July 25, 2014

Trail Update from "THE WHITES"

I can confidently say that this is the second time in my life that I have been completely blissed out (First being my wedding day). Hiking in the White Mountain National Forest, better known as "the whites", has been an experience I will always remember. The scenery has left me speechless. The rugged trail and 360 views humbled me and lifted my spirits.

We hiked at a significantly slower pace due to the fact that we couldn't resist stopping to look around every 30 minutes. The plan was to do a modest 10-12 miles through the Presidential Mountain range but quickly changed
to it 6-8 mile days. It's been a nice change to not think about the miles. Instead, we all have been soaking in every bit of the beautiful mountains and spontaneously setting up camp whenever we felt like it. We met a 60 year old fellow named Birdman and talked with him for a long time on our way up to Mount Washington. He was going north and had a wealth of advice for us, but one thing that stuck was to "just hike until ya get tired then pull over ... Take your time and enjoy everything." 

Soon after that Stacey mooned the cog...twice. It's a thruhikers tradition apparently. 

I was shocked when we reached Mt. Washington and had to stand in line to get a picture at the sign. "You mean I have to stand in line behind all of these people who rode a train up the mountain after we spent all day climbing it?!" Yeah, I had a moment of thruhiker self entitlement ... but I do think the hikers deserve an express pass. 

I was a bit apprehensive about being above treeline for so many miles. Especially since the area was known for the worst weather in the nation; however, we were blessed with sunny days and cool breezes through the presidentials. God is definately looking out for us! 

We just had one bad day of weather on top of Mt. Lafayette. A rain and hail storm forced us to change our plans at a trail intersection. The strong winds were so bad that we decided to take a side trail off the mountain to take cover under trees. Little did we know that the side trail would continue for another mile above treeline! Fire Squirrel, TallMilk and I spent half an hour trying to figure out how to get a message to Badweather that we were cutting our day short. We tried for a while to put duck tape on the trail sign but the storm was not letting it stick. Plus the sharpie was smearing off. Luckily, Fire Squirrel had the great idea to spell it out with rocks. We destroyed the nearest rock cairn and got to work on our message. Then we all prayed he would see it and ran for the trees. 

After hours of being annihilated by the storm we finally reached Greenleaf hut. We walked in to the hut drenched to the bone (rain pants and jackets can only take so much) hoping they would allow us to do work for stay. 

Sidenote: There are huts along the trail that allow thru-hikers to do "work-for-stay". For all my friends from the Smokies, think: Mt. Leconte Lodge. Day hikers and weekend hikers are able to hike from hut to hut with the luxury of not having to carry heavy packs. 

The Greenleaf hut crew welcomed us with open arms and treated us like family. Kimble, the hut master, fed us soup and coffee cake as soon as we dried off. He even offered us one of his beers. As for our "work" duties, Fire Squirrel and Badweather gave a thruhiker presentation to the guests while TallMilk and I had to simply accompany the crew on a short walk to watch the sunset. 

I was lovestruck with the whites. Even in the torrential downpour, I was loving every second. 

Once we trekked up and down Mt. Moosilauke, we noticed the terrain had changed significantly. There are far fewer boulder fields and the elevation has remained fairly level. There has been more grassy areas which causes us to stop and check for ticks! 

There has also been way more thruhikers! It seems like the Southbound and Northbound bubbles are colliding. I love how common it is to stop and chat with each hiker you pass. I often think about how it would be in the "real world" to stop and talk to strangers about their day, where they are coming from and where they plan to go. Wouldn't it be nice if we all legitimately cared about each other?

Exiting the White Mountain National
Forest was bittersweet for me. I felt like I was floating on the biggest fluffy cloud and I didn't want to ever leave. Although, it's amazing to know that one of the toughest parts of the trail is now behind us.

Our journey has continued to teach us about the Appalachian community. The kindness that surrounds this area is truly inspirational. We stayed a night at Mt. Cube Sugar farm where Maple Jimmy and owner, Pete, taught us the process of how they tap the trees to produce maple syrup. They also opened up their kitchen and let us make pancakes! The next night we stayed at legendary, Bill Ackerly's house. He is famous for giving hikers free ice cream in exchange for a game of croquet.

The hospitality and generosity of the trail soothes my soul. Thanks to all the trail angels who open up their home, give us rides and leave sodas in the river for us hikers! 

We arrived in Hanover late Wednesday night, minutes before a thunderstorm. The town has a great reputation on the trail. Every Northbounder we passed has raved over all the free stuff that hikers get. We have all been looking forward to experiencing the "big" trail town since we left Gorham. Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about it. It's a bit overwhelming after being in the woods for so long. Don't get me wrong, it's been a blast. We've toured the Hood Art Museum along with the rest of the Dartmouth campus, spent hours in a bookstore, took advantage of the free pizza and doughnuts for hikers and splurged on luxury hotels. I also found a folk clothing store and bought a new outfit. Although, being around this many people, cars, noises, choices and busyness has been rather stressful. I about had a panic attack when I tried to order a drink at Starbucks. The lady at the register was in a rush and tapping her finger while I quickly pushed the words, "grande soy vanilla latte" out of my mouth. Actually, everyone in the shop was in a rush. We saw other hikers just staring in the distance and realized we were not alone. We were in sensory overload. Anyway, it's good to be in town to do laundry and get clean, but mostly it's great to just rest. 
Thanks to my sweet mom, loving South African family and our friends, Jodi and Kris for our care packages. It really does put smiles on our faces to read your letters and our food bags are now over flowing with yummies! 

We are returning to the trail now ... well as soon as I visit the chocolate shop. Everyone is in a great mood and looking forward what the trail brings next. There is still so much to tell but the mountains are calling! Remember to enjoy your day and slow down a bit. 

Also big shout out to my dear friends Shelby Vance and Amanda Tate! They are getting married!!!!! I can't wait to hug your necks! 

1 comment:

  1. Another great post, Amber. Safe travels and may the weather be good for our ET4 Team (a.k.a. "The Family"). We love and miss you all soooo much and wait in anticipation for your facetime calls.
    Mum T