Thursday, September 29, 2011

September 28

We heard the loons calling on the lake last night...incredible!
We were up before daylight and on the trail at dawn...another perfect day! We planned 18.6 miles to Caratunk but had to catch the ferry across the Kennebec River before 4. We had two short, gradual climbs in the morning and then it was mostly flat and gentle downhill for the rest of the day. My knee was a bit painful but it was nothing I couldn't handle.
After just a few miles we came to a road crossing and there was a note there that said "You're not gonna make it unless you road walk!" and it gave directions for a road walk to avoid a 7-mile section of trail that was full of bogs and fords. Did it make me nervous? Very. But I'm not going to road walk and miss the trail unless it's absolutely necessary! So, we continued along and passed a southbounder not long after who told us we had beautiful trail ahead...and we did! If there's one thing I've learned out here it's not to believe what people tell you about the trail!
The trail was smooth in parts and rough in others, but we moved quickly. We walked beside East Carry Pond (I think) for a while and it was gorgeous and full of waves in the breeze. We had to cross a flooded section on planks but it wasn't a big deal. At another point we walked along a wooden dam on twisty planks with water spilling beneath us and down a waterfall.
When we got down to the Kennebec River and I saw its power I was so thankful for the ferry! There is a dam upstream and the depth and current can change rapidly, so hikers are warned not to ford it. Instead, there is a guy who comes across in a canoe and takes you to the other side. This is actually the trail; there is even a blaze on the bottom of the boat! Hillbilly Dave saw us waiting on the bank and paddled across to pick us up. Bear Bag sat in front and paddled and I got to sit in the middle and enjoy the ride (although I took a couple strokes just to say I did!) The ferryman told us the river was running unusually fast, and it was about 8 feet deep in the center. They were paddling as hard as they could and we were barely moving! We had to go a ways upstream and then drift back to the landing on the other side. It was the wildest and roughest canoe ride I've ever taken; there were even little white caps on the water! We made it safely to the other side and followed the trail to a road crossing. Caratunk was nearby and we needed food; after a long wait we finally got a hitch to Berry's general store...a poor selection but it'll do for a few days. Then we got a hitch to Northern Outdoors, a lodge (cheap hiker rates!) with a pub on site. We got a room, showered, and enjoyed real food in the restaurant. I feel good.
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September 27 - 2

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September 27

A gorgeous morning in the mountains! There was not a cloud in the sky as the two of us packed our things and climbed the South Horn. We had an awesome view of the valley and fog below. From there we climbed the west peak of Bigelow Mountain for 360 degree views of everything, including a huge lake which we found later to be Flagstaff Lake. At this point, we also crossed the 2000-mile mark! Incredible.
Avery Peak was the last of the range and we climbed the rocky summit for even more spectacular views. A man who thru-hiked in 1969 was out for the day and he spoke with us for a bit...I can't imagine how difficult the trail would have been back then! We had a long descent and took a lunch break at the bottom. Supposedly these climbs were the last big ones before Katahdin!
The terrain flattened out a lot and was a bit less rugged as we passed over Little Bigelow Mountain and stopped for a break at the shelter below. We filled up on water and headed north for 2.5 more miles to a campsite. We crossed a road and then came to a flooded section of Flagstaff Lake. There was a plank bridge across but it was floating in the deep, murky water. No way around either. Bear Bag went first, forgoing my suggestion to change into his crocs, and as soon as he stepped on the plank it sunk and his feet got wet. He walked the rest of the way across, each step pushing the planks beneath the water, but he made it across without further incident. Then it was my turn. I put my crocs on, waded out to the planks, and walked across while Bear Bag steadied them from the other side. The water was deep and I was terrified of falling in but I made it with only wet feet and legs. The next mile was fairly easy but I was happy to reach the camp site at Flagstaff Lake. We are the only ones here tonight...why do I always hear strange noises when no one else is around..? Tomorrow calls for more great weather, and tomorrow we cross the Kennebec!
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September 26

We escaped town!
We slept until about 7:30 and ate Lucky Charms and donuts for breakfast. Then Bear Bag and I went to the post office; he mailed home his trekking poles, which he hasn't been using, and I sent home my Marmot rain jacket that soaks up water (I had a different jacket mailed to me in Andover). We walked back to the motel and lounged around until check-out time, and figured we'd get lunch in town. Sundance and Pace, Snowy, Bear Bag, and I wanted to go to a diner on the edge of town, too far away to walk. So we tried to hitch there but weren't having any luck. The other three decided to just get pizza from the general store just as a lady walked up and offered a ride, but she only had room for two. Bear Bag and I took her up on it. She and her husband drove us to the diner, but it was closed! So, they just took us back to the trail.
It was smooth walking for the first two miles and I felt good. The day was gorgeous and warm, and my knee didn't bother me at all. We took a lunch break at a campsite and then started up the Bigelows. The climb was long but not very difficult, although it took us awhile. We got to Horns Pond Lean-Tos around 4 and decided to stay at this beautiful spot. There are wonderful flat tent sites and a really nice and clean privy! We sat down by the pond for awhile before cooking dinner and getting into bed to warm up; it will be a chilly night at 3000-some feet! We expected Sundance, Pace, and Snowy to show up but found out they took another zero!..good thing we got that hitch out of town!!
It still seems strange to picture myself on a map and to think I'm all the way up in Maine. And I walked here, from Georgia! We cross 2000 miles tomorrow morning...It's almost unbelievable.
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September 25

I set my alarm for 6:30 but we didn't get up until closer to 7:30. The three of us headed to the Stratton Diner for breakfast and then went back to the room with the intention to pack up and leave...buuuut, we decided on a zero instead. It's so easy to talk yourself into a zero in town...
The three of us ate lunch at the diner downstairs and played dominos while waiting for our food. Bear Bag and I then went to the grocery store and bought cereal and milk for breakfast, and sandwich fixings for dinner. Basically I laid around all day. And it felt good.
And I'm writing this a couple of days late, hence the poor quality.
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September 24

It started raining around 2:30 last night and rained steadily for a few hours, but it was only dripping when I woke around 6:15. Bear Bag, Snowy, and I left the beautiful campsite near the river to climb the south and north peaks of Crocker. It was steep going and I was sweating like crazy in the humid air! My knee felt pretty good though and I was thankful for it!
Once we got over the north peak it was smooth sailing down to the road. As soon as we got to the parking lot, a guy (who thru-ed in 1997) offered us cold soda, fried chicken, and a ride into town...that was easy! We checked into the White Wolf Inn and headed over to the Stratton Diner. The food was good but I was really looking forward to a shower! of the best feelings out here. I had to scrub the mud off my legs but I came out clean and refreshed. Bear Bag took care of laundry and when he returned we went to the grocery store to resupply. I wasn't very hungry for dinner so I didn't go with Bear Bag and Snowy to the restaurant here at the motel, but I ended up eating an entire bag of popcorn and ice cream for dinner. We're hoping to get out early tomorrow morning and conquer the Bigelows, the last of the big climbs before Katahdin!
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

September 23

It rained last night but the morning was sunny. Bear Bag and I were the first to leave camp and we headed downhill to Orbeton Stream. It was possible but scary to rock-hop so we both donned our crocs and waded across the knee-deep water. We took a break on the other side and Snowy, Sundance, and Pacemaker caught up to us. From there it was uphill to Lone Mountain, and then we actually had some flat/easy terrain! And it was wonderful to just hike again.
We took a break with a big thru-hiker crowd at Spaulding Mountain Shelter, and from there we left with Snowy for another climb, up Spaulding Mountain. It was a steep and rocky downhill to the south branch of the Carrabassett River, but we got some amazing views of the fall colors on the way down!
I noticed a few days ago that my right knee was feeling a bit odd. On downhill and flat sections, the front outside of my knee seems to be tight and it feels like something is pulling when I take a step. I wasn't really concerned about it until today when it really started to bother me. Instead of a tight feeling, it was giving me a sharp pain with each step, similar to that I had in my left knee for about the first month of this trip. I tied a banana around the base of my knee to put pressure on it but that didn't seem to help. I'm hoping it doesn't get any worse; 200 miles on a painful knee would not be fun!
When we got to the Carrabassett, we had to cross...the book has this listed as a ford but the water was low enough that we could rock-hop on boulders. There was a rope across to help but it was still a scary crossing with 2-3 feet of water raging below. There is a campsite on the other side and we stopped for the day along with Sundance and Pacemaker, Snowy, Engineer, Yoga Boy, and James...a crowd! Tomorrow we are all heading up and over the Crockers to Stratton for resupply, laundry, and showers...and food, of course!
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September 22

The bed last night was absolutely wonderful. I got up around 6:30; Snowy and Bear Bag slept until 7. We got packed up (taking some poptarts from the coffee table in the lobby), and walked to the grocery store less than a half mile away. We played the banana game, where you call "banana" on any yellow motorized got pretty intense; Snowy and I had 20 points and Bear Bag got 40. It always brings lots of laughs!
We got to the grocery store and bought breakfast and snacks for the next few days. We sat out front on the sidewalk and ate...Old School, James, Yoga Boy, and Engineer showed up as well. We decided we should get moving so stuck our thumbs out on the road (playing banana of course) took awhile but a guy finally pulled over for us. It was nearly 11 when we got started up Saddleback Mountain. The climb wasn't very difficult and we passed some beautiful ponds along the way. The top was pretty foggy but we had some passing views. Next was a climb up The Horn and we had some amazing views! Maine is difficult but wonderful.
We took a break at the bottom and met the Potato Man, who thru-hiked in 2002, doing a section southbound. He told us some stories about his hike, and actually teared up as he talked about reaching Katahdin. It was then that it really hit home that this trip is nearly over. I teared up as well.
Next was Saddleback Junior and then it was down to Poplar Ridge Lean-To. It's crowded here tonight; a full shelter and tents all around. It's late too...Snowy and Sundance have been bickering about Into the Wild and everyone else has been chiming in opinions. Haha, lots of laughs for sure.
It only sprinkled on us a bit today so hopefully we will get lucky and stay dry tomorrow as well! We're going to try to get as close as we can to Stratton!
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September 21

I was so thankful for the sunshine today! Snowy left with Bear Bag and me and we had to cross the stream near where we camped. Supposedly this was a "ford" according to the guidebook but we were able to walk upstream a bit and cross on some logs and rocks; only my left foot got wet. We had a climb after that, up to a construction site on a road, and from the road we had an amazing view of a lake and the beginnings of fall colors in the morning light. Beautiful!
The profile for the trail today looked easy and we were hoping to make great time ("Virginia cruising" as we call it), but it was so rough that we couldn't...again, rocks, roots, mud, wet rocks, wet roots, deep mud. We passed a pond (Moxie?) and stopped for a quick break at a sandy beach area. It was gorgeous!...that's what I love about Maine: mountains, ponds, and nothing else. Few roads, few people, little sound. It's wonderful.
We took a longer than intended lunch break at Sabbath Day Pond Shelter and decided there to do 10 more miles to Rangeley as opposed to 12 more miles to a shelter. The terrain got a bit better from there and we made decent time, doing the ten miles in about 4 hours. The more level ground made for less falls but the mud caused lots of slips and I fell once after tripping on a root. Snowy and Bear Bag were just a bit ahead of me and I got to the parking lot and they already had a ride waiting! I jumped in and the guy took us to the Saddleback Motor Inn on the edge of Rangeley. The shower felt wonderful and we ate at the restaurant downstairs. It's supposed to rain for the next few days and I am not looking forward to that. The rain worries me about stream fords as well...
I found out that Muffin Man summited on the 13th! Congrats to him! And Pappy's hand is better and he's back on the trail!
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September 20

Snowy, Bear Bag, and I got up at 6 and walked to the diner for breakfast. French toast and bacon hit the spot, and then it was a fast walk back to the hostel in the rain. Our shuttle left at 8 and we were back on the trail at 8:30...not bad for a morning after a night in town! It was still raining but only lightly and once we were in the woods it wasn't much of a bother. We had a climb for about 2.5 miles right off the bat and then the terrain flattened out a lot compared to what it has been. We were hoping to make good time on this section but there were so many rocks and roots and so much mud that we couldn't move quickly. The rain stopped for a bit and then sprinkled on us later but again wasn't anything to worry about, although the rocks and roots were wet and slippery, slippery, slippery. We took a break at Bemis Mountain Shelter with Yoga Boy and Engineer, and then continued on our way. We passed some southbounders who told us of boggy, muddy conditions ahead; I know not to trust word of mouth completely but their attitudes got me worried! I'm hoping it's nothing more difficult than what we've seen already.
More wet rocks and roots, especially on the downhills, led to more slips and more falls...I fell once, Snowy fell once, and Bear Bag took the cake with a total of 9 falls today. Nine! We stopped for the night at a campsite near a stream. Yoga Boy and Engineer stopped here with us plus No Worries...a little tent city in the woods! Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be nicer; maybe we can get some good hiking in..?
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 19

Last night wasn't as cold and I was comfortable in my tent. We were up at 6, packed up, and headed downhill to find Snowy waiting for us at a waterfall! We hiked with him up to East B Hill Road where he had stashed his pack, and continued on our way. We had almost 6 miles of gradual uphill that wasn't difficult but became annoying after awhile and wore me out at the end. We took a break at Hall Mountain Shelter, refilled on water, and followed the trail down a steep descent. From the bottom, we went right back up Moody Mountain, a steep climb at first with lots of ladders and rebar, but it flattened out after about an hour. I had to make a pit stop (maybe it's the cheese or pepperoni from those weekend hikers?) partway up and got to the top to find Snowy and Bear Bag waiting at a beautiful view. Snowy had plastered mud on half of his face Braveheart-style and it cracked us both up. We called Pine Ellis Hostel to let them know we were close to the road, and then made the easy descent to South Arm Road, and it's a good thing the hostel does shuttles because it was a country road with very little traffic! David gave us each a lemonade and drove us to his house where he runs the hostel. Bear Bag and I walked to the post office to pick up packages and then headed to the general store/diner with Snowy for dinner and an expensive and selective resupply. I got a shower, we did laundry, and it's been a lazy evening.
Supposedly the terrain only gets easier from here, so I'm looking forward to making more progress. If only we don't get the rain that's forecasted this week!
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September 18

Another cold morning but not as numbing as yesterday. The two of us left camp for a rocky and unexpectedly difficult climb up Old Speck Mountain. The morning was full of sunshine and we had a great view of the valley below, spotted with fog. From there the trail turned downhill for more than 3 miles, an easy grade that was smooth walking. We took a lunch break in the sunshine in the parking lot at Grafton Notch and were visited by Soda Mike, a park ranger in the area. He pulled out an ice cold root beer for each of us and it was probably the best root beer I'd ever had! We haven't had trail magic for awhile and it came at an opportune time, after a couple of hard days. So nice. Muldoon was getting dropped off from being in town so we chatted with him a bit; he had done the notch in the rain and had a few rough days and thought about getting off the close to the end! A few days in town turned his mind around and I was glad to see him back on the trail!
From Grafton Notch we started the climb up Baldpate Mountain; the first half was well-graded and it felt good to hike uphill steadily. We took a break at Baldpate Shelter and finished the climb up the mountain, steep but I felt strong. We emerged on the west peak and had an intimidating view of the east peak! We could see Engineer and Yoga Boy on their way up, straight up the rocky face! We started our way up and I was thankful for the dry rocks; my feet had a good grip and we made it to the top easily for an awesome, awesome view of the mountains all around. The downhill side was tricky and steep, but I only fell once on a wet rock! Once we were down a ways it smoothed out and was easy walking to Frye Notch Shelter, where we took a quick break and kept going. We hoped to make it 4.5 miles further but were running out of daylight and found a stealth site just as it was getting dark. We cooked dinner by headlamp and are planning 12-ish miles into Andover tomorrow. Snowy is there tonight, but there are two ways to get to town so he will do the 10 miles between the roads with us tomorrow and stay in town again. And no, we're not taking a zero!!
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Monday, September 19, 2011

September 17

A cold, cold thermometer this morning in the shelter read 35. Surely it was into the 20s last night! It was tough getting out of bed this morning but Bear Bag and I got on the road and warmed up with a quick climb. From there the trail turned and we headed downhill for awhile...down a trail with no blazes. That's got to be one of the most frustrating things, when the trail isn't marked. It felt right though and we headed down a steep trail and finally saw a sign at the bottom for the AT! Such a relief as I would not have enjoyed hiking back up! The sign marked the beginning of the Mahoosuc Notch, a boulder jumble between two mountains. The guidebook describes this as "The most difficult or fun mile on the AT?" It was fun for about the first hour. We climbed up and over and around boulders, holding difficult positions for pictures. We were laughing and smiling and enjoying ourselves. Two hours later, when we finally reached the other end, only 1.3 miles away, I was no longer smiling. It took 3 hours. Three hours. My body was exhausted from the effort...we had to climb, lower ourselves down, jump, slide down rounded boulders on our butts, take our packs off and far the craziest "hiking" I've ever done. We took a break at the end and were passed by some section hikers who gave us some food!...cheese, pepperoni, and crackers. We then began the climb up the Mahoosuc Arm, which was supposedly just as difficult as the notch, but was nothing we hadn't done before. A few technical sections but nothing too difficult and we had a great view at the top! We could see Mt Washington and Mt Madison, Wildcat, Carter many mountains and it was a gorgeous sunny day. From there we descended down to Speck Pond Shelter, a beautiful place with the pond nearby. Moose in the morning? Chatter is here as well along with the section hikers who gave us food earlier, and they gave us homemade apple pie tonight...delicious! It's another cold night and hopefully another sunny day tomorrow!
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September 16

Cold, wind, rain, snow, wind, Maine!, cold, sleet, wind, sun!, wind, mud, sleet, snow, wind, cold...
I was toasty warm last night but it was a chilly morning and a cold, cold day. We left this morning and started our way up Mt Success, and the wind was roaring. Near the top, we said goodbye to Snowy who was planning to do a bigger day than us. It started to sprinkle on the way up and the top was exposed and very, very cold and windy! It took awhile for my hands to regain feeling! After that, we climbed through a dangerously slick boulder field and down a slick rock slab that I went sliding down on my butt uncontrollably and went rolling into the mud at the bottom. So much for dry and clean clothes! I've lost count of falls...13 now? But shortly after, we saw the sign for Maine! Snowy and Chatter were taking a break there so we ate lunch as well, took our pictures with the sign, and were shivering like crazy so we kept moving. It started to sprinkle again and then it snowed! So cold; the thermometer on my pack said 38 degrees! It sleeted on us a bit and then stopped, and we had some crazy terrain to welcome us to Maine! There was a boulder jumble with about a 5 foot drop-off that we descended. Basically I just lifted myself down between a crack. Later we had a climb that was straight up a rock face, and there was actually iron debar bolted into the rock and a wooden ladder further up. But, the sun came out and we had a great view from the top! Windy though, and I was knocked off balance several times! The clouds rolled back in and we got more snow and more wind as we crossed a ridge. There were lots of planks to walk on in sloppy areas but some were sunken so we had to pick our way around...needless to say, my feet got wet! More rebar on a downhill and we finally made it 9.6 miles to Full Goose took us all day! Full shelter tonight with Goopah, Walking Home, Achilles, Chatter, Engineer, Yoga Boy, Snowy, Bear Bag, and myself. We have a huge fire going and it is going to be COLD tonight! Mahoosuc Notch tomorrow!
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September 15

I couldn't get to sleep last night but slept well once I did. We got up at about 6:30 this morning and the hostel provided breakfast: quiche, hash browns, bacon, sausage, muffins, and melon. Bear Bag, Snowy, and I got packed up and left the hostel around 8:45. The trail actually goes right along the road in front of the hostel, so no hitch necessary! We road walked for maybe half a mile before the trail turned off into the woods. We had a climb right off the bat but it was fairly gentle. And we were hoping the clouds would hold the rain but that didn't happen and it started sprinkling about a half hour after we left. The sprinkling turned to rain and soon we were all soaked. The climb last for about 4 miles and the rain stopped once we got to the top! We took a short lunch break since we were getting chilled from being wet and got back on the trail. We wanted to do 17 miles today and cross into Maine but it started to rain again and hiking in the rain is not very fun. I only fell once though, but got my butt dirty! The trail was muddy and sloppy, which slowed us down some, and we got to Gentian Pond Shelter around 4 and called it a day. It cooled off during the day and was about 50 degrees at this time, so changing into dry clothes felt wonderful! English Chatter, Flyfeet, and Walking Home are here as well, and it's going to be a cold one tonight...forecast in the 30s! Thankful for a roof in the rain...
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September 14

Oh goodness are we digging ourselves into a hole?
I've been sneezing for a couple of days now and woke up with a full-blown head cold this morning. Stuffy/runny nose, watering eyes, sore throat, cough, headache, stuffy head, stiff neck, and a stomachache that's taken me to the bathroom much more than normal. The plan today was 17 miles to Maine. We had an alarm set for 6 and I vaguely remember waking up this morning, rolling over, and going back to sleep. Bear Bag woke up at 8 and Snowy and I were still we figured 12 miles would suffice.
I could have hiked today. I didn't/don't feel good, and it wouldn't have been my favorite day on the trail, but I could have hiked...but we didn't.
We went down to the lobby and Lisa at the front desk had made Snowy a birthday cake! His birthday is the 18th and he found out she loves to bake, so he talked her into making him a cake. Oh, Snowy. It was delicious though and the cake was breakfast for three with leftovers. After a bit Bear Bag was hungry for "real food" so I walked with him to Burger King.
We talked about getting a room at the hotel but they were booked, so Snowy called Steerman and Turtle Feet, who are staying at the White Mountains Hostel, and the hostel shuttle that was out on a Walmart run stopped and picked us up! We went to the post office, Walmart, and Burger King, and then to the hostel. We got checked and settled in, and since then lots more people have shown's a full house tonight! This is a nice place though, with real beds and sheets and everything! Tomorrow it's supposed to rain but we're planning to get out early and make it to Maine!

Oh, and congrats to Fiber and Veto who summited Katahdin this morning! It's hard to believe the end is really up there...
I'm not sure where Muffin Man is but Pappy has been taking some time off due to an infection in his hand. Hopefully he can heal and finish!
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September 13

So if I had the guilties about zeros before, I definitely have them now. An intended 17-mile day turned into a 12-mile day turned into a zero. We all slept later than intended and didn't get out of the room until checkout at 11...tomorrow we are setting alarms!!
We went to the library to use the computers, and then Bear Bag and I went to Subway for a late lunch. We went to play racquetball this evening but the court was occupied so we killed time at Dunkin Donuts until 7 when we could use the court. I lost as usual but we all had a great time.
I'm starting to feel the time crunch.
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September 12

A late, late night turned into an "I'm still tired" morning. Bear Bag and Snowy went to Dunkin Donuts and brought back breakfast. We packed our bags and Snowy went over to talk to Lisa at the front desk. He called us and said that we could get a room (not the apartment--a real doctor was coming) tonight for even cheaper. Sigh...
Stiff and sore from yesterday, we all agreed to stay again, and I got another case of the guilties. I want to enjoy this trip but I don't want to put things off until the last minute. But, I can't say I didn't enjoy the day...
We had McDonald's for lunch (is it strange that I'm almost craving trail food?) And came back to the room for a bit. I sewed up a pair of Bear Bag's shorts that ripped...a very crude and ugly job but I think it will do the trick. We went downstairs to the health club next; Bear Bag and Snowy played racquetball and I went to the pool. After a few minutes I was the only person there and it was amazing and so relaxing. I swam, soaked in the hot tub, and cleansed in the sauna. Then it was my turn for racquetball and Snowy annihilated me. He and Bear Bag played again while I shot a basketball and then I played Bear Bag in racquetball...a very fun sport! He won but I gave him a run for his money!
We went to Mr. Pizza for dinner and Gumby and his friend Rebecca joined us...then it was back to the room for good and I am tired!
We're walking to Maine tomorrow!! Unbelievable.
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September 11

The gondola didn't start operating until 10 this morning so Snowy, Bear Bag, and I took our time getting ready and ate breakfast at McDonald's. We stuck our thumbs out and a woman and her daughter offered a ride to us from a parking lot across the street. We were on the gondola right at 10 for a mostly smooth (minus the wind) ride up, and got on the trail at 10:20. We finished climbing Wildcat (the trail crosses 4 of the 5 peaks) and then it was a steep downhill to Carter Notch, where we stopped at Carter Notch Hut for bathroom breaks and water. The hut workers had made a bunch of food and shared with us: nachos, chicken nuggets, peanut butter bars. We were there longer than anticipated, about a half hour, and got back on the trail a little before 1 to climb a steep Carter Dome. The day was sunny and perfect and we got some amazing views on the way up! Since today is September 11, volunteers planted flags on all 48 4000-footers in New Hampshire. We saw the one on Carter...quite a sight!
From the top, the terrain was supposed to be a bit easier for the rest of the day. We had lots of downhill though and my knees were killing me! On our way down to the side trail to Imp Shelter, the trail was rocky, tricky, and very technical...lots of slips and sliding and scooting down rock slabs...again very hard on my knees. We stopped for a break at the side trail and filled up on water. I had told myself that I wouldn't take ibuprofen until I "broke" my foot again, but I broke down and took two...sigh. And it really didn't even help my aching knees and feet. It was 5:30 when we left with almost 8 miles to go...very discouraging! We had one more climb for the day and got some amazing views of the beginnings of a sunset behind the mountains in the distance. Such a wonderful day! From there it was mostly downhill, so that meant more joint pounding. At about 7:30 we stopped and put our headlamps on, and I took the lead since I'm the slowest and we didn't want to get separated in the dark. About an hour later we heard rushing water and saw a tent set up along the trail. A woman said she was stopped dead in her tracks when she came to the river and didn't want to cross it in the dark, so she set up camp right there. Her attitude scared me a bit but we checked things out and the crossing was not difficult at all, although intense in the dark! We crossed Rattle River one more time, then came to Rattle River Shelter, and knew we were getting close...only 2 more miles! The trail was wonderful...flat, wide, and somewhat smooth. We were flying since we wanted to be done for the day, and we surprisingly got to the road only a little more than 30 minutes later, right at 9:30. So relieved to be done! The only problem was getting back to town...
None of us had ever hitchhiked in the dark and we weren't sure what to expect. The road wasn't busy but we had a plan: when a car came, I would stick my thumb out appearing to be a female in distress, and Snowy would high beam me with his light so the driver could see me clearly. Three or four cars passed in about 10 minutes and then one pulled over for us! The guy drove us the 3.6 miles into town and dropped us off at Burger King. With food in our bellies we walked to the hotel and started the shower train. I was so dirty today; my legs were just covered in mud. The shower was amazing and we're all exhausted; I was the last one and when I got out of the shower, Snowy and Bear Bag were both sound asleep! It's been a long 18-mile day and I am ready for sleep as well!
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Monday, September 12, 2011

September 10

It's always difficult to get back on the road after a zero...let alone two! Breakfast at Burger King and a quick hitch back to Pinkham Notch. There were so many people! I couldn't believe the amount of dayhikers we saw. The three of us hung around the visitor center for awhile and got on the trail about 11:30. Slow going as we climbed a rugged Wildcat Mountain. We got great views on the way up of Washington and all the mountains in the distance. About halfway up we stopped for a break and I decided to collapse my poles and stow them in my pack. First time I haven't used them on this trip! It felt very strange at first but the freedom I had moving uphill was wonderful. I could move much faster by using my hands to pull myself up over the rocks without worrying about my poles dragging behind my arms and getting stuck on something. The only problem was downhill...I depend on my poles a lot for downhill and it was very, very hard on my knees to descend without them. I'm not sure if I'll make sans-pole hiking part of my daily routine.
We got to Wildcat peak D (there are 5 peaks), where there is a gondola that runs up and down the mountain. Aaand, of course someone (I think it was Snowy?) had to mention taking the gondola down and going back to town tonight. There are two road crossings to Gorham that we pass, and the plan was to make it to the second tomorrow and go back into town to resupply. We calculated that if we took the gondola down, stayed in town, rode it back up in the morning, and did about 18 miles tomorrow, we would end up in the same place as planned. Hmmm, another shower? A bed?
Honestly, it didn't take much convincing for any of us, and Snowy called the Royalty Inn, sweet-talked the front desk clerk (same one we dealt with yesterday) and scored us an entire apartment for the same rate as a room. Seriously?! No way we could turn that down; before we knew it we were on the gondola descending from Wildcat. We hitched a ride to Walmart to resupply tonight since tomorrow is a big day. We loaded our packs into carts and headed up and down the aisles. Bear Bag and Snowy got fried chicken and I bought a Lunchable (ha, strangely I've been craving that for awhile), and we sat in front of Walmart eating our dinners. I love being a bum. We started walking toward the road to hitch a ride to the hotel and before we even stuck our thumbs out a guy pulled over and offered a ride! We checked into this amazing apartment (Lisa at the front desk told us that out-of-town doctors normally stay here when they come to work at the hospital nearby) bedroom plus a sleeper sofa, full kitchen, washer, dryer...everything. Amazing! We headed to the pool, hut tub, and sauna, and then tried our hand at racquetball. Bear Bag has played before so he taught Snowy and me and we enjoyed a game full of laughs. Bear Bag won of course, and we didn't leave the rec center until almost 10. Chickadee and Honeybee are in town too and they are crashing on the floor tonight because they didn't have anywhere to stay. Today has been an adventure but tomorrow is going to be a challenge for sure!
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September 9

A wonderful night's sleep turned into a late morning; we all slept until 8:30! Snowy, Bear Bag, and I packed up and headed down the street to McDonald's for breakfast. It was about 10:30 when we were finished and we had to digest a bit. And then we figured we would just stick around for lunch too...and then someone mentioned "zero"...sigh. And sadly, no one else opposed the idea...sigh. We were at McDonald's until almost 1...and it's hard to start hiking in the middle of the day. Double zero it was.
We went to the bookstore and the outfitter and checked into the Royalty Inn. The three of us went to Mr. Pizza for an early dinner and came back to the hotel to take advantage of the pool and hot tub. So nice! A shower followed...3 days in a row of showers! I'm so spoiled.
Zeros are nice but I'm starting to feel guilty about taking them. Katahdin closes October 15 and any day before then for bad weather. What if we don't make it? What if we're waiting at the bottom for good weather and we miss the deadline? I didn't walk more than 1800 miles to fail. What if I fail?
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September 8

We woke to more cloudy skies and decided we didn't want to climb Wildcat Mountain in bad weather, in Gorham! We ate breakfast at Burger King, hung around for awhile, and ate Chinese for lunch. We stopped at a convenience store to restock our food bags with snacks, stopped by an outfitter that actually sold trekking pole tips so Bear Bag fixed his broken pole, and did more tv watching and other nothingness this afternoon. We saw lots of people we know in town! We went to Pizza Hut again for dinner and on our way back saw Snowy walking down the street in need of a place to stay, so he is in with us tonight! Oh, and we are actually supposed to have some nice weather for the next few days!
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 7

Up at 6 again...I love staying in the huts but I don't get much sleep! Up until 10 and sleep until 6...we need more rest! We woke to more rain...
We helped set the tables for breakfast, cleaned up after everyone was finished, and enjoyed the delicious leftover quiche, cornbread, and oatmeal. After that was more cleaning. I swept and tidied the bunk rooms with Beer Burger and scrubbed a muffin pan with steel wool. Bear Bag and I left a bit before 10 for 7.8 miles to the road to Gorham. We started up Mt Madison and I thought to myself, This isn't so bad...
And then we got to the top of the mountain.
I've been hiking for more than 1800 miles and almost 6 months and I have never been more miserable. The mountain and ridge were a scramble of sharp rocks to walk over, and the rain made it difficult to step without slipping. Add to that 40 mph wind with higher gusts, 40-degree weather before windchill, and 20-foot visibility. I was cold, wet, and couldn't move fast enough to warm myself up. My nose was running from the cold and the snot was literally blowing out of my nose, across my face, and down over the mountain. Not my finest moment. The rain was stinging and the wind crippling...a few times I had to stop and brace myself before I took another step. At one point I half slipped and half blew over and found myself sitting on a rock slab. Cairns marked the trail and we could barely see the next cairn when standing at one. Crazy. What was even more frustrating was our slow pace. We had been traveling for an hour when we passed a sign that said Madison Spring Hut was .7 miles back. A half hour later we passed the 1-mile-away sign. So slow and all I wanted to do was get off of that ridge!
I'm not sure how long we were above treeline but never in my life was I so happy to see trees when we finally started to descend. The foliage blocked the wind and I also was never happier to be hiking in rain. Just rain. Still cold though but we were able to move faster as the trail became a rock and soil mixture. After a steep downhill the trail was pretty flat for the rest of the day. Lots of mud and water everywhere and several stream crossings. Soaked to the bone, Bear Bag and I made it to Pinkham Notch and hitched a ride with a guy who worked with the park service. He drove us into Gorham and we stopped at Burger King for first dinner. We checked out a couple hotels and settled on the cheaper, The Top Notch Inn. A hot shower and laundry cycle later, I am warm and dry and feel human again. We had pizza for dinner and I cannot wait to sleep in in the morning!
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September 6

We got to sleep in until 7 this morning! A good night's sleep. It was still raining but slacked off and stopped completely by 8 or so. Breakfast was not the most delicious but I was still happy to eat real food as opposed to pop tarts: gobs and gobs of cream of wheat, 1 slice of bacon for each of the 11 hikers, half of a slice of a German pancake, and a bite of eggs for everyone...leftovers don't stretch far enough for 11 hiker appetites! Our work was intense: a few washed dishes, some scrubbed dish racks, and the rest of us scrubbed the dining room floor. The work lasted awhile and we didn't leave the hut until after 10. We began the climb up Washington, about 5 miles to Lakes of the Clouds. The terrain was fairly easy but it was cold, windy, and started sprinkling on us. Not pleasant on the ridgeline! The clouds were thick but finally started to clear as we neared the hut. We stopped there for soup...and we all paid for endless soup but they cut us off after a bit...thought it was endless? No one was very happy about that. We left there with Snowy for a pretty easy climb up Mt Washington, the second highest point on the trail at 6288 feet. Long Trail came as well, without a pack, because she was staying at Lakes and wanted to get a good view since tomorrow it's supposed to rain again. We got pictures at the sign, stopped by the snack bar, and actually got a view on top! We had about 6 more miles to Madison Spring Hut, a beautiful ridgeline hike that was clear and full of views! So happy we had at least SOME nice weather. It felt amazing; the Whites are absolutely beautiful. Slow going on rocks though but we made it to the hut around 7:30 and scored a work for stay! There are 12 of us here tonight: Gumby, Snowy, Urkle, Shepherd, Lemon, Fish, Beer Burger, Old School, Bear Bag and I, and two sobos. Lasagna for dinner and I am worn out and ready for bed and a shower tomorrow!
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 5

Another early morning on the dining room floor. We were up at 6 to lightning and rain but the rain stopped and the sky cleared around 7:30. We ate breakfast leftovers: eggs, oatmeal, bacon, and muffins, and swept the hut. The croo didn't have anything else for us so Long Trail, Snowy, Bear Bag, and I all left together around 9:30...with a note from the croo to Mizpah Spring Hut saying that they should let us work for stay as well! Golden ticket? So our plan was 14 miles to Mizpah. The first 5 miles were mostly flat and we averaged 3 felt so good! We took a break at Ethan Pond Shelter and then headed downhill for a few miles to 302, which is closed in one section because it got washed out in the hurricane. We took a break there and started up Mt Webster...a steep and exhausting climb. We got to Webster Cliffs and kind of had a view, but it starting sprinkling on us about that time. It started pouring as we climbed Mt Webster...literally CLIMBED Mt Webster. Lots of rock faces with hand-over-hand climbing...enjoyable but dangerous and slippery in the rain. With my exertion it was too hot to wear rain gear, so I just got soaked. Then we had about 3 more wet miles to the hut, including more rock climbing up Mt Jackson. By this time the rain had returned to sprinkling, but with the wind I was getting chilled since I was soaked. The downhill was even more dangerous as we had to navigate more wet rock faces. I was completely soaked and was just sloshing through all of the mud and puddles and stream of a feet went completely under muddy water on multiple occasions. It was about 6:30 when I finally arrived at the hut...and all 4 of us got the work for stay! Several others here as well, probably about 10 thru-hikers total. We had dinner leftovers: turkey, pasta, soup, and cookies, and we did some cleaning afterwards. I made my bed again on the dining room floor and it feels AMAZING to be wearing dry clothes and to be out of the rain!
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September 4

The dining room floor was a luxurious shelter and we got up around 6 to clear our things out of the way for breakfast. Gumby, Snowy, Sky High, Bear Bag, and I helped set the tables and then waited until breakfast was finished. We cleared the tables and it was our turn to eat! We had leftover pancakes, oatmeal, and lemon poppyseed pop tarts any day! We swept the dining room and bunkrooms and were free to go...but we didn't.
We knew there was a chance of rain so we planned to only go 6.8 miles to the next hut, Zealand Falls. We hung around with the croo for awhile and finally left around 10:30. The day started off with a steep but enjoyable rocky climb up South Twin Mountain...a 1200-foot gain over .7 miles! It was cold and windy at the top, but we descended quickly and then followed the ridgeline for most of the day. Long Trail and Icebreak were stopped along the trail for lunch so we joined them and Gumby and Snowy came shortly after. We left with Snowy River for the few remaining miles, which were fairly flat until a downhill at the end. We heard rumbles of thunder and got a few sprinkles but thankfully it didn't last.
We came across Gumby waiting on the side of the trail shortly before the hut. It was about 3:30 and we figured it was too early to ask for work-for-stay...we waited around a bit but got impatient and headed to the hut anyway. We got bowls of soup and scored a work for stay! Long Trail and a southbounder are here as well. Gumby hiked on and Snowy scored the ultimate...a guest's husband wasn't able to make it to the hut and she didn't cancel the reservation...Snowy yogi-ed the spot! He got to eat dinner with the guests! And he gets a bunk tonight! We're all so jealous.
Dinner was stuffed pasta shells, salad, corn, bread, and cookies for dessert. We're getting spoiled with this hut food! After dinner we were part of the "thru-hiker program" and told stories of our adventures to the guests. The croo said they don't have a lot of work for us so will probably just have us sweep in the morning...good deal for us!
It started raining around 7 and has been storming since. The forecast calls for heavy rain tonight and tomorrow. Are we going to get any more views in the whites?!
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 3

We woke up to the horrible sound of rain. It wasn't hard but sprinkled/misted for about a half hour. It stopped a bit before 7 so I started packing up. We finished the climb we started yesterday right off the bat, had a nice but short flat section, and then we headed up Franconia Ridge. The trail here is above the treeline with
360 degree views for 2 miles, and supposedly has the best views on the trail. Unfortunately today we had 2 miles of cloud walking. The ridge was cold, windy, and foggy, with visibility maybe 50 yards at best. No views. Incredibly disappointing. What's even more disappointing is that we are supposed to get rain for the next 3 days. Read: no views. The best part of the trail with no views. Sigh...
The ridge walk was still enjoyable, although chilly. We crossed over Mt Lincoln and Mt Lafayette...we got above 5000 feet for the first time in a long time! It was hard to find the trail at times with the poor visibility. I was leading and took a wrong turn, walked 20 or so yards out of the way, and slipped and fell on a rock. All for nothing! Doesn't count in my falls though since it wasn't on the trail!
We got off the ridge and stopped for lunch out of the wind. Then it was about 6 more miles to Galehead Hut, our intended destination. We climbed Mt Garfield...again no views...and climbed down the craziest descent yet: a very, very steep rock scramble with a stream running down over it. Lots of hands and hesitation but we made it down without incident. It took nearly all day to do only 10 miles, and we got to the hut around 5:30. The huts will sometimes let hikers work for stay, but Snowy River and Gumby had already claimed the two spots. But, the croo (workers) let us stay as well, and Sky High who came in late. We feasted on dinner leftovers: turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, soup, bread, and brownies for dessert. Gumby and Snowy's job was to entertain the guests with trail stories, and Sky High, Bear Bag, and I washed dishes. We are sleeping on the dining room floor, and we get breakfast leftovers in the morning too! Trail life is so good.
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September 2

A beautiful sunny morning gave way to a beautiful sunny day. Bear Bag and I left camp for the 2.5-mile climb up Mt Kinsman. We passed a pond (no moose...) and spent the last mile literally in letting go of the trekking poles and pulling ourselves up. It was slow, slow going and took 2 hours to the top. We took a break enjoying the view with Muldoon and Info and Harmony, and then headed across the ridgeline to the north summit and down the mountain. Again, very rugged trail today and lots of steep rock steps and rock slabs to navigate on the way down. It takes so long because with each step you have to think, Where will I put my feet?...Where will I put my hands/poles?...Where will I catch myself if/when I fall? We finally made it to Lonesome Lake Hut where we were anticipating soup for lunch, but they were out of soup! Very disappointing as we were looking forward to it all morning. We ate from our food bags and filled up on water.
The huts in the whites are bunkhouses, and guests pay A LOT of money to have a bunk to sleep in, and for breakfast and dinner. Supposedly the huts always have hot soup for passers-by to buy, and sometimes they will let thru-hikers do a work for stay, where we can do chores to sleep inside (on the floor) and get leftover dinner and breakfast.
We had a few more miles down to the road, including a crossing of Cascade Brook where a bridge had washed out from the storm. Very scary rock-hopping for me (Bear Bag has no trouble with it) but I finally made it across. When we got to the bottom we of course went right back up for about 3 miles. It wasn't steep until the end, but I was tired when we got to Liberty Spring Campsite around 6. There are tent platforms here and it's a Friday night so it is crowded. We are crammed onto a platform with Torch and a couple of section hikers. And, we had to pay $8 a piece to stay here! Everything...shelters and campsites...costs money in the Whites and it's annoying. You can stealth camp but it's difficult to find a spot with the grade of trail and the rocks. Anyway, tomorrow we are walking Franconia Ridge! I've been looking forward to this for months...I just hope we have nice weather!
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September 1

Last night was late and I only slept until about 7...still tired! The hotel had free breakfast so we indulged, and then packed our gear and checked out...and went mini golfing. Yes. There was a course right next to the hotel and we were only planning for 7.5 or something miles so what was another hour? We are much better at hiking than at putting; we both scored over par and Bear Bag beat me by about ten strokes. It was enjoyable though! We ate lunch at McDonald's and then stopped at Dunkin Donuts for dessert. Then it was thumbs out on the side of the road. It didn't take long when a couple of young guys in a big SUV pulled over for us. They took us back to the trailhead and we started up. We had climbing for about 4 miles but it was fairly gentle. The trail is just so rugged and it kills our speed. We did the first 3 miles in two hours! We finally got to the top after clawing and climbing our way up boulders and rock faces, and picking our way around rocks and roots and mud. From the top we had 3 miles down but it was equally slow going. We finally arrived at Eliza Brook Shelter for the night. It took nearly 5 hours to go 7.5 miles! Guess we need to get used to this slow pace. Muldoon, Little Bruce, Four Eyes (flip-flopper), and ourselves are the only thru-hikers here tonight. There is a large group of college students here as well and they shared their smores with us this evening! More climbing tomorrow as we continue through the Whites!
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August 31

I woke up at 5:30 this morning intending to get up, but I was so tired that I went back to sleep for about 45 minutes. Bear Bag and I got packed and left camp before 7:30 for 11-ish miles. The first 2 miles to a road crossing were simple. Bear Bag stopped just short of the road for a bathroom break. I continued on; we planned to meet at a shelter about a mile away. I crossed the road, found the trail on the other side, and walked about 20 feet when I was stopped dead in my tracks...the trail literally disappeared over a ledge that led down to a river. I could see the trail on the other side so I knew that it had just been washed out from the storm. Crazy! I looked up- and downstream to find a place to cross, but knew I would have to wade across. I put my crocs on and donned the cold, swift water. The current was surprisingly strong but the water wasn't higher than my knees. I made it across, as did Bear Bag shortly behind me. We hiked to the shelter for a break, and Bear Bag met up with Snowy River, who he hiked with in the beginning but hasn't seen for months. Crazy how that works out here.
Mt Mousilauke was about a 3500-foot climb over 4.5 miles...steep and long but not as difficult as I was anticipating. The view was gorgeous and we hung out on the windy summit with Snowy River, Gumby, Chickadee, Honeybee, and Muldoon. Gorgeous views all around but it was chilly in the wind so we made our way down. We stopped for a break at Beaver Brook Shelter, where we had a beautiful view of Franconia Ridge...the Whites sure are intimidating, although I feel a bit more confident after getting over our first mountain! We left the shelter for a steep, pounding downhill for 1.4 miles. We followed a waterfall all the way down...lots of huge boulder steps, and wooden planks and rebar bolted into the rocks...wet and slippery but we made it, although our pace was slowed to one mile an hour! Slowest section so far.
We got to the road, which was disappointingly not busy, and waited about 15 minutes for the 5th or 6th car, which pulled over and agreed to take us into Lincoln, NH. Bear Bag had a package to pick up, so we stopped by the post office, then went to McDonald's to find Gumby and Snowy River there as well. We ate and visited, checked into the Comfort Inn, walked to the laundromat and grocery store, got pizza for dinner, ate McDonald's for second dinner, and finally called it a day. It wasn't a long day mileage-wise but I am exhausted! I think this bed is the perfect solution...
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August 30

The morning began with a descent down to a river and then we began the climb up Mt Cube. The climb wasn't very difficult but there were several false summits that were kind of frustrating. We stopped at a view that we thought was the summit for a break, and we saw a bald eagle fly overhead! I busted out with "America the Beautiful" was a very cool moment! The day was gorgeous and full of sunshine, and we finally reached the summit and headed down the mountain. We came up behind Muldoon stopped at Brackett Brook; he was in the process of putting his crocs on to cross the swollen water. He made it across, and Bear Bag went a ways upstream to try to rock-hop across. I followed Muldoon's idea and changed into my crocs to cross. The water was about knee deep and I took careful steps to avoid slipping on the rocks. My feet felt so refreshed though from the water!
We followed the muddy, sloppy mess of a trail down to a road crossing. On the other side there were planks to walk across but the water underneath was so deep that they were floating, sunken, and unstable. Not wanting to bother with crocs again we finagled our way across using a sign post for support. Surely our mudhole avoidance is a sight to see...lots of hops, skips, branch holding, and walking on hillsides to avoid getting wet and muddy. Of course by the end of the day our feet are wet and muddy anyway...
We had one more climb up Mt Mist for a 16-ish mile day and are camping near a stream we found. Tomorrow we officially start the White Mountains (I think?) with a 3500-foot climb up Moosilauke!
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