AT- Days 178-190

September 19, 2018

Day 178- Thursday, 9/6- Rattle River Hostel- (0) (1769.3 total)

A well deserved zero day after the last 5 I hiked through. Those days wore me out and my body was begging me for a day off. Wish granted. Got up early and had breakfast with Workhorse before he left. This hostel is different in that they don’t prepare breakfast for you. I asked the owner about it and he said the #1 thing that burns hostel owners out is the daily breakfast, so he just decided to put pancake mix out and let us cook our own. Or if a hiker is there doing work-for-stay, he has them do the pancake cooking for everyone. After breakfast, Workhorse took off. It was forecast to rain for a couple hours in the morning, and he almost decided to wait the rain out, but decided to push onwards. Wish I was hiking with him, but I’ll see him soon enough.

Took the noon shuttle into town and had lunch with a few others at a BBQ place. The pulled pork quesadilla was amazing! Then hit the coffee shop, the outfitter, and Walmart for my groceries. Surprisingly ran into Wiki in Walmart. She was supposed to hike today, but changed her mind and decided to zero. When I was having lunch with her and Workhorse yesterday, she had ordered the chicken parmesan and was disappointed with it. She left still having the craving for the real stuff, so she was at Walmart buying the ingredients to cook it herself for all of us back at the hostel. Later that night she called me down and I got to enjoy an awesome meal of chicken parmesan, spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread. Awesome dinner of protein and carbs to fuel tomorrow’s hike, and so nice of her to cook for us like that. The food was excellent!

Day 179- Friday, 9/7- Valley Way Campsite- (7.8 miles) (1777.1 total)

The White mountains are known for their sections above the tree line. Rocky peaks with amazing views all around. I have already technically been hiking in the Whites for 2 days, but the Wildcats and the Carters did not get above tree level much, and so don’t really have that characteristic look. Today was the first day that I really got to see that.

Rough night last night trying to get some sleep. I was in a bunk room in the hostel, but only with 4 beds. Had our own bathroom in the area too. I was sharing with these 2 brothers, Canoe and Kayak, who are heading southbound and who I’ve been seeing since Maine. Very cool guys, but pretty quiet. I was stoked to see them there when they showed up. But they ended up hanging out until late with a bunch of other hikers outside until late. And they kept coming back into our room to grab stuff, use the bathroom, etc. And every time, it woke me up. That’s the tough part sometimes about the hostels. They are very affordable and you get to meet and hang out with a lot of other hikers, but it can be hard to get the privacy or alone time I like sometimes. I was burning out a bit today on all the people constantly around me- in the hostel, on the town shuttle, etc. I’m a mix of both extroverted and introverted, and I know that I definitely recharge my battery in more of an introverted way. I like to chill alone and have some quiet, watch some shows, etc. A motel room is perfect for that, although more pricey. I was able to put my headphones on, watch some shows, and shut out the world for a couple hours at the end of the day, but not so lucky with sleep last night.

Got the shuttle to Pinkman’s Notch first thing this morning to start the hike. The first 4 miles were easy and fast and pretty flat. But then the trail climbed pretty steeply for 3000 ft. up my first presidential, Madison peak. Over half of it was below tree line, but the top 1/3 was above tree line and I finally got to see that classic Whites view. Simply amazing. For the first time on the AT, what I would call real mountains. Colorado, Rocky Mountain similar type of mountains all around. Really stunning and beautiful up here. Once we cleared tree line, it did turn into a boulder field tho. Very slow going, hoping from one boulder to the next without much of a trail. And not too many white blazes either. The “trail” was instead marked by stone cairns. I summited Madison and then dropped down to Madison Spring Hut. Beautifully renovated hut that had the same soup and baked goods for sale, so I stopped in for a break. I asked for work-for-stay but as I figured it was still too early. There are no camping areas near the hut, but they directed me here, to the Valley Way Campsite, 0.4 steep miles downhill and back into the tree line. The campsite was almost full when I arrived. A high school orientation group, but luckily there was one final space. Much harder miles, so much shorter days here in the Whites. I’m just hoping for good weather. The guys up here yesterday got blasted by sleet, and high winds. Hopefully not tomorrow, as I’m about to climb Mt. Washington.

Day 180- Saturday, 9/8- Nauman Tentsite, NH- (11.8 miles) (1788.9 total)

Great morning this morning! I got up early and hiked the half mile back up to the hut and AT from where I was tent camping. I walked into the hut to score some of the baked goods they sell there, before heading towards Mt. Washington. As soon as I walk in the door, I see Onyx and Butcher standing there. As I’m greeting them, I see Shadow running across the room. He just about knocks me over with a huge hug, and then Used Crock shows up as well. It was the most heart-warming reunion with these 4 that I had spent time with in the south. A lot of hugs and smiles and love. It really made my day. The only sad part was not being able to continue hiking with them, and having to say goodbye.

Left out of the hut and started a tough 6 miles up to the summit of Mt. Washington. Mt. Washington has the infamous distinction of having “the worst weather in the world.” Luckily I caught it on a clear and fairly calm day. Until very recently, the highest gust of wind ever recorded on earth was up there. It was a slow climb over lots of rocks, all above tree line. It’s so different in this area, as we can often see many miles ahead to where we are going. Usually on the AT, we are just in the forest and can’t see much at all. It’s a real twist for my brain in terms of judging distance. It actually feels further when I can see the destination, rather than just seeing the miles by GPS on my app while I’m deep in the tunnel of trees.

Aside from the views, the best thing about the summit of Washington was the cafeteria. Got to get indoors and out of the wind, and get a good hot meal. I hung out there for about an hour jus to rest up and get some food., then headed down. Thankfully the trail eased up at that point and I could make faster miles. I was initially planning to stay at the next hut, Lake of the Clouds, but everyone I talked to said that the terrain wasn’t bad beyond that and I could make the next hut and campsite, so I pushed on. I already made a reservation for tomorrow night at a lodge bunkhouse place and i need to arrive there by 5pm to check in and be on time for their dinner, so I decided to push the longer miles today, and then leave a shorter day tomorrow so I can arrive earlier.

The tent site was next to one of the huts. I went into the hut to ask about doing some work for stay. The girl said they already had 4 people doing work for stay for dinner, so the only way I could do it was if I helped for breakfast the next morning. But that would mean not getting out of there until 10am, which was too late for me so I declined. I went over to the tent site instead and talked to the caretaker. She looked pretty stressed out and frazzled and said the tent site was nearly full. The only place for me to stay was one one of the wooden tent platforms that already had 2 tents on it. There was just barely enough room for me to squeeze my tent in between the other 2, and I couldn’t stake out either of my vestibules. Luckily the people on either side were cool and welcomed me in. 3 girls were in a bigger tent on one side of me, and a couple was on the other side. The guy in the couple had never been camping before, but said he had just started dating this girl and she was into backpacking, so he was just trying it out for the first time. I have been really happy with my tent this whole trip, but I do find it that it takes up a bit too big of a space sometimes, if I have both vestibules fully staked out. I think if I did it again, I’d go for something a bit smaller and lighter, for the weight savings and also so it can squeeze into tighter spots when I need it too. Sometimes in the forest the tent spots can be pretty tight as well. But we all fit on the tent pad so that worked. We each had about a foot and a half of space in front of our tent doors to squeeze in and out. Was pretty funny.

One thing the caretaker said to all of us when we checked in was to ask us if we had enough cold weather gear. She said it is supposed to get into the upper 20s tonight! Luckily I heard from other hikers that the Whites were getting cold already and had my cousin send me my winter clothes back, so I’m prepared. Sounds like it’s gonna be a cold one tho!

Day 181- Sunday, 9/9- AMC Highland Center- (6.4 miles) (1795.3 total)

Pretty chilly night last night, but I kept fairly warm. I was wearing every layer I have tho, plus my 15 degree down sleeping bag. There was frost on all the tents this morning, so it definitely got below freezing. Enjoyed my usual baked goods- coffee cake and chocolate cake this morning- at the hut before heading out. After the long day yesterday, today was a short one milage-wise. But I underestimated the terrain. I think my brain just relaxed, thinking it was a short day. But it was the usual slow, rocky, rooty grind that we always have below tree line out here. Summiting Mt. Jackson was pretty slow. I finally got to the top and saw some people hanging out and enjoying the view. There was another trail going left just below the summit, so I wasn’t sure which was the main trail. Often the main trail doesn’t go over the summit, but there is a side blue blaze trail if you want to see the view. So I went up there and asked the people and they said it was just a summit trail, so I turned around to look for the main trail. The other trail I had seen looked too small and unused to be the AT, so I looked around and saw another big trail switch-backing down. I checked my GPS to be sure it was the AT, and it was so I started hiking. I cruised about half a mile before running into some other hikers I knew and they told me I was going the wrong way. I was so confused. I checked my GPS, and realized that I had gotten my internal compass all turned around at the summit when those people told me the trail didn’t continue over the summit, and I had actually just u-turned and gone back the way I had come up. Damn! So frustrating when stuff like this happens. This trail is hard and slow enough without having to rehike miles or getting off on wrong trails. So I had to hike the half mile back to the summit, adding a full mile to my day. And it turned out that the AT did go over that summit and continue down the other side. I just got wrong info from those people on top. Grrrr.

After all that was the descent down the mountain- nearly 3000 feet. I had heard about this descent from Used Crock when I saw her at the hut the other day and she freaked me out about it. As usual it wasn’t quite as bad as she made it out to be, but it was still a bear. Lots of very tough and very steep rock areas to puzzle my way down at the top, and just a super long and steep descent down the rest of it on tired legs. It felt like it took forever to get down. Once at the bottom I met up with the 2 other hikers who had told me i was going the wrong way earlier. The 3 of us hitchhiked together to this AMC Highland Center where I had a reservation. Got a very quick ride from a friendly day hiker guy. This place is quite fancy. They have a main lodge area with a fire place, lounge area, store, and dining room. The fancier private rooms are there, and I am in a separate building that is the bunkhouse. The price includes dinner and breakfast, so at 6pm we headed over there to eat. And WOW! They served a several course family-style dinner that was amazing! Salad and homemade bread first, soup next, pork tenderloin, yams with black beans, and lime and cilantro rice were the main course, and pineapple upside down cake was for dessert. Amazing!!!

The problem we are all facing now is the weather. From all the reports we are reading and hearing, it is supposed to rain tomorrow afternoon, and then have rain and possible thunder showers the next day. Weather that you don’t want to be out in in the Whites. Normally on the AT, if it rains I just hike. No rain gear, because you just sweat underneath it and get just as wet. I change into my dry clothes when I get to camp and put the wet ones back on in the morning to hike. If the rain has stopped then the clothes will dry out as I hike. It’s just the wet tent that is a pain, as it gets all damp inside, and is heavier to carry when it’s wet. But in southern Maine and the Whites, it’s a different story. It is too rocky, too steep, and too slippery if it gets wet. Plus we are hiking up on mountain ridges where lightning becomes a real risk. So it looks like we are all going to have to hole up and wait this weather out. It’s looking like 2 days. Not ideal, because I’m anxious to get out of these Whites and put the hardest part of the trail behind me, but it is what it is. Mother Nature makes the call and we have to work around her. No sense going out there and getting hurt just to save 2 days. We will see how things unfold for the next 2 days, but it sounds like I might be here for a bit. Glad I’m not stuck in my tent up in the mountains at least. At the food is good here! Could be worse.

Day 182- Monday, 9/10- AMC Highland Center- (0) (1795.3 total)

A very cold, cloudy, and windy day today, with rain coming in in the afternoon. Was nice to be indoors and I was very glad I was able to sit this one out somewhere safe, dry, and warm. The timing worked out well for me to be able to watch my Broncos game against the Seahawks this morning. Exciting game and a good win! Otherwise just chilled out. I did hear from Friends of Thai Daughters recently, the organization I am hiking for. They are putting out a newsletter soon and have asked me to write an article about my hike for it. I wasn’t sure at first how I would find the time to sit down and write something decent, but this weather delay has created the perfect time. So I spent a couple hours today writing. Then it was pretty much just meals and Netflix for the rest of the day. Nothing too exciting, but a good rest for my body after beating it up over the difficult Whites. Tomorrow looks to be the worst of the weather, so likely another zero tomorrow. Trying to remember the “patient” part of patient perseverance.

Day 183- Tuesday, 9/11- AMC Highland Center- (0) (1795.3 total)

Another bad weather zero day today. All reports were showing lots of rain and high winds. Best to just hunker down for the day. Tomorrow is looking better. May get a bit of rain or thunder storms in the afternoon, but not too bad and the trail doesn’t go above tree line. Proofread and sent off my article for FTD today. It was an interesting process to write that article. I wrote a lot about my motivation for pushing through such a long hike, and that really helped me to remember my “why” for doing all of this. It so easily gets lost sometimes In the daily grind of the hike, but somehow writing it down really brought it back Into focus in a way that even talking about it does not. Will be good to get back on the trail again tomorrow. The rest has been great, but I start getting antsy to go again after a while. Those final miles are still out there waiting for me, and they don’t get any smaller sitting around. I do think my body needed this rest tho, so the timing was good.

Day 184- Wednesday, 9/12- Stealth campsite- (7.3 miles) (1802.6 total)

Finally got out of the lodge today. Weather cleared up pretty well, although a chance of some afternoon showers today. Pretty short day hiking today, but the milage going forward to the next town just breaks down best like this in terms of places to camp. Will have back to back tough 10 mile days coming up the next 2 days, so they will make up for it. Had to hitchhike back to the trailhead this morning and then a 1500 foot climb up on to a ridge to start the day. It’s funny, only 2 days off but my body was kind of in shock at the climb. I didn’t have much gas going up the early part of that climb. Took a minute to get back into the groove of things again. After that tho, the trail leveled out nicely and the miles came easier. Along the way, I finally hit my 1800 mile marker. It was frustrating being only 5 miles away from it but having to zero the last 2 days. Today also marks my 6 month anniversary on the AT. Half a year. Damn. That seems like a long time to be out here hiking.

I’m camping just before the Zealand Falls Hut, so I went over there to have my lunch. Got a nice hearty bowl of vegetable, noodle, and tomato soup and some baked goods for the morning. Gonna try to get a 6am start tomorrow for the longer day. I’m camping next to this guy who I heard about back at Rattle River hostel. He had apparently left and the owner hadn’t gotten his credit card info somehow. Sounds like it was an honest mistake, but the owner was pretty upset about it and was driving all around town looking for this guy. I met him on the trail 3 days ago and told him he was a wanted man and he said he would call the hostel and settle things. Not sure if he did or not. I’m not bringing it up again. But here he is again tonight, camping near me. He got some kind of stomach bug and has diarrhea which has to suck out here. Just met another guy on the trail earlier today that has a head cold. Damn, keep running into all these sick people. Trying to keep a safe distance. That’s all I need.

Day 185- Thursday, 9/13- Garfield Ridge Campsite- (10.0 miles) (1812.6 total)

Up and on the trail before 6am this morning. Knew it would be a long day so wanted to get a head start. Had to hike with my headlamp for the first little while until it got light enough. Haven’t had to do that since way back when I first started. The days got longer and it was getting light so early in the summer. Now I’ve come full circle back go this. Of course after waiting out the rain for 2 days this week, and on a day that was supposed to be clear, I woke up to rain this morning. Not too heavy- more like a heavy mist that turned into a light rain. But enough to make the rocks wet for sure. Wasn’t actually too bad tho. Very rocky terrain today, but the rocks were pretty grippy. I wasn’t above tree line much and no thunder storms, so that was good. And around noon the sun finally came out, which was really nice. Stopped at Galehead Hut for a nice bowl of lentil soup, some fresh bread right out of the oven, and a couple slices of coffee cake. Met a couple there who just got married and were doing a 30 mile day hike as part of their honeymoon. Ended the day hiking up a super steep section of trail that needed hands and feet, and was kind of a mini waterfall. A stream was actually running down the trail that I was trying to climb up. That was a first. This campsite I’m at tonight is one of the official AMC paid campsites. There is a caretaker here and I asked her what she does during the day times when we are all hiking. She told me that she either goes out and maintains sections of the trail, or she works on the decomposition of all the waste from the privys. They have to helicopter in huge amounts of wood chips and mix all the waste with it, making sure the waste is all broken up into quarter sized pieces. Quite a horrible job, which she said is just a labor of love, since she lives this area so much and wants to preserve it. They seem to work quite hard out here. Too hard for the $10 an hour that they are paid. There is also a 9th grade school group out here on a class camping trip. Nice group of kids- I talked with them and their teacher for a bit. But earplugs may be in order if I’m gonna get to bed on time tonight. Cooked dinner at the designated cooking area tonight. Turned around to talk to someone and a brave squirrel ran over and stole my protein bar and ran off with it. Brave little bastard!

Day 186- Friday, 9/14- Lincoln, NH- (10.1 miles) (1822.7 total)

People have been telling me how beautiful Franconia Ridge is and how I should definitely catch it on a clear day. Well today was that day, and it was one of the sunniest and most beautiful days in recent memory. Franconia is the second long exposed ridge line in the Whites. The Presidentials was a 13 mile ridge line, and this one was 4 miles. And just amazing. Views for days. We were up so high above everything on Mt. Lafayette and could just see mountains for miles in all directions. It was amazing. From up there, you can see where the trail is going and where your next few peaks to summit are, which is weird after being in the forest for so long. Things look impossibly far away when you can see them from a distance, but then it is only like 5 miles and you feel amazed at how fast you got there. It’s weird.

I made it into the town of Lincoln in the late afternoon, where the motel owner picked me up at the trailhead. This owner was a former thru hiker himself, back in 1995, so his place is known as very hiker friendly. I needed to resupply, and usually I will take a zero to get all that done, but there is more rain coming in, supposedly on Tuesday, and I want to get out of the Whites before that gets here. So I had to resupply after the hike today. I grabbed a quick shower at the motel and then the owner, Mike, dropped me in town. I grabbed some dinner at a Mexican place, then did all my shopping. I ran into some fellow thru hikers in the supermarket and talked to them a bit. They were heading back out of town to camp somewhere after their resupply. This just amazes me. I was so super tired after hiking all day, and it was a chore to drag myself around town at the end of a long day. But the people who finish this trail in the 4-6 month range achieve this partly by doing exactly this. No zero, quick resupply in town, back on the trail. It blows my mind. I just don’t have the energy. I need my down time after a few days of hiking. That would take a big toll on me, doing it that way regularly.

Day 187- Saturday- 9/15- Eliza Brook Shelter, NH- (8.7 miles) (1831.4 total)

I had heard about The Kinsmans from other hikers and they sounded rough. Well, that was today’s task. Mike dropped me off at the trail at 7:15am. The early section was quite gradual and very beautiful. About an hour and a half in, I came to the last hut in the Whites, Lonesome Lake Hut, and stopped in for a snack. Lonesome Lake itself was one of the most beautiful lakes I have seen along the trail. So scenic. But after the gradual start, it got pretty steep pretty quickly. Some sections had ladders to climb to get up them, and others had 10x10 pieces of wood drilled into the rock as steps. It was hard work going up. And it was really crowded with people. The Whites in the summer gets pretty overcrowded and after hiking for so long alone in the forest, it’s hard to adjust to. It’s tough when several of us bubble together and it’s difficult to spread out. Eventually I made it up and enjoyed the views from the top. It was the descent that was the tough part, as usual. Having gravity at your back while trying to navigate nearly vertical granite slabs with a pack on your back is quite a challenge. It’s a combination of trying not to lose your balance and finding a safe way down, with your legs burning and getting tired from putting on the brakes for 3000 feet down. The steep downhills are my biggest nemesis out here. They just slow me down to a ridiculous crawl. But better safe than sorry.

Eliza Brook Shelter is pretty full tonight, being a weekend and one of the last few weekends before it starts getting cold. Luckily I showed up just a bit earlier than the crowd. Most of the tent sites were already full when I arrived, but there was still one large tent pad site still open. I set up there, and by the time I got back from collecting and filtering my water from the stream, 2 other tents were crammed in next to me and several other people were wandering in asking about more tent space. This is the Whites in the summer. In some ways it is nice to see other people around and not feel like I’m so far out alone in the boonies, but at the same time, I’ve gotten used to just seeing a few thru hikers here and there, and so the crowds are kind of annoying.

Day 188- Sunday, 9/16- Lincoln, NH- (7.5 miles) (1838.9 total)

Today was a weird one. I think it was all due to mental expectations. The elevation was not bad today and it was a short day of only 7.5 miles. Knowing that before I started, I think I just expected a very quick and easy day. In addition, my energy levels were just really low today and I was really dragging. Usually in the mornings I easily get into a hiking rhythm and drift away into my thoughts. Today tho, the terrain was still quite rough, despite the lack of elevation. I was only hiking for 6 hours and was done just after 12, but it felt like an eternity. Just one of those days I guess. I was glad for the short day and happy to get back to the motel to get a half a day off. My body really needed it. Mike picked me up at the trailhead and took me back to the motel. They put me in a nice cabin right by the stream where I could hear the water flowing. The roof was angled down, so I couldn’t fully stand straight up, but a nice place to stay otherwise. I had to run into town to do a couple errands and when I came back I was just exhausted. I forced myself to stay up until 7pm and then went to bed. I woke up at 2:30am feeling refreshed and watched my Broncos play the Raiders- another exciting win! By the time the game finished it was time to get ready for the last day of the Whites!

Day 189- Monday, 9/17- Glencliff, NH- (9.5 miles) (1847.4 total)
I get so pissed at the stupid hype train that goes on along the trail. Every single harder section just gets this crazy buildup of hype and fear, with everyone telling you how crazy and difficult the next section is. This is a weird part of human nature. Once people have done something challenging, they for some reason love to tell those who haven’t done it yet all about how nearly impossible and dangerous it is and how much they will struggle to survive it. I should learn by now not to buy into the stupid hype, but you just never know. Each new section is exactly that- new. So you have no idea what’s coming, except for what people tell you. And as much as I try to just dismiss it as more hype, there is always that part of my brain that says what if. What if this next section really is that hard? What if this is as dangerous as people are saying? Shit, how bad is this really going to be? And so inevitably it gets into my head and sits in the back of my mind, spinning there. It even affects my sleep sometimes. And then I go and do the section and every single time it is not nearly as bad as people say, or as bad as I’ve imagined, and it ends up being very doable. Tough sure, but if I just take it slowly and safely, then I make it through with no issue. It might take a long time and get frustrating at some points, but nowhere near as dangerous or crazy as people like to make it out to be. As I’m heading south and nearing the end of the Whites and southern Maine (the infamous difficult section of the trail) and I am meeting NOBOs who have all the fear and questions about what’s coming up ahead, I am making it a big point to tell each of them “ DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE!” I try hard to calm their fears and tell them that it is all doable and they will be fine if they just take it slowly. I’m not sure why more people don’t do this. Damn fear-mongerers.

So as usual, doing the final mountain of the Whites today, Moosilakue, was nothing like the hype. I heard that we have to climb up a near vertical waterfall, using blocks of wood drilled into the granite as hand and foot holds. I heard that it is all wet and treacherous and the results of a fall could be catastrophic. There was even a sign at the base of the trail saying that you should turn around if you aren’t an experienced hiker, as it is such a dangerous section. But as usual, when I got up there, it was fine. The waterfall was nowhere near vertical. It was about 45 degrees, more of a downhill stream than a full on waterfall. And the trail was well of to the side of it. Sure you had to tread slowly and carefully on some slightly wet areas, but it was nothing death-defying or life-threatening. Just more of the usual hype. I kept waiting for the extreme part to come, and suddenly I was up at the top. Amazing views from up there and a nice chance to say goodbye to the Whites, hands down the most beautiful section of the trail this far.

The descent was rough for the first half, and then nice and smooth for the second half. It was strange and wonderful to see regular trail again. Fairly smooth dirt with very few rocks or roots where you can just hike normally and set a decent pace. What a concept! Towards the bottom I ran into my old friend Taco. She has recovered from her broken foot and is back on trail, making a hard push to the finish. It’s late for these NOBOs who are trying to go strictly north and finish on Katahdin before it closes in mid October. The terrain is so slow ahead of them, but they are all hoping to do 13-15 mile days to finish on time. That’s possible but extremely difficult. I have advised several people to let go of the need to finish on Katahdin and be ok with doing a late flip-flop instead. Make it as far north as they can, then jump to Katahdin and finish south through the 100 mile wilderness or something like that. That way they don’t have to kill themselves through the hardest and slowest section of the AT, and can take a reasonable pace and enjoy it. This is part of the reason I flip-flopped myself. Took the pressure of that deadline away and allows me to take a more reasonable pace late in the game.

Day 190- Tuesday, 9/18- Glencliff, NH- (0) (1847.4 total)

Made it to the Hiker Welcome Hostel yesterday afternoon and took a zero day today. Nice to have a day off to recover after 6 straight hiking days in the Whites. Had to push to get out of those mountains before the rains came. In the end it only rained for 3 hours or so this morning, but still glad I didn’t have to get down those rocks when they were wet. This hostel has been weird. No one to really greet you or tell you what is what when you arrive. The guy was out doing yard work and the girl was in their room with the door closed. The guy seemed annoyed when I went out and asked him how things worked, and both of them have been kind of edgy and weird with their comments at times. Found out today that tomorrow is their last day here working. Young couple who thru-hiked last year. Feels like they are burnt out after a long hiker season and ready to get the hell out of here. Sucks that they take that out on us tho.

It’s been interesting since I have finished the Whites. I can feel my perspective beginning to change a bit. I think for most hikers, this hike is kind of fear driven in a way just because of the overwhelming length of the trail. We all start out wondering if we can actually make it, if it will be too much for us, if it will be too hard, etc. So the solution is just to crank out the miles as fast as you can. Check those boxes. Finished that state. Finished that next 100 mile section. Getting closer. But always unsure of what is next and what it will be like. Plus all the fear-mongering that I discussed before. Just like an undercurrent of all that in people out here. But suddenly I am getting fairly close. Just 350 miles to go. And the hardest part is behind me. So I’m just feeling this slight subtle shift of knowing the end is near and starting to look around a bit more and maybe appreciate this whole thing a bit more. Smelling the roses a bit perhaps. Knowing it will soon just be a memory. Trying to soak it in a bit more. I don’t know. It’s weird. It does feel good in a way meeting the NOBO hikers in this area tho, knowing that I finally have less miles to go than they do. And knowing that their miles are harder that what I have left. Just makes me feel like I’m close and the end is somewhat within reach. But still gotta get these last miles. Not relaxing too early. The NOBOs are stressing at this point tho. They will have to skip ahead or flip flop to make it this late in the season. Makes me glad I flip flopped and don’t have that pressure of the deadline. I have 4 friends to meet coming up in New Hampshire and Vermont, and without the deadline pressure I can definitely take a day to visit with each of them and not be jeopardizing my hike. Just can flow with it as it happens. Everyone keeps telling me how great Vermont is and several have said it is their favorite state on the trail, so looking forward to that. 3 more hiking days to get to the border.  

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