How New Hampshire Taught Me the Different Roads of Life

I know I keep writing about the Appalachian Trail and my blog is under the PCT section of blog writers. I will eventually be hiking the PCT and will be providing many details about my upcoming hike. However, right now I am off trail, saving money, and prepping for the PCT. Also, please do not tell my left knee that, and we all can slap 20 years from now me in the face, when I will need a knee replacement. I fight through the pain, and after my recent trek, I realized keeping my knee in motion every day on a soft surface strengthens the non-repaired torn ligaments. With a brace, of course. If you tell me hiking on a torn ACL is a bad thing, I will not listen. I am stubborn and I care about shaping my future through long-distance hiking over the long-term health of my knees.

I do not think I have described my recent AT hike, because it takes a minute to do so. I only had three months of trail time, due to prior work arrangements, and decided to start at Harpers Ferry going north with the flip-flop bubble on May 6. I quickly realized I was going way too fast and didn’t start far enough south to get to Katahdin around the time I needed to get off trail. I thus decided to yo yo down to Hanover once I summited Katahdin. However, while going north in the beginning sections of Vermont I bruised my left knee just south of Glastenbury Mountain at the shelter right at the summit (the name is escaping me, but may be Goddard, 99 percent sure). I then took five to six days off at my sister’s in Hanover, and then went north from there. I then got to Katahdin, tagged the summit and went south all the way to Bennington, Vermont. You see why I never describe my hike. It takes too long

On to the reason why I am writing this post. New Hampshire. Probably the most-hiked section of the AT, and one of the most scenic. This state is a goddamn rugged beast (second to Southern Maine) and taught me many life lessons. The most important is that it’s OK to have a non-normal path in life. That you can go in many different directions, but in the end you will end up right back on track to what you are meant for, even if that destination is far in the future. How did this brutal and beautiful state teach me this? It’s because I got lost three times, due to my inability to read the small AT signs in this state. All in all, I did nine to ten bonus miles in New Hampshire, and that’s OK, because I ended up getting back on track every time.

While summiting Mount Moosilauke, I got stuck in a cloud, and had five feet of visibility. I then proceeded to take the Ravine Lodge path down four miles to the base where the Ravine Lodge sits. I was feelin’ pretty good and was super excited to get my first White Mountain out of the way. I was in a beautiful lodge and was sippin’ on some coffee. However, when I proceeded to try to find the AT from the lodge, I quickly found out that I had to resummit the same mountain in a storm to get back to the trail. I proceeded to rage climb Moosilauke to get back to the AT. I then got to the summit, where there were 50 mph winds and horizontal rain, and I screamed into the storm, “Is that all you got?” I then found the AT at the summit, pushed north and down the summit a bit, to get to Jeffers Brook (I think, the shelter on the north side of the summit). On a side note, to get through brutal weather, I find it useful to take the storm on, in my head. To yell at it and try to fight it with words! I also like to scream the catch phrase, don’t taze me bro!

At this point it was 3 p.m., raining hard, and I had climbed about 7,000 feet. But I told myself I could push another nine. This was a bad mistake, because the descent down the north side is a hellish, death-defying rock slide that if you make one mistake on, you will get severely injured. Well, I did a half mile of this in a storm, until it started lightning hard right by me. I then go off trail, huddle under a rock for half an hour, and climb back straight up the now steep ascent, to the shelter. Yes, I made two big mistakes, but I don’t care. I learned I can make a death-defying descent in a storm, and I can rage hike a mountain in the same storm.

Coming out of Galehead Hut, there is a steep but short ascent up a mountain. I don’t recall the name, but it is a steep rock scramble of a mile to a beautiful summit. Did I remember to look for an Appalachian Trail sign and go in the right direction? No, I saw a path and I took it. I then dipped down, and summited another mountain, and after a mile I realized I was off trail. I was able to make it back to the trail, after again rage hiking due to my inability to read signs. That day I went from Garfield tent site to Mizpah tent site, which totaled 24 AT miles, and two bonus miles. Yes, I got lost, but I got back on track, and it was an awesome day with unreal scenery.

The very next day, I did the awe-inspiring Presidential Range. This was something special and needs to be experienced for yourself. However, the sign at the Osgood tent site is poorly marked. It legitimately has the AT going in the opposite direction and was eventually changed by someone with a pen. I read the sign and went the wrong way. For four more miles. I then had to ford a river, make it back to the highway, hitch to the auto road, then highway walk and run, due to portions having no shoulder, the next three miles to Pinkham Notch. Does anybody else love the thrill of highway walking and having semis and other vehicles rushing within feet of you? When I got back to real life, people were dumbfounded when I told them that I love this. It is so exhilarating and becomes second nature when you have to walk into many towns or when you try to hitchhike.

Also, hitchhiking into Lincoln, from the northernmost access point, north of Kinsman, and south of Liberty tent site and Franconia Ridge, is a bit of a gamble. Be careful. Coming south, I put out my thumb without looking at the oncoming traffic, and was picked up by a state trooper. In the end I got a free ride to town, but he could have ticketed me. I am getting off track, though.

The point I am trying to make is that you should download Guthook for NH, that I should never do the CDT unless I work on my navigation, and most importantly, that you will always find your way back if you get lost on the trail and if you get lost in real life. I am 27, I know what I am passionate about, but what am I supposed to do with my life? I don’t know. I am going to keep taking paths until I find the right one. I may not make the correct decision, but I’ll always find my way back to the path I am meant for, not the destination. My destination is a mentally healthy life. One that most of the population takes for granted.

For real, though, I have a lot of work to do if I want to hike the CDT. Hopefully the PCT will teach me to pay more attention to trail signage, and that Guthook is a necessary tool. I did not use it after Pennsylvania because I got too addicted to checking it.

The goal of this blog is to describe the impact that backpacking has on my mental health and to raise awareness for people who struggle with any type of mental illness. Not specifically, c-PTSD. The fact of the matter is, there is a stigma about mental health, and I want to help people understand the impact that it has on people and how we struggle to overcome things that most people take for granted. My life has been a wild ride, but so is backpacking. The stuff that we go through makes us stronger then ever before. It gives us a moral center that will never waver. Ninety-nine percent of the people in my life don’t understand what it’s like to struggle with something that is out of their control. For too long I have stayed clenched up in a ball, trying to conform to society, while I watch every single person fail to understand how c-PTSD shapes a person, and the real, actual, daily struggles we go through. I will make decisions based off my mental health, because that is what is most important.

Also, if anybody needs help budgeting for a thru-hike, I am for real your guy. It is not possible to go more in-depth with Excel and personal budgets then what I do. Having enough funding for a long-distance hike is one of the most stressful topics to concern yourself with. Excel takes away all the stress.

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