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We officially walked to Maine! It was very exciting to see this sign! The book said that the state line was this yellow paint spot but I wasn’t expecting to see a sign since the majority of our previous state lines didn’t have anything. There is a sticker that I see frequently at outfitters, one I will have to get, that says “Yes, I walked here from Georgia”. Yes, folks, I walked here from Georgia. Can you believe that? That saying comes because when you run into someone, usually a person who isn’t familiar with the trail, they are always incredulous that you’ve walked that far. Sometimes I think it is insane. The southern half of the trail seems foreign and long ago. Not 4.5 months ago.
Upon leaving Gorham we had a fairly nice 12 miles to the Gentian Pond shelter that offered a beautiful view of the White Mountains. But after that our nice trail was gone and New Hampshire tried to tighten it’s grips on us and then tossed us to Maine, which immediately put a choke hold on us, too. You see, we leave the White Mountains and enter the Mahoosuc Range. The key letters are Suc(k), because they truly do suck. Beautiful, but sucky. The photo above is on a false top of one of the Gooseye Mtns where we had lunch.
And then you come to a little thing called the Mahoosuc Notch. It’s legend and lore. Every thru-hiker knows about it. It looms in the back of your head because it is called the toughest mile on the trail. It’s really 1.1 miles and ended up being 90% fun, 10% pain in the ass. What it is is a big pile of boulders that you have to scramble on, under, around and sometimes it takes an hour for fast people, but it took us 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Half the time you have to scoot down a rock and hope to land safely. We started at about 4:15 and thought it’d take an hour, but we came out the other side at 6pm and had intended to continue another 2.5 miles to a campsite/shelter and go up the Mahoosuc Arm. The Mahoosuc Arm doesn’t get talked about as much, but it is straight up a slick rock slab for about a mile and a half. It’s 90% pain in the ass and 10% fun. When we came out the end of the notch we found our friends Cubbie and Dilly Dally with camp set up and we all decided to pitch our tents there and cover the Arm the next morning. Good idea. It would have been after 8pm before we got into camp.
After Grafton Notch the trail seemed to get easier. Well, easier than it had been. We had a good two miles or so of trail until we climbed up to Baldpate Mtns where there we scrambled up open rock just as a rain shower came through and we leaned into tropical storm force winds. Beautiful but windy! Somehow the next day we ended up being able to do 10 miles before lunch! WOOO! Oh, that felt so nice. We planned to camp near a road after hearing from Southbounders that a good campsite was there and once we got to the road it was nearly 4 pm. Awesome! Early camp! But, you see, we left Gorham with six days of food and carrying six days of food is really, really heavy so we all skimped on snacks. Luckily we weren’t too far from the town of Andover so four of us split a shuttle to and from town and ate dinner at a general store/diner and got more snacks and came back and set up camp! Ahhhh, full bellies!
Yesterday was pretty nice. We had beautiful weather all day long and climbed up Old Blue Mtn and over the Bemis range. We made 17 miles by 5pm! Our first 17 since before the Whites! I think we’ll have a few more slower days until right after Stratton because we have to go up Saddleback Range, Sugarloaf, Crocker Mtns and the Bigelows but we hear after the Bigelows everything gets much easier and I think we can start pumping out some miles. It’s kinda hard to estimate the date now, but in about two weeks we’ll be done. I would guess by Monson we’ll know for sure…and Monson is really only about a week away!
We have a mail drop in Caratunk and our next time in town will be Monson so you won’t hear from us until then and then after that will be Abol Bridge which is 15 miles from Katahdin, so potentially only one more post here and then we’ll summit! It’s getting exciting!!!
Oh, the title of the post is because last night I heard loons for the first time and this morning saw them on Sabbath Day pond. Excellent!
Oh and Maine broke my left hiking pole. Thank you Maine. Leki is going to ship replacement parts to Monson, thank goodness, but until then I am being called “one pole”, which plays off of “one paw” our nickname for Leo. He sometimes lays with just one paw out, lounging like a lion.
1)a mountain range in N New Hampshire, part of the Appalachian Mountains. Highest peak, Mt. Washington, 6293 ft. (1918 m).
3)Vermont + Pennsylvania combined. Mud + rocks.
Ahhhh….we’re done with the Whites!!! THANK YOU GOD! Ok…so I’m a touch dramatic, but wow, what a wipe out, tiring experience. After doing Moosilauke (which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be) and getting slowed down on the north side of Kinsman Notch we had to re-think our mental game in terms of mileage. Goodbye 15+ mile days. We couldn’t even think it. When you look at the book it seems ‘easy’ and doable. Sure, that 17 or 19 mile stretch doesn’t look so bad, until you are faced with hand over hand rock climbing and making your way down wet rocks, rocks covered in roots and sliding down surfaces because figuring out a way down any other way just doesn’t seem possible.
In many parts our average speed was 1.5 miles an hour. This is depressing from going 2.5-3 (even more at times) mph in other areas. And even thinking that anything else was hard previously is laughable. Sure, it might have been hard because it was hot or I was in a bad mood or it just took a little longer, but we did some big climbs with some seemingly nasty stuff and still managed 17+ miles a day, even did some over 20′s and had no problem. Our biggest day in the Whites was from Lakes of the Clouds hut, just below Mt. Washington, up and over the Presidential Range and down into Pinkham Notch, which was 15 miles and that beat us up pretty bad.
We did Moosilauke early in the morning and it wasn’t a bad climb at all. Took some time, but we made it up and we all hung out up top for about an hour. It was cloudy at first but they blew by us quickly and Chris and Merf attempted to make a kite out of her tarp; it failed.
My big thing about this mountain was the coming down the other side. We’d heard so much about the descent that I was insanely nervous and absolutely didn’t want it to rain. Of course it wasn’t nearly as bad I as I thought, but I can see how in the rain it would be worse. There are wood blocks mounted to slabs of rock so you can get down, rebar to grab on to and a stream flowing right next to the trail.
At Franconia Notch we met up with blog reader Patrice and her husband who live in the area and they were kind enough to bring us trail magic and drive us somewhere to eat. They were also super nice enough to let two other hikers tag along to get some resupply! Thank you so much and it was awesome to meet you! They are going southbound next summer so I will be sure to announce it all so you can follow her, too. Oh, and it was crazy, the pub/restaurant we ate at in North Woodstock , we ran into Lion King, whom we originally met coming down from the ridge past Thomas Knob shelter in Virginia. He’d just broken his poles! He even remembered us!
we found some pitcher plants on a boreal bog near South Kinsman! Very neat!
The big thing about the Whites is that you have to pay to tent or stay at the huts. It’s really, really, annoying. But…you can stealth camp. We lucked out and the first tent site we name dropped an AMC ridgerunner from CT to the caretaker and he let us in for free! Score! The next two nights we stealthed and this photo is from the spot on Mt. Webster. It was really cold up there with the wind, but it was a very awesome spot.
By far the best part was being above tree-line. Also, the scariest part. We’d just left Mizpah hut and were heading to Lakes of the Clouds hut when we got up top and saw a storm front was blowing in. Lightning was in the distance and though it isn’t totally kosher to set up a tent in the alpine zone, we threw it up in a little alcove and rode out what turned out to be a wimpy little storm. It stayed chilly and windy the rest of the way up. That is Washington in the background.
We got up at 5:30am the morning we summited Washington and it was perfectly clear! This was what I was hoping for all along! SCORE! We were on the summit probably 45 minutes after leaving and tinkered around for awhile at the top. Then it was down trail towards the other Presidentials.
Overall the toughest parts of the Whites were coming down into notches (gap’s…valley’s) and leaving them. Generally. We had an awesome 2.5mph stretch from Zealand Hut to Crawford Notch, but flat trail was few and far between. The worst climbs by far were South Kinsman and the Wildcat’s.
We made it through most of the weather except for yesterday when we got a really nasty thunderstorm while on top of the Carter range. At one point we were above treeline and the lightning and thunder got closer and we tried to book it as fast as we can, but of course 2 miles from camp and coming down North Carter (which had steep rocks and rocks you have to slide down or precariously try to walk across) the bottom fell out and we ended up getting soaked and walked in the Appalachian River instead.
Anyway, we are in Gorham resupplying and trying to dry out. We’ll be in Maine on Saturday. The next week will probably continue to be tough but we’ve heard that the second section of Maine is much easier and we can pick up our miles again.
Still can’t say when exactly we’ll be done, but I’ll just estimate 3ish weeks! Insane! And relieved. I am ready for not moving my body at all for an entire day.
Oh, not sure when the next computer time will be so I will probably be doing the call my brother and let him post thing.
PS: HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY TO MOM! She’s going to be…shhhh…50!! You can think of her on the 27th.
Some kind of purple fringe orchid near Griffith Pond on Vermont.
Maple syrup tubes!
Ok, this doesn’t smell like wildflowers, but it was a really cool privy at Thistle Hill shelter. Finally, a privy that isn’t a dungeon! The ones in the south are usually open at the top so you can actually breathe!
We’re sitting at the very hoity-toity campus of Dartmouth at the moment. I certainly feel out of place, especially when we went to a college where flip-flops, shorts and pj bottoms were the haute-couture of the day and spending time between classes at the beach were the norm. Yes, my friends, we have made it to New Hampshire.
We made a pit stop in the town of Norwich, VT, just on the other side of the Connecticut River to get some day old and free sandwiches from Dan & Whit’s General Store. Mmmm! We also benefited from two trail magic’s during our road walk from the trail head!
Yes, my last post was very despairing. Chris wanted me to delete it but I felt that I should leave it because I didn’t want to misrepresent any feelings that are out here. Everyone has their bad days, sometimes others show it more. Yesterday, in fact, we ran into two southbounders at a shelter and one came bounding in and threw his poles off into the woods, walked off and then came back and said he felt better. We were noting that sometimes southbounders seem to be walking on clouds and everyone is perfect for them, so it was nice to know they are having it rough sometimes, too.
As for the rain, it did rain. We left Rutland and went three miles to Gifford Woods State Park where we paid $5 a person for a primitive site that was not unlike anything we hadn’t already seen for 1700 miles, and enjoyed a shower and relaxed. The rain came later that night and continued on during the early morning. We decided to sleep in, hoping it would stop. Our friend Merf was with us but we thought she was long gone when we went down to the park office at 9:15 and she had been down there all morning as well. Luckily the rain kinda petered out for awhile, did some more spitting and the day ended up being overcast for the rest of the day.
I think for the most part is that everyone is just beat now. We are tired, tired hikers. We have done 80% of the trail but the hardest 20% is still in front of us. I’m trying not to be scared @*$%less of the Whites but I am. All I hear is this steep, slick descent down Mt. Moosilauke and it makes me stomach knot. Though I am looking forward to cooler temps in the high elevations and maybe the bugs will disappear. Maybe. I doubt it! hah!
Vermont: well, it didn’t leave the best impression on me. I thought the last 40+ miles from Rutland were rather crappy and poorly maintained. It seemed like the Green Mountain Club only cared about the Long Trail section. The Dartmouth Outing Club maintains some of the trail in Vermont and much of it is overgrown and there are mud spots that definitely need boards. I have felt since we left the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference that the trail maintenance has been lacking. Perhaps I got spoiled by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club who maintained the trail so very well during their section.
Also, the trail in this section did this very annoying up and down every low ridge and hill thing, very similar to New York and Connecticut. Blech.
So, where to now? Well, we have another 9 miles to go today after a resupply, shower and laundry, something like 18 tomorrow, and then slowing down a lot to go through the Whites. I think we’ll do between 13-15 depending on the stops. The other problem I have with the Whites are the shelter and tenting issues. It is run by the Appalachian Money Mountain Club, and they have huts which are like $80 a person and if you get there at a particular time you can do work for stay, or you can pay at the limited shelters and campsites $8 a person. Now, this probably doesn’t sound unreasonable to many people, but after hiking 1700+ miles without paying a dime at a shelter or tent site, it’s pretty ridiculous that a trail club gets the right to do this. And then they have rules about where you can and can’t stealth camp. So, yes, combined with the terrain, the locations are all a worry for many people. I’m just going to be glad to get through this state!
We are around 440 miles left….I can’t wait to step foot into Maine!!! It’s going to feel so good!
So, we’re getting a cool front tonight/tomorrow. I’m not looking forward to it—well, sorta. The cooling off part I can handle, I can’t handle the rain that is coming with it. I hate rain. Or rather, I hate rain that I have to walk in. Being wet in clothes isn’t too bad, but I hate, despise, and sneer at having wet feet. It makes me really grumpy.
Last year apparently there were 30 straight days of rain. I would have bailed after the first few days. Not to mention I’m getting all antsy about the Whites and am not going to be happy to have rain and bad weather going through them. It makes me nervous and frustrated. I wanted to enjoy that section, difficult as it may be.
We’re in Rutland, VT resupplying for the day. I kinda wish we’d just packed a few extra days of food and skipped coming here because it was a hard-ish hitch and we have to take the bus back to the trail head. Yes, the bus goes to the trail head. So…anyway, we’ll be heading back out as the rain comes this way. I’m not too pleased. Oh well, such is life I suppose. Can I just call this my cranky post?
We have less than 500 miles left now. I’m guessing sometime between August 12-15th is when we will be done, which will put us at approximately 5 months. Next week is our 4th month on the trail! People….that’s a long time. I can’t even imagine being out here for six months. It really is a long time walking and walking and walking. There aren’t weekends on the trail unless you take them, zero’s, but then you just extend your time out here by doing that! I’m glad we put in all of those miles in late May and June so that we could do this thing in 5 months.
Vermont hasn’t been the most impressive state, or at least what I imagined it to be. The mud has been mimimal, except for some spots yesterday when we got an afternoon shower, but the flies are driving us bonkers. gah, it’s annoying to have them burrowing into your hair and flying in your ears. There haven’t been too many scenic vistas here, either. And really once you approach 3,000′ do you start seeing conifers. I really love that section up there, but below the flies are worse and it looks like any other green decidious forest we’ve been through. I suppose I’d appreciate it more if it weren’t hot and I wasn’t trying to make miles. Sometimes I wish I could take my time, look at different scenes and take photos; but I can’t.
yes, this is a Debbie Downer post. Sorry. I can’t wait for a pedicure, massage, not carrying 30 extra lbs wherever I go, washing daily (though I can see not taking a shower every day if you don’t smell), having clean and soft hair, cuddling with a pillow and sleeping in. Oh, and so much more than that. You certainly learn to appreciate the smallest things out here. Trail magic soda and apples yesterday were an absolute delight despite the rain shower coming down.
Alas, I am going to walk to Hanover, probably in the rain (am going to be pissed if it rain’s on my birthday) and then we’ll start tackling the Whites and hopefully get out of there unscathed.
I’ll stop complaining now.
Patrice: I got your message. I will call you in Hanover.