We Found Mona Leafa!
Author’s note: Erik and I finished our thru hike in October. I had gotten behind with writing, but I’ll slowly finish our story as I have time. Stay tuned.
Day 165: 3,950 ft ascent, 9.2 miles
Last December I hiked the Foothills Trail as part of Ramdino’s End of Days Hike. During that hike I met Mona Leafa, a 2021 thru hiker and all-around awesome person. When we parted ways at the end of the trail, she told my dad and I that she would come find us sometime on the trail during our thru hike.
We sporadically stayed in touch over the following months. Her schedule finally aligned with our plans on the day we were hiking Mt. Moosilauke! Erik and I had initially made plans to slackpack over Mt. Moosilauke using a local hostel. Those plans fell through when we called to make a reservation and were told they were completely booked. (Our issue with the hostel was more involved and frustrating than that summary, but the details aren’t important.)
Anyways, Mona Leafa to the rescue! She met us on the south side of Mt. Moosilauke around 8am with cold drinks, food for us for the day (we had been planning to resupply at the hostel), and daypacks for us to take up the mountain! We said our hellos, put our packs in her trunk, and then said our temporary goodbyes as she drove to the other side of the mountain. We made plans to meet at the summit and then hike together from the summit back to her car.
The mountain had looked intimidating from afar the day before. We hadn’t hiked mountains that high since Virginia. But as we took off down the trail without our full packs, I almost felt like dancing it was so easy. My sore knees that had been getting more angry the past few days were a non-issue. The rain that had been in the forecast had all but disappeared and the temperatures were almost perfect. It was foggy, but we had hopes the wind would blow off by the time we reached the summit.
We passed many more day hikers than we were used to seeing on the trail, both because it was a Saturday and we were entering a more popular section of trail. Erik and I smiled our way up the mountain as we enjoyed our first day Slackpacking, both happy we had held out for so long before trying it and happy we finally did it. We made it to the summit with ease within a couple of hours.
The summit was still socked in with clouds when we got there, but that hadn’t stopped a crowd from congregating at the summit sign. We happened to be there on a day when a 9/11 memorial event was being held. A group organizes teams to carry American flags to the summit of all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot summits. The team had just finished placing the Mt. Moosilauke flag when we arrived.
Erik and I found a rock over to the side to ourselves and got out our lunch. The wind would occasionally blow the clouds out of the way, and we got our first views of the White Mountains. I FaceTimed my mom to share the views with her as we waited for Mona Leafa to arrive. I really enjoyed the peace of the moment with no tug from the trail to stop sitting and start moving again. We sat there appreciating the view with nowhere else to be.
Mona Leafa finally arrived and joined us by our rock. We sat around a chatted for bit before making our way north back down the mountain. This section of trail is ripe with fearmongering about the technicality going downhill northbound. The trail is steep and can be slick if wet. I hardly noticed the difficulty without my pack and with the distraction of conversation with someone new.
It was slower going down than it was going up, but soon we made it back to the parking lot. Mona Leafa offered to drive us into town so we could grab dinner together. Yes please! We ended up at a local pizza restaurant that had gluten free pizza for both Erik and Mona Leafa. I enjoyed a large extra gluten pizza to myself. Well, most of it, the rest of it would be a snack the next day.
Mona Leafa drove us back to the trailhead where we planned to stealth camp for the evening. She offered to come pick us back up the next morning and take us grocery shopping before we checked in at the hostel we had a reservation at for the next few days. I was excited to finally get a day off after pushing our pace through Vermont and the beginning of New Hampshire.
Day 166: Zero
Our number one rule for town days is to eat before we grocery shop. We hit up both Dunkin’ Donuts and the local bagel shop before we made our way to the grocery store. At the bagel shop I couldn’t decide between a cream cheese bagel and a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel. So obviously I got both. I needed the calories.
The grocery store in Lincoln didn’t quite have the variety of foods we hoped to find. Typically, we would’ve made do, but since we had access to a person with a car Mona Leafa took us to the nearest Walmart to grab a few other items. We even went into a third grocery store across the street from the Walmart just for good measure.
It was raining, but we took a quick pit stop on our way back to Lincoln to stop by the Old Man of the Mountain overlook. The clouds covered up the view, but the rock features along the trail to the viewpoint were pretty unique. Eventually Mona Leafa took us back to town and dropped us off at the Notch Hostel where we had a reservation for the next few days.
I was really glad we got a chance to meet up again. Mona Leafa was also on this part of the trail around the same time we were during her thru hike. Many people we met on the trail or in towns kept telling us we might not make it to Katahdin since we were so far behind the bubble. She had a ton of encouragement that we had enough time to make it there. We thought we did too, but it was nice to hear someone else say it too.
We said goodbye and Erik and I got checked in at the hostel. We had initially planned to stay two nights, slackpacking the Kinsmons mountains the next day. We had rented out the cabin behind the main house. As we got settled in, we looked at the weather forecast and decided we wanted to take another zero the next day to avoid an all-day forecasted rain. We hadn’t really gotten the mental day off we probably needed that day to really reset. We quickly extended our stay for an extra night and went to sleep knowing we had another day of rest the next day.
Day 167: Rain Zero
It was nice to get another day off. There were many other thru hikers who also took the day off at the hostel, but we mostly stayed out back in our cabin. We took bicycles to the grocery store to get food for the day. Erik and I tried playing monopoly but only made a few rounds before we both remembered we hated monopoly and quit. I organized all of my food and separated it into food for tomorrow and food when we had full packs again.
As the day wore on, I started noticing I was getting a sore throat and a runny nose. I’m allergic to mold and mildew. Since we were staying in an old shed, I thought the shed might have some underlying mold that was getting to me since I wasn’t getting much airflow. I said something to Erik, and he noticed his throat was getting a little sore as well.
We really didn’t want to move where we were staying, so we decided to suck it up and continue staying there even though (at the time) we thought it might be making us sick. We had plans to slackpack the Kinsmons Mountains the next day. After the taste of slackpacking Moosilauke we were excited to slackpack another day. Erik and I signed up for the shuttle from the hostel to Kinsmon Notch for first thing the next morning.
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