The White Mountains beat me up badly! Freezing rain, 70 mile winds, slippery rocks and climbing rock formations that are so dangerous you just want to cry are considered normal days in the Whites. I talked to SOBO’s, (Thru-hikers that start in Maine and hike south to Springer Mountain), about the conditions of the trail, but they really didn’t share the information about the serious dangers along the trail. There are signs posted in the huts about preparing for cold temps and thunderstorms and you can get weather updates often; however the weather can change in an instant and you can be in trouble if you are not prepared.
My hike from Eliza Brook Shelter to the first hut was crazy dangerous! I was grabbing tree limbs, pulling myself up 40 ft slabs of rock by holding on to roots of trees and sliding down parts of the mountain on my rear to avoid falling! That was my introduction to the Whites. I learned how to boulder hop but slipped and fell so many times I lost count. When I hiked the Crawford Path on the way to Mt. Washington the winds actually blew me off my feet! We started up the mountain but had to stop our hike due to winds and rain. I have been hiking with “Catfish”, a nice guy from Maryland and the hut at the base of Washington was packed with hikers and locals who started the hike but got stuck in the bad weather.
The next morning the skies were clear and temps were cool so everyone headed to the top of Washington. A weather station at the top provides updates for the mountain region and a Cog Railway runs hourly to the top.
I stayed in several AMC Huts while hiking and enjoyed the hot soup and hearty dinners. The most challenging climb for me was coming down Mt. Madison. It was a climb down huge boulders and my pack was pushing weight against me and making every step a dangerous task! The 5300 descent took most of the day and I was completely exhausted when I reached the bottom. The Whites are beautiful but each hike should be planned carefully. A young couple had to be rescued the night before I finished because they were not prepared for weather changes and the long hours it takes to cover the trails in the Whites.
I have sore feet, swollen knees, cuts and bruises and I have never been this tired, but it was worth it. The views were amazing!
The Whites are tough.
My first night in the White Mountains was wonderful! I camped at the Eliza Brook Shelter and just as I took a side path to get water a huge moose walked in front of me! I had hoped that I would see a moose while in the Whites but didn’t expect to see one so soon! She stopped, looked at me, then simply turned and walked away. It took a few minutes for me to stop shaking ( I was seriously frightened so much I could not move), then I pulled out my camera and started taking pics!
The hike to the first hut (lonesome Lake), was the hike from hell! The hike was not long but it was a constant trek of climbing, sliding down rock formations and using tree branches to pull myself up the trail in pouring rain! Usually I can hike 15-20 miles per day, but in the Whites I have slowed down to 8 miles per day, it is just so difficult! When I reached the top of Kinsman the fog was so thick there was no view of the valley below.
The huts are really nice and they offer a bunk and a hot meal at breakfast and dinner. There are 8 huts in the Whites and they are totally off the grid. Each hut generates power from solar, wind or hydropower but there is no heat in the bunk houses and everything is brought in by backpacking. The meals are hearty and the staff is great. All huts are run by AMC. I am really impressed by two AMC staff members (Laura Katerina, and John Bergacs) who were very helpful with information and took so much time to make sure all of my questions were answered. I would say that Laura and John are more than AMC employees, they are “Trail Angels”! The staff works long hours cleaning and preparing food for hikers and the wake-up call in the morning is two of the AMC staff playing a guitar and singing a beautiful song! Sooooo Cool! I loved it! I am so excited about hiking through the Whites, but so far it is the most challenging part of my thru-hike. Next up, Mt. Washington (6288 ft), and hopefully great pics!
The only thing between me and the top of Mount Katahdin are the White Mountains, the 100 Mile Wilderness and the Mahoosuc Notch! That’s all? That is plenty, and it is not going to be easy!
First up The Whites. They cover 1/4 of the state of New Hampshire and a small portion of Western Maine. They are the most rugged mountains in New England. Mount Washington is 6,288 ft, the highest peak in the Northeastern U.S. And has the fastest surface wind gust (231 m/s) in the world. There are 48 peaks over 4,000 ft. known as the Four Thousand Footers! I will slow down my miles to 8-10 per day as I go through the Whites. The weather is unpredictable and dangerous at times.
This is the section of the AT running between Abol Bridge, just south of Baxter State Park and Monson Maine. It is the wildest section of the trail and one of the most challenging. Once you enterthe wilderness, there is only one way out for one hundred miles.
This is the toughest mile on the trail with conditions that are not for the faint of heart. There are ten peaks and I am told this section is slow, hard and just plain scary!
When I start the Whites I will have hiked around 1800 miles, and hopefully I will be physically and mentally ready for the challenge. I have talked to a lot of SOBO’s (South Bound Hikers) that started at Katahdin and they all just smile and say, “just enjoy”. I think I am going to take that advice.
Hiked into Manchester Center Vermont last night and I really love this town. It is a popular ski town but is a nice stop for hikers. I stayed at the popular hostel, “Green Mountain House” on Richville Rd. After coming off the trail I got a ride into town and Jeff Taussig (owner of the hostel) picked me up and introduced me to the other 15 hikers that were staying the night. The hostel was the nicest one that I have visited on the trail. The house is clean and for $25 you get a shower, bed, wifi, free sodas, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and breakfast! It was nice to spend the evening with Southbound hikers and hear about The Whites, and the Hundred Mile Wilderness. It is 538 miles to Katahdin from here and the hiking is becoming extremely challenging! I am feeling very strong and was surprised that my ankle is fine this morning after taking a nasty roll on a slick rock last night as I hiked across a stream. My goal is to stay strong and healthy for the next 48 days. I hiked across Stratton Mountain (3936 ft) and Bromley Mountain (3269), yesterday and the tower at the top of Stratton Mountain offered a beautiful 360 view of Vermont. This was the spot that inspired Benton MacKaye to propose the creation of the Appalachian Trail. Views are getting better and temps getting cooler. Katahdin is getting closer!
Hostel Owner, Jeff Taussig