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Appalachian Trail: Days 112-126

Day 112 - June 20th

Daily miles: 9.3

Official distance covered on trail: 1803.7

WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW. Today was the most perfect day. I'm still just buzzing.

It started with waking up in a comfortable bed at 6:30 and not immediately having to move. We decided that we were only going to do 9 miles today, so we didn't have to get started particularly early. And then when we got out of bed, it was nice to get out of a bed and not up off the ground.

We finally started hiking around 9:00. Our entire hiking goal today was to get up and over Mt. Moosilauke, which is the first peak of the White Mountains. We gained almost 4000 feet over the course of 5 miles, so it was pretty steep, but it was a beautiful hike, and knowing it was the only major uphill of the day made it super doable.

About a mile from the top was the south peak, which I basically had to myself. I tried to FaceTime my dad with the assumption that I'd have good service, but it wasn't consistent, but I wanted him to see this view:

We got to the top and just... wow. Just wow.

Toward the top, I kept thinking to myself, "I could totally use a Sprite right now." It was a silly thought because I didn't have a Sprite with me and the idea of someone hauling trail magic up such a challenging mountain is absurd. BUT WAIT. There was actually trail magic at the top! With Sprite! Dr. Thunder and Classic, who hiked the trail in 2019, decided to hike Mt. Moosilauke with packs full of pop and fruit and chips and donuts to give to thru hikers. It was cold and windy at the top, but we spent over an hour up there enjoying everyone's company.

The way down was really steep and stressful, as if the trail were saying "Haha, welcome to the Whites, bitches," but we made it. Dr. Thunder and Classic even met us at the bottom in Dr. Thunder's converted van, gave us more food and beverages, and gave us a ride to the nearby hostel.

At the hostel, we were informed that a nearby organization had booked the whole hostel, but the girl working there wasn't sure if there would be some sort of accommodations they could provide us, so she had us wait on the porch while she tried to contact the owner. She felt so bad about "inconveniencing" us that she ran inside and got pastries and beer for us. Some guys were hanging out on the porch, and apparently none of them were staying there, but this hostel is just a cool hang-out spot, and one of the guys gave us a bunch of breakfast sandwiches from the bakery he works at, and one of the guys gave us a tour of his converted van, and everyone was just so kind and hospitable, and just... people can be so great, you know? Just good ol' human kindness. It turned out there wasn't any room for us at the hostel, so the bakery guy drove us to a nearby inn.

Spent the remainder of the evening watching Harry Potter and eating Chinese food and buzzing on the amazing day we just had!

Day 113 - June 21st

Daily miles: 16.1

Official distance covered on trail: 1820.0

Another great day in the Whites! People told us we'd have to slow down our mileage out here, and they were right. A lot of the hiking is very different from what we're used to - big sections of rock scrambles, steep ascents and descents, very calculated steps all the time - and it takes a lot longer to complete the distances we aim for. 16 miles would normally take us maybe 8 hours including breaks, and it took us 11. The hiking is harder, but the views are more rewarding.

We did Kinsman Mountain today, which has two peaks. We took short breaks at both.

The summer solstice is celebrated in an odd way on the trail. It's known among hikers as "hike naked day." Most people just do a mile. The peaks had a mile between them. In that mile, Mitch and I hiked naked. It felt weird, and I was nervous that some day hiker would come up on us, but it was soo liberating. Just being on top of a mountain and feeling like I was a part of the natural features of the land. It was good. Highly recommend.

We were planning on doing 11 miles and staying at a shelter, but the AMC charges $15 per person at that shelter, and we thought, we only paid $22 per person at the inn, so we pushed 5 extra miles to get to town and stay at the inn. Straight-up platinum blazing through the Whites! Also we would have slackpacked if we'd known we were going to be staying here again... Oh well. But it's thunder storming outside and we get to watch hockey inside, so no complaints here.

Day 114 - June 22nd

Daily miles: 10.3

Official distance covered on trail: 1830.3

Not gonna lie, today got us all a bit down.

Today's section of trail included Franconia Ridge, which is a major highlight on the AT. It's 2 miles of hiking above the tree line in the Whites, so you get great views for 2 straight miles of hiking. Assuming it's a clear day, of course.

We woke up and saw that it was still raining. We spent awhile debating what to do with the day. Other hikers we knew decided to zero and hope for better weather for the ridge tomorrow. We thought about shuttling ahead to the next town and hiking south to the shelter we planned to stay at and then doing Franconia Ridge tomorrow and ending up back in the same town, but the shuttles would be super expensive and then we'd have to probably stay at the inn again. Eventually, we decided to just go for the original plan of doing the ridge today. The weather in the Whites is unpredictable, so it's a gamble no matter what. Maybe we'd get great views. Maybe the people going tomorrow will get clouds.

It didn't really pan out for us. In fact, it was a brutal 2 miles. Not only was it cloudy, but it was raining, and the wind is ferocious above the tree line with nothing to break it. You can tell it would be gorgeous on a clear day, but we just wanted to get through it as fast as possible so we could get back in the trees and out of the biting wind against our wet skin. Don't get me wrong: it was beautiful in its own way, being among the clouds. But man was it cold!

We toyed with the idea of maybe doing the ridge tomorrow - hiking back the way we came, getting to the road we started at, and then shuttling ahead to the next town. But the hike to this shelter was so challenging, and we don't want to do it again but in reverse.

We knew it was a risk doing the ridge today, and it didn't go as desired, but we knew that was a possibility going in, so we'll just have to come back and do this section some other time.

It's really cold at this shelter. It's been awhile since we got in our sleeping bags as quickly as possible. It's not quite 7:00, and it won't get dark for a few more hours, and I can already hear other hikers snoring.

Day 115 - June 23rd

Daily miles: 17.1

Official distance covered on trail: 1847.4

Today's the first time in a long time we had a hard time getting up because it was so cold outside. We didn't start hiking until 8:15 or so, which was not great considering we had such a long day ahead.

The hiking in this area has been challenging. People kept telling us we'd have to reduce our mileage in the Whites. I thought they meant we'd be tired. Really they meant that the terrain here is really fucking hard. Like I physically can't go faster because if you fall in some sections, you will get seriously hurt.

Even so, it's been really enjoyable! The Whites are incredible. Today was the clear and sunny day we wanted yesterday, and we got some great views of the surrounding mountains. It's insane to look back at the mountains we've already climbed and look forward toward what's coming next.

We spent a few hours at some of the huts around here. The huts are managed by the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) and are operated by people around our age, so we've been able to befriend the employees.

We had to go into town to resupply, which really meant a gas station. By the time we were able to set up our tents at a stealth spot and get to the road, it was past 7:00. It was hard to get a hitch to the gas station, and impossible to get one back. We ended up calling the AMC office nearby and begging for a ride, but we got back to our tents eventually.

Day 116 - June 24th

Daily miles: 11.3

Official distance covered on trail: 1858.7

I love New Hampshire. I freaking love New Hampshire.

The hiking today was really hard, but man was it rewarding. There were views everywhere, and it feels like the Whites are making up for us missing Franconia Ridge. We're currently in a stretch called The Presidentials, and it's just constant panoramas from every peak. It's incredible.

We were supposed to do like 17 miles today, which would have been ridiculous, especially starting at a road and going all the way over Mt. Washington, which is a 5000 foot elevation differential. We still did 4000 but it was doable. Our ideal scenario was staying at Lake of the Clouds Hut, but huts are too expensive for us. The huts are like $150 per night, and they used to do work for stay, but they stopped because of covid, and I can't name a single thruhiker who's able to afford these huts, even though they're perfectly placed for the miles we'd want to do through this section.

We decided to try to schmooze the staff, since they're all young and fun, and see if they'd let us stay anyway, especially since we knew about The Presence, which is what they call the collective ghosts which supposedly haunt the dungeon. Heck, we would have even stayed in the dungeon! Their hands were tied and they couldn't let us stay anywhere, but they were able to recommend some stealth campsites to us below the tree line, since camping in alpine vegetation is bad for the flora. We set up our tents and hung out with the staffers for awhile. They gave us a ton of free food, so we offered to do the dishes, and they were so shocked and grateful, but it seems like a fair trade, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more! We spent the evening hanging out with them and it was so weird and confusing but so freaking fun!

Day 117 - June 25th

Daily miles: 15.0

Official distance covered on trail: 1873.7

Woke up to a very damp floor of the tent from all the liquid from the mud, which we knew would happen. Kinda gross since all our stuff is now at least a little wet, but so worth it for last night's mayhem.

We watched as the clouds overtook the summit of Mt. Washington and slowly creep further down the mountain. Mt. Washington is one of the most prolific parts of the Whites, and again we missed the views from it. Hiking up, we were enveloped by the clouds, and we arrived at the summit totally soaked, even though it wasn't raining. There's a road that leads to the top, as well as a train, so I'm not too mad to have missed the views from there, since returning in the future will require minimal effort on our parts.

It also is tradition to moon the train if you see it, and we happened to cross the tracks as it was coming through, so we couldn't pass up the opportunity. I hope all the passengers enjoyed our nasty butts.

I was kinda kidding about wanting to hitch a ride down to Gorham, since we're staying in this town overnight, and we still had 13 challenging miles to go, but I definitely would have accepted if someone had offered a ride. The remainder of the hike was beautiful, but very physically demanding.

After having done those miles, I think I put too much stress on my knees and right quad. I started noticing it going over Mt. Madison, and it only got worse as the hike progressed. We have a planned zero in a few days since Wilson's parents are visiting, but I may rest a little early, especially since tomorrow's hike is supposed to be one of the most strenuous parts of the Whites. So... to be determined.

Days 118-120: June 26th-28th

Daily miles: 0.0

Official distance covered on trail: 1873.7

Took a few days off to let my legs recover a bit. Sitting around for 3 days was making me antsy, but it's what my body needed. Luckily, Gorham is a trail town that people cross through more than once, so it made the next few days easy.

The plan initially was for all of us to leave the hostel Saturday morning and hike 13 miles, then do 8 miles back to Gorham on Sunday, then zero on Monday. What ended up happening was: we all zeroed together Saturday, the guys slackpacked the entire 21 miles on Sunday while I continued to rest, and then we all zeroed Monday.

It's frustrating having to skip such a substantial section. That's like 1% of the trail that I just didn't do. A lot of purists - which we are not - would do that section before heading on, but we're on a deadline and don't have time for me to just crank out 21 miles. I keep having to tell myself that I'm no less of a thruhiker for prioritizing my body's needs. I still walked to this point, didn't I? That's impressive enough without having to throw in caveats, right?

On the plus side, I got to catch up on The Bachelorette and soak my feet while the guys were out.

Day 121: June 29th

Daily miles: 17.0

Official distance covered on trail: 1911.8

Well y'all, we are officially in Maine. Last state. Last 281 miles.

The hike today was physically and mentally demanding. Didn't help that it was hot and a lot of water sources have dried up, so we were all pretty dehydrated rolling into camp.

The remainder of New Hampshire provided some lovely views.

But now we're in freaking MAINE! Like... what?

Just over 2 weeks to go. Not gonna lie, I'm pretty ready to be done with the hiking part. I'm looking forward to not having to hike basically every day, or feeling like we should be logging miles when we take breaks. I'm excited to enjoy the small things about hiking again. At this point, it's become so much like a job. I'm ready to appreciate hiking itself and not just focus on hiking x miles in a day. But man will I miss the heck out of this lifestyle. I love being outside so much of the time (when the weather is good....). I love being around so many people who also love hiking. I love hostels and hitchhiking and sitting outside of gas stations and generally being hiker trash. I love being on the go. I love getting to the next thing. But I'm also ready for the next thing to be more couch-related activities.

Day 122: June 30th

Daily miles: 9.5

Official distance covered on trail: 1921.3

Goddamn. Today was a rough one.

I'd hoped that getting to Maine would reenergize me and make me super excited to finish the trail. Instead, it feels like an extended town day, just thinking "Why can't I just be there already?!" We kept saying we were walking to Maine, and we're in Maine, dammit, but we still have over 200 miles to go.

The trail today was so fucking hard. We'd planned on going further today, but once Mitch and I got to this shelter, we said NOPE and set up camp, even though the other two had moved on. Apparently, they're only 5 miles ahead, and it wasn't too bad of a hike, but we were in no fit mental state to keep going once we got here.

From the start, the terrain was just brutal. It took almost 3 hours to go the first 4.5 miles. The views were nice though.

The highlight of the day was Mahoosuc Notch, which is a straight mile of crazy rock scramble. Wind blew warm air on us while cool vents blew from the ice below us, creating odd temperature changes while we climbed and hopped from rock to rock. There were several times I had to use my (albeit minimal) outdoor rock climbing experience to help me out. It was scary because if you messed up and slipped, it would mean almost certain injury. The Notch was only a mile long, but it took me and Mitch almost 2 hours to complete. And thank god I did it with Mitch because there were a few times he had to spot me and help me out of sketchy situations. Even so, it was the best part of the day, and a definite highlight of the trail!

Thankfully the rain held off until we were about a half hour out of the Notch, which would have made that experience way harder, but it did nothing to improve my mood.

By the time we got to the shelter, Wilson and Scott had already left, but Mitch and I were so ready to call it a day that we decided to stay here. We joked about yellow blazing to Monson and just doing the 100 mile wilderness and summitting Katahdin. It's a joke, but fuck would that be nice...

Day 123 - July 1st

Daily miles: 5.6

Official distance covered on trail: 1946.3

Today was productive, but not from a hiking perspective. Mitch and I hiked the first 5.6 miles to the road and then got a hitch to a town, and then hitched a bit ahead. We told ourselves we wouldn't do that if we felt like we'd regret it later, but honestly we won't. I don't feel bad about it at all.

I realized during the first mile of the hike why I've been so low energy these days. The hiking in the Whites and southern Maine isn't normal hiking. It's not just putting one foot in front of the other. It's genuinely scary hiking. Lots of very hazardous rock scrambles. A friend we met at the beginning who just finished his hike a few days ago wrote this poem: "Southern Maine on the AT is grand, / Not one switchback in all of the land. / A slip or a fall, / Means a medivac call / This state will take longer than planned." While I would change some of his punctuation, and the tone is lighter than how I feel, I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment. My brain has just been in full panic mode since coming down Moosilauke and it's been wearing on me a lot. Mitch told me he noticed I'm almost constantly on the verge of tears, so that's cool.

In town, we were able to apply for a few apartments and Mitch was able to apply for a bunch of jobs, so it wasn't totally lazy on our ends! Hopefully one of the apartments accepts our application and we can actually have a place to live after all this! I feel pretty good about our progress.

We also had some awesome luck with hitches today. From the parking lot, someone offered us a ride to town, and it turns out she's local to the area but just moved to Denver, so easy new friend! Getting back to the trail, Mitch and I were able to get a ride in a classic VW van which was totally decked out in classic hippie decals and decor, which was a for sure hitch highlight! Then after she dropped us off at an intersection, we were almost immediately able to pick up a second hitch! Maine is easily the nicest New England state. The people are so much kinder than other recent states.

Day 124 - July 2nd

Daily miles: 17.0

Official distance covered on trail: 1963.3

We woke up to a consistent rain. Nothing too hard, but enough that it was a chore convincing ourselves to willingly go out in it. It's one thing to get rained on when you know you have a warm building and a hot shower and dry sweatpants waiting for you on the other side; it's another to know you don't.

Even with the crummy weather and the lack of views because everything was covered by fog and clouds all day, I was in a pretty solid mood all day. It was almost all regular hiking!!! Just good ol' one foot in front of the other.

Also got trail magic from some lovely locals, Gregg and Geri. They left a cooler of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies, pop - everything we didn't know we needed but totally did. They came by to check on the cooler when we were there, which they do twice a day to make sure it's adequately stocked. Super kind folks, super fun to talk to. That made the remaining 5 miles so easy to get through!

Another cold evening. Early tent time for us.

Day 125 - July 3rd

Daily miles: 20.1

Official distance covered on trail: 1983.4

Not much to report today. Another cold and misty and foggy day. More views that I'm sure would be lovely if we could see them. That's kinda a bummer. But all the SOBOs kept telling us not to underestimate the Saddlebacks, which we did today, and they honestly weren't bad at all! Would have been nice to see some vistas but oh well.

I've seen more pellets of moose poop than there are freaking stars in the sky, but still no moose!

Trying to soak up as much quality time with the tramily as possible. That'll be the worst part about being done for sure is not seeing these guys every day.

Day 126 - July 4th

Daily miles: 13.2

Official distance covered on trail: 2004.9

They say "No rain, no Maine," but no one said anything about Maine being exclusively rain. Another cold and rainy day for us. Celebrating the best way we know how: inside with warm food and a hot shower. Also with sparklers that Wilson has carried since Manchester Center, VT. We tried to wait til dark, but it is almost 9:00 and that is past our bedtime. I wonder how long it will take our sleep schedules to stop aligning with the sun.

Our original plan was to get to a mountaintop and view the fireworks from there, but it has been consistently cloudy and rainy. Just not worth it. So we bailed to a hostel because we deserve comfort, dammit.

Originally we were actually gonna do the full 21 miles, but it was so cloudy, the prospect of climbing another mountain just to get no view was unappealing, and it was so cold and rainy, when we came to a road and saw we had enough service to call a shuttle, it was too hard to say no. The only thing that we feel eh about is not officially passing the 2000 mile marker, but like... honestly no regrets. Just had to get warm.

Maine's been getting us a bit down. Everyone told us this would be the best state but it's just been rainy and cloudy and cold since we've been here. Some of the ponds we keep passing have canoes laid out for people to take for a spin, and we'd LOVE to canoe and swim, but it's been so cold, the last thing we want to do is get more wet.


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