Let’s talk about the Whites . . . .

Most of the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire ventures through the White Mountain National Forrest.  I caught just a slight glimpse of the southern tip when we picked up and returned Vulture, who was already hiking the Whites.  I can honestly say I have never seen anything so majestic, and that was just a small drive on the edge of the forrest.  Mouse and Rush are hiking inside and sending me incredible pictures.

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The following is from the Thru-Hikers Companion guide book, which is what Gpa Mouse and I use daily to track Sarra; “Considered one of the most challenging states, it is also one of the most rewarding.  As the trees get shorter and the views get longer, you’ve entered the krummholz zone, where trees are stunted with flag-like tops due to stress from the wind and cold.  Boreal bogs are home to local carnivorous plant species, sundew and pitcher plants.  Hardy, yet delicate alpine flowers may be in bloom when you pass through.  Spruce grouse, winter wren, dark-eyed junco, and the white-throated sparrow will greet you along the way.  Much of the Trail is above the timberline, where the temperature may change very suddenly; snow is possible in any season.  Snow falls on Mt. Washington every month of the year.  High winds and dense fog are common”.  “One of the most impressive sections of the AT, the Whites offer magnificent views with miles of above-treeline travel.  Extra caution should be exercised while above treeline, due to rapidly changing weather and the lack of protection from it.  Carry cold-weather gear, even in the middle of summer.” Sarra said “This area is awesome hiking.  The mountains are hard and strenuous but incredible views.  The views are 10 times better than any pictures I’ve seen.  It’s really an exciting time.  When we still had a week left in the Whites it felt like we had been here for a while.  The climbs are hard, but yet not – hard to explain.  Rush and I both like hills and rocks so it doesn’t seem like work all the time.  The logistics are harder now and it’s a little stressful.  There are no free shelters, you have to pay.  And the terrain is all rock so there are no places to pitch a tent randomly.  Also, you have to constantly be paying attention to the weather.  The Whites are fun, super emotional and incredibly awesome!  When you have good weather they’re not too hard.  I’m not dying of exhaustion at the end of the day, so that’s good.”

Mt Cube 7/19

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Mt Moosilauke 7/20 – “The north side of Mt Moosilauke is slick, particularly in rain.  Sections use rebar, rock steps, and wooden blocks for footing.”

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Appalachian Mountain Club huts – “These large, enclosed lodges sleep from 36 to 90 people and are open with full service.  An overnight stay includes bunk space, pillow, blanket, bathroom privileges, family style meals and potable water.  The huts cater mainly to families and weekend hikers.”  Thru-hiker rarely stay here, mainly because the rates are pricey.  However, they have work exchange (work for stay) at the huts.  “Thru-hikers can sometimes arrange with the croo (hut workers) to work off stays at the full or self-service huts.  Most huts can accommodate one or two working thru-hikers each night, but availability of work is never guaranteed.  When work is available, thru-hikers are asked to put in two hours either at night or in the morning.”  In return they get a place to lay their sleeping bag and a meal from leftover dinners after paying guest are served

Lonesome Lake Hut 7/22 – ‘Sarra said, ‘The work for stay here was a little weird.  I don’t think they get a lot of thru-hikers, most slackpack this area. So people there seemed a little put off by us being there.  The workers weren’t very friendly, I don’t know maybe it was just an off night.  But, we felt like we were a nuisance.  However, it was nice to sleep indoors.  The only thing we had to do was move wood for about 20 minutes.’

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Spent the morning in Lincoln NH 7/23 ‘Today is conflicting.  When you’re hiking in the Whites you have to look ahead for a couple days for the weather.  For instance, today there is a 20% chance of rain so we’re probably ok.  Although you want a pretty day so you can see all the views.  But, the next 2 days there is a 60% chance of thunderstorms.  If we hike out today and get rained on, no big deal.  But we don’t want to be on top of the mountains 2 miles above the tree line in a thunderstorm.’

Lakes of the Clouds Hut 7/25

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Mt Washington 7/25 – the highest peak in the Northeast (6,288 feet). ‘The hardest was getting off Mt. Washington because of the fog.  I couldn’t see Rush right in front of me.  The rocks were wet and slippery and we went about 1 mph.’

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‘At the end of the day at Mt Madison, the fog blew away and it was great.’

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Wildcat Mountain Ridge 7/27  ‘Yesterday was a little scary.  We were hiking up Wildcat Mountain and it was pretty crazy.  It was 2 miles to get to the highest point climbing straight up.  A quarter of the way we heard thunder and we were watching a storm right next to us.  When we got to a ski lift we decided we better take it down and stay in town.  The next morning the weather was great and we took the ski lift back up and continued.’  The following pictures are obviously not from that day, just wanted you to see the terrain and the view.

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The Whites are similar to The Smoky Mountains – it has its own weather system and you need to follow and respect that.  This past week Sarra says she feels stronger now than the entire past 4 months.  She was worried about climbing this type of elevation, but said she doesn’t even look at elevation in the guide any longer.  You have to do the climbs whether you know about it or not!  She’s said this is an exciting hike and she is really enjoying it, but she’s also excited to hike because she knows that will get her closer to being done and getting home.  Its interesting, when we went to an AT thru-hiker panel back in February and each thru hiker was asked ‘what was your favorite part’ if I remember correctly everyone of them said ‘the Whites’.

Here’s the latest text/picture I received: Just a little 2000 calorie dinner of a whole pizza, bag of chips and bag of Runts candy (minus the banana ones, ha) Picture0728151116_1

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So . . .  As of today she should be around the 300 miles left mark!!  That’s when I said I would make my reservations to fly to Maine.  She gave me a window of August 20-25th to be finished.  I figure we’ll fly home on the 25th which would make her hike exactly 5 months from her start date of March 25 on Springer Mountain in Georgia.  I asked her what it’s like to be away from home for 5 months, she said ‘strange, surreal, feels weird’.  I know one Mouse that will be ecstatic to walk through that front door at 512 W. Jefferson Street.  We’re not done yet though, next up is 281.4 miles through Maine . . .

One foot in Vermont, one foot in New Hampshire . . .

This past weekend my Ball State college friends and I piled in a 1999 Ford full size conversion van.  It was a perfect road trip vehicle. FB_IMG_1437523818290Our main objective was to pick up and assist Mouse, with a little fun thrown in.  We completed our assignment, and then some, after 37 van hours, 6 states (7 for Cathy) and 1,891 miles!!  It was interesting as we drove through Vermont to see the towns I knew Sarra had hiked through; Rutland, Bennington, Killington and Woodstock.  As we got closer, we went through Bromley VT, a ski town, where she had been recently and slept in a ski patrol hut.

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We easily got to the road where the AT crosses and found the weary hikers (she’s still hiking with Rush).

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We took them back to the hotel and then ventured out to pick up Vulture who is about 4 days ahead of them.  She is hiking in the White Mountain National Forrest and Sherry and my drive through the park was beautiful.

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When we got her back to the hotel Rush and Mouse treated her like someone from the future asking to tell them what they had to look forward to and questions about hiking through the famous ‘Whites’.  Over 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail traverses the White Mountain National Forest.

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Last week Mouse and Rush did some hiking, but also had some fun and a little R&R.  They spent a couple nights in a guys barn and when it ended up raining the next day they just decided to just hang out there for the day.

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Then there was the now famous (at least in our family) jumping off  a 30 ft bridge.  I got this picture from Rush with the caption: ‘If all the other hikers jumped off the bridge . .  I asked Sarra if she was scared and she said, ‘a little, but if all the guys were doing it, she was going to do it too’.  She’s the speck you see leaping off!

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We brought her new shoes (pair #7), some warmer clothes, deck of cards, new music to load on her ipod, lots of encouraging cards from friends/family and or course food.  Sarra got a foot massage (thanks jb).

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They had a relaxing zero day swimming, binge tv watching, catching up with social media and laundry.  We went into Hanover VT on the Dartmouth College campus and had some dinner.  Then to the local Wal-mart to resupply.

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Early Sunday, Cathy and I loaded up the van and we headed out to take them back to the trail.  Vulture first up to the Franconia Notch and then Mouse and Rush.

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As we were approaching the White Mountain National Forrest, it was like a panoramic picture across our front window.  Just absolutely breathtaking.  Sarra, who had been laid back and relaxed (as you can see in the above picture) jumped to the edge of her seat and said ‘is that where we’ll be hiking?’  Vulture said, ‘that’s the Whites’.  When all Sarra could say was ‘oh my gosh’ over and over, I asked if that was a terrifying or a how thrilling oh my gosh.  She enthusiastically replied that she couldn’t wait to get here (remember they’re about 64 miles south at this point) and was excited to get back on the trail, start churning out some consistent miles and get into the the massive mountains and awesome views part of the trail.

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We returned Rush and Mouse back to where we had picked them up.  As usual, I said, ‘see ya in a few weeks’ and Sarra replied ‘see ya in Maine’.  Then back in the big red cardinal van and on the road again!  Big thank you shout out to my BSU girls for taking time out of their schedules and helping me out with this trip.

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Here’s the latest Mouse stats:  She’s now in New Hampshire, state 13 out of the 14.

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This is what Wikapedia says about the AT in New Hampshire: “New Hampshire has 161 miles of the trail.  The New Hampshire AT is nearly all within the White Mountain National Forest. For northbound thru-hikers, it is the beginning of the main challenges that go beyond enduring distance and time: in New Hampshire and Maine, rough or steep ground are more frequent and alpine conditions are found near summits and along ridges. The trail reaches 17 of the 48 four-thousand footers of New Hampshire, including 6,288-foot  Mount Washington, the highest point of the AT north of Tennessee. The weather includes strong winds and fog.”

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This is Mt. Cube

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As of typing this she’s around 1,798 miles in with 390 left.  Her friend Rush was telling us this weekend that “the last 20% of the trail takes 80% of the total effort”.  She just summit Mt Moosilauke, a huge climb with elevation at 4,802 feet’.

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Stay tuned . . . this was our last meet up before the climb up Mt Katahdin.  I’m sure this next stretch will be full of stories and pictures.  When she has around 300 miles left I’ll make arrangements to travel out there and meet her.  What a interesting, enjoyable, entertaining trip she has taken us on.  I’ve shared with her that she has done all the work, but we have all reaped the benefits by following her.  Happy Trails Mouse and good luck . . . keep churning out those miles!

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A hodgepodge from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont . . .

Well, were at around 1,654 miles!!  So close to 1,700 hiked and less than 500 to go! The other day Sarra said that she can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel now. Even though 500 miles seems like a far journey for us, she has over 78% of the trail behind her and ready to take on the last three, tough states.  During June she hiked in 5 states.  The last month she has averaged around 110 miles per week. She says she is slowing down a little now, but she’s still putting in a few big mile days.  So, at the moment she’s around Manchester Center VT.  Next is New Hampshire and then Maine!  I’m getting ready to take her the 7th pair of shoes, but she hasn’t actually worn all of those out.  Some of them just didn’t work for her.  I’d say she’ll wear out about 4 pair when it’s all over.  We haven’t had a lot of contact lately so I don’t have much information to share. This is what tracking Mouse 1,654 miles looks like.  I have one more map to add to the top, half of New Hampshire and Maine!!

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I usually get a short text each evening from Sarra with where she’s staying for the night. Then, I forward it onto Grandpa Mouse so he can track her.  I’ve gotten a few extras the past few weeks with pictures (which is rare).  Since I don’t have much to update I’ll share those:

6/22 Oops, I’m on a train to Brooklyn:

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6/30 Tom Leonard Shelter:

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7/2 The trail is a mud pit!!

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7/1 Upper Goose Pond: (this shelter has bunks, fireplace,porch, privey, bear box & swimming)!

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7/2 It happened:

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7/4 New Shoes

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7/5 IM IN VERMONT:

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7/6 Camping on Glastenbury Mountain:

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I get pictures tagged in Facebook from some of her hiking buddies.  I want to share some that Vulture took.  Thank you Vulture or else I would’t have any with Mouse actually in the picture! The following are their spur of the moment trip into Brooklyn.

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Here’s a couple from when Mama Fiddlehead picked them up at Mount Grayson and took them to her home in North Adams, MA and pampered them.  Thank you Cathy.

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Also, just got some random pics from Rush – thanks and hope to see you next weekend!

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I did get to talk to her for a bit today, she said it was a weird day . . . she was in a ‘mood’, tired, they needed to get to town, she didn’t want to hike to town, irritated, it was taking forever and as she was hiking along the mountains where they ski in the winter, she started thinking about the snowboarders and how ‘chill’ and ‘cool’ they are.  So her mood started to change when she decided to be more relaxed like Shaun White, a chill snowboarder.  After town they hiked up Bromley Mountain and spent the night at a ski patrol hut.

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One last thing – I asked her a couple questions that people had asked, but we didn’t get to last blog:

Have you met anyone in your travels that kind of stuck in your mind or had an impact on you?

Chip, Chipie, Uncle Chip . .  he was just a cool guy.  He lived in PA and when we were a few hours from his home his wife picked us all up and took us in for the night.  It was an enjoyable overnight to hang with his family.  Another guy, Caleb was his trail name.  His wife died and he came out here because he didn’t know what to do.  There wasn’t anything specific that I thought oh wow, he made an impact on me.  But, to be out here after a life changing event like that and he was just a neat person.  Also, Lost and Found attempted to thru hike last year and got hurt in Connecticut .  He was back out here this year to finish the trail.  He was, again, just another cool, neat guy and kinda helped me out and showed me the ropes.

Do you think you will ever attempt this journey again or will you attempt a different hiking experience in the future?

Definitely something different. I do want to do another distance trail, but not by myself.  I would love to do a long distance trail slackpacking.  I don’t think I’ll do the AT again, no specific reason not to – just that I would like to see other places.

How do you keep ticks out of your hair?

I probably have them in there, I have no idea!  I brush it every night and braid it when I sleep. I honestly have no idea.

That’s all I know for now! My college friends and I will start out next Thursday evening to meet her somewhere in New Hampshire.  Then she’ll enter ‘The Whites’ (White Mountain National Forest) and the Hundred Mile Wilderness (the last 100 miles before Baxter State Park), more on these two sites later.  This will be our last meet up before picking her up in Maine at Mt. Katahdin.  Happy Trails Mighty Mouse . . . .