From Springer Mountain Georgia to Mt. Katahdin Maine

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Whites: Galehead Hut, Twin Mtn, Guyot Mtn, & Zeacliff

We all slept in a bit the morning waking up at the little random stealth spot in the Whites.
Woooo! Gribley the tent ghost!
After packing everything up, Gribley and I started hiking the toward Galehead Hut - only half a mile away. Pace and Hungus were still dismantling their camping hammocks and we planned to meet them at the hut. We made it to Galehead and immediately asked if there was any extra breakfast. The "croo" informed us that there was indeed some eggs & oatmeal leftover, but we'd have to sweep the bunk rooms for it. Deal! It actually felt really good to hold a broom in my hands and be domestic for a few minutes. We sat down to eat as Pace & Hungus arrived. They had the same breakfast inquiry and were given the opportunity to sweep the dining room. We scarfed down every last crumb, grateful for real food that didn't come from powder packets. By the time we finished, lots of other hikers started showing up. A big group had camped that night down by Garfield Pond, probably in hopes of seeing moose, but no such luck for them. We said good mornings to everyone and exchanged trail news and stories.

(More information about the AMC and Huts can be found here:

Hiker trash out side Galehead Hut
(Ratman, Bowser, Tumbler, Spirit, Y's Guy, and I don't know the two girls on the right)

Hiker trash out side Galehead Hut
(Bill - one of the "Georgia Boys," Hungus, Pace, Dewey, Brad - the other "Georgia Boy," and Bowser )

That day hiking was so glorious - bright blue skies and perfect weather: cool and brisk but with the warm sun shining down. The hike up Twin was pretty tough, but so beautiful. We kept turning around to admire the views behind us.

Hiking up Twin Mtn
View while hiking up Twin (from looking back)
Dewey almost to the summit of Twin
Everyone hanging out on the summit

Summit of Twin

Tumbler & Ratman - The "Honeymoon Hikers" with Gribley & Me
(This was the last time we saw them - they were planning to speed up to finish by 9/17)
More views from the summit

The rest of the day was amazing hiking - exposed areas and beautiful forest. Gribley and I split up for most of the afternoon. We loved hiking together but also knew it was good to have some alone time, to quietly reflect on the beauty around us.

Hiking up and over Guyot
Eventually he stopped for a snack and I caught up. We'd made plans with Pace & Hungus to head toward Zeland Falls Hut, to see if we could stay the night there. We saw them as they were returning from a side trail with a small sign indicating "VIEW." Gribley and I were going to skip it, in hopes of making it to the Hut in time to inquire about an evening work-for-stay (including dinner, permission to sleep on the dining room floor, bathroom access, and breakfast - in exchange for an hour or two of various work). HungPac (as we lovingly referred to the Hungus/Pace duo), insisted that the view was worth it, so Gribley and I made our way over. Indeed it was!

I think it was called "Zeacliff" view. The Hut we were headed was named "Zeland." Pace came up with a theory that the French must have named this area, "zee land and zee cliff and zee falls" haha. Anyway, the view was glorious and we were glad to have made the trip. We later found out that Pants & Tatertot camped on that spot - brilliant idea!

Zeacliff view
After taking in the view and enjoying a sunny afternoon, we made our way down to Zealand Hut - more on that next post!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NH: Lincoln, Franconia Ridge/Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Garfield

After a quick stop at the outfitters, we picked up some snacks & beer at the grocery store before walking over to Chet's. Chet is the name of an incredible man who runs a hiker hostel. I don't know the story exactly, it is something along these lines: he was an avid hiker and was out camping and cooking on his camp stove. There was an accident with the fuel and it blew up and he was knocked unconscious and inhaled fumes and smoke. He was in a coma for a long time and recovered for the most part, but lost feeling in his legs. He's now in a wheelchair, but still very supportive of the hiking community and opens his home up to hikers. There is no charge - just donations, work-for-stay, or barter. He's a wonderful man - looks you in the eye when you speak to him and you feel like he's totally engaged in the conversation. 

While at that point, Gribley and I were traveling just the two of us (all our close friends were ahead or behind), we were in the middle of a huge hiking bubble. I called Chet to just make sure he had space for us, and he delighted me by giving me a pop quiz about the AT before agreeing to let us stay. "Where did you start?" "Well, today I started from Eliza Brook Shelter, but I started this trip on Springer Mountain, Georgia" "Wonderful, and where are you heading?" "Mt. Katahdin!" "You passed! I'd love to have you stay!" Haha he then gave us directions to the house. I felt fortunate that when we arrived, the place was pretty empty and we were able to offer a beer to Chet and share stories on the back porch, before the crowds arrived. A few more hikers showed up and we all took turns showering and then went to dinner with Lieutenant Dan. 

Henry Shires tents set up in the backyard

Bunk room & library

sleeping hiker

sign for Chet's

Chet's House

Sign in someone's yard on the way to Chet's

The next morning (8/17), we headed out for groceries and to the laundromat. I had my Patagonia down jacket the entire trip and didn't really know how to wash down at a laundromat so I had avoided that task thus far, but at that point, 1800 miles later, it was definitely time to wash it. Luckily, it was totally fine and smelled like new again! We walked back over to Chet's, packed up, and set out to hit the trail again. We stuck our thumbs out at a major intersection of Lincoln, hoping that someone in this touristy ski town would give us a ride back to the trail. Some guys working at a small outfitters across the street saw us and offered us a ride. They dropped us back at the random visitor center and we headed back to the trail, trying to figure out our plan. Liberty Springs campsite was a short 2.6 miles away, which seemed like an unimpressive day in terms of mileage, but a rainstorm was on the way and it was already 4pm. We began the steep hike up, determined to make it before the rain. We arrived just as the rains started and were greeted by a super sweet caretaker. Most of the campsites and shelters in the Whites have a fee, $8/person. The campsite was packed, I think the caretaker counted about 30 people already there, and so she put us down in a little secret spot that wasn't an official campsite, but it worked great. All the campsites in the Whites have wooden platforms built and I really didn't like setting up my tent on them, or sleeping on them. The platforms were all taken, so I was happy to sleep on the ground. The rain was consistent all night and we went to bed pretty early after eating dinner. 

I was super excited to get going in the morning - Franconia Ridge was on the itinerary for the day! Also, the caretaker informed us that Hungus & Pace were also at Liberty Springs, two of my favorite people that we hadn't seen in a few weeks. On a side note, according to Hungus, there are 4 major climbs in the Whites - Moosilauke (check), Franconia, Presidentials, and Wildcat. Lucky for us, we had already completed most of the climb up Franconia on our way up to Liberty Springs. When we set out in the morning, we climbed up Little Haystack Mountain and entered the Alpine zone. Leave No Trace ethics encourage hikers to hike and camp on durable surfaces in all situations, but in the Alpine Zone, this is especially important. 

Trail just before leaving tree-line 

View from Little Haystack Mountain

We continued hiking on up Mt. Lincoln and were gloriously reunited with Pace & Hungus. We also saw Gypsy Soul & Muck Fichigan. This day hiking was just absolutely beautiful. After our first two  days of hiking in the Whites were cloudy and overcast, we were bursting with joy at the stunning views all around. I took about a million pictures and its almost impossible to go through and edit and determine which are the best, but I've shared a few below: 

Muck Fichigan, Hungus, Pace, Gribley, Me 


We spent a long time up on Lincoln, just taking in the views and enjoying a leisurely lunch. Gypsy Soul made a big, hot soup for lunch and we laughed at the day hikers nibbling on their granola bars, looking longingly at her yummy lunch. That's the great thing about being a thru-hiker - you always have everything you need right on your back. Eventually we made our way down Lincoln, and then climbed back up to Mt. Garfield. There was a cool old structure there and we all took a break, just taking in the views. 

View from Garfield

We got going again and stopped at Garfield Shelter for water. Once we filled up, we hit the trail... except we couldn't find the trail. The path in front of us was the stream, but there were white blazes on the trees.. surely that wasn't the trail.. oh wait.. Yes, the AT was heading down a rocky path of flowing water. They really thought of every possible obstacle. So we looked each other, smiled and said here we go!

Gribley hiking down the trail/water source

Earlier that day, Hungus suggested that we camp up on Mt. Guyot. Gribley and I agreed that would be a cool place to camp, and made it our goal for the day. Coming down from Garfield, however, Pace had a few falls and decided she wanted to call it a night. Gribley and I were pretty wiped out as well, and the four of us found a little stealth spot at the intersection of a side trail. Hungus even found a teeny tiny dripping spring, and we were all able to fill up on water. It wasn't the most gorgeous campsite, but it was fun to be caught up with Pace & Hungus again, and we all shared our stories about the past few weeks. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Beginning the Whites: Moosilauke, Wolf, and Kinsman

At 8:15am on 8/15, Gribley and I left Jeffers Brook Shelter and began our hike up Mt. Moosilauke, thus officially beginning the big, bad White Mountains. (By the way, i's pronounced MOOSE-uh-lock-ee). Warren Doyle had warned me that at this point, the trail no longer went 1/3 up, 1/3 down, and 1/3 flat - it was now all up or all down, and that  the trail ahead would not be possible to hike at a speed of 2 miles per hour (or faster - we went about 3.5mph through VA & PA). This made sense, as Mt. Moosilauke was our first mountain above treeline and our first major climb, I think since North Carolina. It is the second longest ascent on the AT, coming after Roan Mountain in NC. We would be climbing about 4,000 feet in 4 miles. I'm sure this means little to many of you. At the beginning of my trip, people would throw around elevation heights and it went right over my head. I now appreciate how many feet high a mountain is, and also the distance in which I will be climbing up it. I will inform you that 1,000 feet per mile is pretty much long, strenuous, straight up-hill climb. 

We started off with a good pace, determined to just keep putting one foot ahead of the other, as we had high hopes of still covering some good miles after Moosilauke. We ended up making pretty decent time - I think we reached the summit around 11am. The weather was foggy and cloudy, so no views, but it was INCREDIBLE to be up there without any trees, totally exposed.

Beginning the climb up Moosilauke

Gribley hiking straight up

Almost to the top - the trees are getting smaller

Wee baby trees!

Cairns marking the way

Hiking across the top

On the summit

Me at the official summit, 4,802 feet

We ate a quick snack on the summit, but got moving quickly to begin the descent. Starting the climb down wasn't too bad to start. We made it to Beaver Brook Shelter for a lunch/tea break and then continued hiking down. 

Quick lunch at Beaver Brook shelter

The thing with Moosilauke - it's not just a tough climb up, it's a TREACHEROUS climb down. On the north side, you are descending straight down and 10 feet next to you in a waterfall. Gorgeuous, yes, but also incredibly terrifying and dangerous. I think I should add, however, that I especially hate going downhill. Ask my friends in "real life" - I go super slow walking down stairs. Gribley moved carefully but at a decent pace, and patiently waited while I slowly tip-toed my way down, praying I made it down in one piece. 

Note the wet wooden blocks bolted in the rocks - scary!

Immediately to the left - a waterfall

Trying to pull it together for a photo

Lo and behold, we made it down safely without any major spills, but now that it's all said and done, I can say that this part of my trip (plus a river ford in Maine) were the two most stressful, scariest parts of my whole hike. 

Anyway, we made it down to the actual Beaver Brook at the bottom of the mountain, and decided to keep with our original plan of pushing to Eliza Brook Shelter - making it a 15.6 mile day - a huge day for NH and the Whites. We crossed a highway and continued toward Mt. Wolf. The elevation profile looked flat enough, and we thought we'd make it to the shelter by dinner time. Wrong! Despite the lack of significant elevation change, NH presented a medley of technical obstacles - mud, rocks, roots, and boulders. It was impossible to set any sort of pace - each step required careful concentration and specific maneuvering. 

Technical trail

We made it to Mt. Wolf I think around 6:45, and still had 3 miles to the shelter. We were exhausted at this point, but had little water and NH trail was not very conducive to stealth spots. Not to mention, the Whites are run by the Appalachian Mountain Club (known more commonly as the Appalachian Money Club), and there are all sorts of camping regulations. Hillbilly Berry put it best when he said, "camping regulations cramp my style." Despite our wishes to stop, we mustered the energy to keep pushing to the shelter. We arrived after 9pm to an extremely crowded shelter with very limited camping options. We set up camp in a tiny space not meant for tents, but we made it work, and quickly scarfed down a pasta side and tuna, wishing we had about three more dinners each..

View from Mt. Wolf

Me & Gribs on Mt. Wolf

The next morning, August 16, we were up early. I looked up at the sky and the grey clouds seemed ominous.. With barely any cell service, I was able to text mom and see if she could pull up a weather report. The climb headed north over Kinsman (as opposed to the south-bound route) has the record amount of broken bones on the trail, and I really didn't want to climb up in a storm. On the other hand, we were practically out of food, so it was a sticky situation. Luckily mom got back to me quickly and with the good news that the rain wasn't due until 11am, which gave us enough time to get up and over Kinsman if we got moving quickly. 

The first part of Kinsman wasn't too bad and at one of the false summits, it was pretty boggy and misty. Wooden planks were laid to help hikers go through the mud - but one area was too deep and I "sunk a boot" as we called. it

Boggy pit of doom
Mud Foot

Kinsman wasn't as bad as I'd imagined. It was definitely pretty much a rock climb, using all four limbs, up and over big rock boulders. We had a blast going up - I felt like a kid just outside climbing, and it's also a pretty empowering feeling to know you can get up these insane "paths" sometimes. 

Scooby & Gribley scrambling up the rocks

At the summit

Gribley at the summit

Coming down Kinsman wasn't too bad, at least relative to Moosilauke. It was also relatively dry, and we marveled how hikers made their way in the rain. I was also thinking about hikers who have dogs, and how the dogs fare on these steep sections... must be tough for their little paws.

Anyway, we made it down just fine. We laughed as we had a break by a stream and ate our last packets of oatmeal, deciding we would "hunger strike for world peace" into Lincoln (as if we had any other option..), but it seemed more bearable (and noble) thinking about it that way.

About a mile from the road to Lincoln, we had to cross a large stream. It took us a while to figure out where the trail went - each of us going off in different directions to find a white blaze. Sometimes our lives were simplified down to a big scavenger hunt in search of blazes, which cracked me up - I'm out here on this grand adventure, but sometimes it just feels like a game. We finally realized that the trail was indeed across the river, so we made an effort to help out the hikers behind us by making arrows with sticks, and Gribley constructed several cairns. We follow white blazes, but cairns (small piles of stones) are also used as navigational devices, especially where it would be difficult to put a blaze (like exposed mountain tops that may be covered in snow or going across rivers).

After our act of goodwill, we made it to Franconia Notch. We got confused as to where we actually had to go to find the road to Lincoln. There was a small visitor center nearby with guided tours and lots of paths, so we asked some visitors which way to the center. When we arrived, we immediately devoured huge overpriced ice-cream cones, happy to be inside, as the rain we were expecting had just started pouring down. Lucky for us, other hikers had already secured a ride into town, and we were able to tag along. They dropped us at the outfitters so we could get some gear replacements. I needed a bite valve for my dromedary and Gribley needed new tips on his Leki poles. More about our time in Lincoln in the next post!