Goodbye Maine, Hello Whites
So much has happened since the last time I updated the blog. We have made it out of Maine, and we’re about 60 miles into New Hampshire. The trail has been beautiful and the views have been even better.
Our last full day in Maine was rainy and dreary. It was almost as if the state were trying to keep us there. We only had 8 more miles until the end, but we had to go over 4 mountains and make our way through the slowest mile on the trail. The earlier part of the day was enjoyable because we were climbing over and under rocks in the mahoosuc notch – but that quickly changed when it started raining, and what had been fun became perilous. After the notch we started climbing. We made it over our first two mountains without any problems, but the third would prove problematic, because of bogs with mud that came up to our waist. The rest of the day was fairly normal and we arrived at the shelter with little daylight to spare.
We caught wind of an all-you-can-eat buffet in Gorham, NH, so we decided to wake up at 4:30 and hike the 17.5 miles into town. The 17.5 miles into Gorham would prove to be easier than we thought, because the sun was shining and the trail was beautiful. At one point we were even running through the woods because we were so motivated to get to town. When we arrived in Gorham we dropped off our packs at the hostel and ran the mile to the Chinese buffet.
Our two nights in Gorham were much needed and deserved, but we were ready to get started hiking in the White Mountain National Forest – a.k.a. The Whites. The Whites contain some of the tallest mountains of the trail, and we would spend most of our days hiking above the tree line while being exposed to the elements. The hiking above the tree line would prove to be my favorite hiking experience, because you get amazing 360 degree views. The only downside, though, is the sun is always on you, and the wind is constant. There aren’t many places you can camp above the tree line, but we were able to obtain a work-for-stay at the Madison Hut between Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams. This allowed us to sleep indoors and eat the leftover food from the dinner that they served to the paying tourists.
After our stay at Madison Hut we began our hike along the ridge that would lead to our ascent of Mt. Washington. The hike to Washington’s peak has been my favorite hike, to date. The weather was perfect and the hike up Washington was pleasant and rewarding. The view from the top was phenomenal, and we had completed one of our milestones on the trail. The only downside was, we had to share the summit with tourists who drove and took the train up the mountain. It really bothered me to see them take their picture at the top just like us, or to hear them say that they had “reached the top”. I felt like it took away from our accomplishment, but in the end I was still excited to have reached the top.
After Washington, we had a 1.5 mile climb down to the Lake of the Clouds hut where we wanted to try to obtain another work-for-stay, because it was 4 miles until the tree line and there was a thunderstorm coming in later. We were told that they had room for us to do a work-for-stay, but then the hut master decided that they didn’t, so they told us we could pay 10 dollars and sleep in the “dungeon”. The dungeon was a small rock room with a big metal door that was part of the original hut building. There were six rickety bunks in the room that we would come to learn that we had to share with some four-legged furry friends. I slept pretty well in the dungeon and I was only wakened a couple of times because the wind and the rain outside was so loud – but that is to be expected at that elevation.
When we woke up the next morning, it was 40 degrees outside with winds from 30-60 mph, and only a visibility of about 100 feet. We took our time getting ready and made sure we were bundled up to the max. When we finally set off we made sure we were close together and could always see each other so we wouldn’t get separated. This was a nerve-racking time, but the fog would soon give way to the sun, and we would drop down below the tree line so that we were shielded from the wind. We ate lunch at the Mizpah hut and then set off to finish the last 6 miles of our day.
The day would end with our hike taking us on the edge of the Webster cliffs for a mile and then 2000 feet down to the road. When we finally got down off the cliffs, we saw a sign for a free stay at a trail angel’s house about 20 miles away. We called the angel and asked about the sign, and he said we could stay in his house, but that he was at work, so he couldn’t pick us up. So, we split the cost of a cab and an hour later we found ourselves at a stranger’s house doing laundry and showering. We still aren’t used to random acts of kindness like this, but it is always an amazing feeling when someone opens their house for you or offers you a ride. The stay at the angel’s house was very refreshing, but the best part was that we met this 5-year-old named Christian – a.k.a. Buddy Backpack who was attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail just like us. It is so inspiring that someone so young has the courage to try this. Even with his parents being with him, it is still so impressive.
We have about 100 miles left in New Hampshire, so we are hoping to make it to Hanover before the 31st so we can watch the UGA vs Clemson game and relax before we start Vermont. New Hampshire has been amazing, but I’m ready for Vermont. The trail has been amazing and the adventures continue. Oh, and we have our first sponsor, Probar.