By: Marian Van Vlack, Lifetime Girl Scout from Whitesville, NY
Today I write from the comfort of the Stratton Motel in Maine. I’m about two weeks away from the end of my hike and I can’t believe that my adventure will soon be coming to an end. I’ve had such a wonderful time making my way through the White Mountains and into southern Maine.
The day after my stay at Mizpah was great! I got out a little late because I needed to help sweet out the dining room as part of my work for stay. The whole day was sunny and clear and I spent most of my time above tree line with views of all the surrounding mountains and valleys. I stopped at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut which is another spot on the trail that I will definitely visit again. Mt. Washington is the highest peak on the AT, but the climb starts from a ridge already so it isn’t too intense of a hike. The peak was full of tourists because the mountain is accessible by road or by train. It was still a pretty amazing experience being up on that mountain and seeing so much around me.
After the summit, I had a tough hike to the Madison Spring Hut. The hike wasn’t very long, and it was beautiful, but it went over some very rocky sections, some of which didn’t really have any kind of trail through them. This section of the trail is also not very well marked, so I had to essentially figure out how to get where I needed to go. I did another work for stay at Madison Spring Hut where I saw a nice sunset and a cool view of fog in the valley in the morning. The next day I headed to Pinkham Notch. It was a pretty short hike but I was experiencing the effects of the sunburn I got on my arms and hands the previous day.
Pinkham Notch was a cool spot mainly designed for tourists who want to come hike in the Whites for a day or two, but I headed into Gorham with the two guys who did work for stay with me the previous day, Wolverine and Wild Thing. We stayed at The Barn which is a hiker hostel right in town. We had a nice time in town then headed back to Pinkham Notch the net morning. I hiked over the Wildcats and the Carters, which were two pretty difficult mountain ranges. I broke my personal record by falling four times on the trail, but luckily I didn’t fall too far or actually hurt myself.
I only hiked about 12 miles, but it took so long that I had to hike the last few miles in the dark. I got to the shelter around 9 p.m., which wasn’t too late, but I had to use my headlamp and when I got to the shelter I just went right to bed. Night hiking was definitely a little scary at the time, but afterwards I felt very accomplished. The next day was another short day back into Gorham from a different road, so I decided to spend another fun night at The Barn.
After traveling many weeks, it was finally time to hike into my last and largest state. I had to hike 17 miles, but I finally made it into Maine! The next day was very short because I wanted to wait for my friends Moon and Straps so we could hike together the following day. It was a very exciting day though, because as I walked along Goose Eye Mountain, I saw a moose! I didn’t manage to get a picture, but it was an awesome sight.
The next day was an adventure. I went through the Mahoosuc Notch, which is considered the most difficult or fun mile of the trail. The trail passes through this collection of jumbled boulders which make what I like to call an adult jungle gym. Some areas never actually see the sun and still have pieces of ice in the summer. There was one point where we crawled through a cave that was so small we had to take off our packs and pass them through. It took us about an hour and a half to get through the notch which isn’t bad timing at all. That night I made it into Andover, Maine and ate a delicious, massive burger with the maple milkshake I had been searching for.
The next few days were pretty easy going. Then, I hiked my highest mileage day so far, 19 miles into Rangely. I stayed at the Hiker Hut, which was beautiful and peaceful. The guy who owns the place was extremely hospitable. I enjoyed a home cooked dinner and my first hot outdoor shower which came from a bag of water which is heated with solar power. I took it easy the next day mainly because the weather was cloudy and rainy. I spent most of the day in town then hiked just two miles to the next shelter. That night was so fun because we had a shelter full of people and the caretaker brought her banjo and guitar down so we could all play and sing before bed.
The hike the next morning was so beautiful because the forest was vibrant green after the rain the previous day. I had an amazing hike over Saddleback Mountain which has a nice ridge walk. I was very grateful to have nice weather and get to enjoy the views. I was a little distracted by the delicious blueberries that I had to stop and pick along the way. That night was slightly historic because I stayed in the Poplar Ridge shelter which had what is called a baseball bat floor because the floor is made of small logs that aren’t flat. The next day a camp group headed up to that shelter to replace the floor, so my group was the last one to stay on that unique shelter floor. I had a nice hike into Stratton and decided to take a zero today to just relax.