1.5 miles, 1794.8 overall (Kinsman Notch, NH 112)
Note: this post chronologically should have come before the last one.
In the morning I consider getting up in time to see the sunrise. However I don’t need to meet Christy until 9:00 and I only have 1.5 miles to travel. I’ve heard it is a steep and incredibly technical downhill so I generously give myself 1.5 hours to complete it. Still, that means I don’t need to get up until 6:30. Sunrise is around 5:30. I figure I’ll wake up around sunrise, jump out of my tent to see it and catch a picture, and then get back in the tent. The only flaw in my plan is that for once I don’t wake up at the proper time. Instead of getting up around 5:20 I don’t wake until almost 6. At that point I can hear the other hikers getting up and preparing for the day. I procrastinate a while since I already missed the sunrise. Eventually I get up and pack. I join the other hikers for some conversation over breakfast and delay leaving until 7:30, at which point I get going and leave all of them still packing.
The advice I received about the trail was correct, it is very steep and very technical. The trail is essentially a side channel of the stream that runs, sometimes in cascades, down the mountain. There are no switchbacks. It is straight down, rock hopping the whole way. In a few places rebar has been drilled into the rock to provide steps or handholds, and in other places wooden blocks have been attached to the rock to provide steps. I take my time and it ends up taking the entire allotted 1.5 hours. I get to the parking lot with about 5 minutes to spare. Christy arrives just a few minutes later and off we go!
As a sign that she is getting used to this routine she almost immediately advises me that there appeared to be restaurants on the way in about 10 minutes away. We stop in town at a diner so I can have elevensies. Then we make the trek down to Boston.
The wedding is in Gloucester, MA but we have friends in Boston so we spend a day/night with them. It is great to see them again and they plan a perfect night out for us – a brewery tour at the Harpoon brewery (with tasting afterward) followed by dinner at a pub down the street. In between we have an hour to kill so we go to a bar. Between good beer, good friends, and minimal walking it is a great night.
The next day is wedding day. I wake up earlier than everyone else, still on hiker time. Christy and I make a trip to Dunkin Donuts to get breakfast for everyone. After breakfast come goodbyes and we head up to Gloucester for the wedding. On the way we stop at Kohl’s to see if we can find some pants that actually fit me. No luck, as always my inseam is shorter than all of the pants they sell. Blast being short! It turns out to be ok because the pants Christy brought were actually a little small before I left for the trail so they turn out to fit perfectly along with a new, smaller belt from Kohl’s.
The wedding is beautiful and again we get to see some old friends, both the bride and groom as well as other guests. The reception has stations (read: all you can eat) so I have my fill of pasta, crab stuffed sole, salad, beef tenderloin, chicken piccata, and several other dishes. The bride evidently warned everyone about the hairy guest that would be coming and why he is so hairy, so throughout the night I have random guests walk up to me and ask me about my hike. Christy tells me later that she finally knows what it must be like to be the President’s wife.
The next day is another zero and is meant for resupply and getting ready to head back to the trail. We drive into NH to save time the next morning. On the way we stop at an REI where I get new insoles to go with my new kicks, some energy bars, a smaller pocketknife to save some weight since I never use anything other than the main blade, and a poncho to replace my rain jacket. The pocketknife swap is more of a spur of the moment splurge but the poncho is something I have been considering for a while. I am tired of having to decide each time it rains whether I want to get soaked by the rain or by my sweat. Rain jackets simply don’t breathe enough for the kind of physical activity that thru-hiking demands, even with pit zips. The pit zips are also not great because inevitably you end up lifting your arms too high and the rain drips in. The poncho should be more breathable and has an added advantage of being able to keep my pack a little dryer because although I have a pack cover, some water always leaks through somewhere.
In addition to the new gear Christy has brought me back my 3-season sleeping bag and my down jacket. The Whites are notorious for getting very cold very fast so I want to be prepared. I’ve already experienced a “warm” night in the Whites which taught me I was not ready for a cold night. Now I am.
After a trip to the grocery store and some organizing of all the gear and food we go out for a nice dinner. I get scallops with rice pilaf and Christy gets steak with a baked potato. I spend the rest of the night catching up on things (i.e. writing this) while she putzes around. It is an early night to try to get me back on hiker time after going to bed late the last few nights.
It was a great few days off the trail and a perfect way to recharge for the last 400 miles. I was asked several times over the weekend whether it was a shock to be back in civilization after hiking for so long, and whether I would be able to adjust when I finish the trail. Other hikers who took zeroes in NYC talked about how much of a shock it was for them to be around that many people again. However when I finish the trail I’m not going anywhere as crowded as NYC, and over this weekend I didn’t have any problem with having people around. Although by the end of the weekend I was ready to head back to the trail, it was more because I am anxious to get into the Whites, to see who I’ll be hiking with now, and to finish my hike. When my hike is over there will be some adjusting to do for sure. I will need to regain my concentration. I’ll need to switch from eating whatever I want to eating a limited, well-balanced diet. I’ll have to figure out what to do with my beard. What I won’t have to do is stop wishing I was back on the trail. It has been a great experience and I’m excited for the last 400 miles which are supposed to be some of the best, but I am ready to be done and head back to life as a thru-hiker of the Appalachian Trail.