Day #64-Home is where the dome is; Miles hiked: 0.0

Man, what a restful day. The Human Nature Hostel in Andover, ME was simply too nice to leave behind. I’ve had a great day of sleeping in, sewing up holes in my gear and trying to glue the soles of my shoes back together, and eating nonstop.

I made some mail drops for the more remote areas of Maine with some other hikers…here’s our food explosion. The rest of the day has been rather uneventful besides watching Into the Wild and chowing down on chips. But check out how cool this place is!It’s a geodesic dome hand-built by a former thruhiker with amazing views. Perhaps the most blissful moment I’ve had on trail was using the roofless outdoor shower under the stars last night. Before we sinned and needed to wear clothes, I imagine that’s what life was like!

Even with a 90% chance of rain tomorrow, it’s back to the trail and onto Stratton!

Day #63-Escape from the woods; Miles hiked: 4.1

The alarm went off at a record 4:30 am today. Why? Because we want to get out of the woods! There is a new hostel that runs a shuttle 45 minutes from the trail to Walmart and that sounded like too good of an opportunity to pass up. Since the terrain can unexpectedly drop our pace to 1 mile/hour, we started early. Check out the view from Moody Mtn (a pain in the butt to climb) just after sunrise:We did make it in plenty of time to the road and enjoyed some pancakes that a local dropped off while we waited for the shuttle.Up next was a shuttle through the middle of nowhere to Mexico, ME. There is no Mexican restaurant, but there is the last Walmart on the AT. For NOBOs, this is the last chance to be hiker trash outside while we repackage food and eat deli items on the sidewalk. Always great fun! While there was no Mexican in Mexico, the one and only restaurant in Andover hosted an all you can eat Mexican buffet tonight! I was too busy stuffing my face to take pictures, but here’s the crew hanging out on the porch afterwards. After that much food consumption, I have declared tomorrow a much-needed zero day. Southern Maine has been treacherous in the rain and my body needs time to put itself back together after all of my falls (yes, there have been more).

Day #62-Bald Pate, lightning, and friends from home; Miles hiked: 16.3

After fueling up on leftover pizza and soda for breakfast, it was time to journey up one of my favorite mountains in Maine: Bald Pate.

At least for a moment, the sun came out for our climb!Sitting on top of Bald Pate really shows how wild Maine is–there is nothing except wilderness as far as the eye can see.

My friends pushed on and I decided to eat my lunch until I saw a thunder cell quickly building in the distance. I’m not a fan of lightning, so I got moving. Sure enough, the rumbling started just a few minutes later soon followed by the downpour and light show. I was close enough to a shelter to make a mad dash and only caught a few raindrops before I got to safety. Other hikers at the shelter had the same idea.Because we all got crammed into the shelter, I got to walk out with a man named Moses. Turns out he’s from just outside Knoxville. We spent 5 miles reflecting on what he has received on his journey and what he still needs from his time on the trail. Please pray for closure for Moses on a difficult personal situation and direction on what’s next after the trail.

I also met and walked with a guy named Spenders today who is full of life and wisdom. I hope I get to spend more time alongside him in the coming miles.

On a lighter note, I’m still waiting to see a moose. There were signs of one around the shelter we stayed at tonight and a dog started barking at something that must have been the moose. However, I didn’t catch a glimpse. Better luck next time!

Day #61-One two-sided day; Miles hiked: 9.7

Today had a very rough start with an incredibly happy ending! The rain continued through the night and into the morning. But today, we had to move on and venture through Mahoosuc Notch–the hardest or “most fun” mile of the AT. This mile-long boulder scramble would indeed be fun if it wasn’t soaking wet and raining. However, the show must go on!Since I’ve done it before, I was able to keep spirits high and offer some alternative routes as we played “hiker playground” for almost two hours.The rain continued and the temps dropped as we climbed up the incredibly steep Mahoosuc Arm after the Notch…1500 ft in 1 mile.

At lunchtime, 8 other hikers rolled into a shelter and we collectively decided we needed something positive to happen. A few days ago, Ms. Janet (one of the AT’s most famous trail angels) told me to text her at the shelter with an eta into the next road. I did just that, and the day turned around!

On the walk down to the Grafton Notch, the sun started coming out and we had a hiker trash “yard sale” in the parking lot to try and dry out our things.Ms. Janet rolled in with her van and whisked us away to “Grafton Notch Popup Hostel,” a local vacation home of a former thru hiker. Showers and laundry were a great surprise!Dinner was at the local brew pub where we enjoyed hearing the locals jam to karaoke. My Father sure does know how to lift his kids’ spirits and I’m so thankful I get to share that with the hikers around me.

Day #60-The Maine event; Miles hiked: 14.5

Southern Maine is kicking our butts, but we have arrived! The fog is still resting in the Mahoosuc Mountains…especially around water like this pond.However, after a really steep climb up to Mt. Success (the last mountain of New Hampshire), the fog broke and gave me and my new friend Grey Squirrel a nice view.Poor Grey Squirrel fell in the shower a few days ago and is having a hard time-please pray for his speedy recovery! It’s town that’s dangerous for us wilderness dwellers…

And finally, the Maine event-we crossed the border!!!I sat for a few hours by this sign to congratulate NOBOs crossing into their last state and offer a space to talk about what the trail has given them and what they still need from their journey. Only 270ish miles to the finish line. More Maine adventures tomorrow!

Day #59-So close we can taste it; Miles hiked: 15.0

Today was the last official day in the Whites and I’m pretty ready to move on. A cold front brought not only more rain, but a dense fog over the mountains today. No views over the Carter Moriah range today…

When I got down to the road into Gorham, my day got quite a bit more exciting as I was able to reconnect with Ms. Janet, Half Slow, and some other hikers I haven’t seen in awhile. A parking lot party!One of the local trail angels was also able to whisk me into Gorham to deal with my broken trekking pole. A new one is on its way to Andover!

Heading out of Gorham, I passed an odd landmark-a dam!Notice all of the water that has been falling on hikers recently.

Tonight I’m at a campsite with NOBOs, SOBOs, and a bunch of doctors who I’ve enjoyed interacting with. For those interested in where the heck I sleep, check out my tarp pitch for the night…rain, you can’t get me!Tomorrow, we’ll be in Maine-so close!!

Day #58-Wet and wild; Miles hiked: 13.1

Wow, this terrain keeps making things interesting! The trail has no switchbacks and the rain keeps things slippery. I got a late start today because I had to spend some time dealing with life outside of hiking (transcripts, housing deposits, etc.), but really wanted to catch up to the girl gang that I met a few days ago. So up and over the Wildcats I went!

The Wildcats are a range of mountains with 4-5 really steep peaks to climb up and over, but they also provide great views of Mt. Washington! Too bad it didn’t look like this a few days ago…

As the miles crept by, I ran into some challenges…namely two pretty bloody falls. One was a face plant onto a wooden bog bridge that tore up my legs and arms, and the second was a slide down a rocky ledge that snapped my trekking pole in half. No worries, all bones still intact!

Check out this view of the last AMC hut–this is after a mere .4 miles of climbing away from it.Sunset was beautiful, but I did end up hiking into the campsite in the dark. Glad to have caught up with my friends!

Day #57-Town never felt so good; Miles hiked: 4.8

After sleeping in and thanking God we weren’t in the path of the tree that fell beside our campsite last night (the wind was wicked), it was time to go into Gorham.

After an easy walk into Pinkham Notch, we started refueling with soup and homemade bread at the AMC-run visitors center.After dropping our packs off, it was off to an establishment I’ve been looking forward to since Harpers Ferry: Chinese Dynasty Buffet. For $7.25, we cleared 4 heaping plates each.This afternoon was a relaxing one spent outside reorganizing our packs and planning for Maine. Can’t believe the flip of the flip flop is almost over!

We sadly had to say goodbye to Esther, but got a commemorative photo of the trail family from the last few days. Thanks to Andre for picking her up!

Day #56-Worst weather in the world lives up to expectations; Miles hiked:10.3

It took everything in my being to get out the door of Lakes this morning with the wind and rain blowing across the ridge. After a short climb, I came face to face with the famous “worst weather in the world” on Mt. Washington. Today was a relatively calm day and the wind was gusting at 54 mph and the windchill had to be in the 30s. Don’t worry, I ducked into the visitors center and put on some rain pants immediately after this picture.The weather didn’t improve much as we marched down the ridge bracing ourselves against the wind and trying to move fast enough to stay warm. However, we did get a few peaks of clearness as we got close to Madison Hut.We tried to get a work for stay to get out of the weather, but the crew had no mercy. On we went further down the ridge. However, 15 minutes into our hike the weather actually cleared and we got a great sunset! Town day tomorrow!

Day #55-Climbing into the clouds; Miles hiked: 13.9

We slept at around 1000 ft last night and climbed up to over 5000 today. What a day!

The climb from Crawford Notch up to the beginning of the Presidential Range was particularly exciting as we scaled 7 rocky ledges using hands and feet equally. Amazing views though!The reward after the climb was another bowl of soup and some leftover breakfast. Mizpah Hut, the location of the treats, has a special place in my heart because it was shelter in a huge storm in 2014. Happy to be back!After lunch, we began our 15 mile traverse across the Presidential Range-all above tree line.The weather held on just long enough for us to make it up to Lake of the Clouds Hut where we were able to secure a work for stay–chores in exchange for leftovers and a space on the floor. Because of bad weather, the hut was gracious enough to take in 20 other thruhikers in addition to its 90 guests. Good thing hikers like to hang out with each other, because space was certainly limited!