Day 101 – 10th July (Posted Sat 12th July)

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Started at Galehead hut – mile 1825.2

Finished at Mizpah Spring hut – mile 1846.3

21.1 miles covered.

Total days hiked 99

18.65 Av miles / days

 

Firstly I would like to apologise if you find me rambling on or repeating myself as the days pass. I think I haven’t been guilty of this but my blog is like an information upload for me. So much happens out here and once committed to the notes in my iPhone it fades from my memory. If you asked me what I was doing last week or what shelter I stayed in it would take some time to work it out.

Tiredness is also a big factor. When I type my blog I am shattered and clinging on by my finger nails. Maybe the best material is written like this or maybe my words are just a load of dribble. Either way I am struggling to maintain energy levels during my hike and fully commit to this blog. Once again everyone else is asleep and I am still typing. Yet something drives me on to try and record what’s been occurring. It’s just tonight’s entry might be a little brief.

The guys at the Galehead hut were a world of difference to the little upstarts at the Lonesome lake hut. It was nice waking up feeling full of healthy food. Something I haven’t felt for a good while.

XC and I were the only ones who stayed for breakfast, but this time they made us fresh oatmeal and we also had pancakes.

The first climb of the day was tough and took us to the South Twin Mountain along the Twinway trail. Things then improved. We were told by the south bounders last night that there was a 5 mile section that was flat and I hadn’t even come to that part of the trail at that point.

This is why we pushed for a big day of 21 miles instead of 16. Where a 16 mile day in the Whites has felt like a 20-25 mile day.

There was another hut at 21 miles from where we started today. We thought we would go for it. Although the first 15 miles where relatively straight forward hitting the climb to Webster cliffs at the end of the day was hard.

XC had hiked ahead of me for most of the day and I played a game of tracking him as I know the tread on his Salomon trail runners. He has a pair similar to ones I have owned and it was easy to distinguish them from the other footprints. I spend a lot of time studying the trail anyway to make sure I place my feet correctly. I could see his tracks in the mud as well as prints on rocks. It these kind of games that help the days pass.

At one point this afternoon I launched my trekking poles. I felt knackered and frustrated, completing lacking in energy. Today is day 4 in the Whites and I still have 3 more days.

I used the tracking game as a distraction and also went through memory games in my head. I went through as many Kung fu blocks that I could remember.  Punch blocks 1-8 and kick block 1-5.

I also went through the layout of all the caravans in Hardwick Park in my head and who lives in which. Visualising each person and any memories / funny stories I have about them. I found racking my brains for outside stimuli helped and changed my mood. This hike is much more of a mental struggle than I expected.

Mt. Webster and the Webster cliffs were impressive. I had a huge climb and then had to traverse the ridge. Some of which was above tree line. I could see the South and North Twin peaks and the ridge I had been walking on earlier. I could even see Mt Washingon which is the second biggest mountain on the whole trail. That’s what we intend to cross over tomorrow.

I arrived at Mizpah hut just gone 20:15 after 10.5 hours of pure hiking (not including breaks) Luckily another thru hiker had decided to move on and there was a space for me. XC was doing a talk upstairs to the day hikers who were staying at the hut. I ate well but drew the short straw and had to clean the fridge out for payment.

Staying in these huts is becoming a bit of a pattern. There were a load of left over cookies and chocolate cake tonight that the staff insisted we take with us. Otherwise they have to carry it out with the trash. It’s an arrangement that works, although I feel I am moving away from the wilderness experience that was my original intent. I think the huts we pass tomorrow won’t fit the mileage I need to average so I think things will hopefully return to normal. I miss my tent and want to do more stealth camping in this beautiful section of the trail.

Day 100 – 9th July (Posted Sat 12th July)

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Started at Lonesome Lake hut – mile 1809.2

Finished at Galehead hut – mile 1825.2

16 miles covered.

Total days hiked 98

18.62 Av miles / days

 

There was bug mesh over the windows in the hut, but because the doors had been open whilst people were eating we were not alone last night. I applied bug spray and slept on my pad with my head net on. I slept between the tables in the dining area and woke up at 05:30 to find that breakfast was being made. It was an open plan dining area and we were encouraged to get up and out of the way before the paying guests appeared.

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The guys who worked at the huts were young and seemed to like to flex their new muscles of authority. I got told off for applying bug spray next to the table and then emptying a small amount of trash into a rubbish bin. They have to pack the trash out so I suppose I was in the wrong. However, after this scolding by a girl called Emily, I decided to sarcastically ask if it was ok to refill my bottle from a tap in the kitchen. Jumped up little…….

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Whilst we were waiting for breakfast I decided to do a little map work. I dusted off the cobwebs of understanding how to use my compass in conjunction with a map. I had a PDF saved to my kindle that Woodlands ways supplied me with and it was good to test these skills.

The problem with the AT is that you have to follow a trail opposed to bush whacking. This pretty much renders a compass useless, but it was fun to play boy scouts again.

At 08:00 we were called in for breakfast. It consisted of cold oatmeal and peaches, a few rashers of streaky bacon and some pumpkin bread with chocolate chips. I took a few extra pieces of pumpkin bread which came in very handy throughout the day.

By 08:30 we hit the trail. The terrain was easy for the first 3 miles and we were soon at Franconia notch.

I had a few issues with a river crossing. I had put clean socks on this morning and applied a bit of TLC to my feet and really didn’t want them to get wet. It looks like I am finally loosing a toe nail and thought it was about time I looked after my feet.

I tried several times to cross the river hopping from rock to rock. It was like I was playing a game of chess and I was constantly in check. In the end I decided just to wade through it. There was no escape from getting wet feet for me. Although XC had bravely jumped a gap of about 4 feet from 1 boulder to another. I didn’t want to take that risk based on my track history.

I have been nursing a bruised buttock today (said in my best forest gump impression) after slipping yesterday. I opted to take a few Vitamin I this morning which helped but it still hurt sitting down during breaks.

The climb to the Franconia ridge was 2800ft. It was straight up but seemed easier than the climbs we had done yesterday. We spoke with a caretaker at Liberty Springs campsite. I was expecting the caretakers to be old guys, but he was young and had just turned 22. His task for the day was cleaning out the privy. Happy birthday dude.

The ridge lead on to Mt. Lafayette. It was stunning and I hiked with a permanent smile on my face. The ridge swept an undulating path for about 4 miles. It was all above tree line and exposed. Pretty white flowers grew amongst the rocks and bright yellow lichen clung onto the rocks for dear life. It was sunny but the wind was strong. It made taking pictures a bit of a challenge, but I literally couldn’t stop snapping. Just as I would go over a new ridge a new view presented itself and it was too good to pass up.

A path ran along the ridge that encouraged hikers not to wander off and damage the fragile environment. And there were stone kerns dotted along the ridge to help identify where the trail ran. As proved on Mt. Moosilauke these are vital in bad weather of foggy conditions.

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We stopped for a snack at the top of Lafayette and realised that we still had 7 miles to cover to do the necessary 16. I had felt pretty strong up until then, but I started to fade. After descending the ridge we joined he Garfield Ridge trail which was no picnic. Again there was a lot of scrambling and the ground was a tangled mess of roots and rock. I caught my trail runner in a root and tore an extra bit of ventilation. My trainers look almost as bad as the last pair that had way more miles on them. This is tough terrain.

 

 

I also took a tumble and fell against my trekking pole jamming it between a root and my leg. This resulted in the pole being propelled across the trail spinning a full 360 degrees.

These kind of accidents are generally a result of fatigue so I decided to take a break. Refreshed I set off with my iPod plugged in. I was just listening to a guilty pleasure – Mr James Blunt and the following words came through my head phones.

Oh these feet carry me far,

Oh my body, oh so tired,

Mouth is dry, hardly speak.

Freaky…… In case anyone is interested the tune is called ‘I’ll take everything’.

After Mt. Garfield the plan was to head to the next hut and chance our luck. We hadn’t seen buffalo and his gang and quizzed other south bounders whether they had seen any north bounders heading towards the hut to assess our chances.

All was going well and we were within 1 mile of Galehead hut. Then I noticed somebody hiking up behind me. It was time to push. I discretely informed XC who was just in front and we didn’t mess about. It was almost dangerous. All thoughts of safety and placing my feet carefully went out of the window. Free food and a warm place to stay was on the cards. We soon smoked the other hiker. If he had tried to do an overtaking manoeuvre I had planned to dominate the trail and block any advances. Wearing head phones I thought that I could just pretend that I hadn’t noticed he was behind. Fortunately it didn’t come to this.

When we arrived at the hut the dining room (our bedroom) was full with people eating. XC went in to get water. I didn’t wait for them to ask if we wanted to do work for stay. I got straight in there. We had to wait 5 minutes and then were given the good news that we could stay. Twice in 2 days. We couldn’t believe our luck.

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The meal consisted of lentil soup to start, followed by pork chops and rice and veg. There was also some fish done in a jerk sauce. It was delicious and I had 3 pork chops all to myself. The 5 of us who had work for stay tucked in and everyone was silent.

The tasks tonight were divided up and once again XC and I had fridge and freezer duty. The guys working there were pretty chilled and seemed happy with our efforts.

One of the other hikers looks uncannily like a friend of mine from Dyson (Mr Adam Bates AKA Batesy). I mentioned this to the others along with the fact that I had seen my gramps and my good friend Sam’s double this last week.

XC said he’d been experiencing something similar and that people he has met on the trail look the spit of friends back home. I think everyone has a double out there and find it amazing how 2 completely unrelated people can look so similar. So, maybe my matrix theory isn’t so far away from the truth after all.

Tonight is cold and I have been wearing my puffy jacket. My beard feels like wire wool as it brushes the velour material that lines the collar of the jacket.

The south bound hikers who are doing WFS (work for stay) said that it was between 0-5 degrees C on Mt Washington the other day and has been a little chilly at these elevations. Looks like I might of needed my winter gear that got lost in Rutland after all.

Day 99 – 8th July (Posted Sat 12th July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at stealth camp spot by Lost River road – mile 1795.9

Finished at Lonesome Lake hut – mile 1809.2

13.3 miles covered.

Total days hiked 97

18.65 Av miles / days

 

This is the life. I am writing this blog entry sitting in a wooden recliner chair with mountains all around me. Frogs are chirping. All thanks to a last minute decision paying dividends.

This morning Socks had to hitch into town to get some new shoes. After reviewing my map of the Whites and the document on stealth camping we had hit from the hostel a plan was hatched. We had agreed a spot where we would meet up as I really wanted an uninterrupted day of hiking. And boy did I need it.

I was on the trail before 08:00 and was pleased to find the remainder of the trail magic that Socks had found last night. I glugged down a can of diet root beer in no time. My only complaint was that it wasn’t of the full fat variety.

After leaving Kingsman Notch I was climbing straight away. The climb lead up to Mt. Wolf along Kingsman Ridge. There was a sign that read Kingsman Ridge – very difficult. It was tough and required a lot of problem solving. Working out the best way to negotiate roots, rocks, ledges and drop offs.

I saw more evidence of Moose in the form of hoof prints in the thick black sticky mud as well as fresh scat. I was half expecting to see a Moose round every corner.

The mud was really bad in places and at one point it almost swallowed my foot in one bite. On pulling my foot clear of the mud it made a farting noise in disgust.

It took me 4 hours 20 minutes to cover the first 7.5 miles to Eliiza Brook shelter. Way below my normal 2.5 mph. Hopefully that shows that the terrain was tough. Not only were the climbs gruelling and exhausting, but the descents involved a lot of planning. On both I used whatever I could to help me. Branches, roots and lots of energy.

When I could see a clear view of the neighbouring mountains I got my map out and aligned it with North. This helped me work out what mountains surrounded me. I saw the mighty Franconia range and it made me shudder.

After stopping at Eliza Brook for a much needed tortilla cheese – pepperoni combo. I was joined by Buffalo and the guys he had been hiking with. I was just on my way out as they arrived and I commented that they had been moving fast. They stayed at a shelter 1.5 miles before where we had camped. One guy commented that he didn’t know what all the fuss was about with the Whites. I will come back to that.

I pushed on and then climbed Kinsman Mountain. On the way out of the shelter I slipped twice whilst getting water. Nothing major although I must remember to remove my pack when doing so. It’s much safer.

It went straight up to an elevation of 4358ft and at the start of the climb paralleled a fast flowing river. The air was cool there and there was a mist of water in the air which helped cool me down. This didn’t last for long.

Most of the climb involved hand over hand scrambling. Again trees that surrounded the trail were useful aids and it was as tough as I have seen it so far.

When I reached the summit of the South Mountain the views were stunning. Much like Yellowstone. It was an exposed summit, much smaller than Moosilauke but awesome non the less. I could imagine that this is what it would have been like yesterday if the weather had been on our side.

As I was eating a handful of Skittles I heard a voice and Socks appeared over the ridge. He managed to cover the same ground I struggled with in half the time. He had heard from the others that I was not too far ahead and he had pushed. He had been to Lincoln and had a brand spanking pair of Salomon trail runners. So I can no long call him Socks as the sandals are dead. Long live the queen. Instead I shall refer to him by his proper trail name of XC from now on.

We still had another 6 miles to cover to get to Franconia notch to make it a 16 mile day. We stopped briefly at Kinsman Pond shelter. This was the first of the shelters where you had to pay 8 bucks for the privilege. We just wanted to take a look and to be honest it looked very nice.

The AT shares a number of other trails in the Whites and the next part of it was on the Fishin Jimmy Trail. A south bounder had warned up about it. Saying it was pretty lethal.

There was a lot of wet slippery rock that sloped at angles that tested the laws of physics. The limit of friction was reached on a number of occasions. At some points I decided that the best method was slide down the rock on my arse. The only problem was that after 15-20 feet of sliding I struggled to get my brakes to work. This resulted in me brushing me left bum cheek. After this moment every time I stepped up the rock face I felt it and sitting down is painful to say the least.

The huts in Whites have paying guests and thru hikers can often just turn up and get left overs or do work for stay.

We had been discussing the possibility of stopping at the Lonesome Lake Hut to see if there was any food available.  Then a south bound hiker said that that there weren’t any other hikers ahead of us and it might be worth a look. This was only 13 miles in and initially I was reluctant, but after stopping for a water break fatigue was setting in. We were both in pretty bad shape by now.

We had been dragging our heels a little taking videos and pictures. Action shots is what I like to call them. Then one of the three amigos in buffalo’s gang appeared on the trail behind. It was business time. We were less than a mile from the hut and no way was I gonna let 1 of these little pipsqueaks beat us to it. Generally they only accept 2 thru hikers. Suddenly I found a new gear and flew down the trail. We arrived in the nick of time and the girl who ran the places said we had won the lottery. I doubled checked that our names had been recorded shortly before pipsqueak no1 turned up. It was every man for himself.

We had an hour to wash off in the lake and chill as the other gusts were still eating. At 19:30 it was game time and we filled our boots. I had 3 helpings of lasagne, salad and bread. Then 2 pieces of carrot cake washed down with 3-4 hot chocolates.

The guys that run the huts were young and it was probably their first proper job. One guy ground my gears a little. I think the responsibility of assigning jobs for the thru hikers went to his head. He gave us the task of cleaning the freezer and doing an itinerary. He gave us 2 paint scrappers and bucket of water. It was a piece of cake and XC and I worked like a well-oiled machine despite the scrapers being useless. In the end I said that we should only bother doing the top half as he would never notice once the food was back in. 20 minutes of work for a huge meal was a no brainer.

I had counted out the number of meals that I had left in my food bag and it was only 5-6 at a push. Doing work for stay has saved me from running low on food and there’s even breakfast tomorrow.

Buffalo and his mates looked like they had a touch of sour grapes when they left knowing that we were sorted for the evening. I said that they could have the next hut as a good will gesture. They didn’t seem bothered, so if we can do this again I will have no guilt in doing so.

Just to conclude on something I mentioned earlier: The guy who was a little too sure of himself in the group also admitted that in fact the Whites were no picnic, breathing heavily and looking a little out of shape. It seems they are kicking every bodies butts not just mine.

Day 98 – 7th July (Posted Sat 12th July)

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Started at Ore Hill campsite – mile 1779.3

Finished at stealth camp spot by Lost River road – mile 1795.9

16.6 miles covered.

Total days hiked 96

18.7 Av miles / days

 

Man, what a day in the office. You will have to excuse me as I type this. I have been sitting outside my tent wearing my waterproof jacket with the hood up whilst drinking my hot chocolate. I am hot and irritable and I have insect bites on my ears and quite a few over the rest of my body. Grrrrrr!

The first part of the morning involved a 7.5 mile hike into Glencliff. Socks had already left when I woke. He said that he came over to my tent and asked about my status, but I was fast asleep. I can remember having an awesome dream about something I just can’t remember what it was.

There was a new face at the campsite. There was another tent there when we arrived and whoever was in it was all zipped up by about 19:00. The owner of the tent was an older guy called Uffda. Quite a contrast to the Uffda I had met early on the trail. This guy had lost 70lbs since starting out in February and was loud and liked telling jokes. I told him that it was no joke that his neo air Thermosets pad was really noisy. Every time he moved last night his sleeping pad would let everyone in the vicinity know. I hoped something sharp would pop it.

I was soon on the trail and within 3 hours I had reached the road leading to Glencliff. I was heading to the Hiker Welcome hostel.

When I got there Buffalo and Socks were sitting outside. The guy that ran the place was called Legion and looked uncannily like Mr Samuel Edney. Just with a straggly beard and a piercing or 2. He had a lot of info and advice about the Whites. Average mileage, places to stealth camp and how much food we would need to pack in with us.

The hostel was rough around the edges. Inside there was an extensive collection of films and a computer which we could use. Uffda and the other guys turned up soon after I arrived and insisted on putting on the film Fletch.

I had sent a resupply box here. After the last problem with my box not turning up I was a little nervous. Thankfully it was at the post office across the road and Legion picked it up for me.

When I first started the trail I would always just wash my own clothes and wouldn’t willingly entertain the idea of splitting a load. How times have changed as 3 of us shared 1 load. I had a pair of socks that had been sitting in a bag in my pack for days that reeked which were at least as bad as anyone else’s.

The washing took about an hour so I used this opportunity to charge my electrical quip, shower and get organised by finding out as much about the Whites as I could. There’s never enough time to go through all my emails and answer them all unfortunately.

After 2 cans of soda and a Yoo-hoo I was good to go. The weather had other ideas. Clouds had been building and rain was predicted. Just as we were about to leave it started. Socks wanted to stay, but I didn’t want the weather to dictate what I did. He reluctantly followed me back out onto the trail. Within minutes we were soaked through and the shower and clean laundry were distant memories. Socks seemed to be a little afraid of what it would be like at the top of Mt Moosilauke and wasn’t best pleased with the decision. We had left late in the day and it was a 4.5 mile climb from 13:30 to 4802ft and it was HARD. The decent on the other side of the mountain was rumoured to be more like a waterfall when it rained.

We pushed on and luckily it stopped raining. The climb was slow and like nothing we had seen for some time. It reminded me of the Smokies. There was mist hanging over the trail and every step had to be well thought out.

As we approached the summit of Moosilauke the tall spruces and hemlocks were replaced by much smaller spruce trees. These diminished over the last 500ft and the summit was really exposed. We were up in the clouds with nowhere to go but forward. The wind was violently whipping against my waterproof jacket and visibility was poor. I did take a few pictures but it was hard work and the visibility wasn’t really good enough, but you’ll get the idea.

We stopped for a quick break and Socks gave me a couple of Orios. It was not the kind of place that you would want to hang about in with the conditions as they were. Socks said he wouldn’t want to be there alone. Personally I loved it and felt very alive with the moment.

There are a lot of other trails through the Whites and it is slightly confusing. There are less white blazes and none above tree line. Instead there are stone stacks called kerns. I have purchased a map for his section and Legion said this was a wise move.

Sock’s has been sporting a pair of very short shorts today. Some might say that they are of the Stu. Mccliesh variety (no offence Stu) I joked that in these conditions maybe it wasn’t the right move and I would prefer it if he hiked behind me as it’s more than I want to look at thank you!

Socks had a blow out with one of his sandals as we started to descend. One of the straps had snapped after nearly 1800 miles of use.

We stopped at Beaver Brook shelter to evaluate the situation. It looks like he is gonna need to get some new trainers / sandals for the rest of the trail.

Funnily enough a south bound thru hiker had passed me today who was also wearing sandals. His trail name was.. You guessed it. So Socks isn’t alone on his quest to be ultralight weight.

The other guys were at the shelter as they had left the hostel before us. We were advised that we shouldn’t go any further today by Legion. I wanted to push on and do the rest of the decent as we still had daylight on our side.

The decent was super steep and in places water was running across it. Water also cascaded down the mountain forming many violent waterfalls which ran parallel to the trail for most climb down. I was so close I could feel the spray coming off of the water as it sped down the mountain. I set my camera to manual and messed around with the shutter speed to give that ghost effect on water. It worked well although I did slip up and drop my dropped my camera at one point. I had been going so carefully as well.

There were wooden steps and rails in places which helped but stepping down from rock to rock really hurt my knees. It was brutal and I had to really rely on my trekking poles to take my weight as well as helping against slides. This is not somewhere you want to have a power slide.

Finally I made it down to the bottom. All the time I was using my watch to check the altitude to give me an idea of how far I had to go. I had got caught up taking pictures at any opportunity and by the time I had reached the bottom I really should have been wearing my head torch.

Socks was already at the bottom and had found some trail magic. A couple of cans of Root beer that he had left in the water to keep cool. He had found me a spot to pitch my tent. It was close to the river that I had followed down the mountain. Unfortunately the camp spot was right next to a tree that a beaver had been chewing. I always inspect the area in which I intend to camp as falling rotten branches or trees could be curtains. I thought that as there was a beaver dam close by that maybe Mr Beaver might return for a midnight snack so I decided to pitch elsewhere. We are in an area where you are not really meant to camp, but there is some evidence that others have and it was getting late.

Socks had a slight mishap putting up his hammock. A rotten tree snapped at the base and there was an almighty smack as it hit the ground.

My legs and knees ache but we managed to do the 16 miles that I had planned to make as my average through this difficult terrain. I do hope I can walk tomorrow.

Day 97 – 6th July (Posted Monday 7th July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at Trapper John Shelter – mile 1759.8

Finished at Ore Hill campsite – mile 1778.6

18.8 miles covered.

Total days hiked 95

18.72 Av miles / days

 

Things started late today. I woke at 05:45 and thought that I’d have a 15 minute lay in. Next thing it was 07:45. I didn’t leave camp until 9ish.

I had said to Socks that I needed to concentrate on my hike today as I have slipped more times over the last 3 days than on most of the trip. My Salomons don’t seem to grip when there is water, sand and grit and pine needles involved.

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The rocks here seem to sweat and appear damp even in the middle of day when they are in a shady place. Initially I thought it was morning dew, but Socks put it into perspective. The rocks are porous and hence draw up water from below the ground. Any cold object that is colder than its surrounds produces condensation. Just like a coke can that’s been in the fridge.

I called home and spoke to the PR officer (Sarah). She informed me that there are to be 2 articles in the local papers about my trip. Hopefully it will help raise a few more quid.

Socks set off before me today, but I soon caught up with him. There was a sign saying free ice cream about a mile in. I followed the signs and came to a house and saw his pack propped against the front porch. A guy came round from the back of the house and asked if I wanted to join them for breakfast. I walked round to find Socks at the table. The guy who invited me round was the son of the old guy who lived there. They were all really welcoming and the old guy shook my hand for about a minute.

 

I was given 2 slices of banana bread and one woman insisted that I tried some yogurt made from goats milk. It tasted like yakult.

We exchanged stories and after I had eaten I was given a free homemade ice cream and there was soda. What a good start to the day.

It was needed as there was a hearty 2000ft climb up Smarts Mountain straight afterwards. It went up in 2 levels and there were hand rails built into the rock at one point. I was glad of this as because the trail involved hiking up great slabs of wet rock. I had to push off from my toes to power up the climb and it tested my ankles.

I have noticed patterns within some of the rocks I have been climbing over. There are bands or waves of different rock which look like they were all mixed together whilst it was in a molten state. I think it’s unlikely that this is as a result of plates colliding. It is too well mixed, almost like if you were to add food colouring to some cake mix and then mix it all up in a blender.

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At the top of Smarts Mountain there was a fire tower and Socks was sat there waiting for me. The view from the top was spectacular and you could see the mighty Mt Moosilauke. A monster that I will be tackling tomorrow.

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Another hiker called ‘Guy on a Buffalo’ was also there along with a section hiker who also stayed at the shelter last night. Apparently ‘Guy on a Buffalo’ is a well-known viral out here and was deemed a good trail name.

The decent was much easier although my right big toe has been giving me some grief. I hadn’t washed properly for the last couple of days and my feet have been filthy. Not sure if that is the cause but it feels like I have a sore or infection at the corner of my toe nail. Climbing down mountains fires your toes to the front of your shoes and this isn’t helping.

Socks told me today that a trail family (group of hikers) had decided that through MA nobody could directly feed themselves. Instead another person would have to perform this role of feeding them. Sounds like a bit of fun, if not a little awkward and with my appetite at the moment I don’t think I could be dealing with any of these silly games.

Socks and I hiked on and off throughout the day. It was nice to have a bit of my own space as well as catching up with him at viewpoints and on breaks. I used the opportunity to catch up on talking a few pictures. Where maintaining a pace and chatting over the last few days has resulted in few good snaps.

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I was just taking some pictures of the impressive scaly looking rock face leading up to Mt Cube when I saw I was being papped by Socks at the top. The views from up here were even better than earlier.

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I have an app on my iPhone that allows me to take pictures remotely. I hadn’t used it before but it worked a treat. I just balanced my camera on a branch and hey presto. You can even control the zoom so hopefully you will see a few more pictures with me and a back drop. Rather than just me holding the camera at arms length.

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2014-07-06 19.17.40

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hiked with Guy on a Buffalo for a while this afternoon. He hiked the Pacific Crest trail last year which runs from the Mexican border through to Canada. He had contracted lyme disease this year on the AT and had to take a week off.

Buffalo was also a climber and I told him about all the books I have read about climbing and mountains. It appeared that we were on the same page and had read much of the same stuff. He is from Washington on the west coast and was telling me about Seattle and all the climbing potential around there. Next stop Everest base camp and then who knows.

Socks had stopped to cook his dinner by a water source, but had hiked fast and caught us up. The three of us hiked the remaining stretch of the day. Just as we were crossing a road I found a bag of beers that someone had left as trail magic. It was hard to resist and as it was near the end of the hiking day I buckled.

We are staying at a campsite that used to have a shelter, but apparently it burnt down a few years ago. We suspected someone had a fire in the shelter that got out of hand. But nobody really knows what happened.

I managed to just about clean my feet tonight as the water supply was poor. It was like washing in a pond as dead leaves lined the bottom of the small pool I used. There was fresh water running in but it was not the best source.

There are some guys cowboy camping by a fire and I sat with them for a bit using the fire to heat water for hot chocolate. It was tortillas with cheese, tuna and pepperoni tonight with a bag of Doritos.

After another 6 miles we hit Mt Moosilauke and then the fun really begins. The whites are upon us and this shit is about to get REAL.

2014-07-06 15.09.38 2014-07-04 19.01.53 2014-07-04 15.48.27

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 96 – 5th July (Posted Monday 7th July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at Happy Hill Shelter – mile 1737.3

Finished at Trapper John Shelter – mile 1759.8

22.5 miles covered.

Total days hiked 94

18.72 Av miles / days

 

I woke really early, like 05:15. The 2 other people in the shelter were already up and there was a Burmese Mountain dog making a lot of commotion below. It was talking and whining and kept thumping its tail against the floor of the shelter.

When we had got to the shelter there hadn’t been a dog and I thought it was too early for someone to stop here for a break. So I assumed that somebody else had arrived late last night.

I had a broken sleep as my hand kept aching again. It almost feels like arthritis in my left knuckle. Weird.  I also found it hard to get comfortable on my pad and kept tossing and turning.

However, I was keen to go see the pooch below and she was an awesome looking dog and seemed very friendly. It’s was like at home where my own doggy alarm clock will have a way of getting me out of bed. When they are wagging their tails and looking at you with their puppy dog eyes who can resist. I packed up quickly and climbed down the ladder to say hello.

I said to the lady who was making breakfast ‘what a lovely dog’ She replied ‘it’s not ours, I thought it was your dog’ I looked around for signs of any other hikers camping near by and there was nobody else there.

The name tag read Sophie and she must have joined us during the night. We suspected that the fireworks last night must have scared her and she had done a runner. On finding the shelter she just lay down next to the guys below. Either that or she was wise to this game.

2014-07-05 10.29.42 2014-07-05 10.30.13 2014-07-05 12.37.26 2014-07-05 12.37.52

 

 

 

 

 

 

I gave her almost a whole bag of beef jerky which went down a treat and she seemed well trained. There was a phone number on her collar but a couple of digits were worn off. We tried calling all combinations possible but with no success. There was another number where she had been registered but still we were unable to report her missing.

The older couple wanted to leave and Socks and I said we would take her to Norwich with us. The next town we were passing through which was about 3 miles away. We hoped we would find her owners camped up nearby.

Sophie followed me to the river as I had to collect water and then she was more than happy to hike with us. We had a trail dog and she was a beaut! She kept up with us but was panting heavily.

When we exited the woods and came into Norwich there was more trail magic than you can shake a hiking stick at. The first house we came to had Poweraid bottles outside and a list of trail angels who would have put us up for the night.  Socks and I tossed a coin last night and the coin decided whether we stayed at the shelter. We did the sensible thing, but I think we could have easily have sorted out a place to stay and most likely had a free breakfast and shower.

I said to Socks that we should walk up the drive and knock on the door and see if anyone knows who the owner might be. The guy who answered was a dog owner and fortunately he was happy to take over and look after Sophie until he could reach her owner. She would never have been able to make it to Maine, but the thought had temporarily crossed our minds. As you will see from the pictures she is not the kind of pooch you would want to lose. The guy said we had done a good thing and I patted Sophie’s head and said goodbye.

The next house we passed had more trail magic. This time water melon and some kind of cake with chocolate chips in it. I had 2 slices and it was amazing. How I miss home cooked / baked food like this. Note to Sarah: Get learning how to bake please.

2014-07-05 12.51.30 2014-07-05 12.51.24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was another 3 miles of road walking to get into Hanover and we crossed the border into New Hampshire. It was a good feeling to finally be in this most anticipated state. As this is where the scenery and difficulty level goes wild.

We stopped at a busy cafe called Lou’s and had probably the best breakfast I have eaten on trail. It consisted of scrambled eggs, streaky bacon and big chunks of fried potato and onion which they call hash browns. Thru hikers were also entitled to a free chocolate donut, which made for a nice desert.

Boots filled we headed to an outfitters. They seemed to really just specialise in selling North Face clothing. I wanted a new pair of gortex waterproof trousers and some winter mitts, but walked out with just a can of gas. I figured if it gets really cold in the Whites I will just have to make do. I have fingerless merino wool gloves and waterproof over mitts and worse case I could put a pair of socks over my hands. And I could make a rain kilt out of a plastic bin bag. Sorted.

We headed to the Co-op for our final task of resupplying. There was a good selection and as per usual I got a fruit smoothie and Doctor Pepper to drink before heading out. Vitamins and Calories sorted.

It was 12:30 before we hiked out of Hanover. Socks commented that this was his new favourite trail town. We hiked past a pristine soccer field and American football pitch, then up and up back into to the woods.

When you pass into a new state there is no sudden dramatic change. It is subtle and takes a while for things to really look different. The last couple of days we have been hiking over terrain that has been carpeted by long pine needles. It’s almost the colour of sand and makes the ground look a bit like a beech scene. And it’s great to walk on. Saying this I did have another 4 offs today. I think it’s because I have been talking to socks and haven’t been concentrating as much as usual. 2 slips involved roots. Another time I slipped off a board walk around a swampy area into the mud. And finally I got distracted by a mosquito buzzing in my ear and I rolled my ankle. It only takes a split second like swatting a squito to distract you enough to make a mistake.

2014-07-04 19.42.05

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found the climbs strenuous today although fortunately they didn’t really start until the afternoon. The first one coming out of Hanover was steep and then it levelled off. Then there was the climb to Moose Mountain which was about 900ft over 2 miles. And finally a further 1000ft climb to Holts ledge again over 2 miles. The trick is to control your breathing and keep it slow and regular. Socks and I took it in turns to lead which helps. I find if you look up at anything other than the trail in front of you it causes you to lose focus or become frustrated.  Or you think shit, look what’s coming!

We took plenty of breaks and fortunately there was a decent breeze today. We hiked for about 9 hours again but covered some good ground since the bulk of the hike wasn’t until after lunch.

John Trapper shelter is 0.3 miles off trail and it has been nice to set up my tent tonight. Socks is in his hammock close by. There are fireworks again tonight and I can hear the faint sound of music drifting up the mountain. It looks like he 4th of July celebrations are still going on.

 

Day 95 – 4th July (Posted Monday 7th July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at Winturri shelter – mile 1716.9

Finished at Happy Hill Shelter – mile 1737.3

20.4 miles covered.

Total days hiked 93

18.68 Av miles / days

 

Happy 4th July people.

The rain pelted the shelter all night last night and once again it was a case of having to put wet clothes on again this morning. I’m kinda getting used to this.

It was a struggle getting out if bed though. It had stopped raining but water was still falling from the trees and my sleeping bag was lovely and warm.

Socks (real trail name XC) and I were first up and hit the trail by 07:30. I was expecting more water on the trail, but conditions weren’t too bad. Although saying this I did manage to slip over a total of 3 times today.

The first 5 miles flew by although the elevation profile was erratic. After taking a break we had our first proper stream crossing. There was a cable running across the river and we just went for it. A couple who had left the shelter before us had apparently taken a while getting across. They were surprised by the way we just went straight through it. It must have been up to my knees at worst.

A lot of the trail passed through lush grassy fields today.  Because of all of the rain last night the grass was heavy with water. It was hard to pass through it and my trekking poles were useless. It also seemed to cause my arms and legs to come out in bumps and they itched like mad.

The worst of the climbs was a 600 ft climb in less than 1/2 mile.  We stopped at the top and took in the view.  The couple we had passed during the river crossing caught up and we chatted with them for a while. I informed them that there was a place called Cloud Market within the next mile where you could get soda. I hoped it would still be open as it is the 4th July. I told them that if it wasn’t they couldn’t blame me and if it was not to drink all the soda. It worked out well as they pushed on and acted as the guinea pigs. Socks and I watched them go into the market which was also a restaurant and it appeared open. We stopped and got tubs of ice cream and root beer.

2014-07-04 13.03.16 2014-07-04 13.03.33 2014-07-04 15.47.32 2014-07-04 15.47.43

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sky had turned very dark and it looked like we were in for some trouble so we pushed on. It took us nearly 9 hours to do just over 20 miles today and it was tough going. It was good talking to Socks and the hours seemed to fly by. He has such a good memory for the shelters and places we have been and the people along the way. I have been wondering about some of the guys I have been hiking with and Socks has filled me in on a lot of info. He carries a SPOT device which let’s home know where he is and that he is ok. Several other hikers we started with also have one and there location is shared. It was good to hear that Rachael and Sam are still on the trail, although only just at the 1/2 way point. And that Thor and his girlfriend are still going. Many more vital bits of the trail jigsaw have been out together and it’s been a real pleasure hiking with Socks.

The trail left the woods and headed into West Hartford. As we crossed a bridge a bell rang and we were beckoned over to a house. An overweight guy with a huge beer belly opened the gate to his porch and asked if we wanted a beer or a soda. He had his grandchild staying there and the kid was running riot. It looked like the guy was well and truly well-oiled as he was slurring his words. I don’t blame him after looking after this child. He had a stuffed Kyote in a glass box in his living room and it was good to finally see one in the flesh. It was a little larger than our red fox.

The guy told us about hurricane Catarina and how it had devastated the town. The bridge that was at least 30 ft tall was covered by the rising water levels along with most of the town.

We so found out that lightning fast Texaco seems have slowed down a little. It said in a log book at the guys house that Texaco was there only 2 days ago.

Socks’ mum is also following Teaxaco’s blog so we have some inside information from the outside world.

We left refreshed and pushed onto Happy Hill Shelter. I really wanted to do more than 20 miles and Socks was up for it, but it had been a hard day and we decided to let the coin decide. Heads Hanover, tails settle in for the night. Tails it was. There were just 2 other hikers in the shelter and it’s a well-built stone shelter with a quaint charm about it.

Because it’s the 4th July fireworks have been going off all around us. It’s a big thing over here and well celebrated. It was probably best not hitting up the town as most things would have been closed.

There is a place in Hanover called Ramuntos that offers hikers a free slice of pizza and you only have to pay for the first soda. Looks like breakfast is sorted.

Socks and I are both on the top floor of the shelter. It’s a little draughty up here. Whilst typing tonight I was joined by fire fly. It landed on my hand with its abdomen flashing. When I flicked it off of me it was like flicking out a cigarette butt.

It was good to share a few photos that I have taken with Socks. He also showed me some of his favourites. There were many familiar faces and it seems that he must have just been literally a day or so behind me for some time now. It’s like a needle in a haystack out here. You could be a day apart and never know. That is unless you are lucky and some info makes its way along the trail grapevine.

Day 94 – 3rd July (Posted Monday 7th July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started in Rutland – left trail at mile 1698.9. Rutland is 8.5 miles West off trail

Finished at Winturri shelter – mile 1716.9

18 miles covered.

Total days hiked 92

18.66 Av miles / days

 

Another productive day. I dragged myself out of my bunk at 06:00. Inflammable had been fidgeting in the bunk below for most of the night and it had made it seem like I was sleeping on a boat, as the top bunk kept swaying each time he moved.

Breakfast was at 07:00 and straight afterwards I was back to the admin. Firstly I took my 1 box to the post office and after a lengthy process of filling out customs forms it is being sent back to England.

Despite presenting the Post office with a UPS tracking number they were unable to locate my other box. I even called the Post office at Pearisburg without success. Shit happens and it’s not the end of the world.

I then popped into Price Chopper to get some food items I had forgotten. Then back to the hostel to pick up my 3 heavy bags of food resupply. Then back to the Post office. Can you see a theme developing.

I sent 2 boxes to Glencliff and Gorham in New Hampshire and the 3rd to Caratunk in Maine. Job done.

Finally back to the hostel and I had literally 10 minutes to get my stuff together and say my goodbyes. The guys that ran the place let me go out the back through the kitchen as it was a short cut. I made it by the skin of my teeth and the bus driver even let me get away with only paying 1 dollar as I only had a 20 bill.

I used the time on the bus to call Osprey and they are sending a new hip belt to Gorham. I did have to pay 25 bucks, but I figured that was a small price to pay for a comfortable pack.

By 11:30 I was back at the Inn at Long trail. I thought I would treat myself to lunch after all the things I had sorted out this morning. When I walked in I found Stretch and Fresh and Socks all sitting at the bar. We all ordered burgers and soda. Socks was planning on hitting the trail whereas the others were heading for Killington.

Finally Socks and I were gonna hike. From the outset he was fast. I commented on the fact that he was wearing socks sandals and that I was surprised they were comfortable. He said that he’d had them from the start and hopes they will go all the way to Maine. He reckons they dry out really fast and allow his feet to breath.

The hiking today was brutal as it was really humid again. It doesn’t take long for all my clothes to be soaked with sweat. This has never really presented too much of a problem in respect to chaffing until recently. But I think because it’s been so humid it’s made the situation much worse. I normally hike with my fly down as my back pack straps cover that area. This means that I can get some fresh air to the back wheels. Despite this I have been walking like John Wayne. This is a common problem among the hikers.

I tried to keep up with Socks on the climb to Quimby Mountain. His pack is only 15lbs, about half that of mine. I commented that it looked small and he said it was only 40 litres and that someone had said it looked like a pack a child would take to school. Either way it worked.

Socks would take a break and I would catch up and it was good to have some company. His initial burst of energy didn’t last that long. Although to be fair he had already covered 13 miles before I even met him at the Inn.

The humidity was awful and it didn’t take long before I felt drained. I managed to turn it around though after a good number of jolly ranchers.

Then the rain set in. It had been thundering all afternoon and then it really kicked off. For once I decided not to put on my rain jacket. It was fine for the uphills as my body was generating enough heat to keep me warm despite the rain hitting me with the force of a hose pipe. On the downhills I started getting cold and in a mad rush so not to get the inside of my pack wet, I donned my jacket.

It poured and the storm lasted for hours. Thunder violently rumbled overhead and the sky kept lighting up as if someone was turning a light on. It was awesome and made me feel alive.

It was make or break. I sure didn’t want to have to put a tent up in this. It was the Winturri shelter or nothing.

The trail was more like a river and I soon gave up dodging the puddles. At one point it seemed like a landslide as large quantities of mud ran down the trail in a river of rain water.

I hiked fast and Socks was just in front. We pulled into the shelter at about 8:30. I then had the painful process of removing my wet clothes and drying off. I have no shame in stripping off in these shelters anymore and I used my super absorbent towel to dry off.

There are hikers clothes hanging from lines across the shelter and everything is wet. Even the dry sacks inside a bin bag in my pack got wet on the outside. Even with a rain cover the inside of my pack gets wet. But thankfully double bagging dry sacks ensure the important stuff like sleeping bags stay dry.

Socks passed out as I was cooking my dinner. He must have done about 30 miles today just to ensure that we are now level pegging. It’s been nice having a hiking buddy again even if we are not hiking together all the time.

There was also a southbound thru hiker in the shelter tonight. He’s the 1st I have met and it was good to quiz him on what lies ahead. We talked about work for stay in the huts in the White Mountains. If you are lucky and are 1 of the 2 hikers that they accept each day you get to eat the left overs. This means carrying less food, hence is a weight reduction.

The south bounder also said the Whites are stunning and the views and scenery make up for the hard work.

It’s been nice exchanging stories and advice, but once again I am that last one still standing and I need my recovery time. So it’s goodnight from me.

Day 93 – 2nd July (Posted Friday 4th July)

posted in: Rich's Diary Entries | 0

Started at camp spot at Governor Clement Shelter – mile 1686.4

Finished in Rutland – left trail at mile 1698.9. Rutland is 8.5 miles West off trail

12.5 miles covered.

Total days hiked 91

18.67 Av miles / days

2014-07-02 13.46.02Today was a day of admin.

The first part of the day involved climbing 2000ft to Mt Killington. Again the humidity was fierce and sweat was beading off of me.

I stopped at Cooper Lodge shelter were 3 people who stayed at the shelter last night were having a break. Some old guy who was hiking the AT had been joined by his daughter and her partner. The old guy was in bad shape and said he’d had better days. How he is going to deal with the rest of the trail I don’t know.

I left them to it and walked off in what I thought was in a northerly direction. I hiked for about 10 minutes and reached a ski resort and realised I couldn’t see any blazes. So I turned around. As I walked back up to the threesome they pointed me in the right direction. It would have been nice if they had done so in the first place!

After Cooper Lodge the altitude dropped a little to the next shelter. Then more steeply to Churchill Scott shelter. There was a father and son there and the father looked done in. He asked about the trail south as that’s the way he was heading. When I said it would be a sharp climb for him he looked petrified. He asked where I was coming from and was taken a back when I told him Georgia. Then another guy appeared who had just ran up the trail from a northerly direction. He looked pretty athletic and I think that the father felt a little out of shape in front of these young bucks.

My plan had been to catch a bus from the Inn at Long Trail a further 4 miles north. The old out of shape guy had given me a time table of the running hours and I took a picture of it as I wanted to be sure of the times.

I had approx 1.5 hours to cover four trail miles and then there was a 0.5 mile detour. I pushed but missed it by about 10 minutes. Sometimes it’s good to have a goal like this even if it seems unlikely. I had to wait a further 50 minutes until the next bus arrived. I had 3 glasses of soda 1 after another in the Inn. Then I called AT&T and sorted out my phone issue. They refunded me 30 dollars and sorted the issue. 10 minutes after sorting this this bus arrived. It was a good job to as the sky had turned black and thunder started rumbling up above.

The bus driver looked the spitting image of my gramp. It was uncanny. As we went into Rutland the heavens opened. I was glad to be off trail.

I got directions to the Hikers hostel at the Yellow Deli, Walmart and the Post Office.

The Hiker hostel was very bohemian and was run by a commune of people that all looked pretty far out man. A guy called Aash showed me around. Apparently they have a group of hippies in Devon back home.

Funnily enough Inflammable was at the hostel. He is 30 trail miles behind me and got a bus further back on the trail. The really weird thing is that I had put my back pack on a top bunk in the communal bedroom and it turned out that he was kipping in the bunk below.

I joked with Aash that I had been trying to give his guy the slip and I simply couldn’t get rid of him. Aash said that maybe he had thought the same thing and laughed.

I had sent two packages to this place in the early days. One containing unwanted gear that I needed to send back to England and the other containing my winter gear. The 1st box was there but not the 2nd. I asked Aash to double check and I even went into the back room to check. No dice.

I headed to the Post office as it closed in 15 minutes and I hoped they could help. Unfortunately because I had got rid of a load of receipts I didn’t have a tracking number. The lady there was really helpful and said to check my bank account to see if there was any reference of the payment. That was all they could do.

Back at the hostel I said to Inflammable that I was heading to the outfitters. Figgy had told me the other day that he had been given a smaller hip belt for his Osprey back pack. Because I have lost weight my hip belt no longer sinches up tight enough, so most of the weight is on my shoulders. The guys at Cotswold outdoors should have never have sold me the pack with a large hip belt. They really don’t have a clue compared to the outfitters here who are familiar with the trail. Although there is definitely more choice of sizes available out here so maybe I should be so tough on the muppets at Cotswold outdoors.

The outfitters was a good 30 minute walk away, but I had left my food bag at the hostel and my pack was super light. Unfortunately the outfitter couldn’t help, but I did get a number of another store that offered me a new medium pack. Although after calling them to find out this, I said that I just needed the belt and they were not prepared to just swap this out. I have now got Ospreys direct customer service number and I will see if they can just ship me a new hip belt out to somewhere in New Hampshire.

Whilst at the outfitters I also purchased a map of the White Mountains and some more bug spray.

On the walk back to the hostel we stopped at the Golden Arches and had about 2000 calories worth of grease.

I then headed to the library to use the open access computers. I checked my Halifax account and have found a UPS shipping number. So hopefully not all is lost with my missing package.

To be honest it’s not the end of the world as luckily the box only contains some thermal leggings, gloves, the brain of my back pack and lastly and most annoyingly a pair of £90 gortex waterproof trousers. It’s those that I really need, I can make do without the other stuff.

I then headed to Walmart and stocked up in bulk. I spent a cool 200 bucks and have sorted out enough food for 3 care packages and enough food to get me to Hanover 40 miles away.

I carried it all back to the hostel taking several breaks to ensure my arms didn’t pop out of their sockets. I then set about the task of dividing it all up into zip lock bags. One woman even commented on the amount of candy I had bought and asked whether I had any proper food. Obviously I had buried under a sea of Jolly Ranchers, chocolate coated raisins and Skittles.

Because of all the admin by the time I had finished all the other hikers had gone to bed. I hadn’t even taken a shower and it’s really too late to do so now. Aash is sleeping in the same room as us and I hope he doesn’t notice my filthy feet and legs sticking out from under my clean white bedding.

I had a one for the road cigarette outside on the street below before coming to bed. This place is a bustling town and has a feel a little like London. Whilst I was smoking three people walked up to the Deli. One guy was just wearing his boxer shorts and walked into the deli with another guy filming his every move. They were playing dare and the 3rd member of their party was left crying with laughter out on the street. It seems like a million miles from where I stayed last night.

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