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 137 – 142 (7/15/15 – 7/20/15)

Day 137, 7/15/15

Start: Greenwall Shelter
Finish: Rutland, VT
Miles Hiked: 25.2
Miles To Go: 488.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 1700.9

I had big miles on my mind for today, so I woke up at 5:30 and packed up in the rain. Within a few hours, the weather cleared up and it turned out to be a beautiful day. As I was coming down a steep slope, a rock ledge appeared on my left overlooking a small airport. There was a lawn chair on the ledge, so I sat and enjoyed a quick break. I was still wet from the rain and had to get moving to stay warm. The temperature dropped overnight and it was now in the 60s.

Enjoying the view of the Rutland airport

Enjoying the view of the Rutland airport

The big challenge for the day was Mt. Killington and it’s steep 2,500 ft. climb. I ate lunch at the base of the mountain and mentally prepared myself for a hard climb. When trying to pass the time and miles, I try to think of anything besides hiking. I think about family, work and funny things that have happened on the trail. I even do a lot of math. I’ll ask myself how many miles I have left to do and based on my current speed, try to figure out what time I’ll arrive at camp. I know it sounds crazy, but if I just think about hiking the day would never end. I was halfway into solving my 5th math problem when the trail finally flattened out; I had made it to the top of Mt. Killington. The actual summit is over 4,000 ft. and could be reached by taking a .2 mile side trail. I dropped my pack and headed up. The view was incredible. I could see for miles around in every direction. I could even see Mt. Washington, which is in the White Mountains in New Hampshire – I’ll be there soon!  

Mt. Killington

Mt. Killington

The skies were clear of the rain that soaked me this morning and even though I had 7 miles left to go, I enjoyed Mt. Killington for over 2 hours – I even ate lunch at the ski lodge another short side trail away. There were plenty of tourists on the top of the mountain as well. Most of them took a gondola ride up from the valley below for $20. My view cost me much more than that, but made it all the more worthwhile.

Mt. Killington Gondolas

Mt. Killington Gondolas

Having lunch at Mt. Killington Lodge

Having lunch at Mt. Killington Lodge

Around 4:00PM, I finally started hiking again. The rest of the day went by without incident and I checked into the Hiker Hostel at Yellow Deli. It is run by a 12 Tribes spiritual community and I was a little hesitant at first about staying there, but everyone was super nice. I would definitely recommend to any future hikers…just don’t drink the kool-aid!


Day 138, 7/16/15

Start: Rutland, VT
Finish: Wintturi Shelter
Miles Hiked: 19.9
Miles To Go: 468.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 1720.8

I got a quick ride back to the trail after eating my free breakfast made by the friendly Yellow Deli staff. After 10 minutes of hiking, I noticed a sharp pain in one of my feet and when I removed my boot I saw I had a thorn in my heel. I got the thorn out with no problem, but my next step was costly. I tripped over a root and went down hard. My knees took the brunt of the impact as did my ribcage, when it hit a rock sticking out of the ground. It could have been much worse, but this was by far the worst fall I’ve taken. My chest seemed okay, but my left knee was throbbing – I couldn’t walk one step. It swelled up immediately, so I took off my pack and sat back down on the same rock where I removed the thorn. It took about 30 minutes before I was able to put weight back on my knee – I had no choice but to keep walking. It hurt for the rest of the day, but I think it is going to be okay.

Small waterfall

Small waterfall

My bad luck didn’t end there. Unfortunately, after my first few steps I noticed one of my hiking poles broke during the fall. I mainly use my hiking poles on steep ups to help propel me up the mountain and also on the downs to help take some weight off my knees. Well, since steep ups and downs make up 90% of the trail, I was moving slow without them.

Broken pole

Broken pole

I limped into a shelter for lunch and was surprised to see Roker and Miles there, who I haven’t seen since we went to Six Flags. It was good to catch up with them and I hiked with them, Pork Chop, Lightning and Tic Toc the rest of the day.

Lightning, Pork Chop, Miles, Tic Toc, Roker & PoBoy

Lightning, Pork Chop, Miles, Tic Toc, Roker & PoBoy

Thundering Falls

Thundering Falls

We arrived at the shelter and setup our tents. I get to see my wife, mom and dad tomorrow and I can’t wait! I’m planning on hiking 17 miles tomorrow, just short of Hanover, NH and they will pick me up on the trail. Should be a fun 3 days!

Midnight update – I heard something moving outside my tent and woke up. It didn’t sound very big, but was close enough to my tent to actually hit one of my tent lines – That kinda freaked me out! There was no moon, so I couldn’t see what it was. I decided it wasn’t a bear, so I am going back to sleep.


Day 139, 7/17/15

Start: Wintturi Shelter
Finish: VT 14
Miles Hiked: 16.4
Miles To Go: 452
Overall Miles Hiked: 1737.2

There were no more animal encounters overnight, so I was able to sleep uninterrupted for the rest of the night. Sleeping on the ground in the woods isn’t the most comfortable, so I’m lucky if I get 7 hours of sleep most nights, but it is usually broken up into 1 to 2 hours increments. I think the months of little sleep are starting to get to me as my energy has plummeted recently. I’ve been taking 5 Hour Energy which helps, but I still can’t seem to hike more than a few miles without fighting the urge to take a nap.

Luckily, today I had a pep in my step because I would be reunited with my mom, dad and my wife, Leigh. They are picking me up from the trail at VT Hwy 14 around 3:00, I just had to make it there.

Raspberry Pickin'

Raspberry Pickin’

I thought about how great it was going to be seeing everyone once again and the miles faded away. Even my third bear sighting couldn’t slow me down; I saw the bear, the bear saw me and we both continued on unfazed. Just after 3:00, I made it to the road crossing where we agreed to meet. I was a little early so I tried to clean up as best I could. A few minutes later a red rental car pulled up, all I could see was the grinning face of Leigh inside. They couldn’t get over how “thin” I was and were concerned I wasn’t eating enough!

Left some trail magic at the intersection where I was picked up

Left some trail magic at the intersection where I was picked up

I filled them in on my last few weeks out here as we drove to the hotel a few miles away. I knew I smelled pretty bad, but they didn’t seem to mind. After checking in, we grabbed a quick bite in downtown Hanover, NH at Molly’s Tavern. It felt like I was back home for the first time in a long time, felt pretty damn happy!


Day 140, 7/18/15

Start: VT 14
Finish: VT 14
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 452
Overall Miles Hiked: 1737.2

I slept until 7:00 and then went downstairs with Leigh for breakfast. We had two full days at our disposal, but I didn’t care what we did as I just wanted to be with my family again. Ultimately, we decided to visit Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Waterbury, VT. We took a scenic drive through the back highways and talked the whole way. When we arrived at the factory, we were all shocked at how busy it was. People were lined up 100 deep to buy scoops of ice cream they could have gotten at the store down the street in considerably less time – Madness! The tour itself was underwhelming, but the drive was 100% worth it as we traded stories and laughed the whole way.

Poboy & Mom

Poboy & Mom

Tonight, dinner was at a nice steak and seafood restaurant. Leigh’s birthday was a couple of days ago, so at my request my dad arranged for a cake to be made and delivered to the restaurant. It was brought out after dinner as a surprise – Happy Birthday, Leigh! I love you!


Day 141, 7/19/15

Start: VT 14
Finish: Hanover, NH
Miles Hiked: 9.9
Miles To Go: 442.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1747.1

Well I never thought today would come. Leigh took her first steps on the A.T.!

Leigh on AT

Leigh on AT

We woke up early and had my dad drop us off at the spot they had picked me up two days ago. We had about 10 miles to hike and with any luck would walk into Hanover, NH around noon, where the trail goes right through the center of town. Leigh was excited about sharing this experience with me; I was nervous she would hate it! In the end, it was great! She made the 1,000 ft. climb with no problems and was right behind me all the way into town. We met my mom and dad in town and then headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up.

White Blaze!

White Blaze!

The trail passes right by Dartmouth College

The trail passes right by Dartmouth College

Next, the 4 of us drove back to Killington where I was a few days ago and took a gondola ride up to the mountain top. We still had a quick side trail hike to the summit, but at least the gondola saved everyone from hiking up 3,000 ft.!

Gondola Ride

Gondola Ride

Gondola

Gondola

The summit was windy, but just as beautiful as it was the day I climbed up last week. What was even better was that I got to share this with my family. They couldn’t imagine me hiking all the way here from Georgia and seem to be pretty proud of ole PoBoy – I’m just happy to have an amazing family – Love you guys!

Windy at Mt. Killington

Windy on Mt. Killington

PoBoy and Leigh on Mt. Killington

PoBoy and Leigh on Mt. Killington

We finished the day at Thundering Falls and had dinner in the quaint town of Woodstock, VT before calling it a day.

Thundering Falls

Thundering Falls

Oh yeah, I crossed the VT/NH line today also! Only two more states!

VT/NH State Line

VT/NH State Line


Day 142, 7/20/15

Start: Hanover, NH
Finish: Hanover, NH
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 442.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1747.1

Leigh and my parents had to leave Hanover around 1:00PM, but before they did, we all had lunch with Rock Boat and Jeopardy. It was fun having these two worlds collide and everyone seemed to have a great time. I hadn’t seen Rock Boat or Jeopardy since I hiked ahead 7 days ago and it was great seeing them again. My parents were excited to meet some of the guys I’ve been hiking with and really enjoyed spending time with us. The time had come to say goodbye and I walked back to the car with Leigh and my parents. I hugged everyone and thanked them for taking the time to come visit. Hopefully, I’ll be home in about a month, I miss the hell out of them. I used the rest of the day to rest and resupply. The last leg of this adventure begins tomorrow morning!