I recently finished Vermont and was blessed with beautiful weather the entire time I was in the state. The infamous mud wasn’t that bad and I managed to make my way without sinking into anything above my ankles. Vermont originally was ‘Vert Mont’ which means ‘Green Mountain’ in French. The trail in Vermont runs along the beautiful Green Mountains and for 90-some miles coincides with the Long Trail. The Long Trail was the original long-distance footpath in the U.S and runs almost 300 miles from MA/VT border north to Canada. Near Killington, the AT splits to head east into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. So while in Vermont I’ve been ‘multi-tasking’ trails.
In Vermont I met up with several hikers I had not seen since Virginia. One was ‘Smiley’ a residential building contractor from Colorado Springs. We entered New Hampshire together via the town of Hanover, home of Dartmouth College. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect – the town was having a street festival complete with live music! Beautiful campus and town; a wonderful introduction to New Hampshire.
Speaking of which, New Hampshire has the best state motto. “Live Free or Die!” Sometimes they take this to the extreme. For example, they are the only state where you aren’t required by law to wear a seatbelt in a car. You’re ‘free’ not to wear the seatbelt, but you’re going to ‘die’ if you get into a wreck. Brilliant.
So with only two states left, many people are asking if I’m beginning to see the “light at the end of the tunnel?” The answer is “no, not at all.” While the book says I have only 372.7 miles left, I know it is by far the hardest section of the Appalachian Trail. The White Mountains are known for their difficulty. Just yesterday I met two summer crew members who work at the tourist huts (more on this next entry) in the Whites. We were on top of Kinsman mountain and I told them I was heading to their hut for lunch and asked them how the trail conditions were descending from the summit. They laughed and said they never take the AT down because it is too steep and slippery, they instead take a slightly longer but more gradual trail back. Ahh yes, the AT usually never fails to find the most difficult way up and down mountains.
Much to my displeasure it was incredibly steep and slippery. I never fell but definitely slipped several times. Falling while hiking may not sound too scary but trust me, it is. When you fall on the trail it isn’t in one spot. You typically then have to slide 10-15 feet down the rockface from which you slipped. Or, you have multiple sharp rocks and roots that will break your fall. With a big pack on your back, manuevering these sections is even more difficult. A fellow northbounder this year made it 1800 miles – so close to the end – then slipped and broke two ribs. Not sure if he can finish the trail this year. I’ve heard of many northbounders in previous years who made it all the way to New Hampshire and quit out of sheer frustration with the trail difficulty.
After only two days in the Whites, I see why it gets such a reputation. My mileage slowed down to only 9 miles yesterday. In Vertmont I was clocking 20+ mile days, no problem. Steep, slippery, and boulder-laden trails in New Hampshire contribute to the slower miles. Definitely not a walk here…it’s a strenuous hike and boulder scramble!
However, the above-treeline scenery supposedly more than makes up for the trail conditions. With great challenge comes great reward right? I have yet to experience this. Both summits I’ve reached we’re cloudy, windy, and cold! When I reached the top of Moosilauke I couldn’t see 20 feet and had to put all my clothes on – it must have been near freezing with the wind chill. I’m hoping for better on future summits and will give a full report when I finish the Whites. Onward to Maine!
All pictures below are from Vermont.