Archives for the day of: September 17, 2018


West of the Mississippi, this collection of boulders would be called a streambed or a landslide waiting to happen but in New Hampshire it is called the Appalachian Trail.  And this collection of rocks on a hillside was nothing exceptional.  Between Gorham and Pinkham Notch I labored through twenty miles of this stuff.  I don’t know if you can determine from the photo but in addition to being rough, this path is very steep and, having recently been rained on, very slippery.  I emerged from my two-day trek more than a little disillusioned with the famous Appalachian Trail.

Out west when the trail encounters a steep incline, the grade is moderated by zigzags called switchbacks.  In New Hampshire, there must be a law against switchbacks because after forty miles of hiking, I have yet to encounter a single one.

My son, Nicholas, arrived from Virginia on Friday and we set out from Pinkham Notch to hike the next twenty-mile section of the trail where it passes over 6400-ft Mt Washington, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.  While the trail up Mt Washington was as steep as the previous section, it had the redeeming virtue of being above the tree line much of the way and blessed with views of the surrounding valleys and mountains.

NICK AND HIS DOG MISO ABOVE THE TREE LINE

Getting back down from the heights was less strenuous than climbing up but considerably more dangerous since coming down steep expanses of rock with a pack on your back provides countless opportunities to slip and fall.  Here you can see Nick scoping out the descent to Crawford Notch where Mary was waiting to pick us up.  Again, the descent was without the benefit of switchbacks.

NICK LOOKS DOWN AT CRAWFORD NOTCH FROM THE HEIGHTS

So it is with considerable disappointment that I have decided to forego the rigor of a New Hampshire-to-Virginia hike on the Appalachian Trail – it’s just too damn hard, not to mention dangerous.  Mary and I still hope to hang around long enough to see the autumn leaves and do day hikes.  We’re driving up the Maine coast.

P.S.  Just got a text from Nick who is already back in Virginia where his six-year-old daughter, Anna, wants to know all about “New Hampster.”

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MARY WENT FISHING AND GOT MORE THAN SHE BARGAINED FOR

It was our stated ambition to follow US Highway 2 across the country to New Hampshire, where it ends. We got to the Great Lakes only to discover that the highway peters out in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and does not reappear until some 500 miles to the east in Vermont. This proved not to be a problem because if you keep driving directly east across Canada you actually save about 500 miles of driving south around the Great Lakes.That said, Canadian Hwy 17 through Ontario and Quebec is rather bland in the scenery department. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Interesting observation of that route: Road signs in English-speaking Canada are in both English and French, presumably to accommodate the Quebecers. Once you enter Quebec, however, they are only in French! No reciprocity there. Are we seeing yet another example of how minorities squeal for “equal” rights only to deny such rights to others when they are in positions of power? Lucky for us we have a GPS system in our RV or we would have been hopelessly confused about which road to take near Montreal.
We arrived in Gorham, New Hampshire on Wednesday where we were scheduled to rendezvous with Nick for some backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Hurricane Florence was threatening Virginia (where he lives) about that time and he didn’t know if he could keep his appointment. This was, coincidentally, a replay of seven years ago when he had to cancel a hike with me on the Pacific Crest Trail because another hurricane was causing havoc in Virginia.
Luckily, Florence veered south and he is now on his way up here. We’re scheduled to hike through the Presidential Range of New Hampshire’s White Mtns.  
But not so fast. My hoped-for hike may never come off. I hiked a twenty-mile section of the Appalachian Trail yesterday and this morning. It was brutal. Nothing like the Pacific Crest Trail (which I hiked in 2011). I’m having second thoughts about doing much more of this trail. My complaints are many. The section I just finished was unbelievably steep (do they even know what a switchback is?). I doubt there was 100 yds of level walking in the entire twenty miles. And rocky! Most of the trail was a jumbled mass of boulders. When it wasn’t rocky it was muddy. Scenery? Hard to say since the trees are so dense that one rarely has a view of anything more than thirty feet distant. I’m very disappointed.
On the bright side, the weather is sunny and if this keeps up, the mud will dry. Unfortunately, there is no simple remedy for the trail’s other faults.