Big Mountains Ahead

I’ve arrived in Hanover, NH, and I feel like I’m staring at a massively ominous storm cloud heading my way: the notorious White Mountains are just around the corner. I’m nervous in a way I haven’t been for a while, because the trail is about to radically change its character. It will be shockingly beautiful, yes, as well as rigorous beyond anything we’ve known so far–and a bit more dangerous too. The challenges we’re about to face are outside the scope of the thru-hiker’s toolbox we’ve been assembling for the last 1800 miles, the repertoire of problems we’ve learnt to deal with up to now. Extreme quick-changing weather, sheer and drawn-out changes in elevation, long stretches above the protection of tree-line, among other things. It’ll be a blast, of course. New is always exciting. And within a few days, this latest stage of the hike will feel familiar as well. We’ll get used to the Whites, too, in time.

In hindsight, the different sections of the trail have always ended up seeming like a series of shorter trips. I don’t really consider the present moment as the end of a long stretch of time starting in the brown and grey leafless landscapes of Georgia and North Carolina. I remember them fine–despite that, or perhaps because, I haven’t taken any pictures, I have very clear images in my head from those days–but so much has happened in between that they could have been on another hike altogether. So I’m about to embark on a new section that’ll test me and awe me in new ways; I can expect, perhaps, higher highs and lower lows. And the rolling hills, the frequent access to towns, the other attributes of the last few hundred miles, all that will soon seem like a whole other adventure of another time.

I’m missing all the friends that I’ve made on the hike who are now an unknown distance behind me. I hope I see you all again soon!

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