And then there were two …
Having just made it to New Hampshire, there are now only two states remaining. Unfortunately, they are arguably the hardest two states as it pertains to terrain and the effort required. I hope the 1,800 miles that I now have on my legs has adequately prepared me for what lies ahead or at least will minimize the suffering to come.
At a recent town visit I frequented a Chinese restaurant to refuel. At the conclusion of my meal I reached for my fortune cookie to see what was to be my fate. It read, “it’s time to complete some unfinished business.” How true! There have been many ups and downs over the past four months (both literally and figuratively), but I am finally at a point where I can see, in the distance, an end to this journey. I know I still have a lot of miles before me and with every step, there is risk of injury, so I remain focused, but it’s difficult not to occasionally think about the possibility of completing this quest.
We have been blessed with good weather for quite some time. The cold winter and spring has turned balmy – at times even hot, but it’s been lovely to not be cold at night. With the warmer weather, however, comes bugs. We have been surrounded by gnats, mosquitoes, and flies, especially since entering Vermont. We got some rain which also brought colder temperatures and some relief from the swarming insects, but they come right back once the weather turns nice again. I guess I’d rather contend with the bugs than have miserable weather – can’t have everything. As we entered New Hampshirite, the cold, wet weather has returned making what was already a challenge, downright scary.
Since my last update, my brother (Skip) joined Dash and me for a couple of days of hiking. We parked his car at a motel in Great Barrington, MA where he would end his hike and then took a shuttle back to Salisbury, CT where we had last come off the AT. The terrain was generally rolling but there were a couple of moderate climbs and tricky descents that tested Skip’s resolve but I’m happy to say he did great. The one night we spent in the woods was at a campsite that had had a bear encounter the previous night. I didn’t let Skip know about that until the next day, but I did suggest he sleep with his trekking pole nearby just in case.
When we reached Great Barrington, we were 4.5 miles from town – and Skip’s car. We tried Uber, shuttles and hitching to no avail. Ultimately, I had to jog the 4.5 miles and pick up the car and come back for Dash and Skip. Note: catching rides in Vermont has been far easier!
We said goodbye to Skip, coincidentally on my birthday. As a present, he gave me a crème brûlée Mountain House meal so I could celebrate “in style” while camping in the woods. After struggling to open the package, I spilled some of the crème brûlée powder on my pants. Great – now I smell like crème brûlée! While I am not a big fan of the freeze dried meals, I have to admit – it tasted pretty good and, as a bonus, I smelled lovely. That night a bear entered the camp, probably looking for dessert. I’m happy to say she stayed about 30-40 feet away from my tent before climbing back into the woods.
We spent a hot and sunny Memorial Day passing through small towns in Massachusetts. As we walked down the sidewalk a gentlemen called out and invited us into his yard for a cold beverage. While not as good as a barbecue back home with family and loved ones, it’s encouraging to experience the generosity of a stranger who loves his country and took pity on a thirsty hiker.
A few nights later Dash and I had made our way into Vermont – It is always a great feeling to check off another state. While we had stopped at a shelter for the evening we decided to sleep in our tents to help keep the bugs at bay. As the weather was clear and rain unlikely, we pitched our tents without attaching the rain fly. This gives you a great view of the night sky and good ventilation. At some point in the wee hours of the morning I was awakened to an unfamiliar sound. Soft footsteps were approaching my tent and then, as if they sensed my movement, stopped. I laid there wondering if I had imagined it. Then another step just outside my tent. I reached for my head lamp, sat up and shined the light in the direction of the noise. A large cat immediately darted off into the woods. I only got a good look at its backside and tail as it disappeared into the night. I thought it was a bobcat but apparently it might have been a catamount. Either way, I don’t like being stalked in my sleep.
As Dash and I approached the New Hampshire state line, my wife (Lori) and daughter (Katy) popped up for a quick visit and resupply. I think Katy was concerned I’m losing too much weight and the nurse in her wanted to look me over and make sure I could finish the hike. It was great to spend the time together. We stayed in hotels, ate good food, and Dash and I were able to slack pack a few miles to help us get ready for the White Mountains ahead. With any luck, and some good weather, we will be approaching Katahdin in a month! It was tough saying goodbye to the girls, but I know I’ll be seeing them soon. Thanks for making the effort to brighten my day. I love you both!
As we are just now getting into the more challenging climbs (and descents), I can honestly say that if I knew before I started how challenging and dangerous these descents would get, I’m not sure I would have even started. After four months of hiking, you just look in disbelief at what lies ahead and say – “Only on the AT.”
The miles will be coming more slowly now as every footstep must be carefully placed. Instead of looking two or three days ahead, I’m focused solely on the present day and current climb. As we enter the Whites, the weather looks like it will be cool and wet for the foreseeable future. Not a great combination as we pick our way up and down the mountains, but at least it should keep Canada’s wildfire smoke at bay.
Meditation – Philippians 4:12–13
I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.
Thanks for all your prayers up to this point. I ask for continued blessings and protection from weather and bodily injury. I have felt energized knowing how many people have been lifting me up. I consider myself blessed!
- Entered the penultimate state, NH
- Survived recent encounters with bears, cats, and porcupines
- Passed 1,800 mile marker
- Finished GA, NC, TN, VA, WV, MD, PA, NJ, NY, CT, MA and VT
- Fall count, unfortunately, climbed to 11. The descent down Mount Moosilauke accounted for two of the recent additions.
Never Been Closer,
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