Standing (Or Relaxing) Before The Gates

20/20 here in Hanover. What a morning it’s been. Not in the wild way, just in the “I really made it to New Hampshire” sort of way. I’m neroing here in Hanover, letting my knees get a break before I head into the gauntlet that is the Whites and enjoying some fresh baked pastries and real coffee. 


An Unexpected State of Things

Vermont, I really didn’t know what to expect out of you. In my research I found that many, many hikers dread the mud and bugs; and many actually list Vermont as their least favorite state on the trail. My experience was mixed, but overall I give Vermont an 8/10. I don’t know if I was just lucky or if I’m just tougher than most, but the mud and bugs were not bad while I was there. Yeah my legs and shoes got dirty, but that’s to be expected, and there were only two times for the entire state that bugs were a slight nuisance. I’m actually a little disappointed in how easy I had it. I wanted to be trudging through knee high mud and dealing with choking swarms of black flies, but I just had a slightly dirty walk through some beautiful woods.


Water Makes Everything Cooler

I remember someone telling me earlier on trail about Vermont when I mentioned it, he said “yeah, Vermont is just a bunch of alpine bogs”. After I heard that I thought “just a bunch of alpine bogs?? That sounds awesome!”. And it lived up to the hype and more. The random beaver ponds high in the mountains, roaring white-rock-and-water streams galloping through the pine forest valleys, and glacial lakes were stunningly beautiful. Water really does make everything cooler. 


Quality Over Quantity 

The parts of Vermont that weren’t made cooler by water were made downright spectacular by the views. I’m finally back in some real mountains (no offense, Pennsylvanians, New Jerseyians, New Yorkers, Connecticuters, and Massachusettsers. You were all great but nothing went above 4000 feet). Unfortunately some of the views were fogged in when I went through, but the one I was looking forward to most: Mt. Killington, was perfect.

I couldn’t have summited that mountain on a better day. Slightly overcast in the morning, then clear skies by the time I made it to the peak. It was 0.2 off the trail, but it was one of those ‘cant miss it’ sort of views. The climb up was pretty much a vertical rock climb, and a day hiker I passed on the way up told me that it was like the whites, “just not as long”. Which is exactly what I’ve heard from multiple people now. But the view, my lord. That view. It was like nothing I’ve seen on the whole trail. Nearly 360° except for the cell tower behind me, and the ridges and pointy mountains all around looked fake with how incredibly they rose from the valleys and shot to the sky. The tallest ones had these blurred boundaries of forest, the alpine on top making the peaks look snow capped, but just by dark, dark green trees. Below and blended with that were layers of brown, dead deciduous forest; and melting up into that at the bases of the mountains were the bright green leaves of the springtime, budding at the low elevations. I had to sit there and look into the vista for a minute. Taking it in. Looking at the horizon and the silhouettes of distant mountains, fuzzy from the haze and appearing like ghost ships anchored far away, soaking in the view with me.

Killington is worth the climb folks. 


The Ultimate Section

Now that I’m in New Hampshire, I’m extremely close to the Whites. They are by far the most anticipated section of the trail for most hikers (with the exception of Katadhin), including me. One problem. I’m here in May. For anyone familiar with what this means, you’re also probably familiar with the apprehension I’m feeling about it. The Whites are beautiful. Long stretches above treeline, 360° views on top of every peak, terrain like I haven’t seen in my entire life, it going to be incredible. But for all that beauty comes a cost, and in the Whites that’s the head splitting climbs and extreme weather. In May, you’re not nearly as in the clear for wintry conditions like you are in July and August when most hikers go through (although Mt. Washington can get winter conditions year round, yes I know). When you combine weather conditions akin to the surface of Mars and the precipitously steep, long, and rocky climbs of those mountains, you get what I’m going into. At least from what I understand. It will be an unforgettable time, but I’m doing everything I can to make it unforgettable in a positive way. 


Coming to Terms, or Not…

I’ve been thinking more about the end. Maybe not the end, but the area at the end. The beginning of the end. I’ve been having flashbacks to all the other points on trail. It doesn’t feel connected to where I am now somehow. I know I’ve changed, but I can’t put my finger on it. There’s so many questions that arise when you are nearing the end of something that you put so much into. It doesn’t feel real that Maine is only 160 miles away, but then again it didn’t feel real when I took those first steps off Springer either. It seems unfair to overanalyze it, especially right now when I have the best section still ahead. If I turn back now and start getting sentimental about what I’ve done so far, I won’t be able to fully appreciate where I am and what it took to get here. Forward we march. 


20/20 signing out. Wish me luck.  

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Comments 2

  • AmaSue : May 20th

    Absolutely love the description of Mt. Killington, they are so vivid that I can picture what you are seeing like I am almost there. This just solidifies in my mind my desire to start my own trek; thank you for allowing me through your description to be there with you.

    • Jonah Rigdon : May 21st

      I’m truly honored if my chicken scratch has inspired you. Go for it though! Get the momentum started now, you won’t regret it.


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