The rain poured nearly all night. But in the four walls of Lonesome Lake Hut, I was warm and comfortable and thankful to have put the high exposed summits behind me. Only one climb above treeline left and the tame round summit could only be but so bad.
I woke up when the hut crew began preparations for breakfast. Startled, I woke up to a smiling face working around in the kitchen. I looked up quickly, already guilty for having snuck in the previous night and apologized sincerely for coming in. She reassured me that she could understand and told me it was okay. I was exhausted but I knew I needed to get out before the guests started coming in. In the heavy rain it didn’t look like anyone else wanted to get out of bed but I had no choice. I packed up quickly and put on my poncho and began working my way up Kinsman Mountain. I was surprised and frustrated to once again find a gnarly climb up the steep face. Exposed granite alternating with deep mud made the morning exhausting and by the time I made it to Kinsman Pond Shelter was close to collapsing and falling asleep along the trail. I hadn’t gotten enough sleep last night for the long 17 hour hiking day yesterday and needed a refreshing nap. Continue reading Hikers Welcome Hostel, Day 13, 22.9 miles→
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→
It was nice to once again have a shelter to myself for the night and enjoyed a good night’s sleep despite temps dropping down to the low 30s. My vapor barrier worked but the warmth of my sleep system made me resistant to getting up. I got hiking probably around 530 but I couldn’t know with having my phone battery dead. The sky was clear for the time being but I knew rain was forecast. I would enjoy the dry weather for now. Continue reading Speck Pond Lean-to, Day 8, 31.9 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 woke up before it was light, a first for me on this trip with the super long days of Maine just before the solstice. The other guy who had been asleep in the shelter when I arrived didn’t even budge as I packed up. I imagine he was exhausted because he hadn’t risen to say hello last night when I showed up after dark. I envied his ability to sleep through the torrential rain and me unpacking and packing but imagined it may come back to haunt him with some late night wildlife encounters. Continue reading Little Bigelow Lean-to, Day 5, 36.4 miles→
Scott Jurek just began his attempt on taking down the supported Appalachian Trail record and I’m excited of the possibility of seeing both records fall in one year. I’m fascinated by what he is doing and have infinite respect for the man. I want to clarify some of the questions I’ve been asked and exactly why I chose to go unsupported. The unsupported record is an entirely different game than supported. For me it is infinitely more appealing to go for the unsupported record but I can fully appreciate and admire the supported record. I’ve been in awe at what Jen Pharr Davis accomplished out there and would be thrilled to see Scott Jurek do it even faster. I think it takes two different types of people to break each record, which is why no single person holds both records for any of the long trails in the United States. Continue reading Unsupported versus supported thru-hike→
Yesterday I had my first day of a two week stretch of training out in the western Virginia woods. On my drive to Blacksburg, Virginia, I stopped in Montebello to do The Priest hike, one of the longest climbs on the entire trail. It was a beautiful cooler day and it’s great to be back out in some shaded woods after training through the winter in the leafless forests of Shenandoah National Park. I met some awesome thru-hikers, Koz from South Carolina hiking for his second attempt, Patterns and her canine companion The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and her other hiking friend Scarecrow. I gladly let them help themselves to the snacks, drinks, and candy I housed in my car and it felt great to have the opportunity to do so. I told them I would be hiking south in a few weeks and may see them again. It certainly would be nice to see a familiar face out there.
“Drop completely the term “fastpack.” You are backpacking, so call it that. There is a very well developed community of backpackers who take an endurance athlete’s approach to the activity, myself included. I’d encourage you to join it rather than try to create a new niche in the ultra niche. Don’t create distinctions where there are none. I’ll add that I find “fastpacking” to sound very elitist — it’s as if runners can’t admit that they are “backpacking” and it implies that the rest of us are just “slowpacking.”
Skurka left that comment on an article written about fastpacking a few months ago. To be perfectly honest, to me it was nonsensical. I dropped a quote on one of my previous posts from a climber demoting mountaineering to “hiking and camping”. As absurd as it sounds, it’s absolutely accurate. Whether hiking in Shenandoah National Park or climbing Everest, you’re mostly walking and sleeping. But if we didn’t have the term mountaineering, we may not know whether our friend just climbed Everest or went on a stroll in Nepal. His argument is synonymous to saying we don’t need the term whale because it’s just a mammal or we don’t need to term hiking because it’s just walking.