was happy to be maintaining the pounds. Must be all those pizzas I’ve been eating. I feel like my calves and thighs are all muscle and my upper body is nonexistent!
I ate more food the rest of the day including fruit, microwave dinners, Oreos, and a tub of ice cream. The latter was just like the half-gallon challenge back in Pennsylvania at the halway point, only this time it wasn’t even a challenge. Overall it was a good and much needed zero day.
Day’s Mileage: 0.0
Total Miles Hiked: 1,901.4
Remaining Miles: 298.3
Daily Average: 15.6
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