Day 135: Business as Usual in the Whites

A Foggy Morning

Thick fog blew up the mountain, burying Galehead Hut in wet clouds when I woke this morning, though the forecast called for clearing skies by mid-day. Every seat in the dining hall was taken, mostly with weekenders who were working on bagging New England’s 48 peaks over 4,000 feet.

Breakfast Stories

My table neighbors had only two more peaks to go and were debating whether to do both or just one today. They warned me that the 1,200-foot, 0.8-mile climb out of Galehead Hut would be brutal, but that the rest of my day would be downhill. They misread the look on my face, assuring me I could manage the climb. Actually, I like the climbs. It’s the steep descents that do me in, especially when the rocks are wet.

A middle-aged thru-hiker next to them described how she’d sat down and cried during her hike over the Kinsmans. It had taken everything she had to get off the mountain that day, even with 1,800 AT miles and innumerable climbs behind her. She and her hiking partners had decided to shorten their mileage and stay at every hut in the Whites and get motels at every road crossing.

Even the 20-something thru-hikers are feeling the pain. There’s been a line of them at every hut hoping to get one of the work-for-stay spots where they get to eat leftovers and sleep indoors in exchange for a few hours of cleaning or other chores. Fizz got in too late yesterday to qualify, so he’d moved on after refilling his water supply at the hut’s spigot.

Hiking On

I packed up and left as the Croo started a silly skit about cleaning up our rooms based on the Cinderella story. But I’d already cleaned up my bunk, and I had 14.7 miles, a steep ascent, and two nasty descents ahead of me. I wanted to get going.

A Fallen Warrior

When I picked up my pack, I noticed that the right side of the hip belt had torn away from the frame and was hanging on by just a few stitches. That would render the hip belt pretty much useless and would leave all the pack weight hanging off my shoulders. Not what I wanted for a long day and a heavier than usual pack.

Fortunately, Osprey offers a lifetime warranty on their backpacks, though I’ll need to mail it in before getting a replacement. I’ve heard they’ll make exceptions for thru-hikers, but I’d still need to sit around and wait at least a few days to get a new one. Instead, I’ll just switch to my 70-liter backpack that I use when I’m not slackpacking and work on the replacement when I get home.

An Easy Hard Climb

As expected, the climb up from Galehead Hut to South Twin Mountain was hard, but short, and the fog had lifted making perfect climbing weather. Plus, I caught some nice views from the summit. After that, I saw-toothed down for five miles, touching lower summits on Mount Guyot and Zealand Mountain.

Then came the first of the day’s two big descents. The trail dropped almost 2,000 feet from Zealand Mountain to Zealand Falls, with about 1,400 feet of the descent in an ugly, one-mile segment at the end. No, I didn’t cry or notch at anyone, but my knees and feet were suffering when I sat down on the polished granitic slabs at Zealand Falls for an early lunch.

Can We Do That Again?

I don’t know how the next five miles slipped through the AMC-USFS-ATC trail design process, but it was relatively level and even had a 1.5-mile segment that was downright smooth. ADA smooth. Be still my fainting heart, an easy AT walk in the woods. Who knew such things were possible?

My feet and knees rebelled when we got to the next descent. I had to promise them a massage, ice packs, and extra-strength Advil to get them to not turn around and re-hike the smooth section again.

Home at Last

The last descent wasn’t as punishing as the first, dropping only 1,500 feet over two miles, but the trail conditions were back to the White Mountain standard – steep, rocky, muddy, and water flowing down the middle. Even so, I walked into our meetup spot exhausted.

So tired, in fact, that I refused food at the trail magic in the parking area. Instead, I walked over to the van, peeled off my shoes and socks, and lay on the bench seat while Northstar caught me up on the world and family news.

Fifteen miles is a long day in the Whites.

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Galehead Hut (Mile 1,838.1)
  • End: Crawford Notch (Mile 1,852.8)
  • Weather: Chilly, clear, breezy. Perfect hiking weather.
  • Earworm: Hosanna (I think the beat matches my walking cadence)
  • Meditation: Jn 6:40
  • Plant of the Day: Spruce
  • Best Thing: Two miles of smooth trail
  • Worst Thing: Fatigue

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Comments 10

  • thetentman : Sep 7th

    15 miles is great in the Whites. You rock.


    • Jon : Sep 7th

      Rocking’ the rocks.

  • Scott Layman : Sep 7th

    There’s an earworm blast from the past. But are you sure you don’t mean Rosanna with it’s shuffle. Which sounds easy until you try to play it. Now both are battling for earworm space.

    • Jon : Sep 7th


  • Albert Martin : Sep 7th

    “don’t know how the next five miles slipped through the AMC-USFS-ATC trail design process, but it was relatively level and even had a 1.5-mile segment that was downright smooth. ADA smooth. Be still my fainting heart, an easy AT walk in the woods. Who knew such things were possible?
    It did not “slip through”. You were on a logging railroad right of way build in the 1880’s or thereabout. When you hiked up the Webster Trail to Mt. Jackson, and looked in the direction that you were heading, all you saw were trees. There is somewhere in the White Forest archives a picture taken from Mt. Jackson showing hillside barren of trees and only a “dot” for Mitzpah Hut. Or to say things somewhat different, in the Whites, you are hiking through second or third growth forests. The Whites were “clear-cut”, leaving only the railroad right-of-ways, which are very flat.

    • Jon : Sep 9th

      Thanks for reading!

  • Charlotte : Sep 7th

    Holy moly The Incident! What an adventure in the Whites! I am always inspired by your journey! The descents are definitely my most concerning issue when I tackle the AT in 2025. Hiking/backpacking and cycling I’ve always preferred the uphills to the downhills (hiking kills my knees, and cycling builds too much speed 🤦‍♀️)….congratulations on all you’ve tackled!!! Always inspired by your journey!

    • Jon : Sep 9th

      Thanks, Charlotte!

  • Homeward : Sep 8th

    Sounds like a zero or 2 are in order. Remember why you are there and hike on, my brother! Is. 40:28-31

    • Jon : Sep 9th

      Funny you should that. Just took a week off. Much needed.


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