Day 129: The Whites, NH

Two evenings ago, my attempt to reach the base for the summit of Mount Washington (elevation: 5,157 feet - Mt. Washington's elevation: 6,288 feet) was thwarted due to weather. Within the span of one hour, the temperature dropped 30° and I was pelted with rain and hail driven by 70 mph winds (recorded, not estimated). The first time the wind pushed me over I thought that someone had tackled me. Three miles of trail still lay ahead of me, including a 1,500 foot climb, all exposed, all above tree line. That night, for the first time on  this hike, I walked south on purpose. It had taken me an hour to get to this point. My return trip to the safety of the hut took 2 1/2 hours. 

Attempt number two begins this morning. The weather is supposed to be much better, with 120 miles of visibility from the summit.  

 

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Day 117: Hanover, NH - 1,744 miles

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The theme for the past 10 days of this hike has been, "Nothing goes according to plan, and that's okay." It started in Dalton, Massachusetts when my original plans for lodging fell through, and I wound up at the house owned by a trail angel who lets hikers stay in his yard. Tom Lavardi has been hosting hikers for nearly 35 years. Purely by coincidence, Lemmy and I stayed at Tom's place on the same day as the Massachusetts craft beer festival.  This led to an accidental zero, and what turned out to be one of my most fun days on the trail.

Tom's yard is a Big Agnes ad. 

Tom's yard is a Big Agnes ad. 

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Two days after I left Tom's, I met RZA (pronounced "rizza"), the pizza enthusiast I mentioned in my last post. As you may recall, he suggested that I join him for some slack packing as we entered Vermont. Again, this was completely off the script. With the help of his mom, we managed to knock out over 100 miles in 4 1/2 days. 

Thanks, whoever hiked these chairs up here!

Thanks, whoever hiked these chairs up here!

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Even though it's still technically "the green tunnel," Vermont is surprisingly beautiful. The trees are now conifers, clear streams flow everywhere, and once again I am seeing and hearing birds and creatures which don't normally live near populated areas. The trail itself is wide and flat, and coated with a layer of soft pine needles. Strange flowers are blooming, and tall mushrooms abound. The entire place seems landscaped, and I keep expecting to see a Smurf or leprechaun emerge at any moment. 

This tree looks like an evil bunny.

This tree looks like an evil bunny.

 

 

 

 

After four days of slack packing with RZA, and the help of his mom, we parted ways and I once again shouldered a full pack. As I walked that first day with my full gear I constantly felt as though someone was hanging on to my pack, pulling me down. It didn't take long to get used to the weight however, and after two short days I found myself in New Hampshire.

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Lemmy is ready to tame a Sandworm on the desert planet Arakkis. 

Lemmy is ready to tame a Sandworm on the desert planet Arakkis. 

I crossed the border into Hanover yesterday, reunited with Lemmy, and by the time you read this I will be back on the trail. By Saturday night, I will have staged myself at the base of Mount Moosilauke, the second highest and second most difficult climb on this hike.  It is the entrance to The Whites, and is regarded by most northbounders as "the beginning of the end." Approximately 30 days remain. 

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Day 110: Manchester Center, VT - 1,647 miles

Hi! I walked here. 

Hi! I walked here. 

Things are happening very fast. So much is different about Vermont that it almost feels like a separate country. Beautiful clear water runs everywhere. The climbs and descents are now reaching into the thousands, as opposed to mere hundreds, of feet. And, almost as though someone had flipped a switch, the mosquitoes disappeared as soon as I crossed the border.

While I'm in Vermont, I will also walk 105 miles of the Long Trail. 

While I'm in Vermont, I will also walk 105 miles of the Long Trail. 

There is only one state between Maine and this one, and everyone keeps telling us that it just gets more and more beautiful each day as we progress north. Based on the amount of beauty I see here on a daily basis, I find that both very exciting and hard to believe.

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We call him "Planner". 

We call him "Planner". 

I never get tired of saying this, so I hope you never get tired of hearing it: The people I've met on the trail are amazing. A few towns ago I met a hiker and fellow pizza enthusiast who is also from North Carolina. When I bumped into him on the trail recently, he saved me from having to hitch into town by inviting me to join him on his upcoming slack pack, starting at the next road crossing. For those who don't know, a slack pack is when the hiker carries just enough food and water for that day. Meanwhile, a partner (in this case his mother) with a car meets the hiker at the next road crossing with the rest of their gear. You know, all the heavy stuff. Purists look down upon this practice with great disdain, but considering that I slack packed the very first mile of the AT, doing so here in Vermont was not exactly a vexing moral conundrum. Besides, there's pizza involved.

Finally above 4,000 feet again! 

Finally above 4,000 feet again! 

 

Day 105: Dalton, MA - 1,565 miles

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I have lived in the deep south. I'm talking about swamps and gators. I've been to the rain forests of Peru and jungles in the South Pacific. And I have never encountered mosquitos as numerous or vicious as those in Massachusetts in August. One of them bit me through my shoe. 

The mighty Housatonic. 

The mighty Housatonic. 

And yet for some reason I love this place. It's because I can finally see real mountains again. Here is Bear Mountain and way in the distance you can see Greylock, the highest point in MA. I'll be there tomorrow. 

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Before I get to Greylock I'll have to walk through the valley. Another reason I like it here is because much of it reminds me of home. 

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This is also where the mud starts. The AWOL Guide advises, "Walk through the mud. Do not trample vegetation beside the trail." Basically I'll run a a Tough Mudder every day for the next two weeks. 

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Maybe they should call it "MassaROOTSettes…!" Right? Hello? Is this thing on?

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