Nina Baxley: AT Thru-Hiker
AT miles hiked: 345.0
AT miles remaining: 1,822.1
Location: Crawford Notch, New Hampshire (White Mountains)
Greetings from the foggy, rainy, and cold White Mountains! I'm currently at Crawford Hostel in Crawford Notch, about three miles from the AT.
Although I'm hiking the AT solo, it's been fun meeting other hikers and hiking with them for stretches. Most of my"trail family" (Matt, Blue Skies, Tenbrooks, OD, and Bugbiter) have gotten ahead of me, but Isis, Jackrabbit, and I decided we wanted to stick together through the Whites. It's been a different experience to hike with partners. We have a great time together; we laugh about a lot of the same things, we read Harry Potter aloud at night, and we support each other during when we're feeling low.
It's been easy to feel low these past few days. We're in one of the most spectacular sections of the AT, and it's done nothing but rain since our second day in the White Mountains. I don't mind the rainbeing from south Louisiana, I'm used to itbut the slippery rocks are getting to me! It makes hiking so slow and painstaking, and it seems that no matter how slowly or carefully I step, I still manage to flying down the rocks several times a day.
Going up Mount Webster, I had another one of my famous falls. There was a group of dayhikers nearby, but I just yelled out a really bad word, threw my poles down, and buried my head in my arms. Yes, I threw a bit of a tantrum! Once the shocked dayhikers had left, I just started crying. I was so tired of slipping and falling. After Isis and Jackrabbit tried to console me with kind words, Isis said, very seriously,"This situation calls for chocolate."
She got out a bar of dark chocolate, we ate it, and we moved on.
Sometimes I really enjoy having hiking partners!
Yesterday, as we descended into Crawford Notch, and I suffered my third or fourth fall of the day, I decided to invent a new sport: rock skiing. In rock skiing, the brave daredevil wears slippery hiking boots and slides down wet rocks at unbelievable speeds. An athlete can get points for speed, grace, style, colorful language (volume and word choice), and duration of slide. Because I am the estimated champion rock skier on the AT, I have been given the title,"Waterfall Rockski, the Lady Slipper."
Isis and Jackrabbit have contributed several definitions to the new sport of rock skiing. All of these moves are applicable to all forms of extreme hiking, including rock skiing.
The Piscataquis Pirouette: This is when a hiker grabs a near piece of vegetation and spins around 180 degrees while descending a deep slope.
The Nesuntabunt 5-Wheel Drive: This is when a hiker uses hands, feet, and rear end to descend a large rock or drop-off. The Nesuntabunt 5-Wheel Drive can be intentional or unintentional. A hiker is penalized if the move is unintentional, but can still receive points for colorful language (volume and word choice).
The Slugundy Slide: This is when a hiker descends a steep, muddy slope very quickly without moving their feet. A time saving method of travel, I have, on occasion, increased my daily mileage with this move.
Isis and Jackrabbit are so much fun to hike with. To ward off the rain, they wear their pack covers at all times when hiking even if there are no clouds in the sky. Apparently, there is a poltergeist on the AT named Murphy, whose name comes from "Murphy's Law," which says, "If anything, can go wrong, it willat the worst possible moment. One form of the law is that, if you prepare for something, it won't happen. If you don't prepare for it, it will.
Hence the wearing of the pack covers. By preparing for rain, the sisters hope to trick Murphy into making it sunny. You see, one of Murphy's favorite practical jokes is to open the skies and dump rain on unsuspecting hikers. Isis and Jackrabbit swear by the effectiveness of the pack cover approach. At least they did until last week!
Ever since Grafton Notch in Maine, we have been in "AMC Territory." The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) maintains the section of the AT between Grafton Notch and Kinsman Notch. The AMC does an excellent job of maintaining the AT and surrounding trails, and they are strong advocates of conservation and protection of the environment.
The AMC has a series of "huts" and $6 tent sites throughout the White Mountains. The huts, which are operated by a "croo" of college-aged kids, are for the benefit of vacationers paying $65 or so a night for a bunk, a toilet, a few meals, and the opportunity to spend time hiking these beautiful mountains. The AMC has very strict rules and regulations regarding camping overnight in the Whites. There is no camping above treeline, no camping within 1/4 mile of huts, shelters, or tent sites, and no camping within 200 feet of the trail. A thruhiker's choices are very limited, particularly when it's late, the weather is bad, and the hiker is above treeline, miles from a safe place to camp.
A thruhiker who wants to stay in a hut can try to get "work for stay." We did work for stay at Madison Springs Hut; in return for serving food, washing dishes, cleaning tables, and sweeping out the place for dinner and breakfast, we slept on their tables. Because we weren't able to hit the trail until nearly 10:00 the next morning, we decided to avoid the work-for-stay option in the future. Isis, Jackrabbit, and I are painfully slow hikers, and depend on getting an early start (7:00) in order to hike eight or nine miles before the afternoon showers hit.
Generally, we end up camping at the nearest flat spot we can find, except for the night we had to camp at the Mount Washington summit building because it was late and the weather was too bad to hike further. We feel a little bit like non-members at a members-only club called the White Mountains. We are looking forward to leaving AMC Territory, when we can plan our mileage and destinations more easily.
My next update will be from Hanover, New Hampshire. Having spent much of my life in Baton Rouge, I'm looking forward to being in a college town again!
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication