Southern New Hampshire
Hey all! I am working at getting my last couple posts up, but transitioning back to “real life” hasn’t been as easy as I had expected. When I finished the trail, I had over 10,000 emails in my Inbox to sort through, and a ton of other things on the “to do” list that have slowed progress. But here’s the first half of New Hampshire’s entries, to keep you satiated until I can get the rest written up. Enjoy!
Day 128 – Hanover
We slept in a little today, with a planned zero day. We ate breakfast and then started to walk to Hanover, but Big Ben, a section hiker who is preparing to start his MBA at Dartmouth, picked us up and drove us to the city. We stopped at the post office to get mail drops, then went to the RW Black Community Center to do laundry. There was a long wait, as they only have one machine, but we wrote post cards and journaled to stay busy. Bookie had a friend in the area who drove us to Lenanon, the next town over, so we could stop at the outfitter and a grocery store for resupply. We decided to take the free bus home, which took a long time and multiple buses, but eventually we made it back to the hotel. I made calls home, sorted food, cleaned out my pack some, and then tried to relax for the evening. It was a late night, with us getting hypnotized by the television.
Day 129 – Hanover
We woke this morning to thunderstorms and pouring rain. We decided at the last minute to take another zero day, not wanting to hike up into the mountains in a storm. We tried to get our room for another night, but the hotel was booked, so we had to find other arrangements. We were slow packing, not wanting to leave the hotel until we had something lined up (or had to leave). We finally found a trail angel from the listing in town that had space for us. He picked us up from the gazebo in town and took us to his house, giving us a quick tour before heading into work for the day. I spent most of the day on the covered porch, journaling and drinking coffee as the storm raged on outside. We ordered take-out for dinner and ate on the porch, then I repacked some gear and headed to bed.
Day 130 – Hanover to Moose Mountain Shelter
The day dawned sunny and cool, thankfully. We slept in a little, and had a fairly slow start to the day, knowing we were getting a shuttle ride to Hanover at 9:30. We got breakfast at Lou’s, and then hiked out of town at 11. The hike wasn’t too bad, but there were lots of roots, and the rain created a lot of mud, so the going was a little slow. The hike was very quiet today, and I let myself get lost in thought. It seems to let the pain of the trail go unnoticed some when I’m not concentrating on the trail itself. While the early day wasn’t too bad, Moose Mountain completely sucked, mostly because we had to carry water for about 2.5 miles. We got to the shelter around 5:30, and found the shelter and campsite very crowded. My legs felt pretty good today, all things considered, but the weight of a full resupply plus the extra water made my knees a little achy by the end. We cooked our dinners and chatted with Starry Eyes, a section hiker we had met prior to Hanover, but ultimately, the day caught up with me and I headed for bed fairly early.
Day 131 – Moose Mountain Shelter to Fire Wardens Cabin
We slept in a little today, but hustled to get on trail. Bookie and Starry Eyes were putzing around taking privy shots and I got impatient, so I hiked out alone. I have felt very angry lately, and all of the little holdups feel like they are dragging me down. While walking, I came across a stash of Gatorade bottles just past Goose Pond Road, which was a welcome surprise. The hike from there up to Holts Ledge was killer, though. My right knee was aching by the time I hit the top. I stopped for lunch at Trapper John Shelter, and just as I was finishing, Bookie arrived. I sat with her for a while and we hiked on, stopping at the famous Bill Ackerly’s for some ice cream. Unfortunately, Bill was not there and a young lady named Ashley was acting as “host” to the large group of thru hikers stopping in. After about half an hour, we hiked on. The guidebook said that the Fire Wardens Cabin, our destination, didn’t have reliable water, so we stopped and filled up, planning to carry water the last couple miles to the cabin. Unfortunately, we had to hike up Smarts Mountain with said water. Damn. And in true style, it started raining as we were going up the mountain, eventually dumping on us until we were soaked and cold. We also passed three water sources going up the mountain, which was frustrating considering the extra weight in my pack. Just as I walked up to the shelter, the rain stopped… of course. I changed clothes, hung gear to dry out, then cooked dinner. It was an odd evening, with six of us sitting on the porch to the cabin or inside, trying to stay dry from the dripping trees and the cold. We all went to bed early, as soon as dinner was over.
Day 132 – Fire Wardens Cabin to Ore Hill Campsite
The entire cabin slept in until 7. It’s easy to do when you know it’s cold outside! The day started sunny and cool, but the ground was still wet from yesterday’s rain. We got on trail later than normal, and I had a hard time getting into the groove today. About an hour into the hike, I was going over a small log being used as a make-shift bridge over a mud pit when my foot slipped and I plunged in, clear up to my hips. FML. And we were in a section of trail with no water sources for another two miles, so I couldn’t wash off at all until then. With nothing left to do but keeping hiking, on we went, and as soon as I got to the river, I just dropped my pack and waded into the flowing water to wash off as much as I could. To say I was cold and miserable would be an understatement. We stopped for lunch at an overlook on Mt. Cube, trying to shake the morning dreariness from my system. The afternoon was rough, though, with some hills that felt worse than they should have. Emotionally, I had a rough time, too, knowing that I was missing my niece’s birthday party today. The last hill up to the shelter was absolutely murder, mostly because I was spent emotionally. We got to camp about 5:30, and set up camp. I volunteered to filter water for Bookie, Starry Eyes and her friend, Heather, so that I could have some time to myself. It started raining about 8, so we all dashed for our tents. Thankfully, it didn’t last a long time.
Day 133 – Ore Hill Campsite to Jeffers Brook Shelter
We were up at 6:30 to start packing, but it was still 8:45 before we got on trail. I feel very alone and out of sorts today, and am just getting tired. Tired of hiking every day. Tired of being alone. Tired of not being with friends and family. Tired of not having cell service. Tired of food that doesn’t satiate. Tired of mud, roots and rocks. Tired of this whole trip. I am really starting to wonder if I can survive the Whites, both physically and mentally. But for now, I have no choice but to keep moving forward. The hike up Mount Mist wasn’t too bad, but it was still draining, especially since I was pushing myself hard to try to forget the mental aspect. I broke down a little in front of Bookie, and I think she understood a little better why I was so crabby the past few days. We chatted for a few minutes, then continued on. We hiked to NH-25 and walked the 0.3 mile down the road to the Hikers Welcome Hostel. I will be up front and admit I have very mixed feelings about this hostel. Upon initially walking up, the place is a bit of a dump compared to other places, with lots of temporary tent-like structures – you know, the white tarp ones people park their cars under – used for the toilet, shower, and bunk room. The common space was dirty and full of flies, giving me the feeling it hadn’t been cleaned all summer. And the caretaker, while nice to me, was fairly rude to a section hiker who asked for a for-fee shuttle ride to another location, so that she could catch her bus ride home. He gave her a long diatribe about how he refuses to shuttle people from his hostel to another hostel, even though said section hiker wasn’t staying at either location, and his advertised services do include “shuttles for a fee”. Simply put, I just wasn’t impressed with my first impression. Now that said, he was kind to us, and welcomed us into the facility, even though we were clear about not staying the night there. He let us wait out a short rain shower, and we purchased some snack items for lunch from the small supply they had on hand. Needless to say, I cannot give my endorsement for this hostel based on my short visit. After the storm passed, we hiked back to the trail and the mile up to the shelter. The shelter was nothing special, but the campsite was beautifully covered in pine needles. We filtered water and cooked dinner, during which a few other hikers walked in. We met a SOBO named Emersion who was from Detroit, and chatted with him until bedtime.
Day 134 – Lost River Road to Long Pond Road (slack packed southbound)
I did not sleep well last night, in part because I couldn’t turn my head off, but also because a couple hikers came in after dark, shining headlamps into the shelter and making a bit of noise as they set up their tents. We were in no rush to get out of camp, as we had plans to meet Karen and Mark, friends of Bookie’s, at the Long Pond Road crossing at 9. As it was, we got there at 8:30 and sat around waiting for almost an hour before they arrived. There was a weird mist blowing through the woods while we waited. After some chit chat, we drove to the post office to meet up with Bookie’s brother, Justin, for a moment before getting shuttled to the north side of Mt. Moosilauke, to Lost River Road, so we could slack pack it southbound. After some snacks and making arrangements to have our gear dropped at a hostel, we got on trail at 10:30. Thankfully, the weather cleared up as we were driving, revealing a beautiful hiking day. The trail follows alongside a waterfall for most of the hike up the mountain, with numerous viewpoints, so there were lots of pauses for photos and to soak in the atmosphere. After all, this was what we were considering the start of the Whites for us. We made a short stop at Beaver Brook Shelter to snack and refill water, then continued up to the summit. Once we got there, we took a full hour and half lunch break, taking pictures and talking with Detox, whom I hadn’t seen since before the Smokies! The view was amazing up top, although we watched clouds moving in. The hike down was uneventful, and full of conversation for a change. We met Justin back at the Long Pond Road crossing, and he shuttled us to the Notch Hostel. We got a tour of the facility, got our showers, and Bookie went to dinner with Justin. I ate dinner with Starry Eyes, Heather, and Cruise Control and had a great evening of conversation, laughter, and jokes. And in stark contrast to the hostel yesterday, the Notch Hostel is a class-act operation! Anyone in the area looking for a quality stay, I cannot recommend them enough. Just take a look at their website and you’ll see what I mean.
Day 135 – Lost River Rd to Franconia Notch (slack packed)
We got a slightly slow start to the day, because of the shuttle schedule for the day. Bookie and I caught our shuttle back to the trail at 8, and were on trail by 8:30. Bookie’s legs were bothering her a little, making her hike a little slower than normal, so I hiked alone most of the day and had a good morning. I had fun on the rock hops, feeling good and strong going up the mountain. I arrived at Eliza Brook Shelter around noon and stopped for lunch. Bookie walked in about 1, and I sat and waited for her, getting back on trail together at 1:45. However, our difference in speed quickly separated us. The afternoon was long and tough, with lots of ups and downs and big rocks and by the time I got to the parking lot at 6, I was spent. I called for a shuttle and headed back to the hostel, getting a shower and some food. Bookie came in about two hours later, equally spent. As I relaxed this evening, my knees started showing their soreness from the big steps and the jumps, but overall, I feel the day was pretty good – just long. I am so glad we were slack packing it today. It was a late night, requiring a little Vitamin-I to fall asleep.
Day 136 – Notch Hostel
I slept in a little this morning and decided to take a zero day. Bookie’s brother, Greg, is coming this morning, and since we are only planning to hike three miles to the next shelter, I figure I will stay at the hostel today and allow Bookie and her brother to hike out and catch up with each other without me being around, then hike out early tomorrow and catch up to them. We putzed around the hostel all morning, relaxing, journaling, chatting with a few other people who are hanging around. When Greg arrived, he took us to town so we could get our resupply boxes (along with a new, insulated sleeping pad and new shoes!), then treated us both to lunch. When I got back to the hostel, I volunteered to assemble two pieces of furniture for the owner. It’s amazing how much you miss stuff like that when you’re out on the trail! Afterwards, I put my backpack back together after two days of slack packs, and then hung around the hostel, trying to relax. Unfortunately, the hostel was extremely busy and loud tonight, so I spent a lot of time hanging in a hammock in the yard, avoiding the crowd.
Day 137 – Franconia Notch to Garfield Ridge Shelter
I didn’t get a great night’s sleep last night, but it wasn’t horrible, either. I woke up early to do the final packing, and to make sure I got something to eat. The shuttle left at 7:40, a little late due to someone losing her wallet, but I was still on trail by 8. I walked a little ways with a young section hiker named Banana Bread, but she took off up the hill and I didn’t see her again until camp! I passed the campsite where Bookie and Greg were going to camp at about 9:45, but it was a tough climb up. About fifteen minutes later, I passed Bookie and Greg as they were coming back down a blue blazed side trail to Mt. Liberty. They recommended the view, so I dropped my pack and headed up. They were right, it was a good view. It didn’t take long for me to catch back up with the two of them, passing them as they stopped to talk with some day hikers. I briefly thought of slowing down and hiking with them, but they were stopping a lot, and today was “the day” I’ve been waiting for this entire trip – Franconia Ridge! And the weather was absolutely perfect – warm, with a slight cooling breeze, sunny with a few puffy clouds for the pictures. It was a tad hazy, but I’ll take that over foggy any day. And I was right, today’s hike was exactly what I had hoped it would be. Little Haystack Mountain, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Lafayette. The whole ridge was above tree line and was absolutely breathtaking. There were views in all directions for miles and miles. Plus, I could see Cannon Ski Resort most of the day, which holds a special place in my heart, with it’s gondola and little restaurant at the top of the mountain. It made me a little homesick, but also made me smile. Yes, I am a walking… err, backpacking contradiction. Unfortunately, the day turned a little sour on me when I started to run out of water midday and had to really ration it out as the day progressed, making some of the day a little rough. I had used more water getting up the first big hill, and it was warmer than I had expected, so I was drinking my supply a little quicker than planned. I even ate a real light lunch, not wanting to make myself thirsty with my normal lunch. I finally came across a little brook about a mile before Garfield Pond, which wasn’t in the guidebook, and slammed three bottles of water down. Of course, then I had to climb up Mt. Garfield with that in my stomach. Not the most comfortable but I certainly needed the water. I got to the shelter about 4, and Banana Bread was already there… and had been there for a while! She must have been really booking it. I filtered water and settled into camp, cooking dinner early because of the light lunch I had. Bookie arrived at 7, looking exhausted. The shelter and tent sights were pretty crowded, but she found a tent pad to set up on, then came to the shelter to cook dinner. Trying to find some quiet, I walked down the side trail back towards the A.T. and came across Banana Bread and two section hikers sitting in a small clearing with a nice overlook. We all sat and chatted for a while, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company as the sun started setting. Once it was behind the mountain, though, it started to get cold, so we headed back to the shelter and got ready for bed. It was a long, tough day, but one full of smiles. I’ll take days like this any day.
I always say it’s best to stop at a good point, and Franconia Notch was a GREAT day, so I’ll end this post there. I have most of the second post for New Hampshire done, and have already started on Maine’s post. Stay tuned for more! And remember to always Spin the Compass!
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