The stretch between Franconia Notch and Pinkham Notch was easily one of my favorite sections up to this point on the trail. The weather FINALLY decided to cooperate! Cold, rain, and fog gave way to sunny skies with temperatures in the low 70s. After such a long stretch of rain, I was elated to hike one of the trail's most iconic sections in perfect weather.
Hiking Franconia Ridge lived up to its reputation. I was finally able to see the views, and now I understood the hype the White Mountains get. Hiking above tree line feels exhilarating. The wind on the 3 mile exposed ridgeline was powerful and I had to lean hard to one side to keep from being blown over. The intense winds forced me to put on my jacket and seek refuge behind the rocks when I decided to take a break. I absolutely loved it! I can't describe it, but I feel so alive and free standing on an exposed mountain and being battered by the wind. The wind brings about a calm rage that seems appropriate in such a wild environment. Franconia Ridge I will be back!
After Franconia Ridge I descended to quickly climb Mt Garfield. I reached the summit surprisingly quick, but the descent was brutal. The trail literally became a water fall for about a quarter mile. I'm not to keen on the downhills but I love the technical climbs. I ended the day at Galehead Hut, my first experience doing work for stay at a hut. Up to four thru-hikers a night can do a few chores in exchange for leftovers and a space on the floor to sleep. While the guests ate dinner, Nothing Stuck, Dr. Jekyll, and I sat on the front porch chatting about the glorious day as the sun set over the mountains.
Easily, one of my top 3 favorite on trail occurred two days later. It also proved to be my most physically demanding day. I hiked about 18 miles from Crawford Notch, up Wesbter Cliffs and Mt. Washington, and over the Presidential Range to Madison Springs Hut. Yes, a couple weeks ago I had been averaging 20 or more miles a day with no problem. The White Mountains are another story. The terrain is rough and the trail can be incredibly steep, slowing down my hiking pace to where all of a sudden, 15 miles in a day seemed daunting. So I knew that hiking 18 miles with 8,000 feet of elevation gain would take everything I had. I thought about splitting this section up into two days, but the weather was iffy the next day.
The day started with a pretty significant climb up Webster Cliffs. Here, I met Sleepyhead and Target. We would leap frog each other for the next several days. I stopped by Mizpah and Lake of the Clouds Huts to get water and eat breakfast leftovers. At Lake of the Clouds, I had a decision to make. Stop for the day or hike up and over Mt. Washington to Madison Springs Hut. I still had about 10 more miles and it was already afternoon. If I pushed it, I could trek through this exposed alpine by dark. The weather was absolutely perfect and I felt compelled to hike up and over Mt. Washington. It was well worth it.
I got to the base of Mt Washington at 2:30. Getting over the Presidential Range by dark would be difficult, but the weather was so nice I just had to keep going. The space between Mt Washington and Mt Madison felt the most remote and wild of all the AT so far. That's probably in part because I was the only person traversing the rocky trail that time of day. But it really is a rugged, wild place. I felt infinitely small, a grasshopper hopping my way from boulder to boulder. But there's a mysterious sense of life that animates the soul in such rugged beauty. I stood on the edge of a cliff, monsters of pure wild rising from the depths around me and creating a bowl that dropped down thousands of feet below. I couldn't help but yell, echoes reverberating through this miles wide chasm, where nothing exists yet everything lives. The sun lay low in the sky, as if giving one last glance over the shoulder at the approaching night. I emerged from the heights under a canvas of color, muscles aching, utterly exhausted and forever changed.
Just ahead of me on the trail, I spotted two hikers. I eventually caught up to them on our way to Madison Springs Hut and learned their names were Gin•Gin and Ghost. Since the work for stay slots were already full, we ended up doing work for sleep (not getting any food). Oh well, at least we didn't have to night hike.
The sun was setting and the three of us sat outside talking about the life giving wild of the day. Gin•Gin and Ghost heard my yells and were excited that someone else felt the same way they did. The painted sky soon gave way to unknown multitudes of stars. I felt small and spellbound. At that moment, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
I am a filmmaker. I am an adventurer. I believe in children. My friends are obsessed with my beard. I am obsessed with beer. I want to embrace and fully live this life I’m blessed with. I want to be known as someone who loves deeply.
On May 16, 2017 I set out on my dream, the adventure of a lifetime: a 2,189.8 mile trek of the Appalachian Trail. I want to push people to live their dreams and pursue their passions.