July 14 – It was definitely not an easy task to get myself out of my king size bed at the Woodstock Inm, but sure enough at seven I found myself downstairs eating another breakfast buffet. I soon after packed up and got a shuttle back to the trail, where I headed north towards New Hampshire. I was hiking without a destination for the night, thunderstorms were in the forecast so I planned to stop whenever they started. Steep ups and downs seemed to be the direction my day was heading. They weren’t big, but there were a lot of them, which is sometimes worse than a single long climb. I had gotten word from some southbounders that a trail angel named Randy that lived on the trail a few miles up would let hikers sleep in his garage. I expected a shabby setup, but when I got there I was amazed to find mattresses as well as a tv with an extensive dvd selection. There was a bridge out front that could be jumped off into the White River, so I spent the afternoon swimming with Smokescreen and Bee Sting. Soon enough the thunderstorms began so we got pizza and beer and watched the shining. It had ended up being a full house, making it a fun night and a big change from the empty trail I’ve been experiencing lately.
July 15 – Randy sent us off this morning with bellies full of eggs, bacon, and cinnamon raisin toast with homemade jam. The sky was cloudy but it was only 10 miles to Hanover, the first town in New Hampshire. As I made my way there, I thought back upon my times in Vermont as I often do just before crossing a border. This state didn’t come easy to me. It started out rough with seemingly never ending rain which led to a muddy mess of a trail and then getting sick for five days which really threw me off my game. I found myself wishing my hike was over and also wishing I weren’t so close to being done. Upon my return to the trail, VT joined my top three states due to amazing weather and views, beautiful forests and great campsites, as well as the decision to slow down and take it easy for a while. Lots of great memories from this state, and these mixed with the difficulties I faced made the feeling of seeing VT/NH written on the Connecticut River bridge that much better. Two more states left to go and I couldn’t be more ready to tackle them.
The trail then went into the college town of Hanover, cutting the Dartmouth’s Green. It’s one of the largest towns the trail has gone through, and also the last. This doesn’t mean there won’t be any more towns, just that the AT doesn’t go right through them. I was lucky enough to have a cousin who knows someone that lived in town, so I had a place to crash for the night and prepare before heading out on this next stretch. Thank you very much Chris and Jocelyn for the great hospitality and the ribs!
July 16 – Jocelyn dropped me off back where the trail goes through Hanover early this morning. I planned to do my last big day before the whites, 23 miles to Smarts Mountain where a cabin and fire tower were waiting for me at the summit. New Hampshire started off easy with a mile walk through town and then a flat trail through some low elevation pine forests. An easy climb up Moose Mountain brought me to my first view of the state, a gorgeous one overlooking two lakes. I took my first break of the day here and enjoyed the perfect weather before heading on to Holts Ledge. The ascent up was much more difficult than the prior, but was over quickly and ended with another great view from a straight up cliff in the mountain. From here I could see the fire tower on top of Smarts Mountain. It was only 7 miles away, but it looked much further than that. It was nearing three and I was starting to doubt making my goal but still I went on in hopes of a good sunset from the tower. The hike up Smarts was the toughest in a very long time, climbing straight up for prolonged periods of time with no switchbacks. “This is where it begins” I thought to myself even though I’ve yet to make it to the truly difficult terrain in New Hampshire. It worked me, but I knew I would have to get used to tough stretches like this. Periodic views motivated me to get to the top, where I would be able to see the full 360 degree view. At the top, the sunset was better than I could have imagined. For miles around me there wasn’t a single house or road in sight, and the only sound was of the wind blowing strongly against Smarts Mountain Fire Tower. It was a tough 23 but it got me the perfect ending to a perfect first day in New Hampshire.
July 17 – I took my time packing up this morning even though I planned another twenty mile day. The terrain looked relatively easy and I was confident I would make it even with a late start. My hike began with a four mile descent to the bottom of Smarts Mountain, which was easy enough and went by quickly. Once at the bottom, I was headed right back up for three miles to the top of Mt. Cube. The trail was very steep in places, ascending up sheets of rock until reaching a summit covered in scrub pine. Views back to Smarts Mountain were great but I was feeling like I had walked a lot further than it looked. It was tiring to get to the top and I was already beat after only 7 miles. I took a break and then carried on, hoping for some easier terrain to help me recharge. After another steep ascent, my wish came true, and the trail flattened out for a while giving me a chance to rest. I took many breaks throughout the day, but eventually I was descending down into Glencliff, where I planned to stay at the Hikers Welcome Hostel before heading into the White Mountain National Forest. The Whites and Southern Maine are considered to be the most difficult but also the most scenic sections of the entire trail. For the first time, the AT will climb above tree line, allowing for amazing views in every direction. The climbs will also be steep and rocky. The mountains will again reach 5 and 6 thousand feet, as they did in the south. Weather is extremely unpredictable above tree line, and winds can reach unimaginable speeds. Tomorrow I’ll begin my hike through the Whites with Mt. Moosilauke. Thunderstorms are in the forecast which will add to the fun.
July 18 – Ended up staying at the hostel to avoid the storms. It never even rained. More storms predicted tomorrow but I’m heading out no matter what, it looks clear for the next week after that.