Monthly Archives: August 2014

Pareto on the AT

The Pareto principle established the notion of the ’80/20 rule.’ As a thru-hiker on the AT, a specific observation one hears often is that when northbound (‘Nobo’) hikers reach the New Hampshire border, they have completed 80% of the distance of the AT, but only 20% of the effort. Assuming that had to be hyperbole, I repeatedly asked Nobos I met along the trail (especially in Maine as they were near the end of their hikes) whether they agreed with that statement or not. Surpringly, I never had a single hiker refute it. What that means to me (and to all Sobos) is that when we finish New Hampshire, we have completed approximately 80% of the effort of hiking the AT, though of course we still have 80% of the distance remaining. As I write this in the Emily Howe library in Hanover, New Hampshire- a literal stone’s throw from Dartmouth College- I am a mere 6/10ths of a mile from the Vermont border. I’ve completed all 442 miles of Maine and New Hampshire and I could not be more excited for what remains. It’d be wrong to say the trail will be ‘easy’ from here, but by all accounts it will be significiantly ‘easier.’

One way of measuring trail difficulty in different areas is to compare typical daily hiking mileage. Through Maine and most of New Hampshire my daily distance hovered between 10-15 miles. In the past 2 days I covered 44 miles on the AT and road walked 5 more miles for some sightseeing fun. South of New Hampshire, thru hikers routinely turn 20-25 mile days and seeing the terrain the past two days (see some of the photos below) I can see why- it is defintely getting easier.

The following pictures cover a period of 7-10 days from around the time we left Penny and Russ’ home in the White Mountains until this afternoon in Hanover. Incidentally, Hanover is the only town I’m aware of on the AT that I know I’ve visited as an adult. My daughter Emily and I came here to tour Dartmouth when she was choosing a college and we had a fantastic trip together. I had no idea at the time of Dartmouth’s relationship to the AT (the Dartmouth Outing Club maintains a large section of the AT in New Hampshire) or that the trail goes right through the campus and the main street of Hanover, but I had fond memories and was excited to see it again. My next entry will be from Vermont (or beyond!).

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This sign speaks for itself

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Temps in the 30s both days we summited Washington

Several of us stealth camped at this waterfall and spent the afternoon watching climbers repel down. Look carefully and you can see them.

Several of us stealth camped at this waterfall and spent the afternoon watching climbers repel down. Look carefully and you can see them.

 

My single favorite part of the AT so far: Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains.

My single favorite part of the AT so far: Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains.

No bad views from Mount Lafayette

No bad views from Mount Lafayette

Garfield summit, taken by a family in exchange for me taking theirs...they also threw in some dried mango.

Garfield summit, taken by a family in exchange for me taking theirs…they also threw in some dried mango.

The Dukes on the trail

The Dukes on the trail

Above the treeline rock Cairns mark the trail instead of white blazes

Above the treeline, rock cairns mark the trail instead of white blazes

Cool rock outcropping on Haystack

Cool rock outcropping on Haystack

Lunch at the beautiful Lonesome Lake hut

Lunch at the beautiful Lonesome Lake hut

Post lunch old man nap

Post lunch old man nap

Stunning trail shot at about 7:30 a.m.

Stunning trail shot at about 7:30 a.m.

Cold again on the Moosilauke summit.

Cold again on the Moosilauke summit.

The Dukes do Moosilauke. Its a hiker tradition to do it in a dress, but everything made my butt look too big

The Dukes do Moosilauke. Its a hiker tradition to do it in a dress, but everything made my butt look too big

From a fire tower just before sunset

From a fire tower just before sunset

Selfie from same fire tower

Selfie from same fire tower

Sunrise from inside a shelter

Sunrise from inside a shelter

Bill Ackersly's house is right on the AT, and hikers are welcome for free icecream, water, rest, recharge phones, etc.

Bill Ackerly’s house is right on the AT, and hikers are welcome for free icecream, water, rest, recharge phones, etc.

A cooler of 'trail magic' left on the side of the trail.

A cooler of ‘trail magic’ left on the side of the trail.

Same cooler- other side...needless to say, it made my day!

Same cooler- other side…needless to say, it made my day!

Walked a few miles off the trail one afternoon for a break, ending up in a sleepy little town where I saw this great old place

Walked a few miles off the trail one afternoon for a break, ending up in a sleepy little town where I saw this great old place

"...lost my boots in transit, baby, a pile of smokin' leather. Nailed a retread to my feet and prayed for better weather..." (Robert Hunter)

“…lost my boots in transit, baby, a pile of smokin’ leather. Nailed a retread to my feet and prayed for better weather…” (Robert Hunter)

No free rides dude...gotta keep my pack weight down!

No free rides locust dude…gotta keep my pack weight down!

Big breakfast at Pegs in Woodstock

Big breakfast at Pegs in Woodstock

Proof positive: terrain getting easier #1

Proof positive: terrain getting easier #1

Terrain getting easier #2

Terrain getting easier #2

Terrain getting easier #3

Terrain getting easier #3

Terrain getting easier #4

Terrain getting easier #4

Last night I pooped in the woods...the Hanover Inn rocks!

Last night I pooped in the woods…the Hanover Inn rocks!

White blaze on Main Street, Hanover

White blaze on Main Street, Hanover

Embedded AT plaque directly in front of the Dartmouth green, main campus entrance

Embedded AT plaque directly in front of the Dartmouth green, main campus entrance. Mileage no longer accurate as it changes every year. Current AT is about 2185 miles..

New Hampshire!

The terrain in New Hampshire is every bit as challenging as Maine, but there are many more “payoffs.” Each day’s hike may start out in narrow forest trails a la Maine, but as you ascend the peaks for that day, the trail opens up to ridge walking and you hike among breathtaking views for hours at a time. New Hampshire’s White Mountain range is where AT thru-hikers spend the majority of hiking time in this state. The Dukes have had the distinct pleasure of being hosted for several days at the home of the Miller family (Russ, Penny, Annika, Haydn and dogs Spikey and Stewie). Penny is a college friend of Birdie who works at the AMC Pinkham Notch visitor center. What Russ and Penny thought was to be an overnight stay has turned into a bunch of nights, shuttling us to trail heads, providing laundry, showers, cooking meals and truly welcoming us as an extension of their great family. We have had an amazing time here and though we are moving on today, I’ll be carrying great memories of the past week all the way down the trail. The following are a bunch pictures from the past week or two. Enjoy!

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New England covered bridge in Jackson, near Russ and Penny’s home.

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Some of the Dukes, crossing into New Hampshire

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Swish, Hero and Mav in the middle of Mahoosuc Notch, a mile long boulder scramble just before New Hampshire.

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The Callum family kids (being home schooled on the trail) playing hacky-sack with Hero and Swish

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The Dukes at the Carter Notch AMC hut in the White Mountains, New Hampshire

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One of the many great family dinners at the Miller’s. I’m sitting between Penny and Russ

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Washing windows at Russ and Penny’s…our small attempt at ‘Work for Stay.’

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Hiked all day in a snappy orange necktie. I got so many positive comments on it that it may become part of my permanent hiking attire

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That black spot is a large moose cow 15 feet off the trail in New Hampshire. The calf was on the other side of the trail and ran across it to be reunited with mom.

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An example of the amazing views from New Hampshire’s White Mountains

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Penny standing next to a memorial to Russ’s dad on the summit of Mount Washington, the tallest peak in New England. We summited it twice.

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I found this message slat among the donor listings on the Mount Washington summit…the PA system was playing ‘Ripple’ at that very moment…no joke!

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Another fine example of a White Mountain view.

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Setting sun hitting the Whites

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Selfie from one of the White Mountain peaks. When I called Oliver yesterday to wish him a happy birthday, he said that my kids think I’m looking like Jerry Garcia with all this facial hair…no cutting it until I’m off the trail!

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The US record for recorded windspeed (231 mph) was clocked on Mount Washington. Both days we summited (in August) the temps were in the 30s!

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This photo and the next couple are sobering

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The ones are the bottom of the list are the most recent

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The whole list

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Dukes in jorts! We’re on the summit of Mount Washington in full redneck regalia. I borrowed a pack of Marbs from someone in the visitor center to complete the ensemble.

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Threeway chess: Mav, me and Cap’n Morgan

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Swish, me and Mav after a post office run. That’s my ‘bounce box’ in my lap. I send it to myself down the trail with hard-to-get resupply items

Leaving Maine!

Sorry its been a while since I last updated, but whenever I’ve been in town I’ve been unable to get sufficient cell coverage¬†to upload photos, etc. The following are things I’ve seen in Maine over the past two weeks. I’m writing from the computer upstairs in Honey and Bear’s (Marge and Earl’s) great hostel in Andover, Maine called “The Cabin.” I’ve hiked 275 miles so far and have 6 miles left until the New Hampshire border, which I will cross tomorrow. In terms of states, Maine contains the second longest section of the AT after Virginia, so covering all of it is a bit of a big deal for me. Earlier today I hiked Mahoosuc Notch, which listed as “the most difficult mile of the AT.” Basically, it was a one mile boulder field through which there is no particular trail. One simply scrambles across, over, under and through the boulders, taking off ones pack when necessary to squeeze through the gaps in the rocks.

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Dodging roots in a full time job on the trail in Maine

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Fording rivers is another feature of the AT in Maine. That’s my pack after completing this river crossing.

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If you look carefully you can see the sign on the mountain peak in the distance (looks like a cross).

Whereas I had been mainly hiking on my own so far, about a week ago a met a few people over the course of 3-4 days that have gradually formed into a hiking group of 7-10 people we call “the Dukes of Hazard.” Our group includes men and women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, from all over the US. We’re helping each other along while having a lot of fun together. Enjoy all these photos from Maine and I’ll post again soon from New Hampshire, probably after I make it¬†through the White Mountains.

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This is the view from the same peak.

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Yep, the trail goes through that gap.

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This river is too large to ford, so there is an official ‘ferry service’: Dave and his canoe.

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Here’s the sign warning against fording the Kennebec river.

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Dave and his canoe. It has a white blaze painted on the inside of the bottom!

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Many of the marshiest areas include walkways for hiking, though most are not in as good a shape as this one.

 

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“Trail magic” is when some kind soul shows up on the trail or in a shelter with food and drink for tired, sweaty hikers. Here I am with John (left) and Hoff (right), two German hikers I met on the trail, after two women crossed a lake in a canoe to come to our shelter with brownies, cookies, chips and a box of wine. Best night so far at a shelter!

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Most of the peaks I’ve summited in Maine are covered with wild mountain blueberries. I spent an hour picking these and ate the entire bag for dinner that night!

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One of the many storms I got caught in during the past few weeks…this one from atop a peak.

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Nope- not a river…that’s the trail! Many such sections in Maine!

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Three very nice siblings I met with their Auntie Mary Lou on the trail. From left to right: Theresa (planning her AT through hike for next year), Bethany and Richie.

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Hmmm…I think I’ve been in some of these before at work, ha!

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A few of the “Dukes” setting off for another day on the trail: Hero, Forrester Gump and Slim Jim.

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The Dukes clowning in clothes from the “hiker box” (dress up clothes you can wear at hiker hostels when you do laundry). From left to right: Slim Jim, Mav, Forrester Gump, Hero, me, Swish and Birdie!

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Mav and Birdie with our hosts at “the Cabin:” Earl (Bear) and Marge (Honey). Marge is 82 and has been cooking us amazing dinners and breakfasts every day, while Earl helps out in a million ways, including shuttling us back and forth to trail heads.

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Me with Puma Ghostwalker, a hiker with his own show on National Geographic (see list of links on the right for a link to his info).

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Nothing says the end of a long hike like a shower, clean clothes and an ice cold cocktail.