Day 159 9/16/15 

Start: South Arm Road

Finish: ME 17

Miles Hiked: 13.2

To Go: 233.6

Overall Miles Hiked: 1955.6

  
It was so good to sleep in a hostile and dry out! I woke up feeling really good and was happy to see clear skies. I checked out of the hostel early and immediately started climbing 2,200 feet to the top of Old Blue Mountain. No surprise to me, it was a steep climb and I hit the top two hours later. I sat down with two other hikers who had already summitted, Waldo and Greybeard of the O.M.O.W.A. (old men out walking around). Turns out, Greybeard and I have a common friend back home in New Orleans. My friend Josh Fogerty and Greybeard’s nephew both have stake in the restaurant The Big Cheesy, small world. 

 
View from Old Blue Mountain 

After the climb up Old Blue, the hard work for the day was mostly over. The rest of my hike took me over some semi-open ridges that often gave amazing views of the surrounding mountains. When I arrived at ME 17 I was planning on hiking another 3 1/2 miles. I would probably have to hike in the dark to do so. Right as I was about to enter the woods on the other side of the highway, another hiker came out of the woods and said she was taking a shuttle into Rangely to stay at the Farmhouse. Rockboat recommended staying here so I decided to tagalong. I arrive shortly after 6:30 and grabbed a bunk. After showering and eating a hamburger it was time for bed.

  Random bench along trail 

Day 158 9/15/15

Day 158 9/15/15
Start: East B Hill Rd.

Finish: South Arm Road

Miles Hiked: 10.1

To Go: 246.8

Overall Miles Hiked: 1942.4

 
View of one of the many ponds of Maine  

Around 4:00 this morning I woke up and could tell it had finally stopped raining. I contemplated packing up because I felt so miserable but decided I really needed as much sleep as I could get. A few hours later I packed up my soaked gear which probably added several pounds to my pack and yawned my way up the trail. The skies were actually clear and I could see the sun for the first time. Luckily, the trail was pretty easy until Moody Mountain so I made good miles. The ascent up Moody was seriously steep, I did some math and here is what I found out. It was a 1,364 ft climb (rise) in .8 miles or 4,224 ft (run). Rise divided by run equals your slope so 1364 divided by 4224 is an average mountain slope of 32.3%. If I did my math right, then this is one seriously steep mountain. Anyway, it kicked my ass needless to say so when I hit the bottom of the mountain, I knew my day was over. I was able to secure a room at Pine Ellis Hostel in Andover, ME. I dried out my gear and turned in early. The weather for the next few days is supposed to be great. 

 
Me after my climb up Moody 

Day 157 9/14/15

Day 157 9/14/15

Start: Speck Pond Shelter

Finish: East B Hill Road

Miles Hiked: 14.9

To Go: 256.9

Overall Miles Hiked: 1932.3
Some day someone will ask me, “What was your hardest day on trail?” and “What was your most dangerous experience?”. Well, I think today will end up being the answer to both unfortunately. The day started off badly as a nasty storm came in early and dropped a few inches of rain and close lightning strikes but luckily I had slept in the shelter and was out of the weather. It was still raining/misting by 9:00 a.m. and I couldn’t wait any longer so I got going. It was in the upper 40’s and I was forced to put on wet clothes and boots that had not dried at all overnight. I hiked with my rain jacket on all day as a way to help stay warm; I haven’t had to do that since Georgia. 
My first climb of the day was a short but steep one up to Old Speck Mountain. I’m sure the view from the top was great but I could only see 30 yards in front of me due to the thick mist. I made the 2,300 ft descent down into Grafton Notch and the weather seemed like it was going to clear but as soon as I hit the trail up Baldpate it started misting again. I had just passed the last shelter before the summit and thought about turning back. I did not turn back and would soon come to regret this decision. I quickly checked my hiking book and saw I just had one quick up and down above treeline, exposed to the elements. I came to the last line of spruce trees which, after years of living in this harsh environment, were only about 5-6 feet tall; just high enough to protect me from the worst of the high winds. I studied the open mountain top before me and was happy to see it didn’t appear to be too steep. Since the trail above treeline is all rock, it is marked by white blazes painted directly to the surface or by rock formations built by trail maintainers called cairns in which rocks are stacked on top of each other. Because of the thick mist, I could only see two to three cairns at a time. I headed off into the wind and mist making very deliberate steps. After a few minutes, I had crested the top and started heading back down to the safety of the dwarfed spruce trees. I was relieved to be out of the worst of it but my feelings of joy abruptly stopped when I started heading back up. 

   
Video I took starting to go up first peak 

“Why am I going back up”, I asked myself. I took out my hiker book again and realized my error. The page was folded in such a way that hid the second peak of Baldpate. I now had another mile of trail to traverse – mostly above treeline. The longer I stayed in one place, the colder I became so I had no choice but to keep moving. The last bit of trail went up a few hundred feet over slick rock and I had to get down and crawl on several occasions. All I could see was grey; the trail seemed to drop off into nothing every where I looked. It may have been the scariest moment of my life. By the time I cleared the summit and was back in the protection of the trees, I was shaking. It would have been a really hard climb in good weather, what I just did was dumb and probably irresponsible. 

After another hour of hiking, I arrived at the shelter after the summit. There were two guys already there and they looked at me like I was crazy. They were heading south and had actually turned back halfway up Baldpate because of the weather. It was only another 4.4 miles to my intended destination and was mostly downhill and all below treeline. I pushed it hard trying to arrive before dark. I fell a few times but had been wet and dirty all day so it didn’t matter. I got to my campsite just at dark and set up my tent and cooked in the rain. I stripped down in my tent and tried to dry off as much as possible before climbing into my bag. I was proud of myself for doing good miles in bad weather, it had been a really hard day and I had handled it well. I had broken a hiking pole, tore my boot and took a few hard falls but y attitude was still up. I went to sleep with a smile on my face. An hour later I awoke in a panic. 
I may not know much about camping but I’m pretty sure water should not be on the inside of your tent. There were puddles of water everywhere and the bottom of my down bag was soaked enough to where my legs and clothes were wet as well. Down loses all heat retention properties when wet so I suddenly found myself in another dangerous situation. It was cold outside and now I was in a wet sleeping bag. I tried to find the source of the leak but was unsuccessful. I put some of y dry storage bags under me to get me off the wet tent floor and figured, so long as I don’t roll over, the top of my bag should remain dry and keep me warm enough. If it got too bad I would just have to pack up and start hiking to stay warm. Even though I woke up every 30-45 minutes to dry off my tent floor, I made it through the night ok. Today without question was the hardest and most dangerous day on the trail and I’m glad it’s over. 

 
Sorry there aren’t too many pictures from today, weather would have killed my camera.

Day 156 9/13/15

Day 156 9/13/15
Start: Carlo Col Shelter

Finish: Speck Pond Shelter

Miles Hiked: 9.5

To Go: 271.8

Overall Miles Hiked: 1917.4

  
It rained from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. The rain was not very heavy but constant. When I finally worked up the courage to leave my warm tent, I was greeted by cold temperatures and a thick wall of mist – within 30 minutes of hiking I was soaked. The mist was so thick I could only see about 30 yards in front of me and it would persist all day. The first half of my day took me over four peaks; on each summit I was above treeline. The wind at the tops was around 25 mph and with temperatures in the upper 40’s and because I was wet, it did not make for a comfortable hike. The A.T. in Maine is pretty serious and consists of slippery rocks and steep trail. It took me 3 hours just to walk the first 4.5 miles. 

 
Nasty and steep trail! 

As I pulled into a shelter for lunch I saw several hikers there in their bags. They said they were waiting for better weather before hiking on; they had been there all day. The trail ahead included the dreaded Mahoosuc Notch. This 1 mile section of trail is known as the hardest mile on the A.T. and commonly takes hikers several hours to complete. It consists of piles of boulders stacked on top of each other and hikers have to use their entire body to pull themselves up, lower themselves down, crawl between and under these colossal rocks and on several occasions must drag their packs behind them. I didn’t want to waste the rest of the day and was already soaked so I moved on. The Notch lived up to expectations as I used any means necessary to maneuver through the maze of rock. By the time I was done I was completely exhausted and my legs and arms were shaking from the workout. 
After the Mahoosuc Notch is Mahoosuc Arm and I found the Arm to be even more difficult. The trail through the Arm is a steep 1,600 feet and contained some of the rockiest trail I have seen yet. Again, I was forced to pull myself up and over rocks and ledges and by the time I reached Speck Pond Shelter I was done. I had been hiking in the rain for 9 hours and had less than 10 miles covered to show for my efforts. Maine is putting up one hell of a fight.  

   

Mahoosuc Notch 

Day 155 9/12/15

Start: Gorham, NH

Finish: Carlo Col Shelter

Miles Hiked: 17

Miles to Go: 281.3

Overall Miles Hiked: 1907.9

I want to apologize in advance for any spelling and grammatical errors. I’m posting these final entries from my phone and it’s rather difficult. 

  
First picture back on trail!

I cannot believe I’m back out here! Over the last month and a half there was hardly an hour that went by without me thinking of the trail. Even during sleep I was haunted by it. To come so close and then to have to leave so suddenly was harder to get over than I thought, much harder. But here I am and I feel damn lucky to have another shot at this. About two weeks ago, I got the go-ahead for me to get back out here and I made the necessary arrangements. I was supposed to be in Gorham two nights ago but my plane was delayed past the point when my bus out of Boston had to leave. I got a hotel room on the outskirts of Boston and waited. The next day I made sure to be at the bus stop early and after six hours I made it to Gorham. I stayed at the same hostel, White Mountains Lodge and Hostel, as the night before I left and, for the first time all week, had no trouble getting to sleep. Breakfast was to be served at 7:30 but I didn’t wait, I was on the trail by 6:30. 

Strangely, after a few days of me being home my knees began to hurt very badly. I had trouble walking so I confined myself to my couch for the entire first week. They slowly began to get a little better but even now, still hurt. My first mile was worrisome as my knees struggled under the burden of my pack. I knew there was a possibility of me having to turn around and call it quits for good but my knees would have to hurt a whole lot more before that happened. I walked this first mile without my knee braces that I had brought with me because I wanted to test them. Well, they failed. A sick feeling came over me as I sat on a log and took two Aleve and added my braces. I said a quick prayer and started walking. Unfortunately, the trail immediately went up 1800 feet. I could tell the braces were working but there was still considerable pain. I cheered myself up by thinking “well, at least they aren’t getting worse.” The Aleve must have kicked in pretty quickly because the pain lessened with each step. I made it to the top of Mt. Hayes, “still hiking” I thought. The descent hurt more than the climb but I hiked it; and I hiked the numerous other ups and downs too. 

The smart thing to do would been to have shut it down at Gentian Pond Shelter after 11.8 miles, but I decided to push it, my knees would just have to work. So I left Gentian Pond and made another big climb, 1400 ft up Mt. Sucess. The view from the top was pretty similar to the whites, I could still see Mount Washington behind me and the miles of trail still left to do.

 
Mt. Sucess summit  

 After another 2 miles I was rewarded for my stubbornness – I had officially hiked from Georgia to Maine! My shelter for the evening was not far after the state border and I arrived with a smile on my face. To be honest, other than my knees, I feel just like I did in the whites. I’m happy to be hiking and despite the pain I still managed to put in a good hike. Earlier in the day, I had met two NOBOs (northbounders) named Downhill and Toasty. They were not far behind me throughout the day. If I can still keep pace with thruhikers after my long absence, I have no choice but to feel pretty damn good. We will see what my knees think about me in the morning, toes crossed!

 
Maine! 

Trail Update – 9/11/15

Hello Everyone, I’m pleased to announce that by the time you read this post I will be back on the trail! I flew into Boston yesterday and then took a 6 hour bus ride to Gorham, NH which is where I left way back on Aug, 1. I started hiking exactly where I left off – no blazes missed! Thank you all so much for sticking in there with me, we just have a little more to go.  The upcoming journal posts will be much shorter and will not include pictures, for that I am sorry but promise to update the journal to full strength just as soon as I am done. With any luck, that will be in about 3 weeks. Thanks again!

Poboy

Days 152 – 154 (7/30/15 – 8/1/15)

Day 152, 7/30/15

Start: Lakes of the Clouds Hut
Finish: Pinkham Notch
Miles Hiked: 14.8
Miles To Go: 319.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 1869.8

Since we were sleeping on the floor of the dining hall we needed to be out by 6:30a.m. so the guests could eat breakfast. Rock Boat, Jeopardy and I were more than happy to get an early start on our day, we had heard from several hikers the night before that today’s trail would be some of the hardest on the whole trail. Immediately after leaving Lakes of the Clouds is the ascent up Mt. Washington.

Mt. Washington reflection

Mt. Washington reflection

Looking back at Lakes of the Clouds

Looking back at Lakes of the Clouds

Sign just after leaving Lakes of the Clouds

Sign just after leaving Lakes of the Clouds

At 6,288ft, Mt. Washington is a huge tourist attraction drawing hundreds of visitors every day during the summer months. Tourists have a number of options on how to get to the peak. They can hike up to the summit from any number of trails, drive all the way up and park in a parking lot or even take the Cog Railway to the summit. Sometimes thru-hikers have to wait 30 minutes in line just to get a picture next to the summit sign. Since we left so early, Rock Boat, Jeopardy and I were the first three up to the summit. We had the top of New England’s highest peak all to ourselves!

Mt. Washington summit

Mt. Washington summit

The weather on Mt. Washington can be extremely dangerous at times, the peak has never been above 72 degrees, the highest wind speed ever recorded was here at 231 mph and it is enveloped in fog 300 days of the year.

We were lucky to hit it on a good weather day

We were lucky to hit it on a good weather day

Another unfortunate fact is that since 1849, 155 people have died here, most due to hypothermia or skiing accidents. If unprepared, a hiker can get hypothermia up here any day of the year. Mt. Washington and the surrounding peaks are above tree-line on the A.T. for 18 miles. A lot can change in 18 miles and there is no refuge from the wind or rain. Luckily for us, this morning was absolutely beautiful and we have now managed to go 4/4 with great weather on major summits in the Whites. I know several hikers who were clouded up on each and every one of their summits in the Whites, I feel quite fortunate. We spent some time on the summit and made special note of the poster in the visitor center that included the names, dates and circumstances involving the many deaths on these peaks. After leaving the peak the A.T. follows the rockiest ridge-line I have traveled thus far and takes hikers over Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Madison. A wrong step on any of these descents could easily result in tragedy; it happens every year.

The white poster under the banner lists all 155 people who have lost their lives on these peaks

The white poster under the banner lists all 155 people who have lost their lives on these peaks

The rest of the Presidential Range we have to hike over - all above tree-line

The rest of the Presidential Range we have to hike over – all above tree-line

We took it slow but still took a few minor falls and ended up with some small cuts and bruises. After several hours, we had finally descended low enough to where we were back in the trees. I immediately felt better since I didn’t have to battle the 40 mph  winds or sun any longer. I was the first to make it down the 3,000ft descent off Mt. Madison. It had rained heavily on me for the last two hours and I was wet and hungry. Right where the A.T. comes down into Pinkham Notch is the Joe Dodge Lodge. The Lodge offers bunk spaces to vacationing families as well as dinner and breakfast options. Bunks are pretty pricey so I was mainly interested in trying to snag a free meal. I was in luck, a hiker had called in and said he was going to miss dinner and, since he had already paid, wanted his meal to go to a thru-hiker. I gladly accepted the free meal and asked if there would be any way to get in Rock Boat and Jeopardy who should be coming in soon after me. The girl behind the counter asked if I was a thru-hiker and if I had come all the way from Lakes of the Clouds. She understood how hard the hike was and was happy to offer Rock Boat and Jeopardy free spots among the vacationers. Unfortunately, Jeopardy was too late but Rock Boat arrived just in time and we gorged ourselves on salad, carrots, fresh bread, potatoes and meatloaf. After dinner, we hiked across the street and made camp. Today was by far one of the most demanding. Physically I’m beat up pretty bad and my gear suffered some damage as well but nothing serious to prevent me from hiking up the dreaded Wildcats tomorrow.

Mt. Washington - Most dangerous weather on the planet

Mt. Washington – Most dangerous weather on the planet

Cog Railway

Cog Railway


Day 153, 7/31/15

Start: Pinkham Notch
Finish: Imp Campsite
Miles Hiked: 13.1
Miles To Go: 306.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 1882.9

We walked back to the Joe Dodge Lodge in the morning in hopes of pressing our luck on scoring a free breakfast. Once again, we were in luck and had our tabs picked up by some friendly day hikers we had met earlier on Mt. Washington. Thanks again guys! After we had finished up we made it back to our campsite and broke down our tents. We had slept on the shore of a lazy river and the first mile took us along it’s shore and around the pond it emptied into.

Filling up on water before climb up Wildcats

Filling up on water before climb up Wildcats

About to head up the Wildcats

About to head up the Wildcats

As soon as we cleared the pond we started climbing up Wildcat Mountain peaks E and D; my god was it steep. On the way up, I ran into 3 different groups of day hikers who had intend to clear the mountain but instead, after only 2 miles, turned around because of how difficult it was. There was one section that went straight up and even though it was only 20 feet, it literally took me 5 minutes before I was able to make it up. On top of peak D is an observation tower and gondola shuttling tourists from the bottom of the mountain to the peak.

The gondola on Wildcat D

The gondola on Wildcat D

Mt. Washington from Wildcat D - Today it's clouded over, it was clear yesterday for us

Mt. Washington from Wildcat D – Today it’s clouded over, it was clear yesterday for us

We heard there was food at the bottom of the mountain via the gondola but we decided to press on and distance ourselves from the crowded mountain top. Up next were peaks C and A and they were just as challenging as the rest of the Whites.

Jeopardy has some climbing to do

Jeopardy has some climbing to do

Rock Boat negotiating some seriously steep trail

Rock Boat negotiating some seriously steep trail

We regrouped at Carter Notch Hut, the last of the huts in the Whites, and ate lunch. Already at the hut was a southbound thru-hiker. He congratulated us on making it this far – we congratulated him and asked him how his hike has been thus far. He didn’t answer immediately and when he finally spoke it became very apparent he would be lucky to make it out of New Hampshire. We tried to give him a pep talk but he had all but given up and kept saying how horrible and demoralizing Maine had been. Oh well, only 20% make it for a reason. We moved on and made the steep climb up to Carter Dome. When Rock Boat and I reached the summit, we were greeted by a mother grouse and her chicks. I’ve heard grouse since Georgia but this was the first I’ve seen.

Grouse on Carter Dome

Grouse on Carter Dome

Five more miles of hiking brought us to Imp Campsite where I was forced to set up tent on a tent platform, not the best scenario for my style of tent but I made the best of it. We will be out of New Hampshire soon and I keep reminding myself to enjoy these days because there are not many left. Other than my physical pain, I feel great and have been hiking strong.

Seriously steep

Seriously steep


Day 154, 8/1/15

Start: Imp Campsite
Finish: Gorham, NH
Miles Hiked: 8.1
Miles To Go: 298.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 1891

Sleeping on a tent platform

Sleeping on a tent platform

We were out of food again and had intended on resupplying in Gorham just a few miles away. The trail into town was mostly downhill and easy. Rock Boat and I secured the last two rooms at the White Mountain Lodge and Resort. Right on the trail and at $30 a night and included breakfast, you can’t beat it. As I waited on the shower to open up, I called home. I won’t get into specifics but it became immediately apparent that I would not be hiking tomorrow and needed to come home as soon as possible. In the blink of an eye my attention turned from how many pizzas I planned on eating tonight to booking a flight home. When I got off the phone I broke the news to Rock Boat. He, Jeopardy and I have developed a strong friendship over the last few hundred miles – the news left everyone speechless. With only two and a half weeks and less than 300 miles to go, this was a hit to the guts. Within the next hour, I arranged a three-hour shuttle from the hostel to Portland, Maine for the morning, a hotel room for tomorrow night and a flight out the next morning.

The next several hours were very strange. The thru-hikers around me busied themselves with tomorrow’s hiking plans oblivious to my situation, I just sat on a chair and chimed in when called upon trying to act normal. In truth, I suddenly felt like an imposter; a hiker no more. If I could have left that instant I would have, the thought of everyone else but me carrying on with their dream in the morning made me sick. I retreated to my room and listened to music while I stared at the ceiling tiles. I only got up once to say a final farewell to Rock Boat. In the morning, I leave for home. I do not know if/when I will ever be able to make it back to the trail. My dream was to be a thru-hiker, to complete the journey in one calendar year. There is nothing wrong with section hiking it over several years, my hat goes off to section hikers because it’s an amazing feat no matter how you get it done. All I can say for sure is that this has been an amazing experience and I will never forget the people I met or mountains I climbed. Thank you all for supporting me every step of the way – as soon as I have an update on my trail status I will let you know.

One last look at Mt. Washingotn

One last look at Mt. Washington

Took this picture just after arriving at White Mountain Lodge and Resort

Took this picture just after arriving at White Mountain Lodge and Resort

Days 149 – 151 (7/27/15 – 7/29/15)

Day 149, 7/27/15

Start: Lincoln, NH
Finish: Galehead Hut
Miles Hiked: 13
Miles To Go: 360.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1829.1

The weather was supposed to be much better today so it looks like our zero paid off. We called a shuttle to bring us back to the trailhead and by 8:30 we were back on the A.T. We had already ascended part of the climb two days ago so we only had about a 4,000ft to go. To get to the summit of Mt. Lafayette we first had to go over Little Haystack Mountain and the trail to the top was steep. Little Haystack is at 4,200ft and we were in the clouds. The next 2 miles of trail were above treeline – the Alpine Zone. The mountain tops at this elevation are so steep and so rocky that there is no soil; nothing can grow, it is just a graveyard of loose rocks and boulders. This section of trail is known as Franconia Ridge and, despite the never-ending rocks, it is absolutely breathtaking.

In the clouds on Franconia Ridge

In the clouds on Franconia Ridge

Above tree-line on Franconia Ridge

Above tree-line on Franconia Ridge

Because you are the tallest thing around you have great views throughout the entire hike. It was slow going because I stopped every 10ft to look around and appreciate my surroundings. After you have been surrounded by trees for 1,800 miles, getting views such as these make all the BS miles worth it; I hiked on with a smile and a new respect for the A.T. The next two summits were Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Lafayette. Mt. Lafayette peaks at 5,291 ft and we met several day hikers at the top.

One more climb before Mt. Lafayette summit

One more climb before Mt. Lafayette summit

Mt. Lafayette summit with Rock Boat and Jeopardy

Mt. Lafayette summit with Rock Boat and Jeopardy

Throughout the White Mountains are several Huts capable of housing and feeding 30-90 hikers. For $120 a night you get a cot, breakfast and dinner. Not many thru-hikers pay the steep fee and instead try to get one of the limited number of work for stays at the huts. A typical work for stay involves sweeping, cleaning pots and grills and any other tasks assigned by the Hut Master; there are usually only 3-4 available for thru-hikers per night. We had our eyes on the Galehead Hut and made the remaining miles in slow fashion. The last hurdle was Mt. Garfield. We were gassed by the time we reached it’s peak and practically crawled the rest of the way.

Nature's water fountain

Nature’s water fountain

When we arrived at 6:00, 25 day and section hikers were already there as well as 2 thru-hikers who had already arranged work for stays. We had heard the Galehead Hut would only accept 3 work for stays so our chances didn’t look good. We were completely exhausted from our hike today and the thought of hiking further did not sound appealing. RockBoat stayed outside as I walked in and talked to the Hut Master, Phoebe. She said she had room for only 2 more work for stays for the morning detail. I explained we were waiting on one more and if she could accept all three of us we would clean, scrub and wash anything she asked of us with no questions asked. She gave me a funny look and then said “fine, no questions asked”. Awesome! The three of us now had our first work for stay in the White Mountains. Jeopardy finally arrived and we waited outside as the paying guests ate dinner.

Galehead Hut - waiting for dinner scraps

Galehead Hut – waiting for dinner scraps

After they were done, we were allowed inside to feast on leftovers that consisted of soup, chili, fresh baked bread, broccoli and some other items. As we were eating, several guest gathered around and asked us question after question about our journey. They were completely in awe of what we have been able to accomplish and made each of us feel and sound like rockstars! After dinner, we were allowed to sleep on the floor of the dining hall – not very luxurious but free!


Day 150, 7/28/15

Start: Galehead Hut
Finish: Crawford Notch
Miles Hiked: 14.4
Miles To Go: 345.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 1843.5

A nasty storm came in around 1:00 a.m. and due to the proximity and sheer number of lightning strikes, I can safely say no one received a refreshing night of sleep. RockBoat, Jeopardy, the other two thru-hikers and I were awoken again around 5:30 from the hut workers preparing breakfast in the kitchen just a few feet away from the dirty floor we slept on. Since we were sleeping on the dining hall floor we had no choice but to get up and pack up before the hungry gang of guests filtered in. Again, we were segregated from the paying guests as they ate inside while we waited outside in the cold. On one hand, we were treated as rockstars because of the miles under our belts, but on the other, we are beggars with dirty hands squabbling for leftovers. The Appalachian Trail for a thru-hiker is quite the classroom for a lesson in social interaction.

The guests slowly went on their way with their bright and shiny backpacks and clean boots – free to hike any number of miles of trails stretching throughout the White Mountains. After eating our breakfast leftovers of eggs, oatmeal and bread, it was time to pay off our free stay. RockBoat cleaned out the bunks while Jeopardy and I swept the floors of the hut. After 45 minutes our work was done and we were free to go. Overall, the hut work for stay was great andy I recommend it to any future thru-hiker – the only drawback was that we weren’t able to eat out of our overflowing food bags andy lighten the load.

Unlike our cleaner day and section hiker counterparts, we were not free to roam the Whites as we pleased and instead were forced to follow 2″x6″ splotches of white paint. The splotches did not care that we were light on sleep andy heavy in the pack and immediately took us up 1,100ft up some seriously steep trail. Some sections of this trail would absolutely be considered rock climbing over hiking. Even though it was still pretty chilly, by the time I reached the top of South Twin Mountain I was soaked with sweat. I sat down with RockBoat who was already on top of the summit.

Taking it in

Taking it in

From our vantage point we could clearly see Mt. Washington, the second highest peak on the A.T. We should be traversing over it’s summit in two days if all goes well. Behind us we could make out Franconia Ridge, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Lafayette, and Mt. Garfield.

View of Mt. Lafayette from South Twin Mountain - we were there yesterday

View of Mt. Lafayette from South Twin Mountain – we were there yesterday

A sense of accomplishment came over me as I stared at the conquered mountains and nearly 2,000 miles of trail behind them. There is still a long away to go but I am finally starting to realize the magnitude of my undertaking. I’ve hiked through rain, high winds, heat and snow from Georgia to the footstep of Maine and have only just now allowed myself to think about how amazing this adventure has been. Five months ago I would have honestly said I didn’t expect to last a week.

Great view of Mt. Washington in the distance

Great view of Mt. Washington in the distance

The remaining miles passed and we set up camp in the woods between the Saco River and a set of railroad tracks. We hiked 14.4 miles today – before the Whites I would have considered this a low mileage day but now I consider it a job well done. The Whites are no joke and it takes us all day to hike what used to be done before lunch; we have heard that southern Maine is only worse!

Jeopardy being Jeopardy

Jeopardy being Jeopardy


Day 151, 7/29/15

Start: Crawford Notch
Finish: Lake of the Clouds Hut
Miles Hiked: 11.5
Miles To Go: 334.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 1855

Luckily, no trains came through overnight but we did get rained on again. Overall it was a great night of sleep and I felt extremely well rested in the morning. In fact, I probably haven’t felt this good since leaving for the trail. It was a good thing too because as soon as we got going the trail took us straight uphill. After 2,000ft up, we arrived at Webster Cliffs where we enjoyed a great view of the mountain range we descended last night. We even had a chance to take our tents out of their wet packs and dry them in the warm breeze.

Webster Cliffs - drying out

Webster Cliffs – drying out

After climbing another 1,000ft we rounded the top of Mt. Webster and the trail finally eased up a bit. RockBoat is a very strong hiker and is usually in the lead but I was feeling great today and was practically jogging down the trail. After summiting Mt. Jackson it was a nice and easy downhill walk to Mizpah Hut where we where planning on having lunch. Usually for lunch I will eat candy bars or tortilla wraps but RockBoat turned Jeopardy and me onto a food item I consider to be a game changer. Tortellini pasta can be cooked in our pots and mixed with Italian dressing or taco seasoning and then topped off with Fritos to create a dish I would be proud to serve at home.

Yes - we go up and over every peak in the distance

Yes – we go up and over every peak in the distance – Mt. Washington is the one in the middle

Worn trail leading to Mt. Washingotn

Worn trail leading to Mt. Washingotn

The weather looked like it was staring to deteriorate and we still had a five mile hike which was mostly above treelike. I was still feeling strong and was able to keep up a pace I haven’t been able to achieve in the Whites. In the course of these five miles I summited Mt. Pierce and Mt. Franklin and walked just beneath the summits of Mt. Eisenhower and Mt. Monroe.

Hiking in the Alpine Zone

Hiking in the Alpine Zone

Last few miles of trail at the end of a hard day

Last few miles of trail at the end of a hard day

There are side trails up to Eisenhower and Monroe, each only a few hundred feet, but since there are no white blazes going in that direction I was under no obligation to make the extra miles. All day we passed several dozen day and section hikers. Many of them are accomplishing their own goals of summiting the 48 4,000ft elevation mountains in New Hampshire. It was great getting to speak with some of them and swap war stories. Since most of my afternoon was above treeline, I was able to gauge my hiking progress based on my proximity to Mt. Washington which became closer and closer until I finally reached Lake of the Clouds Hut.

Lake of the Clouds Hut at the base of Mt. Washington

Lake of the Clouds Hut at the base of Mt. Washington

Rock Boat and Jeopardy waiting for dinner

Rock Boat and Jeopardy waiting for dinner

This hut is at the base of Mt. Washington and is an absolute spectacular sight. There are two nearby lakes and mountain peaks are below in every direction. Of all the places I have been to on the trail, this is one I can say for sure that I will be back to. RockBoat, Jeopardy and I were able to secure a work for stay at the hut so it will be another night of fresh food and sleeping on the floor. In the morning, we summit the second highest peak on the A.T., Mt. Washington. I’ve been looking forward to this moment for the last nine years.

Inside Lake of the Clouds - dinner time, we sleep on the floor

Inside Lake of the Clouds – dinner time, we sleep on the floor

Sunset from 6,000ft

Sunset from 6,000ft


Days 146 – 148 (7/24/15 – 7/26/15)

Day 146, 7/24/15

Start: Beaver Brook Shelter
Finish: Eliza Brook Shelter
Miles Hiked: 9
Miles To Go: 381.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 1807.3

As expected, the temperature dropped into the low 40s last night. Now that I am in higher elevations and so far north the cold temperatures are here to stay. Several peaks in the Whites can get snow year round. Following a waterfall and near vertical, the descent off Mt. Moosilauke is known as the hardest descent on the entire A.T. The trail is made up of rebar and several hundred steep wooden steps secured directly to the mountain.

Rock Boat descending Moosilauke

Rock Boat descending Moosilauke

Cookie Monster descending Moosilauke

Cookie Monster descending Moosilauke

Poboy coming down Moosilauke

Poboy coming down Moosilauke

To be honest, it didn’t really give me much trouble but took a lot longer to get down because of my slow and deliberate steps. When I hit the bottom, I was happy to see Stitches set up in a nearby parking lot with trail magic. Rock Boat, Jeopardy and I ate some hotdogs and donuts before moving on. Maybe it was due to the full bellies or heavy rain but the next 8 miles kicked our ass. The muddy trail went steeply up and right back down very slick rocks; I fell twice. It was extremely slow going and very taxing on our bodies. We hit the shelter and decided to call it a day. It was nice to get to a shelter early for a change!

Wet hikers drying out at Eliza Brook Shelter

Wet hikers drying out at Eliza Brook Shelter


Day 147, 7/25/15

Start: Eliza Brook Shelter
Finish: Lincoln, NH
Miles Hiked: 8.8
Miles To Go: 373.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1816.1

Immediately upon leaving the shelter was a steep 2,000 ft climb. Jeopardy had hiked ahead in order to make it to town early enough to accept a new pair of shoes from the post office before they closed at noon. Rock Boat and I slept in the shelter last night since heavy rains had been predicted so packing up in the morning went faster than usual. When you don’t have to take down and pack up a tent you can shave a few minutes off your morning. As soon as we left the shelter we started heading up Mt. Kinsman. The trail up wasn’t much of a hiking trail at all, it was more akin to rock scrambling than anything else. For the first time since Albert Mountain back in North Carolina, I didn’t hike with poles. I needed my hands free to climb up the near vertical rock faces that make up this difficult section. Rock Boat and I agreed that simply calling the A.T. a “trail” was not fair. For the last few days, we have done more mountain scrambling and climbing than hiking. When you have a 25lb pack strapped to you the task becomes even harder.

Steep climb up Mt. Kinsman

Steep climb up Mt. Kinsman

More Steps

More Steps

Something happened to me today that I didn’t expect, I actually enjoyed hiking. I’m not sure if it was the difficulty of the climb or the realization that things are drawing to an end but I had a smile on my face for most of the day. It was a hard climb up to Kinsman but once again, we had a clear view on the summit. Behind us was Mt. Moosilauke and stretched out ahead was Mt. Lafayette and the rest of the Whites. The air was calm and crisp, days like today were made for hiking. Unfortunately, it would be short lived. Thunderstorms were forecast to be moving in later today and tomorrow. We took some time to ourselves on the summit before heading back down.

View from Mt. Kinsman

View from Mt. Kinsman

Just before reaching the road into Lincoln, NH we came across Lonesome Lake and it was absolutely beautiful. Hidden high up in the mountains, the lake was currently home to a few ducks and even a hiker or two. As we hiked around it’s edge; not a sound could be heard other than the building breeze through the Balsom fir trees. I know that rhymes and it was unintentional, I’ll attempt poetry next thru-hike! We needed to head into Lincoln to resupply for the rest of our trip through the Whites so we booked a hotel room and knocked out our normal town to do list and reunited with Jeopardy.

Lonesome Lake

Lonesome Lake


Day 148, 7/26/15

Start: Lincoln, NH
Finish: Lincoln, NH
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 373.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1816.1

We woke up and checked the weather. The previous days forecast held true and heavy storms would be rolling through all day. With a two mile hike above tree-line planned, we decide to play it safe and zero. When hiking above tree-line, wind, colder temperatures and lightning pose serious threats to hikers because they are the tallest things around and can find no relief from dangerous weather. Since we had already resupplied yesterday we had a the whole day to relax. Our hotel had a pool and there was a putt-putt course right across the street, what more could a hiker want. As promised, I swore to Rock Boat I would recount our trip to Hobo Golf Putt Putt. After 6 holes I was 1 stroke ahead. The pressure must have gotten to me because by the end of the round he won by 7 shots. The rest of the day passed without incident but I’d like to take a moment to update everyone on the whereabouts of some hikers I have met along the way. Billygoat is rehabbing his knee and is apparently dating his physical therapist – way to go Billygoat! Hula and Blazer had to leave the trail in VA due to a family emergency and plan on getting back on to hike NH and ME. Carbomb and Made It are also back home and back to work before attending school in the fall. As far as the big bubble I was with for the first 500 miles or so, it looks like a lot of the hikers have called it quits along the way. I haven’t’ met or heard about anyone from those days for quite some time. Click, Pie, Blade and Cheesbeard are still hiking and have just crossed into VT. Team Vortex has disbanded but everyone is still hiking. Murphy’s Law, Scooby and Mile Marker are in front while Cookie Monster, Skipper and Goosebumps are a few days behind me. In the last few weeks I have run into Maps and Moxie (last seen around mile 700), Happy Warrior (last seen around mile 200), PA Trail Runner (mile 700), and Wye Knot (mile 1,100). Running into these hikers out of the blue never gets old.


Days 143 – 145 (7/21/15 – 7/23/15)

Day 143, 7/21/15

Start: Hanover, NH
Finish: Trapper John Shelter
Miles Hiked: 16.6
Miles To Go: 425.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1763.7

Leaving town is always difficult. I’ve been dry, well fed and well rested for the last few days and as soon as I leave town, that all changes.
I finally got the courage to leave the hotel room just before noon. As soon as I hit the trail, I felt like I had no energy and my knees hurt. I think these last few months have finally started to take a toll on my body. My knees are beginning to weaken and an audible crack can be heard from them several times a day. My feet are in constant pain as my Achilles area has a burning sensation most of the time. My back aches even while lying down. Mentally, I am exhausted. I don’t like talking to other hikers outside of our group and would prefer t be left alone – For those of you who know me, I know this is a shock! The truth is, I just want this to be over.
Rock Boat asked me and several others a hypothetical question a few days ago, “If you woke up on the morning of your intended thruhike departure and realized everything you have done out here in the last few months was just a dream, would you still go?” My answer was no. No way in hell would I have left for the A.T. had I known just how demanding the trail is. I get to see some amazing views and I’ve met some great friends, but I’m tired. I’m tired of putting on dirty and wet clothes, I’m tired of sleeping on the ground in the woods, I’m tired of eating out of bags, I’m tired of being tired. I’m going to keep walking though, until I break a leg or touch that sign on Mt. Katahdin.
I hiked with Jeopardy for most of the day and around 5:00PM, we got drenched by a really bad thunderstorm. We were stuck between shelters and our only option was to keep hiking. The trail looked like a river and my boots were completely submerged more than once. The only redeeming part of the day was my view from Holt’s Ledge just before sunset. It overlooked the cloudy valley below and was a great end to a rainy and taxing day.
Holts Ledge with Jeopardy

Holts Ledge with Jeopardy

Holts Ledge Sunset

Holts Ledge Sunset


Day 144, 7/22/15

Start: Trapper John Shelter
Finish: Somewhere in the NH Woods
Miles Hiked: 17
Miles To Go: 408.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1780.7

Just after the shelter was the home of trail angel, Bill Ackerly. Bill invites hikers to stop in for ice cream and soda as well as a game of croquet. By the time I got there, several hikers were already lounging around and enjoying the nice weather.
Bill Akerly's Place

Bill Akerly’s Place

One of them was a southbound hiker named Coin Toss. He is from Lafayette, LA and knows my cousins, the Spizales. It was great getting to talk to someone from my home state, especially one that knew some family of mine. Coin Toss said most of the northbound hikers he sees always seem angry and in bad moods. I told him not to take it personally and that he will probably feel the same way if he hikes long enough. We wished each other well before moving on.
We are just a day away from reaching the White Mountains, so it was no surprise to see two big climbs up mountains on our schedule for today. Up first was Smarts Mountain and its steep 2,300 ft. climb. Just before the summit, rain moved in and at this altitude, I became pretty cold. I switched my short sleeve shirt for a long sleeve one which helped, but it wasn’t until I reached the shelter on top of the mountain before I was able to warm up. Rock Boat and several others were already huddled in the shelter to avoid the rain. As soon as the rain ended, Rock Boat and I moved on.
Steep Trail up Mt. Smart

Steep Trail up Mt. Smart

The next mountain was Mt. Cube. It’s wasn’t as much of a climb, but it still wore us out. By the time we descended the mountain, we were pretty tired so we found a nice tent spot and hoped Jeopardy would be able to find us.
Mt. Cube View

Mt. Cube View


Day 145, 7/23/15

Start: Somewhere in the NH Woods
Finish: Beaver Brook Shelter
Miles Hiked: 17.6
Miles To Go: 390.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 1798.3

It rained overnight which didn’t help me in my never ending quest to dry clothes. I store my gear underneath one of the flaps on my tent so it was dry, but the humidity in the air prevented wet socks from drying out completely. Jeopardy, Rock Boat and I packed up wet gear and got moving.
Within a few hours, we were all sitting on top of Mt. Mist deciding on how the rest of the day would play out. We had two options. The first was to hike another 3.5 miles to a hostel which lies at the base of Mt. Moosilauke and stay there. With this option we would resupply and rest up for a really tough climp up Moosilauke in the morning. Option two was to tackle this beast of a mountain today on tired legs and wait another day to resupply our dwindling food supply. Now, Mt. Moosilauke is regarded by some as the hardest climb on the entire A.T. It requires a 3,800 ft. climb up a very steep and rocky trail. The summit of the mountain is 4,802 ft. making it the highest elevation since southern Virginia. It is not an easy climb and would take us about 3 hours of solid climbing. We chose option one. We were excited about a short day and getting an opportunity to rest up and hiked the remaining miles to the hostel in a flash.
We arrived at the hostel and talked to the owner about our intentions to resupply. The book we use informed us we would be able to resupply in town with no problems. Unfortunately, the owner said the resupply point is just a gas station with minimal rations. Bummer. Like it or not, we now had no choice but to summit Moosilauke today. We are a few snacks and a frozen pizza or two and headed back to the trail. We got to the base of the mountain and put in our headphones for whatever motivation we could muster and started climbing.
PoBoy negotiating a fallen tree up Mt. Moosilauke

PoBoy negotiating a fallen tree up Mt. Moosilauke

The higher up we went the colder it got but that didn’t stop me from sweating through my short sleeve shirt. RockBoat is a strong climber and cruised ahead. I was a few hundred feet behind Jeopardy and for the next three hours, neither of us stopped. It was one hell of a hard climb but we finally reached the summit.
Mt Moosilauke Summit

Mt Moosilauke Summit

PoBoy, Rock Boat and Jeopardy atop Mt. Moosilauke

PoBoy, Rock Boat and Jeopardy atop Mt. Moosilauke

We stripped off our soaked clothes and put on long sleeve shirts or down jackets. It was in the 50’s but the strong winds made it seem much worse. We stood atop that mountain for a solid hour taking photo after photo and looked back on just how far we had come. From our vantage point we could see the entire White Mountain range stretched out before us. We would be crossing several of it’s highest peaks in the days to come. The top of Mt. Moosilauke is a bald and yields a true 360° view – absolutely amazing! I hope getting to the Whites will boost my motivation. I’ve been stuck in the woods for the last few months but now that we have real views and real mountains I’m starting to feel much better. We were starting to get really cold so we pressed on to the shelter. It was about 7:00 when we arrived which made it a 12 hour day. Unfortunately, long days are nothing new!
Rocky trail on Mt. Moosilauke

Rocky trail on Mt. Moosilauke

Jeopardy on Mt. Moosilauke

Jeopardy on Mt. Moosilauke