The rain didn’t relent through the entire night. It seeped in through the side and heavy drops splashed on me from the sides of the tarp. By midnight I was soaked but the Downtek coated down in my Enlightened Equipment quilt kept the down dry and lofted, keeping me warm and asleep.
“To those who have struggled with them, the mountains reveal beauties that they will not disclose to those who make no effort. That is the reward the mountains give to effort. And it is because they have so much to give and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them that men love the mountains and go back to them again and again. The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits.”
-Sir Francis Younghusband
All night I had done such a good job fuming over my low mileage yesterday that by morning I was full fledged ready to hike the rest of the trail in one fell swoop. So rather than doing the rational thing, I vowed to hike a 37 mile day in the Whites to catch back up to where I had intended to be. I wasn’t entirely committed. In fact I thought it was stupid. But I was pissed and rightfully so. I’ve never denied that I’m a fairly emotional athlete. Piss me off and I’m usually a pretty tough competitor to beat. But this was a long race and there was no competition other than myself. There was no sense in beating myself up, so I needed to be patient and wait till the end of the day to see where I was. If it didn’t seem doable, I’d hold off and get the miles back down south on easier terrain. Continue reading Lonesome Lake Hut, Day 12, 37.0 miles
As I was hiking up Speck Mountain around dusk last night, I started looking for campsites on the slopes of the mountain. My standards for a campsite are very, very low. But I was quickly realizing that tonight I would have to drop even my lowest standards. The shelter was still 2 miles away over a decent climb, my tendinitis was worsening and the sun had already set. I managed to find a spot off the trail that gently sloped downward. I was too tired to care anymore. Exhaustion overpowered my rational thinking and I began to set up camp. Continue reading White Mountain Lodge and Hostel, Day 9, 28.2 miles
My camp last night ended up being one of my more favorite sites I’ve ever slept at. The soft ground made for a comfortable night’s sleep, the elevation kept me out of the cool descending drafts through the night but also sheltered from the wind and not so high the temps would drop. There were no bugs, wildlife, or noisy birds. It was so peaceful and I slept like a rock. Nevertheless, I had to rise after 8 hours to get going again. I could have laid there forever. Continue reading Bemis Mountain Lean-to, Day 7, 30.4 miles
I got an incredible night sleep and woke up around 5 with no alarm. First fantastic night’s sleep of the trip, likely because of the overwhelming exhaustion setting in. I was on the slopes of Little Bigelow Mountain, essentially the start of the famed grueling but beautiful section of south Maine Appalachian Trail. I started the morning working my way up the Bigelow ridge. The skies were completely clear, the air was warm, and no rain was forecast for the entire day. Time to knock out some terrific miles. Up on Avery Peak, I was reminded on the easy access for day hikers by a large man in khakis and suspenders up on the summit. We exchanged pictures and I got working down to the next peak. I was thrilled to be up above tree line and not have to worry about the weather.
I grew up with the idea that this was a backpacking trip: four kids, sleeping pads, some food and water, awesome misadventures. Honestly, when I saw my first backpacker with the heavy load on their back, I was shocked. I couldn’t imagine what they could possibly be carrying. Since I began my solo trips, I’ve tried to keep my gear as simple and practical as possible, mostly for functional reasons (less stuff to break) but also because for me it’s safer and more fun. Continue reading What ultralight backpacking means to me