Day 27: Start of the Whites

Ambitious day, we set out to slack pack Wild Cat, Carter, and Moriah Mountains. 21 miles and over 10,000 feet of elevation change. This would be my second longest day, but far harder than my previous 21.5.

We got dropped off at Pinkham Notch, 21 miles south of where we were on the trail and proceeded north back towards the hostel. The group consisted of Catfood, Firefly, and myself, and we were leap frogging throughout the day with three NOBOs doing the same thing we were.

Starting the hike, we immediately saw three moose. A cow and two calves; these are the first moose I’d seen in my hike. And, they had no fear of us to get away. So awesome!

Then we proceeded us Wildcat, which is a big ski resort in the winter. It was a long climb, but significantly better with slack packs. From their, we hit several peaks on Wild Cat, and down Carter Notch where we briefly stopped at the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Hut and ate a few breakfast leftovers.

The Huts leave all the leftovers out to be eaten, otherwise the croo would have to transport the waste out of the mountains. A stay at one of the huts costs more than $100 a person for dinner, breakfast, and a bunk. You get no shower and apparently these huts are always full in season. Hikers can try stopping after three or four in the afternoon and doing an hour or two of work in exchange for leftover dinner and breakfast after the guests have eaten and a place to sleep on the dining room floor, but they only accept and hikers each night.

The hut visit has given me some confidence that I should be able to get through the Whites with less food than expected, and you can purchase some snacks or soup from them.

After Carter Notch, we went up Carter Mountain, it’s several peaks, and then Moriah. We were able to glimpse the top of Mount Washington, which is apparently an uncommon sight because of constant cloud cover. The sights throughout the day were otherworldly. It seemed like you were surrounded by endless mountains in every direction and the New Hampshirians (?) are very passionate about their mountains.

There were a few scary moments, all of us taking hard falls today. I had to take a minute to collect myself after missing a rock hop. I slammed both knees and my trekking poles which initially looked bent, but fortunately just flexed. After a few minutes of sharp pain, I escaped with a little bloody knee and small stinging cut on my wrist.

The last few miles of our hike were fast! I think we did the last six miles in less than 1:45. The last four miles were pretty easy down hill and turned into a literal sprint. I turned my ankle and ran out of steam getting beaten by Firefly and one of the NOBOs, but it felt really good to stretch my legs.

Today was easily the best day on the trail so far. Lots of miles, views, perfect weather, and great company. I hope the rest of the Whites can be just as pleasant!

Moose!
Gondola atop Wildcat Mountain. I wish we could have taken that route up.
Catfood
Firefly, Catfood, and I on Carter Peak
Day 28: North Conway

So, zero day with the goal of recovering from yesterday’s hard push and acquiring a smaller, more comfortable pack.

Firefly, Catfood, and I hitch-hiked out to North Conway, about 30 miles away, and it took two different hitches to get there. I’m Thankful Firefly came because, not going to lie, I think having an attractive female significantly improved our odds at getting hitches.

Going into a climbing store, I got a new Hyperlite pack and later returned for a Nathan waist pack that I could keep my phone I for easy access to take more pictures!

We walked around the town, which is a big tourist area apparently, had lunch, and then it was time to hitch back!

Getting back required three hitches and took quite a bit longer. The last hitch was in a $100k Tesla, and the driver was happy to show off his toy. The future has definitely arrived and we were all in awe of the vehicle’s features. It’s exciting what’s ahead, and the thing had some power!

I packed up the new pack and everything that I needed fit into the smaller pack, yes! My next potential change would be to go to a tarp shelter rather than a full tent. Not ready yet, but we’ll see how the next week plays out. I mailed my old pack and other miscellaneous things home in a box (largely from the package I sent myself from Rangely), and am ready to continue tomorrow.

New Hyperlite Pack
Day 29: Stormy weather.

Woke up to rain and lightning this morning. Not a show-stopper, but looking at the Mt. Washington Observatory forecast for the next 48 hours, it looks to be stormy up there  today. Catfood and then Firefly opted to stay, and so I opted for caution, too. Hopefully, tomorrow’s a better day.

While drinking in the front yard of the hostel, before we got told we couldn’t be there, I did see the Army guys from the 100 mile wilderness! They just arrived into Gorham, about 21 miles behind, and are now known as Hoot and Zest.

Day 30: Mt. Washington!

So, the weather looked better, and was worth chancing the day to Mt. Washington. Unfortunately, Catfood was not feeling it. After changing his mind a thousand times, he opted to stay behind in Gorham for another day. Firefly and I departed for Pinkham Notch, heading south this time.

We went up Mt. Madison and then up to Mt. Washington. Nothing I can write or say would do the day justice. We crossed a lot of boulders, but the weather was perfect and the views were just incredible. The only place we did not have views was on top of Mt. Washington and it was full of tourists; most that had taken a train up or, ugh, car. However, the White Mountains are definitely worth doing some hiking…even if you take a car to the top.

We got to the Lake in the Clouds Hut, but they just filled their last work for stay position. So, we paid $10 to stay in the dungeon. Now, we could have slept on the floor inside instead, which may have been the better option, but I can now say I’ve slept in the dungeon. Outside, we watched a bit of a lightning storm from 5000′ up. Kinda cool. Supposed to be a big meteor shower tonight, but cold and cloudy. Probably.judt going to sleep.

Firefly going up Madison.
View while going up Madison?
Summit​ of Mt Washington
Firefly and I
View towards the summit of Washington with the train.
We hit this sign on the opposite side of Washington. Inconsiderate. #SOBOLivesMatter
The Dungeon at Lake in the Clouds.
Day 31: Uh oh.

Woke up with a scratchy throat. Was hoping just a result of sleeping in the dungeon, but as the day progresses, I’ve definitely got a cold. Shit.

The morning weather was tough. Marching through clouds, strong winds, and light rain showers. It was adding and subtracting layers all morning long.

We hit Mizpah Hut and had some leftover breakfast, mainly oatmeal, last of the peach cobbler, and a sausage patty. I also bought a hot lemon tea — that felt good.

While eating, we heard about a man that was doing trail magic several miles away and would be there until 3pm. That was our next target. After the Hut, the weather slowly improved and we had some amazing views off the Webster Cliffs. Unfortunately, we also had a long, painful descent. As we went, I could feel the energy being sapped from my body as I was sweating (hopefully getting rid of some of the toxins).

Once we finally hit the road, there was no one there. We crossed the street and started up the hill. It was only 2:30! Heartbroken would be a serious understatement.

And then, it happened. Right before the trail was a truck with trail magic. The guy, Gridiot, had tables full of things we could resupply on and he was cooking burgers, hot dogs, and pancakes. The guy is an ultrarunner that has completed the grid once, which means he had summited all 48 4000′ peaks in New Hampshire during every month of the year (all in Jan, all in Feb, etc). It’s an insane task and he’s working on his second time through, along with other grids and challenges in Maine and Vermont.

I had a big bottle of cold Gatorade and there burgers. Life was good. Apparently, this was a normal occurrence for NOBOs in the south, but this was my first experience with this degree of trail magic. Very selfless.

Moving after the burgers was a bit more challenging; Firefly and I slogged through the final 2.5 miles for the day and I tried to get to sleep as early as possible. It didn’t help as I tossed and turned all night long. I don’t think I have gotten a good night of sleep on the trail yet.

Day 32: August 14, this marks my first month completed on the trail. My legs have definitely gained in strength over that time, but it was an otherwise blur of a day. I woke up feeling terrible.

I have a hard time dealing with a runny nose in the real world; it’s equal unpleasant on the trail. However, the real issue was the climbs. I’d overheat immediately and it felt like it took three-hundred percent the normal effort to go up any inclines.

We started our day with five of the easiest miles of the trail yet and got leftover oatmeal and sausage from the next AMC Hut. I’ve barely eaten any of my own food the last three days; I’m carrying way too much weight in food! Definitely my heaviest bag.

After the Hut, we got into some climbs. I told Firefly to just go and don’t wait up on me; I didn’t want to hold her back. It did not take long for her to lose me. Seeing the lost cause for what it was, I took a short break on the side of the trail and my body was demanding sleep so a little further up the trail, I found a place for a good thirty minute lie down.

Then I continued up the climbs; again just amazing views today. Upon reaching the peak of South Twin Mountain, Firefly was actually waiting for me. She’d been there for adbout an hour. With my breaks, that’s actually not that bad. We enjoyed the views for a little while longer although I was not in the mood to take pictures, I did contact some co-workers after their first day of school. Surprisingly, it’s not that weird not being there. Probably because I’m so engaged in the hike and it’s work in it’s own right.

We arrived at the next Hut, Galehead Hut, and were able to do work for stay. Guests eat at six and we ate leftovers at 7:30. In the interim, I tried taking another nap, but hot-cold depending on the sun and breeze. I’m just hoping I don’t get anyone else sick and feel better after a late start tomorrow (after breakfast leftovers). I had to clean pots and pans for an hour; it sucked, and I felt like I was going to fall over and die the whole time. Sign of things to come?

12 or 13 miles to Lincoln, the next town. Need to get out of the wilderness, at least to try for a shower and a good night of sleep.

Day 33: Hot shower. Warm bed.

So, I woke up feeling slightly better. I had some weird dreams. Dreams period. I don’t think I’ve slept that deeply in a while. As part of work for stay, you are able to sleep in the dining room and I spent the night sleeping on a nice wooden bench against the wall.

Granted, I felt slightly better, but my “cold” felt like it moved to my lungs. I was breathing like Darth Vader all day. I don’t think my muscles were getting sufficient oxygen; I’d hit an ascent and they just slowed to a crawl. Not tired; just drained.

Today wasn’t the day to be unable to ascend. The day started with an ascent up Mt. Garfield, then down, and back up Mt. Lafayette which has false summit after false summit. It didn’t help that i apparently misread the sign as .2 miles to the summit rather than .8. It did make it rather embarrassing when I roared at the first ascent like it was nothing only to be crushed again and again over the next hour? Note to self: climbing a 5200′ mountain and then doing a two mile ridge walk across several peaks is probably not a great idea when all breathing is difficult.

So, let’s say I may have spent the better part of seven or eight miles as a physical and mental trainwreck. Oh, and I was trying to go quickly to beat a thunderstorm that was supposed to hit around 4pm. I was mentally preparing for when I got caught in the thunderstorm above treeline. I kept finding places that I could duck back under a few trees.

Fortunately (and miraculously), I made it across the ridge before the storm was supposed to materialize (it didn’t). The ridge was Franconia Ridge, what many people describe as the most beautiful miles of the whole Appalachian Trail. I saw about half before I was walking in clouds. It was amazing, but I think the Saddleback Mountains in Maine were better.

After making it across the ridge, I was just trying to find the sign that would signal three miles remaining on the day. It was way further than I thought. By the time I got there, I was dead. All day I was dead. Firefly had long left me behind. I saw something that said “FF 2 ???” I couldn’t figure out the second part. I was like, is that supposed to say Scott?

So, I started down the three mile descent. To try and give myself some incentive as all day all I wanted was a hot shower and a warm bed, I called a hostel to make a reservation for the next two nights. As I said, I didn’t know what became of Firefly. I had texted her to go her own way.

I asked the hostel about a shuttle and they said they had a free one at 5:30 at the visitor center that must’ve been somewhere at the bottom. It was 4:35 or 4:40pm and I hadn’t made that pace all day. Shit. I also noticed more writing in the mud, “FF 3:30.” Oh, that’s what she was telling me. Out of nowhere, my body just started shuffling down the hill, rock hopping stone-to-stone. I was passing a surprising number of people and telling them I was just falling forward as quickly as I could. I was literally red-lining it, but I felt fast and as if I were running on fumes. Then I hit a sign on the bottom that seemed to indicate I had a mile to go. It was 5:20. I was so close and yet so far. My body gave out for about ten minutes until I could muster the energy to move again. And the slog was back. Of course, 15 minutes later, I walk around a turn and Firefly is sitting on a fence waiting to see if I’m still alive. I was THAT close to the road. Damn sign.

We actually hitched into Lincoln to a guy’s house. The owner’s name is Chet and he runs an unofficial hostel on a donation basis. There’s like 15 people staying in this man’s garage. Out of pity, Firefly gave me the last bunk and, out of exhaustion, I took it while she set up her sleep gear on the floor. Then we went and grabbed some food.

Somehow, I survived today. It was a mix between grit and just wanting to die. Lots of relentless forward progress; I knew every step, no matter how small or slow, would get me one step closer to town. I just needed to get off the trail. And, I’m too exhausted to even shower. A couple wet wipes will get me to tomorrow.

Amazingly, despite being sick the last two days, I still clocked 27 miles in the White Mountains. Hardest section my butt. If I could function, we could’ve crushed that. My legs feel ready to break. Of course, now my left knee hurts. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. Either a zero or 16 mile slack pack. Depends whether I can breathe. Eventually, it will come together.

About Scott

Writer. Teacher. Learner. Keen on process and individual improvement. And running really, really far.

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