Saturday, September 3, 2016

Getting Misty

I have officially hiked through the White Mountains, and they were definitely the most challenging, though the most beautiful, part of the trail. Having constant (or very frequent) 360 degree views from summit after summit was such an amazing treat and change of pace from the "green tunnel" that I've been in for so long. We had PERFECT weather on the Franconia ridge... sun, almost no wind, and almost a bit too warm. Each of the peaks in that range is approximately a mile apart, so naturally... we stopped at each one for at least a half an hour to take in the newly changed view. It was a slow day to say the least. Mt. Washington, on the other hand, posed some serious difficulties the day we came up to it's base. Alice and I hiked 4.5 miles from the Mizpah AMC hut to Lakes of the Clouds hut which is 1.3 miles below the summit of Washington. We did this stretch in some of the strongest winds I've ever been in. It wasn't until we got to the next hut to find out that winds were sustained at 70mph and gusts were 90mph. Having been denied a spot in the "dungeon" (a very basic basement with bunk space for 6 thru-hikers) our options were hike 8 miles over Washington and across the Presidential Range to the next hut, or pay a large amount of money to stay at the hut. Thankfully, Dad offered to pay for our safety. A huge thank you to Dad for helping us enjoy the Whites even more! We later found out that at the same time, some of our friends who were on top of Washington were being told not to continue and to shuttle down off of the top. The lack of communication between the summit and the huts was very frustrating. In the end, it was nice to be a hut guest, have a warm meal and place to sleep, and know we'd be safe overnight until the weather cleared. And boy did it clear! The next day we, yet again, had near perfect weather for summiting Washington and for crossing the presidential range. We really were lucky at all the right times.

As I mentioned before, the hiking in The Whites is HARD! Definitely the hardest part of the trail thus far. Some of the steepest climbs and descents, wet and slippery rocks encouraging you to twist an ankle, and rock scramble after rock scramble. We've definitely earned and added to our trail legs in the last few weeks. This difficulty, however, does mean I've slowed down my miles even more than I anticipated I would. I went into the Whites thinking I could do 12-15 miles a day, and we ended up averaging 8-10. This did allow for my knees to remain intact, which is paramount to me finishing this trail. My knees, while definitely hurting more in the Whites, are doing pretty well. I'm still proud to say that I haven't taken one pain reliever since returning to the trail in June. The wedding season I mentioned in the last post (ending today) has also slowed me down, causing me to take 1 or 2 zeros a week for the last three weeks. As a result, Nichole and Eric are further ahead than Alice and I, and we're really hoping we can catch up to them again soon!

One benefit of being so slow and taking zeros, is we are meeting so many different NoBo hikers that we have only briefly seen in passing, or who we haven't met at all before. I've had a lot of fun meeting new folks and hearing new stories. It definitely reminds me that the people are one of the main reasons that I'm doing this hike. It also reminds me that we are so very close to the end. It seems so bittersweet to meet all the new, cool friends, when I have less than 300 miles to Katahdin. It almost doesn't seem fair that I'll get to know these people, only to (maybe) never see them again after just three short weeks. This also applies for friends I've seen throughout most of the trail, and even more so... my trail family. I'm trying not to dwell in the sadness of this, but it's hard to not remember that this experience is almost over, and everything I've worked towards for the last two years is coming to a close. I truly have met some amazing people on the trail so far. People who've made me laugh, have influenced me, educated me, and have just been a friend when I needed one. While not everyone on the trail can be amazing, most are... and it's been reaffirming that people in the world are generally good people. Perhaps when you strip your life down to the simplicity of living in the woods with just a small amount of possessions on your back, you are brought back to the basics - treating people with respect, treating nature with respect, and treating yourself with respect. I definitely understand how fortunate I am to be hiking this trail. Yes, I grumble every morning when I have to get out of my sleeping bag, into the cold, and start walking. But, I know already that I am seriously going to miss this little world I've created for myself in the woods when it draws to a close.

With that, it's time to prepare for the last wedding during this stretch. I'll be back on trail tomorrow, in Maine on Monday, and ticking down the miles until this phenomenal experience ends. Yes, I still have 500 miles to hike in VA/TN/NC, but it won't be the same without my trail family and all of our friends around me. I guess, if I'm lucky, I'll add some more cool people to that friend group.

Take every experience, never say no, and meet new people.
Or to quote a friend... "Jump! The net will appear!"

No comments:

Post a Comment