For some reason, my Disqus commenting system isn't letting me reply to comments, so I'll start by answering the question that Björn asked yesterday. The question was about how the hut croos know if you're a thru-hiker (or at least aspiring thru-hiker). The answer is that they must take your word for it. There are some obvious signs, though. First, thru-hikers have much larger packs than most other hikers in the Whites, and are generally bearded by the time they get there. The vast majority have a trail guide sticking out of their pack, and their pack will be really well-organized; they will know where everything is inside it.

But that does bring up a bigger question: what is a thru-hiker? Bar Man, who I introduced yesterday, probably wouldn't fit any definition (though he did get work-for-stay at every hut in the Whites), since he was not actually hiking the length of the trail that year. The ATC defines a thru-hiker as someone who walks or is attempting to walk the entire AT in one uninterrupted journey. This seems reasonable to me: it doesn't exclude people who hike the entire trail in sections as long as their hike is uninterrupted.

Ethan Pond to Mt. Moosilauke

From Ethan Pond, it was a relatively easy jaunt to Zealand Falls hut, where I once again went in to take a rest. I tried to emphasize that I was a real thru-hiker in hopes of getting some leftovers, but the croo were busy and paid no attention. I noticed a small boy with thick glasses at the hut. He was awkwardly trying to walk with an unscrewed Camelbak full of water between his legs, and I immediately pegged him as a city kid who probably shouldn't be in the mountains. Sure enough, I hadn't gone more than a quarter of a mile from the hut before I saw his dad consoling him after he had taken a hard fall. As I walked on, I heard him yell, "I hate stupid hiking!" at the top of his lungs. Whenever I was having a rough day, I would think back to this kid and know I had had it a lot better.

The rest of the day was not too eventful. I was lucky to see a few groups of Boy Scouts just before I would have gone to the shelter that was my destination for the day, so I stopped just before the shelter and set up camp. Even though I was more than a quarter mile from the shelter, I could still hear them late into the night, but at least they were a bit more quiet than if I had been right there with them.

The next day was up and over Mt. Garfield, another extremely steep mountain. Thankfully, the trail up Garfield is just beside a waterfall and the waterfall is not the same as the trail, as it would be in Southern Maine.

From the next mountain, Mt. Lafayette, it is possible to see Greenleaf Hut, but since it is over a mile away, I did not go down to it. Mt. Lafayette also had the most "false summits" of any mountain on the trail that I can remember. I would think that I was getting to the top, and then there would be more climbing. It's quite a frustrating thing. However, the clouds that day made the view quite nice.

Mt. Lafayette is also the last mountain over 5000 feet for quite a while. The knowledge of this probably made the descent down to Franconia Notch a little easier. When I got there, I was presented with a confusing set of roads. It was here that I almost got arrested. I was trying to hitchhike into town, but somehow I walked to the interstate rather than the state highway. I had my thumb out for a while and was disappointed that everyone was driving so fast, when I saw a car slow down coming my direction. Too late did I see the lights on the top of the car. It was a state trooper, and he simply yelled out the window "I WILL ARREST YOU." Needless to say, I got off the road pretty quickly. However, I was so shaken up by the experience that I walked the wrong direction down the trail for about a half an hour before I realized my mistake, and had to turn around to get back to the state highway. Finally I got a hitch, and was able to resupply in Lincoln, NH.

I was back on the trail the next day, but didn't go far. I stayed at the Kinsman Pond campsite, and I even had to pay for the privilege. I'm pretty sure that was the only time I paid to camp. I woke up the next day knowing that there were only two more real mountains in the Whites. The first, Kinsman Mountain, was pretty tough in the morning, but it had this nice stream at the base of the other side.

After I was past the shelter on the other side, where I had a snack, I pushed pretty hard toward the next mountain: Mt. Moosilauke. There is a long flattish section between the two mountains, so I thought I might be able to make it up that night. Unfortunately, Mt. Moosilauke is so steep (there are long sections where iron bars are embedded into the rock so that you have hand- and foot-holds) that I just didn't feel safe doing it. I set up my hammock and waited for night to come.

You can't really tell from that picture, but my hammock is nearly above a cliff. I had to be extra-careful where I put my shoes that night so that they wouldn't roll down the mountain.

I awoke the next morning and made quick work of the rest of the mountain. I was so glad to get to the top, because it really meant the end of the hard stuff. The Whites don't officially end for another 15 miles or so, but Moosilauke is the end of any really tough hiking in them. I flew down the other side of the mountain -- even running in places – I was just so glad that the hard hiking was done.

I stopped in at a small hostel in Glencliff, NH, but decided it didn't look very nice, so I kept going. By the time the day was over, I was nearly out of the Whites.

The trail to Hanover

After the hard hiking in the Whites, I started focusing on getting my mileage up. After all, I had been hiking for over a month, and was only done about 20% of the trail. At this rate, it would take nearly half a year. So the first day out, I did over twenty miles. There were a few mountains, but I remember thinking they were nothing. When I met northbounders, I was the one who could afford to be a bit smug. They may have walked farther than me, but I had been through the hard mountains and survived.

The next day, however, I got to Hanover, NH. It's a beautiful university town, with Dartmouth University as its centerpiece. I needed to resupply and get cleaned up, so I decided to stay. Unfortunately, I arrived on a Saturday and did not get my cleaning done. The next day, the only public laundry was closed, so I had to stay another day as well. It slowed me down a bit, but I was able to meet up with some other hikers, and we had a great time. Dartmouth was having some sort of orientation for new students, and we snuck into some of their barbecues. There was even a fraternity which let me sleep in their basement for free, although they did have a big party the night that I slept there, which kept me up until far too late.

Next time

Vermont is just across the river from Hanover. I don't remember too much about it. Will I be able to recap it in one post? Probably not.

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