It’s been awhile since I last updated this blog but I’ll try to bring you up to speed on my last few weeks on the AT. I tried to get a post out about every ten days or so while on the trail but those last few weeks were tough, I barely had time to stuff my face and read myself a bedtime story at the end of the day. Anyway, I finished the trail on July 5th and it was glorious. For real, it was quite a thrill. I didn’t start off thinking I would bomb through it so quickly but about a third of the way in I decided to at least make an attempt to do it in 80 days. Early on in the hike I was averaging around 25 mile days and my body felt really strong, it almost felt like I was going easy on this thing. In northern Virginia I did a little arithmetic and figured if I hustled a little I could get home to Massachusetts in time for the Fannon/Borrelli nuptials in early July. Once I made that decision it was crush city out there. For real this was an NFA, bare bones, thru hike at a suicide pace. For me, it was thoroughly enjoyable but I’m not sure I would recommend this style to others going out to hike the AT. Unless you’re really into punishing yourself all day long for weeks on end.
The last two states, New Hampshire and Maine, were without a doubt the most difficult of the entire trail. In my opinion they provided the best scenery and, especially Maine, were the most remote. I’ve been hiking in NH’s White Mountains since I was a kid and thought oh yeah no big deal I can handle it, but traversing the state with a pack was super tough. Nothing I couldn’t handle though but it did slow me down.
I had been used to doing 30+ mile days since Virginia but in the Whites my pace slowed to a crawl, averaging about 25’s through the rest of the state. It was fun though. Most of the time the weather was great, ideal for looking around and swimming in icy cold streams. My favorite way of reminding myself how alive I am is to jump in the coldest water possible on a hot day. It’s also a good way of holding myself over until my next shower, since I went 12 days without one(new record if you were wondering, showered in North Adams, MA and then not again until Bethel, ME). #livefreeordie.
When I got to Franconia Notch, my buddy Patrick came up to camp with me for a night and hike a few miles. He took me to McDonald’s and a gas station to resupply then got me all caught up on gossip and the antics of his life. It was fun.
The one time in NH where I ran into lousy weather I was probably in the most inopportune place. I was getting up to the Presidentials just leaving the Mitzpah Spring Hut where I stopped for a quick snack.(the huts in the Whites are different than the shelters. They’re staffed and heated and have beds and meals for like $100+ a night. Not really my style but they treat thru hikers pretty well. If we do chores we can spend the night on the floor for free and after meal time they give us tons of leftovers. They feed us like dogs, in a good way.
One time I stopped in a hut and they gave me a huge bowl of cold steak tips and a piece of day old lasagna the size of a baseball glove. It was awesome!) It was overcast and I could still see the summit of Mt. Washington when I left but once I got to top of Mt. Pierce the wind picked up and it started raining. All of a sudden it got wicked cold, super windy and was raining cats and dogs.
This next section of trail is above the treeline and exposed for miles. I knew I could reach the next hut in a couple hours so since there wasn’t any thunder or lightning I went for it. Ride or die and all that stuff. I was not in a very favorable situation, it was actually pretty miserable. I was soaked to the bone and about as cold as I get, but when I got to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut I couldn’t have been happier. Everybody there was pretty much in the same boat, excited to be inside, comparing their harrowing weather stories and high fiving each other. I waited out the storm for about 3 hours and when it seemed to clear up a little I went for the summit of Washington and got there around 5. The guy working up there told me to expect 70+ mile wind gusts but probably no precipitation. So I pushed 6 more miles to the Madison Springs Hut and made it, obviously. The rest of NH wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination but it wasn’t as dangerous either.
A couple days later I crossed into Maine and hiked through Mahoosuc Notch, the gnarliest and most notorious mile of the whole trail. Reading about it won’t do it justice, you’ve got to experience it yourself. My parents met me again in Grafton Notch and for a couple days I felt like Scott Jurek with a legit crew. They got themselves a new Maine atlas and found all these small roads where the trail crosses, it was almost like they were showing off. So I stayed with them at their place in Bethel for a night and because of their knew knowledge of the road crossings was able to slack pack a couple of small sections. It was really cool. My mom hiked with me for one of the sections and they both provided trail magic for me and some other hikers, giving us food and rides to hitchhikers.
The rest of Southern Maine was no joke. I did a 100+ mile stretch into Caratunk and it was packed with incredible mountains, ridges, rivers, lakes, and moose. Naturally I crushed it. I was surprised that there was such great hiking so close to me that I just never experienced. I’ve always just gone to the Whites when I go hiking and this incredible resource is so close. So many places I plan on returning to. Including the Caratunk House B and B, run by a former AT and PCT thru hiker Paul. Highly recommended. Paul has all the thru hiker staples: milkshakes, cheeseburgers and French toast and it was cheap.
From there it was about 40 miles to Monson and the beginning of the dastardly 100 mile wilderness. I tried and failed the breakfast challenge at Pete’s in Monson but left town with a full stomach and about 4 days worth of heavy food in my pack. The 100 mile wilderness goes from Monson to Abol bridge where there’s a store about 10 miles south of Baxter state park(two thumbs down for the store). The wilderness is out there, no civilization or cell service or anything. A week prior to getting there I had planned on meeting my mom at the Katahdin stream campground the night of the 4th.
After a day and a half of lots of little mountains I woke up on the morning of the 3rd with 66 miles of relatively flat trail, although rocky and rooty and muddy and buggy. I did a 38 mile day to make sure I had just an easy 28 miler into Baxter and got there shortly after 6pm. This must have been what hiking in the 90’s was like, no phones, just do what you have to do in order to be where you say you’ll be. So on the morning of the 5th I got up super early, and joined by the most badass 62 year old woman I know, bombed up Katahdin. The weather and the views were phenomenal. Reaching the sign at the summit was an indescribable feeling. So I won’t even try. We basked in the glory of the day at the top with a handful of day hikers then slowly made our way down and then home to Lynn.
The AT was great. Hard as anything I’ve ever done but beautiful, fun, and rewarding in ways I can’t put into words. If you’re thinking about thru hiking, go for it, just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I spent the last few days at home and it was great. Got to see my family which should be increasing by one any day now when Mike and Erica have their baby. It’s too bad they didn’t time it better and have the baby while I was home, but whatever. Also got to officiate at my friends Joe and Kristen’s wedding. No big deal, only one of the greatest dance parties of all time.
One of the benefits of putting such a whooping on the AT is that now I’ve got more time for adventures. Right now I’m layed over in Philadelphia on my way to Seattle. Don’t be too jealous though I just got stuck on a plane next to a giant with humongous elbows, no regard for my personal space, and who kept burping up the bologna sandwiches he had for lunch. Other than that, things are cool. Stay tuned if you want to see what I’m up to the rest of the summer and feel free to follow me on Instagram @endlesspsummer.