Day #50-Mountains and downpours and hostels, oh my!; Miles hiked: 19.9

Today was the second big day in our march towards the Whites and good weather. For the first time on my whole hike, I got to walk all day with another hiker-my friend Hard Hat. It was actually super nice to have company through 20 soggy miles.

Before the rain started, we got a few views of Smarts Mtn from atop Mt Cube.It was also lunch time so we decided to eat on the summit. When it started raining during lunch, I didn’t want soggy bagels and I also didn’t want to keep walking. With that, up went my tarp and Hard Hat and I escaped the rain and continued our eating. No pictures from the rest of the day because of bad phone weather, but I can tell you it was 13 miles of constant rain and some mountains. Tonight I’m back at an AT classic-Hikers Welcome Hostel. For those of you who have hiked before, they built a new bunk house and have sheets now! What an amazing upgrade!

Day #49-Get Smarts; Miles hiked: 23.4

Today was a long haul out of Hanover, but after a sleepless night at the frat it was time to get back into the woods. There are about 44 miles between here and the start of the Whites and a window of good weather starting Sunday. With that in mind, Crush and I decided to push miles for good weather in the Whites.

Check out my lunch spot on Moose Mtn. It might be hard to pick out, but the bare summits of some of the Whites are visible. Here I also met back up with some other hikers I haven’t seen in quite awhile-Melt Down, Bean, and Revenant.The rough part of my day came when it was time to climb a massive mountain right around dinner time. My body staged a rebellion when I was pushing it up a hill instead of feeding it, so I had my dinner on the way up.I made it just in time to catch the last of the sunset at the Smarts Mtn fire tower. The stars are out now, but more rain and storms are headed our way tomorrow!

Day #48-A Dartmouth day; Miles hiked: 9.6

Today was a short walk out of Vermont and and a feeding frenzy at Dartmouth. We took a slow morning at the Hart’s place, the trail angels who graciously hosted us in their yard last night. She even made us breakfast!Not even 10 miles later, we crossed the border and entered the great state of New Hampshire-famous for the hardest and most beautiful stretch of mountains on the whole trail.But first, it was time to experience Hanover like a college student! I was blessed by another UMC connection that led to an all you can eat buffet at the Dartmouth dining hall. I just graduated a few months ago, and had an absolute blast destroying a dining hall with zero inhibitions this time. Thank you to Don for the meal and the company! This afternoon we resupplied and explored Hanover. Jack has also scored some unique housing-the couch at his old fraternity house. With that, I bid thee goodnight from academia.

Day #47-Farmland rollercoaster; Miles hiked: 19.8

Wow, today was a roller coaster! We didn’t get to camp until almost 11 pm last night because we got distracted by the Inn, but this morning the views at our campsite were amazing! We stayed at a private cabin that is open to thru hikers with a ladder to a viewing platform on top. I slept on the porch to not make too much noise when we came in and watched the sunrise this morning.The hiking today was deceivingly challenging with a roller coaster worth of abrupt ups and downs. This was kind of rough on both body and spirit, but there were plenty of wildflowers to see in the fields.I ate my body weight in both raspberries and blackberries!

The final excitement of the day was “the back porch.” A couple that hiked the trail in 2016 has converted their porch into a hiker haven with homemade ice cream sandwiches for sale. What a treat!Tonight we’re crashing in a lady’s back yard who also cares for hikers. New Hampshire tomorrow!

Day #46-Headed east; Miles hiked: 17.3

Today was full of distractions, but they were all culinary in nature! I had breakfast with the other hikers at the Yellow Deli this morning and had a blast using their industrial dishwasher-wish we had one of those at home!

After only 2 miles of hiking (first picture is of hikers that don’t want to move after filling up on farm fresh omelettes), we took a 1/2 mile detour to the Inn at the Long Trail. This hiker favorite has an Irish pub where we burned a solid 3 hours enjoying the atmosphere.A few miles later, I passed the first big waterfall of my hike so far. There are a plenty of these in the South, but this was my first glimpse of one that wasn’t bone dry.Today we left the Long Trail behind and started heading east to New Hampshire. The split is called Maine Junction for obvious reasons.At Maine Junction, one of my hiking friends who is walking the Long Trail decided to continue on with me and my friend Crush to revisit Dartmouth, his alma mater. Here is Jack climbing down a ladder on a steep rock:Looking forward to hanging out with Jack and Crush for the next few days!

Day #45-Up and over the top of Vermont; Miles hiked: 16.7

Today was my last full day on the Long Trail before the AT makes a break for Nee Hampshire. I’m also passing a SOBO bubble which has been pretty fun; there’s something really special about passing people out doing the same thing in the opposite direction. I’m taking names so I can remember if I ever end up with them again on the flop section of my flip flop.

As for my NOBO friends, today was a big day as we are all within 500 miles of Katahdin now. For me, this means 1,524 miles to go, but for them it means real life is incredibly close to starting again. Please pray as there is plenty of anxiety for many about going back and having to face all of the things we get to leave behind on the trail. I also climbed over Vermont’s biggest peak and a popular ski area, Killington Peak.For the evening, I stayed at a famous hostel in Rutland, VT. It’s run by the Twelve Tribes spiritual community, a Christian spin-off that believes in living in total community with one another. Their hostel, the Yellow Deli, has been taking in hikers for years. While the organization is considered by many to be a cult, I sure did enjoy getting to meet their members and learn about their way of life.

Ps-anyone know what plant this is?

Day #44-The hiking family is real; Miles hiked: 18.6

Today the sun finally came out! However, Vermud still lives up to its name and my feet were still just as wet.

Today I caught up with quite a few of my hiking friends. For anyone that thinks that hiking the AT is about a solo journey through the wilderness, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just this morning, I found Half Slow in his camper again, sat down, and started quite a congregation in the parking lot.Notice we could definitely use some more chicks out here–ladies, apply for the 2019 chaplaincy!

Later in the morning, I got to stop by Little Rock Pond and take a quick dip in the crystal clear water. Lunch was spent with yet another group of hikers at White Rocks Junction where rumor has it that forest gnomes have built all of these cairns (piles of rocks).My feed did finally stage a blister rebellion today after 7 days in wet socks, but I’m hoping drying them out and some more sunshine will help them recover. More adventures to come!Ps-passed the Rutland Airport, an interesting sight for sure.

Day #43-Storm dodging and hiker hangouts; Miles hiked: 14.8

Today, the weather forecast was calling for severe thunderstorms and hail. I do not really want to walk in that kind of weather, so some of my hiker buddies and I made a plan to miss out.

But first, foreshadowing for my after-trail employment. I’ve gotten a job as a ski instructor for the winter at a mountain in Utah, but I spent this morning climbing over Bromley Mtn in Vermont!After Bromley, it was time to start cranking miles to get ahead of the hail. Check out this thunder cell building while I ate lunch: The severe weather did show up and I just made it into a shelter before it got really bad. I put down my bag and took a nap while a dozen other hikers rolled in who had gotten caught in the weather.

After the first storm, I set off with and got to learn about my new friend Crush. We passed over Baker Peak before it started rumbling again.Even though I was under my mileage goal for the day, I decided to duck into a shelter just in time to avoid the second storm. It kept going all night long, but all is well.

Day #42-A zero can fix anything; Miles hiked 0.0

Man, there was a reason the Lord created the world and then took a day off…He knew we would need to rest! Today was a great day to do just that while it continued to pour down rain.

After sleeping in and eating a lion share of Lucky Charms, I played the piano for awhile at the hostel and mainly just laid around in my PJs (courtesy of Jeff and Duffie!).

I did eventually work up the energy to venture into town where I was able to replace my shoes and the food bag that the mice destroyed the other night (that bear box was not mouse proof). I also spent quite awhile wandering through the local bookstore while it rained and rained.This afternoon, the rest of my hiking crew rolled into town and many of them ended up at Green Mountain House with me. Instead of going out to pay resort prices for food, I decided to use my time to cook for the whole hostel. Ten hikers and I feasted on a double portion of my mom’s spaghetti casserole!If I’m being honest, I would like to stay here another day, but I suppose I’ll have to move on as Jeff has a full house tomorrow. There is an 80% chance of rain-bring it on!

Day #41-Are we there yet?; Miles hiked: 21.1

Today was another wet one. I believe that it rained for 20 of my 21 miles. However, the soggy walk was well worth the reward!

I pulled out of the shelter at 6:20 this morning and headed up Stratton Mtn. With the whipping wind, I chose not to climb the tower, but this is where Benton McKaye envisioned the AT. If it was a day like today, he must have envisioned thruhiking.There was too much rain to pull my phone out for pictures the rest of the day, but I walked for 8 more hours, fell in some mud, ate some snacks, and rode in the back of a pickup truck in pouring rain down to Manchester Center.

Once in town, it was time to revisit my very favorite hostel on the AT: Green Mountain House. This place is just amazing, and inspires me to maybe open my own hostel one day. The best part is Duffie, the guy helping the owner Jeff run the place, has been in contact with the chaplaincy program since Wildcat hiked in 2015. He was watching my tracks (via Facebook) get closer and closer to Manchester until I surprised him by showing up at his door! To Alan, Wildcat, and others-Duffie says hi and to keep sending chaplains his way!

Goes to show how much of a legacy this ministry has been creating up and down the AT-I sure am glad to be part of it!