Hanover – Trapper John Shelter
I slept like a rock in our comfy Airbnb bed last night, and woke up feeling rested and ready to hit the trail. Before leaving, we had breakfast with our host Jeff and got to meet some of the other Airbnb guests, which was really nice. We dropped our car off at a lot in town, walked maybe about a mile on the road to get to the place where the trail leaves town, and started hiking.
Gummies and Glowworm back in action!
As we were headed out of town, we met some more thru hikers named Survivor and Tadpole who we leapfrogged with a bit. There was some climbing to start off (the rule that there’s always a climb out of town still holds), but after that the trail was super chill for a while, which was quite nice to get us warmed up and back into the swing of things.
Being back on the trail just felt… Good. I’ve been struggling with some weird health issues since leaving the PCT, including chronic low energy and brain fogginess. After about an hour of moderately strenuous hiking, my mind felt clearer than it had in weeks. I felt ready to take on anything and I haven’t had that feeling in so long. A steady flow of endorphins seems to be the cure to most of my issues.
The trail did not much resemble the PCT, but was more reminiscent of hiking trails back home in Ontario. A few short sections brought back the smooth singletrack of our previous long distance hiking experience, but mostly we were climbing up and down tangled roots and rocks. Around mid morning we stopped for a snack break and were joined by Survivor and Tadpole. It was nice getting to chat with them and feel like we were making some friends!
We hiked a little while longer before stopping for lunch at Mink Brook, where I soaked my feet and rinsed my salt crusted face in the cool, clear water. It felt soooo good. As we were leaving we met another group of thru hikers, Tails, Sock Ninja, and Double Orca (hope I have these names right). We are definitely in a bit of a bubble.
Immediately after lunch we started a 1.5 mile climb up to our first view on the AT, Moose Mountain South! Some of the climb definitely got my blood pumping, but most of it was pretty chill, which was especially good considering I had (as per usual) eaten too much at lunch. The view was pretty nice, and it was exciting to get our first taste of New Hampshire mountains.
On the way down, we made a detour to the Moose Mountain shelter because Gummies had to poop, and there was a hilarious privy that for some reason had a roof but no walls and strongly resembled a throne. I hiked on while Gummies did his business, which was a nice feeling. We haven’t hiked apart like that on any trip since the PCT. It feels empowering to take on a trail by myself for a bit, even if my partner is not far behind me.
My pack definitely felt heavy today. We haven’t carried 5 full days of food since the PCT, and I could definitely feel it in my shoulders. My hips were a bit sore too, but for the most part I felt good.
The trail was pretty chill for a while after the Moose Mountain summit, and then began winding somewhat steeply down. We crossed a boggy area on some rotting planks, and then began the second big climb of the day up to Holt’s Ledge. This climb was pretty intense, and (as expected) much steeper than anything we encountered on the PCT. Luckily it was dotted throughout by some chill sections to take the edge of, but I still seemed to find myself stopping to catch my breath and give my leg muscles a brief rest every quarter mile or so. The view from the top was pretty freaking epic though. And when I got to the top and started descending, my brain was treated to a truly epic rush of endorphins.
Epic rock work on trail
After that, we only had about a mile to descend down to our planned camp spot at Trapper John Shelter. We prefer to avoid sleeping in the actual shelter, and this was a great spot for that as there is tons of flat(ish) space for tenting. It is pretty crowded though. There are tons of thru hikers, including most of the people we saw today and lots of others, as well as what is apparently a huge school group from Harvard. We ate dinner by the shelter with a bunch of the other hikers, which was fun. Survivor, Tadpole, Tails, Sock Ninja, Double Orca, and several others were there, and someone started a fire which was definitely a novelty since we only saw two campfires on our whole PCT thru hike.
View from Holt’s Ledge
We definitely kind of feel like the new kids in school being in a big group of hikers, especially when almost everyone else is a thru hiker. Everyone’s really nice though and we had some fun conversation. It’ll probably take us a few days to get back into the swing of everything. Today felt like just constantly forgetting all of our little routines and quirks that we developed for long distance hiking. It still just feels so good and right to be back out here. Even though I’ve never been on the AT, or in the state of New Hampshire, a long trail just feels like home. I can’t wait to get even more comfortable with it as we hike on.