Day 137: The End

It felt just like any other morning. I rolled up my sleeping bag, deflated my sleeping pad, popped my contacts in my eyes, and started putting things in my pack in the same order I always did. Except this morning was different, because this was the last morning on the trail. While I knew that in 5.2 miles, I would reach the summit of Mt Katahdin, the end of the Appalachian Trail, it didn’t feel like the end was that close. Nameless and I had planned to meet our parents at the Katahdin Stream Campground parking lot near the Hunt Trail/AT around 6am. The forecast was calling for 70% chance of storms and heavy rain, especially in the afternoon, so we figured the earlier we could get started, the better. My parents were camped at Abol Campground within Baxter so they were close by and had a quick drive in the morning. If anyone reading this ever makes plans to meet a thru-hiker at the end, my parents loved that campground and it was very convenient for meeting me. Nameless’s mom had stayed in Millinocket for the night and had to wait until 6am to get into the park and drive to the trailhead. We left most of the items from our packs down at the bottom so we didn’t have to carry much up the mountain.

FullSizeRender (6)Shortly after 6:30am, our group of 5 started hiking. The first mile was easy and very gradual, and it was a nice warm up for the parents. Slowly the trail got steeper, and the rocks got bigger. After 3 miles, we got above tree line and the hiking turned into climbing and bouldering. Up to this point I was very patient and waited for my parents and Nameless and his mom. However, with just over 2 miles left in the entire journey, I decided that I wanted to hike the final piece at my own pace. I started the journey alone, and that’s how I wanted to end it. Even though Nameless and I hiked together for almost 4 months and 1900 miles, we set out from Georgia separately and I felt like I needed the final moments to myself. After all, the biggest mantra on the trial is “hike your own hike.” So that’s what I did. I told my parents and Nameless that I would meet them at the top. To my surprise the sky was bluer than it had been in weeks, and the sun was shining brightly. Being above tree line, views were splendid in every direction. I had heard about how hard mile 4 would be with all the exposed rocks and technical climbing, but with all the adrenaline I flew up it. Once I made it up the steepest part of the climb, I reached the Tablelands, which is a flatter area with smaller rocks. Even after 4+ months of mountains and views, I will still in awe with what I was seeing. The beauty of the outdoors really never gets old. This section was definitely one of my favorites on the trail. The final mile to the summit was very gradual, and before I knew it, there it was. The summit sign. I had seen countless photos of the sign and of other thru hikers celebrating beside it, but seeing it with my own two eyes was different. With 100 yards to go I could feel tears coming on, but I stopped for a minute and composed myself. As I got closer and closer to the top, the emotions rolled in and I started to cry (a nice gentleman took a photo, insisting I’ll want to remember those emotions). FullSizeRender (1)They were tears of disbelief that I had made it to the end, tears of happiness that I could finally stop walking, and tears of sadness that the most amazing adventure of my life was over. There were probably a dozen people at the summit who were out for the day, and when they heard me coming and saw the tears in my eyes, they must have known I was finishing my thru hike. Everyone stepped away from the summit sign and gave me some space. I placed both hands on the sign just under the words KATAHDIN. In that instant, I was done. For 137 days there was always more trail to hike and more mountains to climb, but suddenly there was nothing left. It was hard to accept that I had really walked there for Georgia, and that the white blazes would not continue beyond that summit. I did it. I walked 2190 miles.FullSizeRender (2)

After a few moments to myself, I talked with the other hikers at the summit who were eager to hear about my hike. I felt like a celebrity! I put on some extra layers since it was a bit cold at the summit with the wind, and waited for my parents, who made it to the summit about 45 minutes later. I am so proud of them for making it up such a tough climb! FullSizeRender (4)Seriously, that mountain is no joke, and it takes every muscle in your body to get to the top. After some celebrating, my parents started heading down the mountain via the Abol trail. This trail is 1 mile shorter than the Hunt Trail/AT and parts of it are steeper, but it doesn’t have the giant boulders so it seemed like an easier option for getting down. The Abol trailhead is about 2.5 miles from the Hunt trail parking lot where our car was, so my dad ran from the bottom of the Abol trail back to the car. I waited up top for Nameless and his mom to get to the summit. When he arrived, we took some photos and admired all the views.

It was around noon and there was still no rain or storms, but we figured we should get off the exposed summit incase any rain came. Hiking down the mountain, it still hadn’t sunk in that I was done. My parents were there with the car when I arrived. I threw on a clean shirt, got in the car, and we made our way out of the park. It was still a beautiful day, and I was so thankful that for once the weather held out. I had a lot of bad weather during my hike, but none if it mattered after a beautiful day on Katahdin. We decided to drive to Bangor for the night, and our party of 5 went out for a celebration dinner. It was a very long day, but one that I will always remember. It was the day I became a thru hiker.

 

It has almost been a week since my thru hike ended, and I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that I walked all the way from Georgia to Maine. It is such a big accomplishment that it almost feels like it was all just a dream. The swelling in my feet is starting to go down, but most of my shoes are still too small. Half of my clothes don’t fit anymore, and my tan lines look more obvious than ever before. I am back at my parents house in Rochester, NY until I head out to Denver, CO for law school on August 3. If I can walk 2190 miles, law school should be a breeze, right? Thank you to everyone who followed along on this journey and supported me from afar. If you have a dream, big or small, go make it a reality. Like they say, a journey of 1000 miles (or 2190), begins with a single step).

Happy Trails!

Brightside
P.S…

Here are some stats and facts about my hike you may find interesting:
Numbers

Total miles: 2190.3

States: 14

Total days: 137

Days off: 14

Nights spent inside: 64 (this is unusually high)

Number of hitchhikes: 4 (this is unusually low)

Average mileage (not including days off): 18ish

Longest day: 45 miles

Favorite state: New Hampshire

Favorite section: White Mountains

Favorite mountain: Katahdin (duh)

Least favorite section: Southern Maine

Coldest day: high around 35 (in the Smokies)

Hottest day: high in the mid 90s (in NJ)

Number of bears seen: 0 (no moose either)

Weight lost: 8ish pounds

Money spent (not including gear): about $4000

 

Other stuff

I only used my knife to cut sausage and cheese

I never went more than about 36 hours without cell service

I never went more than 6 days without a shower

I went through 4 pairs of shoes

I only camped alone once (and that was by choice)

Favorite food at the end of the hike: fruit snacks

Favorite trail dinner: chili mac

Favorite hostels: Woods Hole (VA), Caratunk House (NH)

Favorite Inns/motels: Inn at Long Trail (VT), Libby House B&B (NH)

I didn’t get sick or have any serious injuries (thankfully!!)

Gear malfunctions: 1 Leki trekking pole (everything else held up great!)

Gear I sent home: winter clothes, soap

Gear I picked up: bug spray, sunscreen, spatula for cleaning my pot

 

5 Pieces of Advice for Future Thru-Hikers (in no particular order)

-If you want cell service, use Verizon

-Use the Guthook Guide app (uses GPS and does not require cell service)

-Be nice to day/section hikers. You were once a day/section hiker, and you will once again be a day/section hiker. They love to talk to thru-hikers!

-Don’t have a plan, and if you do, plan to deviate from it

-Take your time, it’s not a race

 

 

 

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Days 131-136: The Not-So-Wild Wilderness

Shaw’s is known for their amazing hiker breakfast. It was $9 per person, but totally worth it. They made eggs to order, the best hash brown potatoes I have ever had, bacon, and an endless supply of blueberry pancakes. Oh and of course, multiple cups of coffee. Nameless and I chatted with some SOBOs while we ate and they told us horror stories about the 100 mile wilderness, which we were about to enter. However, I took what they said with a grain of salt. I did listen a little bit to their complaints about the horrendous bugs and I bought a bug net and some 98% Deet. People were telling us they ended up hiking in their rain gear because the mosquitos were so bad that they would bite through other clothing. It seemed like the choices were either to sweat to death hiking in rain gear while it was 75 degrees out, or poison my body with toxic bug spray. Option 2 seemed like the better choice to me. My body could withstand some harmful chemicals for 4-5 days if it meant the mosquitoes would leave me alone (for the most part). It was nearly 10am by the time Nameless and I got back to the trail. Within minutes of walking, we came to a warning sign signifying the start of the 100 mile wilderness. IMG_7520This section of trail has that name because “there are no places to obtain supplies or get help until Abol Bridge 100 miles North.” They recommend that you have a minimum of 10 days of food and supplies, because “this is the longest wilderness section of the entire AT and it’s difficulty should not be underestimated.” We walked past this sign with 5 days of food, not worried in the slightest about the “wilderness” ahead of us. Since we anticipated a late start leaving the hostel, we had planned a shorter 16 mile day. It was fairly flat at the beginning, and the sun was out for once. I met a mother and son hiking south who immediately recognized me from Instagram, and stopped to tell me how much they loved following my journey as they got ready for their own hike. Around 6pm, with about 1.5 miles left until the shelter, we got to an old forest road and saw a sign that said Trail Magic, 1/8 of a mile, and pointed right down the road. Not knowing what we were getting ourselves into, we veered off the trail and started down the road. After what seemed like way more than 1/8 of a mile I was getting skeptical that there was anyone or anything down there, but Nameless pointed out the footprints that continued in the mud so we kept walking. As we turned a corner, a small cabin came into view on the side of the road. There were two gentleman on the porch, and when the saw us, their eyes lit up like they had been waiting for us. They offered us cold soda and beer, and asked if we wanted hot dogs, cheeseburgers, or both. Both is the obvious answer for any hiker. I could not believe what was happening! Here I was, one day into what was suppose to be the most remote and wildernessy part of the whole trail, and I was sitting on someone’s porch drinking a soda and eating a hot dinner. Scout (the father) and Birdman (the son) come up to this little cabin during hiker season and provide trail magic. Scout was even written up in Backpacker Magazine as one of the best trail angels on the AT. Another thru hiker, Lunatic, found his way to the trial magic as well. After an hour or so, Nameless and I figured we should probably get walking sooner than later to get to the shelter. To our surprise, Scout and Birdman said we were more than welcome to stay and camp in their yard, and they would make us breakfast in the morning. Sounds good to me! Once I knew we were done walking for the day, Scout mixed me up a Bloody Mary. I felt like the luckiest hiker in the world to have stumbled upon this incredible trail magic. It’s so heartwarming to meet people who have such a love for the trail that they spend their free time (and money!) helping hikers. This trail community is really something special. IMG_7530

 

I crawled out of my tent on Thursday morning and made my way to the porch where fresh coffee was waiting for me.  In real life I can’t start my day without coffee, so anytime I can get some on the trail it’s a real treat. Birdman cooked strawberry pancakes made with fresh picked strawberries. I still couldn’t quite believe all this was happening. And the good things didn’t stop there. They offered to slack pack Nameless and I over the next mountain range, and drop our packs of 17 miles down the trail. Now I know what you’re probably thinking. If this is the 100 mile wilderness, how can someone drive in to drop off your packs? Well, believe it or not, there are roads that go through the wilderness! There is actually a fairly popular parking area near Gulf Hagas, a gorge that is referred to as the Grand Canyon of the east. The mountains we had to hike over were not that big, but getting to hike those miles without our full packs loaded up with food was too good of an opportunity to pass up. We filled a trash at with our tent, sleeping bags, stoves, etc., and Birdman told us where he would hide the bag near the parking lot. It was impossible to thank these men enough for everything that they did for us. Just before we got to the shelter we had planned to stay at the night before, we had to ford a gushing stream. With all the rain lately, the water levels were very high all over Maine. I put my camp shoes on and hung my hiking shoes form my pack, and started making my way across the stream. This was definitely the trickiest ford, and I was feeling a little unstable as the water was running past me and trying to take me down with it. Right in the middle of the crossing where the water was deepest, I lifted up one of my trekking poles to take another step only to see that the bottom of the pole was no longer there! Somehow the bottom half of the pole must have gotten caught in a rock and slipped out when I pulled it up, and it was swept away with the water. Not knowing what to do, I took a few steps back to the shore. I looked around down the stream for the piece of my pole but it was nowhere in sight. If you’ve never hiked with trekking poles, you probably think they’re unnecessary, but if you have, I’m sure you know how quickly they become you’re 3rd and 4th legs, allowing you stay balanced and helping tremendously on both uphills and downhills. With just one functional pole, I felt like I had lost a leg. I was very sad, and unsure what I was going to do for the next 100 miles. I did make my way across the stream with just one pole, and then I started up Barren Mountain. At the top I had enough cell service and made a phone call to Shaw’s hostel back in Monson. I explained what had happened, and they said they could bring some spare poles to the Gulf Hagas parking later that day, which is the same place I needed to go to collect the rest of my belongings after slack packing. Once again, the 100 mile wilderness was not feeling that remote. I had to meet someone from Shaw’s at 4:30, so I had to hike a little fast to make it there in time. I hiked over the chairback mountain range, and was loving every minute of the terrain, which was not the case for a lot of Maine. The climbs were much easier but still offered great views, and there were not as many roots and slippery rocks. I made good timing, and got down to the parking lot right around 4:30. The guy from Shaw’s brought a whole bunch of single trekking poles that people had left at the hostel for various reasons. One of them was adequate enough and would get me through the last week on the trail. I did have to pay $70 for the guy to drive all the way out there, but I didn’t want to be stuck with one pole. Nameless and I found the trash bag with all our stuff in it right where it was suppose to be. We loaded our packs up and continued on for the last 6 miles to the Carl Newhall Shelter. As I expected, there were tons of people around the shelter and campsite. A lot of summer camps were out with groups of 8-10 kids hiking, and lots of people were out just hiking the 100 mile wilderness. All the traffic on the trail was another factor that made it feel not very wildernessy. The people in the shelter made room for us, and once my bed was set up I went and sat by the river for a while, wanting some quiet time to myself. It was sinking in that the end was near, and as tired as I was, I wasn’t ready to give up trail life. I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel at the end, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to feel overwhelmed by all the people. I’m glad people are out enjoying the outdoors, but did they have to be enjoying it right there right then?

 

Friday was a new day, and we had one more mountain to climb before a lot of flatness. From the top of White Cap Mountain, we had our first distant views of Katahdin. It was partly cloudy but we could see the giant base of Katahdin rising up into the clouds. A lot of SOBOs had told us that the bugs would get really bad once we were North of White Cap, so in anticipation for this I put some bug spray on before heading down to lower elevation. We decided to stealth camp for the night near one of the many ponds in Maine. I had been wanted to go for a swim, and the weather was finally half decent so I took a quick dip in the pond before dinner. The mosquitoes were swarming us so we ended up eating dinner in the tent.

 

When I started to wake up in the morning, I couldn’t tell exactly what I was seeing on the outside of the tent. I put my glasses on to realize that at least 100 mosquitos had come under the rain fly and landed on the outside of the tent, waiting for us to get out so they could feast on our blood. I’ve never seen so many bugs in one place before. I packed everything up from inside the tent, and then put all my rain gear and my bug net on so I could take down the tent without being eaten alive. As soon as we started walking, the bugs became less of a problem, and I was fine hiking in shorts and a T-shirt because of the Deet I sprayed on my exposed skin. Nameless and I hiked about 25 miles that day, but it was so flat that the miles flew by. There was another view of Katahdin, and this time it was much closer, and you could see the top clearly. It rained a bit during the final miles of the day, but once it stopped there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky. FullSizeRenderThe shelter was full once again, so we ended up tenting next to a bunch of other tents. As I sat on the ground, wearing my rain gear and bug net to hide from the bugs, eating my freeze dried dinner out of a bag in the dark, I thought about all the simple things I missed about real life. I missed wearing sweat pants and cotton t-shirts; I missed eating dinner at a table; I missed bug-free environments; I missed having privacy. Camping and backpacking is a huge passion of mine, but I don’t think people weren’t meant to do it for months on end.

 

My alarm went off at 5:00am on Sunday morning and both Nameless and I were quick to pack up. It was our last day in the 100 mile wilderness, and we had 23 miles to hike to Abol Bridge Campground and Store. The store closes at 7pm, so we wanted to get there with plenty of time to get a hot meal. Once again the terrain was fairly flat, so it didn’t take us too long. Nameless’s mom had driven up to Millinocket that afternoon, so she was planning to meet us at the store. When we got out of the wilderness we popped out onto a gravel road and crossed Abol Bridge. From the bridge, we had an amazing close up view of Katahdin in all her glory.FullSizeRender (1) That mountain is no joke. It towers above everything and you can’t help but stare in awe. There it was, the end, right in front of me. It was certainly a weird feeling to see the finish line so close, since for so long it felt very far away. The store was just past the bridge, and Nameless’s mom treated us to burgers. The original plan for the night was to stay at the campground, but for $27 per person we decided we might as well just get a motel room in Millinocket, since Nameless’s mom was driving there anyways. The town of Millinocket is very tiny, but we were very happy to have a hot shower and a real bed. I was exhausted, per usual, but more so than most nights, so I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

 

It was very convenient that the motel we chose in Millinocket was attached to a restaurant. We got breakfast and I ordered two entrees (French toast and an egg sandwhich), something I will miss being able to do post trail. Nameless’s mom picked us up and brought us back to the trail at Abol Bridge. It was raining lightly and the sky was very cloudy. The 10 miles of trail to Katahdin Stream Campground was so flat, and since we didn’t want to get there too early we didn’t start hiking until about 11am. A few minutes into hiking we got to the Baxter State Park kiosk, where we signed up for a spot in the Birches Lean-To’s at Katahdin Stream. This is a camping spot at the base of Katahdin reserved for 12 NOBO thru hikers and it operates on a first come first serve basis. Since we are so early in the season we were not worried about getting a spot, but in another month I’m sure all 12 spots will often be full. While it was the final ten miles before climbing Katahdin, it didn’t feel much different than any other day of hiking. When we got to the campground we checked in at the ranger station and got our permits for climbing Katahdin. I was the 88th NOBO thru hiker to pass through! There will probably be over 1000 NOBO hikers to finish, so it was pretty cool to be in the first 100. We found the Birches Lean To’s and set up inside of one of them. There was just one other NOBO there; an older man named Piper whose name we had seen in many shelter registers, but we hadn’t met him in person. It was not even 5pm and we were all settled, not quite sure what to do with ourselves. I knew my parents were somewhere in Baxter State Park at a campground near by, but without cell service it was hard to communicate with them. To our surprise, my parents showed up with firewood, dinner, and drinks! My dad made a fire, which immediately got rid of the bugs, and he cooked up a pot of rice, chicken, carrots, and sausage. It was great to fill them in on the last 100 miles, and by the time they were ready to go back to their, it was time for bed! That was my last night camping before the end so I felt like I needed to savor it, but in the moment I was also looking forward to the days ahead spent sleeping inside.

 

Update on my final day coming soon 🙂

-Brightside

 

Days 125-130: Cloudy with a Chance of Rain 

Sorry for the long day in updating! I’ve been super busy hiking and I decided to focus on the trail and tried not to spend too much time using my phone for the final two weeks of the trail. If you haven’t heard, I did summit Katahdin yesterday on July 11, and I will certainly be sharing details soon once I catch up on the 200 miles leading up to that. This update starts on June 29: 
While I love spending time outside being on the trail, I also love being inside with beds and running water. I am always so excited to get into town, and after being on the trail for so long, it has gotten even harder to leave town. This was the case as Nameless and I left Rangeley on Thursday morning. It also seems like the weather report has constantly been “cloudy with a chance of rain and storms.” I’ve hiked in a lot of rain since it’s been a very wet year, and I’m getting tired of it. It’s so much harder to motivate myself to hike when it’s cloudy and drizzling. But I’ve learned to try not to focus on things I can’t control, like the weather, and I have hike on rain or shine. We went to a bagel shop down the road from the motel for breakfast, and then stopped in an Outfitter so Nameless could buy new trekking poles since he recently bent his. By the time we were walking out of town it was after 10am. Once we were on the outskirts of town I stuck my thumb out to get a hitch and a guy pulled over and picked us up within 30 seconds. The beginning of the day was a gradual climb up Saddleback Mt. The weather was cooperating for once and we had some beautiful views from the exposed rocky summit. Since we got started so late we didn’t want to dawdle too much, but we got caught up a few talking to SOBOs that we passed. We stayed at Spaulding Mt lean to for the night after an 18.7 mile day. There were already a few SOBOs at the shelter when we rolled in after 8pm, but they made room for us, which we appreciated since it was starting to sprinkle. Most of the south bounders are cool and they’re fun to talk to, but I don’t love that they’re taking up space in the shelters. Since I started my hike in February and have been ahead of the crowds I haven’t had to deal with full shelters, so it’s sort of annoying that I’m having to deal with them at the end. 
Friday was another typical day in southern Maine, meaning I was mad at the terrain for being so hard. I slowly made my way through the days miles and made it to Horns Pond Lean To’s for the night. There were two really nice 8 person shelters there, and only one SOBO hiker in one of them. Nameless and I took the other one for ourselves.
The next morning we immediately started climbing and hiked over the Bigalow mountain range. It was mostly cloudy but we had some momentary views. Around 5pm it started pouring rain. It was the kind of rain where you’ll be soaked to the bone if you’re out in it for more than 3 seconds. I hiked through this rain for about 2 hours and then finally saw the sign for the shelter. It was almost full (of more SOBOs), but they made room for Nameless and I. Someone had left a box of homemade cookies in the shelter so that made the fact that I was soaking wet a little better. I changed into clean clothes, made dinner in the dark, and got in my sleeping bag, all the while the rain continued to pour.
Everyone in the shelter was up early, which was good in this case because we needed to get an early start so we would be able to cross the Kennebec River while the ferry was running. This river was probably about 70 yards, and it is too deep to ford safely, so there is a person operating a canoe to ferry hikers across free of charge. However, the ferry hours are limited so we needed to be there before they closed at 2pm, and we had 14 miles to hike to get to the river. Most of those 14 miles were spent walking through ankle deep water after all the rain the night before. There were a very short stream fords, one of which the water level was almost up to my shorts. This was also the first day where the mosquitos were really bothering me, even while I was hiking. It was hot out but I put my raincoat on to keep them from biting my arms. It was 11am when we got to the Kennebec, and the woman operating the canoe paddled it across to pick us up. Nameless sat in the back and helped her paddle us back to the north side of the river while I sat in the middle and hoped we weren’t going to tip over. The town of Cararunk was just 0.3 miles past the river. This town is little more than a post office and some disheveled old houses, but there is one hostel that welcomes hikers. Caratkunk House B&B and Hostel was just down the road from the trail, and we had been hearing about their legendary milkshakes, so of course we had to stop. It wasn’t even noon yet when we arrived, but we decided to stop there for the night and enjoy the afternoon off from hiking. I had a chocolate/coffee milkshake which did not disappoint and a burger for lunch made by the hostel owner, Paul. Since it was so early in the day, after I showered I got in bed and napped all afternoon. There was only 1 other hiker in the hostel, and Nameless and I had a room to ourselves (for only $20 a piece!), which made it was nice and quite place to relax. I felt right at home at this hostel, and Paul and the other guy helping him were such a pleasure to chat with. We got a ride to a restaurant 2 miles away for dinner, and I was not overly impressed. After we sat there for nearly 20 minutes without getting even a class of water, I grabbed two menus and not so subtlety stared at all the waiters trying to get their attention. Finally someone came over and took our order. Another 20 minutes went by and at last we got our beers. Our appetizers and entrees came out within 3 minutes of each other (something that drives me crazy), and we ate fairly quickly so we could get back to the hostel and go to sleep. 
The next morning we were awoken to the sound of “breakfast in 20 minutes” coming from downstairs. We had French toast, eggs and bacon, and of course lots and lots of coffee. It was hard to leave this hostel, but we finally made it out the door and hiked roughly 20 miles to Bald Mt Pond shelter, where we had to tent because the shelter was already full. 
On July 4 we got an early start again so we could get to the small town of Monson as early as possible. We had some streams to ford, and I was getting tired of stopping to take my shoes of to put my camp sandals on to cross the water so my hiking shoes would stay dry. The 18 miles to to the road into Monson were so flat so we made good timing and were done hiking around 3pm. Shaw’s Lodging is the one hostel in town, and someone from the hostel picked us up at the trailhead. When we got to the hostel, it was bustling with people! It was almost all SOBOs and section hikers, and they were in a very different mental state than us, having only walked 115 miles and not almost 2100 miles. I usually like to socialize with other hikers but I was tired and just wanted to eat and lay down. I’m pretty sure the hostel capacity is around 45 people, and they were almost totally full; all they had to offer us was one bunk and a couch. I knew it was a long shot, but I asked if they happened to have any private rooms available. Poet, the hostel owner, checked with his wife and came back to us with good news. The hostel is made up of one entire house and another garage style bunk house, and the owners live in the house next door. The have a guest room in their personal house, and they allowed Nameless and I to stay there! We were so grateful to have our own space because we were both exhausting and didn’t want to deal with a bunk room with a dozen other people. Monson is a small town so we went to the one restaurant in town. While we were ordering, after a few minutes, the waitress realized that she has been following my whole hike on Instagram! After dinner we stopped at a gas station and got traditional Maine woopie pies for dessert. We felt a little anti social going to bed at 8:30pm while everyone else was eating hot dogs and lighting sparklers outside for 4th, but we were too tired to really care.
More updates to come shortly!

-Brightside 

Days 117-124: Georgia to Maine 

That’s right folks, I’ve made it to Maine!! For the longest time I was telling people I was hiking to Maine, and I’m finally here. However, the journey is far from over. I’ve only hiked about 60 miles of the 280 miles in Maine, but I’m getting closer to Katahdin every day. But back to the White Mountains for a minute…
Nameless and I opted to do the “work” part of our work for stay in the evening so we could hit the trail early in the morning before the hut guests came out for breakfast. They had us scrubbing dish racks with tooth bushes, which was pretty tedious but we didn’t mind since we were getting to sleep inside. The weather looked good in the morning and we had clear views of Mt Washington just 1.5 miles ahead of us. We were hiking around 6:30am, making our way up the rocky trail one step at a time. As we gained elevation and continued up over 6000 feet, visibility got worse and the wind picked up. By the time we were to the top, the wind was howling and we couldn’t see much in any direction. On the bright side, since it was not quite 7:30, we had the summit to ourselves and we didn’t have to deal with tourists who had driven up or taken the train to the top. After snapping some quick photos, we hurried down the other side of the mountain. The wind calmed down, and fog rolled away, and we had some partial views of the presidential mountain range in front of us. Throughout the entire day, much of which was spend above tree line on a ridge, the fog was rolling in and out quickly, so one minute we would be completely in the clouds and the next minute we would have amazing views of the mountains. The climbs along the presidential traverse weren’t too difficult, but the very rocky trail made it slow to traverse the 8 or so miles from Lakes of the Clouds Hut to Madison Hut. As we were coming down to Madison Hut, we stopped to chat with some hikers, and it turned out that one of them follows me on Instagram! He took a selfie with me and I felt a little famous. We stopped in Madison Hut for some soup and coffee just as it started raining. After this nice break, we ventured out and up Mt Madison. If it wasn’t for all the cairns marking the trail, it would have been very hard to find our way in all the fog. From the top of Mt Madison we had a long way down some very rocky trail to get back below tree line. The wind was blowing so hard, making me very nervous as I was trying to avoid a disastrous fall on some very precarious rocks. The trail finally went back into the trees after nearly 13 miles of exposed ridge, and we continued downhill to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. Nameless and I got a ride with another hiker, Old Man (yes, that is actually his trail name), to The Barn Hostel in Gorham, NH. We got a $2 shuttle to Walmart to do our resupply, and stopped at McDonands for dinner. The beds in the hostel had sheets, blankets, and pillows, which is fairly uncommon, so I was thrilled to get in bed that night. 

We decided to slack pack the next day since it was a free service if you spent 2 nights at the hostel. We started back at Pinkham Notch and began the 21 miles over Wildcat Mountain and Carter Dome. It was a beautiful day and we were able to see some incredible views of the mountains south of us that we had recently hiked over. There were 3 very steep miles towards the end of the day, and my knees were screaming with every step down. I’ve been lucky and my knees have been holding up well, along with the rest of my body, but all the miles must be catching up with me. When the downhill was finally over, I picked up the pace and hiked the last 3.5 miles in less than an hour to get to route 2 and out of the White Mountains. Everyone had talked about how hard the Whites would be, and while thy did present some new challenges, they weren’t as crazy difficult as everyone made them out to be. It helped that I hiked pretty short miles through the Whites, and the fact that I was done hiking everyday around 4pm instead of the usual 7pm made it feel like a bit of a recovery period since I was spending less time on my feet each day. The mountains were big and beautiful, and I would definitely consider returning to hike them again! The Barn Hostel is connected to the Libby House bed and breakfast, and we opted to move over to the B&B for our second night in Gorham. This place was amazing! It was a Victorian style house full of oriental rugs, Victorian dolls, and beautiful antique furniture. I felt like I shouldn’t be bringing all my dirty hiking gear into such a lovely place! For dinner we went to an authentic Italian restaurant. We got a free fried ravioli appetizer, a bottle of wine, and I got the most delicious potato gnocchi with pesto sauce. That meal was definitely a favorite on the trail. 
It was raining in the morning, which made it even harder to leave the wonderful bed and breakfast. A basket of baked goods was delivered to our room, and I ate breakfast at the tea table in our room. While I wasn’t really in the mood to be hiking, I knew that at the end of the day I would be in Maine! The rain eventually stopped and I made my way one step at a time the 17ish miles to the NH/Maine boarder! The last few miles of New Hampshire were really tough, and when I reached the state line I was almost too tired to feel excited. I knew it was a monumental moment to reach the final state, but in the moment I was more excited to be a half mile from the shelter. When Nameless and I got to the shelter, no one else was there so we exploded the stuff out of our packs and got ready for the night. Despite how little we have, it’s amazing how much of a mess we can make when we pull everything out of our bags. That night, my legs were feeling really achey in a way they haven’t felt the whole time on this trek. All the steep downhills are taking a toll on my knees, and they hurt so bad when I laid down in my sleeping bag that I could hardly sleep.

 

The next day was another rainy morning, and we were so cozy in the shelter all to ourselves that we didn’t leave our sleeping bags until well after 9am, and it was nearly 10:30 when we hit the trail. Sometimes I feel guilty leaving camp this late, but I shouldn’t because I can hike this hike however I want to! The 4.4 miles to the next shelter were some of hardest and slowest miles I’ve walked on the whole trail. The trail was so rugged I had to use my hands almost the whole time to haul myself up giant boulders and grab onto trees as I tried not to slide down steep rock faces. It took us about 3 hours to make it those 4.4 miles. I was feeling really defeated and angry with the trail that morning. After some food I felt a little better, and we hiked on to the Mahoosuc Notch. This mile of the trail is considered the hardest and most fun section of the entire trail. It is essentially just a stretch of giant boulders that you have to climb over, under, and through. I had to take my pack off twice to make it through some narrow crevices. We made it through the Notch in about two hours, and from there the terrain was a little easier to Spec Pond Shelter. Even though we had only hiked 10 miles that day, it felt like 30. The shelter was brand new which was nice, but an Appalachian Mountain Club caretaker looks after it so we had to pay a $10 fee for the night. 
The terrain on Sunday got slightly easier, and I wasn’t hating Maine as much as I was the previous day. However, I’m not a fan of all these alpine bogs in Maine because my feet are constantly soaked. We’ve started to see a ton of Southbounders (SOBOs) who left Katahdin early June. A lot of NOBOs aren’t that nice to the SOBOs, but Nameless and I have stopped to talk with almost everyone we pass and they’ve thanked us for being cool NOBOs. They are only a few weeks into their journey so it’s fun to see the excitement still in their eyes (it’s warn down a bit for us after 4+ months). We spent the night stealth camping near a neat pond. Maine is full of ponds. 
Who really enjoys Monday’s? This past Monday, I was definitely feeling the Monday blues. I think the tough terrain from the Whites and Southern Maine, the lack of sleep from my achey legs keeping me up, and the fact that I’ve been hiking for so long combined to make me one very grumpy hiker. All I could think about was making it one more day so I could get into town and take a day off. We shared a shelter with some SOBOs for the night and I was not in the mood to socialize. 
I was up before 6am on Tuesday and decided to just get up and go. It was 17.7 miles into town, and I wanted to get there as fast as possible. The mosquitos were out in full force so I had to reapply bug spray often. Luckily the last 13 miles of the day were fairly easy relative to the last week so we made good timing. Once we were at the road, a car stopped to give us a ride as soon as I put my thumb out. Rangeley is a small town about 9 miles from the trail, but it has everything a tired, hungry hiker needs. Nameless and I got BBQ and then checked into a motel right in town so that we would be close to everything. I was asleep before 9pm.
Today is my last planned zero before Katahdin, and boy did I need the day off. I had a giant pancake breakfast, then got back in bed before Nameless and I set out to do our errands. We went to an outfitter in town so I could get new tips for my Leki trekking poles (the carbide tips were totally worn down from all the rocks lately), and then hit the grocery store. We bought food for the next 4 days of hiking, and also for 5 days to send ahead to Monson, where we will be in another 100 miles. It seemed like a good idea to have this food ready and waiting for us when we get to Monson so we don’t have to spend the time and energy doing a resupply. I also took some time to map out the next 220 miles to get me to Katahdin on July 11, so hopefully things go according to plan for once since my parents are coming to meet me in Baxter State Park. I’m currently very full from Thai food and ice cream, and ready for another night in this motel before hitting the trail for the final stretch! I still love the trail, but a big piece of me is also ready for the end. I will try to post one more update before Katahdin!
-Brightside

Days 110-116: Welcome to the Whites

On Wednesday morning (June 14) Nameless’s aunt drove us back to Hanover. We started hiking around 9am and it was already pretty warm out. I was a little bummed that my shoulder was still feeling quite sore, despite the visit to the chiropractor. Guess I’ll just have to deal with it for the next few weeks. With about 9 miles left in the day, we got to a road crossing and there was an older couple there with trail magic! They had fruit and sodas, and they were even grilling hot dogs! We stopped and sat for a while, enjoying the luxury of sitting in a real chair. I usually feel like I’ve struck gold when I find the perfect rock on the trail to take a rest on, so getting to sit in a chair while I drank an Orange soda (my go to soda while hiking) and ate a hot dog was a real treat! The last section of the day was a climb up Smarts Mountain. Mid way up there was an overlook and it was around 8pm so the sky was lit with the setting sun. We decided we didn’t have the energy to make it another two miles straight uphill at that point in the day so we found a spot to stealth camp for the night.
We continued up Smarts Mountain in the morning, and I could feel myself starting to sweat within a few minutes. There was a fire tower on the summit with stunning views all around us. Once we were down that mountain, we got to climb up Mt Cube. The terrain on the trail has definitely started to get a little harder again, and it’s taking some getting used to after going so long with only flats and very short climbs. We stopped for lunch at the top, but were getting swarmed with giant flies so we quickly packed up and headed down. Those two big climbs were draining, and our feet were dragging as we hiked on. With about 8 miles to go, we crossed a road, re-entered the trail in the woods, and then were surprised when we saw a man with trail magic. This man is known as “The Omelette Man.” He has a somewhat permanent setup right next to the trail, with a grill that he uses to make omelettes for hikers. He comes out every day during hiker season! He had chairs, bananas, and tons of juice. Since we got there around 4:30 he was already cleaning up for the day so we didn’t get omelettes, but we had delicious homemade no-bake cookies. After sitting there chatting for an hour, we were feeling really unmotivated to hike another 8 miles, but we really wanted to get to the Hikers Welcome Hostel so we could sleep inside and see a few of our trail friends who we knew were going to be there. The Omelette Man said that he could drive us to the hostel for the night. We took him up on that offer, happy to be able to call it a day. At the hostel, we met up with Bear, Penguin, and Magellan. This hostel had a brand new bunk house that probably had room for almost 30 people. The couple running it is amazing, and they are responsible for the Hiker Yearbook, which has been been in existence since 2014. Hikers can send pictures in and they put together an awesome yearbook that is available to buy after thru-hiker season. After we ate some dinner, we found out that we could slack pack the next day over Mt Moosilauke, which is considered the first big climb in the White Mountains. Going down the mountain northbound is one steepest descents on the trail, and if we slack packed, we would be going south so we would get to go up that instead of down. The Omelette Guy also said that he could bring us back to the hostel if we walked back to the spot he was doing trail magic going south. The decision to slack pack was easy. 
Breakfast at the hostel was eggs, bacon, and unlimited pancakes. Once we ate, those of us slack packing piled into the hostel’s short school bus. It was probably about 20 minutes to Kinsman Notch, where we hopped out of the bus and hit the trail going south. Bear took the lead, and I wanted to hike with all of the guys for the day so I made it my mission to keep up. The trail proceeded very steeply uphill alongside a waterfall. During some parts where the trail went alongside slippery steep rocks, there were wooden steps drilled into the rocks. It was in the mid 50s and misty out, but I had to take off my rain gear after a few minutes because I was getting so warm from working so hard to continue uphill at the very quick pace the group was going. About halfway up the mountain, the grade leveled off and the climb wasn’t as bad. The higher up we got, the harder the wind blew and the more it rained. I put my rain gear back on and continued upwards. Just before the summit, the trail goes above tree line, and we became even more exposed to the elements. The rain was pelting my face so hard I had to cover my eyes, and the wind was gusting to the point where I could hardly walk in a straight line. When I made it to the summit sign, I snapped a quick picture and then ran down the other side to get below tree line. I continued hiking quickly downhill to warm up and get to a lower elevation. The rain did lighten up, and I made it to the road where the hostel was around 1pm. At this point, Nameless and I were hiking with Penguin so we said bye to him and we set off to hike the 8 miles we had skipped out on the day before. We made great time and got to the Omelette Man before 4pm, and then he drove us back to the hostel. When we got to the hostel, another trail angel had just dropped off trays of sausage and veggies for dinner! There were a lot of people at the hostel and it was a fun group, so I enjoyed talking to lots of different people until I went to bed. 
I had another hot breakfast on Saturday at the hostel before we loaded a huge group onto the little bus to go to Kinsman Notch, this time hiking north again. The morning started out foggy but very humid, so I was sweating buckets as soon as we started climbing uphill. I hiked with Nameless and Penguin again and enjoyed having company on the brutal climbs. The sun started to peak out and I got some views of the mountains around me. The climb up to South and North Kinsman mountains was a tough one, and there were a lot of places where I had to toss my poles ahead to use both my hands to pull my body up boulders. I was drenched in sweat when I finally made it to the top, but it was totally worth it for the views that I got. The skies were blue and there were clear views on every direction. I looked ahead and was able to see all of Franconia Ridge, which I then walked the next day. These were the views I dreamed about weeks ago when I was still down south. All I asked for was at least one clear view in the Whites, and I definitely got it on Saturday. We set off down the mountain trying to make good timing, but also being cautiously slow on the steep decent to avoid any accidents. The White Mountains have a hut system so hikers have the option to stay inside during a backpacking trip. However, the huts are pricey (over $120 for a bunk) and they require a reservation. To help accommodate thru hikers, the huts will allow thru hikers the opportunity to “work for stay.” This usually entails washing dishes or doing some other chore in exchange for getting a spot to sleep on the floor. The huts also make a full dinner and breakfast, and thru hikers are welcome to the leftovers. When we got to the Lonesome Lake Hut, we were disappointed to hear that there was no work for stay available since they typically only allow two thru hikers each night, and Bear and Magellan had beat us there and taken those two spots. I’m a little salty about the huts because it makes lodging difficult while hiking through the whites, and I’m convinced that there should be a better way to deal with the thru hikers, I’m just not sure what it is. Penguin decided to stealth camp near the hut (which technically isn’t allowed), but Nameless and I decided that if we had to camp we might as while walk for a little longer, so we headed another 2.5 miles down to Franconia Notch. We found a stealthy spot to put our tent and made sure to stake it out well since rain was in the forecast overnight.
There was some light rain coming down when we woke up, so we packed up our wet tent while trying to keep everything somewhat dry. The day started with a tough climb up to Franconia Ridge. You might think that after 1800 miles, hiking might have gotten “easy”, but it’s still hard, and the Whites are an entirely new type of hard. Once we were up on the ridge, we went above tree like and walked into the clouds. It was foggy in every direction, and I could barely see more than 30 feet in front of me. While it was not the beautiful day I had imagined, it was sort of cool to be up on this rocky exposed ridge up in the clouds. The last climb of the day was up Mt Garfield, and some of the clouds had broken so we were able to see some views. We continued down to Galehead Hut, crossing our fingers in hopes that we would be able to work for stay. When we got there, the hut croo was happy have us! We waited outside while they served dinner to the guests, and then we got to eat the leftovers. Each night the croo runs a short program after dinner before people head to sleep, and the “work” that they had us do was talk about the AT for the nighttime program. I could talk about the trail non stop, so it was fun to have a little audience and be able to answer all of their questions. After we were done with the Q&A, one guy approached me to ask if I was wearing mascara. I told him that no I was not (what kind of thru hiker carries make-up??) and I just have naturally long eyelashes, which have probably gotten longer since living a stress free life on the trail is great for your hair, nails and skin. Once people cleared out of the dining room, Nameless and I set up our beds on the floor, happy to be inside, and went to bed. 
My alarm went off around 6am yesterday morning to ensure I had time to pack up my bed before the guests came into the dining room for breakfast. We listened to the weather update from the hut croo at 7am to hear that severe thunderstorms were in the forecast for the mountains with winds gusting up to 75mph on Mt Washington, and there was a flash flood warning in the valley. While we heard this awful and potentially dangerous weather, it didn’t look terrible outside at that moment, so we decided we should just keep hiking on and have some bail out plans if the weather turned. Once the guests were gone, we ate leftover cinnamon rolls and chatted with the croo for a bit. They were all awesome and reminded me of the fun people who were camp counselors during high school. Around 9am we hit the trail, and started with a steep 1200 foot climb in less than a mile up south twin mountain. We were happy that our highest elevation of the day was first thing in the morning. There were some brief views as the clouds rolled by, but the sky was looking pretty ominous. The trail went downhill for a while to Zealand Falls Hut, where we stopped inside for some baked goods and lemonade. For 3.5 miles after the hut, the trail was surprisingly flat so we were able to make good timing. The last part of the day was a decent to Crawford Notch. We heard a few claps of thunder during the last hour of hiking, and the rain started with about 30 minutes until we hit the road, but overall the weather for the day was fine for hiking. We were planning to stay at the AMC Highland lodge, so we started walking that direction down the road even though it was a few miles away. It probably took about 15 minutes of walking with our thumbs out to get a hitch. A couple who was driving in the opposite direction actually turned around to give us a ride. We apologized for getting their car soaking wet, and they said not to worry about it because it was a rental. They were happy to help us, and the woman even got out of the car to give us a hug when they dropped us off! People have been a little surprised that we’re already this far along on the trail since it’s a bit early for thru hikers, so people have been very excited to meet us and talk to us. At the lodge we asked about lodging for the night, only to hear that they had no rooms available. Excuse me?! No rooms! I was not happy. I was soaking wet, tired, and I just wanted a hot shower and dry clothes. As Nameless and I were figuring out what to do, I kept getting weird looks from other guests like they had never seen a wet hiker before. What else would they expect on a rainy day? I was almost glad to be going somewhere else because I didn’t feel like that place was very thru hiker friendly. We ended up calling a taxi and got a ride to a motel in Twin Mountain about 10 miles away. I felt way more welcome at this motel. The owners were so nice, and when we checked in they even offered to order us pizza and go pick it up for us! As we were walking to our room, we met another couple who later brought us a bottle of wine! All of these little things feel like huge things for us, and they really help us get through the tough moments of this journey. With a shower, clean clothes, pizza, and wine, I was a happy hiker. 
The same taxi driver came and picked us up at the motel at 8:00am this morning to bring us back to the trail at Crawford Notch. We decided to do a short 11 mile day to Lakes of the Cloud Hut, figuring that after walking mostly uphill for 11 miles we would be ready to call it quits. With this in mind, we took our time enjoying views and talking to everyone we saw on the trail. The weather was mostly good, and we had some sunshine and views as we were climbing uphill. Mid day we got to Mizpah Spring Hut. We stopped in to fill our water bottles, and one of the croo members offered us leftovers. We enjoyed warm pasta and beef, and we were in no rush to leave because we had less than 5 miles to Lakes of the Clouds from there. The hike from Mizpah to Lakes was one of my favorite sections of the trail so far. We quickly climbed up above tree line and were walking on an exposed ridge. There were a lot of clouds in the sky, but we still had phenomenal views all around us. I kept finding myself standing still taking everything in until a gust of wind would remind me that I needed to keep hiking. The clouds blew away for a moment and I had a clear view of Mt Washington up ahead, but fog quickly rolled in and once again my views were obstructed by clouds. With about a mile to go it started raining, so I hustled to make it down to the hut. It was so foggy I couldn’t see the hut until it was about 20 feet in front of me. I am currently sitting in a corner of the hut staying out of the way while the paying guests eat dinner. Once they are done, I will get to eat some leftovers and sleep inside on the floor somewhere. It’s amazing how little it takes to make a hiker happy.
Tomorrow morning I will be climbing up Mt Washington, and then hiking over the rest of the presidential traverse before heading down to Pinkham Notch where I will be getting a ride to Gorham, NH. I have also decided I am going to aim to summit Katahdin on July 11, only 3 weeks and 335 miles away! Next time I update, I will be in Maine!
-KG/Brightside 

Days 100-109: 442 Miles to Katahdin

On Sunday morning (June 4th), Nameless’s grandfather drove us back to the trail near Bennington, VT. Nut Shoe’s mom, Mrs. B, had offered to host us for another night so we could slack pack, so we just had food and water for the day. We hiked just over 23 miles to Stratton-Arlington road where we met Mrs. B and hopped in the car. Vermont is also called “Vermud” because the trail is so muddy, and it was a lot easier to hop around the mud without my full pack on. When we were back inside for the night, we looked at the weather and saw that it was suppose to be rainy again on Monday, and there was 100% chance of heavy rain all day on Tuesday. Not what we like to see. With this on the radar, Mrs. B suggested that we slack pack again on Monday, and then zero on Tuesday. How could we pass up this offer? We’ve hiked in the rain enough at this point so we were totally on board with that plan.

Monday was another day of slack packing, and we hiked 17.5 miles to Manchester, VT. The trail went up and over Stratton Mt where there is a neat fire tower, but the sky was gray so there were no views. Once we were down the mountain, the next 11 miles to the road were very flat so we cruised as quickly as possible, although the mud did slow us down a bit. As we were getting in the car with Mrs. B, another thru-hiker popped out onto the road so we gave him a ride into town. His comments about his hike were that he was ready to be done, so he was hiking as fast as possible to get to Katahdin. He had hiked 34 miles that day. I understand the feeling of wanting to be done, but I do not want to rush through the last part of this journey. I am tired all the time, and waking up to hike everyday has lost some excitement, but I still love it out here and I am not ready for it to be over.

Waking up to the sound of rain when you’re out in a shelter or a tent is a horrible sound, but waking up to the sound of rain outside your widow while you are sleeping inside and have no plans to hike is totally different. Nut Shoe’s family has a house in Vermont, and they recently bought the house next door to use for guests, and this guest house is now one of my favorite places. It was an awesome place to hang out for the day. A little after lunch time we went into Brattleboro to go bowling. That same day, Bear was coming back to Vermont after being off the trail for a few days for a wedding in Michigan. Mrs. B went to pick him up at the bus stop in Bennington, so we got to be reunited with him for the night! We had a fun night with lots of food, drinks, and a game a Yahtzee.

After 8 nights of sleeping indoors, I suppose it was ready to get back to the life of tents and shelters. We got held up a bit leaving in the morning when Bear thought he lost his wallet, only to find out after he cancelled all his cards that it was hiding in one of the water bottle pockets in his pack. It was almost noon when we finally started hiking, and the trail went immediately uphill from the road to Bromley Mountain. The trail pops out of the woods near the top and walks along one of the ski trails up to the top where you can see the chair lift. It was a sunny day so the views were beautiful, but boy oh boy were the bugs out! It was so buggy we couldn’t stand up top for too long before we had to keep walking to avoid being bitten. We got to a shelter around 5pm and decided to call it quits early. I still have some trouble finding my rhythm the day after a zero, so I didn’t need to hike any further.

I love when I wake up and don’t feel rushed to jump out of my sleeping bag to hit the trail. The temperature was perfect as I was waking up, and I laid in my sleeping bag for a while as I looked outside to see that the weather was looking perfect. I made some coffee while Nameless got some extra sleep, and then we hit the trail. We did about 20 miles through A LOT of mud, and then got to a shelter where we were the only ones there! When I took my shoes off I had to put them as far away from where we were sleeping as possible because they smelled like something had died. I didn’t know shoes could smell that bad. It must be the combination of my sweaty feet and all the mud that smells like poop. The life of a thru-hiker is not glamorous. We ate our mac and cheese, and had a peaceful night of sleep without anyone else making noise and keeping us awake.

We were up early on Friday and the trail finally started to get a little less muddy. The highlight of the day was passing the “500 miles to Katahdin” sign! 500 miles is still a long ways to go, but at the same time if feels so short. Each 100 miles has gone by faster that the last, so I know the last 500 will fly by. From that sign, the trail went uphill for a few miles to Killington Mt. Mid way up the climb, it started to rain, but it was warm enough where the rain felt good. There is a shelter up top on the mountain, but it is filled with trash because it is so popular. From the shelter, there is a blue blazed trail 0.2 miles up to the summit of the mountain, so we left our packs at the shelter and ran up to the top. Luckily the rain had stopped and the cloud broke a bit so we had some views. We hiked down from Killington as fast as we could because we were eager to get to the Inn at Long Trail at the bottom. We got to a road and had the option of walking 1 mile on the road to the Inn (not the AT), or 2.5 miles on the trail to the Inn on the AT. I was tempted to take the shortcut, but felt too guilty, so we hiked on the trail. It was a 23 mile day with some good climbing, so we were happy to be done hiking for the day. When I went inside the Inn to get a room, I was greeted by very friendly staff who were all very excited to talk to a NOBO AT hiker since there aren’t too many of us up this far north at this point. They had a great hiker rate ($86 for a room instead of the typical $126), and this cost even included a full breakfast in the morning. After showers, we went down to the Irish pub inside in the Inn, where I got the most delicious “Guinness Stew” and we listed to live Irish music. It was a wonderful night.

The breakfast in the morning made me never want to leave that Inn. Nameless and I both both eggs, and we also split an order of apple cinnamon pancakes. I swear I could have eaten two full orders of those pancakes on my own. After we stuffed our mouths full, we made our way back to the trail. It was hot, and it was more buggy than ever before. I am using a natural Deet-free bug spray that does work to some extent, but with all the sweat coming off my body it doesn’t keep the bugs away completely, or for very long. It seemed like the trail kept going up and then down, but the ups had no views at the top so I was feeling frustrated. When I got to the side trail to the Look Out shelter, I ran up to the top and finally got a view! There was a ladder on the side of the shelter to a platform up top where I had a 360 degree view of the green mountains all around me. That is what I was waiting for all day. I had a burst of energy from all that beauty, and I felt like I was running the last 2.5 miles of the day. The Wiltturi shelter we were at for the night was a fun group, and we even met another guy wearing a kilt (Nameless hikes in a kilt)! There was a wonderful fire going, which was keeping the bugs away, so we could all enjoy being outside without getting eaten alive.

On Sunday the temperature were back up to high 80s, which us hikers do not like. We timed our start for the day so we could get down to the road right at 10am when a small market was opening up. We stopped in and bought a blueberry, raspberry, peach pie, which was still warm. Nameless and I each had half. I didnt feel great while walking uphill from the road with half a pie in my sromach, but it was worth it for the pie. Due to the heat and the long pie break, when we got to West Hartford, VA around 6pm, we were both ready to be done for the day. The trail crosses the white river so we went down to jump in the water since we were drenched in sweat and smelling worse than ever before. While we were in the water, we were chatting with a couple who were also enjoying the cool water. I asked them if they knew of somewhere in town we could camp. Their response was that we could camp in their yard, which was just around the corner! It turned out that they had recently bought this house and were renovating it so they hadn’t moved in yet, but we were welcome to put our sleeping bags in the empty house, use the hot water for showers, and lock up when we left in the morning. We were both so greatful and amazed by this act of kindness. So once again, we found ourselves sleeping inside. 

We woke up early with the sun and hit the trail at full speed. It was just 10 miles to Hanover, NH and we were eager to get there because we were getting picked up by Nameless’s aunt. It was another hot day and the bugs were swarming so I hiked as fast as I could to get out of the woods. Around 11am the trail came out to a road in Norwich, VT where we were greeted with a cooler full of cold sodas! We sipped on our sodas while we walked about 2 miles on the road to the Connecticut river, where we crossed into New Hampshire! I can’t believe I made it to my 13th of 14 states! When we got to Hanover, it was very busy with people. Irs a good thing we didn’t get there one day earlier because we wouls have walked right into the Dartmouth graduation. We went to Starbucks to get big frappachinos and then to a pizza place for lunch. Nameless’s aunt picked us up and drove us back to their house on Bellows Falls, VT. I’ve been having some shoulder pain which isn’t getting any better while wearing a heavy pack all day long, so I went to see a chiropractor for some adjusting. Hopefully it helps! Nameless’s uncle cooked us some delicious fried chicken, we watched a little TV then went to sleep.

Today was another super hot day so we decided it was best to zero and stay off the trail and out of the heat. We had a lazy morning and then went into Brattleboro for lunch. It was great to spend time with Nameless’s family and be in such a homey place. We did some planning for the upcoming days and are super excited for the White Mountains, although the weather looks questionable at the moment.

With just 442 miles left in this journey, I’m trying to savor every moment! Stay tuned for more updates from the final stretch!
-KG/Brightside 

 

 

Days 93-99: Living in Luxury 

Hello from Vermont! The past week I have been so busy enjoying the trail and people alongside of it that I didn’t write any notes in my blog. Including tonight, I’ve slept inside 6 of the last 7 nights, so no need to worry about me roughing it in the wilderness at the moment. I am near Brattleboro, VT right now with Nameless at his grandfather’s house. We took the day off from hiking, but somehow it’s after 9pm and I’m just getting around to writing something to update all you followers! Now where was I a week ago…
On Sunday (the 28th) I woke up in Connecticut with my good friend Lauren. I saw a whole bunch of old friends the night before for a BBQ and it was so nice to be back with everyone. We left in the afternoon on Sunday to drive to New Jersey for the wedding of two our good friends, Cait and Pat. It was fun to get dressed up and put on make up, but shoving my swollen feet into 4-inch wedges was not as fun (I quickly switched to flats). I had a great time celebrating, dancing, and of course eating all of the delicious food. A wedding may be as far from the trail as you can get, so it did feel a little strange for me to be in that setting for the night. Big thanks to Lauren for picking me up from the trail so I could make it to the wedding, and big congrats to the happy couple!
After a nice brunch at the hotel on Monday morning, we drove back to Fairfield. Nameless went home to PA for the weekend so we picked him up at a train station on our way back. My dad then met me us in CT and drove us back to the trail in Massachusetts. He dropped us off near Great Barrington around 5pm and we hiked a quick 7 miles to a shelter. When we got to the shelter, we noticed that a lot of the wood was very worn and scratched. There was a note pinned to one of the walls that nicely warned people of the porcupines that invade the shelter at night. This shelter had a second story loft, so we decided to sleep up there even though porcupines can climb. Another hiker was also sleeping up top with us, and in the middle of the night I was awoken to the sound of rocks falling to the shelter floor from the loft. The other guy had heard a porcupine in the shelter, and was dropping rocks down to scare it away. I was too tired to bother looking down.
When I checked my phone on Tuesday morning, I had a text from my dad. He had spent the night with a good friend in Williamstown, and said he would come meet us to pick up our packs so we could slack pack for the day. We hiked just 2 miles to the road to meet him, and then set off for another 21 miles with our tiny day packs. It was a gray day with some light rain, and we hiked quickly knowing that the sooner we finished the sooner we could take hot showers and eat warm food. My dad met us near Lee, MA and we went back to Williamstown for the night. 
We decided to take advantage of my dad being around and slack pack another day. Hiking without our full packs is such a treat! From the road near Lee, we hiked another 20 miles up to Dalton, MA. Once in Dalton, the trail went 1.5 miles along the road and through neighborhoods. My dad picked us up again, and within about 5 minutes of getting in the car, the skies opened up and it started thundering and pouring rain. Boy were we happy not to be out hiking in that! We enjoyed another night of showers, home cooked dinner, and real beds. 
My dad dropped us back off at the trial on Thursday morning, and we set off to hike up and over Mt Greylock to a shelter about 21 miles away. Around lunch time we hiked right through the small town of Cheshire and got lunch and milkshakes. Even though we had just had two nights of hot dinners, we still couldn’t turn down the opportunity to eat food that wasn’t trail food. The sun was finally out after what seemed like days of clouds. The climb up Mt Greylock was the longest climb we’ve had in a while, but it was fairly gradually. It was around 6pm when we got to the top, and after taking some photos, we wandered over to the Bascom Lodge. The sign outside said there was “sunset beverage hour” until 7pm, so naturally we went in for a drink. We still had about 3.5 miles to walk down to the shelter, but after a beer and realizing that we could stay in the lodge, our desire to keep walking plummeted. While working on beer number 2, a staff member told us that a bunch of people with reservations didn’t show up, so they had extra dinner if we wanted to eat at a discount. Of course we did! Two older ladies were eating dinner together and wanted some company so we joined them and talked their ears off about our thru hikes. Dinner consisted of bread and soup, crab cakes, potatoes and veggies, with homemade lemon sorbet for dessert. The wonderful women even paid for our meals! Did I mention how spoiled I feel lately? We retreated up to our room and went right to sleep, knowing we had to be up early to hike those extra 3.5 miles in the morning.
From Mt Greylock, we had just under 25 miles to hike to get to VT route 9 near Bennington where we were meeting Nut Shoe’s mom! His parents live in Vermont and graciously offered to host us for a night, and as I’m sure you can tell, we never pass up a night of sleeping indoors. The main highlight of the hiking for the day was crossing into Vermont! For the first 105 miles of Vermont, the AT and the Long Trail are one in the same. Then, the long trail continues north and the AT veers east to Hanover. The last 15 minutes of the day we made our way down a very steep section of the trail, our joints aching with each big step down what was essentially a rock stairway. I was happy to finally see the road and get off my feet. Nut Shoe’s parents have a great house up on top of a mountain, and they also own the house next door so they have a place for visitors. We had a great dinner with Nut Shoe’s parents and brothers before another night of sleeping indoors. 
It’s always a great feeling to wake up and know I don’t have to walk anywhere. I stayed in bed until after 9am, and then went downstairs for breakfast. After lots of coffee and bacon, we got a ride about 20 minutes to Nameless’s grandfathers house, which is also beautiful and situated on a mountain. After we got back from town to do our resupply, I took a nap before dinner. I also tried to do some research on apartments in Denver since I’ll be moving out there in just 2 months and I’d prefer not to continue living in my tent. Nut Shoe’s mom has offered to slack pack us 23 miles tomorrow, so I have yet another night indoors to look forward to! After that, we will continue hiking north through Vermont and we will break our long streak of sleeping indoors. I can’t believe we only have 580 miles to Katahdin!
-KG/Brightside