New York to Almost Maine: This is Hard But I Love It
From taking a zero at my parents’ house, getting back on trail was hard and easy at the same time. I was clean, as was all my gear, but starting after the first few miles from the Appalachian market all the way to central Connecticut, the heat did me in. I woke up nauseous every day, hiked lethargically, and went to sleep nauseous.
After hiking to RPH shelter, I met back up with the rest of the gang, and we hiked to Pawling, NY, where we’d heard that the Natural Landscapes Garden Center allowed hikers to tent. Well, they do, but the tent sites are between a highway and the train tracks, and the train runs every 20 minutes most times. To top it all off, a car pulled off the highway right next to our tents late at night with its brights on and just hung out there for a good 15 minutes. Yikes.
From CT, entering Massachusetts was amazing– the forest just kept getting more beautiful, and we met a new really fun bubble of people (Hot Pants, Ox, Kiwi, Cliffhanger etc). Massachusetts is also where Beast is from, so her running club and her husband Twigs arranged awesome trail magic on our day to Upper Goose Pond.
They grilled up burgers, hot dogs, had sodas and cookies, fruit and everything else imaginable. It was awesome to finally meet Beast’s friends and family I’d heard so much about. From the trail magic, Twigs offered to slackpack us, since we were going to hike to UGP and then hike out to dinner later that night anyway. I flew the remaining 7 miles, trail running it in a little over an hour. The rest of the day and the next day were also awesome (more slack packing), although the weather turned rainy and muddy, and my body and shoes took a beating.
That was pretty much the theme for the rest of Massachusetts and most of Vermont: it rained for five days straight, and apparently that June had been the rainiest one in the last 150 years in Vermont, so very quickly I gave up on having dry feet, as the trail resembled a river or an ankle deep mud pit, and my shoes and socks filled with mud.
I rinsed the insides of my shoes and my socks off in the icy cold streams at lunch and dinner time to prevent the dirt from sand-papering off the skin of my feet, which was already swampy from being wet 12 hours a day.
The last day of the rain was the worst. The steady drizzle turned into a torrential down pour a couple miles out from my intended shelter as a thunderstorm rolled in. The trail was shin deep water, and at one point this overwhelming taste of metal flooded my nose and mouth, and I jumped out of the puddle trail I was standing in and ran up onto the moss to insulate myself as a bolt of lightning struck down twenty feet away on the adjoining pond.
When I arrived at the shelter, the rain had stopped, but the shelter was full of people (a boy scout troop, some weekenders) who were not intending to stay there. I was sopping wet and still shaken from the lightning, but no one moved to make me space out of the wet. After about half an hour of this I started getting really frustrated, because I was tired and wanted to get set up.
After asking repeatedly and physically starting to move their packs to the side, the boy scouts finally cleared out and made just enough space to put my sleeping pad down. A group of weekenders were already there, spread out in the shelter, and seemed really annoyed about having to make space for me, and at this point Click Clack and Six Strings. The shelter is meant for 8 people, yet somehow the weekenders didn’t manage to consolidate enough to let Beast sleep in the shelter. It was a really frustrating experience, punctuated by those hikers general rudeness and inconsideration for the fact that we were sopping wet and exhausted.
From there, we aimed to make it to Killington Peak for Fourth of July, meaning I had to book it 27 miles, since I fell behind by about 4 miles. I got up at 5 am and ended up beating everyone there by arriving at 2:45pm at the shelter on top of the mountain and setting up my tent. I only rubbed it in a little. We all climbed up to the peak when it was getting dark, and saw over 20 different fireworks shows at a time in the distance. It was probably the most spectacular Fourth of July experience I’ve ever had.
The next day we near-oed down to Killington and the Inn at the Long Trail, which was a great stay. Six Strings opted to go to the Yellow Deli hostel, which looked really nice, if a little cult-ish, and ended up zeroing the next day when we hiked out. Oh, and Wrecker (who we had re-found along with Mouse a few days before) and I split a Vermonster, which is a 20 scoop ice cream sundae with ALL the fixings. That was a fun if slightly painful experience.
From there, it was just a hop, skip and a jump to Hanover, and the New Hampshire Border. In Hanover, we were incredibly lucky to stay with the Trail Angel Betsy and her husband (ShortNSweet and Tree Beard) for two nights. I picked almost a liter of chanterelles on the day we were going to Hanover, and Betsy was glad to add them to the frittata she made for dinner. Hanover was a great zero place, and a good rest before getting to the White Mountains. I also ran into Maggie and her husband for the second time (Honey Badger and Hare), which was a fun encounter.
Hanover to Glencliff was a fairly easy hike. We hiked to the top of Smarts Mountain in yet more rain, ending at the Fire Warden’s cabin, where a number of people were already setup, including Green Tortuga, whose journal entries I’d been seeing since Pennsylvania. Beast and I got setup and ate dinner. It was only after it had gotten dark, that one of the other hikers, lady with her middle school aged son, noticed that another hiker had never come back from fetching water. He had left all his things, including his headlamp in the shelter, and Green Tortuga said that he had said earlier he had a heart condition. Worried, three of us trekked down to the water source on slippery rocks, worried we’d find him unconscious or worse somewhere. We didn’t see or hear anything, so we came back and Beast called 911. The operator connected us to the forest rangers, who, after hearing our worries, told us that the hiker (trailname Milkshake) had been found. Apparently he had gotten lost on the way to the water, and wandered down to the road and gotten picked up. Whew.
Aside from that, this section was punctuated by people who wouldn’t stop talking about the White Mountains, a conversation I got tired of very quickly. I was ready to be hiking the Whites, and didn’t see the point of making predictions on how hard or easy they would be. I blew my fuse at a SoBo at Hikers Welcome Hostel because he wouldn’t leave me alone, and seemed to think I wouldn’t be able to do more than 14 miles a day there, when I didn’t even want to talk about the whole place, or talk to him for that matter.
The next morning, I got out at 6am, and hiked over Moosilauke, getting my first taste of hiking above the tree line, which was awesome. From there, I made it to Lonesome Lake Hut in time for work for stay (4:30pm ish) a challenging but very doable 23 mile day. Beast showed up next, and we ended up being the two work for stay hikers, meaning that at around 8pm when the hut guests had eaten, we got to eat leftovers with the Croo (delicious leftovers), and then do chores so that we could setup our sleeping pads and bags to sleep in the dining room. I defrosted and reorganized the refrigerator, and Beast scrubbed the stove.
The next day, though slightly shorter (22 miles), was harder, with a lot of sharp ups and downs. The downs especially were killing me, literal rock piles that had to be butt-slid or very carefully picked down. I saw so many people wipe out that day, though no one got seriously hurt. The uphills were steep rock scrambles with no discernible ends in sight, though I loved the feeling of being up there, especially up on Franconia Ridge. I’d picked up a bad cold in Hanover, and was coughing up spoonfuls of phlegm at every turn.
By the time I got to the last big uphill (South Twin), I was so tired that I almost burst into tears. Luckily, Click Clack showed up right around my low point, and we ended up hiking most of the rest of the way to Zealand Falls Hut together, snagging yet another work for stay, along with Beast and Click Clack. This time I scrubbed the stove.
The next day I was even more sick, and after borrowing a Benadryl from Beast and downing an Ibuprofen for the headache, I hiked up to Lakes of the Clouds, pulling up at 3:45 after a 19 mile day. I had no voice and had a fever, and the Croo took pity on me and gave me a work for stay instead of making me sleep down in the Dungeon. I ended up napping on a bench in the hut for a better part of the afternoon, I was so sick. I pulled double chore duty for leftover dinner and breakfast at Lakes of the Clouds, and Click Clack and I got a late start out the next day (9:30ish). Our plan was to make it to Carter Notch, but once we got to Pinkham Notch at 4pm and the skies opened up with torrential rain, we called it a day and got a ride into town and to the Barn from the super nice new owner of the place.
He was even nice enough to let us leave our things there while we slackpacked from Pinkham to Route 2 near Gorham the next day, a 21 mile section that I’m glad I didn’t have my whole pack for– the climbs up and climbs down were so steep and slippery that any extra weight on my back would have been ten times more dangerous.
Now, we’re at the White Mountain Hostel, going to hike out a short day later today and hit the Maine border tomorrow. In spite of the difficulty, I absolutely loved the Whites and New Hampshire in general. I’m a planning to come back for more hiking once I’m done with the trail.
It’s so hard to believe we’re so close to the end!
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