Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lincoln, NH to Mt Washington

Mile 1851

Random note. Casualties of our thru hike so far:
- My phone
- My kindle (under warranty, thankfully)
- Beau's glasses
- Our guidebook, which I left in Lincoln


It was great to leave Lincoln with a group of friends. As we trudged up the mountain (the Whites are all about super steep climbs and descents), Beau and Willie gave me a play by play of the Batman movie. Surprisingly, it held my interest and the next thing you know it is an hour and a half later and we are almost done with a big climb! The weather forecast had sketchy thunderstorms, but it didn't appear to be too bad and we went up Franconia anyway. It was super windy and low visibility- I kept thinking, "WHO thought it was a good idea to put the AT through the White Mountains??" Even though I was sweating bullets climbing, I had to do a wardrobe change once on the ridge because it was so cold.

The new shelter we stayed in was perfect for shielding us from the rain and wind. It was the first really cold night since the south and it was nice to be in cozy clothes again.

The next day was more pleasant and after 17.5 miles, we were welcomed with AWESOME trail magic. A former thru hiker had a tent set up with hummus, pita bread, cherries, grapes, soda, cookies, etc just in time for our dinner. He also showed us a good stealth camping spot for the five of us that were there.

The next day, yesterday, we made it to the Lakes of the Clouds hut to stay. This is where things started going south. The caretaker if the previous shelter mentioned he had been sick for a few days but we didn't think anything of it. That night, Will got up several times to throw up. Shortly after arriving at the hut, Beau and another guy we were with got sick. I felt fine until the evening and it hit me hard this morning. We hiked the mile and a half to the summit of Mt Wash where we got a ride to town. Beau had to ask our ride to pull over at one point so he could throw up on the side of the road. I don't know if we'll be well enough to be hiking tomorrow.

I can't describe how incredibly frustrating it is to have to take days off at this point. I know we are lucky that we fell ill so close to town and can hang out until we get better... But I just want to hike and finish! Hopefully we'll be back to normal soon and finish off these White Mountains once and for all.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Etna, NH to Lincoln, NH

Mile 1811

We're in the White Mountains!

As you can see from the handy mileage count at the beginning if each post, we are getting closer and closer to the homestretch. The most fun part of the last 400 miles is that the scenery is so different from the first 1800 miles. The Whites and Maine are more mountainous, have beautiful lakes, and just feel different. The hiking is also harder, so you can't expect to be doing the 125 miles a week we've been doing since Virginia.

We climbed our first peak of the Whites the other day in rain and wind. We couldn't see more than 50 feet ahead of us. The climb down was super challenging with slippery rocks. We decided to go into town a day earlier than planned at an earlier road, because it would allow us to slackpack the next day and end up back at the same town. We met up with some friends and had a blast hiking Mt Kinsman yesterday on a nice clear day.

A second night at the hostel in Lincoln allowed Beau to see the Batman movie, which he was dying to see. This morning the weather is looking super sketchy and calling for thunderstorms, so I'm not really sure how many miles we will be able to do. Normally we don't bother with weather reports, but in the Whites, a lot of time is spent above treeline, so we're actually going to bother planning around a storm.

Sorry this is a bit short, but we're about to get going!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Manchester, VT to Etna, NH

Mile 1748

I'd like to call this "the one where our plans went out the window". But it's been a super fun week!

It was hard leaving Manchester because the hostel was so awesome. We planned on doing 7 miles out after church, and after 3 miles we caught up to a bunch of friends at a shelter. We still wanted to do the 7, so we kept going and ended up walking in the rain for 3 hours. The next day we also got caught in rain, and when the third day looked like rain again, we were dragging a little. I also was getting bogged down mentally thinking about 5 more weeks if hiking. So we decided to call it a day early and head into town. We had only done 3 miles that day, but we were at a road crossing that could get us to town and we decided to take it. We called a local "trail angel" to take us to a motel, she offered to let us stay at her house. It was great, and they even slack packed us (meaning they took our backpacks to our destination and we carried light day packs) the next day.

We hooked up with the friends we had passed up earlier and one of them, who is local to Vermont, offered to have the group slackpack and stay at his parents house. That made for another nice light day, ending at his house with showers and great food.  I love New England homes! The town of Woodstock was so quaint.  Coincidentally, there was a documentary about some 2010 thru hikers being shown at the town hall.  I actually followed their blog and was interested in seeing their film, so I was excited that it worked out that way. The plan for the next day was for our packs to be dropped off at our destination to be slack packed again, but then we were invited to just get picked up and stay another night at the house.  When life offers you slackpacking and showers, you take it! 55 miles of hiking with no pack... I'll take it!

Today we did 10 miles into Hanover to resupply, then continued another 6 to a hostel in Etna. Hanover is wins in our book for friendliest trail town. As we were walking in, there were several coolers with trail magic at the edge of the driveway. Drivers rolled down their windows to say hello and ask if we needed help locating anything in town. A few places in town offer free food to hikers. It's also the home of Dartmouth College, and the trail goes pretty close to the campus.

We've been calling this week "vacation week".  While at the time I was guilty that we cut that rainy day short to 3 miles, it made us on the right track to be able to slackpack for 3 days and spend some time at a friends house.  We've had a lot of fun and are pumped to enter the Whites in a couple days. I feel intimidated at the terrain and logistics of the Whites.  There are a few shelters like the rest of the AT, but more common are huts that are designed for weekend hikers and wealthy tourists.  They're super expensive and need reservations.  Thru hikers can sometimes get work-for-stays or camp outside, but sometimes they are full and hikers are told to hike a couple miles off trail to camp.  We'll have to plan short days and be flexible depending on what the situation is.

Welp, I've now finished my pint of Ben & Jerry's (Half Baked this time) so I think it's time for bed.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Williamstown, MA to Manchester, VT

Mile 1654

We're in Vermont? And entering New Hampshire this week? How did this happen?

"What are you doing? My pants are still down from my bathroom break!" "Don't worry, it's not in the picture."
We're currently at the Green Mountain House Hostel in Manchester. This place is great. It is a lovely home dedicated to thru hikers, equipped with a full kitchen, large tv and dvd collection, fast computer/internet connection, wifi, three bedrooms, clean bathroom, toiletries, washer/dryer, Ben & Jerry's in the freezer, etc. There are 7 thru hikers here tonight, some of which we have known for a while and some new friends as well. Most of us got food at the grocery store and cooked together for a family style dinner.  We wish we could stay longer, but our ride is coming tomorrow morning to take us to church.

After our lovely stay in Williamstown, we planned to be in Manchester by Saturday night to be able to go to church.  It's much easier to push yourself to do a big hiking day when you know you're going to a town.  We've started running into some southbounders! Southbounders, or sobos, are hikers that started in Maine and are hiking south to Georgia.  They usually start June 1 or after, so northbounders don't meet them until the northern states.  Sobos are interesting to talk to because they have been on the trail for considerably less time but have hiked the sections we haven't.  While the ones we've met have been very nice, we kind of avoid talking about upcoming terrain with them.  I like to remember some good advice I once heard: "Nothing is as bad or as good as other hikers make it out to be."

Lunch break at a pond

Can you spot the trail magic? Soda & Coors in the stream. Beau partook in the former, Mackenzie in neither.

We were happy to stop by the outfitter in town.  I had to buy a new shirt after mine was lost. I had secured it to the back of my pack to dry after washing it in a stream.  After a few miles I checked and it was gone. Woops. Being limited to one hiking shirt stinks (pun!).  We also had packages to pick up. Both of us have new shoes for the last 530 miles, the third pair for each of us.  We are also picking up our cold weather gear again.  For the summer months, we ditched our heavier sleeping bags for fleece liners and blankets.  These have been perfect for the past several weeks, but it's starting to get cold at night again and we are glad to have our warm sleeping bags again.  It's still warm during the day... I wouldn't mind the temps going down a tad more because I hate my clothes smelling so bad from all the sweat!

We are so excited for the last quarter of the trail. This section is known for being the most challenging but also the most beautiful. Can't wait!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wingdale, NY to Williamstown, MA

Mile 1587

Since our last resupply, we have had some really pleasant weather and good hiking. Mass is more hilly than some of the recent states and even though most of the climbs seem like pointless ups and downs, we feel like we are hiking again. The final three states will have much more challenging terrain.

Before hiking into MA, the trail brought us through the lovely little town of Salisbury. The grocery store, coffee shop, restaurants, pharmacy, etc. are all within the little town square. Perfect for tired hikers.  It was also pretty ritzy.  Beau talked to a guy in a smoking jacket who was interested in writing an article about the trail, and Mackenzie loved how everyone had little dogs and that we saw someone in riding pants and field boots.

We have had some good trail magic. Our guide book pointed us to the home of 'the Cookie Lady'. She and her husband live 100 yards off the trail and invite hikers to come get free cookies. Another day, we were stopped briefly by a road, and a couple pulled over and asked if we were thru hiking. When we said yes, they brought out grocery bags with fruit, chips and salsa, lemonade, and brownies. They thru hiked in 2011 and we had fun chatting with them about the trail.

Today we summitted the highest point in MA, Mt Greylock.  At the top is a large tower and a beautiful lodge. It looks like it would be a great place for a getaway! They had some delicious homemade sorbet and the restaurant looked really good, too.

I'm not sure why, but this week we found ourselves hiking with other people more often. A lot of people are surprised to hear that most people, even while traveling with a group, hike solo. When we're with a "bubble" and are staying at the same shelter, people leave at different times, have different hiking paces, take breaks at different times, and usually hike most of the day alone. Beau and I stick together, of course, but most people don't alter their walking pace to stay with someone. This week, we happened to hike with a few different people for much of the day and it's been a fun change of pace. Usually we walk with older people because we're kind of slow. :)

We're about to head out to grab a shuttle back from to the trail, and it's into Vermont we go!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Call for help

Now that we have less than two months left on the trail, it's time to think about post-hike employment.

Mackenzie majored in Psychology and minored in Sociology at Brigham Young University. She would love to work in the social services and has experience working with teens and adults.  She also has experience with animals, specifically horses.

Beau has a bachelor's degree in Russian Studies. He will be pursuing an MBA at George Mason University on weekends starting in September.  Beau is interested in gaining experience in international business. 
We would appreciate leads for either of us in the above fields or any other suitable positions in the northern Virginia/DC Metro area. We will be available to begin work in early September.

Please contact us at or to receive our resumes. Thanks!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Vernon, NY to Wingdale, NY

Mile 1250
We're in Connecticut! Well, the motel we're in is in NY, but the trail is in CT. We'll be in the state for a couple days, then Massachusetts for a few days, then Vermont.
First and foremost, this week we learned that Beau was accepted into George Mason University's MBA program!! We are SO excited. He'll be starting classes this fall.
This week has been really hot. Like sometimes unbearably hot. Because of this, we've been doing some slightly shorter days to make life better. Instead of doing 20-23 mile days, we have been aiming for 18-20. This has made a huge difference in morale.
We met a couple hikers in the hostel in Vernon that we liked and continued to hike with for a few days. Sometimes I get too caught up in doing miles and don't pause for fun things. Being with other people helps me be more fun like stop for a swim in a lake or enjoy the zoo the trail passes through. The zoo is more of an animal sanctuary- they only have local animals that are injured or unfit to survive in the wild. This is also where the lowest point on the AT exists, at the bear habitat.
Luckily this week has presented us with several shower opportunities. We've found that rinsing our shirts out between laundry days GREATLY improves our smell and general hygiene. Seriously, this week has felt luxurious with fresh-ish shirts and 5pm quitting times.
One fun thing we've been doing lately. I started reading Les Miserables after Harper's Ferry. Every morning, I relay what I read the night before and we discuss the story. It's a fun way to pass some time and have something new to talk about.
We've been chilling in the motel for most of the day watching patriotic movies such as Independence Day and 1776. And eating Ben and Jerry's. It's funny how on the trail, the idea of laying in bed watching TV and eating sounds awesome, but when the rest day actually comes, we just get bored after a couple of hours.
We're excited to get back to hiking and will soon hit the 1500 mile mark! It is hard to believe we have walked all this way!