The morning was filled with coffee, food, and milling about the hostel. It was all very relaxing.
NEMO was due to arrive about noon, being delivered by her husband Pouch (trail name) and their 8-year-old son Rewan. NEMO, Pouch and I all met while thru-hiking the PCT in 2006, and those two fell in love. A trail romance grew into marriage, and I was there to see the whole thing! These three are part of my extended trail family and I love them very much.
They arrived with much fanfare (on my part). Because we were going to originally meet at the trail head, she brought me a full resupply. I didn’t need to carry 5 days of food, but she brought such yummy things that I threw most of it in my pack. I already regret the weight (I probably took much more than 5 days worth…this is the heaviest my pack has been this whole time), but I will be eating well! And I’m with one of my very best friends, so all is good.
Pouch drove us back to the trailhead and soon we were on our way. The going was mild and we took a swim break by a lovely creek and most excellent swimming hole. It rained, it rained hard, but it didn’t really matter, we were already wet with sweat.
Oh boy, NEMO is getting a taste of it right from the go. There was climbing, stairs, steps blasted into the rock, and wooden steps bolted to the rock. Straight up was the name of the game for the afternoon, but the sun came out and entertained us with its light play on the mossy green that carpeted everything around us.
We made camp in one of the last AMC fee campgrounds on a tent platform and I did my best to make a dent in all the food.
Today would be the Francinoa Ridge walk, another highlight of the White Mountains. It included summiting the imposing peak of Mt Lafayette and miles of alpine ridge walking.
I got an early start. On these town days it’s my MO to push hard and fast…why? Because I can. It’s fun to find your style (or styles) of hiking out here. When you are solo you can do exactly what you want 😉
Maine has prepared me well for New Hampshire. I feel good and strong. I can hike anything!
It looked like I would have views for the ridge when I popped up on top of Mt Garfield, but by the time I got up Lafayette the clouds had moved in. I had great views of a mist that shrouded the landscape, but no matter, it was cool and refreshing in what had been some hot weather lately.
I took a short break on top and started moving before I got too chilled. The tourists were coming! Today was a Saturday and as I started walking I encountered a steady stream of day hikers smelling fresh.
I threaded my way between them as I descended from the cloud, and even though I was hiking fast and hard, it still took me 6 hours to cover the 10 miles. Whew.
I had to walk an extra mile to get to the Flume Visitors Center where there was a food court (!!!) and while I was there I texted the hostel. They came to pick me up before I even had time to finish stuffing my face with pizza, and a few miles later I was in North Woodstock getting the tour of the Ski Club lodge that opened their doors to hikers this year.
It’s a fantastic place, and once there I found Gormet! She had decided to zero here, so I was able to catch up on all that had happened since I last saw her.
It rained hard, and I could see lightening flashing from behind my closed eyes. I stayed dry though and no rain splashed in my tent this time.
The morning was dry (well, nothing is ever dry out here, there is a persasive dampness to everything, myself included), and the walking was flat. That’s right! Not a typo! The first five miles of the day were FLAT!
On top of that the trail was lined with berries. It seemed like no one was eating these beauties because there were so many, so, I did my part and grazed my way through first snack. Later I found out everyone had been eating their way down the trail….that’s how many berries there were in that section!
I arrived at Zealand Falls Hut to find some of the sobos I knew and a few I didn’t. More arrived as I basked in the rare ray of sunshine in the misty and cloudy day. The weather over the presidential traverse had bunched us up…there were about 20 sobos within a day of each other…we are the bubble!
The hut had gingerbread out for sale – gingerbread is one of my favorites so I had two giant pieces with some coffee. I’m loving these hut snacks!!!! The waterfalls were pretty cool too, another feature I know Kirk would love. I keep thinking that I need to bring him out here so we can paddle, ski, hike, and adventure in these places together. I think he would love it. Kirk has gone full kayak bro this summer since I’ve been hiking. He’s been kayaking 2-3 times a day some days! We live close to the whitewater play park in Bend and he’s gone back to his first love: play boating, and has even enticed our friend Tosch into the sport (Tosch makes the phanny pack I’m wearing on the trail…check out his company, Free Range Equipment). Play boating is when you paddle in a standing wave and then do tricks, spins, cartwheels, flips…it’s the freestyle fun of kayaking. Kirk is immersing himself in the river while I’m immersing myself in the trail….😁
I walk through the day, through some clouds and around the rumble of thunder, but nothing falls from the sky. Bits of views pop up here and there, it’s a pretty nice day of walking.
I put on a new podcast, Off Trail, and choose an episode with Cookie Monster, a hiker I met on the CDT, and now owns the coffee company Triple Crown Coffee. Give it a listen, he is a kindred spirit and I love how he explains his passion for coffee, hiking, adventure, and life.
I wasn’t sure how far I would hike today, but with the easy walking this morning I found the miles adding up. When I got to Garfield Ridge Campsite I did the math and saw I was only 10 miles from the next road and where I was due to meet NEMO the day after tomorrow. Hmmm. After hearing from some other hikers about the hostels they were going to stay at when they reached the road, I decided I would go too. I could have about 24 hours to rest up before NEMO got here, and then would be ready to immerse myself in the woods for a week with her. I called the new hostel that had been getting rave reviews in North Woodstock and made a reservation. I’m excited!
When I packed up and headed out of the campground I saw both Fat Chill and Anna (now with the trail name Moose Boots). Let’s hear it again for all the solo ladies!
The hike from Mizpah Hut to Crawford Notch and the next highway was at times as steep as they come, but also frustrating. There was more overgrown trail pulling at my hair, and I lost the trail twice, walking out small side trails till I realized my error and backtracked. Come on AMC! Use some of our money to brush and adequately mark this trail please! I ran into a nobo hiker that was confused and wondering if he was on trail too, so it’s not just me.
There were views though. Weather would be moving in this afternoon, but for now the views were intact and the mountains most impressive.
I was down at the highway by mid morning and still determined to take a shower. The day was hot and humid, so I knew any refreshment I would get from my bathing would be short lived, but I didn’t care. I needed to knock some of the funk off.
It took a while, but finally a car pulled over and I met Maggie, or Risky Momma. This amazing woman had just walked from her home in Portland, Maine to Chicago! She kept to roads and carried her stuff in a baby stroller, thus the “risky momma” moniker. A fellow adventurer! The ride was short to the state campground that had showers and laundry, but we exchanged Instagram handles (@margaretacrossamerica if you want to follow her too).
I walked into the campground didn’t see a person; made my over to the shower building and saw I needed quarters and soap. I didn’t have either and since I didn’t see any staff, walked around looking for campers. I met a girl and her dad from DC that took interest in my plight and they gave me some body wash. Then I met a man and his wife from Cape Cod who were also curious and he gave me a small bar of soap and changed a few dollars into quarters for me. Since I didn’t have any laundry soap I decided to take a hobo bath, or a shower with all my clothes on. Before I went in, the campground attendant Matt came around and we had a good chat. He even offered to give me a ride after I was done.
I got 10 minutes for my quarters and washed myself and my clothes multiple times. I had enough quarters left over to then stick everything in the dryer. While I waited I finished the Neil Gaiman book I had been reading and charged up my devices.
Ok, cleaned up! Next on my list was lunch. The AMC Highland Center, a few miles the other direction from the trail, offers thru-hikers a $6 soup, bread, and beer combo, so I had Matt drop me off there where I cashed in on the deal and hopped on wifi for a bit.
I bought a few more things in their store including some new socks. Somehow one of my pairs had gone missing this week and I found a nice colorful pair to take their place.
Then I tried hitching to get back to the trail. My thumb was out for a while, then my tyvek sign I had made, but no luck. Finally I saw a woman walking up to her truck and offered her money to take me the three miles I needed to go. I was practically in her car before she said yes 😏. Sometimes you have to help these things along. She lived in the area and was very pleasent….and would not take my money when I put it in her center consol.
I guess it was time to hike. I kept my sandals on…I knew I had a climb, but was pleasantly surprised to find it gentle and well graded. Nice! And then I had a great flat section of boardwalks that brought me to my day’s destination at Ethan Pond. It was early, I had plenty of daylight to go further, but I really didn’t need to. This would do.
I’m glad I made it in when I did. The campsite was busy with lots of thru-hikers, summer campers, and an REI backpacking group. I was able to set up on dirt on an overflow camping spot, my choice, so I could ride out the storm without the splash backs into my tent I experienced last time it rained when I was set up on a tent platform, and the other time when I had to bail on the shelter when it got too full.
And rain it did tonight! The lightning was bright and thunder echoed in the mountains around us. What a show! But I stayed dry and fell asleep somehow while it continued into the night.
I’ve been on a trail a month today, having climbing Katadhin on July 3 and now here I am ready to climb Mt Washington on August 3. I can’t plan these things, they just are, and are beautiful.
It was a cozy night in my bunk, and at one point I woke in the night to go to the bathroom and looked out the window to see the clouds had cleared, and the big dipper perfectly framed in the window. It would be a good day.
Breakfast was oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and cornbread, and soon after eating I was huffing my way along the presidential traverse. The views were incredible…the storm had cleared all haze from the sky and I could see we were surrounded by mountains in all directions. It was a stunning day.
I felt strong and fast. It was a proper She-ra day. I reveled moving my body through space and time. This place is spectacular. Words just cant…
I pass hiker after hiker, practically floating up to 6,288′ and the summit of Mt Washington. Three trains passed me as I approached the mountain top, passengers close enough to wave at me (yes there is a train and a road people can take up to the top….I know!)
And then, people. I topped out and was overwhelmed with hundreds of tourists milling about. I made a beeline for the bathrooms and cafe. The food selection wasn’t bad and I quickly ate a piece of cheese pizza and hot dog before deciding to do a small but expensive resupply here. I just needed a few days of food to make it to my rendezvous with NEMO soon.
I saw lots of other hikers in the crowd, you can spot their ragged, tan, and dirty legs in the mix of fresh faces and white t-shirts. We also walk around with a shell-shocked look to us.
I was approached by some folks who saw me hiking up from the train, and chatted with them for a few minutes, but in general didn’t engage the crowd. I dumped my trash (you have to take advantage of every trash can you can!) and made my way outside again. The line to get your photo taken with the Mt Washington summit sign was ridiculous, so I snapped a few selfies with other parts of the summit and carried on.
The trail down to Lake of the Clouds Hut was glorious, and filled with people too. No matter, this day was probably the most view-worthy day of them all, and I was entranced.
I might even go so far as to say it was a fairy tale hiking day. If you are thru-hiking, please do yourself a favor and time your traverse right. Camp high, stay high, don’t rush it, and wait for good weather. As Model said later in the day (she passed me at the end of the afternoon), “Is this what the PCT is like all the time? Easy hiking with all these views?”
“Yes,” I replied. I had been thinking the same thing. “Yes, all the time.”
No offense AT, the presidential traverse is a small taste of what the west has, but this is a special treat because you don’t have it all the time.
But the other big difference is the people. So many people. That is the compromise.
And I walked.
This was an afternoon that called for Radiohead, that heady floaty music would see me through rest of the day.
When I saw Model, I realized that I’ve met a lot of sobo solo ladies out here: Gormet, Model, Fat Chill, Anna, Teri Beri… I love it! And my girl Carrie (Anonymous) is still hiking north, now solo as Mr Pencil is motoring up to finish the trail, and she is soaking in some solo hiking time too.
It gets hot. I feel parched by the sun. Roasted even. I take out my pagna and tent it over me for shade while I break, and drape it across my shoulders when I hike again to save my already sun-scorched skin.
A few miles from camp I meet Mary and Mitch from Wisconsin. They had driven out to hike for a few days and were next headed to Acadia National Park on the Maine coast. There they would gaze at the sea and drink wine. That image was so overwhelming that I found myself yearning for the same thing: to sit and watch the waves for a while, wine glass in hand. But I was here, having the most fabulous day. That possibility will be here soon enough. Kirk and I are pretty good at doing that very thing on the Oregon coast.
Someone mentions cheese, and we go into the talk of cheese curds in Wisconsin. Mitch was from Stevens Point (my birthplace!) and we all proceeded to talk about school trips to the cheese factory…cheese really is a major part of the culture).
Ok, the day is getting long and I’m getting tired. I twisted my ankles several times today, each time quickly walking it off, but the trail is getting rockier and steeper and I need to pay attention so I don’t seriously hurt myself.
And then I get to camp on the side of Mizpah Hut with many, many other hikers.
By the time I lay down for bed I felt disgusting. It had been a week since my last shower and laundry and I felt positively sticky. I would be getting to a road tomorrow, and even though I didn’t need food anymore, I started to fantasize about washing my hair. Maybe….just maybe…
The morning came quickly and I was a good little hiker and made coffee and ate breakfast in the cook area.
If the weather was supposed to move in about 11, I wanted to give myself enough time to get up and to the hut by then. As I mentioned before, most of the next few days I’ll stay above treeline and there are few to no places to hide from a storm.
The climb was steep and sweaty through the trees, but when I popped out I could see everything: where I had to go, the notch where Madison Springs Hut was where I would be staying tonight, and even Mt Washington, where I would be tomorrow. The clouds were amassing, but I had time.
What fun! The boulders that so many nobos complained about descending were a lot of fun to climb, and they were all tucked into patches of blueberries. Occasionally I would lean over to pop a ripe one in my mouth. I love this type of hiking!!! (Let’s add a few more for good measure!!!!)
I am so excited to be up here in good weather. Some would say this is the pinnacle of the AT, some would say this is a frustratingly hard part of the AT; because I’m not trying to push miles I say it’s an awe-inspiring privilege to hike through the Whites. I love to hike uphill, I have my hiking legs now, and I keep thinking about Smog slumbering somewhere below in the mountains. This place could just be magical.
I take my time on the hike to Mt Madison, enjoying the day and the hike. After a few long breaks I can see the clouds building over Mt Washington and decide its time to head in. Each of the huts welcomes any hikers who pass by to stop, hang out, buy a cup of coffee, baked good, or cup of soup. I do all three today.
I cannot explain the exquisite luxury of laying in my bunk in the middle of the day, snug, dry, comfortable, and watching the storm move in… popping peanut m&ms while reading my new book, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Pure bliss. Knowing there is a hot meal (make that two hot meals!) coming my way and that I can just frolic outside and be in the middle of the presidential traverse makes me feel like the richest lady on earth. Now this is platinum blazing, and it’s worth every penny.
I start chatting with the woman in the bunk across from me, and you will never believe the connections, or maybe you will.
Leslie and her family are from from Ashland, Oregon. She worked a long time for Outward Bound and I know some of her good friends in Bend. She also teaches at Southern Oregon University and knows the young lady from the Fort McDermitt Shoshone Tribe that I was working with for an ONDA trip in June. (That was a very impactful volunteer trip I led to the site of a potential lithium mine that would impact the Tribe, sagegrouse, lathontan cutthroat trout, the rancher who grazes in that area, and many other plants, animals and people who live there. It’s also near the Oregon Desert Trail. Read this for more on that issue).
So yes, my circles of life overlap out here. Maybe not so surprising after all, but it reminds me that I’m where I should be, doing what I should be doing, and making connections all the while.
I spent the rest of the afternoon making a big dent in my book, working on a puzzle, and talking with other hut guests (there are about 50 of us!)
Dinner was a ruckus affair, the menu was enchiladas, complete with bread, salad, green beans, rice, and chocolate cake for desert.
I woke from my nest in the trees and made quick order of my morning chores. I had a breakfast to get to! I knew better than to hike on an empty stomach, and quickly poured a smashed pop tart down the gullet. And I’m glad I did. The first 0.7 miles took a loooong time. I was still descending Wildcat and it was slow going.
The sound of traffic egged me on, but the hiking was not quick. When I got to level ground I still had a mile to go, and the mile was choked with roots and rocks, so it slowed my roll.
I got to the visitors center just after 8am, and found a bathroom to clean up in…and put on a dry sports bra and shirt….that feels so much better! Up to the cafe where I find there is no breakfast, maybe because it is a Monday morning. They only made enough for the overnight guests, but offered that I could still pay the $13 and eat what was left. When I looked over the very slim pickings, I didn’t even see $5 worth of food. Fortunately their deli opened at 9:30 so I’d only have to wait an hour for real food.
I purchased some expensive snacks from the gift shop and went outside to hang out on a picnic table, eating a chocolate bar to curb the beast.
Lots and lots of shiny and clean day hikers milled about. I could smell their soaps and deodorant on the breeze….ahh tourists.
At 9:30 I head back in to find they haven’t finished unloading their bread delivery so it will be another hour till I can eat. Sigh. I only have 5 more miles to hike today and planned on hanging out here for a long time, so resign myself to being hungry for a while longer.
I head into the dining room and post up next to some other hikers and charge my electronics. Crazy Eyes and Aces were nobos, both from the Midwest. We had a good chat and when I mentioned my name, Crazy Eyes knew me! He had listened to several podcasts that I had been on over the years. Very cool, and I may have another Oregon Desert Trail hiker on my hands after I explained what I do in real life. He was finishing up his triple crown and it sounded like a route would be a good next step for him. Nice!
After lunch I had had enough of the front country, so put my pack on and waddled away from the people, electricity, and good smelling soaps. I had a very full belly after the deli finally opened and I ate and ate and ate.
I was looking for an easy-breezy afternoon, so to put me into the mood, hit play on a yacht rock playlist I had just downloaded.
The walking was most excellent and mild. There was a bit of climbing and just after I crossed the road to the summit of Mt. Washington heard some movement off to my left. I saw a hairy something! I gave a shout and looked again, not a bear, but a moose! My first moose! Then I hid and backtracked because you don’t want to anger a moose, they can be mean and definitely can be more dangerous to encounter than a bear. I tried to keep some trees between its line of sight and me, and finally it moved on and I skidaddled down the trail.
At the next stream I stopped for a break. I had tons of time to make my destination, so started reading another new book I had downloaded from the library at home.
Soon I was joined by a nobo, Warehouse, for a bit. He was a sweet kid from Texas and in a short time we got pretty deep into it….trail philosophy if you will.
Then onward. I arrived at Osgood Campground about 3pm, and had the rest of the afternoon to set up and do some more reading. I would only have 3 miles to hike tomorrow to the next hut where I would wait out the storm and pretend I was a good-smelling tourist, but those 3 miles were straight up, and it sounded like a brutally steep climb. Definitely a mile-an-hour type of trail.
I was all alone until just before dark when a bunch of people arrived, just having come down from the presidential traverse. A group of girls squeezed themselves onto my tent platform, as I tried to sleep.
The wind didn’t stop all night and in the morning we woke a bit shell-shocked, yet rested.
I made coffee and ate breakfast in the kitchen area then packed up. Gormet had a big day and I wasn’t sure I would see her again…she was going to try and beat the storm over Mt Washington and I was going to wait for it to pass. I’m sad I might not see her again, but that is the way of the trail. The good news is that I hear Hero is only a day behind, so if I slow down maybe I’ll see him again!
And these are the days of trail life.
While I was snug in my sleeping bag I booked myself a bunk at Madison Springs Hut in a few days to avoid the storm (4g here!). It was a spendy thing to do, but if I paid to stay at the hut I could climb up to treeline before the storm, have shelter during the storm, enjoy a few hot meals, and then continue on to Mt Washington already having climbed up above treeline when the weather cleared. It was a decadent thing to do, but as I’m in my last month of vacation, decided to splurge.
We are hiking over the Carter Range today, and there are multiple peaks over 4,000′. Fortunately most of the climbing is behind us, so we only have the short steeps (by short I still mean 1,000′).
But there was some nice walking today, and even though the climbs did get a little Maineish, the morning was quite enjoyable.
The sun was out too. And I basked in the rays after the cold and windy day yesterday. Contrasts are needed to feel the full appreciation of a thing.
I did see Gormet again at a climb and snack break, but then she motored on and I slowed down. I don’t want to get to camp too early, but the effect of slowing down makes the miles go slower, and it starts to feel hard to make progress…my feet in molasses.
But then I come to Carter Hut, my first hut! I remember this place from 2002. We all went swimming here. We did a lot of swimming back then.
I walk into hut hoping for soup and find that they have free leftovers out from breakfast! I eat two plates of pancakes and eggs and no longer have room for soup. I hope most of the huts are like this.
I push my way through the rest of the thick, slow afternoon, but have small glimmers: chatting with Freebird, a 2018 thru-hiker who lives near by and yearns to thru-hike again; seeing Anna, a sobo hiker who is hiking this section in reverse to spend another night in Gorham, she too is slowing down for the weather, so it sounds like I will see her again; and snacking at a fabulous view back to where I came today even with a perspective of the hut below.
I find a little spot I can tuck myself into on the descent from Wildcat Mountain, and I definitely remember this beast. Very steep and exposed slabs of rock tower over the busy Pinkham Notch and road that passes through. I’ll be there tomorrow morning and the goal is an all you can eat breakfast in the lodge. With all this extra food maybe I can do the Whites without an official resupply. That would be nice.
Those strawberries I packed in barely made it through the night. No matter. I’ll eat them all this morning in my granola.
I’m STOKED for all the good food I packed out. Heavy food, but food I want to eat: sugar snap peas, bagged salad (dinner last night), an apple, 2 oranges, garden cream cheese and deli turkey for the first couple of days (or until it fails the smell test), nuts, apple sauce packets. That food bag must be crazy heavy you are thinking…yep, it is, but I don’t care…at least I won’t care till I start going up one of those steep New Hampshire ups. Most of this will need to be eaten quickly anyway.
I took my time this morning and made it down to the main shelter about 8:30 to find Gormet having a second breakfast. Excellent! We catch up for a while and I put on a second pair of socks. I ended up getting a men’s pair of shoes because I needed the width, but my feet are sliding in them some. Today’s hike will be the real test.
The next mile or so of trail is gentle and then goes up, but the rocks are well spaced, at no point do I have to put a hand down or dig deep to make a 3′ step up. I like it!
As I climbed up the sky seemed to get gray under the tree cover. It was windier the higher I got, and when I topped out for the view I could see a dark, fast-moving grey cloud was sitting on top of Mt. Moriah.
I stopped to put on my long sleeve shirt and continued on to try and find a protected spot for lunch. Nope, everything was windy and I got chilled as I tried to eat some of my heaviest food. Gormet came up and left….too cold and windy. I reluctantly packed up and picked my way down the trail slowly.
I had tons of time today. The White Mountains are closely managed by the AMC, or Appalachian Mountain Club. There were specific places to camp, and places we definitely couldn’t camp, especially above tree line. The campsites and huts have caretakers, and the sites cost money, which doesn’t make some of the thru-hikers happy. The miles and space between sites in this section means my best option is to have a short day. I’ll pay $10 to camp at Imp Campsite today, and then I’ll get the thru-hiker card that lets me stay at other sites for 50% off, and gives me a ticket to baked goods and lunchtime soup at the huts. I will pass my first hut tomorrow, so it makes sense for me to pay to play since it will mean more goodies for me soon.
I also checked weather while on high….it’s not looking good for Tuesday when I had planned to climb Mt Washington which has some of the worst weather in the world (or country?? One of those). Storms on forecasted for Tuesday afternoon, so now I have to decide if I’ll push hard to get over it before the storm, or slow down and go after. Mt Washington is surrounded by miles and miles and miles of trail above treeline, so I need to plan carefully. Most thru-hikers say 10 miles a day is reasonable…very few people can make the miles they were doing before the Whites for the shear effort needed to hike the trails.
I get to camp in the early afternoon, pay my $$ and find Gormet. You have to use wooden tent platforms here, and they make you share them since there are so many people that backpack in the Whites. I set my tent up next to hers, both of them have rocks and guide lines going all over the place to keep things in place in the increasingly gusty wind.
The rest of the afternoon I rework my itinerary, read, and nap a little.
Dinner is in the group kitchen (no eating in your tents) and then it’s back to the tent.
This is a wonderful bed…I forget what it’s like to be able to take up more than the width of my narrow one-person tent.
This morning is for business, and I get down to it.
Where am I going?
How many miles?
How many days of food?
Where will NEMO meet me in a week?
How much food should she bring?
And then because I’m entering one of the most special, regulated, and populated sections of the trail – The White Mountains – there are additional questions like:
Will I be able to get some food at the huts
Will I need to hitch for resupply?
Will I be able to get work for stay (and meals) at one of the huts?
Am I prepared if I get to Mt. Washington and the weather says, “Not today hiker”?
I make charts and graphs, lists and more lists. These are a lot of logistics and I reference both the Far Out app and the paper AT Guide.
Then there are chores: get small change for those $2 bowls of soup the huts provide for the hikers, mail some unneeded items home at the post office, buy new shoes, and drop off some extra stuff for the hiker box at the hostel.
When I get to the hardware/gear store I find only Merrill shoes. That’s ok, I wore Merrills on the Blue Mountains Trail, and even though I developed planter fasciitis in those shoes, I have new orthotics now. Ha! I tried to get my same Oboz when I was back in Monson, but they are out of stock across the country. I need some grippy soles now for the White Mountains I will start climbing tomorrow.
On my way back from the hostel I see Gormet in the park. We catch up and it sounds like we are both aiming for the same campsite tomorrow night. I’m surprised Late Start hasn’t arrived…he shouldn’t be that far behind us.
Hikers are everywhere in town and I don’t know any of them.
Then back to the hotel: pack bag, check out, hitch up to Walmart to finish my resupply. A kindly old woman named Marge picks me up; she gives lots of hikers rides she says. I love it.
As I’m perusing the athletic wear looking for a new shirt (that light green tank top I found in a hiker box shows all the dirt; I like to be a bit more incognito in my filth) and I spot the one. Remember the song I put on yesterday morning to go to town?
I like to listen to those synchroniticities (that has got to be spelled wrong) when I notice them.
Then I hitch out of town and Julie, a bike tour leader from Vermot picks me up. She is on her way to Maine to lead a multi-day trip and knows about the AT, her roomate hiked it.
Immediately I develop a case of town belly. Too much, too rich, too frequent: all my food choices gurgle around as I walk. Good thing my intended camp is less than two miles. I want to lay down.
As usual I hike out with what seems like way more than enough food until my next potential resupply run at Crawford Notch, but if I play my thru-hiker cards right (baked goods and lunch time “bottomless” bowls of soup at the huts for cheap, and cafes at Pinkham Notch and at the summit of Mt. Washington) I might be able to make it last longer…which would be helpful! But we’ll see, effort is usually hungry, and my potential for extreme effort expenditures this week is great.
I am in love with the Appalachian Trail again. The walking is easy breezy, and I’ve been reminded that this trail is more than my experience….this is a protected corridor of nature being squeezed on all sides by humans and their cities. It’s an incredible feat that this path through the woods is as immersive and rugged as it is. And the Whites! The first mountain I will climb tomorrow is Mt. Moriah. The comment by brettcolman99 in the app puts it into context:
If I think of the AT like the epic landscapes in Lord of the Rings (that will be easy in the White Mountains), the trip takes on a different tone.
After I make my short jaunt to camp, I set up just my screen tent and lay back listening to the forest, then started a new book that Zen Quake had recommended: Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald.
The intro is 🔥
“What science does is what I would like more literature to do too: show us that we are living in an exquisitely complicated world that is not all about us. It does not belong to us alone. It never has done.
These are terrible times for the environment. Now more than ever before, we need to look long and hard at how we view and interact with the natural world. We’re living through the world’s sixth great extinction, one caused by us. The landscapes around us grow emptier and quieter each passing year. We need hard science to establish the rate and scale of these declines, to work out why it is occurring and what mitigation strategies can be brought into play. But we need literature, too; we need to communicate what the losses mean…
We need to communicate the value of things, so that more of us might fight to save them.”
Wow. I sit with that and am filled with the knowing that in addition to science and literature, I seek to do that through thru-hiking; to help people spend extended time in nature, see the value of things, and fight to save them.
That is the Oregon Desert Trail. That is what I would love to see for all trails. The context. The purpose. The action.
I listen to an absolutely lovely song, My Friend the Forest, as I watch the leaf shadows play against the screen on my tent. The barrier between me and this place is thin, or maybe that is just an illusion. There are no barriers. I belong here as much as that fern or that chipmunk. The afternoon slowly holds me in a softness I didn’t know I needed.
(Don’t you love it when I have time to think and write?…long blog posts 😁)