We arrived in New Hampshire, the state known for its motto, “Live Free Or Die” on September 8th. We have been so busy living free and trying not to die that we haven’t had much time to keep this blog updated!
We walked into New Hampshire directly into the city of Hanover (rather than in the middle of the woods). As we walked through the town, in our stinky hiker attire, the locals passing by in their cars were yelling out their windows, asking if we needed a place to stay. We kindly declined due to us having our hearts set on the free pizza slice for hikers and eighty cent PBR beers awaiting us at Ramunto’s Pizzaria.
Sitting in the Pizzaria, enjoying our free slice and cheap beer-a hiker special, we were surrounded by Dartmouth College students sporting their pastel Polo shirts, Sperry shoes, clean shaven and tidy haircuts. They smelled of Old Spice and Axe, and we smelled like old spices and looked like we should be carrying axes. It was “Thirsty Thursday” for these college kids and us hikers were thirsty too but for multiple reasons. I tried convincing our friends to crash a college party but they weren’t down with the idea… Thinking back to my college days, crashing the party wasn’t necessary.
It wasn’t until this night that I would be able to say that I’ve been to an Ivy League school. Multiple thru hikers set up tent city behind the athletic fields of Dartmouth College. At this point of the trip I felt as though I’ve earned my ability to say that because I have had poison ivy all summer.
Continuing with our living free life we got some free donuts from a bakery named Lou’s and a free bagel. We got a chance to get discounted showers at a senior community center and did laundry. Hanover had easily been the most hiker friendly community in awhile.
Not long after leaving Hanover we got a pleasant visit from our friends Carrie Jo and Alyssa. In tote those fine ladies brought some trail magic of all sorts and we visited Carrie’s meme who lived in New Hampshire. Meme made us an amazing home cooked meal and dessert. The chicken and biscuits were amazing, as well as the homemade strawberry shortcake , even homemade whip cream! Meme also sent us off with other treats so luckily we were able to share with fellow hikers.
Shortly after we entered the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
The white mountains cover about a quarter of the state of New Hampshire and a small portion of Maine. They often described as the most rugged mountains in New England . It’s also often said that by now we have done two thirds of the trail but only a third of the work.The elevation gain/loss of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail is the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest 16 times. At this point of the trip, I’m definitely feeling as though we’ve done some work!
Our first real big mountain of this section was Mt. Moosilauke. Measuring in at 4802 feet, it had been the first mountain above treeline if not ever, in awhile. The talk of the trail was Moosilauke for the next few days. We were like kids waiting for Christmas… or a big exam.
Overall, the climb up this mountain was amazing. We started the hike with about ten of us, and by the time we reached the top, and hung out for a little bit-more started showing up. All those kids who sleep late and procrastinated arrived on Moosilauke that day. September 13th. Why do I remember that day? Because I’m a little bit superstitious and find 13 to be unlucky. But also because it was the eve of Snorlax’s and mine three year wedding anniversary and wouldn’t want to celebrate without our friends and family. The views were amazing as well and it was a moment where you were reminded of why the heck you were out there. We were all meant to be here for reason but the reason was yet to be determined. However, whatever the reason it was for good intents and usually in tents. .. And often could be intense.
The white mountains were the start of the last chapter of this journey and you started to see more than what you saw at the beginning.
New Hampshire was exciting on multiple levels. We were so close to were we used to call home, as well as so close to the finish. Best of all-we got to see more friends and family we had not seen awhile or had even met. My sister, Missy (aka as Weenie to me), her husband Blake and the youngest of their pups Wyatt came to visit.
Missy and Blake fed us with beer and pizza (weird, I know – like who likes those things?) and helped us resupply. I also got a chance to get a new pair of pants which were needed due to the fact that the current ones were too big. What I gained in knowledge , I probably lost in body weight.
We finally got a chance to hike the Franconia Ridge section of the trail which we have seen featured in many popular backpacking photos and articles. As predicted, we were not disappointed.
The next big exam was Mt. Washington. Known for its most drastic weather changes, and overpriced chili (amongst other things). Snorlax and I were up there this time of year last year and I was knocked over from the wind and bundled in some of my warmest clothes. We lucked out this year had beautiful weather, and clear skies.
We were able to watch the sunset on Mt Washington. However, due to taking that time to watch the sunset, didn’t leave us much time to hike on to the next shelter which was more than five miles away. And what use to take us two hours to do, could take up to five hours now as the terrain was much more challenging. That night ten of us humans and a Skye dogg slept in the dungeon of the Lake of Clouds Hut which was about a mile south of Mt. Washington. The dungeon is the emergency shelter at Lake of the clouds, the Harry Potter room of the huts. The room is not even the full basement of the Hut and alledgeally sleeps like 6 but as always, we proved that to be wrong and squeezed ten and a dog.
We then hiked up Mt. Washington again because it was so much fun and not cracked up to be as scary as some make it seem. .. Despite the lists of deaths that occur on that mountain displayed at the top.
It was Mt. Madison, the neighboring Mountain which we found to be the next big challenge. Still above treeline, but only 5366 feet, the winds seemed about 50mph or more that day and we could barely keep ourselves up. The winds blew off our friends glasses, and we could not even hear them yell for help as the winds were so loud.
Another exciting thing to happen in New Hampshire? Oh Missy and Blake visited again and got to meet most of the trail family. As well as Snorlax, Skye and I got to meet Mama Bear’s mom, Jennifer.
Jennifer helped us slackpack the wild cat mountains, and also watched Skye so she could rest up while we did some bigger mile days . New Hampshire had definitely been more challenging than other states. Being above treeline put us at higher risks of getting hurt if we hiked in the rain and other not ideal weather conditions, and also slowed us down. Having the support of family really helped us out. Much love to Jennifer, Missy, and Blake… And of course the rest of our squad!
Other Notable trail angels: Lost Camper, Mountain Dude, Some Butter, Trash Panda and Cosmo the dog. They hooked us up with some trail magic of tasty treats including Dog goodies. Also- Dennis the menace who hooked us up with safety supplies, wood and Kindle, as well as a squeekie tennis ball for our trail boss.
Being in the final two states, we started realizing how far we had come and how little we had left. We grew so much, as well as our family. It was the ideal trail mix-sweet, spicy and a little bit nutty.
We started to embrace our lifestyle more and more. We had experienced some of our longest stretches without traditional comforts like showers, shaving, laundry and those other things like cell service. We were finally unplugged but felt so much power outdoors and with each other. We were home.
It was the first time I got myself in a situation where I had to wipe my toosh with a leaf. The first time I had to poop first, and then dig later. The first time I learned to snap. The first time I cried on the trail aside from a time I needed to drop our dog off at a kennel and she couldn’t hike with us. I learned to French braid (somewhat). Ya know – just live free or die type of everyday things.
New Hampshire – you tested us, but showed us a lot. We will be back, until then- happy trails.