I woke up on September 10th in the Carriage Motel in Lincoln, NH. My original intention was to return to the trail. But, I could hear rain and I was in no mood for hiking in the mud considering my dangerous trek down Mt. Moosilauke the night before. So, I decided to take a zero day. I needed new shoes, but didn’t have much luck with variety or selection at the outfitter in town. I did laundry, resupplied, ate town food, and lounged in the bed while drinking a single serving box of cheap wine. I wasn’t sorry for not hiking. Not at all.
As a hiker, a real break is rare. Even on zero days, laundry and a resupply must be done. A substantial meal is desired. Post cards should be mailed home. Maybe another piece of gear is needed. Family and friends want to hear from their hiking loved ones while service and power is available for cell phone usage. Electronic devices need charged. You get the point. All of these stops and chores are typically not be centrally located…and, oh yeah, it must all be done on foot.
The next morning, my feet were still sore, but I was excited to be back on the trail nonetheless. The weather showed improvement, and it was time to continue to conquer the White Mountains! Within a mile of being back on the trail, I passed mile marker 1800. Only 389.2 miles to go…
I had heard hikers often have a lower daily mileage in the White’s. But, when I calculated my speed, I was at about 1 mile per hour. I knew my miles would decrease, but wow! Laying in my tent that night, I was slightly annoyed with my performance for the day. I tried to convince myself, “tomorrow will be better…”
Surprisingly, ‘tomorrow’ began with an event more thrilling than I could’ve ever imagined. I was jolted out of my morning stupor when I heard Rebel Yell holler, “Dixie! There’s a moose!” I stood up out of my tent with more energy than any cup (or pot) of coffee could have possibly provided. There, before my eyes, was the most beautifully colossal creature I have ever stood so close to in the wild. My first moose on the AT! To top it all of, the cow had her calf along side. I would love to share the amazing image I captured, but that isn’t possible as it only exists in my mind. I did record a quick video that was posted on my vlog, but it wasn’t of great quality. So you’ll have to take my word for it how awesome the moment was–watching a mother and her young feed in the forest of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
The first climb of the day was Kinsman Mountain. It too featured hand over hand climbing, slippery boulders, and rebar ladders. I just kept telling myself “It’s not as bad as Moosiluake was!”
After descending Kinsman, I reached Lonesome Lake Hut. The hut system in the White Mountain range has been in operation under the AMC for over 100 years. Annually, hundreds of people travel from all over the world to utilize these huts and experience the magestic mountains of NH. The expense of the huts is somewhat pricey on the typical thru-hiker’s budget, so they often offer ‘work for stay’ opportunities to long-distance hikers. In a work for stay situation, thru-hikers complete chores (such as sweeping, dish washing, or speaking with guests about their journey) in return for floor space on which they may sleep. Due to the rocky terrain, there aren’t many flat places to stealth camp throughout the White’s. Therefore, it is well known that hikers heavily rely on the huts and shelters as a safe haven from the unforgiving elements. I was excited for this new experience and looked forward to my first work for stay opportunity.
After over 1800 miles, I was finally seeing a hut in person. For the last 100 miles or so of my hike, I had crossed paths with southbounders who spoke of the delicious soup served daily from 11am-4pm at ALL of the huts. It was great to see a hut, but more exciting was the thoughts of this soup! After all, that’s why I had hiked so fast and hard that day. I bounded up the steps and peeked inside. A few guests and ‘croo’ members (the hut staff) were around. Unsure of proper hut etiquette, I waited patiently by the kitchen counter for the croo to acknowledge me so I could inquire about soup or coffee. After several awkward minutes, I felt as if the croo was more or less avoiding eye contact. Finally, I politely asked for their attention to see if I could possibly purchase a bowl of soup. To my dismay, the cook, in a snippy tone, said “there is no soup left.” Seeing a sign with pricing for baked goods, I ordered a couple cookies. The response was given as bluntly as before “no cookies, either.” I hung my head and said “Okay, thank you.”
I walked back outside and sat by the lake, pulling another bland Granola bar from my pack. I must’ve looked totally defeated because one of the lady croo members came out and said she found some leftover tomato soup if I still wanted to purchase a bowl. I can’t tell you how grateful I was for that warm bowl of leftover soup. Obviously it made a lasting impression because simply looking at the photo below takes me back to that exact moment and the emotion I felt washes over me.
I so desperately wanted to ask about work for stay. The thought of being in a warm, dry place for the night was amazing–even if it was a dusty floor! But, something held me back. I honestly felt a strange vibe from the croo members. Almost…stand-offish? With the exception of the sweet girl who offered some leftovers, I just didn’t feel very welcome. I thought maybe I was being sensitive. But, either way, I wasn’t going to stay somewhere I didn’t feel comfortable. So, I hiked on and camped under the interstate overpass a few miles up trail.
The next morning, I woke up to rain. Cold rain. Luckily, packing up my belongings wasn’t quite as miserable as it could have been considering I was sheltered by the overpass. Winning! I was somewhat dreading the day, though, because I knew a few miles of it would be above tree line. With less shelter from the elements, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.
I made it over Franconia Ridge safely, but the wind and rain blew violently all day. I was fairly nervous and miserable, but isn’t that what adventures are made of? If we always stay in our comfort zones, how can we grow stronger or smarter?
When I finally reached Garfield Ridge shelter I was physically and emotionally drained. The shelters in the White Mountains are also fee based, although they are MUCH cheaper than the huts. I was absolutely thrilled to pay the small fee, change into warm, dry clothes and crawl into my sleeping bag. As a side note, I can’t express the importance of keeping sleepwear/sleepgear dry! That may mean putting on cold, soggy clothing the next morning–but, your sleeping clothes MUST stay dry. Unless you’re a fan of hypothermia…
I never felt completely warm that night and probably shivered more than I slept. I suppose it was due to hours of hiking in frigid wind and rain. It was by far the coldest I had felt since hiking in the Smokies. But, these adverse conditions are what makes thru-hikers truly appreciate the simple comforts and luxuries of everyday life once they return home. After all, it’s the little things in life that matter and are often taken for granted.
Well, I suppose that’s enough for this time! To find out what next day of hiking in the White Mountains brought, check back for another update which will be posted soon.
Below are some additional pictures I was fortunate enough to capture along this stretch of trail:
Well, until next time–
I’m glad you’ve found the time to update your blog, I can’t wait to see your still shots through the Whites and Maine. You have a photographers eye!
Well it looks like Patrick’s “Lucky Moose” saw you through to the end of your journey.
Kudos to you for “Crossing the line”
I have to admit I was concerned for your safety and comfort level through those first 2 1/2 weeks of October, the weather wasn’t very cooperative. I recall we we’re down to 17 degrees in Vermont around the time I figured you would be trying to summit and with snow at the higher elevations that it would be a challenge for you without proper winter gear.
I have climbed Katahdin on four different trails and in my opinion the Hunt trail is the most difficult, but also the most beautiful.
I was relieved to see that you had others to climb with, I can only imagine how difficult some of those pitches were with the trail clogged with ice.
What did you think of the 10 foot vertical rock face with the inverted “U” shaped bar at the top of the crack? That whole section must have been pretty dicey in those conditions.
Thanks again for sharing your journey with us!
I’ve been hiking in the white mountains almost all my life and unfortunately I’ve encountered many unfriendly croo members at the huts too. It really doesn’t make much sense to me because 90% of the people I’ve met hiking in the whites are incredibly friendly and helpful. This (and the expense) is why I refuse to stay in the huts while backpacking up there. I really hope that you ran into some nice New Englanders, we aren’t all that bad!
Awesome pics!! That would have been so cool to see the moose!! What a bummer about the huts – I will never understand why some people feel the need to act like that!