Thursday, July 28, 2011

6/14 Day 111

Last night we slept at Lake of the Clouds Hut doing work for stay. It was quite a surreal experience. Since we got there early, we sat around a table we had occupied playing chess. We had to be a sight playing chess next to our mini bag explosion as paying guests waited for dinner, watching us. One of the nice features about the huts is that they always over-cook and feed the extra food to thru-hikers. Let me assure you it was awesome! In fact, it was very difficult to eat everything they gave us. I really had to force the last couple cookies down, but they frown upon not eating what you take, so, what could I do other that eat the cookies? In the morning, we woke up early since we had our clothes hanging up on a line and were sleeping on the tables in the common area/dining hall. We got fed some scrambled eggs, drank some coffee, and headed out to the summit in what we knew was going to be bad weather. Even though the weather was bad, and we didn't see a view until the end of the day, the experience was awesome! We were tired pushing out the last couple of miles into Pinkham Notch where the day took on a completely surreal experience. Starting the day with a tough ridge walk in bad weather and ending it at Rosemary and John's restored 19th century farmhouse was amazing. Rosemary and John are amazing people, and I am very glad we had the opportunity to meet them.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut to Pinkham Notch. Homemade Doughnuts were being made as we awoke on the dining room tables this morning. We had a roof over out heads last night and it was nice knowing that because I could hear the wind howling over the ridge. At the base of Mount sounded cold. One of the paying guests used the bathroom like four or five times last night. I knew it was the same person because she must have been wearing wooden clogs or something: Cloppitty, cloppitty, clop over the wooden floor, door opens and closes...just enough time to dose, door opens and closes, cloppitty, cloppitty, clop over the wooden floor. I put my ear plugs in and dreamt of horses in a distant cold mist.

We ate free two day old pancakes and drank "sort of" recently brewed coffee as I eyeballed the fresh, warm, soft doughnuts one of the hut employees was making for the "paying" guests. He did scramble us a bowl of eggs, and for that we were grateful. As we were readying for bed the night before we threw our typical evening clothes line ( the dining hall, after the guests went to bed of course...), and I wanted to wake up early and have it down before the hut guests came in for dinner. I didn't notice, but Coach informed me after making his morning deposit that apparently us, and our clothes line, completely stunk up the dinning hall. A nice pungent odor of thru-hiker and sweet must have been confusing for the paying guests before coffee.

6:45 departure from Lakes of the Clouds to summit Mt. Washington. We geared up with our weather armor, and layered with every piece of clothing in our pack. Less than an hour later we were on the summit: 50 mph winds, 32 degrees F with a wind chill of 10-20 degrees F (we learned all this at the ranger station on the summit). Hung out with the rangers for about 30 minutes, then we began our 8 mile exposed ridge-line hike through the weather. Slippery rocks, snowbanks, ankle breakers. We had 20-40 yards of visibility, just enough to see the next rock pile indicating that we are still on the "trail," if you want to call it that. Wet, rain, mist, ring out your gloves, ring out your socks, jump from rock to rock, and watch your step.

The sky opened up right as we were exiting the ridge. Long technical hike as we entered into the tree line. Tired. Unblazed trail, confusion. Finally we reached a parking lot...Rosemary to save the day. Bananas and strawberries in the car. John grilled local chicken. Bread, salad, potato salad, beans, fruit pudding angel food cake dessert. Beer, bed.

Life after...and final days

I'm sitting here with mine and coach's last journal entries somehow trying desperately to motivate myself to enter them into the blog...and finish this trip. Its difficult. I've been procrastinating, ignoring the task. I guess in some weird way it makes it all official. It makes it all officially over and that's a big pill to swallow. I don't want to admit its over, because, after all of the bitching and moaning, pain, cold, hot, wet, thirsty… as bad as I wanted to stop hiking and get off of the Appalachian Trail, I strangely want it all back. I feel trapped in an inescapable limbo of relief and yearning, and I am haunted by The Trail.

Inevitably, like the cliche it is, I must use the AT as a metaphor for life. And this life experience I am struggling through right now is one of many. I am going to push through no matter how painful, and share with you the last days of the Appalachian Trail...

Sunday, July 3, 2011


On July 2nd, Coach and the Professor reached Baxter Peak, the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The journey has been long, hard, and successful. The support of family, friends, strangers-turned-friends and simply strangers has been overwhelming.

Coach and the Professor will update the blog with the remaining journal entries as soon as they journey home, and also share some parting thoughts...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Update- Closing in on Monson, Maine

Coach and the Professor will arrive in Monson, Maine tomorrow, leaving them LESS THAN 120 miles from the FINISH.

Photo courtesy of Manager Mike, taken June 21, 2011 somewhere in rural Maine.

From the Journals: DAY 110, June 13

Ethan Pond Shelter - Lakes of the Cloud Hut: 13.9mi
Easy start this morning, until we had to hike out of Crawford's Notch. The hike out was more like a climb out. The weather made it more difficult. Looked forward to more hut hopping for soup and bread. I think I am actually gaining weight now. Tonight we are doing a work for stay at one of the huts. The weather at the summit of Mt. Washington looks really bad. Basically, it will be in the 30's with strong winds and gusts up to 50mph. The windchill will be in the teens. Can't wait!

We are so excited about the huts here in the Whites that we basically woke up thinking about hot soup. 10 miles to the next hut...What kind of soup will they have?... Do you think they will hook us up with some free bread?... We asked each other these questions as we hiked. After dropping down from Ethan Pond into Crawford Notch and NH302, we started climbing arguably the steepest ascent yet of the trip.

Roughly 3.6 miles of hand over foot rock scrambling and cliff climbing. With our packs, it was incredibly difficult...shaky thighs, burning calves...keep pushing, keep pushing, loosen your chest strap so you can take deeper breaths, blood rushes to your muscles in support. My heart pumps, thumps, it feels strong about almost 1,900 miles of hiking...keep pushing, I can feel my feet starting to cramp, the arch of my foot wants to cramp in a ball of pain and curl my foot into a claw in my wet, smelly shoes... keep pushing, drink water to avoid the cramps in my calves and feet.

Cold, wet, wind. It's hard to regulate your body temperature in this weather. Coat on, coat off. Hat on, hat off. Gloves on, gloves off. Fleece on, fleece off. Etc, etc. So on and so forth. Constantly putting on and taking off our sweaty wet layers.

Finally, Mizpah shelter, soup, bread, brownies, free! They like thru-hikers around here, it's awesome! Climbed above the tree line again entering the Presidential Range of the Whites. High elevation, white out, then brief view, then white out, then rain, then quick view, climb, climb, climb, Ridge.

Lakes of the Cloud Hut, just below the summit of Mt. Washington. Work for stay - Free dinner (1 pancake, lemonade, coffee, 2 bowls of soup, salad, 1/4 loaf of bread, chicken, rice, green beans, 2 pieces of apple cake, cranberry juice), sleep on dining room floor. They liked us, we only cleaned for 20 minutes after dinner.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

From the Journals: DAY 109, June 12

Garfield Ridge Shelter - Ethan Pond Shelter: 15.2 mi
After being packed in like sardines, we were actually one of the last ones to leave in the morning. The conditions yesterday didn't make us want to get back out in it. We had heard today was going to be worse than yesterday, but it turned out to not be nearly as bad. It still rained, but most drizzled all day. We also didn't have to go on any exposed ridgelines. Despite the weather, the day was actually really good and a big morale booster. We still got in 15 miles in the Whites, which is good by itself, but we also got to eat a lot of food. We started the morning by crushing oatmeal cookies our friend Anne made for us in our oatmeal. Later that morning we stopped in at a hut where we got 2 bowls of soup, which we added our lunch meat to, cake and coffee. Next, we hiked 6 miles to the next hut. There we ate another bowl of soup, carrot cake, and a lot of bread. The bread was amazing, the girl serving food really hooked us up. We finally ended the day with dinner. Tonight, we had our usual Alpine Aire dinner with a bagel, a mass produced oatmeal creme pie, and more of Anne's cookies. It was a good day and good food. As I write this I am already hungry again.

We were in a shelter that sleeps 12... with 14 people in it, wet, cold, and generally trying to look past how miserable we all really were. I shook almost uncontrollably when I brushed my teeth. Sardine lineup: A couple (2), Solo, ultra-lite dude (1), Coach and Prof (2), Maine girls (2), French Canadians (4), 3 dudes on the end (3). I was jammed between Coach and a pole with wet jackets hanging up, dripping. Today, I was thankful for: Soup at huts (vegetable chowder and tomato), Bread, carrot cake, coffee cake, coffee, Anne's oatmeal cookies. We ate like kings, the rain held off, we were warm, we felt strong again. Tomorrow we begin our two day ascent to Mt. Washington and perform our first "work for stay" at the White Mountain Presidential Range Hut.