Almost home!

Date: July 14th, 2015
Day: 125
Miles from Springer: 1897.8
Miles to Katahdin: 291.4
Morale: 5/5

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This is probably going to be the most fun-filled, action-packed blog yet. I wasn’t quite done with Vermont when I last posted, so let us return there.

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As you can see by the foggyness (is that a word?) of this photo, Vermont was wet. Very wet. The thru-hikers were all calling it Vermud by the end, I don’t think I had dry feet for a solid week. Although Vermont definitely brought it’s hardships, it also brought some excitement. It just so happens that world renowned ultrarunner Scott Jurek was attempting to break the record for the fastest supported thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail this year. He did in fact beat the record a few days ago, but he passed by me in Vermont. When he started getting close, I did some research on him and decided to purchase his book, Eat and Run, in Manchester Center. When he passed me I asked for his autograph, and got him to sign the book.

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I also got my picture taken with him, but it is on a friend’s camera and won’t be available until after the hike. It was a super cool experience and he was an awesome guy. I actually made it into a National Geographic online article about him, although they got the location wrong, it was in Vermont, not the Mahoosucs. The link to the article is here, but the quote from the article is: “In the middle of the Mahoosuc wilderness, a young AT thru-hiker stood waiting in pouring rain near a lean-to waiting for Jurek. “Are you Scott?” he shouted out, as he approached with O’Neil. “Will you sign my book,” he said, holding out a copy of Eat and Run”

I thought that was pretty cool.

In other celebrity news, I got to see Hillary Clinton speak at Dartmouth College in Hanover New Hampshire. Hanover is the first town in New Hampshire, and is where the state line sign from the beginning of the post was taken. I was hanging around in town with a few other hikers, about to head out when we heard that she was speaking later. We stuck around and gave her a listen.

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Seeing Hillary was not nearly as cool as meeting Jurek, but it was definitely an interesting and memorable trail moment.

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Aside from all of the celebrity appearances, entering New Hampshire meant entering White Mountain National Forest, which is generally considered the most beautiful and challenging part of the trail. Above is a picture of the ascent to Mt. Moosilauke, the southernmost mountain on the trail that is above treeline. It was amazing ascending up and watching the trees get shorter and shorter as I approached the distant peak.

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The descent from Moosilauke was even steeper than the ascent, as it generally followed the path of a nearby waterfall. Pictured above are three guys who I hiked much of New Hampshire with, Heavyweight, Blueberry, and Superman.

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Blueberry and Superman drank straight from the waterfall, it was crystal clear spring water shooting out of the mountain.

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Upon reaching the bottom, we turned around to read this sign, a warning to hikers wishing to ascend the cascades. It made us all feel pretty good knowing that we handled it no problem.

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After Moosilauke came Franconia Ridge. The two miles above treeline that make up this gorgeous section of trail are generally regarded as the best two miles of the trail.

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Looking back on what I came over.

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The night after walking Franconia, I camped on the summit of Mt. Garfield and caught this sunrise.

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Because you had to pay to stay at designated campsites in the Whites, I would often just pitch my tent in random places on trail and avoid the fee. I ended up with some pretty cool spots. This summit was one, but another was Ripley falls, a place I never would have gone had I not been looking for a tentsite.

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Walking along a ridge the next day, I was able to look back and see the falls way off in the distance.

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That white speck in the top half of the picture is where I camped,  and I walked by that parking lot in the bottom of the photo before steeply ascending to Webster Cliffs where this picture was taken.

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The next highlight comes from the Presidential range. Another long stretch above treeline, the presidentials include Mt. Washington, the second highest peak on the trail. Here it is looming in the distance as I make the trek around Mt. Eisenhower and towards Mt. Monroe.

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The White Mountains are home to the famous AMC huts, where people pay hundreds of dollars to stay in an unheated bunk room. The huts are kind to thru-hikers though, and I got to do work for stay at the beautiful Lake of the Clouds hut at the base of Mt. Washington. (The hut is known to thru-hikers as Lake of the Crowds, as evidenced by the people hanging out in front. There were ninety guests the night I was there). I did a few easy chores with some other thru-hikers, and in return we got to sleep on the floor and eat the dinner leftovers. It was a fun experience, and there was a pretty good sunset too.

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I charged up over Washington the next morning bright and early, and was on the summit at 6:15.

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The wind was blowing a steady thirty-eight miles an hour at the hut when I left, and was blowing a steady fifty miles an hour at the summit 1200 feet up. I couldn’t hang out long, but got a few good pictures of the sun cresting over Mt. Monroe and the hut.

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I also got this nice shot of the ridge I was about to walk that day.

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Most people know that there is an auto road where you can drive your car to the summit of Mt. Washington, however not everyone knows that there is actually a cog railway, or train, that goes to the top.

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It was a long but beautiful descent over Mt. Madison and along this ridge down to Pinkham Notch where I met my family for a zero day at my Aunt Jeannine’s and Uncle Peter’s house on Conway lake. It was a fun day and it was good to see my family again.

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Mt. Washington and the Whites are behind me now, and I am less than ten miles from the Maine border as I write this. It will feel so good to step back into my home state for the last two-hundred and eighty miles of this long journey. I am so fortunate to have had such fantastic weather through this beautiful stretch and hope my luck continues in Maine. Today’s quote comes from way back in Virginia. Famous trail maintainer and A.T. legend Bob Peoples is often attributed with the quote: “Home is where you hang your food bag”

I am looking forward to hanging my food bag in good ole’ North New Portland soon.

Bears!

Date: June 26th, 2015
Day: 107
Miles from Springer: 1651.1
Miles to Katahdin: 538.1
Morale: 5/5

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When I last posted I was just leaving Pennsylvania, and now here I am in the middle of Vermont. You know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun. Once again, lack of affordable places to stay with wifi and bad service has made the gap between my posts entirely too long. It isn’t all bad though, because looking back and reflecting on the past few weeks is actually quite nice. It let’s me re-live that section of trail.

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Suprisingly enough, New Jersey is a section of trail worth re-living. When one thinks about New Jersey, the last thing that comes to mind is pristine glacial ponds and senic open fields. The New Jersey section of trail brought both of these things, a welcome sight after Pennsylvania.

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Another thing about New Jersey is that it has the highest density Bear population on the whole trail. I saw my first bear here, a family of three actually. They were waltzing through camp without a care in the world. I later set up my tent virtually right where they were walking. In the picture above you can see the corner of a sign marking the water source.

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After New Jersey came New York, and it was far less senic than Jersey, however there was a deli at almost every road crossing, so at least I ate well. I’ve never seen more American flags on display than in New York. Every shelter had a flag, every summit had a flag, and there was even this 9/11 memorial painted on the rocks.

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A “big” landmark in New York was the Dover oak, the largest oak tree on the trail. The tree is 300+ years old and has a circumference of twenty-two feet. My trekking pole is four feet long, and doesn’t come close to spanning it.

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The trail in New York was annoyingly difficult. It went up steep boulder fields and straight back down them again. There was little elevation gain, and so no views really to speak of. The trail maintenence was lacking, and the trail was often hard to find.

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Here is a picture of classic New York trail. You can see the blazes leading up over the rocks.

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After New York came Connecticut, and also New England. If you haven’t noticed, all of these states were very short. The combined milage of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts is only about three hundred miles. The other thing about this section of trail is that each state got progressively better after New York. Each state got a little more senic, and a little higher in elevation.

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The trail in Massachusetts was uneventful except for Mt. Greylock, the highest point in the state. It had the first sub-alpine environment since Unaka mountain way back in North Carolina. I’m glad to be getting back into the northern states, with the spruce/fir forests that I was used to hiking in as a kid.

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Another thing that was nice about climbing a real mountain was the noticeable difference in weather. Atop Greylock it was blowing a gale and was much colder. It was a pity that the observation tower was closed for renovations, it would have been nice to get out of the wind and check out the views.

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The A.T. coincides with the Long Trail I’m Vermont for 105 miles, and so far it has been wonderful. I’ve been in sub-alpine environments every day now, and had great views all of the time. The trail is a bit muddy, however it is well worth it for the views.

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This is the view from Stratton Mountain, the birthplace of the A.T. Legend says that Benton Mackaye himself stood atop this mountain when he dreamed up a trail connecting the high peaks of the Appalachian Mountain Range. It also happens to be the “three quarters of the way done” mark. It was a great morning to say the least.

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I took lunch at prospect rock, and had this view of Equinox Mtn. And Manchester Center, where I am currently relaxing in a motel. Tommorow I will do as I aways do, continue north with great excitement, because the best is yet to come.

A year indoors is a journey along a paper calender. A year in outer nature is the accomplishment of a tremendous ritual.” -Henry Beston

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