Archive for the Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal Category

A Long Distance Eating Contest: Hiker Hunger

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal with tags , , , , , on August 21, 2014 by J.K.o

Hiking appetites are like pregnancy appetites….they are constantly evolving, craving new and weird things, and what once was your favorite you now detest.

Recently, I have had several folks write to me requesting information on trail food. In fact, one of the first questions people always ask as soon as they learn that I have thru-hiked is “What did you eat?” I always have to laugh at that question. The truth is that food was a sore subject for me and for reasons some may not understand. So for now, I will ask you to think of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail as a long distance eating contest.

An eating contest? Yes! And one that I lost on a daily basis. I remember it like it was yesterday (I hate to sound cliche, but it’s true!). We had just crossed into Virginia; we were feeling so triumphant. Damascus was in our sites and we had a zero day planned for resupply, bathing, beer, and much needed laundry. Our little stay in Damascus was quite profitable and the next day we left just as quickly as we had ushered in. What followed in the days after we came into VA was to become a problem of monstrous proportions. Slowly, but surely, my appetite started to slip away.

At first it was unnoticeable. I figured that I had just gotten used to burning so many calories all at once. 6,000 calories each day to be exact. It started at dinner time; one pack of Ramen was just too much and I would quickly pass my leftovers off to Spoon (he was always happy to eat leftovers!). Of course, I was never big on breakfast. Ever since I was a child, I hated to eat breakfast. The trail was no different–I would just start walking until several hours had passed. Okay, so lunch would arrive and I would be sort of hungry. Nothing a few spoonfulls of peanut butter couldn’t cure. It never occurred to me at the time, but I had started to consume less and less calories each day. My body never said “I’m hungry” quite the way it used to, so I never responded with food.

This habit went on for quite some time, but eventually, all bad habits reveal themselves as the true monster they are. I was almost to the Shenandoahs when it really started to hit. I was consuming less than 1,000 calories a day and getting slower and slower by the minute. Every step, every hill became more and more difficult. I was losing energy by the second. Tiger Lilly was growing more concerned; “I’m just not hungry” I would tell her. My appetite was gone. I had no desire to eat. Eating was horrible.I’m told that some people experience this same lack of appetite after performing athletically for sustained amounts of time; I just figured it was normal. But it wasn’t. I watched my fellow hikers partake in every food contest along the trail like the half-gallon ice cream challenge and the Mahoosuc monster 8lb pizza. Why wasn’t interested in eating? It got to the point where I was in such desperate need of calories and fat that I would buy cans of sesame tahini and eat spoonfulls of it for dinner; two tablespoons contains 15g of fat and 170 calories.

So here’s a little statistical info for you:

  • Hikers burn 7,000 calories per day (an average of 20 miles)
  • Hikers should try to consume as much as 6,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy body weight
  • I am 5’9″ and weighed 160lbs at the start of my thru-hike.
  • I weighed 115lbs at the end of my thru-hike and had roughly 6% body fat (not okay for a woman!)

My body was suffering and so was my will to continue on the journey. Lilly would force me to eat cheeseburgers and ice cream whenever we would come to towns. Gross! I’m not hungry! To get slightly graphic (sorry men folk), my percentage of body fat had dropped so much that I experienced amenorrhoea–the absence of periods. Of course, I never really complained about that! I experienced dangerous weight loss, not the cool 10-20 lbs that ever hiker loses. I can’t remember when it happened, but sometime around the New England mark I started feeling more hungry. By the time I summitted Katahdin, my appetite had come back some, but I still wasn’t eating the way the other hikers were. I never could.

When I was partly through the Shenandoahs, I met a hiker named “Will.” He had just finished up a 36 miler and came strolling in like it was no big deal. He told me that he had previously thru-hiked the PCT and, he too, struggled to maintain a healthy weight. He offered me some of the best advice I ever got on the trail. He said

 

“Don’t think of the AT as a long distance hike; think of the AT as a long distance eating contest. Take your time and eat as much as you can, when you can.”

 

 

 

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Ain’t it the truth…

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal on February 15, 2012 by J.K.o

Check This Out!

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal on January 23, 2012 by J.K.o

My journal and trail experience was featured in the Palm Beach Post newspaper in August. Upon searching in Google for my name, I discovered another article about my thru-hike in the Journal of Emergency Medical Science. Please check them out!

Loxahatchee woman achieve her father’s dream and her own by completing the Appalachian Trail

Fla. EMT Rescues Injured Hiker on Appalachian Trail

 

Flashback: Georgia (AT 2011)

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal with tags , on January 7, 2012 by J.K.o

In just about 2 months, it will have been one year since I commenced my momentous journey. A few days ago, I was unpacking some boxes and stumbled across the first of my AT journals. I sat amidst old, dusty boxes–reading, laughing, and reliving the crazy events of the first-leg of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. I will admit that reading these old journal entries stirred a longing within me, a longing to get back out on the trail!

For the last few months I have desperately missed life on the AT; therefore, I have decided to quell this desire in the coming Spring. In March, I will be taking an Advanced Wilderness EMT course at Wesser. I thought to myself, “why not just hike there?” So… I have decided to hike the AT from Springer Mountain to the Nantahala River just before the course starts. It’s only a short distance, but I hope it will quench the longing I have to be back in the woods!

In the meantime, for your reading enjoyment, a flashback to Georgia…

3/10/11  @ Hightower Gap, GA

It’s 1 am. right now and it’s so darn cold! Tonight it decided to snow on us, along with temperatures sinking down into the ‘teens. I am officially regretting my decision to bring my synthetic 20 degree sleeping bag; I am definitely switching to my down bag and liner when we meet Carla at Neil Gap. The hour is late–yes. This is because we retreated to our habitations around 8 pm. Of course I tried to go to sleep; however, the cold, the snow, the strange noises… When I woke up to pee I was sadly disappointed when my watch only said 1 am. I was hoping it would be near morning!

Day 1 went along really well. It was pretty easy going with no real steep ascents to deal with. I hiked through the snow wearing shorts. Yes! I remained clothed in this manner until we reached camp. I think I am going to start telling people I am from Canada. haha. In total, our hike was approximately 8.3 miles–a nice, moderate start to our ultimate journey.

As I sit here and write, the pace of the snow begins to pick up. I have come to appreciate the snow because it does not drench you. As for camp and setup, I am amazed at how long it takes to do anything because everything is packed away and you must go through the cursory moves of unloading it. We shared a camping site with 3 other guys, 2 of which are from Florida. I can’t seem to escape Floridians, even in the wilderness of the Appalachian Trail. We had a funny experience hanging bear bags with them. Oh yeah, did I mention that I am sleeping with our camelbacks? This is so they do not freeze over night. They are tucked away next to the warmth of my body so they will not become solid blocks ice. Well, that’s all for now. Tomorrow we are making a little over 9 miles. Hopefully we’ll camp in a better spot with less wind and a good water source. Hopefully I will fall asleep!

3/12/11 @ Neil Gap Hostel, Georgia

Yesterday had its share of ups-and-downs, literally. We skipped breakfast to leave the god-forsaken setting that we stayed at (Hightower Gap). We hiked through snow and freezing conditions. It was pretty miserable! Lunch time was a blessing; we stopped at Jesuit Creek, a beautiful site! We stripped off our layers and basked in the sun. The latter half of the day was great and  we finished by camping at Woody Gap. It was a much better night than our first night, but I was still freezing cold. We camped with a bunch of guys and had a wonderful camp fire. Yesterday, the Lord truly carried me through the miserable conditions.

Today, however, had a much more pleasant heir. This was probably because I got to have my morning cup of coffee. We pushed and got over Blood Mountain, making it to Neil Gap. Tonight we are staying at the hostel and we are so glad to be sleeping in a bed. Never have I been so glad to take a shower; it was so amazing! Today, my ankles hurt pretty bad. I found that they hurt the least when  I am climbing up hill. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little easier on my feet! The conditions today were bright and sunny–I had to strip down to a tank-top and shorts. I got so sunburned! Now I am relaxing in the hostel. In a mistake of words, I received my trail name today. Lilly was joking that my trail name should be “Anne of Green Gables,” but this other guy thought she said “Fuzzy Navel.” Then it stuck because everyone thought it was so funny!

3/13/11 @ Low Gap Shelter, GA

Today was an amazing day. I finally broke through the hump of difficult exercise. I was able to storm up massive inclines without any problems. I was hiking so quickly and was able to conquer each mountain I came to. The hike itself was very, very long. We made 11.3 miles today over some extremely rough terrain. I think I am at the point where the constant movement is beginning to affect my body. This morning, Lilly’s mom said that I looked like I had lost weight–too funny! I was very tired and anxious to get to camp today.

Anyways, everything has been great on the trail. I think my feet are finally adjusting to all the abuse. Tomorrow Lilly and I will stop off at her aunt and uncle’s house in Helen, GA. The hardest part so far has been my insomnia. It’s been terrible! I hope that one day, sleep will come easily to me. I am trying to think of other great things to write about, but nothing comes to mind. Good night!

Coming to Fruition

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal with tags , , , , , , , on August 17, 2011 by J.K.o

At 5am my alarm sounded, but I already lay awake waiting for that moment. It was a pretty sleepless night, occupied by anxiety and excitement. It was my last day on the AT, the day I was to summit Katahdin. I moved about, my heart racing, thinking about my first day on the trail and some of the most memorable moments. I definitely questioned whether or not this day was real–I couldn’t believe that I actually made it to Maine.

At 6:30 in the morning I embarked on my last day of hiking. It was only a 5.3 mile hike up to the summit of Katahdin and I didn’t have to carry my pack. The sun was not yet shining, but the birds were out and singing loudly. The start of the trail was flat and rocky, quickly progressing to granite staircases and long veins of smooth rock. I was amazed at how fast I covered the first 1.5 miles. I guess I was just so excited to get there! All time was a blur–flying by at lightening speeds.

I was absolutely shocked when I got to the end of the treeline. Surely I couldn’t be climbing that quickly. The mountain opened up to one massive stack of boulders. They were the size of cars and the white blazes took me up and over them. The sky was a deep azure and there wasn’t a single cloud in sight. I approached a vertical rock face about 6 feet high with a 6 inch gap running down the center. At the top of the gap was a rung and a hook. I had to carefully pull myself up and over the rock face.

The trail brought me to another section–almost straight up with a mixture of rocks and boulders. It was a fun rock scramble. I used my hands to steady myself and carefully ascended the rock face. I remember thinking how fast this experience was going by. I kept thinking, “I am almost there!” At the top of the rock scramble I arrived at the cornice. The mountain flattened out for about a mile and then there was one more mild climb to the peak.

I had to fight the urge to run. I kept stopping and telling myself to slow down. It was an absolutely beautiful day, my last day! As I strolled across the flat mile I contemplated my time on the trail. I passed a small and clear spring to my right–Thoreau spring. I thought back to high school when I read Thoreau’s essay on his hike up to Katahdin. I thought it amazing to finally experience that which I had read about so long ago.

I reached the last ascent; I could see the cairn at the very top. My heart was pounding. At that moment I didn’t care anymore–I started running up the mountain. I felt that I could hardly breathe. Suddenly I saw it–that big sign marking the end of the Appalachian Trail. As I approached the northern terminus tears began to f all. I collapsed onto the sign; there was no one else there. So many emotions ran through me. I was so thankful to have made it from Georgia and so relieved that the experience was finally over!

It was such an epic moment. I sat alone on Katahdin in shear amazement. It was 9am and I was on top top of the world. I snapped to, remembering that I had packed a celebratory PBR in my day pack. I cracked open the cold beer and sat at the peak, enjoying my accomplishment. A little bit later, I looked out to see someone approaching. Night Train made his way to the summit. It was so good to see a familiar face. We reveled in the glory and took photos of one another on the sign. By that time, day hikers and tourists began flooding the top. They all cheered and congratulated us for making the 2,181 mile journey.

Later, Shoefly, Nero, Inchworm, and Sprocket made their way to the summit. We all celebrated the surreal moment. I was so joyed to celebrate with Shoefly and Nero as I met them on my 5th. day on the trail. What incredible timing to start and end with the same people! What and incredible moment!

I looked out in amazement at the scenery. The ocean stretched out before me. I guess it hadn’t really sunken in; it was a strange sensation. I couldn’t believe that I had just hiked from Georgia to Maine!

Mahoosuc Mayhem

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal on August 8, 2011 by J.K.o

Maybe I’m just exhausted after hiking 2,00o miles… or maybe the AT in Maine just sucks? I will admit that after I completed the Whites in NH, I sighed a huge sigh of relief, but no one ever told me southern Maine was going to be as ridiculous as it was.

Smooth, wet, granite rock faces are all I seem to hiker over these days! Since I crossed the state line, the clouds have hovered over me, dumping buckets of moisture and rain. The trail has been slick and muddy; my shoes are soaked through! It’s been utterly miserable and I am ready to finish this thing!  For the last few days, it has been a challenge to push through the mileage. Normally I am a fast hiker, but the trail keeps coming to these sharp, steep descents. It gets so frustrating because I must stop, look for a safe way down, and then slowly crawl down the rock face. I came to so many of these granite chutes that I just started throwing my trekking polls all-the-way down. To make things worse, I ripped a hole in my shorts from having to slide down so many rocks. I hiked about 6 miles and passed 2 trail-maintenance crews before I realized there was a hole.

So Maine was pretty much adding up to be one big frustration. Meanwhile, the threat of a forthcoming place was looming over my head. Everyday we were hiking closer and closer to the infamous Mahoosuc Notch. My AWOL trail guide simply reads “Mahoosuc Notch: one mile of trail that weaves through a giant boulder chasm. The most difficult section of the Appalachian Trail or the most fun? You decide.” David Miller must have thought he was being funny when he included that little description into the guide. Nonetheless, I had a pretty bad feeling in the pit of my stomach about this Mahoosuc Notch. For all intensive purposes I will refer to it as MahooSUCK Notch.

We camped at the shelter just before the notch so that we could wake early and have all day to tackle it. On July 27th. we hiked into the chasm around 9:30 am and did not complete that mile-long section of trail until noon. This should give you a good idea as to the difficulty of the notch. Nonetheless, the Appalachian Trail is demarcated by white blazes to designate the trail. When I climbed into the notch I saw white blazes painted on every rock, cranny, tree, etc. I rolled my eyes at the sight–the blazes were completely ambiguous as to say “anything goes.” I didn’t find it very funny. I stood there, feeling as if the AT was mocking me. I turned to Tiger Lilly and said “I’m a hiker and I want to hike the Appalachian Trail. I didn’t’ sign up for rock climbing and bouldering.” Immediately I grew angry knowing there weren’t any alternative routes around the notch. I guess I would have done Mahoosuc no matter what, but I still wanted the option.

To make the situation worse, it had rained all night long. What was already going to be an enormous challenge was now made worse by slick rocks and dangerous conditions. At first it was a slow-going hop from boulder to boulder. Every rock, tree, and vine was covered with green algae and slimy, orange slugs. Then we started climbing up-and-over slick rocks. I came to one section and tried to hoist myself up onto the top. It was wet and there were no foot grips. I kept falling down and scraping my knees. I thought that I had finally reached a place on the trail that I was simply incapable of doing. I wanted to give up. Tiger Lilly came by, giving me a boost, and I barely made it over. There were sections that took us underneath house-sized rocks. The arrows would point to the very bottom of the chasm to narrow, dark holes. Yes, they expected us to hike through them with our packs. There was nothing to do except remove our packs and crawl on our hands and knees in the dark,damp, icy-cold dark. The tunnels were strange and eery. I could feel the cold of ice radiating to my body. I was surprised to find snow and ice still existing within the notch in late July; I am told this is quite common.

I think you guys can get the jest of just how ridiculous this section of trail was. Unfortunately, the “fun” didn’t end there. Just after Mahoosuc Notch the AT comes to another section called Mahoosuc Arm. I will say that I was fortunate to be north-bound on the trail, as that is the much preferred way to travel the Arm. The Arm is one long granite sidewalk coming down the side of the mountain at about 50 – 60 degrees of angle. There are no wooden steps, ropes, or re-bar drilled into the rocks. If the AMC were smart they would install re-bar rungs for the hikers to use because the erosion around the Arm was insane. If you put a hiker on a trail of slick, wet rock that goes straight down the side of the mountain they are going to find another way down. Because of this spirit and the sheer danger of walking straight down the rock (impossible) hikers have climbed into the tree line that surrounds the Arm, pulling on branches, roots, and whatever they can get their hands on to keep from slipping. This has caused serious erosion and it is evident that several trees have fallen from the lack of soil to support their weight. It is always easier to climb up difficult rocks and precarious places–don’t ask me why, but hiking down these sections is much more difficult and scary.

Needless to say, I was not amused at the end of the day. My first impressions of Maine were tarnished by this particular section of trail and I am still not impressed!

The Whites; an overview

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal on August 5, 2011 by J.K.o

On July 15th. I entered the Whites in northern New Hampshire after two weeks off the trail for an injury. I had only heard a few random things about the Whites. There was a bit about cold temperatures, hurricane force winds, huts, limited camping, and steep terrain. All of this was true…

The Whites proved to be one, big logistical nightmare. In this national forest the Appalachian Mountain Club maintains full-services huts for guests to stay in. At a steep $110 you can have a one night stay in a bunk room with several other guests and two hot meals. Nonetheless, day hikers and tourists pay willingly, but hikers definitely cannot afford those kinds of accommodations. Unfortunately, sometimes the mileage on the trail is  a little odd and it is ideal to end your day at one of the huts. It is common practice for the huts to take-in one or two thru-hikers for work-for-stay purposes. Typically it consists of some menial task, like sweeping, in exchange for a hot and delicious meal and a night’s sleep on the dining room floor. The hut crews can pick and choose whosoever they want to stay. This, however, presents a few issues. I hike with a group of five people and we had to separate throughout the Whites so that we could all find accommodations. The other issue is that you could hike 20 miles, show up, and be turned away, knowing that the next campsite is not for another 10 miles. It’s all really a gamble and one never knows if they will be able to stay at the huts.

Luckily, I was never turned down. I learned very quickly that if you want them to let you stay that you need to tell them you have your own food and bat your eyelashes at the men folk a little. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the men never turn away a female thru-hiker. Once you secure your space in the hut it can pretty fun.

Each time I stayed at a hut my job was to give a speech about my experiences on the trail to all the guests. Around 9pm, 20-30 guests would gather around and I would recount stories and answer any questions they may have. Then we were fed all the leftovers that the guests didn’t consume. Hut crews like hikers because we are their human garbage disposals; if any food is left the hut crews must hike it back down the side of the mountain because there are no roads going to any of the huts, just trails.

Once you figure out how to work the hut system it’s just a matter of getting through the tough terrain. In fact, the Whites are 1 of the 4 toughest spots on the trail. Up until that point I was pulling 24 mile days without any problems. When we hit the Whites we had to adjust to the amount of time it took to hike. We deliberately dropped our mileage to compensate for the sheer difficulty. It is incredibly rocky and for the first time on the trail, we encountered Alpine Zones.

At first the Whites contained a lot of waist-high step-ups traversing trails that were about 45 degrees in angle with no switchbacks. As we moved farther into the Whites we encountered smooth, slanted granite rock faces-they weren’t so bad to ascend, but descending over the smooth surfaces was incredibly dangerous. Most of the time we would hang on to tree roots and branches, use our hands, or sometimes just slide down on our backside. What made this even more challenging was the rain and it rained half the time we were there.

Nonetheless, the beauty was enough of a reward for the hard hours we were putting in. In the south we would climb these 4,000 ft. mountains and see only trees at the top. The Whites, however, all had amazing views. The scenery changed as we traversed the forest. When we hiked the Presidentials we would spend entire days hiking on ridge lines and see no trees for miles.

All this said, I am very happy to be finished with the Whites. I have to say that many portions of southern Maine are really just an extension of the Whites. We are currently pressing on through the last bit of tough stuff. We are told that soon the trail will flatten out entirely after Monson, Maine and it will only be one final sprint to Katahdin. It is hard to believe that we have covered so much ground in so little time!

Photographic Evidence

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal on August 1, 2011 by J.K.o

It’s been a while since I have posted any photos from our journey. Please enjoy!

The crew spending some time at Tom Levardi’s in Dalton, Mass. I gave them all mohawks and mullets for fun!

Maniac, Legion, Fuzzy Navel, Burly, Tom Levardi

Vermont State Line, whoops, the camera was a bit out of line : )

Summiting Mt. Moosilauke in New Hampshire; this is the commencement of the Whites

Mt. Lafeyette in White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire

Triumphant we stand after reaching the cornice on Mt. Washington; July 20, 2011

Sweet, sweet glory to finally reach Maine. The 14th. and final state of our journey!

Beyond the Alpine Zone

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal on July 30, 2011 by J.K.o

There is a moment when one traverses up-and-out of the trees, where the winds begin to mimic the ocean waves and the breeze feels a little salty. It is a strange and familiar sensation to hear the echos of ocean waves atop a majestic mountain. The trees begin to shrink; miniature pine trees clump together like leprechauns in vivid greens and burnt reds. Eventually, they disappear altogether, bowing out to a rocky, rugged, and barren terrain–the Alpine Zone.

The top of the mountain reveals herself as scarred. Perhaps a hateful windstorm or a jealous deluge washed her beautiful covering away. A rough skeleton lay behind, clothed in delicate, little, green pickleys. They cling with all their might to the barren soils that clothe the top of the of the mountain. This zone is beaten by harsh wind and scorched by the sun’s rays. Yet, it is a site of breathtaking beauty and a platform to see all that exists below. It is an island floating amidst the clouds, waiting silently for the next creature to disturb is quiet resting place.

In the midst of serenity and beauty, it is an arena for danger and risk. Violent gale force winds scathe the Alpine Zone, making it impossible to move upright. The danger is overwhelming when the storms push through. Nonetheless, the mountain remains through the fiercest of storms and the Alpine Zone awaits for tomorrow’s first visitors. Those who pursue the zone in the times of tumult willingly take their life into their hands. Let us hope they do not fall to the fatal beauty above the clouds.

As poetic as this all may sound, the Alpine Zone is the site for great adventure. Those willing to climb the 5,000 and 6,000 ft. tall monsters will surely be awarded by the scenery that exists above the treeline. It is an incredible feeling to summit the cornice of a great and imposing mountain. Like the Presidentials in the Whites of New Hampshire and even Roan Mountain down in Tennessee, the Appalachian Trail has traversed many inspiring places to reward all those that seek fellowship with the wilderness.

13 down; 1 to go

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal on July 28, 2011 by J.K.o

As of yesterday, we completed our 13th. state, crossing into Maine. This morning we tackled the most difficult mile on the trail- Mahoosuc Notch. It is a jumbled ravine of house-sized boulders. The trail goes up, over, around and through the boulders. It ate my shoes for breakfast.. hopefully they will make it the rest of the way! The official tally is 250 miles left to go.

7/15/11

Ahhh! My first day back on the trail was a beautiful and rewarding one! That is not to say that it didn’t hurt. We started by climbing Mt. Mousilauke. It was our first climb above treeline. The climb was over 3,000 ft and was long and sustained for about 4 miles. As the hike continued, we moved into thickets of Christmas trees. The air was thick with the smell of pine.

About a mile before we reached the summit, the trail flattened out. The trees shrunk to about 5 ft. tall. We could look up and beyond to see the highest point of the mountain. It was round and barren, covered with just a thin layer of grass. Carefully stacked rocks formed cairns that marked the trail. They stood out, lonely, against the pale, blue sky and empty grasslands. The trail was covered with loss, round rocks, the size of golf balls; they shifted precariously under our feet. It was difficult to not take-off running to the summit. It was an epic moment with amazing scenery. At the summit, an old foundation still remains; an old lodge was constructed there in the 1860s. Now the foundation looks reminiscent to an old stone fort, complete with ramparts and embankments.

It was a triumphant moment and we lingered atop the cornice for a long time. The descent was just as epic, but far more challenging . The trail was practically vertical and asks the hiker to climb down slick rocks. At certain parts, bars of re-bar had been drilled in to the rocks. I had to ditch my trekking polls and use my bare hands to keep from falling.

7/17/11

Rough day! Amazing day! I cannot describe the full glory of the Whites, but man are we working hard for it. The climbs are very steep and very difficult. Yesterday we slacked–packed, but it still took so much time.

Today was probably the most beautiful day on the trail. We climbed up Mt. Lafayette. It looked spectacular and awe-inspiring. The trail ran along the spine of the mountain; it looked like the Great Wall of China. Hundreds of black specks moved along the ridge and further into the distance, tourists! We summited atop a remote cornice, but were still overwhelmed by day-hikers.  The winds across the ridge were very strong and I had to hold onto my trekking polls to keep from falling over.

The climb was a strange site as the entire trail was above treeline. You could look from one point on the mountain, see the trail move down with the dip of the ridge line and then raise back up to the next peak. The ridge made a large, sweeping, and shallow “w” shape.

In other news, I am extremely sodium deficient. I drank all my water only 4 miles into the hike. When I reached the cornice, I had to bumb water off the day hikers. I felt bad asking because I didn’t want them to think I irresponsibly packed out insufficient water supply.

7/19/11

The whits have been so unkind to me! Albeit, they are quite spectacular, but they are seriously brutal. I haven’t written in the last few days and I am not sure I’ll be awake long enough to recapture everything. Yesterday sucked! We climbed up to Lafayette again and it was so treacherous. The winds were so strong and we were fighting to stay upright. What was a picturesque view the day before was no a cloudy wasteland, shrouded in white wet.  We eventually made our way down to the boreal forest and the terrain was just as tough. It took us forever to go only a few miles.

We ascended up straight rock walls. There were very few hand holds and everything was slippery. The wind swept over me; it seemed to almost intentionally try to blow me over. Still, I made the wet, slick climbs no problem. They were more annoying than anything. Every step I took to get closer to the shelter was more and more painful. I think I have strained something in my leg, behind me knee.

7/20/11

This day wasn’t particularly difficult. We took our time and stopped at every hut and place we came by. The day started with a steep, abrupt, and quick climb up to Pierce Mountain. After that, we meandered 3 miles up a steady incline to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. It really was an easy section and I maneuvered over the rocks with no problems.

The whole of the day was spent above the treeline and it was obvious that I was going to get a gnarly sunburn. At Lakes Hut we stopped and had pancakes. I sifted through their lost and found in desperation and found a synthetic shirt that fit me perfectly right on top. I then found some other nice things and snagged them for myself.

After that, there was only a 1.5 mile climb up to Mount Washington. The entire mountain was covered by medium sized rocks of a black, dark grey, and bright green color. They were sharp with ridges. Surprisingly, the climb up the the second tallest mountain on the AT wasn’t steep or difficult.

When we reached the top of the mountain we were greeted by construction workers and scientists working at the weather observatory. Hundreds of tourists covered the mountain; they all flocked to the highest promontory of rocks marked by a “summit” placard. There was actually a line to climb the summit and get your picture taken. I thought to myself, “These people didn’t actually climb Mt. Washington, so why are they taking their pictures there so triumphantly? I actually climbed this!” Finally, the line to the summit was small enough that I was hiked up to it and got my picture taken.

7/21/11

Holy cow! What a crazy day! This morning the hut crew read off the daily weather forecast; severe thunderstorms, 80 mph winds rated at hurricane speeds. They told us to make sure we were below treeline or finding shelter by early afternoon. We were only planning on going 8 miles to Pinkham notch.

We had a nice morning, hanging around the hut for breakfast and waiting to do out hut chores. The start of our hike was easy, but when we reached the cornice of Madison, we were met by severe wind. The summit was merely a giant pile of rocks and it was extremely difficult ot move around whilst the wind pushed us over. I could barely keep my footing. We sought shelter behind a cleft in the rocks. We stowed our trekking polls and tightened our packs down.  I toyed with the idea of waiting out the wind, but the forecast said it was only going to get worse.

We decided that it was imperative to continue moving and began to slowly crawl over the rocks, staying as low as possible. Crawling helped cut down on the winds influence, but the rocks were so sharp and jagged that each time I placed my hand upon a rock it cut me. I had to fight through each slicing of my hand in order to continue crawling. Standing on the rocks in the hurricane force winds was so dangerous. Our progress was so slow that it took us almost two hours to move a mile. It was very frightening; it was on time in this entire journey that I feared for my safety.