Day 20: 4.8 miles to Little Swift River Pond campsite.
Our stay at the Hiker Hut was blissful. We woke up to the sound of the rushing stream and enjoyed some tea with the owners of the Hut. Instead of hitting the trail early, we hitched back into town for some more food and a stop at the post office. We managed to catch a hitch into town with a local artist who owns an art gallery on the main road. After spending some time in the gallery, we cozied up in a coffee shop and did work online updating the blog, posting to Instagram, dowloading audio books, and calling some family members.
Our early dinner was a highly anticipated serving of Pad Thai and veggie lo mein plus blueberry soda. We caught a hitch back to the Hiker Hut and hung out on the porch for our tramily (trail family) to arrive. We had been hoping to rejoin them and were excited they were so close behind.
While waiting, Levi happened to find some shoes on the porch that had belonged to a former hiker–a hiker who decided the shoes weren’t for him and ‘hiker boxed’ them. Turns out, they fit Levi perfectly! In turn, he ‘hiker boxed’ the shoes he had picked up in Monson which weren’t in bad shape but fit poorly. Our first trail magic! Shortly after that, one of the Hut owners gifted us a leather-bound journal as a wedding gift. Sadly, by the time our tramily arrived the Hut was all booked up. They got a bit of trail magic themselves and ended up staying in the home of one of the business owners in town. We hit the trail in the late afternoon for a short hike in an effort to allow our tramily to catch us the next day.
Day 21: 9.2 miles to Bemis Stream Campsite
Levi and I made it to Sabbath Day pond lean-to 5 miles from where we started the day by about noon. The shelter was seated on a hill above a pond which hosted some playful water-dwelling salamanders (maybe?). We stretched out, ate some lunch, and were filtering water when our tramily arrived.
Our tramily includes six others who also started the trail on June 13th. We call ourselves the 613s and we are probably the current largest south-bound “bubble” (grouping of thru-hikers).
After lunch, we decided we had plenty left in the tank and continued on to the Bemis Stream Campsite.
Day 22: 12.4 miles to South Arm Road
We started our day with a climb to the peak of Bemis Mountain, hung out on the ridgeline for most of the day, then summited Old Blue in the afternoon. Old Blue may be our least favorite mountain so far. I don’t remember details (I think I’ve blocked them out), but the ascent was moderately rough and the descent was pure torture. It was a 2k descent over 2 miles, but the campsite wasn’t that far past the bottom.
As we were soaking our limbs in the stream, we met Yukon, the owner of the newly minted Human Nature Hostel, and three time participant on the TV series Naked and Afraid. He was doing his daily runs in the area to transport hikers to his hostel, and while we weren’t planning on staying until the next evening, it was great to meet him.
Day 23: 10.1 miles to East B Hill Rd to stay at Human Nature Hostel
With a shower and laundry in our minds we hiked over Moody Mtn. and Wyman Mtn.
Our stay at the Human Nature Hostel was great! It is a brand new geodesic dome hostel (Yukon did not want to be ‘boxed in’) with a bunkroom in the basement which maintains a 60-70* temperature year-round. We all took showers, did laundry, and got shuttled to all-you-can-eat Mexican dinner.
Day 24: 4.5 miles to Frye Notch Lean-to.
Although we had hoped to hit the trail in the morning, our AYCE Mexican replaced the evening Wal-Mart shuttle and most of us needed to hit Walmart in the morning. Walmart is a dangerous place after nearly a month without one. However, Kristen managed to not break the bank too badly.
On our way we also met up with some other SOBOs who started the day before us. We crossed over Dunn Falls (only soaked one of four feet!) and the hike to the campsite wasn’t too bad. Despite a clear forecast the wind was howling all afternoon and through the night.
Day 25: 12.8 miles to tentsite between Mahoosuc Arm and notch
As we journeyed across the Baldpates, we came across a NOBO who appeared to be drowning in quicksand. He was actually just manuvering across an alpine bog, but without the help of a plank bridge. He was sunk down to his hip, but managed to make it through. We found another route around it.
After tackling the Baldpates we went down into Grafton Notch, and then up over Old Speck (another 4k peak). The descent from Old Speck is know as the Mahoosuc Arm, a notoriously steep stretch with large granite faces leading up to the “hardest” or “funnest” mile on the AT, the Mahoosuc Notch. We took it slow and camped at a site close to Mahoosuc Notch with plans to traverse it in the morning.
Day 26: 7.1 miles to Carlo Col Shelter
The Notch was a BLAST! It was basically a boulder jungle gym. There wasn’t a set path through the Notch, just an occasional blaze of encouragement. Beneath some of the boulders there was still lingering snow and ice from the winter. We took off our packs a few times to squeeze through rock tunnels. The whole endeavor took just over 2 hours.
The remainder of the day was spent summiting 4 peaks and traversing alpine bogs. We spent our first night in a double-decker shelter at the Carlo Col campsite.
Day 27: 16.1 miles across the border to Gorham
To Kristen’s delight, the boulder scrambling a là Mahoosuc Notch continued just after our campsite. I guess Maine wanted to welcome or bid adieu to it’s hikers in style. Less than .5 miles into our day we crossed the Maine- New Hampshire border!
Aside from a short struggle up Mt. Success, New Hampshire showed us something that we hadn’t seen in awhile–easy terrain. It was a long day, but not a particularly challenging one. We found a tent site by the river right outside of Gorham and settled in for the night.
Day 28: .9 miles to Gorham
After hiking in the wilderness for a month it was strange to be walking on the shoulder of a road. We passed a broken dam, houses, buildings, street lamps, a short bridge, and a railroad track. Things so common in everyday life seemed so out of place.
We arranged to be picked up at a gravel parking lot by the owners of the Barn, a hostel in Gorham. The owners showed up in a pair of old tanks; a White Cadillac with duct tape tail lights and blue-leather interior and a burgundy Mercury to match. Both trunks could fit at least three dead bodies, and they both squealed from the breaks, tires, and probably everything else. We had our own hiker-trash entourage.
Day 29: Zero day at The Barn
The Barn is the longest running hostel in New Hampshire. It is connected to Libby House BnB and is run by a great guy named Paul (whose cousin runs the BnB). The Barn has two floors: the first has a bathroom/shower, kitchen, laundry area, pool table, sitting area, and a bed; the second has what seemed like a hundred beds of varying sizes spread across the loft. We enjoyed all Gorham had to offer. Highlights include Dynasty Buffet (all you can eat for $10), fudge and an ice cream sandwich, access to Walmart, a cool sensory garden at the local park, lots of moose statues, and a post office to ship home 6 lbs. of unneeded gear. We sent home our leaking sleeping pads and bought new ones at a local gear shop. We also received some exciting items in the mail: a resupply box from Mom Sawl, a box of pecans and chex-mix from Aunt Dana, and Kristen’s new shoes and P-style from Amazon. It was a fabulous day of relaxing and ended with a homemade cake!