July 19 – After a wasted zero day yesterday I was up early and out of the hostel by six headed into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. My first obstacle was one that wouldn’t pose a problem normally but was now made difficult due to the rain that came overnight. I didn’t make it over that river with dry feet. The next two miles were gradual and consisted of much road walking, leading up to a three mile climb up Mt. Moosilauke, the first big mountain of the Whites. It was nowhere near as difficult as anticipated and before I knew it was above treeline on top of the mountain. This was the first time the AT ascended above treeline and it was truly something else. The views compared to that of the balds down south. Wind whipped at me, with no trees to get in its way. Seinfeld was up top as well, and we marveled at the first glimpse of the white mountains together. After about ten minutes, I could see dark clouds forming in the distance and decided not to overstay my visit. For nearly a mile I hiked above the trees before descending to the Beaver Brook Shelter, where I took a break to avoid that rain that came in quickly after I was under cover. Once it passed I made my way down the extremely steep and now slick trail which travelled alongside the Beaver Brook, a series of waterfalls and cascades traveling down the mountain. Steps and iron bars were planted into the rock to assist hikers in getting down. At the bottom I headed into the town of Lincoln where I planned to stay at a guy named Chets house who lets hikers sleep on bunks in his garage. Chet used to be a hiker himself until he had an accident in which a fuel canister blew up and destroyed his leg, now leaving him in a wheelchair.In town, I caught up with Peter Pan and Clifford for the first time in weeks. Each of their deadlines are approaching, which caused them to skip northern Vermont. They came to town from a road twenty miles further than where I had and they still thought they would have to skip another section, so chances are this is the last I’ll see of them. So is the eb and flow of the trail.
July 20 – It took nearly an hour to get a hitch back to the trail this morning and the terrain immediately consisted of steep and rocky ups and downs. At the top of Hawk Mountain I got my first view of the Franconia Ridge, an exposed and rocky mass sticking up in the distance. It looked like an epic piece of trail and I wished I was up there enjoying what a beautiful day it was. I set off in the direction of the ridge, hoping for a good enough alternative on top of Kinsman Mountain. At the base of the mountain I stopped at a shelter for lunch and was soon joined by squabbler and sweet eyes. While flipping through the logbook squabbler found an entry from a southbounder telling northbounders to say hi to Maine for her. Underneath in red pen he wrote “say hello to Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont for us”.
The climb up South Kinsman Mountain was notably more difficult than the one up Moosilauke. Rather than just steep steps up, this one required upper body strength to climb up large boulders that made up the trail. Despite the difficulty it didn’t last long and the view from the top was plenty enough to satisfy me. Franconia ridge was much closer now, and the mountains I had come from were laid out behind me. I took another break here with squabbler and sweet eyes before we headed on to the north peak, an easy and enjoyable mile hike. From here we descended steeply down to Franconia Notch, where I got a ride back to Chet’s place for the night. It was a very tough 17 miles and I didn’t make it in until near 8. The whites are not to be underestimated.
July 21 – the forecast ended up predicting clear skies in the morning with thunderstorms forming in the afternoon. It was a gamble to head up onto Franconia Ridge but I decided to have faith in weather.com and was on the trail by 8. The climb up Franconia was a pile of loose rocks consistently climbing upwards. It wasn’t as tough as the hike up Kinsman, but like all the other ascents in the whites so far it was more than enough to work me. The sky was blue, exciting me enough to keep my pace up. Just like on Moosilauke, the trees became smaller and smaller until disappearing into the ground right before the summit of Little Haystack, the first peak of the Franconia Ridge. From there the ridge stretched out ahead of me, leading up to the top of Mt. Lincoln. The trail would stay above tree line for the next two miles, traveling on the ridge-line and summiting three mountains. I took a break before heading on to eat a few take 5 bars, my newest discovery. The weather couldn’t have been better, and the wind was only a gentle breeze. Lonesome Lake Hut was far down below me, a big flip flop from yesterday. I eventually headed on towards Lincoln. 360 degree views never left me as I hiked along, and from the summit I could see the third and final peak of the ridge, Mt. Lafayette. I took another break here, taking all the time in the world to enjoy this amazing section. From Lafayette, Mt. Garfield became visible. I planned to stay in the shelter that was on the other side of this mountain. I descended steeply back into the trees for nearly two miles before once again climbing up to a rock outcropping at the peak. In one direction the sky was blue but in the other I could see the storms rolling in quick so I abandoned the break I had planned here and made my way to the beautiful Garfield Ridge Shelter. It began pouring shortly after I arrived, looks like my luck with staying dry isn’t over yet.
July 22 – It was a cold morning and right out of the shelter I was greeted with a section of the trail that had become a waterfall. The water cascaded on my feet as I made my way down the steep rock scramble. I could hardly believe it was the trail until another hiker came crawling down, confiding in me his fear of waterfalls. After a short transitional section I was headed up twin mountain. The sky had been extremely cloudy all morning but as I made my way to the summit the sun began to shine brighter and brighter. At the top the sky was blue and clouds were drifting through the mountains, covering parts of the view that were before visible and revealing parts that were not. Mt. Washington stuck out above the clouds, high above any of the other peaks. The Franconia Ridge came in and out of view as well as Mt Garfield. Once the wind was too much to bear, I headed on towards Mt. Guyot. Completely unexpectedly, the trail rose above tree line for a little while before reaching the rocky and desolate summit which seemed not of this world. Foot tall shrubs were the only thing that grew, leaving the area completely exposed. Next up was the beautiful Zeacliff Ridge, where I walked just below tree line, giving me great displays of the alpine vegetation that grows at this elevation. I would pop up for a view every now and then before dropping back down into the equally as enjoyable forest below. The mountains around me were covered with more rock faces than trees. The White Mountains are really the East Coasts California when it comes to mountains. I soon descended back down into a thicker forest and walked through swampy boardwalks before reaching a completely flat and debris free four mile section of the trail. It was a beautiful stretch, at one point traveling alongside an exposed rockslide on the side of a mountain. Eventually I descended down into Crawford Notch, where I met a previous thru hiker named Calamity. She had missed a small section through the whites when she hiked so now she was back out to tie up loose ends. She gave me a ride to a nearby convenience store where I got three pieces of pizza and a giant m&m cookie to celebrate another 17 mile day in the Whites. I’m now camping shortly after the notch at a beautiful river in a forest of pine. Heading into the Presidential Range tomorrow, a 13 mile stretch above tree line. Here’s hoping for another day of sunshine.
July 23 – I was up at 5 and on the trail by 6 today as I usually am when rain is predicted in the afternoon. I especially didn’t want to get caught in anything today, the trail would soon go above treeline for 13 miles in the presidential range. The toughest climb of the day was the first to get up to the ridge line, but it was nothing I wasn’t expecting based on what I’ve been doing lately. From Webster Cliffs the sky was clear enough for a view but by the time I got to the top of Mt. Webster the area was completely socked in. I experienced winds just as strong as when we hiked to clingmans dome for the sunrise way back in North Carolina. It was cold, and the mist I was walking through didn’t help that fact. Once at the top of Mt. Pierce, the trail was completely above the trees. It was a completely different perspective than the one I got on Franconia Ridge, instead of a paradise surrounded by views I was now in what seemed like a barren wasteland. Visibility was no more than ten feet, leaving me with no clue where I was. The trail isn’t blazed above treeline, instead it’s marked by rock piles called cairns. The only problem with this is that anyone can build these rock piles anywhere, and many do. Paired with the low visibility this made for a hell of a time navigating through this section. Twice I ended up walking southbound, lucky enough to have someone close enough behind to correct me each time.
After a while the mist turned into a steady rain. It was then that Lake of the Clouds Hut became visible right in front of me, a safe haven from the relentless wind and rain. In the whites the AMC (Appalachian mountain club) runs 8 huts which can accommodate up to 90 paying guests. The huts aren’t cheap, but thru hikers are allowed to work for stay. This was my plan for the day, but as I ate my lunch the sky began to show promise of clearing and I realized it was only 12, so I decided I would push on to the next hut, 7 miles further. Immediately past Lake of the Clouds I would climb Mt. Washington, the first 6000 foot mountain on the trail since Tennessee. Mt. Washington is known for its very unpredictable weather and many have died on the top from exposure alone. Despite this the climb up is easy and at the top is a visitor center with a road leading up to it from the valley. Tourists are everywhere in short sleeve shirts and shorts, buying bumper stickers that say “this car hiked Mt. Washington”. Two pieces of pizza and I was on my way down, now in freezing rain. Once I got a bit lower in elevation, the sky began to miraculously clear up and views opened up all around me. I could see back to the rocky ridge I was walking on leading up to Washington which was still in the clouds. Ahead of me was a completely exposed stretch of trail leading up to Mt. Madison. Rocky and exposed mountains were everywhere in the distance, it was absolutely unreal. I made my way along, soon seeing Madison Spring Hut at the base of the mountain. The sky continued to get bluer and by the time I was at the hut I saw no reason to stop. Mt. Madison was right in front of me and it was perfect weather for a view from the top. It was only .5 miles to the top, and I assumed the trail would drop down below treeline soon after, giving me chance to find a camp spot. What a surprise I was in for.
The half mile up Madison was just as extreme rock climbing as Dante’s Inferno in PA. Gusts were 50 mph at least and I was climbing along a very narrow ridge, feeling like I could be blown off the mountain at any second. The views from the top were incredible, but I could see from here that I still had a good three miles above the trees. After looking at my watch I realized it had taken an hour to get to this point, it was now 6:30. I had no choice but to carry on, I couldn’t camp up there and I wasn’t about to turn back. The views I got on this stretch made up for the clouds I was in earlier, my surroundings were unbelievable from the exposed ridge. It was very rocky, making the going slow which was not what I needed. I never wanted to be back in the trees so much on this hike, but every time I looked up the exposed mountain seemed to stretch on further and further. It was 7:30 by the time I was back in the forest, and after an extremely steep descent I made it to Osgood Campsite and am now typing this before passing out. 23 mile day in the whites, not too shabby if I may say so myself.
July 24 – Four mile day into Gorham, NH
July 25 – I got to sleep in a little this morning since the bus back to Pinkham Notch didn’t pick up until 7:50. Once on the trail, I was immediately greeted with arguably the toughest climb of the whites up to the Wildcat ridge. It was a vertical two mile climb that ended up taking well over an hour. At the top I was greeted with nothing more than a view of a cloud and cold misty rain. This was only Wildcat Mountain Peak E. The trail would still take me over peaks D, C, and A. The whole ordeal was very strenuous and time consuming due to the fact that after each peak I would drop back down, having to reclimb the mountain 3 times. After finally descending for good, I was at Carter Notch Hut, the final hut I would see in the whites. I took a break at a nearby lake covered in a thick fog. From here I would head up and over Carter Mountain, another 1000+ foot climb with three separate peaks that needed to be summited. The initial ascent was steep, and the day had become monotonous due to the lack of views. It was one of those times where you just put your head down and hike. So that’s what I did, all the way to the Imp Campsite, which is packed with weekenders on this rainy Saturday night. Headed back to Gorham tomorrow for another night of luxury before heading into Maine. The whites have officially got me beat, but even so I’ve nearly made it through them now.
July 26 – Short nine mile day back into Gorham. Officially done with the Whites and headed to Maine tomorrow!