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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.