With my hike over, I’ve been busy organizing all of the photos I took on trail. It’s been a great way to reflect and relive my adventure. In an effort to make up for the large lapses in my blog when I was too busy hiking and eating and sleeping to write, I decided to fill in the gaps by answering some popular questions I now get asked.
Q: It all looked so great! What was your favorite section of the trail?
A: The White Mountains, NH.
The Whites cover a little over 100 miles, making up the majority of the trail in New Hampshire. Aside from Killington Peak in Vermont, The Whites are the first time since Virginia that the Appalachian Trail exceeds 4,000ft elevation. Even more special to the elevation is the effect it has when combined with the latitude of New Hampshire: 4,000ft is now the alpine zone, where trees cannot grow due to an extremely harsh environment year-round.
The Whites led us up the trail (including rock scrambles, rock slabs, mud, and roots) to many 4,000ft peaks and ridge lines lasting for miles, with views lasting for exponentially more miles. It was challenging and forced everyone’s mileage to slow down, but the slower pace allowed us to soak up the views morning, noon, and night. I mastered layering for hiking in the alpine terrain with strong winds and fierce sun, to hiking in the tree-protected, warm and cozy notches. (Well, I didn’t win against the sun– I got pretty burnt giving me the marks of a true hiker: the glorious sock tan.)
The terrain was only the base of the perfect trail recipe. I had the perfect hiking weather, a rarity in the fierce and relentless Whites. Most importantly, the trail placed some wonderful people in the mountains with me. I got to hike through it with many thru hikers, section hikers, and day hikers. Most notably I had Velveeta, Minnie Mouse, Bunyan, Trinity, and MacGyver to share the trail and views with.
A special part to the trail exclusively in the Whites are the Appalachian Mountain Club Huts. (AMC is commonly referred to the Appalachian Money Club by thru hikers.) There are 9 huts along the Appalachian Trail that cater towards (rich) backpackers planning on staying 1-5 nights in the Whites. They are buildings in the back country that have bunks for people willing to pay that includes a hot dinner and breakfast with stay. To accommodate (cheap) thru hikers unwilling to fork over an arm and a leg, they offer work-for-stay. This allows a few thru hikers at each hut to sleep on the dining tables and eat leftovers in exchange for a chore around the hut. Other choices for camping in the Whites are confined to designated campsites (also costing money), or stealth camping wherever you find a good spot for your tent (free!). I took advantage of free stealth camping, work for stay one night at the famous Lake of the Clouds Hut, and eating cold leftovers from the day before at huts as I passed through during the day. A well fed hiker is a happy hiker!
Enough of explaining why– you have to see why the Whites trumped all other sections. The pictures don’t do it justice. If you ever find time to travel to the Whites, even just for a day hike, I highly recommend it! (Scroll over each photo for a caption.)