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New Hampshire? Yes, thank you for the sucker punch(es).

2011 August 5

Warning: This post is part one of two about New Hampshire.

So, we skipped over Vermont. We have already hiked about 40 miles of the trail there, and taking four days off at the end of Massachusetts really messed with our timeline. We looked hard at our options and decided that in order to summit Katahdin in time, we needed to move ahead somewhere. Greyhound has a route from Pittsfield, MA (just outside of North Adams) right into White River Junction, VT (just outside of Hanover, NH) which is just past the state line on the AT. In addition, the AT goes right through Hanover. That makes it simple to skip just Vermont, and even simpler to get back and hike that part later. A simple solution presented itself and we took it. C’est la vie.

One unfortunate side effect of skipping Vermont is that Vermont is the state that kind of preps your body for hiking mountains again. It’s more mountainous than the Mid-Atlantic states, but less so than New Hampshire. Part of our reasoning for skipping directly to New Hampshire was the fact that we are in the best physical shape (barring injuries) we have ever been, so get those crazy White Mountains done now. But somewhere in those flat states we lost our edge. I blame Pennsylvania.

Hanover is trying hard to be a hiker friendly town. Unfortunately, they don’t have a hostel so we stayed at a hotel in White River Junction. Hanover is home to Dartmouth University and the Dartmouth Outdoor Club, and the AT goes right through the town and some of the campus as well. If you stop at any of the hiker-frequented locations (post office, resupply stores, gear shops, etc.) you can pick up a pamphlet listing all the hiker services available, prices, and even when and where you can find some free food! We passed through town and opted for a free slice of pizza and a couple of free Snickers bars (our kryptonite), then got rolling once again!

The stop in Hanover for pizza cost us some time, so we got out around 2 or 3pm, and it was H-O-T. We figured it was just the time of day and that we’d gone soft having been off the trail for so long, so we trudged on for a bit. We planned a  10 or 15 mile day but there was NO WAY. We stopped at around 8 miles and just decided to try again tomorrow. The next day we started early and by lunch time we were having the same problem! When we stopped for water–we couldn’t drink enough of it–Survivorman turned on his phone and saw that the nation was experiencing a heat wave! Local temperatures were in the mid to high nineties and the humidity was close to 100%. Shew, we’re not just pansies! Several times during those days we would stop, strip down in the middle of the trail and literally wring out our clothes. Each time we squeezed at least a liter each of sweat from them. Absolute insanity! Not to mention disgusting…

Mount Moosilauke

We were looking for a break from the heat as well as a break before starting our quest into the White Mountains. Around Glencliff, at the foot of the first big bump in our elevation profile, we stopped at the Hikers Welcome Hostel. It’s not much to speak of, just a house with a couple out buildings and some food. The house however, appears to be entirely made of Tyvek. We had a nice rest there out of the rain, which (gratefully) broke the heat wave before our ascent up the “big bump” — Moosilauke (MOO-si-lok). We planned our day to start early right at the base, to get that thing out of the way first thing. We could take a snack break on top, descend the northern side, and wrap up with a nice 17 mile day. As it turns out, the southern ascent is pretty nice! We climbed up a nice but somewhat  steep trail, noticing all along that the trees were slowly getting shorter and shorter. Eventually we were taller than all the trees around us, and then suddenly, there were no more trees! We had risen above treeline for the first time on the AT, marking the start of the White Mountains. It had begun.

And begin it had! That climb was the last “good” trail we saw in the state of New Hampshire. The descent was a very steep rock staircase of sorts that coincided with a waterfall, making the whole thing very wet. From there, we continued over rock scrambles with boulders the size of, well, me. Inevitably they were standing in a deep mud hole that required dropping off the rock onto a branch someone had put in to walk across. It was a harrowing day. Muggle fell. Survivorman slid into the mud. Both struggled on.

Turns out, we weren’t the only folks having trouble. Of the hikers who had left the hostel that morning aiming for the same shelter, I think all had taken about 13 hours to hike those 17 miles! We all decided to adjust our planned schedules going forward. :) We cut our expected mileage per day almost in half. It took us a bit longer than originally expected, but eventually we rolled into the Lincoln/North Woodstock area to pick up a mail drop.

We actually stayed at The Wilderness Inn B&B in North Woodstock, but all the good stuff (movies, food, resupply) ended up being in Lincoln, a mile down the highway. Kind of a bummer, but a light packless walk wasn’t too bad. :) As we walked down the road we always attempted to hitch, but the town was pretty full of tourists and weekenders who are afraid of picking up hitchikers, so we never caught a single hitch. Even so, we were never dissuaded from trying! On one occasion we even had a guy slow down and lean out the passenger side window and yell, “Get a job you lazy bums, and buy a car!” then motor off as quickly as his little jalopy would go. Ah, life on the trail.

And now for the exciting conclusion of the Massachusetts coincidence #3. While eating dinner at an outdoor cafe in town, a crazy thing happened: Jonah’s aunt and uncle (from that night on Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts) strolled by on the sidewalk! They had just decided to get away for the weekend and come to Lincoln, NH! She said she had found our blog and thought it was possible that we would be going through or had just recently gone through the area. It was fun to talk to them for a bit… as if we were old friends, really. Ah, life on the trail!

The Flume at Franconia Notch State Park

Before we left town and hit what most people consider to be the start of the White Mountains, we thought we’d see some of the local attractions. There is a gorge that contains a natural flume river that is a pretty cool 2-3 mile walk. The welcome center let us stash our packs behind their desk while we walked the loop and saw the sights. It was a pretty fun day, and gave us the opportunity to eat in town one last time before hiking out 3 miles to set up camp.

The next day, amid foggy skies and windy ridges, we began our trek through the High Huts region of the White Mountains. But that’s an exciting tale for another day. Stay tuned!

Until then, happy trails!

One Response leave one →
  1. Rob R permalink
    August 11, 2011

    “Get a haircut and get a real job!” – George Thorogood. At least trim your beard, Survivorman. Your account of the local telling you to get a job definitely had me laughing out loud! The weather is cooler here in the Midwest. Hopefully, you will be experiencing it soon. Have fun!


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