What is this blog about?

My name is Lori. In August, 2014, I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago trail. Feel free to join me on my adventure by following me on this blog.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Me, Sparky, Longstride, and Silvergirl finished the White Mountains yesterday. We feel very accomplished, but a bit beat up. Today we are taking a zero at the White Mountain Lodge & Hostel. It's a great place to celebrate not getting killed in the Whites!
For many thru hikers, the Whites becomes their favorite section. The views are spectacular, and the feeling of accomplishment is great when you succeed getting through each tough climb. We had awesome weather for this entire section, which is almost unheard of. I can't imaging doing some of those climbs in inclement weather. I loved the views, but this was definitely not a favorite section for me. Some of the days were confidence builders, but some were true confidence breakers. I knew it was going to be tough, but I had no idea just how dangerous it would be. Our mileage was cut in half and our exhaustion doubled. 

All four of us stayed at the Lake of the clouds hut, as there weren't other camping options, other than hiking out of our way off trail to get to. This hut is the highest in elevation, and just over a mile before the summit of Mt. Washington. Longstride and Silvergirl got the last two work-for-stay slots, and Sparky and I payed $10 to stay in the "dungeon". This is an emergency shelter that is always open due to dangerous weather conditions at any given time. People who get stuck on the mountain can go there for shelter. It is a rock building with an iron door, connected to the huts basement. It was musty down there and smelled bad. I got permission to just sleep inside the hut on the floor. I was afraid whatever the smell was in there would be bad for my asthma. All other hikers followed suit, except for Sparky. He stayed in the dungeon alone, by choice, and the hut floor was littered by hikers by 9:30pm. 
The next morning, we made it to the summit of Mt. Washington by 8 am. It was a little windy, and 40°. Pretty much the best weather this peak ever gets. 

We were on a ridge above tree line most of this day. Our final hurdle of the day was Mt. Madison. I hiked with a woman in the Shenendoahs who broke her foot on this mountain, and it ended her thru hike. I thought of "talks A lot" quite a bit on this day. We had lunch at the Madison Hut, then started up Madison. 

The climb up was only 0.5 miles up from the ridge line we were on. The climb down the other side was 3 miles and 3000 feet of steep boulders. The mountain is like a huge pile of rocks, nothing else. The rocks are large enough the make each step down tough. It took 3.5 hours to do the last 3 miles. Everyone was in a lot of pain by the end. We made it to a crowded campsite where we all crammed onto one tent platform. 

It was a cozy night. We had contemplated taking a short day the next day, and decided we would get off trail for lunch, and then hike on. Our friend Squatch met us after hiking five miles the next day to Pinkham Notch. We visited Wing Wing (who Sparky and I stayed with a few nights prior) She works at the Pinkham visitor center.  She offered up her home again, and I told her we had decided to hike on. On the way to lunch with Squatch, everyone decided to nix the plan to move on, and take Wing Wing up on her offer. We were still so tired from the previous day. 
We had another great night at Zig Zag and Wing Wings home! I am so lucky to have made such great friends! We had good food, laughs, and enjoyed watching Squatch's film he made on the AT last year. It gave us the boost in morale we all needed at this time. 
We felt much better the next day and climbed the wildcats and finished the Presidential range. 
We only had 8 miles to hike to Gorham yesterday, so we took our time. It was nice to have the anxiety of the Whites off our shoulders, and just enjoy the last day through them. On the peak of Mt Moriah, we could actually see Maine! We had lunch at the last shelter in the whites, the Rattle River Shelter. There was a nice swimming hole where we all soaked our feet and knees in the cold water. This will always be a great memory. 

The hostel was a short, nice hike past the shelter, and is right on the trail. Everyone is catching up on their journal, eating real food, and enjoying a comfy bed. Next up: Maine!

Miles hiked: 1885.9
Miles to go: 298.3

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I am in the Whites of New Hampshire! In the first month of the trail, I almost wanted to quit because of the horror stories I was hearing about "The Whites". I have been a little terrified about them ever since.
Here's what the deal is... The whites are full of very tall mountains that are tough to climb. Much of the mountains are above tree line, putting hikers very exposed to the elements. The weather in the whites can be extreme, making it very dangerous to hike. People get injured or even killed in the Whites every year.
The shelters in the Whites can be spaced far apart at times, making camping options tight. Many of the shelters have an $8 fee to stay. In addition to shelters, there are huts run by the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club). These huts are little cabins in the middle of the woods with a bunk room, kitchen, and dining room. Guests at the huts pay $80-$125 per night. Each hut has the option of taking in two thru hikers per night for a work-for-stay. The hikers do chores, or help the small crew in some way in exchange for a place to sleep on the dining floor.
There have been stories about huts turning away hikers in bad weather or late at night. Stealth camping is common in the whites, but can also be difficult, or mean the hiker has to hike several miles off the AT to get to a spot.
So, now you see why I have been a little anxious, yes?

To kick off my hike through the Whites, I stayed at the Hikers Welcome Hostel at the base of Mt. Moosilauke. It was not as nice as I had hoped. I was really spoiled at Dave's home, and this hostel was a bit dirty for my liking. However, after I sat down with some good food from the nearby market and let myself relax, I had a great time. There were four hill-hippies (hillbilly hippies) all watching Jeopardy. These men were screaming out answers after every question, and they knew all the answers. It was amazing! Baltimore Jack was the quickest in the group. I had read many books that mentioned Baltimore Jack, but I never knew he was so intelligent. It was so entertaining!

The hike up and over Moosilauke went well, but we were exhausted after 10 miles. The next day was even tougher. Mt. Kinsman was a vertical climb. It was a long stretch of hand over hand rock scaling. This was the toughest climb I have ever done, and I know there is more to come. I couldn't even stop to take a picture on the way up because I needed both hands to hold on. This is what it looked like when I was near the top looking down.

This difficult climb was part of a long 17.5 mile day where we hiked our last mile in the dark. Our destination was a parking area where we could get picked up to go to a motel.
Three miles before this destination, we came to our first hut, Lonesome Lake Hut. It was 6:30. We were curious, so we asked what our options were as hikers to stay there. They already had their two thru hiker work-for-stays. There was no discount and we would have to pay $100 each to stay. (I was with Sparky) Paying $100 to stay in a bunkhouse with a bunch of other people did not entice us. I'm glad we had a back-up plan only three more miles away.
As we started walking down the path around the hut, I was startled to see a very large bear sitting in the bushes eating some berries. I pointed it out to Sparky and the two hikers on the balcony just above the bear come over to take a peek. I quickly posed to get a picture of me with the bear. Other guests started coming out to see, and I told Sparky we better leave before it gets scared down our way. No sooner did I say this, than the hut workers came out banging pots and pans together, sending the bear running right for us! It had to be about 400 lbs. I screamed and the bear slowed down looking for another route. I yelled to the hut workers to let us get down the trail a bit before sending it our way. They gave us about a ten foot head start. The bear went off the trail, into the woods, but went the same direction as we did. Needless to say, we hiked our last miles pretty fast.
First impression of the AMC huts: turned away for work-for-stay, no discount offered, and then they chased us off with a bear. Not good! Luckily, we had better experiences later.
We hiked our first presidential mountain, Mt. Lincoln, along with Franconia ridge. It was another perfect weather day!

We didn't check out Greenleaf Hut because it was a mile off trail. We stopped short of the shelter this night because it was late and we were tired. We weren't alone though in our stealth camping site. Many thru hikers have the same "secret list" of stealth sites along the whites.
Yesterday, we had another difficult day hiking Garfield Ridge and South Twin Mountain. We stopped in at Galehead Hut, where I bought some soup and cookies for lunch. This is what a typical bunk room looks like at the huts:

and here is a dining room:

We made it to Zealand Falls Hut by 5 pm. We had planned to go 5 more miles that day, but I was tired. I asked, and we were lucky to score a work-for-stay. I cleaned up the stock room while Sparky cleaned trash around the back of the hut. They fed us dinner, and we got to sleep on the dining room floor. They also fed us pancakes before we left the next morning. It was a fun experience.

Today we had a short day and met our friend Zig Zag at Crawford notch. He and his wife, Wing Wing hiked the trail until around Damascus. Actually, the whole neighborhood took care of us. Zig Zag's hot water is off due to some remodeling. One of the neighbors let us shower and do laundry at her house. A different neighbor had us and some other neighbors over for a big dinner. It's been a great day, and I'm ready to sleep now, and head back to the trail tomorrow. While we have such great weather, we don't want to miss a good hiking day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It is so hard to believe that I am in New Hampshire! When planning this trip, I really wanted to be able to finish, but I never really knew if I could. I didn't really think I would last longer than a month. Here I am now with just over 400 miles to go. I will start hiking the white mountains in a couple days and am both excited and nervous about it. They are difficult and at times technical climbs, and we have heard warnings about them from the start of the hike. At this point, we have all switched into our cold weather gear to prepare for the unpredictable weather to come with high elevations. We are all complaining about our added pack weight. Weather is considered the most dangerous part of the whites, so at least our heavy packs can give us the peace of mind of being prepared. 
I mentioned in one of my blog posts that New York wast favorite state thus far. Vermont now holds the gold medal! It has been beautiful hiking! It has become more mountainous, but it seemed that each tough climb had a prize at the end. Sometimes we were gifted with a great view, sometimes a field of ripe blackberries, and sometimes just the awesome scents at the top of the forest were enough to make the climb worth every step. 
I was able to meet a special trail angel this past week. Anyone who has anything to do with long distance hiking on the AT knows Miss Janet. She is one of the AT's biggest angels. She travels along the trail by car, offering help and rides to hikers. She helped us by shuttling us one day as we did a day of slack packing. It was rainy weather, so it was nice to hike with a lighter pack, and then go stay a second night in the hotel we stayed at. Putting away a wet tent in the morning from rain isn't fun, and adds more weight to your pack. In fact, I will be doing that tomorrow morning, as it is pouring outside this very minute. Luckily, we stayed dry all day while hiking. 

The first town we came to as we crossed the New Hampshire border was Hanover. It's a cute little town, and the home of Dartmouth University. It's a very hiker friendly place, in fact several businesses give free stuff to hikers. There is a list of host families who take hikers in for the night. I had arranged to stay with one of the families, but at the last minute, decided to go with Sparky to his friend, Dave's house. I grabbed a free slice of pizza from a nearby pizzeria, and jumped in Dave's car. We spent two nights with Dave, making it a very relaxing zero day. Dave was a great cook, and he spoiled us the whole time! It wasn't easy to leave there today, that's for sure!

Thanks Dave! Also thanks to Sparky for sharing your buddy with me! It's good to have people who have people. :)
Of course, thanks Miss Janet too!

Friday, August 10, 2012

I confess, I have been a little lazy with the blog lately. It's a combination of  having too much fun/hiking till exhausted/poor cell service. After my last post, I entered Vermont. In a couple days, I will be finished with Vermont. It really is amazing how pretty the trail is in New England! It just keeps getting greener and greener. It has been wet lately, so the moss all over the trees, rocks, and logs is so bright and lush. 
We have become seniors on the trail, meaning, we are are in the last quarter. Graduation is getting close, but all the more difficult. We are in great shape, but also our bodies are a little torn up. Our spirits, however, are higher than ever!
The "walking wounded" as we call ourselves were reunited, and once again have split up in a couple smaller groups. Spiceman had some vertigo problems in the morning a couple days ago. He ended up with a ride on a stretcher being pulled down the mountain behind a search and rescue ATV. All tests in the ER found him healthy, but he needs to take a rest. 
Before the group was separated, we all had a great time at the Green Mountain House hostel. 

This place definitely goes in the top 3 for places to stay along the AT. There is a full kitchen, so we got in early and did some shopping. I made a huge lasagna, and Spiceman and Sparky grilled steak and veggies. For desert, I made cookies and the hostel provides a pint of Ben & Jerry's for each hiker. 
It has been awesome hiking with Sparky again. We make a good team! (these old fashioned water pumps are fun)

Sparky, me and Voltron all started the same day, and met on Springer Mountain.
As we get closer to New Hampshire, the trail is starting to have more difficult areas, and it's great to be in a good group for the climbs. It has been really wet the last couple days, as we have hiked through some areas that last years hurricane Irene destroyed. Bridges were taken out and the trail washed away. There are detours to route the trail around these areas, but we chose to hike the real trail, as southbounders have told us it can be done safely. 

Here is a fallen over tree that the trail walks across now. You can see the cairn of rocks to mark the trail. There are also areas we hopped rocks to get across streams. One bridge was replaced with a ladder. 
Last night, we made it to a stone shelter that we were told leaked in the rain. It rained hard, and there was water going everywhere. I stayed comfortable in my tent, after making ditches around the tent for the water to drain from the ground, that is. It was fun standing in the shelter watching the rain before bedtime though. 

The rain sure did make the next morning beautiful!

Tonight I am in the Greenbrier Inn. It's a great hotel, and giving me some rest I need. Turns out I may be developing a little allergy to bee stings. I am nursing an ankle that got stung 36 hours ago. It looks and feels like a really bad sprain. Hopefully tomorrow it will be a little better. Thank goodness for Benadryl and Ibuprofen!
Even though this July was the hottest on record in the nation, I received my cold weather gear today. Sounds strange doesn't it?  We are going to be going to higher elevations soon and in areas with unpredictable weather. Time to be prepared! 

I haven't missed tv since on the trail, but I have missed watching the Olympics. It is nice to watch tonight! Go USA! Also go Brazil, as my friend Joao Schwindt competes in London!

Miles hiked:1700.9
Miles to go:483.3

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It has been a good week so far since Chris left. After my two days off, I was energized. I did 20 miles my first day back on trail. I passed up the campsite I had originally planned to stop because it was too early to call it a day. I hiked to upper goose pond cabin. I didn't read the specifics in the guide book, and just figured it was a normal shelter. I was very happy to see that it was an actual enclosed cabin. I got to sleep on a bunk with a mattress! What a great surprise at the end of a long day. There are care takers at the cabin who baked cookies for us at bedtime and made delicious pancakes in the morning for breakfast. There are also canoes available to take out on the pond, but I didn't use one. 
Half way through the next day, I stopped at the "cookie lady's" house. It is mentioned in our guidebook, and was perfect timing for a lunch break. The "cookie man" was there to greet me. I picked fresh blueberries from their blueberry farm, which went great with my lunch. We also got a basket of cookies for dessert. The couple also allows hikers to tent in their yard. What nice people! 

The last couple weeks, I have begun to see southbound thru hikers (SOBO). It is fun to talk to them and exchange information. Its really funny that many of them have heard of me and my bear story. All day, SOBO's we're telling me about a great hostel to go to. It was 3 miles past my planned destination, but I decided to be spontaneous, since it worked out so well the day before. I did 21 miles that day to Tom Lavardi's home in Dalton, Massachusetts. He is a retired man who lives in a house right on the trail, so he allows hikers to camp in his yard and stay in his home. I got a shower, laundry done, and a bed to sleep in for the night. It was fantastic! Tom is another example of how awesome some of the people in this hiking community are. He turns down any donation, and also offers shuttles around town. I think he loves the company. 

I hiked out the next day, while most hikers at Tom's decided to take a zero there. This was my third day of hiking solo. Even though I took time off with Chris, most of my hiking buddies took some time off too. With the big miles I put in, I found myself ahead of all my buddies for the first time. Hiking solo has been a great experience. It's good to have alone time sometimes to really think. I arrived at a shelter half way up Mt. Greylock for the night, and I was the only one there. I have never spent the night alone in the woods before, so it was somewhat eerie to think I might be doing that now. I set up camp, and got all my usual camp chores done. I actually set up my tent in the shelter. This way, I can sleep without bugs, but don't have to put my rain fly on. 

After getting all set up, I realized I wasn't really all that uncomfortable being there alone. It's amazing how much this trip has changed my confidence! Before nightfall, other hikers did roll in. The shelter had a lot of room, including an upstairs loft, so I kept my tent where it was, and we all had a great time. The company was nice, but it was also nice to know that I would have been okay alone as well. Two SOBO's stayed in the shelter with me, and I really liked them. Too bad we only cross paths once. 
The next day, I hiked out and made the summit of Mt. Greylock early. The mountain was covered in a thick cloud, so I was disappointed to not get to see the view. It is Massachusetts highest peak. It is also the beginning of bigger climbs again on the trail for me. I believe this is the first time I have climbed over 3000 ft since Virginia. With all the pine and the balsam fur near the top of the mountain, all I could think of all morning was that everything smelled like Christmas. It was so great!
I made it a short 10 mile day into a motel where I had a package waiting for me. 
I went to a restaurant for dinner and ran into some other hikers who asked me to join them. As we got talking, my bear encounter came up in conversation. One of the other hikers had stayed at the Jenkins shelter the night after I was there and had a bear climb on my tent. He said that there were warnings at the shelter already, and a ranger came up to warn them as well. As they sat in the shelter discussing what they would do if the bear came, sure enough, they got a visit from the bad news bear itself! I had not seen the bear who sat on me. I was so excited to hear he got a picture! I finally got to see "my" bear. 

...looks like a nice place to set up a tent....until...
So there you have it. I knew it was not a small bear, but I'm really glad I didn't see how big it was until now!! Yikes!
After close to a week hiking solo, I am being lazy in my motel room until checkout time. I will meet up with part of my "walking wounded" group later today after a short hike again. Hopefully Sparky will be there too! He unfortunately got Lyme disease from a tick bite, and it set him back a few days to recover. A lot of my fellow hikers have contracted Lyme. It is a scary, but common thing in these parts. I am staying true to my permethrin and deet! Fingers crossed, I will get through my hike without these nasty ailments. 

Miles hiked: 1587.6
Miles to go: 596.6