Update 10 from an AT through hiker
By dlacher on Jul 20, 2005
I don't know how it happens, usually i'm just not paying attention (imagine that) and i go one way, my pack goes another way, and suddenly i'm laying on the ground. How is it that I've managed to walk 1950 miles when I just randomly tip over? I don't understand it. Oh yes, that's right, i've almost made it 2000 miles, i'm in Rangeley, Maine right now, a wonderful little tourist community, but the more important point is that i only have 220 miles to go!! In about 2 weeks I should be finally finished with my journey. I know I said in my last email that I was hoping to get done at the end of july, but that might've been a little optimistic, especially with the White Mountains. Oh the Whites, they kicked my ass pretty good, whatever my daily mileage average was before hitting the Whites, you can just about cut it in half and that's what I did through them, they were that tough. I'm not sure how to describe it, but the trail was everything i hated about GA/NC (steep trail that goes straight up and down mountains) and everything i hated about PA/NY (rocks). Combine them and you get the White Mountains in NH. Fun stuff. There was one point when i was walking down the trail and i couldn't see anything in front of me except sky. i was really hoping the trail took a sharp turn left or right, but when i got up there, the "trail" went straight down a 20ft cliff. Somehow trees manage to grow next to this stuff, so i threw my hiking poles down to the bottom and grabbed a branch of the tree and swung out. So there i was, hanging from this branch, trying desperately to find a place to put my feet. Once i found something, i would lean over and grab the next branch down. Can you picture it? me swinging from branch to brach hiking down this trail. I wish i had a picture of it, i'm sure it was ammusing. Sadly, that didn't happen only once, there were several times when the trail either went up or down stuff like that. In another section, there weren't any trees or anything to grab on to, so what they did was take blocks of wood and bolt them to the rocks with rebar. Basically they made a set of stairs down this slab of rock, which was very nice, but if you have to drill rebar into a rock so hikers don't die, is it really a hiking trail? i'd like to think not, but apparently i'm wrong. The final hiking test that we go through in the Whites is the Mahoosuc Notch (which is actually in Maine), it's basically a ravine that's filled with boulders the size of cars, houses, whatever. We have to crawl over, and yes, under those boulders for about a mile through this notch. It actually wasn't as bad as i thought it would be. I'd been dreading the Mahoosuc Notch for weeks and when i got there i was like, is this it? it was more annoying than anything. Other hikers think they're going to die in the notch, whereas i thought i was going to die in the earlier parts of the the Whites, i guess that's just how it goes. Oh the Whites. I'd really like to meet the person who finds something like the Mahoosuc Notch or the cliffs and thinks, this is a perfect location for a hiking trail! I've decided 2 things about whoever designed the AT:
1) He loves rocks.
2) He hates hikers and wants to see them die. Or at least suffer horribly.
I say he because it was obviously a man, if a woman designed the trail, it would be much more reasonable and enjoyable. Well, that was the bad part of NH, the good part is that i loved being above treeline! there are 2 ridges, the Franconian and Presidential that each stay above treeline, the Franconian for about 8 miles and the Presidential for about 14 miles. It was cloudy, foggy and rainy when i went over the Franconian, but i had beautiful weather for the presidentials. One was good, one sucked, i figure that it all evens out. I'm not sure why i enjoy being above treeline so much, it's not the views, they're nice, but i get bored looking at more mountains and valleys and trees. i think it's just the wide-open, barren landscape, it's probably the same reason i like the desert so much, who knows, all i know is that i really enjoy it. So mt washington, i don't know what all the fuss is about, it seemed remarkably easy to me =) i'm just kidding, i was very very very lucky and got amazing weather the day i hiked up it. there was no wind at all and the sun was shining, i couldn't have picked a better day if i'd tried. especially after i heard all the other hikers talking about how they had winds of 80+ mph or fog so bad they couldn't see the cairns and got lost trying to get down the mountain. The other really nice feature of the Whites is the hut system they have there. the huts are basically mountain lodges, with bunk rooms, running water, and a staff of college kids who cook dinner and breakfast. usually these huts are fairly expensive ($77 a night, and they fill up quickly), mainly because those poor college kids have to haul up all the fresh foods on a weekly basis (there are no roads to these huts, only hiking trails). They're exceptionally nice to thru-hikers though and allow the first 2 that show up to do work-for-stay, where we get to eat dinner and breakfast (the left-overs, not with the guests, but that's fine) and sleep inside on the floor. In exchange we have to do an hour of light chores. One time i had to sweep out the bunkrooms and the next time i had to clean the stove, stuff like that. It's wonderful to get real meals and a nice warm, dry place to sleep, i loved it! So the Whites are pretty much the best and worst of the AT, the best scenery and the worst trail, so again, it all evens out. And that was New Hampshire! My next resupply point is Monson, Maine, and that's also my very last resupply point, it feels so strange to say that, only 220 miles to go. Anyway, i'm not sure that i'll be able to find internet access there, so the next email you get very well could be the "woo hoo! i'm done!" email, but we'll see, i might get lucky and find something. Things are getting better, now that i'm through the Whites and in beautiful Maine, my mental outlook has definitely improved, it's all downhill from here =)