Hey, Walker here! I’m sitting at the computer in the luxurious Pine Ellis Lodge in Andover, Maine. Okay, it’s not that luxurious really, just a hiker hostel in someone’s home. But it’s a very nice home and it’s got everything I need and Andover has a nice general store with a diner, so I’m set for food.
Speaking of food, I weighed myself here at the hostel and I weigh 158, which is only four pounds less than I weighed when I was in Lexington (and about the same as I weighed in the tenth grade). I feel pretty good about that. I know some of you are concerned that I’m losing too much weight but I’m really trying hard to eat as much as possible. It’s just that I’m burning so many calories! Anyway, only a couple of weeks left and I have some good opportunities to hit trail towns every few days. That’s where I can really eat a lot.
Speaking of ‘a lot’, a lot has happened since my phone died (drowned actually) on July 11th. Let me try to fill you in briefly with the highlights:
– I hiked Mounts Moosalauke, Lincoln and Lafayette on July 9-10. The weather wasn’t great but it was pretty awesome being on the peaks of those high mountains.
– July 10th was my 56th birthday and the Princess sent me a nice gift that I have hanging from my backpack. It’s beach sand from the Outer Banks that was struck by lightning and melted into an interesting shape. It’s small, of course, and is a great little gift to have with me. On the 9th I had met a 26 year old Frenchman named Charles at the Garfield Ridge Campsite. He lives in Montreal now and hikes in the the White Mountains frequently. We hiked together a little bit on the 10th and he gave me a homemade energy bar as a birthday gift. So it was a good birthday. I know some of you might have left voicemails for me on the phone. Hopefully I can recover those when I get back but even if I can’t, thanks a lot for thinking of me.
– July 11th was a rough day, at least until late afternoon. The weather was terrible and it is the only time I’ve been somewhat concerned about my safety. I had to hike an exposed ridge (can’t remember the name) and it was pouring and the wind was howling. I think that’s when I got so wet my phone drowned. I fell once and completely broke one of my hiking poles which was a bummer because I really needed it. But I just kept going with the one pole and made it to Lakes of the Clouds Hut where I had made a reservation to stay for the night. (A birthday present to myself.) At the hut I met Sarah, the naturalist on staff, who is from Fredericksburg, Virginia, graduated from WIlliam & Mary, and has attended Nature Camp in Vesuvius for years. She knows the Irby family from Lexington very well through Nature Camp. So it was another small world story.
– Also at Lakes of the Clouds I met three great guys from Michigan – Eric and Craig, who are long-time friends, and Eric’s son Ben, who is a rising high school senior. They were hiking a section of the White Mountains and I had the good fortune to meet them and hike with them for a couple of days. They are very strong hikers and the time I spent with them is one of the highlights of my trip. We were only together for a couple of days but I feel like we’re old friends. Eric and Craid do a hike every summer so I hope to join them in the future. It would be great if they come down to Virginia to hike a section of the AT and I can go with them.
– On July 12th Eric, Craig, Ben, and I summited Mount Washington on a rare gorgeous day. We were in shorts and t-shirts and had 360 degree views for 90 miles. It was amazing. After Mount Washington we followed the AT to Mount Madison and then descended the long, long ridge to the Osgood Campsite. We were above treeline for most of the day. It was a fantastic day – I think the best day I’ve had on the AT so far.
– On Saturday the 13th we did a quick five mile hike to the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, had a huge breakfast (Craig said it was an $8 breakfast for which we paid $14), then got the shuttle into Gorham where they had left Craig’s car. We all got rooms at a hotel in town, checked out the town, did our hiker chores then went out to dinner at pub called ‘Saalt’ for burgers and good craft beer.
– On Sunday, the 15th Eric, Craig and Ben dropped me off early at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and started their sixteen hour drive back to Michigan. I had planned a demanding nineteen mile hike that included about eight different peaks and ended at the Rattle River Shelter. It took me eleven hours to cover those nineteen miles, but at least I got to bed before the guys got back to Michigan.
– On Monday the 15th I had a fairly easy hike to Gentian Pond Shelter and it was good to rest my legs. I needed that because on the 16th I had a long, long day that ended with Mahoosuc Knotch and Mahoosuc Arm. The Notch was fun, like playing in a boulder playground. It took me an hour and a half to cover the one mile of “the toughest mile on the AT”. For me the toughest part was hiking Mahoosuc Arm, which is a tall mountain, after finishing the Notch. I can tell you that I was very happy to reach Speck Pond Campsite, my destination for the day. I do believe that was my toughest day hiking so far. Thankfully the weather was beautiful.
– Today I hike a quick fifteen miles to a trailhead where David, who manages Pine Ellis, picked me up. Surprisingly I felt very strong with no lingering fatigue from the previous day. On the hike today I met Inch Worm and at the hostel I met her husband, George, who is following Inch Worm on the trail. They are very nice people from Nashville and we’re going out to dinner in a little while.
– The next two days are both about fifteen mile days and I will spend Friday night in Rangely Lakes. Many years ago, early in my Navy career, I went to a survival school in Rangely called SERE School. It was a unique experience and I hope my next visit to Rangely is much more pleasant! I’ll let you know.
I am really sorry that my iPhone drowned in the rainstorm, especially since I am not able to do my daily posting on the blog. The Princess has done a great job of putting the important details on the blog and I appreciate that. I will continue to post when I have access to a computer.
I appreciate all of the positive comments and the good vibes that you are sending me. They will help power me through the rest of the trip!