Day 96 – Franconia Notch – Garfield Shelter – 10.3 miles
I woke up at 7 this morning so I could get breakfast at the diner down the street and be ready to get back to the trail at 8. It was just a half mile away, but when I got to it I didn’t see anybody inside and then I saw it was closed on Thursdays and Fridays. I walked back up to the gas station across from the motel and got a couple bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches and 3 hashbrowns like the ones at McDonalds. My friend TJ came out to hike in the White Mountains and picked me up and got back to the trail around 8:30. I was excited for the hike on Franconia Ridge today. I have hiked the Franconia Ridge Trail a couple times before, but it was cool doing it again on my thru hike. Rain was in the forecast in the afternoon, but the morning was relatively clear. The day started with a steep climb up Mt. Liberty. It was about 3,000 feet of elevation gain over 2 miles. It was one of those climbs I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and tried to keep a consistent pace. At the top I got above tree line and I could see out for miles in every direction. Along the ridge I hit the summits of Little Haystack, Mt. Lincoln, and Lafayette. Lincoln and Lafayette are above 5,000 feet. The sky was a little hazy because of the storm coming in and also from the smoke of the wildfires out west. The clouds really rolled in around 2 when we walked down Lafayette and continued along the Garfield Ridge Trail. As I was stepping up over some rocks my phone fell out of my hip pouch and disappeared into a crevasse below me. I thought it was gone for good, but I was able to crawl under a little cave in the rocks and found it! Haha it was crazy. Mt. Garfield was the last Mountain to climb over for the day and the top was cold and windy, but the clouds coming in and out made it seem like I was in another world. We continued down to the Garfield Ridge Shelter where we found a spot to sleep for the night. There were some section hikers and two other thru hikers in there, including a funny chap from England who had all of us laughing the whole night. Another great day on trail!
Day 97 – Garfield Shelter – Crawford Notch Stealth Camp – 17.5 miles
I woke up around 5:30 this morning and kept falling in and out of sleep until I finally got up an hour later. It was raining and very cloudy when I started hiking at 7. I skipped out on breakfast because I planned on eating at the hut. TJ hiked back to his car right away, so I started the steep downhill descent right away and was careful I didn’t slip on any rocks or roots. I caught up to the British guy less than 5 minutes in and we ended up hiking the first two miles together to the Galehead Hut. The hut had a pile of leftover pancakes for free so I had 6 of them with a couple cups of coffee and was back on trail about a half an hour later. After the hut was a 1,000 foot ascent up South Twin Mountain in less than a mile. It was very steep, but I was able to keep a steady pace to the summit. The view was non existent up at 4,900 ft and I could only see about 40-50 ft in front of me. The next 6 miles was a slow and steady descent and the rain was making everything wet and slippery. I took my time and focused on where I put my foot each step and eventually made it to the Zealand Falls Hut around 1 o’clock. I met a nice couple, whose names I unfortunately forget, and they gave me a peach, Lara bar, some cheese its, and cheese crackers. They were pumped about the thru hike and have thought about doing it someday. I got some bread and a bowl of soup at the hut and after about an hour mustered up the energy to get back out in the cold rain and hike on. The rest of the day was a pleasant surprise because not only was there a flat, smooth trail, but around 3 the sun came out for a little bit. I passed a few southbound hikers, but other than that didn’t really see anyone for the rest of the day. I got down to Crawford Notch and found a place to stealth camp just after the road around 6. Usually I would hike on, but the next section is the Presidential Range and my next place to camp wouldn’t be for another 6 miles and over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. I didn’t want to get stuck night hiking in the White Mountains because I feel it’s too dangerous with this terrain and unpredictable weather. Mt. Washington tomorrow!
Day 98 – Crawford Notch Stealth Camp – Stealth Camp – 20 miles
Today may have been the best hiking day I’ve ever had. I woke up around 5 because I knew I was going to have a long day and wanted to make sure I had enough daylight to do it. It was a little tough to get out of my sleeping bag, but at 5:30 I was moving. It was cold so I put on my rain jacket as I packed up all my stuff. The day started with a steep climb up Mt. Webster. About 5 minutes in I heard some loud rustling in the woods and saw my first moose! It stopped and stared at me and I did the same, but after a little bit I moved on so it wouldn’t feel threatened. The hike up Webster had an elevation gain of 3,000 feet over 3 miles and it took me about 2 hours to reach the summit. The view was great from up there and I continued on another mile to Mt. Jackson. From up there I could see Mt. Washington which stands at over 6,000 feet. A mile after Jackson I got to Mizpah Spring Hut and they had some free breakfast leftovers which I took advantage of. I met a nice retired couple from Massachusetts and talked with them as I ate. For the next 12 miles I walked on a ridge line above the trees. It was a sunny, clear, perfect day and I was amazed all day by the 360 degree views I had. I hiked past Mt. Pierce, Eisenhower, Franklin, and up to Mt. Washington. There were so many people up there from the auto road and cog, and I waited in a long line to take my summit photo, but after a few minutes decided it was silly and hiked on. The backside of Washington was all rock and terrain I’ve never really seen before. I hiked all afternoon, appreciating the views and just being out there in general, and got to the Madison Spring Hut around 6. I asked if I could do a work for stay, but they were fully booked so I had to hike on. It was a .5 mile steep climb up and over Mt. Madison and I got a little worried because even at the summit I still had another mile to go down some tough terrain to get below tree line and it was getting dark. I went as fast and safe as I could down the mountain and got below the trees as it was getting dark. I lucked out and found a spot to set up my tent and an owl was posted up just a few feet away watching me do it. I’m still above 4,000 feet so it’s starting to get cold, but today was such a great day. Feeling lucky to be alive!
Day 99 – Stealth Camp – Mt. Hight Stealth Camp – 14.1 miles
It’s been getting colder at night as I’ve been camping at higher elevations and getting further north. It was still chilly when I woke up and I stayed in my warm sleeping bag for a little bit before I started making moves on the day. I packed up all my stuff and had a Hershey’s bar and Clif bar for breakfast. By 7:45 I was on the trail and continued the descent down from Madison. The sun was out with a few clouds, but it was great hiking weather and would be like that for the rest of the day. A couple miles in, I stopped to get water and brush my teeth and while I was doing that 3 northbound thru hikers passed me. They were from South Africa and I had never met them before. We talked and then they hiked on. About 30 minutes later, I saw one of them off trail about just 10 feet. I walked by and as soon as I could smell what she’d just done she says, “I’m lucky I got off trail for that one” in a South African accent. Haha it was kind of funny, but also kind of weird. I hiked another 4 miles to the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center and was able to charge my phone and eat lunch there. I got a roast beef sandwhich and ham, egg, and cheese. I chilled and talked with some hikers after I ate and then got back on trail around 12:45. I took the steep, rocky Wildcat Ridge Trail up to Wildcat Mountain. It was 2,000 feet of elevation gain in just two miles. I hiked slow, but with a steady pace. Some parts I would have to use my arms and climb bare rock faces. I hiked over 4 of Wildcats peaks over a 5 mile stretch and then made it to the Carter Notch Hut at 5. After a quick dinner, I continued hiking up to Carter Dome which was at 4,800 feet. I continued along the ridge and was able to get a great view of the sun setting. I found a place to camp just below the alpine zone and it’s already a little cold. Almost in Maine!
Day 100 – Mt. Hight Stealth Camp – Gorham, New Hampshire – 13.4 miles
This morning was the coldest it’s been on trail so far. It was tough to get out of my warm sleeping bag and get moving, but by 7 I was breaking down my tent and trying to keep my hands warm. After a quick breakfast of a Clif bar and Hershey’s bar, I was on trail at 7:30 and within the first half mile I was 4,650 feet on the summit of Mt. Hight. It was a clear, beautiful morning and I had 360 degree views at the top. Within the next 8 miles I would hike up Middle Carter, North Carter, and Mt. Moriah. Today was a grind and a huge mental and physical fight to get through these mountains. My legs were sore and feeling heavy and I struggled to really enjoy the first part of the day. I ran into some hikers slack packing and we ate lunch together before moving on. After Mt. Moriah it was a long descent to the road. I went from 4,000 feet down to 1,000 feet over 5 miles. I ended up getting down to the road around 3:30 and tried to get into a couple hostels for the night, but everywhere was booked. I hitched a ride into Gorham which is about 3 miles away from the trail and got dropped off at McDonalds. I had a feast and then went to Dunkin Donuts for a blueberry donut. I checked into a motel and showered before going to get a pizza and salad for dinner. There was a mini golf place across the street so as I was waiting for my food I went over and took some swings in the batting cage. I’ve been missing baseball lately and it was nice to get my fix. I got a maple bacon pizza which was incredible and stopped at a convience store for more snacks before chilling for the rest of the night. My mom is coming tomorrow so I’m going to take a 0 to see her and rest these tired legs.
Day 101 – Gorham, New Hampshire – 0 miles
I’m taking a 0 day today to see my mom and give myself some rest. It’s raining pretty hard so I’m happy that I’m not on trail and being wet and cold. I got some coffee this morning and it’s been nice just lounging around and being off my feet. I can’t believe that I’m 300 miles away from reaching Mt. Katahdin and completing this journey. Sometimes I think about how I’ve walked all the way up here from Georgia and can’t really believe it. I feel so grateful for having the opportunity to take on this trek and grind everyday to achieve my goal and fulfill my dream. I feel like after I complete this I will have the mindset that I can do whatever I want as long as I’m willing to put in the work and fight for it. I’ll never stop fighting for something I want and am willing to go through hell to see what’s on the other side. The trail has not only made me physically strong, but mentally I feel like nothing can stop me. I have become a fighter, warrior, and pretty soon a champion. It’s a great feeling to feel. Can’t believe I’ll be in Maine tomorrow. 1 more state to go.