Great Barrington, MA

Hey everyone! Here’s a quick update.

The trail family is missing Rabbi, and Web MD is leaving the trail to go back to school pretty soon.

Day 54- 7/24
Upper Goose Pond Cabin
Robin was picked up by some friends early in the morning to hang out with them in his hometown. He’s planning to come back to the trail where he left off after the weekend, but I’m sure he’ll be able to catch up with us soon enough. After he said goodbye, we stopped at Warner Hill to pick wild blueberries. We talked to a huge group of little girls and their leaders from a summer camp. They hiked up there from a nearby road. They were pretty interested in our thru-hike, and asked a lot of funny questions while we picked berries with them. Also, a nice lady gave us free cookies.

Day 55- 7/25
Shaker Campsite
In the morning, the Upper Goose Pond Cabin’s caretakers made us blueberry pancakes using the blueberries we picked the day before. Web, Magic and I rested and relaxed for the whole morning. Dad was working in eastern Massachusetts this week, so he drove to a nearby road that crosses the trail, and then hiked about 1.5 miles up to the cabin to meet me at about 11am. Dad and I took one of the cabin’s canoes out on the lake next to the cabin, and paddled out to a cool little island in the middle. After we canoed back to the cabin, Magic and Web said goodbye and went on ahead down the trail. (They needed to do a decent amount of miles for the day because they were running a bit low on food.) Dad and I hiked, enjoyed the nice weather, and took plenty of breaks to take in the scenery. We stopped at the top of one hill that overlooked a small town and called I called Mom to catch up; the three of us talked with her on speakerphone and it was like she was there with us. It rained that night but waited to come down hard until we were both inside the tent.

Day 56- 7/26
Great Barrington, MA
In the morning, Dad and I made a plan to hike different directions, with me continuing south, and him hiking back north to his car, but to meet up later in the day. I hiked to a road that leads to Great Barrington, and he drove to meet me there after finishing his hike. I made it to the road just in time to avoid hiking in a huge rain and hail storm. That hike was my first full day of hiking without seeing a single soul going the same direction as me, that is until I met up with Magic and Web MD in town that evening. Dad took me out to eat at a local pizza place that was pretty OK. We traded sleeping bags when he left so that I could have one better suited to the current climate instead of the 20 degree one I started the trip with, and we traded shoes because mine were completely destroyed by the rocky northern states. I know the fresh gear is going to be a huge help, thanks Dad! I wish you could’ve stayed on for the remainder of the trip.

New Adventures

Today, I caught a few busses and trains to NYC to visit my aunt. I’m writing this blog post from an Amtrak/bus station in Albany, on layover while I wait for my final bus to NYC.
One of the main things that I have figured out over the past ~2 months of hiking is that it’s very important to spend your time doing things that are fun and enjoyable. My hiking family would often change our plans to accommodate this: stopping to swim and jump off bridges, moving back our mileage in order to see something really cool. Because of this, I feel that our trail family was really getting the best experience out of the AT. This idea was confirmed by many a solo northbounder who warned us that we were only a few hundred miles from “hating hiking forever” and “just wanting it to be over.”
For the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed every last second of hanging out with Banner, Robin, Web MD, and Magic. But the times in between – the time spent hiking countless miles – really started to wear on my mind and my psyche. I found myself desperately wishing that I didn’t have to hike, and becoming frustrated with each and every hill or descent or bog or flat spot.
So it is with sadness that I made the decision to leave the trail. I’m not sure I’ll leave forever – I know for a fact that I am going to be visiting the Dirty Boys (and Magic) many times. I might rejoin them for the rest of the trip. The only thing I know for certain is that I saved up money and time to have a thoroughly enjoyable summer – making myself miserable hiking stopped fitting the bill, so I moved on to something else. After NYC I’ll return to Richmond – maybe just for a bit, maybe for the rest of the summer.
I want to continue loving hiking, and this course of action is the way I know I can achieve that goal.
Best of luck to Magic and the Dirty Boys! Regardless of whether or not I resume the trail, I know that I’ll see them again. Time on the trail truly magnifies and multiplies relationships – I’ve made friends that I hope to keep.
Onward to new adventures!

Bennington, VT

Hey all! Jared here, or Banner if you prefer. This is my first post to the trail blog and an update of our hike from Manchester to Bennington.

Our past few days have been somewhat uneventful. We’ve started running into a lot more AT northbounders. This part of the AT coincides with the southern part of Vermont’s Long Trail, so we’ve met quite a few folks thru-hiking the Long Trail as well. I’d love to thru-hike that trail too sometime if I can make a chance.

Even though the glorious, 360-degree, 100-mile visibility views are much less frequent now than in Maine and New Hampshire, the trail is quite beautiful here. The key to enjoying your AT hike in Vermont is to appreciate the beauty of the trail, plants, and rocks all around you, instead of just looking ahead to the next epic mountain-top vista.

Day 47- 7/17/15
William B. Douglas Shelter
6 miles
Magic and the Dirty Boys spent the morning relaxing at the Green Mountain House hostel until around noon. Robin gave me some Darn-Tough socks that he found in a shelter and then washed at the hostel. I’m digging them so far. We hiked only 6 miles to the shelter which was .5 off the trail. Everybody contributed to produce a cozy fire. A nice girl named Heather showed up a little later. She told us that she is planning a Long Trail thru-hike, but that she’s doing weekend trips for now to prepare. Our crew plus Heather stayed up long past sunset swapping stories in the shelter. In fact, Rabbi and I pulled out our best story of all.

Day 48- 7/18/15
Story Spring Shelter
15 miles
Today we learned why some hikers call this state “Ver-mud.” However, it still wasn’t even close to as muddy as much of the trail in Maine was for us. A trail-angel named “Miker the Hiker” and his wife cooked us up some hot dogs and gave us juicy watermelon in a parking lot we arrived at around lunchtime. The Dirty Boys were first to the shelter and so we rolled out our sleeping gear inside, but some northbounders calling themselves “Team Push-Wood” camped just outside and hung out with us until sunset. They were refreshingly positive compared to some of the solo northbounders we’ve met.

Day 49- 7/19/15
Melville Nauheim Shelter
17 miles
Easy day today. I really took my time and enjoyed the good weather. Everybody hiked almost completely separately today. The guys made it to the shelter just before a pretty serious thunderstorm hit, with a heavy downpour. Poor Magic was just a little too late to the shelter, so she got drenched.

Manchester Center, VT

Hey there!
I’m writing this blog post on the 20th – we stopped into Bennington for a quick meal and some resupply. I’ve been pretty busy recently, so I didn’t get a chance to write a blog post on the 16th, which is when we were actually in Manchester Center.

On the day/night that we left Rutland, we planned to hike 8 miles. However, .1 miles in, we walked across an awesome bridge that went across a really cool ravine with a brook in it. We decided to stop there for the night and swam and had a good time. Eventually, though, Web realized that he had left his phone at the hostel in Rutland. A nice younger lady doing part of the LT gave him a ride back into town, and then even a ride back to the trail. While in town, he picked up some drinks and pizza for us. Classy guy. He also talked to Roadrunner, a northbounder that was taking a few days off in Rutland, and convinced him to come party with us. Unfortunately, it started raining right as he was about the get there, so Banner and I headed out to the shelter 3.5 miles away. An hour or so later, we roll up to the shelter – and Web, Magic, and Robin are already in the shelter with Roadrunner. Apparently there is a road about 5 minutes from that shelter, and so they got a ride to that point and walked the five minutes to the shelter. We met some other northbounders – RumRunner, Now or Never, and Sparky – and the lot of us had a really good time and parties down.

Over the next few days we just hiked through the mountains. Occasionally we swam in swimming holes, occasionally we peaked some mountains, and we always left late from the shelter. We’re in Bennington, VT today (7/20/15) – Banner is actually going to write that entry!


Towns, Towns!

We are getting to towns fast and furious now, as I said before – the next stop after Manchester Center is Bennington, VT. We are probably no more than 5 days from Bennington – which means we’ll probably get there on Sunday, so it might be best to wait until the next PO box after Bennington to send us stuff. We aren’t staying in Bennington, we are just dropping in for a few minutes to resupply.

Also, we are needing less and less food per stop nowadays – often, the packages we get have more food than we need to get to the next town so we end up carrying much more weight than necessary. Make sure to only send a little bit if you do – and don’t feel the need to send something every stop!

Until next time!


Rutland, VT

So we’ve already come to the next town. Compared to Maine and the Whites, towns are coming fast and furious nowadays. I heard from a northbounder – “Blodge” – that the trail gets more and more civilized for this portion until we make it to Virginia.
Rutland is pretty cool – it’s a small town, but there are a lot of buildings and stuff. It’s weird, though, because even with all the buildings, stores, and restaurants, most of them are closed. We figured that since Rutland is like a ski resort town, it’s likely that the population dwindles during the summer and skyrockets during the winter, hence the bigger city feel minus the people.
Over the past few days we have been through a bunch of sweet stuff and some really, really cool trail magic. We pushed really hard to do a 22 mile day yesterday, and it really wore us out. Tonight we’re staying at the Yellow Deli, a really cool deli (and hostel, above the deli) run by members of the Twelve Tribes religion. We were warned about “not drinking the kool-aid” and the fact that the place was run by a cult-like organization, but so far no one has tried to pressure us into it. Best of all, the hostel is free!

Don’t forget to check out the picture album on the sidebar, too! I upload new pictures all the time (sometimes from the trail!) and so it’s constantly got new pictures and videos. Give it a look!

Day 40 – 7/10/15
Thistle Hill Shelter
12 miles
Wow, today was awesome. We spent the first part of the day just being lazy and hanging out at Warren’s house. At about noon, Web showed up after hiking two miles from Hanover (where he was hanging out with family) to meet up with us. We said our fair wells and left Norwich at about 1pm. At 3pm, we were flagged down by a man named Randy Heart (and his wife). They gave us soda and showed us a crazy spot we could jump off of a bridge across from their house. After jumping, they surprised us with hotdogs, fries, and cake. They even offered to let us stay there. After a few hours relaxing and swimming, though, we decided it would be best to hike a few more miles, and so we hiked 4 more miles to Thistle Hill Shelter.

Day 41 – 7/11/15
Stony Brook Shelter
21.5 miles
Today was tough. Vermont doesn’t really have enough mountains to create a ridgeline, so all of these 22 miles were up one mountain, down the other side, rinse, repeat. I have an on-again-off-again arch injury in the bone of my right foot’s arch, and it flared toward the end of the day. My feet are starting to get bigger, too, because my toes keep ramming into the front of my shoes (and they didn’t before). This causes major blistering. The new crocs are awesome, though, and perfect for camp. I got into the shelter at around 5pm, and Banner and Web didn’t show up until about 9pm. Magic was even later.

Day 42 – 7/12/15
Yellow Deli Hostel, Rutland VT
6 miles
The definition of “lazy day.” We woke up lazily at the shelter, ate lazily, and lazily walked about 5 miles before coming to a really cool waterfall. Banner, Web, and I took lunch here while waiting for Magic. Then we pushed on for another mile or so to reach the Mountain Meadows Lodge. The owner didn’t mind, so we dropped out packs and took a dip into Kent Pond, which the lodge has a dock into. Then, before we left, the owner asked us to help him move an arbor they had constructed for a wedding. We happily obliged. He then gave us some ice cream cake left over from a wedding as a reward. We met a bunch of other thru hikers, and went on our way.. To catch a bus into Rutland. In Rutland, we checked into the Yellow Deli, ate Wendy’s for dinner (I personally had a little over 2200 calories for this meal alone), and are now just hanging out. Banner and I have packages arriving tomorrow, so we are thinking about slack packing tomorrow so that we can be here tomorrow for the packages.

Onward! We are having a great time, and hoping to catch Robin in Rutland tonight or tomorrow night!


Norwich, VT

Well, we’ve finished another state! We got into Hanover, NH yesterday at about noon, and spent the rest of the day resupplying and eating town food. Thanks to my wonderful mother and some Amazon deliveries, I’ve completely overhauled how I carry things within my pack, my precipitation protection system, and my camp comfort situation. Meaning I’ve switched to waterproof stuff sacks inside my pack, I got a new/better rain jacket, and switched to crocs as camp shoes. The best part is that the crocs are the most horribly ugly shade of purple that has ever existed. It’s amazing and comfy.
While hiking a few days back, I came upon a list of Trail Angels provided by Hanover, NH. The trail literally runs directly through Hanover, NH, over the NH-VT border, and through Norwich, VT (all on roads). I called one of the Trail Angels – a man by the name of Warren – and he said that he had room for us to stay. What we didn’t know was that he wasn’t just offering some tent space in his yard: he (and his wife Toni) gave us access to the entirety of their home, including their showers and their laundry, and even drove us into town to pick up dinner. Additionally, they have mattresses that we can sleep on that are clean and comfy. The house is amazing and gorgeous – I’m extremely jealous of it. Their porch looks out upon the mountains of Vermont, and it’s beautiful. The house itself is just beautifully kept and decorated as well.
Toni is a rock climber, as well – she offered to let us borrow some gear and go climbing with her! Today we’re going to do about 12 miles to get to a shelter, and then we are going to do 21.5 miles tomorrow so that we can meet Toni at the face where she climbs on Sunday. I’m pumped – I didn’t expect to be able to rock climb on this trip!

Day 36 – 7/6/15 (continued)
After resupplying in Warren, we hiked about 2 more miles to find a campsite. While hiking, Magic heard about a cool campsite next to a pond that was off on a side trail. After a bit of exploring, I found it – and it was glorious. The campsite was literally on the bank of the pond, and it even had a campfire ring and a table. There was a rope swing from a tree into the pond (though the pond was certainly not deep enough to use it). We ate, had a hearty fire, and swam and washed ourselves in the pond. It was amazing. The particular spot we were in had crazy acoustics: even a medium loud noise echoed from all sides. It was really cool.

Day 37 – 7/7/15
Hexacuba Shelter
13 miles
Long day. We woke up lazily at the pond site and planned to go about 18 miles to a shelter. The climb up Mt. Cube was honestly hard, mostly because the trail itself was switchbacks, but poorly made switchbacks. The trail would have actually been easier if it just went straight up the side of the mountain. I took a break at Hexacuba shelter, about 5.5 miles from our end goal. After about 45 minutes, everyone but Banner had shown up and was taking a break with me. After another hour and 45 minutes, Banner still hadn’t shown up. We discussed it as a group and decided to stay at the shelter we took a break at (Hexacuba). Worried for Banner, I took some first aid essentials and hiked backwards to find him. About a mile and a half in, I found him. He had been super nauseous and dizzy and had thrown up, which slowed him down a lot. He still felt sick, but throwing up helped him feel a little better. We made it to the shelter successfully.

Day 38 – 7/8/15
Moose Mountain Shelter
17.7 miles
What a great day. We did a lot of miles, but none of them were particularly insane. About two thirds into our day, we visited the Ice Cream Man. Bill Ackerly lets thru hikers get water and WiFi at his house, tent on his lawn, play croquet on his lawn, and gives each one free ice cream. It was awesome. We spent close to four hours just hanging out at his house. After, though, we had to do 6 more miles to the shelter. Some rude NOBOs at the shelter had set up their tents inside the shelter, which took up all of the room. If you’re going to set up your tent anyway, why not do it at a campsite?! We ended up making a family tent site anyway, which was fun. Web pushed on to make it to Hanover tonight (10 more miles, wow) so he could hang out with some family members.

Day 39 – 7/9/15
Warren’s House
13 miles
Wow! Robin and I did 11 miles in about 3 hours (whoa) and hung out in Hanover while we waited for the rest of the crew. Once they got there, we hit the post office, grabbed some Subway, and caught a bus to a Walmart and Price Chopper to resupply. Robin had some friends pick him up, and so he’s out with them for a day or so. After a quick bus back, we walked the 2 road miles to this wonderful home and had a great evening chatting with Warren and Toni while we baked and ate pizza.

Today we are planning to hike about 12 miles to a shelter and meet back up with the crew. We’ll be in Rutland on Sunday night, and we might stay there for Monday but we don’t know yet. Our next stop after Rutland will be Manchester Center, VT! We will probably be in Manchester Center in 7-8 days! (Edit: we will be here on the 16th!)
Ian Leake
PO BOX 05255
Manchester Center, VT 05255

Don’t forget to write “HOLD FOR AT THRU HIKER” on it!

Warren, NH

How far we’ve come. Today we are in Warren, NH just for a quick minute so that we can resupply with enough food to make it to Hanover, NH. We should be in Vermont by Friday!

The White Mountains (the “Whites”) of northern New Hampshire were really cool, but we hate the AMC. The Appalachian Mountain Club is a “non-profit” (in quotes because they are classified as that, but are greedy and profit-oriented) club that has taken over the entirety of the Whites and put up huts. These “huts” are actually like lodges, with even the smallest one being able to bunk and cook for about 30 people. The problem is, though, that the AMC charges ridiculous amounts of money to stay in their huts: around $110 per night. Even worse, the shelters and lean-tos (and even the campsites) in the Whites are also owned by the AMC, so they make you pay money for those as well. The only way to get through the Whites without paying is to stealth camp (which is illegal in some places) or to work-for-stay. Work-for-stay at the huts is basically slavery: you have to sit outside in the cold while all the rich white people eat their hot meals, and then you come inside after dinner to do dishes, sweep, and clean up. Then, when it’s bed time, you get to sleep on the floor of the dining room. The only possible benefit is that you *sometimes* get the cold leftovers from dinner. When you wake up (at 5:30am so you can be out of the way of the people staying at the hut before they get up), you repeat the process but for breakfast.
The huts are pretty much unavoidable through the Presidentials (series of mountains with names coming from presidents), as there are no shelters or camp sites there.

Even when we made it to shelters and campsites, we still had to work to be allowed to stay there. At one campsite, we raked composted feces and spread it around the area for a good long while to be able to sleep under a tarp shelter that we had to put up. At another, we did the same job, but we’re able to sleep in a wood shelter instead.

Today we got up at 3am to see the sunrise from the top of Moosilauke Mountain, the last mountain in the Whites (and possibly the last big mountain we’ll see until Virginia). It was amazing – I took pictures, but like the rest of the trail they’ll never be able to fully impart the feeling that that landscape and scenery gave me.

Day 28 – 6/28/15
White Mountains Lodge and Hostel
Today we decided to take another zero day, as it was raining and we were all sore from the hard 21 miles over the Wildcats yesterday. We marathoned Game of Thrones and watched movies all day. Marni, the owner of the hostel, made a delicious meal that consisted of lasagna, garlic bread, and salad. Yum.

Day 29 – 6/29/15
Madison Spring Hut
7 miles
Not too many miles today because they were pretty tough. We all packed way too much food, and the incline was quite steep. The Presidentials are just piles of rocks that you have to step on along the ridge line, so it makes progress slow and difficult. We were surprised by the size and grandeur of the hut we came across – Madison Spring Hut. Normally, they only have 2 slots for people to work-for-stay, but somehow the hut croo (their word) were convinced/were awesome and let all six of us stay. We think it might have had something to do with how miserable it was outside that night – rainy and cold. To top it off, the only work we had to do was give a 35 minute “program” on the AT – basically just a Q&A session with our trail family and the hut goers. It was awesome and fun!

Day 30 – 6/30/15
Nauman Tent Site
13 miles
Today we went up to Mount Washington and said goodbye to a member of our family, Booker. He left the trail to go stay with some family on a vacation and then deal with something or other in his life. He said he might come back and hike a little bit with us later on. Mount Washington was horrible – a disgusting amount of tourists literally walking 50 feet from their cars and waiting a half hour in line to take a picture with the summit sign. The mountain itself didn’t have that great of a view, either, because the buildings and construction on the top of the mountain ruined any chance of a 369 degree view. Not our favorite. Banner, Web, and I got a little lost on our way to Washington. Once we realized we were lost, we just sat and ate for almost a whole hour before turning around. The views were amazing, though, no regrets.
We were rudely turned away from work-for-stay at the Lake of the Clouds hut (they said that we could stay and then heard that we had only hiked 7 miles and went back on their word), so we hiked on to Mizpah Spring hut. It already had too many work-for-stays, so we couldn’t stay there either. Finally we came upon the Nauman Tent Site, and the wonderful caretaker there let us stay at the site. Since it was supposed to rain, we set up a tarp shelter so that we wouldn’t have to pack up our tents in the rain. We had to shovel compost and whatnot to be able to stay, though – degrading, a little bit, but worth it to keep our dignity intact. We will never pay a dollar to the greedy hands of the AMC. Since our little family was accustomed to singing along the trail, we did all while we were working – we decided we should have a family band name. Thus we dubbed ourselves “Magic & the Dirty Boys.”

Day 31 – 7/1/15
Zealand Hut
No Idea miles
Pouring rain today, very cold and very tough. Even more so, we had to come down Webster Mountain, whose sides are very steep and made of slick rocks. Toward the afternoon the trail flattened and the sky lightened, which boosted morale and made progress much faster. The hut staff were super nice, but only had 3 work-for-stay slots. Magic and Banner decided to take one for the team, and Robin, Web, and I worked to stay in the hut. Robin and Web did a lot of dishes, and I chipped ice out of a freezer.

Day 32 – 7/2/15
Garfield Ridge
The three that stayed at the hut were berated by a crotchety, entitled woman for “being too loud” in the morning. She then proceeded to yell at us for any conceivable thing she could think of because “she paid to sleep her and you’re getting it for free.” When she saw us sweeping and doing dishes later on, she was surprised. We told the staff what happened, and they said “Wait, this morning? You guys were really quiet. Seriously, you guys have been good thru-hikers, I don’t know what she was talking about.”
Instant trail karma: she came back into the hut 5 minutes before we left with a big cut on her lip from falling. Trail karma is real.
Us three at the hut finished our chores and were allowed to have some leftovers from breakfast: oatmeal, eggs with zucchini, cinnamon rolls, and coffee.
We took a nice long break at Galehead Hut because the day was just so beautiful and the hut was at a great viewpoint. The staff inside let us have some turkey and cake after we swept the bunk rooms.
When we got to Garfield Ridge, we were greeted by Charlotte, a nice caretaker who loves to play songs on her guitar. While we were raking compost to be able to stay in the shelter, she played us a song she wrote about her campsite (Garfield Ridge).

Day 33 – 7/3/15
Chett’s Place
14 miles
We went over Lafayette today. Beautiful mountain, again ruined by day walkers (a derogatory term we’ve come to start using for rude day hikers). We made it into Lincoln, NH by catching a ride with some nice older day hikers. We ended up staying at this cool hostel that is run by a man name Chett, who was in a horrible accident with a butane stove (explosion) while he was preparing to do a thru-hike many years ago. Now he runs a free hostel that is passed only by word of mouth, and isn’t in any AT books or online. We ate delicious chicken Parmesan at a place called Enzo’s, and we restocked what we needed.

Day 34 – 7/4/15
Eliza Brook Shelter
9 miles
Not too many miles – we’re still taking it easy through the Whites and enjoying the nice days. We washed dishes at Lonesome Lake Hut for some cold ginger chicken and eggs & zucchini (which we mixed together and added ketchup to). It was surprisingly good, and they gave us each a cookie for the road. Kinsman Mountain and it’s ridge were pretty tough – but we finally made it to a shelter that we didn’t have to work-for-stay! First one in over 80 miles. Happy birthday, America!

Day 35 – 7/5/15
Beaver Brook Shelter
10 miles
Pretty straight-forward day of hiking. We were originally going to camp on the top of Moosilauke mountain (which the shelter is halfway up), but decided it would probably be too cold and windy up there to enjoy it. We ended up stopping at the shelter to rest, and it turned into our final stop for the day.

Day 36 – 7/6/15
We got up at 3am to see the sunrise on Moosilauke. It was incredible. As I said before, neither pictures nor words do it justice. Then we hiked down the mountain – I’m sitting at Jeffers Brook Shelter, a shelter at the base of the Mountain, with Magic, waiting for the other Dirty Boys to come down the mountain. The shelter is about a mile from a road that will get us into Warren for resupply. A very nice woman named Kelsi who section-hiked a bit in Georgia and further (before being taken off the trail by a hurricane) gave us a ride into town, and one of the dudes that runs Hiker Yearbook gave us a ride back. We ended up hiking about 2 miles to find this AMAZING spot on the edge of a lake, with a rope swing, tent sites, a table, and a fire pit. We swam, washed up, and had an amazing evening.

We’ll be in Hanover, NH on Thursday, but that’s a bit too soon for people to get packages to us. Instead, you can send them to the next town we’ll go into: Rutland, VT!!
Address packages to:
Ian Leake
Hiker Hostel
23 Center Street
Rutland, VT 05701

Don’t forget to write “hold for AT thru-hiker” on it! You’ll notice that this isn’t a post office – this is the address of the hostel we’ll be staying at. They suggest to send packages there, instead, so that’s what I’ve done!
We are about 90 miles from Rutland, so we’ll probably be there in 7-8 days – maybe sooner, considering we are entering territory that is much flatter than what we’ve done so far. 400 miles down, 1800 to go!

Breaking Records

Today, we slack-packed from Pinkham Notch back to the White Mountains Lodge and Hostel (a section called the Wildcats). Slack-packing is where you leave most of your gear at the hostel or lodge in question, and then hike with a smaller amount of stuff – normally just food for a meal or two, and water (and a filter, jacket, etc.).

When I started the hike, I was expecting to finish in 8-10 hours, which is pretty fast. With a day-pack, I figured, I could go faster than my normal pace, even over harder terrain. The Wildcats were really tough, probably tougher than a bunch of the ridges/ranges we have done so far.

About an hour in, though, I reached a sign that said I had gone 3 miles. At that pace, I figured, I might have a shot at beating the 6 hour 47 minute record that Marni (the owner of the White Mountain Lodge) told me had been set by an ex-special forces operative.

At 2:12pm, I reached the hostel. I had started at the trailhead at 8:05am, making my total time for the 21 miles of the Wildcats 6 hours and 7 minutes. I had broken the record by a solid 40 minutes.

I didn’t set out to do it, but in the end I was able to push my body to incredible lengths to attain the record. It was screaming at me to stop for the duration of the hike, but after setting my goal of beating the record I just ignored the pain.

I would “rest” on the ups (go only 1-2 miles an hour) and run the downs (the ones that weren’t so steep that I would die if I slipped, at least). Avoiding the mud and running down steep trails with rocks and roots was tough on my muscles and knees, and now I’ll spend the rest of the day resting and recuperating. My average miles per hour was 3.43, although I went much slower than that on the uphills and much faster on the downhills. The final downhill was 5.5 miles of trail – I ran the entire way.

I’m proud of my accomplishment, though I didn’t set out to do it. Dokha – a northbounder staying here as well – has already said that he’ll sing praises of me to southbounders that he meets on his way to Katahdin. I don’t know if I quite deserve that, but it’s cool to know that people will be talking about me.

There’s a really cool post from the White Mountains Lodge and Hostel here. I can’t find a good topographical map of the ridge with a quick Google search, but look it up! There were 5 major 4000+ foot mountains, and you descend a lot after most every mountain. Lots of ups and downs!

Gorham, NH

We’re here in Gorham taking our second zero day (sort of). We stealth camped near the White Mountain Lodge and Hostel last night, and came in this morning. We ate a HUGE lunch at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, then restocked and resupplied at Walmart. We crossed into New Hampshire yesterday morning, finishing our first state! At this hostel, we’re sitting at mile marker 298.3. Only 1900 miles to go!

This hostel is amazing. It’s amazingly clean, and the lodgings/land is extremely well kept. There are a bunch of people here: Booker and his sister (who is going to hike the Whites with us), Magic, Web MD, Banner and I, Robin, a few new SOBOs I hadn’t met yet, and some northbounders as well.

I’ve started taking videos during some interesting events – a sort of video blog, if you will – and those videos end up in the “Pictures” album/link in the left sidebar. Check it out!

Day 17
Spaulding Mountain Lean-To
13.2 miles
This day wasn’t particularly hard, but it took a long time. The trail was consistently rocky and steep, and we just took our time getting to the shelter. We met a woman named Lambchop – who had an Aussie accent but said she was from Arizona – and slept at the shelter with a man named Asa, who we met in Stratton. He’s 70 years old, and is hiking the trail as the start of his retirement. We’re planning on a short day tomorrow, so we’re probably just going to sleep in.

Day 18
Poplar Ridge Lean-To
7.~ miles
What an easy day. Even with a mountain or two, we had no problem with the day. We didn’t leave the shelter until 10am, and then got to the lean-to at 3:40pm. Easy days like this are great for morale! Banner and I just ate and talked and enjoyed the weather for the rest of the day.

Day 19
Stealth Camping
12.~ miles
Fun day, even though we climbed a *lot* of steep mountains. We went through the Saddlebacks, a range of mountains where the ridgeline is mostly rock and grass, which makes it much easier than the typical rocky-and-rooty Maine uphills. We took a few videos of this day, because it was so fun. We hitched a ride into Rangeley with a nice fisherman. At the grocery store, a woman who thru-hiked in 2014 stopped us and asked us if we needed a ride back to the trail. Her name is Sunsplash, and we got a picture with her at the trailhead! Then, while we were eating a very delicious dinner of store-bought sandwiches and snacks, two ladies who were taking pictures of the AT sign in the parking lot stopped and asked us if we were thru-hiking. When we said that we were, they asked us all about it and gave us some of their food (greek yogurt and other stuff). We ate it right away.
Right before we got to the road to Rangeley, we heard a very loud sound coming from the bushes to our right – it sounded like an animal was barreling right toward us. Banner and I both reared back in an attempt to get ready to defend ourselves.. and then a grouse (chicken-like blue bird) comes out of the woods. Once it sees that we aren’t scared of it, it begins to run away. We were embarrassed that we were scared, but we learned something new: grouse are dumb.

Day 20
Bemis Mountain Lean-To
18 miles
We hiked and hiked today. About halfway through the day, we were caught by two faster SOBOs: Monk, and Megan, a couple from Canada. Monk has done the PCT and the CDT, two other long (2000+ mile) trails in America, so finishing the AT will earn him his “triple crown.” When we stopped for lunch at a lean-to, we found Weirdo, Magic, and Web MD there eating lunch as well. We had been trying to catch up with them since Monson! When we got to the lean-to that night, we packed in 9 people (into a 8-person shelter). People just kept showing up, SOBOs and NOBOs alike. There were even 6 people camped outside of the shelter as well! Tonight was the first night since Monson that we slept and fully interacted with others in the shelter.

Day 21
Hall Mountain Lean-To
13 miles
I don’t quite remember what we did this day, but it must have been hard. Here’s what I wrote in my journal, word for word:
“Today was rough. Slight rain, really hard terrain. Muddy, rocky. Long, long up and downhills. So much ups and downs. Calves hurt.”

Day 22
Frye’s Notch Lean-To
11 miles
We woke up early with the new crew (Weirdo, Magic, Web MD, Banner and I) to get into Andover early enough for breakfast and a resupply. Such a good idea: any breakfast would have been good for hikers, but this diner did it *right.* It was so delicious. Today, we discovered that Weirdo’s nickname had come before the trail, so I started calling him Booker (because he goes fast when in the front, and he books/plans the mileage and whatnot). After the resupply, the Trio (Booker, Web MD, and Magic) went ahead 3.5 miles because they heard that it was supposed to rain the next day and wanted to get some hard miles done. Banner and I stayed behind. The shelter filled up quickly, and others had to camp outside. At this point, Robin has started to tag along in our group of 5 to make it a group of 6. There is a video of us sitting in the shelter this evening!

Day 23
Bald Pate Mountain Lean-To
3.5 miles
We made it the 3.5 miles to the shelter that the Trio stayed at, but it wasn’t easy. The “monsoon” that we had been hearing about was no joke: we had to climb and descend Bald Pate Mountain, a mountain whose sides are pure rock slabs at 30 to 45 degree angles, in the pouring rain and sideways wind. Sheets of water flow down the rocks and make it extremely treacherous to continue. Slipping and falling happens often, and the wind and water in combination with the temperature chill you to your bones. Once in the shelter (discovering the Trio sleeping soundly), Banner, Robin, and I decide to attempt to wait out the storm while the Trio presses on. We made a good decision: the rain only gets worse throughout the day. There’s a video of the pouring rain from the shelter! To catch up with the Trio, we’ll have to do a lot of miles tomorrow.

Day 24
Carlo Col Shelter
18 miles
We did a lot of miles today, and all of them were tough. We went through the Mahoosuc arm (an extremely steep downhill) and the Mahoosuc notch (called “the hardest mile on the AT”). The notch itself wasn’t too hard, just time consuming: it takes most people about 2 hours, but it only took Banner and I a little less than an hour. There are a bunch of videos in the Notch in the album. The arm, though, was extremely dangerous – super steep, super slippery. Falling during some of these parts meant falling for a ways. We met up with the Trio at a shelter about 14 miles into our day, and hiked the last four miles with them. It wasn’t easy, but it was better having people to hike with. The shelter that we arrived at had 4 walls and a door cut out of it, with 2 floors inside the shelter! Good thing, too, because we ended up meeting some NOBOs that were staying there (total count of people: Myself, Banner, Booker, Web MD, Magic, Tiger Beetle, Robin, Crumbs, Bruin).

Day 25
Stealth Camping
17 miles
Long day, trudging up and down many mountains. We made it all the way to the hostel today, but in efforts to save money we found a campsite (stealth campsite) not too far from the hostel and slept there. Banner caught a ride into town, first, though, and grabbed some McDonalds for us. It was so good. They gypped him, though: they only gave him half of the food that he ordered. Luckily, another person from the hostel (“Guardian of the Vortex”) was headed into town, and took him along so he could get the extra food. Tomorrow we hike like .2 miles and stay the rest of the day at the hostel!

Day 26
White Mountains Lodge and Hostel; Gorham, NH
.2 miles (basically Zero)
Today we woke up lazily, got into the hostel lazily, and then got rides into town for a delicious Chinese buffet. I ate so much that it literally hurt to stand up, and I wasn’t quite sure that I was going to be okay. Then we resupplied at Walmart, and now we are just hanging out, resting, and watching movies. Tomorrow we slack-pack the Wildcats: we will leave our real packs at the hostel, and hike 21 hard miles with small daypacks. Then we’ll arrive back at the hostel and sleep there again, rest for the first half of that day, and do 5 miles to the next shelter. In short: we’ll be “in Gorham” for 3 days, but while we are there we will do 26 miles AND have a zero and a nero! What a wonderful stay in a wonderful place.

The next PO box is Warren, NH! Address is as follows:
(Hiker Name)
PO BOX 03279
Warren, NH

Don’t forget to write “hold for AT thru-hiker” on the box!

Look for a bunch of pictures and videos in the link on the left! We’re having a great time!

I got all the packages that were sent to me – thanks so much! I have *so much* food, now – it’ll take me quite a while to get through it all. I might even have enough to make it to Warren without resupplying! We shall see! I have WiFi here and can receive emails and intermittent text messages!