Day 92- Hanover, New Hampshire – Stealth Camp – 19.2 miles
I had a nice sleep on an air mattress last night so I felt refreshed when I woke up at 6:50. I rushed and got all my things together because Betsy had said she’d be leaving at 7:10 to go play tennis at Dartmouth, but would drop me off where I got picked up first. I ate breakfast at a spot called Lou’s. There were a lot of people there and I got eggs, corned beef hash, home fries, and they gave me a free glazed crueler because I was a hiker. Afterwards, I went next door to the Starbucks so I could charge my phone and use their WiFi. I spent about an hour there and then got a little food resupply at the grocery store before heading back onto the trail. By the time I started hiking it was around 10:30 and right away I got a taste for some up the vertical climbs coming up in the White Mountains. One section was so steep there was rope to help pull yourself up if you needed it. It was cloudy pretty much all day with some occasional breaks that let the sun shine through. There was a nice breeze too that kept it nice to hike all day. The first 10 miles were relatively flat and then I got to Moose Mountain which was a 1,000 foot elevation gain just over a mile. I told myself on these steep climbs that I have to keep putting one foot in front of another at whatever pace, I just have to keep moving forward and upward. Once I was at the top, I hiked along a ridge line for a little before dropping back down 1,200, just to hike back up another 1,100 feet to Holts Ledge. I enjoyed some great views at the top and made two packets of Ramen for dinner. By this time it was around 7:30 and I ended up hiking until 9 and found a spot to set up my tent. I’m about to do some stretching then get some sleep!
Day 93 – Stealth Camp – Hikers Welcome Hostel – 24.2 miles
Today was a bit of a grind and even though there weren’t any mountains over 4,000 feet, the terrain and climbs up and over the mountains were very White Mountain like. I woke up a little later than I normally do around 7:30 and waited out a little rain before I started making moves for the day. I didn’t get on trail until about 8:30 and right away I started the climb up Smarts Mountain. It was still raining as I made my way up the steep ascent and didn’t seem like it was going to stop anytime soon. It was 4 miles to summit and I was up by 11. There was a fire tower up there, but I decided not to go up because it was so cloudy. The way down reminded me of Vermont because of all the mud. Trail workers were hauling up pieces of wood one by one to try and make the trail a little less sloppy. I stopped to get water at the bottom of the mountain and met two hikers, Nomad and Early Bird. They started the trail on June 20th and I haven’t met anyone who had started in June so I thought that was pretty cool. We all started walking at the same time and climbed up to the next peak together. It made the climb up Mt. Cube go by fast and as we started getting closer to the top the sky started clearing up. The view was pretty nice and we could see the mountain that we just came from. I left as they were eating lunch and hiked another 5 miles to Mt. Mist. On the way I passed a bunch of day hikers and southbounders. There was also someone at one of the roads along the way that had ice cold drinks. It was a pretty easy climb to the summit and the terrain stayed tame down to NH 25. Once I was at the road it was about 7 at night and I walked down the street a little bit to Hikers Welcome Hostel. There were a bunch of hikers already there (about 25 by the end of the night) and after I said hi to everyone someone gave me a bunch of left over buffalo wings which was a nice welcoming. I showered in the outdoor shower and chilled in the main room with everyone for the rest of the night. There’s a separate bunkhouse from the house so that’s where I got a bed for the night. Big climb up Moosilauke tomorrow!
Day 94 – Hikers Welcome Hostel – Kinsman Notch – 9.3 miles
I woke up before everyone else in the bunkhouse I was in and got up and ready pretty quick. Somebody had made a cup of coffee so I drank a cup and had some pop tarts before I hit the trail at 7:30. It was a .3 mile road walk to get back to the trail. Down in the valley the sun was poking out and there were some breaks in the clouds, but as I got higher in elevation the weather worsened. The climb of the day was up and over Mt. Moosilauke with an elevation of 4,800 feet. The ascent had almost 4,000 feet in elevation gain over 3 miles and I told myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It was pretty steep and some parts I had to climb up exposed rock, but I made it up to the summit in about 2 hours. It was like I was in another world once I was above tree line. Strong winds and fog made visibility pretty poor and I could only see about 20 feet in front of me. There were two other day hikers at the summit when I got there, so I talked to them for just a minute before wanting to get back down below tree line to get out of the elements. Once I was, the wind settled and there was no more fog. The descent down the mountain was extremely dangerous. It was the steepest climb down a mountain I’ve ever done and the rain made the rocks slippery. I took my time and made sure I had proper footing because one slip and I could have been seriously hurt. It would suck to have walked 1,800 miles for nothing. I made it to the bottom of the mountain by noon and at a parking lot close was somebody making egg sandwiches. I was offered two, so I ate them and had some lemonade as a few more hikers showed up. One of those hikers was going back to the hostel I stayed at last night, so I decided to go back as well and call it a day. It was nice to have the rest of the day to chill and not do anything. I watched Good Will Hunting for the first time while I ate a double cheeseburger and chocolate milkshake we picked up on the way back. I’m looking forward to some sleep tonight. These mountains are legit!
Day 95 – Kinsman Notch – Franconia Notch – 16.3 mile
I woke up from everyone else getting ready in the bunkhouse around 6:30. I got all my stuff ready and made sure I was on the 7:30 shuttle back to the trail. Even though it was just a 10 mile trail walk, it’s about 20 miles by car because you have to drive around the mountain. Me and 5 other hikers got dropped off at the Notch just after 8 and after a quick stretch I hit the trail. It was cloudy and a bit cool because of the wind, but the sun would make its way out in the afternoon and it turned out to be a beautiful day. I had about 10 miles until I hit South Kinsman which stands at 4,358 feet. Along the way were a lot of quick, steep ups and downs which had my climbing over slick rocks and slippery roots. The terrain and elevation changes make the White Mountains a bit challenging and I have to be a bit more cautious so I don’t slip and hurt myself. 2 miles out from South Kinsman I started the 2,000 foot ascent. It was steep and rocky, but I felt strong and made solid time. One of my friends from high school, Devin, lives in New Hampshire and came out to meet me. He hiked south and I ran into him pretty close to the summit. We hiked together to the top, took some pictures, then walked almost a mile along the ridge to North Kinsman which has an elevation of 4,293 feet. The sky really opened up as we got to a lookout point on the North summit and the view was one of the best I’ve seen so far. We walked a few more miles down to Lonesome Lake Hut, where I tried to get a work for stay for the night, but I got there too early so they turned me away. Instead of finding a stealth camp spot, I had Devin drop me off at the Woodstock Station, one of my favorite places to eat, in North Woodstock. I was in time for half price apps so I got calamari, chicken fingers, and artichoke dip. I ended up getting a room at a motel down the street and walked down to get a black raspberry milkshake after I showered up. Back to the trail tomorrow for the Franconia Ridge!