The Final Countdown
It is hard to believe this long journey is coming to an end, but with less than two weeks remaining, it is slowly starting to set-in. Yesterday was the first night that I woke up in the middle of the night, wide eyed and thinking about what life will be like after the trail. There are so many possibilities that it is overwhelming and I still pray that God will continue to lead me in the right direction.
Last night, I also reflected on how the past few months have been. It feels like I have lived a lifetime these past few months, moving in and out of different phases of the trail, social circles, and even myself. There have been times that I have felt on top of the world and times that I never felt so utterly helpless. The trail has been a humbling experience and has slowly taught me patience, trust, and most importantly, how to find my inner strength to beat the unbeatable.
So where am I now? Currently at mile 1968.7 in Rangeley, Maine. It is one of the last towns we will see on the trail and will probably be my last post before completing the trail. We are staying at a very charming and quaint hostel called the Hiker Hut. Although I love the eco-friendly practices, it is a little stressful to do chores and charge our electronics with it being run off grid. We have been planning this town stop for the past week, so we took a 5 mile nero into town and got into town just as a downpour began.
Everyone has been calling for rain this whole week, but we have been blessed to avoid most of the rain on the trail. I have been stressed about rain more than normal on this section of the trail since there are a lot of sketchy rock scrambles we have been climbing up and down, but thank God we haven’t had to deal with too much slick, wet rock. I have been almost paralyzed with fear of the steep rock slabs we have had to deal with and have fallen a great deal because of it. My shins took the hardest beating, but I have cuts and bruises on my hip, elbows, and rib cage as well. It has been a stressful time on the trail, for both me and my trail family, but thankfully we have conquered the worst of it and are feeling confident in finishing the trail together. I have learned a lot of patience, strength, and humility in the terrain this past week and still hope of being a full fledged Mountain Lady by the end of the journey. Two weeks in the wilderness without many other trail towns should definitely do the trick!
Here is a recap on the past two weeks:
One of the biggest draws in finishing the AT is getting to see the Whites. This mountain range in New Hampshire covers most of the Presidential Mountains, including Mount Washington, and offers some of the most amazing views on the trail. The terrain took a different turn in this section of the trail and turned into huge mountains with lots of technical parts through rocky cliffs and edges and lots of elevation change within a single day. Although people warned us that our mileage would be halved during this part, I figured that this only happened to “most” people and wouldn’t happen to our group. However, I was humbled from conquering 20-25 miles a day to barely scrapping by with 10-15 miles. My body was exhausted with the elevation and my fear of falling on the rocks hindered our progress. One of the first mountains we climbed in the Whites was Mount Moosilauke. We had planned on a 15 mile day, but a downpour occurred on our descent which scared us all. Climbing down the steep, rocky incline in the rain took us all my surprise and scared us into the town of Lincoln, NH. Sometimes I am surprised at how dangerous the trail can be. We took a zero after that experience since it was supposed to rain the next day as well, but we eventually worked up the courage and strength to try the Whites again.
Since then, the Whites have been filled with some of my best and worst memories on the trail. It is one of the most stressful places to traverse on the trail, not only because of the terrain, but also due to the shelter/hut system they have for thru hikers to sleep. Shelters that are free everywhere else on the trail now cost $10 and are spread far and few between. There are also huts with running water and electric, which are expensive to sleep, but typically accept 2-3 thru hikers a night to do a work for stay. (Basically you are required to do an hour’s worth of work and are given leftover food and are able to sleep on the dining room floor in return.) The huts are lovely places to sleep, but it kind of turned thru hikers against one another as they raced and distracted one another in competition for the few spots available. Each hut had different times they would accept hikers as well, which added to the stress. Some places accepted thru hikers at 3:30 and the spots filled fast. Other places, thru hikers were told to push on to the next shelter until they would start accepting thru hikers around 7pm. Not knowing where we would be able to sleep added to the stress of the rough terrain. I am not sure if I cried on trail before the Whites, but I definitely had a few breakdowns these past two weeks. I am so thankful for such a loving and caring trail family- I am not sure I would have the strength to endure it all alone and their care and support has meant the world to me.
Despite the stress of the elevation and the hut system, New Hampshire has been my favorite state on the trail so far. I felt challenged and renewed and was treated to some of the most spectacular views. We were fortunate enough to do one work for stay at the Lake of Clouds hut and it was a mesmerizing experience to help in a hut and then enjoy the spectacular views of the area. This hut is only 1.5 miles south of Mount Washington and sits on a ravine overlooking the valley, town, and surrounding mountains. As the paying guests ate their dinner, Diatom, Myles, and I laid down on a rock with a sleeping bag and gazed at the stars and surrounding views. It was a clear night and was one of my most favorite moments on the trail. The next day, we were again blessed with good weather as we summited Mount Washington with 60 degree weather and only 2mph winds. (Someone said that only happens once in a blue moon up there!) Another night, we mimicked our star gazing night by cowboy camping (no tent, sleeping bag only), on another mountainside. It was breathtaking to see the sunset and sunrise, along with all the stars at night, from the open face of a mountain. I hope these happy memories stay with me for a lifetime….
The Whites definitely had their ups and downs, both physically and emotionally, but I am definitely happy with the memories we made while there.
As you may know, it had been Diatom and I for about a month while we waited for Helter Skelter to catch up. Helter’s phone was broke and his email account was frozen, so we had no idea how close he was to us or where he even was on the trail. We had taken a double zero in Rutland, VT thinking that he would show up there, but we left town with no sign of him.
Funny enough, when we checked the logbook at the first shelter outside of Rutland, we saw that Helter had passed by the night before. We were at a lost now that the table was turned. Instead of taking our time, waiting for him to catch up, we had to chase him down! Thankfully, we caught up with him within a few days outside of Hanover, New Hampshire. I was in complete disbelief as Diatom and I raced down a shelter trail to avoid the rain and saw Helter patiently waiting in a shelter. It felt so good to see him and my heart has been happy to have our little trail family back together. (I now get double the hugs when times get hard!) We have word that NHB is a day ahead, so hopefully we will see him soon as well!
Current milemarker: 1968.7 (Rangeley, Maine)- 220.4 miles to go!
Most treasured item in pack: Food… I don’t think I have been so hungry in my life! We had to stop in two different towns between our last maildrops since we kept running out!
Food cravings in town: veggie omelets, homefries, and ice cream!
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