Thursday, September 13, 2001

day 124, Gorham, NH (The Barn)

Start:  Imp Campsite
End:  US 2 (The Barn)
Miles:  8 today, 1868.6 total

Post-hike note:  This page was unintentionally left blank.  I simply never got around to writing anything for this day.  From what I remember, I came down the mountain and stayed at The Barn in Gorham (the other hostel in town).  Being a few days after 9/11, just about all of the fast food -type restaurants and other establishments had "God Bless America" displayed on their signage (instead of the typical "$1 cheeseburgers!" -type advertising).

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

day 123, Imp Campsite, NH

Start:  Pinkham Notch VC (Hikers Paradise)
End:  Imp Campsite
Miles:  13.1 today, 1860.6 total

Had an extremely bad episode this morning involving the Hikers Paradise staff.  Bruce woke me up at 5am, like we had planned last night.  I started getting my stuff together by the light of my headlamp.  The plan was to depart for the trail at 5:30, but I figured it would be no big deal if we left at, say, 5:35.  I mean, we're on the trail and, in general, people are pretty easy going (and slow to get out of bed at 5am!).  So at 5:30 I'm brushing my teeth when I hear the car start.  I grab my stuff and get down to the planned meeting location at 5:33 or 34.  No car.  I set my stuff down, look around a bit, and then head to the front of the building to see if the car was up there.  Nope.  I look in through the window at the "bird clock" and it reads 5:35.  So Bruce had left without me (Logos was the only other guy going at that time) and didn't bother to check if I was almost ready.  So then I ring the bell at the front door.  The door's locked, but there's two signs saying the place is open (this is maybe 5:45).  The other male staff member (2 males, 1 female) comes out in his robe saying he doesn't know where Bruce is and that I shouldn't have woken (is that a word?) him up.  Anyway, some time goes by, I wait some more.  A little after 6am I go to the front.  The door's unlocked so I go in and sit to warm up while I wait.  The guy comes out again and asks me to go outside.  I start to say that the "Open" sign is up, and he starts screaming for me to leave.  I pack up, argue with Bruce, get half my money back, and hitch back to the trail.

Post-hike note:  I had to cram the last few sentences as I was running out of space on the journal page.  Obviously, this wasn't a fun way to start the day.  I'll certainly take the blame for being a few minutes late down to the meeting spot, and, yeah, I knew I was pushing some buttons by considering the "Open" signs as indicating the place was legitimately open that early in the morning... despite the likelier cause being that someone had just forgotten to flip them to "Closed" the night before.  But, I was nevertheless a paying customer, and a certain level of friendly or at least professional service... receive I did not (to say the least), from two different staff members.  I had initially paid them to stay two nights, and after the various arguments that we had, I was glad Bruce at least agreed to reimburse me for the 2nd night.  Regardless, there was no way I was going to stay there again.

To be fair, I have no doubt many other hikers have had better experiences at Hikers Paradise, and I certainly wish the hostel success going forward.  However, being that this is a journal of my personal experiences hiking the Trail, and that the events of the morning were, by far, the highlight of the day, it seems appropriate, at least to me, to include in the blog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

day 122, Pinkham Notch VC, NH

Start:  Madison Springs Hut
End: Pinkham Notch Visitors Center (Hikers Paradise)
Miles:  7.8 today, 1847.5 total

Post-hike note: This page was semi-intentionally left blank in my journal due to the day's terrible events elsewhere in the nation.  I'll re-cap what I remember, despite it now being 12.5 years later:

The morning at Madison Springs Hut was somewhat uneventful.  I'm pretty sure I had hut-prepared breakfast, and then helped the staff with various cleanup duties for awhile.  I vaguely remember someone playing music from a radio, but at that time of morning, I don't think the news had broken yet.  I eventually got my stuff together and headed out.

Compared to the night before, the weather coming down the mountain was fantastic.  I remember it being fairly clear and I passed people lounging in various spots as I neared the base of the mountain.  At some point between, say, 10am and noon, I found myself at the bottom at Pinkham Notch Visitors Center.  I called the Hikers Paradise hostel in Gorham and asked for someone to come pick me up.  Sometime later, a guy pulls up in a pickup truck and I throw my stuff in and we head toward Gorham.  Along the way, he mentions that the World Trade Center towers had been attacked and F-15s were patrolling around New York City.  I thought he might've had a screw loose, but when we got to the hostel, everyone was glued to the TV.  I spent pretty much the rest of the day watching TV, though at some point I did laundry and called my parents.

Monday, September 10, 2001

day 121, Madison Springs Hut, NH

Start:  Mt. Jackson campsite
End:  Madison Springs Hut
Miles:  13.5 today, 1839.7 total

Wow.  Today was a day of extremes.  For one, I've found my new favorite part of the trail: the Whites.  The scenery, when visible, was amazing.  I spent all but 2 or 3 miles above treeline.  If the weather is decent, I could stay above treeline all day.  You can see forever.  Like, there will be people off in the distance that you won't pass for 10-15 minutes - but you can still see them!  And the mountains look so neat.  Orange and green and grey, rather than all green trees.  I took 3 or 4 pictures of just scenery.  Now that I think about it, I think I took (or had someone else take) 7 pictures today.

Stopped by Lakes of the Clouds Hut, nothing too special there.  Saw the "Dungeon" thru-hiker shelter in the basement.  Then I made my ascent of Mt. Washington.  The wind whipped by, clouds rocketed past.  I had a passer-by take my picture halfway up the mountain.  Some touristy museum and concession-stand stuff on top.

And then I hiked on... and proceeded to endure the worst weather I've had all trip.  Hard driving rain to a light misting mixed with heavy gusting winds to stillness.  And a cool temperature.  I was soaked and cold, but I just kept on walking.  Still above treeline the whole way to Madison Springs Hut, where I managed to snag my first (and last?) work-for-stay.

Post-hike note: That 5-ish-mile portion from the Mt. Washington summit to Madison Springs Hut was, in hindsight, probably the most dire moment I had on the trail.  Being above treeline with nowhere to hide from the rain and wind, and with the temperature being cool, my guess is that hypothermia would have readily set in were I forced to stop walking.  Numerous opportunities to slip on the wet rocks and break something, and being alone with no one else out walking in that weather and often zero visibility, it could have been a pretty bad situation.  Looking back, I feel pretty lucky that I made it to the hut that night relatively ok and that they had space for me to stay.  I would've done anything to avoid having to camp out in that weather.

Sunday, September 9, 2001

day 120, Mt. Jackson c, NH

Start:  Galehead Hut campsite
End:  Mt. Jackson campsite
Miles:  19.4 today, 1826.2 total

Almost a 20-miler in the Whites.  I was trying to do 21 from Galehead Hut to the Mizpah Spring Hut / Nauman Tentsite combo, but I couldn't make it (at least in the daylight).  The wacky thing is, I can see the Mizpah Spring Hut from here.  It's only 1.7 miles away.  I'm camped up on top of Mt. Jackson tonight.  The weather is supposed to be good for the next few days at least, so I feel relatively safe throwing down my bag right up on the summit (knock on wood).  The stars are out all over the place, and I can see the Milky Way.  I hope it doesn't get too cold tonight.  One other consideration is that the closest water source north of here is the hut.  I tried to push as far as I could late in the day so I wouldn't have far to go in the morning.  I've got about half a quart left for the 1.7 miles to the hut, so I think I'll be ok.

At some point tonight, the moon will come out and blind me.  It's been pretty bright the last few nights.  And I think I can see Mt. Washington from here.  One of the buildings up there has its lights on.  I'll be up there tomorrow!  I'm really liking the Whites so far.  It's fun clambering (is that a word?) around on the rocks, though it can get pretty dangerous, too.  Still obsessed over pack weight reduction.  Hasta maƱana.

Saturday, September 8, 2001

day 119, Galehead Hut c, NH

Start:  Liberty Springs Tentsite
End:  Galehead Hut campsite
Miles:  10.4 today, 1806.8 total

I may have hit on something profound.  You've got a food item, say a Snickers bar (regular size).  The total weight of the bar is 59 g.  Of that 59 g, 14 g are fat, 35 g are carbs, 4 g are proteins, and the remaining 6 g we'll lump together as "other".  I then look at the typical food I eat in a day and break each item down in a similar manner.  Then, I add up all the fats, all the carbs, and so forth.  Note that my daily diet is basically 2 Pop Tarts, a bagel & PB for breakfast, various snack items all day, and then a Lipton noodle packet with tuna and powdered milk for dinner.  I have not yet tallied the nutrition info for the Pop Tarts, lemonade mix, gorp, dried fruit, and powdered milk.  So... of the stuff I have tallied, I've found that my diet is basically 11% fats, 54% carbs, 13% proteins, and 22% "other".  Talking to Silver Wings again this evening, he was saying that he read at a nutrition website that endurance athletes typically eat 30%, sometimes 35%, fat, so I'm low in that category.  Carbs are ok.  Protein is also ok.  The glaring number, though, is that 22% in the "other" category.  Much of that comes from the tuna and bagels (both of which contain water as an ingredient... hmm... carrying extra weight perhaps?)  Peanut butter, as it turns out, has only 1 g of "other" and 16 g of fat - an awesome trail food.  I will pursue this further, as food is my burden and energy out here.

Post-hike note:  Silver Wings' "30% fat" number may have been referring to the portion of daily caloric intake which comes from fat... as opposed to the portion of daily intake in terms of weight (grams) which comes from fat.  Given that a gram of fat provides 9 calories, and a gram of carbs and protein each provide 4 calories, my diet's % breakdown in terms of caloric intake was probably closer to 20% fat, 44% carbs, 11% protein, and 25% "other".  The validity of having an "other" category might also be debatable... I'm not a nutritionist.

Friday, September 7, 2001

day 118, Liberty Springs c, NH

Start:  Franconia Notch, NH (Cascade Lodge)
End:  Liberty Springs Tentsite
Miles:  2.6 today, 1796.4 total

A short day for miles, but a progressive one, nonetheless.  I managed to drop another 1.5 - 2 pounds off my pack weight, so that makes 3 - 3.5 pounds lost since Operation Go-Lite began in Glencliff.  And I spent a good while talking to Silver Wings about his pack, which weighs 16 pounds without food and water (I think).  So, in total, I've gotten rid of my ground cover, rope, poncho container, Pur filter, and sleeping pad.  My poncho should adequately replace the ground cover.  I bought Polar Pure today to replace the filter, and I'm using my spare clothes right now as a fake sleeping pad.  Honestly, the pad was more comfortable, and I'd prefer the quality of water that the filter gives me, as opposed to the iodine-tasting Polar Pure -treated water.  However, the lost weight is more important I think.  And there's more to be lost!  I still haven't found an outfitters that carries a 6' x 10' Equinox tarp, but once I do, I can drop about 3 pounds by replacing my tent with a tarp.  And Silver Wings said that the Nalgene bottles I'm carrying weigh 5.5 ounces each.  If I replace those with 1-liter soda bottles, I'd probably drop a good 0.5 pound.  He also said that stainless steel is one of the heavier metals for cookware.  I think he mentioned that titanium was one of the best.  And my pot is, you guessed it, stainless steel.

Thursday, September 6, 2001

day 117, Franconia Notch, NH

Start:  Kinsman Notch, NH (Al's house)
End:  Franconia Notch, NH (Cascade Lodge)
Miles:  16.3 today, 1793.8 total

Heading back to Al's post-dinner, September 5.  Laura took the photo.

So we all show up uninvited at this guy's house.  His name is Al.  Apparently he's a friend of Snack Attack.  And Laura is buddy-buddy with Snack Attack, and I'm friends with Laura... and on down the line.  Yesterday we hitched in to North Woodstock from Kinsman Notch, showed up at Al's door, and invited ourselves in.  Two SOBOs had already stayed a night and were going to stay at least another couple nights.  Later Snack Attack, Orkin Man, and Wise Owl (Jake) showed up.  So this one guy, Al, has 7 hikers staying at his place taking advantage of him.  While it was great taking a shower, using his cookware, etc, I really did feel bad for the guy.  I'm thinking of sending him some brownies or something to make up for it.

This morning Al drove Jake and me to the trailhead.  We did the 16-17 miles to Franconia Notch and then hitched back into North Woodstock, but stayed at the Cascade Lodge rather than Al's place.  The hiking wasn't too bad.  Saw 3 glider planes up on South Kinsman (they were off in the distance, not ON the mountain).

A lot of familiar people here at the lodge.  Silver Wings, Numbfoot, the Deputies, possibly more.  Jake and I had an awesome dinner at the restaurant across the street from Truant's Tavern (don't remember the name).  This lodge is old and run-down.

Wednesday, September 5, 2001

day 116, Kinsman Notch, NH

Start:  Glencliff, NH (Hikers Welcome hostel)
End:  Kinsman Notch, NH (Al's house)
Miles:  9.5 today, 1777.5 total

Moosilauke summit.  Left to right:  Six String, Laura (Skipper), me

First day in the Whites and, man, was it amazing.  I'd probably have to say that this has been the best day, in terms of scenery, so far.  It beats Grayson Highlands.  And this was some tough terrain, too, especially coming down Moosilauke into Kinsman Notch.  Moosilauke was the theme of the day.  Skipper and I left Glencliff around 11am.  I managed to drop 1.5 lbs by sending home my ground sheet and some other items.  But then we were hiking... It took a few miles to get to the base of the mountain and then we started going up.  But no need to dramatize that, because the ascent really wasn't too bad.  It was long, but not terribly steep.  Then, up on the ridge, you walk half a mile to 1 mile just below treeline until it finally breaks and you walk up a bald, grassy mountain-top with cairns(?) as the trail markers.  The coolest part was when I was along the ridge and I could look ahead and see a tiny Six String climbing up the bald part.  He was like a monk.  Six String, Laura (when she finally made it), and I hung out on top for a good 1-1.5 hours before coming down.  And that's the hard part.  Very steep, a long way down.  Parts where you could fall and break your face.  The trail paralleled a waterfall / creek most of the way down.  Got to the bottom around 5pm and waited on Laura for quite awhile.  From there we hitched into North Woodstock.  I'll explain...

Tuesday, September 4, 2001

day 115, Glencliff, NH

Start:  Hexacuba Shelter
End:  Glencliff, NH (Hikers Welcome hostel)
Miles:  14.7 today, 1768.0 total

Well guess who yellow blazed to Glencliff.  "I'll take 'Skipper' for $500, Alex."  And she does it again.  Oh well.  The hostel here is pretty cool.  It's called "Hikers Welcome", which is kind of like naming your dog "Dog".  But they've got a great selection of CDs that we played.  Stevie Ray, Hendrix, Allman Brothers.  And they've got a fridge stocked with candy bars, granola bars, crackers, sodas, V8, Ben & Jerry's.  They also have a backpack making and repairing company called Moonbow.  Some really wacky stuff.  They make a lot of all-in-one packs.  Like packs that open up / unfold into tents with sleeping bags inside.  From looking at their catalog, their lightest pack / tent / sleeping bag combo weighs 5 lbs.  The thing is, with the right gear, you could go even lighter than that.  A Go-Lite pack at 1 lb, my Western Mountaineering 20-degree bag at 2 lbs, and a tarp (setup explained yesterday) at 1 lb - that's 4 lbs for the big three.

Met Sodapop.  He's been doing some slacking out of here.  Tonight we've got Laura, Sodapop, Ross (Phaedrus), Sojourner, and Six String.  There are some others, too, but I don't think they're in for the long haul.  Packrat, one of the owners, has some photo albums of his hikes.  He's done the AT, the LT, PCT, Colorado Trail, and maybe more.  Pretty cool stuff.

Monday, September 3, 2001

day 114, Hexacuba S, NH

Start:  Moose Mountain Shelter
End:  Hexacuba Shelter
Miles:  17.9 today, 1753.3 total

Little bit of climbing today.  My legs feel worked, like I just did the leg press.  First there was Holt's Ledges, a fairly short (< 2 miles) climb with some decent views at the top.  But then the majority of the day was spent either climbing or descending Smarts Mountain.  That was a pretty substantial climb (though I know in 2 days this climb will seem easy).  Had a fire tower on top and the weather was clear.  Numbfoot and I guesstimated that we could see at least 80 miles, since we could see Killington behind us.

Spent a good portion of the day thinking about how to be like Ray Jardine.  I really want to get my pack weight down, and I'm thinking a lot now about hiking the PCT.  Oh man.  The two biggies left on my back are my tent and the pack itself.  If I switched to a tarp, I could replace the tent and take off at least 3 pounds.  Sojourner talked to me about how she did that and is glad she did.  She says she's using an Equinox 6' x 10' tarp and an emergency blanket as a ground cover.  She says the tarp weighs 9 ounces and the blanket is next to nothing.  I want to do more research on Go-Lite and any other ultra-light packs.  I could knock off a good 5 or even 6 pounds with one of those.  So that's 8 or 9 pounds I could drop with those two items.  Makes my mouth water...

Sunday, September 2, 2001

day 113, Moose Mtn S, NH

Start:  Hanover, NH
End:  Moose Mountain Shelter
Miles:  10.8 today, 1735.4 total

Man, it is cold!  I'm wearing my New Balance fleece -type of thing on top of my long underwear shirt AND a Duofold t-shirt.  Lucky orange pants are on, too.  I mean, I'm doing ok in these clothes, it's just the fact that I have to use them at all is what's amazing.

Wanted to get to the Trapper John Shelter tonight, but there's no water there.  I pulled in here at like 4:15 to cook an early dinner (the big water-user in camp) with the hopes that I could eat and clean up leaving enough time to hike the remaining 6 miles comfortably.  No such luck.  So I'm stuck here tonight.  I should easily be able to make up the mileage tomorrow, though, so no big problem.

We've got a full house tonight.  When I got here, there was a 40-ish man already here.  He had a short day from the Velvet Rocks Shelter.  He's doing a section from Hanover to Pinkham Notch.  Then Ross (from Burke) showed up.  He also had a short day from Velvet Rocks.  He says his legs were unusually tired.  Says he's going to give big bucks to The Hiker's Paradise in Gorham so he can slack all the way through the Whites.  Sojourner (not sure how to spell that) came soon after that (a woman).  Then Numbfoot and Six String showed up.  Then a couple SOBOs trickled in.  So there's 8 of us altogether; 4 in the shelter, 4 tenting / tarping.  It's cold.

Saturday, September 1, 2001

day 112, Hanover, NH

Start:  Hanover, NH
End:  Hanover, NH
Miles:  0 today, 1724.6 total

Front porch of the Panarchy House.
Left to right: Jake (Wise Owl), me, Laura (Skipper)

The amazingly wacky thing that I didn't get to write yesterday was that Laura's here!  And she hiked SOUTH to get here.  I knew that she had been taking it slow, but c'mon!  Apparently she hiked north out of Hanover Thursday.  At some point she realized she left her Polar Pure here, so she hiked back yesterday.  Later she admitted that she was also thinking about hiking south with a SOBO named Riff Raff.  But then she decided to stay in town (probably to be with me cause I'm so cool).  So we hung out the latter half of yesterday and most of today.

We're all staying at the "Panarchy House", a coed fraternity house.  Hikers get the basement.  Not many Dartmouth students around because Dartmouth is on the trimester system.  Got a "White Blaze" at Ben & Jerry's.  Ate dinner last night with Panda at Everything But Anchovies and there again tonight with Laura.  A lot of hikers coming and going these couple days:  Ross (Phaedrus), Andrew (Endeavor), BO (SOBO), Snack Attack, Orkin Man, Six String, Leatherfeet, the Deputies, Numbfoot, Wise Owl (Jake)... probably more... Silver Wings, Ronny... ok, enuff for now.  Spent a lot of time at various computer terminals on campus.  Also read some of Ray Jardine's PCT book at the Co-op Outfitters.  It got me all excited about dropping pack weight and buying corn pasta.  Had a really long, good shoot-the-breeze session with Laura tonight.  Sounds like she's going to try to hike with me some.