Vermont Vibes to the Whites Fright
Went in with fair expectations of a return to more mountain climbs and descents. Was not disappointed. Completed in 8.5 days with Nero’s but no Zeros. Camping and the trails were getting crowded.
Pushing miles took a toll more mentally than physically. I was feeling ready to be done with this adventure even as I knew I would miss it terribly. I cried from pure joy and gratitude one morning on the trail then later that night hiking into twilight cursed the trail as another false summit hid our campsite just out of reach again… do I have Stockholm syndrome? I would share some of my low moments of despair with close family and friends thinking at least one would say what they said before I even started “you know it’s okay if you want to quit. We are so proud of you no matter what.” But no one did. Instead, they poured all the encouragement, “You are amazing and you got this!” When I mentioned the earlier option of quitting, mostly in jest, the response was the same, “you are so close! You would never forgive yourself.” Of course, they were right. I loved this trail and the people. Summiting Killington and having Scarecrow trail mate push huge miles (after deserved zeros with his wonderful wife:) to catch up to the remaining two of us were huge highlights.
Started off right with the long-awaited nero and zero at my sister’s family lake house. Good to feel spoiled for a few hours! Traimily meets family. My sister offered trail name Glenda, the good witch of the east. Finally saw my younger daughter too – she attends UNH. Had loads of chores to complete and do resupply but the big thing was time to plan for the Whites. The complication of trail mate Lion getting injured right before Hanover was just computing in my brain. He would walk it off, right? We had slackpacking already planned and that would help. All the fear-mongering we were hearing about the Whites was hype, right?
How it played out:
- Hanover to Grafton Turnpike/Lyme: Slackpack eases back onto the trail and gives our trail mate lion a chance to recover from his shin splints. 17.5 miles and stayed at Dowds Inn, highly recommend for old style stay with delicious breakfast.
- End at Ore Hill campsite 18.4 miles long day but not crazy terrain. Lion started the day with us but made it clear he couldn’t push so was stopped when he needed to and tried to say farewell. I wasn’t willing to accept that we would not be reconnecting soon so walked into the woods with a “see you soon!” He stopped at an earlier site.
- Hiked to Hikers Welcome hostel to drop off packs that were being shuttled to Notch Hostel, 16.9 miles 9 were slackpack over Moosilauke Mtn. The steep boulder climbs and descents start. My daughter brought my pre-packed resupply box and camped with me at the hostel.
- Kinsman to Franconia/Lincoln slackpack 16.3 miles long, sometimes wet, day but great views rewarded for steep ups and downs. I am no longer afraid of the White Mountains, this is rejuvenating my love of hiking. Last night at The Notch- owner Serena and staff were outstanding. Thanks to Glenda, a friend dropped off the new Altras that I desperately needed.
- A full pack and 10.8 miles to stealth. Met up with a friend who would do 2 nights with us while he bagged Presidential peaks. The lion was 2 days behind but hiking his hike on his terms. Miss him terribly but proud of his grit. We have to keep our chin up and moving.
- I can’t remember all the peaks and huts but we crushed another 11.8 miles to stealth site after a great day of hiking, views, and people. Starting to see a lot of South Bounders or SOBOs. At the first hut, Galehead, I pulled the log book from 1969 and read an entry about after 37 years, they got hot water for showers for Da Croo (yep that’s how they did and still say it); how With all these modern conveniences “one wonders if there is any hope at all for the wildness of the woods.” some things don’t change.
- Only 5.3 mile day after getting our prepared resupply boxes from my friend, a ride to the store, and fellow thru-hiker mom’s amazing trail magic!
- We are taking the advice of going slow through this section, 6.2 miles to Nauman campsite. Mitzpah Hut is next to the site and we were invited to do a short talk/Q&A about thru-hiking to the paying guests ($150-$200/night) and got dinner! Went to bed feeling very full for the first time in a long time on the trail.
- Early rise and start for Mt. Washington summit by 9:30 am! Huge relief for great weather. I was asked to take a video of a young couple and he got down on his knee for a marriage proposal! So cool and I kept quiet despite my glee, knowing this is their forever video. After lunch, Feeling on top of the world and ready for the descent. I thought. What happens next is hard to describe. It is a never-ending rock scree scramble for miles. I fell hard the first 50 yards and in full view of all the tourists on the summit wall, definitely funny. Bruised but not broken, it proceeds to take me 8 hours to go 9 miles. This was insanely slow going. I show up at camp right before dark, having done the hardest 14.8 days yet. I had company at camp – they echoed my shout-out opinion of “F$&k that trail!” I love these people?
- Limped my worn-out body 4.8 miles to Pinkham Notch visitor center. Shuttle to the Barn hostel for camping. Shower, laundry, and real food…all are good with the world again. Rejoined with our sometime traimily member; she had a hellacious stormy summit on Mt. Washington.
- Zero – rain forecast and the need to recover prompted a change of plan.
- Likely the last slackpack, 21.1 miles over the final section of the Whites. Over Wildcat, Carter, and Moriah Mountains; 6k elevation gain 8 am to 8:30 pm it was a beautiful but LONG ass day. First time hiking with a headlamp necessary. I stupidly used a loaner daypack from the hostel and got bad back blisters directly on my shorts line. Salty sweat added a brutal insult. Back at the hostel shower, food, and fellow hikers, this time with beer and whiskey, make it all good again
I am less than 10 miles from the Maine border tonight and the reality of this ending soon is sinking in more. The trail is always beautiful with the streams, green woods, and rocky peaks. I still have hope that Lion (btw not his trail name but my reference to an earlier post) will catch up. How can we not summit Mount Katahdin altogether? Unimaginable. For that matter I wish it was something Tinman would come back on trail for. But I recognize that might being selfish. Hike your own hike is more real than ever as we are all hyper-focused on finishing. I met a woman at the hostel who had to get off trail 250 miles from Katahdin due to an injury. That would be devastating.
So I will keep trekking and treasure the time left best I can.
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