AT NH Day 5: Two Sides of a Coin

Jeffers Brook Shelter – Eliza Brook Shelter
15.9 miles
Today almost felt like two completely separate days, with two totally different moods. We started the day with our usual early morning start, and almost immediately began climbing up Mount Moosilauke. My calfs were cranky about being made to start climbing uphill first thing in the morning, and I had to stop several times to stretch them out over the first mile or so. But after I got going, I started feeling pretty strong on the climb. Either this climb was easier than others we’ve done on this trail, or I’ve actually started getting stronger after the few days of hiking we’ve done. Either way, I felt good. I was able to keep climbing without much stopping for a lot of it, until about the last half mile from the top, when the trail became a crazy boulder staircase again.

I felt amazing when I reached the south summit, and the terrain started feeling much more alpine. We were treated to lovely trail from the south peak up to the main north summit. It was mostly smooth and very gradual through stunted alpine conifers. Finally, we broke out above tree line and got our first really BIG white mountain view. I felt like I was walking in Middle Earth or something. It was glorious.

We reached the summit easily and spent a few minutes up there taking it all in. Since we were there early on a Wednesday, there were only a few thru hikers up there. It was amazing. I can’t believe these types of mountains and views are so close to home.

We started hiking down the other side, and the first bit of the descent was fairly chill. We crossed paths with Camino Steve, Buttcheeks, Faceplant, Double Orca, Super, Tadpole, and Survivor all going south, slack packing back to the hostel. We stopped for a snack break at the Beaver Brook hostel to rest up and energize before beginning the infamous descent.

The final mile and a half of the Moosilauke descent is one of the most notorious sections of the AT in New Hampshire, known for being incredibly steep and potentially slippery and very dangerous. Luckily, it had been dry for a while as we were attempting, so the slippery bit wasn’t much of a factor. It was still insanely steep, and took a couple hours of slowly lowering ourselves off rocks and some steps built into them. I definitely didn’t think it was quite as scary as everyone had made it out to be, but it would have been sketchy as hell after a rain. It was definitely still quite nerve wracking and my legs were certainly a bit shaky by the time we finally reached the bottom.

At the bottom, we stopped at the beautiful Beaver Brook to get water and eat our lunch before pressing on. Feeling strong after the climb and descent, we decided to push another 7.5 miles to the Eliza Brook Shelter. This was also somewhat necessitated by the fact that Eliza Brook was the next good water source.

The descent followed the steeply cascading Beaver Brook Falls for about 1.5 miles

After lunch is when the mood of the day suddenly changed. I was not anticipating the ruggedness of the trail in the second half of the day. Once we crossed the road at Kinsman Notch, we immediately started climbing steeply up. I had been expecting this, knowing there was about a mile of steep climbing to do, but had not been expecting the difficultly to continue on through the rest of the day. I had been anticipating terrain similar to our slack packing day yesterday, but this was definitely not the case. The trail continuously alternated between climbing steeply up or down, over large boulders and tangles of roots, causing me to contort my body in strange ways to get up and over in some places. On top of this, I started feeling a weird twinge in my left knee. I suspect it was just rejecting what it had been put through today, and I’m hoping it’ll get better after some rest in town tomorrow. But it just sucked, and I was moving along pretty slowly and feeling a bit sorry for myself.

Another photo of the Moosilauke descent because I didn’t take any photos during the second half of the day…

I caught up to Gummies at the wooded summit of Mount Wolf and we began picking our way down together. I listened to podcasts to distract myself from my misery, just wanting to get to camp. The sky began clouding over, and about a half mile or so before camp the forecasted rain finally arrived. It started slow, and we were so close to camp that I refused to stop and put my rain jacket on. We were in dense forest, which prevented most of the rain drops from reaching me, but we briefly came out into an open area of powerlines, and the cold wind whipped my bare arms with droplets. Back in the forest, it suddenly became extremely dark. I pressed on, trying to ignore everything but getting to camp. The rain kept coming down harder. By the time we finally made it to the shelter, it was downright pouring.

The shelter was crammed with other hikers trying to keep dry while eating dinner. We seem to have pushed ahead into a new bubble, because I didn’t recognize any of them. Luckily, many of the other hikers had already set up their tents, so there was room for us to sleep in the shelter. I sat shivering in my rain jacket and soaking shorts, miserably shoving mac and cheese down my throat. As we were awkwardly setting up our things in the crowded shelter, No Collar, who we’ve been hiking around since the first day, showed up! It was nice to see a familiar face.
I lay in my sleeping bag listening to the rain pounding just outside the opening where my head lay, and eventually drifted off, warm and dry, with a belly full of mac and cheese. Tomorrow, there are only 9 miles until the spot we will hitch into town, but the Kinsmans – two more 4000 footers – still stand in our way.

AT NH Day 4: Slackers

NH 25A – Jeffers Brook Shelter
10.8 miles
We woke up this morning in a cold mist. We slept in a bit because Double Orca and her parents weren’t meeting us for the slack pack until 7:30 and we were camped right by the road. There was a pretty big crew gathered for the slack pack. It was me, Gummies, Double Orca, Tadpole, Survivor, Super, Buttcheeks, Faceplant, Tails, and Sock Ninja. Gummies and I had never slack packed before and it honestly felt amazing. I felt so free without the weight of my pack.
The hiking today was extremely chill. There were a few small climbs but they were not bad at all. We took a breakfast break a few miles in but other than that I didn’t really stop at all for the first ten miles. I put on my music after breakfast and felt super stoked and strong. Without the weight of my pack I was even partially running down some of the descents, *just for fun*. What have I become?

The day was uneventful, so here’s a cool caterpillar

I reached the road into Glencliffe shortly after noon, and Gummies and I made our way over to the Hikers Welcome Hostel. Double Orca’s parents live right across the street, so we stopped in there to grab our stuff, and Double Orca’s mom even gave us delicious homemade cookies. The hostel was also amazing. It was all run on the honour system, and they had bunks, tenting, an outdoor bath house with showers, laundry, and a toilet, as well as snacky foods for sale. Gummies and I both got the hiker combo, which was a frozen microwave pizza, chips, can of pop, and ice cream sandwich for 5 bucks. We also both showered for 3 dollars.

We had originally thought we might stay here, but then realized there was a shelter just a mile up the trail, so we decided to hike out to that to save some money. Basically every hiker we’ve been around so far was at the hostel and staying there for the night. Most of them are also using the slack pack service over Mount Moosilauke tomorrow, but we’re just going to haul our stuff up and over the old fashioned way. We did still spend several hours resting at the hostel, lounging in a hammock, drinking pop, and talking with the other hikers. We finally hiked out around 4pm.

When we made it to the shelter, we were the only ones here. I used my first AT privy, which was getting dangerously close to overflowing. Eventually, a group of Dartmouth College orientees showed up and are also camping here. We’re the only AT hikers though and it feels super weird. I guess since it’s so close to the hostel everyone just stays there instead.

We ate dinner and collected water from Jeffers Brook, which is flowing nearby in a beautiful waterfall. Tomorrow is going to be a big day as we take on Mount Moosilauke, our first 4000 footer on trail and what is considered the “official” start of the Whites. There’s a chance of rain in the afternoon and so fingers crossed we make it down the treacherous descent while it’s still dry!

AT NH Day 2: Gummies and Glowworm Go Home

Hanover – Trapper John Shelter
16.1 miles
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.

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AT NH Day 1: Terra incognita

VT/NH border – Mile 1750.4
~1.4 miles
Well, this trip started out in possibly the most classic way possible – with grief caused by the United States Postal System.
Our original plan had been to leave home early Saturday morning and drive most of the way to our starting point in Hanover, New Hampshire, stopping just an hour short for the night at an Airbnb, and continuing on to Hanover early Sunday morning. However, while getting ready for work on Thursday morning, I was suddenly struck by a thought. We had packages at the Hanover post office. And we would be arriving in town on a Sunday. The post office closes up for the weekend at 12:30 on Saturday.
We scrambled to come up with a new plan, which had us leaving after work on Friday and driving into the night, stopping at a rest area somewhere in Maine a little after midnight. We initially parked our car directly in front of a “no camping or overnight parking” sign, but then moved to a spot farther from the sign, but where overnight parking was definitely no more allowed. However, my logic was that since it was already early Saturday morning by the time we arrived, it was just a long break where we happened to nap.

Our ability to adapt to the sudden changing of plans brought me right back to the PCT. I definitely have my journey there to thank for the way I can now go with the flow with relatively small amounts of worry. Changing plans, jumping into new things, exploring new places… Terra incognita.

I got some surprisingly high quality sleep in the leaned back passenger seat of our hatchback, waking up at 5am to make the rest of the drive. We made fantastic time and ended up arriving in Hanover at 10am, with plenty of time to spare before the post office closed.

First meal on trail : breakfast at Lou’s! They also have thru-hiker-worthy sized pancakes.

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THE CAFFEINATED HIKER RETURNS

Greetings blog followers! I apologize for my almost year and a half of silence. Life after the PCT has been weird and exciting and amazing and really, really hard.

Here’s the Sparknotes update: After a long and difficult 7 months of long-distance, Gummies finally moved to Canada with me at the end of May 2018. We got married on July 21, 2018, and about one month afterwards, relocated from Ontario to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Gummies is currently pursuing his masters degree in urban planning. About one year after he moved here, we received the exciting news that he had been approved to become a permanent resident of Canada!

Kristin_Michael-305.jpg

Wedding photo by the amazing and lovely SN Photography.

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