I'm a hiker linguist nerd taking some time to do the AT before my knees get too old. I love to forage and learn the landscape wherever I am. When I'm not on the trail I work with Indigenous languages, and I'll be moving to Portland with my wife once I'm done the trail.
It was strange to walk through that alpine world knowing that the endless Trail had its end within sight, at the top of the next hill. Soon we were only a mile away — the very last mile of the AT.
On Whitecap mountain, the path levels out about the trees. For the first time, I see Katahdin clearly in the distance, a blue shadow above the shimmering haze.
Three miles past Pierce Pond lies the Kennebec River. Unlike other rivers on the trail, the Kennebec cannot be bridged or forded. The only way across is on a boat.
As soon as the cliff walls closed in around me and the first boulders appeared, I felt a blast of cold air surround me. Perhaps the weirdest thing about Mahoosuc Notch is that winter never leaves. I looked down a crevice and saw ice ten feet below.
Well, I did it! I made it through the Whites! They were just as rugged and beautiful as I’d been told to expect, a hundred miles of crags and cliffs and soaring alpine views. Without doubt, this has been the most demanding week of the trail, but also the most beautiful.
Although I’d given up on Naked Hiking Day myself thanks to the weather, I passed a whole troop of local guys who bare it all every year to mark the occasion. They claimed to be enjoying the cold breeze as they hiked around the lake, but I’m a little skeptical!
In the past week, I’ve traveled north through the Berkshires and up into Vermont. The terrain is rolling higher, with 3000-foot plateaux and peaks pushing up towards 4000 for the first time since Virginia. The highlands host a landscape that belongs entirely to the north, full of beaver ponds and fir trees and papery-white birche Down in Massachusetts there were valleys of marble, packed with towns and farms and houses. Up here there’s nothing but forest and hills and streams trickling out of bogs.
I’m now over two-thirds of the way to Katahdin! Woohoo! From here on out, I have less than half as far left to walk than I already have. The trail’s been wilder, higher, and more scenic than it has been for hundreds of miles. Massachusetts in particular feels like the gateway to new heights, a world of northern crags that’s different from anything further south.
Four days ago, I crossed the Delaware River and left Pennsylvania behind. I knew this would be a big milestone, but I hadn’t realized just how different the Jersey trail would be! It’s been one of my favorite sections of the trail so far.
I’m now two-thirds of the way through Pennsylvania, and honestly? It’s been tougher than I expected. Not because of the rocks, though that’s been part of it, but because of the distances involved. The PA section of trail is over 200 miles long, and all of it’s roughly halfway to Katahdin.