Category Archives: September ’09

Hanover, NH 441.8, 9/30

I have walked all the way from North Maine to stumble upon my best friend from high school’s college campus. The trail literally follows the streets through the Dartmouth campus and downtown Hanover.

With my phone battery dead, I pulled into a pizza shop to contemplate the issue of not having an address, phone number, or even a phone. With my longest day yet of nearly 24 miles of hiking, you would think I had enough time to think over options on discovering my friend’s address. Yet ten hours since I started and I had not even begun to think of the predicament. All that ran through my mind for ten hours was pizza, ice cream, salad, tap water, and toilets.

So with a thru-hiker special of a free slice of pizza, Ramunto’s Brick and Brew was the obvious choice. So still after a massive quantity of cheese, sauce, dough, and root beer, my best idea was calling my mom on a pay phone to ask her what to do.

I walked around the town for a few minutes and stumbled upon a North face outfitter where a warrantied pair of shoes were waiting for me. Getting ready to leave, I asked an employee if he happened to know where a pay phone in town was. He happily let me borrow the store phone instead and after getting my friend’s parents’ phone number and making an unanswered call to their house, I was thinking of other options.

Packing up the shoes and heading out I thought I might as well ask “You wouldn’t happen to have a Blackberry would you?”

When I heard him say, “actually…” I thought he was messing with me. But he pulled out his Blackberry and I used his battery in my phone to call my friend. “Andrew! Dude! Address?!”

He responded, “You’re in Hanover? Where?” And then said “Stay there!”

I was so happy to see him run through that door. It was just absolutely awesome to hike for that long with no one I could even call an acquaintance to see an old friend.

I have hiked for almost six weeks and yet this little taste of home has been sitting in Hanover this entire time. Telling old stories and remembering bad decisions we made and stupid things we did in high school has helped me see the process I have been through. And the great thing about all this change is that home is still there.

I said early in college that home will never be the same since I left to live somewhere else. I thought that in school but home is in fact always the same. When someone leaves, or pets die, friends move away, traditions change, home is still there. Home is always there because it is not physical. And now that I know that I can carry home with me, not in a tent, not in a shelter, but in the comfort and contentedness created by RVA.

Firewarden’s cabin, 418.4, 9/29

Everything I own is soaked. My water has dead bugs and leaves in it. A mouse chewed into my crackers. So I stopped early today to recover from a mentally tiring day of hiking. I found an old Backpacker’s magazine left behind in the shelter and opened it up to read. Every day that I have been out here, whenever I say “oh crap” or am feeling the slightest bit down, something makes me feel better.

For example, two days ago I walked two miles on a side trail only to realize I had not seen a white blaze in a while. I sat down, ate a block of cheese, and the sun cracked a hole in the clouds to shine the light on a beautiful forest of fall leaves in the valley. Then, as if I was not already beginning to feel better, a day hiker comes up and upon realizing I was a thru hiker not on the AT, pats me on the back. I enjoyed the two miles of backtracking after that and the rest of my day was great despite my four mile detour.

So I was just waiting for something to come along and make everything better again. So while reading I came upon a quote that I ripped out that reads “I often find myself waking up at 11 p.m. to climb Rainier and wonder “Why do I do this? I spent a lot of money on college.” But then the sun comes up on the upper mountain, and the glacier gets lit with the morning light–and I go, “Okay, that’s why.”


Beaver Brook Shelter 390.5, 9/27

The steepest mountain in the Whites, the biggest mountain range on the trail. I had heard about this mountain called Moosilauke since day 1. I never would have imagined climbing it with the waterfall on the left spilling over onto the trail, pushing my hands and feet off the rebar supports. I never would have imagined that. And I never would have imagined doing that in the dark.

I would have to say that is the first non-arguable dumb thing I have done on this trip. It was either that or sleep in the rain though. The entire time I was telling myself how stupid I was but in hind sight, I really should have turned around and hitched into town. I would have taken mychances with a mid-night hitch any day over climbing Mt. Moosilauke with rooster tails of the massive waterfall splashing me in the face.

Kinsman Pond Shelter, 377.5, 9/26

Today I did my first night hiking to test whether my fear truly had dissipated. Having lost my fear, I have not lost sense. I knew that running into a bear in the night would be asking for a mauling, so to warn them of my approach I sang Ray Charles’ songs the entire hike. Me singing Ray Charles’ would scare anything off the trail.

When I arrived at the shelter at 10p.m. I realized that I walked six miles in the dark with no fear. But, the night’s test had truly just begun. The shelter was overflowing with pre-pubescent boy scouts. That would be the true test.

Lincoln, New Hampshire 372.7, 9/24


He looked at me and asked “Are you scared?”

I looked down at the floor in thought and realized “Not anymore.”

For the first time in my life I have not a single fear. I am completely stress free and happy. He probably has no idea how important that question was to me but it came at the perfect time. Without him asking that, I would not have realized how much happier I am out here. Despite logical things to be afraid of, I live completely content, ready and aware, but far from afraid.

At home I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of my procrastinating too much, afraid someone would break in to my house, afraid of cars when riding my bike or moped. But for the most part I really had nothing to be afraid of. Despite being a safe driver and rider, wearing a helmet, and following the laws in order to minimize danger, I was still scared.


Out here I have logical fears. When all my clothes are wet , I should maybe fear hypothermia. When bears and mice are after my food, I should maybe be afraid. One third of thru hikers this year got Lyme’s disease. One out of five got Giardia, and probably one out of ten got staff. Many people got two of those and a couple got all three. But the fact that I have real things to be afraid of has led me to not be afraid, but rather just be conscious and aware.

If I think about how I could have better hung my food when I am trying to sleep, I would not be able to sleep. I guess I have just learned to be content with everything around me and in all truth if I were constantly afraid of all th danger of hypothermia and wild animals and wet sheer cliffs, I would not be out here.

But I am here, and I am the happiest I have ever been because I am not afraid.

Someone said to me before I left “That trip will change you forever man” and I said that I hoped so. The way I was living at home was not totally healthy and being out here where everything is real has put things completely into perspective for me.


Galehead hut, 359.7, 9/23

Considering my overwhelming fatigue and amazing experience at the last hut, I took a four hour nap today after a mere mile hiking. Despite my ability to log some heavier miles today, I decided to log all of 6 miles or so to have a solid meal. My pack is nearly empty of food so the huts being here is becoming a staple to my routine. What will I do when there are no more huts? Carry my own food? Sleep outside?


Zeland Falls hut, 352.7, 9/22

The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) built “huts” in the backcountry as hostels for hikers. They have running well water, electricity, and for a couple hours of scrubbing floors, dishes, walls, etc. lots of food.

Most people make reservations to stay in the huts but thru-hikers can do “work-for-stay” and eat and sleep for free. At Zealand, they fed me well and the work was not too bad so despite the destruction of my backcountry experience for this 100 miles or so, I’ll suffer the loss for the amazing lack of hunger and slight food baby I have acquired.P9230605

Lakes of the clouds hut, 333.9, 9/21

Today I crossed the Presidential range, probably the most beautiful and most populated summits in New England. 55% of the time, Mt. Washington is in the clouds. Today the sun was so bright it roasted all my exposed skin.

Climbing Mt. Madison I came upon two thru-hikers who said to me “It’s worse going down.”

I asked him “Have you even gone up it before”


“Then you wouldn’t know.” I downed two liters of water and took over an hour and a half to travel one mile. I would have much prefered travel down Mt. Madison. That is seriously the last place on the entire trail that I would return too. Maybe the combination of lack of sleep from fear of bears, and built fatigue from the difficulty of South Maine has broken me down. Time for something to remind me of why I am out here and it looks like the sunset is going to do just thatP9220543

Osgood Tentsite 323.8, 9/20

Last week a hiker showed me a video he took of a black bear repeatedly bluff charging him attempting to take the hiker’s food. The hiker stood his ground and managed to get quite a freaky video out of it. The ranger tells me that there are two problem bears in that area. They continue to steal peoples food and they are not deterred by being continuously shot with rubber bullets.

That video was taken here at Osgood tentsite. Those two bears are walking around here somewhere. I am laying on the ground cowboy camping (without a tent). My food is poorly hung and I don’t know what to expect or know how I will react when approached by a hungry bear.

Next morning; The guy sleeping about fifty yards away had his food bag raided in the night. None of us woke during this process but shreds of his stuff is scattered everywhere. I guess I got lucky he showed up and his food smelled better.