Miles from Springer Mountain: 1827
Miles to Mount Katahdin: 365
Late on the 20th I was joined at the hostel by a few friends from home – Scott, Alex, and Merle, I’ve known all of them for years and they wanted to join me to hike a few miles of the AT. Scott has plenty of experience hiking the trail, but this was Alex and Merle’s first taste of the AT and boy, did they get a taste! They drove 14 hours from Northern Indiana, most of you who read are Hoosiers, but maybe you haven’t been to New Hampshire… let me tell you it’s not all corn fields and country roads up here.
We left out early on the 21st with a touch of rain, I anticipated it would yield as the afternoon wore on. Our first big task was summiting Mt. Mousilake, one of the more famous and gnarly mountain climbs on the trail. The guys were introduced to the trail with a 3500 foot climb over 5 miles – a climb that’s tough for thru-hikers. It didn’t help that the rain didn’t stop, it also didn’t help that the wind was blowing 35+ mph, it also didn’t help that the trail wasn’t very well marked and we kept getting lost. We ran over the summit, I knew the conditions were hypothermic, we ran to the tree line to take refuge from the wind. Stumbling into the shelter, we were all waterlogged and shaking. It was decided to stay and warm up, although the day was called short, we couldn’t go onward. Instead we took the time to relax and catch up, I’d rather cut a day short and enjoy my time than get my miles in but have a miserable time!
Although the guys had a rough first day on trail they woke up excited and ready to tackle day two! I think they were all running on pure adrenaline, which may have been dampened by putting on wet clothes. We pushed on with much better weather towards Beaver Brook Falls and Mt. Wolf. Finally with no rain or clouds we saw some beautiful views and a pleasant day of hiking. The bugs weren’t terrible until the evening where we settled at Eliza Brook Shelter.
On the 23rd we set off towards Franconia Notch where the guys would shuttle back to the car and I would carry on towards Mt. Lafayette. The day started with a huge climb, but it was worth it at the top – the best view of the weekend was at Kinsman Mountain. We sat at the top staring off into the distance, the New Hampshire mountains and landscape go in forever at above 4000 feet. It was an easy, sloping hike towards the Notch and I said goodbye to the guys. I’m impressed at how well the hiked, this is a real tough part of the trail and without any experience up here they held the pace and persevered. It’s a testament that anyone can hike this trail, you just have to have the will to commit yourself to putting one foot in front of the other.
After they left I set off towards Mt. Lafayette, a mile-high bare summit that is the first in a slew of roller coaster climbs through the Whites. There was no rain, but the wind was horrendous. I couldn’t walk normally, the wind would blow my ankles into each other as I lifted my feet. I have a new found respect for wind, I thought I knew what a breeze was after standing under a refueling helicopter while in the Navy, but I was reintroduced on Sunday! I made it over the mountain to camp a few miles before Garfield Pond. It was a windy night, but a beautiful tent site overlooking the NH valleys.
This trail is something to experience first hand and hopefully I’ve inspired some of you to set out towards a white blaze. I was thankful some friends of mine took advantage of my time on trail and joined me in my experience, the conversation and friendship gave me a mental boost as I start the process of completing my hike. I know plenty of you can’t join and are with me in spirit! The next few days are a huge point in my hike – Mt. Washington approaches!
Thanks for following along!