This is the AT hiking year in review … looks like I’m in the endgame for the section…
This is me and “Summertime” on Baldplate, the first peak north of Grafton notch. We met recuperating at the north end of Mahoosuc notch and a couple days later hiked together for a few miles. And for the record, the rainstorm that we could see across the valley as we came down the steep backside of baldplate stayed away. Yea.
Fred is one of my oldest friends (Jr. High, we attended the 1975 Reds vs. Redsox world series in Cincinnati). Hiking gave me a chance to catch up with Fred in the north end of Boston. Much of life (and hiking) is about people.
The far ridgeline shows most of my last hike this trip, 2000 feet up “old blue” (the steep one in the middle), across to Bemis mountain (to the right,) and Bemis 2nd peak (near or just off the picture to the right), 10ish miles + 2 miles down, some steep, + a mile up to rt. 17. 13 miles, 11 hours (with only 13 or 14 of daylight). 1.2 mph is about top speed here, even slack packing. The pictures below are from 3 days of “slack packing” (not camping) from Grafton notch to route 17 … 10, 10 and 13 miles
I took the easy way up Mt. Washington, I drove. 30 to 50 mph winds. 100+ feet visibility. Coldish. I had on 3 layers just for 30 minutes at the summit. One or two hikes up it are in my future. Be prepared!
“Honey” (90) and son Don run “The Cabin” in Andover. All hikers have stories. She has 90 years of them. She says she’s probably been up Washington 60 times, carried some of the wood used to build lake-of-the-clouds hut, and talks of a contest in her family to see who could hike up Washington the youngest. On her recent 90th birthday she hiked into one of the AMC huts. In ’98 she and husband “Bear” slack packed Earl Shaffer (1st through hiker in 48) through southern Maine, bringing him back and feeding him each night. And Honey *can* cook !!! She is one of the most hospitable people I have ever met who takes delight in helping people (tired, dirty, determined hikers). Driving and hiking at 90 … I think being around people is the key … and as Jimmy Durante sang “being among the very young at heart” https://youtu.be/p9RchGMmizg
There are 2 easy ways up/down Mt Washington, the road and the cog railway (both still private). Looks like they’ve been running the same steam engine for 100+ years
I “hiked”*** 36 miles south from the Kenebec river (canoe-as-ferry) to Stratton, over the Bigelows. *** “Hiking” is not the correct word for some of this stretch. The “trail” is a rock climbing exercise disguised as a “trail”. 0.5 MPH vs 1.5 to 2 on “normal” trail.
12 miles as planned out of Gorham, NH as planned. That was the last part of this hike that went as planned.
Met a crowd of “NOBOs” who were about 3 weeks from finishing 2100+ miles at Katahdin. The “bubble” was passing through as I was there. Met one SOBO there named “root” who was originally from South Africa, having lead outdoor tours there and now on sabbatical from REI to hike the trail.
Saw lots of beaver ponds, mountain streams, muddy trail ….and mountain top bogs deep enough that you could sink up to your waist in black ooze if the half submerged, rotting boardwalks failed to do their job (I had to find some of them and test their bearing capacity with my hiking poles without being able to see them under the mud)
This shot was taken on East Goose Eye Peak looking back at West Goose Eye Peak. In the distance was Mount Washington and friends, partly covered in clouds. I hiked up (and down) the peaks to the left of West Goose Eye, which required a climb up a 50 foot granite cliff, to which the trail maintainers has helpfully attached a rebar ladder (rebar embedded in the cliff)…the problem was, at the top you were expected to traverse a small ledge sideways for about 30 feet. Fun. Fortunately a through hiker (“Mogley”) was just ahead of me and helped me navigate it. That was, I think, a literaly a godsend.
My plan had been to do 10 miles to Full Goose Shelter to set up Mahoosuc notch the next day, but at 1:30 (about 7 hours in to the day), I found myself climbing down 50 to 100 feet of large bolders (shades of the notch to come) to the turnoff to Carlo Col Shelter just as a thunderstorm was approaching. Another 5 miles was not going to happen. I got down to the shelter just as the rain began, testing my new ultralight umbrella. 5 miles. Time to replan the rest of the hike (and available food)
Then there were the miles of steep granite slabs, often wet, posing as “trail”. Coming down these was downright treacherous. If you were lucky there was a 3 to 6 inch berm of mud/dirt along at least one edge to walk down (with trekking poles to possibly assist if footing or balanced failed). 5 days of this in what was planned as a 3 day hike will mess with you. The trail maintainers (I am one in Virginia) helpfully put logs and brush where people try to walk to avoid breaking their necks to keep erosion down and to prevent the trail getting wider. I get it. I’m all about Leave No Trace, but, you know, if there were actual usable trail (maybe graded switchbacks) as opposed to wet granite slides, people might stay on the trail. And don’t get me started on stone steps…
Mahoosuc notch is a one mile jumble of boulders, some the size of a house. Painting white blazes makes this a “trail” ???? In the picture above I took my pack off to get through a little tunnel/cave (with a white blaze). I had to do this several times. One was big (small) enough that I could just squeeze through, but not my pack, even with stuff taken out. Luckily you could also climb over. The whole thing was a big “choose your own adventure”. A family of 5 kids and a mom passed me on a break. The kids were having a blast. I gave one of the little girls a few of my peanut M&M’s. It took me 5 hours to cover the mile. “Normal” time ranges from 1 to 3 hours, but I’m not a great climber and am hyper careful.
Of course, right after the notch is Mahoosuc arm, a 1500+ foot climb, mostly up wet granite slab like that pictured above, one of the steepest climbs on the AT. Going up this stuff is okay, sort of, vs coming down. God help you if it’s raining.
Leaving the notch at 3:30 I made it the 2.7 miles to the speck pond skelter about 6:30?. Almost a mile an hour. My “normal” pace is somewhere around 2. In this stretch of Maine, planning for 1/2 mile an hour is not unreasonable. 11 hours, 5 miles. Sheesh.
No pictures of beautiful Speck Pond where the trail actually goes across the top of a beaver dam (maybe we should have beavers build the trail?), But I made it down to Grafton notch (3rd straight 5 mile day) and got a shuttle to “The Cabin” hostle run by spry 90 year old “Honey” (her husband was “Bear”) and stories of carrying wood up mount Washington to build lake of the clouds hut, “slacking” Earl Shaffer (the first through hiker in ’48) through Southern Maine on his 3rd through hike in ’98 … they brought him back to “the cabin” to sleep and eat (Honey can *cook !) most nights. Hikers all have 100 stories. She hiked into a shelter on her 90th birthday. She has stories! (Going up the Bigelows with a CBS camera crew to find the late-arriving Earl Schaffer !)
I shuttled back up to Stratton to get my car, collect my wits, and figure out what’s next. When the trail gives you lemons….???
I put my pack on the rock above this rattlesnake before I realized it was there. Another hiker warned me. No bite, no foul.
As in hiking so in life. While you’re looking at the big picture, the snake in the grass might bite you. Watch both big picture and the details. The snake was under the rock in the lower center of the picture.
Neels gap is an iconic place on the trail. At 30 miles up from Springer, it’s where %25 of all through hike attempts end, it is the only place where the trail goes through a building, and it has a full service outfitter where many 60 pound packs with all the wrong gear leave as 30 pound packs with mostly the right gear
Hiked 16 miles from North Carolina into Georgia. Took a one hour car ride to get mountains to start. North, south, and distance are relative things on the trail. I “slack packed” which means going light. Minimal gear. No tent, cooking gear. In my case I hiked back to “around the bend” Hostle which is marvelous. Mountain Dew. Shower. After 16 miles at a place of 2.2 mph I was not really tired. It’s amazing what cutting 15 to 20 pounds off your pack can do.
A through hike of the AT usually begins here, climbing the 700 or so metal grate steps. In my case coming down at the end of a long tired day. I did soak my headband and fill my hat with cold stream water and put it on :-).
There are thousands of hikers who took a picture on the other side of this arch as it represents the place one takes ones first steps on the AT, albeit the unofficial 8 mile “approach” trail to the start of the AT on Springer mountain