Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Hanover, NH To Lincoln, NH

I'm approaching the White Mountains.  This is possibly the most difficult part of the Appalachian Trail (AT).  High elevations, rocky climbs, and few opportunities to resupply.  The first of the Whites, Mt. Moosilauke, was a positive preview that I hope carries through the rest of the Whites.

A view of the mountains to come.
Day 160 - I slept in a bit and had breakfast before checking out and going to the post office next door.  I picked up the replacement segment for my broken trekking pole and I was ready to go.

Since I was leaving late I planned a short day to Moose Mountain Shelter.  I was later joined by thru-hikers Luna and Early Bird.

You want me to climb that?!?
Day 161 - My next target was the Fire Warden's Cabin on the top of Smarts Mountain.  This would be another short day.  Despite the shortness of the day it was still difficult due to all the climbing involved.

I arrived at the cabin and settled in.  I was tired.  I didn't feel the extra calories I'd been eating after leaving town.  I was just as pooped as before.

The sun started to go down and I was alone in the cabin.  I'd expected not be alone but I was wrong.  I set up my sleeping pad in a corner and went to bed early.  I woke up when I heard the rain and was happy to be in a dry and fairly warm place.

Mushrooms?  Eggs?  Easter Bunny poop?
Day 162 - My lack of planning caught up with me.  Mt. Moosilauke, the first of the White Mountains, was approaching and the short days I'd just done hadn't put me in a good position to tackle the climb.  I had to go as far as I could to get close to the base of the mountain.

I ran out of steam at the base of Mist Mountain.  I'd hoped that I would at least reach the top of this shorter mountain.  I stealth camped near a creek at the bottom.  While I was eating dinner I stepped on a ground bee's nest.  In the mild chaos I was stung on my neck.

The trail leads to Mt. Moosilauke straight ahead.
Day 163 - I climbed up and over Mist Mountain and reached the base of Mt Moosilauke.  I filled my water bottle and added some caffeine.  I'd been off caffeine for a couple weeks but I figured the 3,800 ft (1158 m) climb needed an extra boost.

The climb up the south side of the mountain was surprisingly gentle.  It went straight up the mountain for a while before becoming a rock climb.  The rock climb ends at a narrow ridge the leads you to the last four hundred foot climb to the summit.

Follow the cairns.
Rock cairns lead you above the tree line to the summit.  The drizzle that I walked through in the morning was gone and a cold wind blew at the top.  The views from Moosilauke were pretty awesome and were a preview of the views coming in the rest of the Whites.  More surprising was the fact that I felt really good.  I am guessing that the caffeine with the higher calorie intake worked together to power me up the mountain.

I talked to a couple day hikers before heading down the North side.  The trail started out muddy before turning steeply down a rocky trail.  This really slowed me down.  Part way down, just past the 1,800 mile mark, I turned off the trail and stopped at the Beaver Brook Shelter.  I was only a mile and a half away from the road where I could catch a shuttle but it was still a 1,800 ft climb down a very rocky trail.  Stopping at the shelter was the wise choice I think.

I was joined by Early Bird in the shelter for a very chilly evening,

Days 164, 165 & 166 - I slept in a bit - it's hard to get out of your sleeping bag when it's cold.  It took me nearly two hours to climb down to the parking lot and Kinsman Notch.  I called a shuttle and headed into Lincoln, NH.

I took two zero days after the nearo into town.  I wanted to give my body a really good rest prior to tackling the Whites.  I also resupplied and got a haircut.

I'm off to the Whites. My original plan had three days to get to Gorham, NH.  Since I expect the Whites to be more difficult I am adding a day and, in a way, winging it.  It will be challenging and interesting ... and a bit scary too.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,802.6 Miles (2,901.0 km)
Section Distance: 53.4 Miles (85.9 km)
Section Elevation Up: 15,894 ft (4,845 m)
Section Elevation Down: 14,193 ft (4,326 m)

Monday, September 09, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Killington, VT To Hanover, NH

This last section was short which was better for my worn out  legs.  I increased my calorie budget and felt pretty good.   I'm feeling pretty good and my mood has improved.  Twelve states are behind me and only the two hardest states remain.

Kent pond.  I just want to sit and dangle my feet.
Day 156 - I hiked out of Killington and rejoined the Appalachian Trail (AT).  The trail passes Kent Pond and Mountain Meadows Lodge.  I considered zeroing at the lodge but it is closed for renovations and you could see the work being done to the exterior.  The dock on the pond just begged to be sat on with your feet dangling.

Like the rest of Vermont there were several hills to climb on this day.  The trail designers in Vermont don't believe in proper switchbacks and most of the climbs are straight up the mountain.

Today was going to be a sixteen mile day but, after talking to some southbounders (including one recording his thru-hike for Google Street View) said I had to stay at the Lookout Cabin.  I'd also considered shortening the day so I would have three even days of fourteen miles each.

I reached the cabin and ran into Hemingway, a thru-hiker I hadn't seen since Hot Springs, NC one hundred and twenty days ago.  Strange how the trail works.

The sunset colors light up the clouds.
The cabin was near the top of a mountain and had a small platform built on the top of the roof.  Climbing a ladder to the platform gave you a 360° view.  Hemingway, a few other thru-hikers, and I watched the sunset from the best seat in the house.

The oranges and yellows of sunrise.
Day 157 - Hemingway is an earlier riser than I am.  I slept in a little since sunrise is slowly getting later.  I got up and climbed the ladder for a view of the oranges and yellows of dawn.

The hike today took me past three farm stores.  I decided to skip the first two and visit the third.  Turns out I did that totally backwards.  The first two had hiker-centric products while the third was all high-end snooty-centric.  I did buy a pint of snooty organic ice cream.

I made it to my stop at a reasonable time.  My hiking speed was comparable to my speed down south.  There are a couple of potential reasons for this.  The trail conditions in Vermont are similar to Virginia with fewer rocks.  I also increased my calories per day.  Both of these may explain the extra speed.  I hope this continues into New Hampshire.

Another milestone to lift my spirits.
Days 158 & 159 - One more Vermont hill climb before I got into town.  Before starting up the hill I passed through West Hartford, VT.  The AT passes by a hostel.  One of the owners waved me down and offered me a snack.  I rested and ate cupcakes, a banana, and washed it down with juice.

The hill felt tough as I expected.  The trail comes out on a road south of Norwich, VT and becomes a road walk for the next two and a half miles.  Not far down the road a homeowner had placed two adirondak chairs with a mail box with a log book and Tootsie Rolls. Another had a large jug of water near the curb for hikers.  The AT skirts Norwich, crosses the Connecticut River (the VT-NH border), and goes up a hill to the Dartmouth campus.

I spent way ... way ... too much for a hotel room.  Despite the cost they didn't have guest laundry.  I took an Uber to do laundry.

The next day I took another Uber to Walmart and resupplied.  I boosted the calories again which means it will be a heavy haul when I leave town.

Today, after picking up a piece to fix my broken hiking pole, I'll head for the next town, N. Woodstock, NH, the beginning of the White Mountains.  The Whites are considered the most difficult part of the AT and also the most spectacular ... and they are only four days away.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,749.9 Miles (2,816.2 km)
Section Distance: 46.1 Miles (74.2 km)
Section Elevation Up: 11,365 ft (3,464 m)
Section Elevation Down: 12,322 ft (3,756 m)

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Bennington, VT To Killington, VT

I knew the next few days were going to be tough.  I don't think I knew how tough.  I managed to meet my goals but I had to reduce some of my goals to make it.  As I add extra days to reduce my daily miles and zero days to let my legs recover I am creeping closer to the point of no return or, more correctly, the point of no finish.

The sun sets over a beaver pond.
Day 149 - One of the hotel staff dropped me off at the Appalachian Trail (AT) trailhead just before 7:30am - about an hour later than I usually start hiking. I had a long day planned.

The trails in Vermont, when not muddy, are decent.  There are a few rocky and/or rooty parts but the trails are similar to the trails in Virginia.  The one thing that makes Vermont difficult are the climbs.  It seems that every day has at least one and often more hills to climb.

After a long slog I reached the shelter before my target of the day.  I considered cutting the day short but knew I couldn't make up the distance and every day for this segment was long distance.  I decided to push on to the target shelter.

I guestimated I would get to the Story Spring Shelter a half hour or so before sunset.  I have been slower lately so I was a bit concerned when the sunlight dimmed.  As the sunlight dimmed I got some beautiful views of a beaver pond at sunset.  I arrived at the shelter about twenty minutes before official sunset.  I had to pull out my headlamp to find the bear box and privy.

There are some nice views in Vermont.
Day 150 - I left the shelter and headed north.  As I was heading downhill my pole stuck in a hole and I heard a sharp crack.  The pole broke in half.  That's the thing about carbon fiber trekking poles, they are very light but they only flex to a point before they break.  I'm surprised I made it over sixteen hundred miles before I broke a pole.  A replacement pole segment is waiting for me in Hanover, NH.

I climbed Mount Stratton with only one pole which felt out of balance.  At the top of Mount Stratton is where Benton MacKaye came up with the idea for the AT.

I ended the day at my target of Spruce Peak Shelter.  While I got there over an hour before sunset it still took longer than I expected.  I definitely am slowing down.

A cairn field along the AT.
Day 151 - This day was the shortest day so far but it felt like a much longer day.  The long climbs really wiped me out.

I was dragging my butt when I got closer to the Lost Pond Shelter.  Then I heard the laughter.  There was a college orientation group at the shelter.  I have found that these college orientation groups tend to be loud so sleeping in the shelter was out of the question. I found a tent pad at a safe distance.  This was a shame since the shelter really looked nice and even had a wood burning potbelly stove.

Day 152 - I decided the next two days, originally eighteen and twenty miles respectfully, were too long.  I added an extra day so that I would do two fourteen mile days and one ten mile day.  I thought this would make things easier.  The last day would be food free but it would end in a town where I could get eat.

Near the end of the day I nearly fell on my face again but managed to just roll my ankle.  I limped my way down the hill to the Minerva Hinkey Shelter.

I was joined by four south bound thru-hikers.  I went to bed early.  As I was trying to sleep one of the thru-hikers took out stainless steel throwing knives and began throwing them at a tree.  He was not very good so each throw end with a loud metallic clang.  *Sigh*

Over night it began to rain.  I kept waking up every few hours.  As it approached time to get up the rain did not let up.  *Sigh*

Only five hundred miles to go yet so far.
Day 153 - My ankle was stiff as I hobbled around camp.  I left the shelter in the rain.  It poured all day.  I slipped on a muddy hill and left a dime sized piece of palm skin on the trail.

Fortunately my ankle loosened up as I hiked.  First I climbed a thousand foot hill.  Then, after climbing down the ridge, I climbed two thousand six hundred feet to the top of Killington Mountain where my stop for the day, Cooper Lodge Shelter, sat near the top.   On the way up to Killington Mountain I passed the five hundred miles to go sign.

Near the top there is a restaurant that serves food to skiers and other sightseers.  It closes at 5:00pm.  It was only a short distance from the shelter.  Early in my AT attempt I know I could have made it in time to go to the restaurant but now I was so slow I knew I wouldn't make it.  I didn't make it.

I was the only hiker in or around the shelter.  It was a stone shelter and was a bit dilapidated.  Where there once was wooden shutters there was plastic sheeting and most of the plastic was flapping loosely in the wind.  The roof was leaking.  Some of the bunks were slanting so much they were unusable.  I picked the best one to set up my sleeping pad.

I made food.  As I was eating I started to shiver.  My clothes were wet and the temps were in the low fifties.  I stripped off my wet clothes and put on dry stuff including my base layers.  I crawled into my sleeping bag fairly early, put in my earplugs to counter the flapping plastic, and fell asleep.

I woke up near midnight having to use the bathroom.  I went out to use the privy and was greeted my a clear sky full of stars.  If it hadn't been so cold I would have stayed out and admired the stars but I went back into the shelter and crawled back into the sleeping bag.

Another milestone down.
Days 154 & 155 - I left the shelter in a fog.  I only had a bag of trail mix to eat.  Most of the hike today would be downhill but there was one small hill to climb before I got into town.  The trail conditions were pretty good but the wet rocks and roots slowed me down a bit.  Along the way I passed the one thousand seven hundred mile mark.  Each of these milestones pushes me on while each mile drags me back to reality.

I reached a road and walked the half mile into the town of Killington, VT.  The only thing here are two hotels, a deli/convenience store, a post office, and a styling salon.  I checked into the hotel across from the deli.  I took a shower, picked up my resupply box of food at the post office, and bought some food at the deli.

When I left Bennington I had considered only taking a nearo into Killington spending only one night in town but at the end of this segment my body was screaming for a full day off.  I took the two nights and I added another zero day in Hanover, NH.  My body is just not recovering anymore.  As I write this my legs feel stiff and I can hardly walk.  I am now considering taking several consecutive zeros before I enter the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  This would put me finishing at risk if the weather turns bad.  I have things to think about over the next week.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,706.3 Miles (2,746.0 km)
Section Distance: 94.1 Miles (151.4 km)
Section Elevation Up: 19,710 ft (6,008 m)
Section Elevation Down: 20,289 ft (6,184 m)