July 18, 2013
Today’s mileage: 14.8
Total mileage: 1809.8
The Whites don’t mess around. These are some serious mountains here in New Hampshire.
After the huge storm that rolled through last night, we both didn’t sleep well. We left the shelter around 7:30 and started off our day with a really steep downhill. The rocks were wet from the rain and some of the trail had become a stream overnight. We had to very careful, so it took us a lot longer to get down to the road than we had planned. But, we were rewarded for our efforts with sodas from Sit-a-Bit, who had left trail magic at the road. Thanks for the trail magic!
The climb up to Mt. Wolf wasn’t the toughest that we’ll encounter, but we had a rough time anyways. We usually stop to eat every 6 of 7 miles, so today we planned no differently. However, I was hungry earlier than that, so that put me in a bad mood. I was determined to reach the top of the mountain before stopping, so I kept going, climbing up rock after rock. I was so tired by the time we reached the top, I could have stopped right there for the day.
I felt better after we ate and rested, munching on Goldfish as I looked out towards the Presidential Range. What a view we had from Mt. Wolf! The mountains looked daunting, but we felt ready to conquer them. We stopped to fill up on water at Eliza Brook Shelter before making the big climb up to Kinsman Mountain.
Then, things got serious.
As we hiked up the 4,000 footer, thunderstorms began to roll through. They were still off in the distance, but approaching fast. The terrain was not easy going up the mountain, but I hiked as fast as I could. It was too late to turn back, so we had no other choice but to hike up and over the two peaks before the storm hit. In my quickness to summit Kinsman, I strained my left quad as I heaved myself up onto a large rock. There was no time to rest, so I’m now dealing with a hurt quad through what may be the rest of our hike. I guess I’ll just have to see how it feels tomorrow and assess from there.
I was sweating buckets and stressed about the storms nearby. Thunder rumbled and I felt like we were hiking into a death trap every step we took closer to the top. I know people don’t die from lightning strikes all the time, but I felt like we were hiking into a recipe for disaster. Miles needed to stop and eat, but there was no way I was hanging out on the top of a mountain during a storm. My worst nightmare. I kept hiking towards the north peak. I was struggling. Mentally, physically, in every way. Why was I forcing myself to hike on a huge mountain during a thunderstorm? It began to rain. I asked myself, what the hell I was doing all of this for? I miss home. I miss my family. I miss a lot of things. I’m tired of the constant rain and thunderstorms. I’m tired of the stress. I’m just plain tired. Mentally exhausted. Physically exhausted. I don’t feel as desperate as I did in Connecticut, I just feel drained. But, the fact is, I’m stubborn and despite how I feel, giving up is not an option. I know that in the end, all of the pain and suffering will be worth it. For years to come, the reward will be sweet. Our struggle is minuscule if you really think about it.
So, as it began to rain and the wind picked up, I struggled to hoist myself up on to the steep rock above. I tried once, twice, and found the strength on the third try. Miles caught up to me as I climbed up.
He noticed I was struggling and he asked, “Are you alright?”
I answered, “Yeah. I’m just going to keep moving.”
And even though I wasn’t alright, I knew there was only one answer to finishing today’s hike and the rest of our thru-hike: to keep moving. I know there are better days to come, but months of rain and weeks of thunderstorms will start to wear on you after awhile.
After hiking the longest two miles of downhill in my life, we arrived at the hut unscathed. How we didn’t manage to fall down the slippery rocks will remain a mystery to me. The awesome staff at the hut greeted us and allowed us to do work-for-stay. After the guests ate, we got our fair share of a delicious dinner. I ate pork, steak, rice, farfalle, and bread. I easily downed two plates and was thankful for the protein after a rough day. I could already feel the soreness in my arms and legs from all of the climbing we did today.
To earn our stay, we cleaned and organized the freezer in the basement. It took us about an hour and then we were able to set up our sleeping bags on the dining room floor. It’s raining and thundering (surprise!), so I’m happy that our strenuous hiking was rewarded with a dry night in the hut. On to the Presidential Range tomorrow! And guess what? We’re less than 100 miles from the Maine border!!!