Endless P Summer

8/12/20…..10 miles…..Edna Lake

*Note that I dropped my phone in the ocean since we returned from our honeymoon so I lost a lot of pictures. The ones you see in this post are probably from Sara’s camera or ones I have recovered from text messages. This is why there aren’t as many shots of my beautiful bride as there should be. 

I don’t know if this hike has an official name but Sara came up with a 45 mile hike in the Sawtooths and we’re 11 days into our honeymoon so the Sawtooth Honeymoon Loop is what we’re going with. It’s not really a loop though, more of a figure 8 and even more than that the route is shaped like a barbell or a pair of eyeglasses. It’s 2 roughly 20 mile loops connected by a section of trail about 2 miles long that we’ll do twice. If this is how you actually draw the number 8, you’re doing it wrong. I may also refer to it as the ‘honeymoon barbell.’ Ok, I’m getting way off track here.

If you’re still reading let me give you a little background. We’ve been driving west across the U.S. for the past week and half hiking, running, catching up with friends, checking out new places, and sleeping in the back of our Subaru while trying to tip toe delicately through the country in the time of COVID. Today we woke up in our friends Tami and Kasey’s driveway in Boise and drove a few hours to the Sawtooth Mountains in Central Idaho. I’ve been meaning to explore these mountains since I first hitchhiked through the state 5 years ago. Sara’s never been here either so this place is brand new to both of us. From the Tin Cup Trailhead outside the town of Stanley we walked about 10 miles into some amazing scenery. The trail is well graded and the walking was simple. Since the trail wasn’t too strenuous we took our time stopping to drink out of ice cold springs and taking in the views. Right away there were mountain lakes, then waterfalls, and jagged peaks like the teeth of a saw(hence the name). We started the first loop going counter clockwise, climbed up to Sand Mountain Pass then down to the intersection of the second loop. For the second loop we’re going clockwise and camped at the first lake we came to; Edna Lake. We got a sweet spot on a little peninsula and the tent is tucked in between some big rocks and pine trees. The lake is bright blue, clear, and cold. Just the way I like it and perfect for an evening swim. Supposedly there will be a meteor shower tonight, ‘the Perseids,’ so fingers-crossed the sky is clear and we stay awake for a few shooters. 

8/13/20…..20 miles…..Edna Lake, again

Last night it was overcast as we went to sleep but when my bladder woke me up at 3am the meteor shower was in full effect. I woke Sara up and we enjoyed a nice middle of the night stargazing session. This morning we slept in and didn’t get moving until after 8am. Walking clockwise around the second loop we passed alpine lake after alpine lake, it was rad. Halfway around the second loop we took a spur trail up a short but steep pass to Everly Lake, a pristine mountain lake and a perfect spot for lunch and a cold swim. From Everly lake we returned down the pass to the loop and walked all the way around and back to Edna Lake. The second half of the day the trail was more forested so it didn’t have quite as many views as this morning, still cool though. When we passed Benedict Creek it provided a short little natural water slide in the rocks, so I slid down that half a dozen times. We liked our campsite from last night so much that when we reached the junction to return to the other loop we kept walking the short distance back to Edna Lake. Our site was already taken but we found another one nearby and I went for my third swim of the day. Sara only had 1.5 swims today because I guess we have different standards for what counts as ‘swimming.’

8/14/20…..15 miles…..Oregon Rest Stop

First thing this morning we backtracked just a little bit from our campsite to the junction that would lead us back to the first loop or other side of the barbell. We climbed up to Sand Mountain Pass then down to the other loop that we followed counter clockwise. After passing Toxaway Lake we climbed another pass(it’s either unnamed or I can’t remember it) then dropped down to Twin Lakes and Alice Lake.  

At some point after Alice Lake a pair of hikers stopped us and recognized us from our adventure last year. Mold had picked us up hitchhiking a year ago about 30 minutes outside Hanksville, Utah while we were hiking the Hayduke. He and his wife Mildew(trail names) were up in the Sawtooths from Salt Lake and were on their way to climb a peak. Both thruhikers, they didn’t seem super surprised at this strange coincidence.

We walked another handful of miles and went for a nice swim in Pettit Lake just before reaching our car. From the Tin Cup trailhead we drove through the town of Stanley then stopped for a few hours at Kirkham Hot Springs. Both thumbs all the way up for these springs, lots of pools and some rocks you could jump off and then float down a rapid in the South Fork of the Payette. In a couple days we’re planning to run around Mount St Helen’s in Washington so after leaving the hot springs we drove west out of the mountains and eventually crossed into Oregon. Tonight we’re sleeping in the car at the Weatherby Rest Area on I-84. So far so good for a rest area. I think the Sawtooths are incredible. This small sampling of these mountains provided lots of impressive views, big jagged mountains, cold clear waters, and well maintained trail. I’ll definitely be back. If you’re planning on coming out here keep in mind that the first loop, known as the Alice Lakes Loop, is quite popular and for good reason. The second loop was also incredible but had far less people out there and felt much more secluded, and if you’re out this way don’t skip Everly Lake, it’s well worth a little extra walking. Kirkham Hot Springs

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Day 1…..28 miles…..Cherry Mountain Trailhead

The Cohos(pronounced co-os like the way you would say co-op) Trail is a 165 mile footpath through northern New Hampshire. The southern terminus is at the Davis Path trailhead in Crawford Notch and it stretches to the Canadian Border in the North. We’ll be hiking from south to north. 
Yesterday Sara and I finished Vermont’s Long Trail, drove my car back to Smuggler’s Notch to pick up her car, then drove both cars to the tippity top of NH and dropped her car off by Third Connecticut Lake. From there we drove south to Crawford Notch and spent the night sleeping in my car before setting off in the morning. Along the drive we cached food about halfway in Stark, NH off rt 110 where we hid bear canisters in the woods stuffed with 3 days worth of ramen and Mike and Ike’s. Living in Massachusetts I have always felt that New Hampshire pretty much ends at the White Mountains. Boy was I mistaken. There’s so much more up here in The Great North Woods, as they call it and I’m about to find that out.
This morning we rolled out of the Subaru, crossed Bemis Bridge and climbed up Davis Path towards Stairs Mountain. The Cohos Trail goes up and over Mt. Isolation then drops way down to the Dry River. Actually not dry, we crossed it in knee deep water. From there we climbed up over the Presidential Ridge near Eisenhower, took a left on the AT and followed that for a quarter mile then dropped steeply down Edmonds Trail. We finally had some easier walking on snowmobile trails once we got to the bottom. After passing the Mt. Washington Hotel monstrosity we went west on 302 for a bit. 
For dinner we grabbed gas station sandwiches and walked another mile before looking for a place to camp. The Cohos Trail runs along Old Cherry Mountain Road which has ‘primitive’ camping but everything was taken. These are sites carved into the woods with no toilets or electrical hookup. There were cars in every single one of them. Besides the primitive spots, the woods are so thick with brush it’s next to impossible to find a spot for the tent. We walked a bit longer than we would have liked to but finally found a spot in the woods right across from the trailhead up Old Cherry Mountain. A pleasant and productive first day on the Cohos Trail. 
Day 2…..25 Miles…..Mt Weeks Summit
Yesterday I forgot to dry out my sleeping bag. We got rained on at some point, my bag got wet and I forgot all about it until we set up camp. Sara and I made due with 1 sleeping bag for the night. Fortunately it wasn’t that cold out and we were both exhausted and able to sleep. From our spot next to the trailhead we walked up and over Mounts Martha and Owls Head(the other NH Owls Head). Finally seeing some Cohos Trail signs and yellow blazes we followed these down through a series of snowmobile and rail trails around Pondicherry wildlife sanctuary before doing a decent road walk on 115A. Before starting the road walk I think I saw a bear. I can’t confirm it, it was either a bear or bigfoot, but I think it was a bear.
At the junction of 115A and Rt 2 there’s a country store attached to an Irving gas station. This place has massive subs, both thumbs up, and good pizza. We took our time eating lunch, went back in to pick up a few things for a 1 day resupply then sat on the porch doing some housekeeping; organizing food and cleaning our feet and stuff. We had been there for about an hour and as I looked over towards the gas station I thought I saw my cousin’s husband pumping gas. As I walked over to get a better look, my cousin Kate walked out of the store! Kate, John, and their daughter Mila were up here on vacation and were coming from Santa’s Village. And it was Kate’s birthday! What a treat. I know we’re only 3 hours from the North Shore of Boston and to see someone from home isn’t outside the realm of possibility but at one of the only places we’ll stop this whole trail, and a first cousin, that was quite a coincidence. 
After an unexpected visit with family Sara and I walked up the Starr King Trail towards Kilkenny Ridge. A few miles later my back started burning like a son of a gun. It felt like somebody was simultaneously pulling out every single one of my back hairs. I took my shirt off and Sara wiped my back off, gave me an examination, and a diagnosis: heat rash. Neither one of us knew the cure. For the rest of the day I adjusted my pack so it wasn’t directly on my back and it seemed to help a little. We rolled along Kilkenny Ridge summitting Waumbek and a few smaller peaks before setting up on top of Mt. Weeks. My back seemed to get better for now which is a big relief. 
Day 3…..27 miles…..Percy tent site
This morning we continued on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail slowly for another 15 miles. We went up and down a few smaller peaks and topped out for the day at Mt. Cabot, the northernmost 4000 footer in New Hampshire. On the way up Cabot we met a pair of southbound Cohos Trail thru hikers, Goliath and Handsome Dan. Long distance hikers, if we didn’t know the same people we knew the same trails and traded info with them on stuff coming up.
Eventually, after what seemed like forever, we got off the Kilkenny Ridge trail and found ourselves at South Pond. This pond is at the northernmost part of the White Mountain National Forest. There’s a beach here and a swimming area. While the other beach goers did their thing Sara and I took baths washing off a few days worth of bug spray and B.O. It was extremely refreshing. 
Leaving the pond we had a few miles of road walking, crossing rt 110 then the Upper Ammonoosuc River and entered Nash Stream Forest. We located our hidden bear canisters with our untouched 3 day resupply in them and took a few minutes to organize our food. I think we have now entered the Great North Woods and virtually everything up here is uncharted terrain for me. I’m very familiar with WMNF but I’ve only been hiking north of Cabot once, it’s all brand new to me. Sara and I walked another 6 miles with the last 2 being extra grueling and got to camp at the Percy tent site. 
Amazingly today my heat rash on my back all but vanished. I did my best to keep my pack off my back and the weight of it more on my hips but other than that I didn’t do much to cure it. Had it been as bad as yesterday I would have considered getting off trail at rt 110 and figuring out how to get back to my car. 
Day 4…..29 miles…..Panorama Shelter
Today started off innocently enough. A nice 4 mile downhill to a waterfall with an excellent swimming hole. A cool dip was a perfect way to start the day. 
For the rest of the day we just walked. Here and there we find ourselves on decent trail for a few miles but I’ve noticed much of this trail is a conglomeration of snowmobile trails, road walks, atv or jeep roads, rail trails, and old logging roads. I don’t hate it, I’m enjoying myself, but it hasn’t been super scenic and the trail at times is just ok.
This afternoon we walked through the Balsams Ski Resort. I thought someone was supposed to build a big resort up here but this place looks like a thing of the past. There sure was a huge hotel in the distance though. We dropped way down to Dixville Notch, crossed rt 26, then climbed way up on the north side. Dixville Notch is a highlight of the trail (also the place where the first presidential ballots are cast every 4 years). There’s cascading waterfalls and great views from steep jagged cliffs on both sides. Sara and I had planned to camp once we got up the north side but there was nothing even close to suitable. Another thing about this trail, camping options are very limited. We had to crank out another 3 miles at sunset to Panorama shelter and got in just before the rain started. 
Day 5…..30 miles…..Pittsburg, NH 
All night it rained absolute buckets. Sleeping in the shelter the sound of the rain was amplified by the tin roof making it even scarier or more soothing. We were very lucky to push on last night. Had we set up it most likely would have been in an uneven campsite probably right in middle of the trail somehow and we would have got soaked. 
Although the rain had stopped this morning we still got soaked through splashing in puddles, mud, and walking through wet ferns. The trail turned to road after half a dozen miles and the skies opened up on us. We walked through an empty Colebrook State Park and then had a series of road walks for most of the day. Our goal today was Young’s Store in Pittsburg, 30 miles from Panorama Shelter. It was ambitious especially since it closed at 7pm but with about 20 of those miles on road or ATV road(this area is a hotbed for ATV and snowmobile enthusiasts) I felt pretty confident we’d get there. Since we were a bit ahead of schedule we both had enough food to only be a little bit hungry before finishing the trail tomorrow. By the afternoon we had moved fast enough that we had time for a nice lunch and quick swim in Lake Francis. 
We got to Young’s Store by quarter to 6, got subs, macaroni salad, ice cream and a little bit of food to supplement our bags for tomorrow. There’s cabins for rent across the street so we decided to rent one for two nights. This way we can slack pack the last 25 miles to the border then drive Sara’s car back here and totally relax for a night. 
Day 6…..25 miles…..Canada
Today’s hiking wasn’t great. Sara and I were both glad to be finishing up the trail but the miles today just didn’t have much going for them. It poured again overnight which didn’t help and when we got going at 6am it was already warm. The cloud we were walking through felt like a steam room and the overgrown snowmobile trails were muddier than usual. 
We spent all day within the town of Pittsburg, the largest town by area in New England. The trail parallels rt 3 and took us by 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Connecticut Lakes. These lakes are the headwaters of the Connecticut River that becomes the NH/VT border and flows all the way to Long Island Sound. Once we reached the Canadian Border the Cohos Trail takes a left for nearly a mile up through the clear cut which is the actual border. Don’t write off this last mile as easy clear cut walking. It’s anything but. After climbing about 500 feet the trail comes to 4th Connecticut Lake and does a small loop before returning to the clear cut then the dastardly mile back to the road. When we got back to the road we walked past the border patrol office then a mile south into the USA where we left Sara’s car by 3rd Connecticut Lake. We jumped in the water and washed off all our sins. Tonight we’re staying again at the Mountain View Cabins in Pittsburg. So rewarding and comfortable! 
Overall Sara and I had a good time out there. We beat the bag out of the trail and had fun. It was difficult but we kind of did that to ourselves. Had we slowed down and taken another day or two it probably would have seemed significantly easier. The weather however, didn’t make me want to stick around too long. I probably wouldn’t hike this trail again but like I said it may have been more enjoyable if we took a bit longer. Also just like the Long Trail, the time of year to hike probably isn’t the dead of summer. One other thing, it might be better to hike this trail south as it gets more mountainous in the south.

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7/19/20…..10.5 miles…..Bear Hollow

This will be my last installment of Vermont’s Long Trail. From Smuggler’s Notch(rt 108) to the Canadian border is my fourth and final section. 

If you’re confused reading these posts, note that I haven’t done the Long Trail in order. In 2015 I hiked the southern most section from Massachusetts to Sherburne Gap, then again while thru hiking the AT in ‘16 I repeated that section. In ‘18 Sara and I hiked from Lincoln Gap to Smuggler’s Notch and in ‘19 we hiked from Sherburne Gap to Lincoln Gap. 

Due to Covid-19 Sara and I figured hitching would be potentially unsafe and more of a pain in the ass than usual so we drove two cars, dropping one at Journey’s End road in Jay, VT then drove the other south to start our hike from rt 108. After about 5 hours altogether and shuffling cars around we started our hike steeply up through the Smugglers Notch Ski Resort. This trail is rugged! I’m reminded of that every time I come out and start on this trail. It feels like it’s always either straight up or straight down and packed with rocks, roots, and mud. Always mud. Unless we come across it in the next 55 or so miles there is very little cruiser trail out here. And it always seems hot and muggy and buggy. Section hiking is definitely tougher than thru hiking. There’s so much more logistics getting to and from trail and you’re always starting fresh. When you’re thru hiking you only have to start once and after a few days your body is conditioned for the next two thousand or whatever miles. But today my body felt good and we had a great day out here, just not my favorite trail. We topped out on Madonna Peak, the summit of Smugglers Notch ski resort and had an excellent refreshing swim in Sterling Pond. This evening we even got a nice mansplanation of every nook and cranny of the next 4 miles of trail trail from an adult wearing a gun on his hip in a camouflage holster. I spent those 4 miles wondering what that guy was so afraid of that he needed to carry a gun out here for.

We made it to a flat spot out front of the Bear Hollow shelter and had our dinner in the tent as it started to rain. 

7/20/20…..28 miles…..Belvedere Peak

Today was a banger of a day out here. Nothing like easing into the hiking season with 8000 feet of vertical over 28 miles on the Long Trail. Since shelters are gross even when there isn’t a pandemic going on we slept in our tent last night and got poured on. It wasn’t the best night sleep, it was wicked hot, then it poured. Luckily we had about 7-8 pretty chill miles right away. It was a very gradual way to wake up. Once the sun came out we stopped and dried out all our stuff from last night. The trail then went up and down all day in muddy, rocky, rooty conditions typical of the Long Trail. It was hot and humid, not quite as bad as yesterday but still, and it was buggy. Sara either wasn’t getting bit or was keeping it a secret because even with deet on and wearing a bug net I was still the object of the deer flies desire. Today also had some of the highlights of the whole Long Trail, especially the showers we took at a waterfall pouring over a cliff. Shortly after that I busted my ass in a mud puddle, but I guess that’s why they call it ‘Vermud.’ We also went through Devil’s Gulch which is a short chasm through big boulders, something like a miniature Mahoosuc Notch if you’re familiar. Tonight we’re camped in some trees just off the summit of Belvedere Peak which has some awesome views in all directions, some of the finest I’ve seen on this whole trail.

7/21/20…..21 Miles…..Shooting Star Shelter

Never have I spent more time walking and covered less ground than I did today. I smell like I’ve been out here for a month. The trail was extra slow today. Super steep climbs followed by steeper descents on slippery rocks were interrupted only with muddy flat sections that we had to tiptoe around instead of ending up knee deep in mud. There were no easy miles today and we were traveling at a warp speed of 1.5 mph. That being said, it was much cooler out and there were no bugs which was a big relief. The highlight of today was a climb up to the top of Jay Peak. I had planned on skiing Jay in March but the mountain(and the world) closed early due to Covid. At the top we had great views in every direction. We could see Lake Champlain and into NY to the West, North into Quebec, East to Mt Washington in NH and to the South back to Mt. Mansfield and beyond on the Long Trail. This evening instead of making it back to the car like we had hoped, we finished our day tenting outside of Shooting Star Shelter. 21 miles with 7000 feet of gain in almost 14 hours with very little dilly dallying.

7/22/20…..5.7 miles…..Canada

Done with the Long Trail! This morning’s miles were rather smooth and in a few hours we reached the clear cut through the forest with the monument symbolizing the end of the trail and the Canadian border. It’s actually quite a nice terminus as long trails go. There’s a view north into Canada and a boulder perched up above the obelisk looking down towards the clear cut border. Sara and I high fived, took a few pictures, and vowed never to step foot on this trail again(just kidding, but seriously). We enjoyed ourselves but the trail itself isn’t my favorite. I’m not sure how much I would recommend this trail to prospective hikers. Well let’s say this; maybe don’t hike the Long Trail in the dead of summer. Hiking the LT in the fall is probably much more enjoyable, not that I’ll ever know. And I think I’d rather hike it in one shot, I prefer thru hiking but since I live relatively close to the Vermont I figured I’d hike this trail in sections whenever I could fit it in.

Once we reached the border we took the 1.5 mile side trail to the parking lot where my car was waiting. Our plans were to shuffle the cars around and begin hiking NH’s Cohos Trail tonight but zigzagging up and down Northern Vermont and New Hampshire took a fair amount longer than we expected. We settled on a bath in a lake and a full night sleep in the car at the Davis Path Trailhead and starting the Cohos Trail the next day.

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11/8/19…..Hayduke Day 43…..20 miles

We woke up to a delicious home cooked breakfast of potatoes, black beans, corn, cheese, eggs, toast, yogurt, fruit and coffee. Then, after we packed up, Lynn drove us 40 miles out of Kanab to where we got off trail yesterday at the corner of AZ 389 and Yellowstone Rd. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Lynn and her husband Richard are the ultimate trail angels and have done so much for not just me and QB but so many hikers on the Arizona Trail and the Hayduke.

We walked dirt roads through the tiny town of Cane Beds, AZ and then a paved highway for awhile. It was boring. The walking all day today and yesterday was a road walk across the ‘Arizona Strip’ and the best way I can describe it is just boring. I have to just go elsewhere in my mind for monotonous boring road walks like this. For awhile we were on a paved road with a fair amount of traffic, and I found a cell phone in good condition on the side of the road. We charged it up and turned it on but the thing’s locked and we don’t know how to find the owner. Did anybody lose an android near the Arizona/Utah border? I didn’t think so. When we did cross back into Utah after lunch we turned onto a very sandy 4wd road. It was like walking on the beach for 10 miles with no waves. Tomorrow we’ll be in Zion and all this road walking/connector trail will be worth it.

11/9/19…..Hayduke Day 44…..15 miles

We woke to frost on the tent, which wouldn’t be a big deal if we didn’t have to walk through an ice cold river this morning. It warmed up a little as we walked 5 more miles of very sandy jeep road. The road dead ended and we followed a steep trail down to the bottom Parunuweap Canyon aka ‘The Barracks.’ This canyon contained the East Fork of the Virgin River which we would walk along and through for the next 6 miles.

The water was ice cold! Bone chilling. At least for the first hour. We had to keep crossing over and over and only had these small sections of dry land for our feet to warm up a bit. Luckily it didn’t get more than knee deep and it must have been in the low 30’s or colder. I don’t think my feet have ever been more uncomfortable. For some reason the cold water didn’t seem to bother QB or at least she didn’t complain, I had trouble doing anything else.

There was a bald eagle down in the canyon keeping us company for awhile. Or maybe it was 4 bald eagles. Most likely it was 1 eagle that I saw 4 times. Finally after one of the coldest hours my feet have ever endured the water definitely warmed up and became bearable and the canyon was really very cool. It just seemed like the Hayduke’s final boss that we had to defeat. After 15 miles of super sandy jeep road and a half dozen miles of a viciously cold river and 1 quick class 3 scramble you can finish the route. The scramble was through a lemon squeeze beneath a giant boulder and down a natural tunnel all to avoid an impassable waterfall. Shortly after this we climbed out of the river by way of a route called ‘Fat Man’s Misery’ and walked 4-5 more miles crossing into Zion NP and reaching Mt. Carmel Highway.peeing

The official end of the Hayduke is the Weeping Wall within the park but because of a rockslide the Weeping Wall as well as the East Rim Trail are closed. We’ve done both of these before so I’m not losing much sleep about it. Going into Zion our plan has been to hitch around into the park and walk the Zion Traverse starting on the West Rim Trail and finishing at Kolob Canyon. Since Mt. Carmel Highway goes through a huge tunnel that is illegal to walk, we had to hitch and quickly got a ride from Hugo and Manuel. These guys dropped us off at the ranger station where we got our permit for tomorrow.

We’re camping in the park tonight and got into Springdale for a meal. If you come to Zion, Oscar’s just outside the park is where it’s at for food. Very good and they’ve got thru hiker portions.

11/10/19…..Hayduke Day 45…..23 miles

From our campsite at the Watchman CG we took the Zion free park shuttle to the Grotto stop and started up towards the West Rim Trail. The beginning of this trail is the same one that goes to Angel’s Landing. It’s paved, moderately steep, and crowded. After a mile or so we fell in step with an older couple and the woman started asking increasingly personal questions. It was getting weird, and I couldn’t out hike her. Good thing they were stopping at Angel’s Landing because I could only lie to her for so long.

Quickly we got away from the crowds and walked through a very cool part of the park. I feel like so many people in Zion stick to the main attractions within Zion Canyon but there’s a lot to see if you get just a little beyond them, for example the West Rim Trail.

In 2017, roughly the same time of year, QB and I hiked the Zion Traverse or Trans Zion Trail in the opposite direction. The next section the trail splits for 4 or 5 miles, you can continue to take the West Rim Trail or get on the Telephone Canyon Trail. I would recommend staying on the West Rim Trail, we did that last time and it was definitely more scenic. No big deal though. We carried on up near Lava Point, took a left through Wildcat Canyon and by the end of the day got to the Hop Valley Trail and the beginning of Hop Valley. For about a mile the Hop Valley Trail dips out of the Park into Zion Wilderness and that’s where we camped for the night. As we closed in on our campsite we were treated to possibly the most magnificent sunset of the entire Hayduke.

11/11/19…..Hayduke Day 46…..13 miles

Hayduke Lives!!! Finished the trail today.

We got going from our campsite and proceeded to walk through Hop Valley. This is a very underrated part of Zion. If you’re in the area I definitely recommend exploring the east side of the park and especially getting yourself to Hop Valley. If we had been here just a few days early the cottonwoods would still have been flying their bright yellow leaves. We crossed a bunch of partially frozen streams in Hop Valley then descended to La Verckin Creek. After following the creek for half a dozen miles we came to Lee Pass and for us the Western Terminus of the Hayduke. We high fived a few times, took a couple pictures and got busy hitching.

Deanna picked us up and ended up driving us almost 3 hours to Vegas. She even brought us to a thrift store in St. George, UT so we could buy clean new clothes for the next couple days. We’re staying 2 nights in Vegas, flying to NY for a few days then driving home to Massachusetts. Tonight we’re gorging ourselves at a buffet on the strip. We’re both trying to eat our weight in crab legs.

Thanks for reading! The Hayduke was a truly incredible endeavor, it was very difficult but the payoff was well worth it. I hope you enjoyed following along, I enjoyed having you. Feel free to follow us on insta for more pictures @endlesspsummer and QB @sarahikes.

10/25/19…..Hayduke Day 29…..9 miles

QB and I got back on the Hayduke today after a nearly 2 week hiatus. Let me catch you up real quick. On October 12th we started hitching to Las Vegas from Jacob Lake, AZ. In Vegas we rented a car, drove to Southern California to explore Death Valley NP, Joshua Tree NP, and climb Mt San Jacinto. We returned the car to Las Vegas, walked up and down the strip then flew to New York to attend QB’s friend Aneesa and her now husband Kevin’s wedding. After a very brief visit to the east coast we returned to Vegas and were picked up at the airport by QB’s folks Nancy and Dave. The 4 of us did a little road trip around the southwest going to the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon Dam, Zion NP, and Bryce Canyon NP. This morning we parted ways in Bryce and started hitching south while Nancy and Dave continued on their tour of the southwest towards Moab.This morning we watched the sunrise then beat the bag out of another continental breakfast before saying our good byes with QB’s parents and putting our thumbs out. Oscar and Milo were our first ride and they brought us out of their way about a half hour to Junction, UT where we were picked up by Breck who got us another 40 miles into Kanab. In town we stopped at the PO and resupplied at the grocery store. We’re getting very familiar with this town. From Kanab we got a ride from Opie, a helicopter pilot, to Fredonia, AZ then waited awhile before getting picked up by Drew and Nate, two hunters in a tiny Suzuki Samurai. These guys got us up to the store at Jacob Lake where we had a quick sandwich then started walking back the two miles towards the trail. Braxton and Brenna who were taking their time driving from Alaska to Virginia gave us a short lift the rest of the way in their van.

Back on the Hayduke we were still on the section that coincides with the Arizona Trail across the Kaibab Plateau. The hiking up here isn’t too exciting but it’s peaceful and easy. It’s deer hunting season and we’ve been walking by lots of hunting camps. I really hope I don’t get shot. I hope QB doesn’t either. Probably should get her a matching orange hat next time we’re in town. We walked for a few hours and set up at sunset which came super early, around 5:30 Arizona time.

10/26/19…..Hayduke Day 30…..28 miles

Our first 10 miles or so today we walked through a burn(a section of forest that had previously burned in a wildfire). This apocalyptic looking area is exposed to the elements, luckily it wasn’t too windy or sunny, it’s just a little ugly. There were lots of hawks hunting, so that was cool, nothing like a bird of prey to spike my tone.

Eventually we reached a ponderosa forest and walked through that for much of the afternoon before reaching a view of the East Rim of the Grand Canyon. In April of ‘18 while we were hiking the Arizona Trail, a lot of the trail was still covered by multiple feet of snow. We decided then to walk the road that’s parallel to the trail which had minimal traffic because the north rim of the GC was closed. With no snow on the trail today a lot of the hiking was uncharted terrain of the AZT for us.

Late this afternoon we met up with just the 3rd other Hayduke thru hiker we’ve seen. We’d been in touch with Clax online and knew he was close. He did a massive day to catch us and then the 3 of us walked a couple hours together until sunset. We reached a road where the Hayduke splits from the AZT and found a couple flat spots to camp beside it.

10/27/19…..Hayduke Day 31…..7 miles

We parted ways with Clax this morning as he went right to go pick up his Grand Canyon permits at the North Rim ranger station and we followed the Hayduke to the left along forest roads for 7 miles. It was super windy this morning up on the plateau, like ridiculously uncomfortably windy, like hurricane force wind. It sucked. When we got to the edge of the canyon and the trailhead for the dastardly Nankoweap Trail we met Talitha walking uphill. We hoped that below the rim would be a lot less windy but Talitha, who was just down for a day hike, told us it was pretty miserable. The Nankoweap Trail is supposedly the most difficult trail in the Grand Canyon. It drops steeply and follows narrow ledges with huge drops off to the side. I haven’t been looking forward to it. I especially don’t want to be walking down it while also competing with massive wind gusts. Neither does QB. It was only 10 am and we weren’t going to wait around on the edge of the canyon so we asked Talitha for a ride out of there and she was super willing to help us out. She works tracking California Condors in the area(one of my favorite subjects) and drove us all the way back to Jacob Lake.

Back at the Jacob Lake restaurant/gas station/gift shop/hotel again we ran into Chris and Sanjay the 4th and 5th other Hayduke hikers we’ve met. These guys have been just behind us for awhile and we’ve been in touch with them the whole trip sharing info and finally met them in person. We talked with them for awhile about how our hikes have been going(we’ve all taken much different routes so far) and of course we had a few mutual friends. Because of the cold weather predicted for tonight the 4 of us all got cabins for Jacob Lake and elected to stay indoors. I really would have liked to be below the rim tonight but descending the Nankoweap in the wind was out of the question.

10/28/19…..Hayduke Day 32…..23 miles

It snowed overnight. Just a couple inches, but still. We met Chris and Sanjay for breakfast and then went our separate ways. Those guys are getting back on trail right by Jacob Lake whereas QB and I are trying to hitch back to where we got off yesterday.

The temperature was in the single digits when we got out to the road and put our thumbs out. The maple syrup leftover from breakfast in my beard and mustache was freezing solid.

After a mile of walking down the road, Vince and Jim picked us up. They’re from Kanab and Vince, a trail runner, knows our friend Lynn. These guys took us 25 miles down HWY 67 to where they’re gathering firewood and QB and I took a left down the dirt road toward Saddle Mountain trailhead. We thought for sure we’d get a ride back to where we hitched from yesterday but no cars ever came. Instead we walked 14 bonus miles on snow covered roads. Neither of us had expected this would happen and I wasn’t thrilled about it. I guess maybe we would have done things differently yesterday had we thought it would be so difficult to get back. At least it wasn’t windy out. By the time we got to the trailhead on the edge of the canyon we were more than ready to be done road walking.

I have been thinking about the Nankoweap Trail for about a month now and it’s been keeping me up at night. It looked really scary and parts of it were really scary. There’s trail the whole way and for the most part it was decent but at times it gets quite narrow and a false step would drop me thousands of feet to the canyon floor. It was pretty but it was scary. I’ve hiked on gnarlier terrain before but I guess I built this up in my head and it lived up to the hype. Eventually we got through the high exposure stuff and we really started to descend, something like 5500 feet in a slow going 8 miles from the rim. We got to Nankoweap Creek in the dark and set up camp. I feel very relieved to be down here in the Canyon in the relative warmth of the lower altitude and with the wild and wooly Nankoweap Trail in my rear view mirror.

10/29/19…..Hayduke Day 33…..11 miles

This trail has been dealing us a little string of bad luck lately. Let me explain. Two days ago the wind forced us to retreat back to town and not drop into the canyon. Yesterday we think the snow prevented anybody from driving out to the trailhead therefore shutting down any opportunity of hitchhiking and adding 14 miles to our day. Today we got shutout trying to hitch across the river.

This morning we walked along Nankoweap Creek for 3 miles until it reached the mighty Colorado. From the mouth of the Nankoweap for 8 miles along the river there was no trail, just a nasty bushwhack. It was scenic, sure, but it was very difficult. Occasionally there would be animal paths here and there but there was lots of bushwhacking through thorny bushes and cacti, scrambling on loose talus, and some tricky route finding. For awhile we were in 1 mph terrain. Then we still had to get across the river. Our trail continued on the far side of the Colorado at the mouth of the Little Colorado River and the only way to get across was to get a ride, but no rafts came. Maybe tomorrow.

Today wasn’t all bad though we’re in the Grand Canyon for Christ’s sake so it’s beautiful plus QB and I got in for a swim so that was fun. Oh and if you were wondering swimming across the Colorado is not an option.

10/30/19…..Hayduke Day 34…..12 miles

Finally a change of fortune today. We packed up early and waited on the beach by our campsite making sure not to miss any opportunity to get a ride across. Around 12 a party of about a dozen rafters on 4 boats floated by and were happy to be able to help us out. They brought us across the river and to the mouth of the Little Colorado River.

QB and I thanked our new friends then walked up the LCR about a quarter mile looking for a place to ford it. This river is a striking turquoise color and was moving pretty quickly. The bottom was invisible but luckily it was only chest deep. We packed all our stuff inside trash bags within our packs, held hands so we wouldn’t get swept away and crossed. It wasn’t that bad or cold. On the far side of the LCR we gained the Beamer Trail and walked that for the next 10 miles.

I won’t say that the Beamer Trail was absolutely terrifying but it had its moments. The trail follows along a bench that has a 500 foot cliff on the right hand side going straight down to the river. There was a fair amount of times where a false step would have been my last. Other than that it contoured in and out of hanging side canyons and provided absolutely magnificent views of the Canyon. In the distance we could see the Desert View Lookout Tower on the South Rim. Last week we were up there with Nancy and Dave looking way down at this trail and I guess I had mistakenly thought the trail was a lot lower. After about 6 miles the Beamer Trail drops down to river level and is much more relaxed. At some point we crossed the intersection with the Tanner Trail and picked up the Escalante Route(not technically a GC trail but felt pretty good to me). We walked a couple miles of this before finding a place to camp for the night under a tiny sliver of a moon and a gazzillion stars.

10/31/19…..Hayduke Day 35…..25 miles

The Escalante Route brought us up high over the river and had a handful of big climbs and descents. At one point it brought us along the rim of a side canyon then we turned a corner, dropped into the canyon and were in a section of narrows for a mile back to the Colorado. There wasn’t as many dicey spots as the Beamer Trail but the Escalante Route did provide a couple of b-hole puckering moments, specifically while climbing up and over Papago Slide. It was also a slow trail or at least we moved slowly. On a day we had to really boogie we couldn’t seem to make miles for the first half of our day.

After we crossed Hance Creek we were now on the Tonto Trail. This brought us up high up onto the Tonto Plateau and far away from the Colorado River. For the rest of the day we would walk the Tonto Trail on the rims of huge side canyons.

We came across Tank, the first and only eastbound Hayduke hiker we’ve seen and now the 6th other thru hiker we’ve met.

If you’re wondering what we did for Halloween, QB and I wore the only costumes we had on hand; each other’s clothes. Then we listened to Dirtbag Diaries ‘Tales of Terror’ and night hiked for an hour. I was hoping I would see some tents to trick or treat at because I’m extremely low on food but no such luck.

11/1/19…..Hayduke Day 36…..18 miles

We realized yesterday that the P.O. at the South Rim of the GC closes at 3:30 on Friday(today) and is closed for the weekend. Because the store there is super expensive we mailed a box of food and originally figured we’d be there either Tuesday or Wednesday. That’s why we walked an hour into the dark last night and then got going this morning before sunrise. We had 14 more miles of the Tonto Trail and then a 4 mile climb up to the South Rim.

Finally some consistently cruiser trail. The Tonto Trail was a breeze and even though the South Kaibab Trail climbs 3000 feet in 4 miles and stinks like mule piss we motored right up it. We even saw a condor! I spotted it perched up high on a rocky point and then as we rounded a corner we saw this majestic bird soaring in circles way up in the sky.

The main corridor of the GC consists of the South Kaibab Trail, and the Bright Angel trail on the South Rim side and the North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim. These trails are steep, well manicured, and very very busy. Grand Canyon is an absolutely massive place but the overwhelming majority of people are concentrated in the main corridor. As we got onto the South Kaibab Trail we started to see lots of people all the way up to the rim. Once on the rim we caught a shuttle to the P.O., got to the backcountry office to rearrange our permits, then supplemented our food at the grocery store and ate a big meal. Tonight we’re staying at the hiker/biker site at Mather CG(I think all National Parks have these extra cheap sites for people like us) there’s laundry and showers across the street and I’m just about all the way rejuvenated. Tomorrow we’ll begin our next week of zigzagging first North and then West through the Canyon.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow me on insta for more pictures @endlesspsummer and QB @sarahikes

For the next month or so Sara(QB) and I are planning to hike a few short trails or sections of trails. Starting with the San Juan mountains, a section of the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado. In 2017 we hiked the CDT from Mexico to Canada but due to excessive snow we rerouted through the town of Creede instead of hiking out and around the San Juan’s. From Cumbres Pass outside of Chama, NM we’re planning to hike a few hundred miles. Once we get our fill of Colorado we’re headed to either the Unitas in Northeast Utah and then the Wind River Range in Wyoming.

8/10/19…..CDT Mile 793.3…..1 Mile

So we started traveling yesterday but really didn’t get out west until just about midnight mountain time. We drove from Lynn to Long Island, visited with Sara’s family then flew from JFK to Albuquerque. It was an all day event. Waking up in a Rodeway Inn this morning we still had a long way to go to get on trail.

From downtown Albuquerque we took a train for an hour and a half to Santa Fe($9 each) and landed right next to an REI and a farmer’s market. Perfect! We got a fuel canister, perused the market and got lunch at Tia Sofia’s(both thumbs all the way up). So good! New Mexico is famous for green chilies and sopapillas and this place did not disappoint. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; If I’m ever to be executed and given a last meal request I’ll take a never ending parade of sopapilla baskets with honey please. After lunch we went to the supermarket and got our food supply for the first section of trail then started walking towards Rt 84. It’s over a hundred miles but a straight shot from here to Chama so we put our thumbs out.

Within 5 minutes, Leona and Jonathan picked us up and drove us about 40 minutes up past Santa Clara Pueblo and the town of Espanola. Leona is from Yakama Nation and Jonathan Navajo Nation. They gave us a great ride and filled us in on the native lands and Pueblos we passed by.

Outside of Espanola we walked for just a few minutes before getting picked up by Neil, Elizabeth, Lucy and Vador(smallest Pekingese dog in the world). They were coming from buying a house in Taos and headed to Ghost Ranch to go horseback riding. It was a fun ride and they were excited to learn about our hiking trips.

From the Ghost Ranch turnoff we quickly got picked up by Audrina who drove us about a half hour to TA or Tierra Amarilla. She told us about Northern New Mexico, her travels, and warned us about the crazies while listening to Mexican music fading in and out on the radio.

In TA we stopped for a coke and a bathroom break, then waited on the side of the road about 5 minutes before Prentiss turned around and picked us up. Always a good sign when a driver turns around to come back for you. Prentiss is a Seattle transplant who works as an ER nurse in Espanola on his way to Colorado for the weekend. He brought us the rest of the way to Chama and dropped us off outside the Boxcar Cafe, home of the best breakfast burrito I ever had. This time I had a regular burrito smothered with cheese and green chilies and that was good too.

We walked a little bit out of town and got picked up by Luke and Amanda, who also turned around to get us, and they drove us the 10 miles or so up to Cumbres Pass in Colorado. They’re currently on a road trip back to KC, MO where they’re working and saving to finish building their cabin in Wrangell-St Elias National Park in Alaska. Currently they’ve got an 8 by 8 foot cabin and looking to expand. Now that sounds awesome.

We got on trail at Cumbres Pass, walked about a mile and set the tent up in a bed of soft pine needles for the night. Ahh, Home Sweet Home!

On a little side note, 24 hours ago we were at sea level and tonight we’re camping over 10,000 feet. I’ll let you know how it affects me.

8/11/19…..CDT Mile 808.7…..15.4 miles

Welp I took an Imodium today. Last night was a bit rough, I tossed and turned, my head was aching a bit, I started getting a sore throat and in the morning my stomach was in knots. Possibly due to altitude but probably due to the multiple smothered New Mexican meals I ate. All day I felt like my energy was a bit sapped and after digging multiple cat holes it was time for some medicine.

The weather didn’t help today either. We woke up to rain on the tent and thunder in the distance so we waited it out for awhile and didn’t get moving until about an hour later than we’d have liked. A few other times the rain came on strong enough to force us under a tree to wait it out. Combining these with a couple emergency bathroom stops added up to a very slow day.

Around 3pm the thunder and lightning came on pretty strong as well as a solid downpour. We were forced to set up the tent in some trees instead of carrying on over a ridge. A few times it felt like the rain would let up long enough to get a few more hours in but eventually we resigned to the fact that this would be an early night. Not very often have I done this. Hoping for nicer weather tomorrow and a stronger gut. Unfortunately though we’re camping even higher tonight at 11,700 feet.

Today wasn’t all bad though. We saw a bunch of deer, a couple elk in the distance and even the elusive porcupine as well as some fresh bear prints. It was also fun to walk this trail and compare it to June of ‘17 when it was covered with snow and we were hampered with snowshoes.

8/12/19…..CDT Mile 833.9…..25.2 miles

Today was a vast improvement over yesterday. I still have a bit of a sore throat and my head is a little foggy but I think my digestive system is on the other side of whatever I had been dealing with.

We woke up to clear skies and started walking around 6:15, just as the sun was rising. Within 5 minutes of walking we spotted a massive elk with a full rack staring back at us. This was the first of dozens of elk we saw today. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think it’s rutting season because all the males were hanging out together and all the females were hanging out together. Pretty sure mating season is the end of August and I sure hope it’s not hunting season(wearing my hi vis orange hat just in case). We also had a rare pine marten sighting, he or she was hanging out inside a rock cairn and kept popping out of different holes to check us out.

Unlike yesterday we saw other people out here. About halfway through the day we saw a couple of hikers contouring around the same valley coming our way. I said to QB, “I wonder if we know them” and we did. Spontaneous and Sky are hiking south on the Continental Divide and QB met Spontaneous on the PCT in ‘15. They’re currently on a 3rd year of their honeymoon, sounds rad!

In ‘17 we bailed off this section due to snow and followed a river valley into the tiny town of Platoro, CO before walking into South Fork, CO. About 20 miles into today we passed the spot where we bailed and from then on everything was new. I don’t regret that decision in ‘17. We were going significantly slower than anticipated and we were running out of food. Plus I really enjoyed our adventure into Platoro. The trail beyond that spot was easy today but had it been covered in snow it would have been dicey at best and definitely slow going.

Five miles later we found a flat spot to camp above the Canejos River. Carrying on a little further would have been nice but we’d be camping higher up. The altitude is definitely affecting both of us more than we expected. Tonight we’re at 11,300 feet.

8/13/19…..CDT Mile 861.8…..27.9 miles

We were on a bit of a mission today. Originally this section would have consisted of a nice and relaxed pace for 3 days into town but because of the storm on Sunday it threw everything out of whack. We got up and moving by 6 am and had all day to do the miles.

Camping beside a river has its drawbacks, like the fly of the tent was soaked with condensation this morning, but enjoying the sunrise in this valley was incredible as we began walking. It was a tough climb up and out of the valley and at the top I quickly went the wrong way and got my feet wet. The elk had an easier time, they were running along ridges and bugling and all hanging out together(forget what I said about rutting season). We saw a herd of about 50 of them. From the ridge above the valley we contoured around a few beefy peaks and had a couple of snow crossings, one of which was pretty scary and another one where we had to do a controlled glissade.

As we got closer to Elwood Pass, we saw a little more life than usual. There were a couple other day hikers out there and two guys from the forest service looking for and counting big horn sheep(tough job, counting sheep will put you to sleep. I so wish I thought of that joke when I saw them). They saw as many as we did; zero.

From Elwood Pass it felt like we were getting away from the big mountains for a bit and the trail became a little faster. We walked through Wolf Creek Ski Area in the evening and then down to Wolf Creek Pass where we put our thumbs out.

Holly was driving the second car to pass us and she pulled over and pushed all her kayak stuff around to make room. She spent the last 5 days kayaking in Buena Vista, CO and told us about her plan to retire young, live mobile, and paddle and ski all over the place. Sounds fun! Holly brought us down to Pagosa Springs where we got a motel room for the night. We’ve got friends, Garbelly and Critter, joining us here tomorrow and we’ll most likely get back on trail with them the following morning.

Since I’m back in Massachusetts and in between longer, more complex trips I’m trying to take on some adventures closer to home this summer. Including trying to section hike the Long Trail in Vermont.

The Long Trail goes the length of the state starting and ending either on the Massachusetts or Canadian Border. In 2015 I hiked the first 105 miles from North Adams, MA to where it splits with the Appalachian Trail near Killington. Again in 2016 while hiking the entirety of the AT I walked these same 105 miles. So instead of walking the whole trail again I figure I just pick off different sections when I get a chance. Plus, as a little side project, I’m trying to climb all 67 of New England’s 4000 foot peaks and the LT goes over all of Vermont’s.

This week QB and I had a few days off so we drove up from Lynn to Lincoln Gap Tuesday evening and slept in the car right at the trailhead. Over the winter I picked up an Outback and converted the back of it into something of an RV. I really just took 2 full size memory foam mattress toppers, doubled them up, and cut them to fit in the back of the car with the seats down. Now I have a rolling bedroom with excellent gas mileage and all wheel drive. It’s perfect for sleeping at trailhead parking lots and it’s super cozy.

6/13/15

Montclair Glen Lodge

21 miles

This morning, right after crawling out of the hatchback of my bedroom, I saw two old time Long Trail hikers taking a break about a hundred feet away at Lincoln Gap. The first thing they did was ask QB if an empty plastic water bottle on the ground belonged to her. Yeah buddy, we drove all the way up here, walked over to the trail, threw some trash on the ground, then went to sleep in our car. The other guy then asked us if we heard the weather report, supposed to be rain later. Then he told us about the black flies, complained to his buddy about almost getting struck by lightning one time, whined about some blowdowns and complained about something else but I stopped listening. I thanked him for the bad news and QB and I got out of there as soon as we could, walking north from Lincoln Gap towards Canada.

A few miles into the day and we were on top of Mt Abraham and then a little later on top of Mt Ellen, both 4000+ feet. We also walked by the summits of a few ski resorts; Sugarbush and Mad River Glen(ski it if you can). A day hiker directed us off trail towards the ruins of a plane crash from the 70’s. It was just a pile of scrap metal but I guess when it happened the pilot rescued himself by walking down the trail to the road to get help. The trail itself today was slow going, rocky with steep climbs and drops. In the afternoon it rained some making those rocks slippery and slowing us down. It was exactly how I remembered hiking in Vermont. “I guess that’s why they call it VerMUD” I said to QB over and over. We got to one section where a sign warned us, “the next 5 miles could take 4-5 hours” it didn’t take us quite that long but it sure was some slow walking.

In the evening we got to the Montclair Glen Lodge(this was a good sized shelter enclosed on all 4 sides and was equipped with a ‘bearricade’). At the shelter we met Nate and Mountain Goat. Both of these guys are on their first thru hike and cruising north on the Long Trail.

6/14/18

Taylor Lodge

24 miles

What a day! And not really in a good way. I mean it wasn’t all bad it just kinda rained all day.

When we left the lodge this morning we were only a few miles shy of Camel’s Hump. This is Vermont’s second highest peak and has a large rocky exposed summit. Once we got above tree line the rocks were slippery in the rain and the winds were whipping. QB and I toyed with the idea of taking the safer ‘bad weather’ route that skirts the summit. Re-routing was just a fleeting thought and we would miss the excitement of being on top of the ‘Hump’ in some gnarly weather. Plus we’re trying to complete the 4000 footers, skipping the summit defeats the purpose.

We got up and over Camel’s Hump and dropped way down to a valley containing the mighty Winooski River. After crossing the river we spent the rest of the day climbing higher and higher while walking through the long green tunnel. Even though I’d only been out here a couple days I felt as if I was months into a thru hike. I stunk, I was soaking wet, I was tired, I was physically uncomfortable and we had miles to go before laying down for the night. It was great!

It drizzled all afternoon and everything was wet, now I know why they call it ‘VerMud’(QB’s heard that stupid joke enough over the last few days). We got to a lean to shelter around 6:30 right when the heavy stuff was starting to come down and decided to press on. What’s another 3 miles in the pouring rain?

Once we got to Taylor lodge(a huge shelter) we changed out of our wet clothes and ate warm bowls of macaroni and cheese with bacon bits. Comfort food doing just what it’s supposed to do.

6/15/18

Smuggler’s Notch rt 108

9 miles

While eating breakfast we caught up with Nate who also stayed at Taylor Lodge last night. This kid is crushing the LT and when he finishes in a couple days he’ll probably have done it under 2 weeks. From Taylor lodge there was only a few miles to the top of Mt Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. Getting there, however, was tricky and when we left the shelter it still felt like we were walking through a cloud. The top of Mansfield is this huge, rocky ridge line and once we were up top the sky cleared up and we had some sweet views. It really was a great day up there.

We took our time getting down and in the early afternoon made it to rt 108 or Smuggler’s Notch. After a couple minutes of walking with our thumbs out, this woman Elyse pulled over and drove us into the town of Stowe where we ate some lunch and the girl at the cafe gave me a free cookie for dancing. From Stowe we quickly got a ride another 10 miles to the Cabot Cheese store in Waterbury where I tried about 20 different samples of cheese. We put our thumbs out there and got picked up by the first car that saw us. The driver, Rob, had a Cohos Trail sticker on the back and come to find out he holds the FKT record for the 165 mile trail in northern NH. Rob, an Ultrarunner, told us about a bunch of cool stuff he’s been up to like running the 90 mile Cross Vermont Bike Trail and preparing for the Vermont 100. He also works for the GMC(Green Mountain Club) that maintains the Long Trail and decided to drive us about an hour all the way back to our car. Thanks Rob!

It was a great little trip and hopefully I’ll get a chance to finish the Long Trail soon.

May 5th and 6th…..Pokhara, Nepal

The Mardi Himal Base Camp Trek is a relatively new trekking route that’s only been open for about 5 or 6 years. It starts in Phedi at 3,700 feet and goes up to the Base Camp at 14,500 feet. The peak itself for Mardi Himal is around 18,200 feet. Since we only have 3 days we’ll try to get as close to Base Camp as possible in a day and a half and then head back to the city. It’s doable to get there if we’re hustling and also if the weather and our health are working in our favor.World Peace Pagoda, Pokhara

We left Besi Sahar en route to Pokhara on May 5th and for awhile our chances of getting to our destination didn’t look good. There was a nationwide transportation strike and the buses weren’t running that day so we paid 4,000 rupees each and rented a Jeep. Before getting out of town we were stopped by the Nepal police and got a special escort along with some other jeeps, something to do with Maoist politics, I didn’t understand it. A half hour later our driver couldn’t shift gears anymore and we broke down so the escort moved along without us. The transmission line shit the bed so we waited on the side of the road for a half hour until 2 guys on a scooter pulled up with the part and an hour later we were good to go again. This is when our driver told us there was a roadblock 15 km ahead and we probably wouldn’t be able to get through and would have to try again tomorrow, again something to do with Maoist politics that I didn’t understand. Luckily there was no roadblock and all it did was get my nerves up. A few hours later we got into Pokhara. There were lots of people bombing around on scooters and motorcycles and there were cows running around in the street. Just as I was thinking, ‘one of these cows is about to get waffled by one of these scooters’ one of the cows got waffled by one of the scooters. It was gruesome. A few minutes later we got dropped off into the Lakeside area of Pokhara(Lakeside is the tourist section of town). Pokhara is the 2nd biggest city in Nepal and is described by Wikipedia as more ‘mystical’ than Kathmandu and only had roads going to it for the last 50 years. I thought the town seemed more modern than Kathmandu and also had the highest concentration of dreadlocked white people that I’ve ever seen. We spent a couple days relaxing and regrouping in Pokhara. It was so nice to shower and do laundry and then just chill out for a little while with no place to be. I liked Pokhara. We explored the Lakeside neighborhood, walked along Lake Fewa, took a yoga class, went on a trip up to the World Peace Pagoda overlooking the lake, and of course ate lots of food. Now to the Mardi Himal trek.

May 7th…..Humal(Low Camp)….elev 9797 feet

This morning we took a cab about a half hour from the Crystal Palace hotel in Pokhara to the village of Phedi where we started our trek. From Phedi to Dahmpus the trail was a stone staircase the whole way. It took us up almost 2000 feet in elevation over the course of an hour. Stairs are fun, I’d climb stairs all day if I could(QB said she’ll count the stairs on the way back, we’ll see). Oh it was hot out too and wicked humid, I was quickly drenched with sweat. Once up in Dahmpus the temperature cooled a little bit but we were basically walking inside a cloud the whole day. An hour or so later we got to the village of Pothana where they had a checkpost to check our permits. We thought our Annapurna permits were still good but the fine print said they were ‘single entry only’ and since we had left the Annapurna region and then came back they were no longer valid. Because of this little guffaw on our part, we had to pay double the entry fee for new permits at the checkpost: 4500 rupees each, womp womp womp…Not the end of the world but had we noticed this yesterday we could have easily taken care of it in Pokhara for the regular permit price of 2250. From Pothana we walked steadily uphill through a rainforest or jungle the rest of the day. There wasn’t much for views of the mountains because of the cloud we were inside of but the fog gave a really cool look to the jungle. It was very green and there were lots of big moss covered trees. By the end of the day we got to Humal, aka Low Camp, ate a meal and crashed out for the night. Low Camp doesn’t really seem like a village but just a lodge catering to us and the few other trekkers here.

May 8th….Pothana…..elev. 6525 feet

We got a good start this morning and around 6:30, right after we wolfed down our oatmeal, we were walking uphill. The first half hour we climbed steadily through a rhododendron maze from Low Camp to Middle Camp. Once up at Middle Camp we were on a ridge above tree line and had fantastic views. We could see Annapurna South, Imchuli Peak, and the never before climbed Machhapuchhre AKA Fishtail Peak. It was amazing. I also was lucky enough to see a pair of Nepal’s National Birds; the very colorful Himalayan Monal(I didn’t get a picture but google them, they were wicked cool). I can only describe them to her as mountain peacocks. We walked for another hour and a half until we got to High Camp at 11,800 feet, where we stopped for tea. From High Camp to Base Camp was supposed to be a 2+ hour walk but the clouds had really started to roll in. We walked for about 40 minutes and when the mountains were all socked in we decided to turn around. It was pointless to me to keep walking towards Base Camp without anymore views, but what we saw was awesome. I think the best way to do this hike would be to get to High Camp in the evening and camp there, then in the morning wake up early while it’s hopefully clear and go back and forth to Base Camp. Or you could just do what we did, that was fun too.

From our turn around point we cruised down to Middle Camp then to Low Camp where we had lunch and another hour to Forest Camp. We walked downhill all afternoon through the jungle and then heard a crack of thunder and moments later were being pelted with hail. Good thing for the tree cover, we didn’t get it too bad. We did wait out the rest of the storm when we got to Deurali and then walked another half hour to Pothana and found a teahouse to spend the night.

May 9th…..Back in Pokhara

Holy Mackerel! Crazy thunderstorms overnight last night. I woke up in the middle of the night and didn’t know what the hell was going on, I thought the sheet metal roof of the teahouse was about to fly into outer space. It didn’t though, and I quickly fell back asleep and woke up in Pothana to a nice clear morning with views of Fishtail Peak. After eating our porridge we spent a little over an hour walking down to and through the rather sprawling village of Dahmpus and from there started the massive staircase to Phedi. QB counted the steps on the way down the staircase, 2803, I didn’t even try. Immediately while in Phedi a bus came by and we jumped on. 50 rupees to Pokhara(that’s not a lot of rupees). I’d been wanting to ride one of these buses just to see what it was like, it really didn’t look that enjoyable and it wasn’t, but I was intrigued. It was jam packed and even though I was descending all morning I was still soaked through with sweat and I’m sure I stunk so I definitely wasn’t helping the situation. The bus really wasn’t too bad but a 1 hour ride from Phedi to Pokhara was enough for me. I’d rather not travel all day on one of these. Once back in Pokhara we enjoyed a nice little day here; eating momos and Indian food, taking yoga and walking up and down Lakeside running into a handful of people we met up in the mountains.

Tomorrow we’re taking a short flight from here to Kathmandu then spending a couple days in the big city until we fly back to the US. It’s been quite a trip and Nepal lived up to the hype and then some. This is a magical place and I will be looking forward to the day I come back. Until then if you have any questions about traveling to Nepal or any of these treks feel free to contact me and maybe I can help you out. And of course follow me on insta @endlesspsummer if you’d like.