We left Hanover for the next leg of the trip. Back in 2000 when we realized we were not going to have enough cash to finish, we skipped forward to Hanover and walked the White Mountains section of the trail. We're glad we did as it's considered to be the most challenging part of the trail. So having completed Vermont we can now skip forward to where we got off the trail at the end of the Whites. We arranged a shuttle with a 'trail angel' who goes by Golden Waldo who met us in Hanover and took us right through to Wildcat Mountain, some 170 miles by road for not much more than it cost us to get a taxi 3 miles from the supermarket to our motel! When we finished the White Mountains in 2000 we got off the mountain by coming down a gondola at a ski resort. We'd planned to go back up the gondola this time (of course) but due to high winds, we had to walk up the hill... never mind, we needed the exercise!
So, although we considered we had walked the Whites, technically we still had a few days to go to leave the park that is called White Mountains National Park, and then of course the 'mountains' don't magically just disappear. We have another 12 days of hiking after then until the mountains turn into large hills, then things will settle down to just hard as opposed to near impossible. Still, the views and the general scenery in this area is really incredible. It reminds me a lot of Fiordland National Park, except over here they have roads going to the top of the highest peaks... (Seeing this makes me want to protect the New Zealand wilderness from unnecessary roads.) The other thing they have in the Whites are lodges. They are run as non-profit businesses staffed by young people catering to older people who don't mind spending $130 a night to stay in a bunk room and eat food cooked in dirty kitchens by the same young people. As a rule, the AT hikers hate them. In this section of trail you must stay at designated shelters and camping is not permitted in most areas. This means that all the way through the Whites, the AT hikers 'stealth' camp in out of the way places and secret spots. Leading up to the Whites, everyone you meet asks you about the stealth spots you may know so they can avoid the horrendous expense charged by the club. The club is The Appalachian Mountain Club, AMC for short. We all call them the Appalachian Money Club... They do offer on first come first serve, a work for stay arrangement and seeing as the last lodge was the first one we came to on our new section, we thought we would give it a go. I should add at this point that they only offer this to thru hikers, not section hikers like us. So we were in luck! No other hikers had been through and we lied and said we were thru hikers, and we had somewhere to sleep and all the leftovers we could eat! Still would have preferred to camp but didn't want to go the extra miles to the next stealth spot. The chef was up at 5:15 to start breakfast so it was an early start for us that day but we saved some money so it seemed worth it.
Within a few days we were crossing the last state line for this trip. The Maine/New Hampshire line is much anticipated as it means less than 300 miles until the finish. It also means the start of the bogs. Like the rest of the trail, it still mostly goes over the tops of each mountain in our path but here in Maine some of the tops have large ponds or lakes and always mud. The day after crossing into Maine on the top of Mt Goose Eye I slipped off a boardwalk that was floating on a large pool of thick mud and the only thing that stopped me disappearing was my pack! I went in right up to my waist and still didn't reach the bottom... not too happy I have to say and I was covered in mud! No shower or washing for days too...
The mountain tops here are really beautiful, which is good as we don't go to many valleys but one of the most talked about stretches of the entire trail runs for 1 mile through a valley called Mahoosuc Notch. It's like a big steep sided valley about 30 meters wide that is filled with giant car and truck sized boulders. The guide book we have calls it the most difficult and fun stretch on the entire trail. When we reached this section it was another 30 degree day with bright sunshine but a fog was rising from the ground in places and we felt the cold like someone had left the fridge door open. In places below the boulders snow and ice still sits from winter! Due the the steep sides the sun hasn't reached for long enough to melt it away. It was fun! The 1 mile took us nearly 2 hours and we managed to complete it without a fall.
Our new packs are excellent and to say we love them would be an understatement. We have also changed some of the things we are carrying and have bought new clothes as well. Out here people know who you are by what you are wearing. We can tell from a distance who is ahead as they have the shorts and top combo of ... whoever it is, totally unique to everyone. Us AT hikers do not have many changes of clothing to wear so when we get soaking wet it can be difficult sometimes. This has happened to me on more than one occasion.. The soaking wet bit, and unlike Christine who carries some fleece paints to wear, I only had 1 pair of $1.99 black underpants I bought from K-Mart in Perth to put on while my hiking paints dry. That's right, wearing underpants hiking gives you a rash so it's 'Freeball Friday' everyday for me because I carry the absolute minimum of everything including clothing! In fact, if it's cold and wet, I will be wearing every item of clothing I have! So, we have had a few fun nights standing around at shelters while it's raining outside talking to people and I am wearing just my underwear! The only person to have said anything about it was Christine so I guess it was ok? I have now bought some lightweight Icebreaker leggings to wear.. still underpants of sorts but not obviously just underpants..
We have put together 'food drops' for Maine and mailed it to the places we are going to stay. We do this so we can be assured that we will be able to eat the food we like right through the trip. Great idea until we get behind or change the schedule. This happened from the first day! As we had to walk up Wildcat Mountain we ended up being half a day behind and missed staying at the first hostel. We didn't send food to that place but we had planned to buy a dinner and breakfast there. It wasn't until later that we realized we were short of food and then had to get to the next place a day earlier. All in all no problem as we can get back on the schedule by doing what's called a slack pack. That's where the hostel owner drops us off and collects us at roadends and we walk with just a day pack. Great for the hostel owner as we stay 2 nights and great for us as we can do more miles without full packs. So tomorrow we will head off on the next full section of the Maine trail. Maine has been great so far and it reminds us both a lot of New Zealand!
it's Our Epic Trip...
David & Christine are from New Zealand and are embarking on a trip around the world the slow way, on foot and by personal vehicle. This could get interesting!