In the middle of May, Appalachian Trail MA section volunteers gathered at Father Tom's Campsite. I camped there the night before. That night I met "Trapz", a north bound AT hiker. She's very toll and strong, started her hike in Georgia in late February. We had a nice short conversation and said bye to each other the next morning. The event went on and we had a lot of pizza feeding volunteers and passing by AT hikers.
On June 3rd, I stayed at the Notch Hostel, as usual, ready for a hike the next day. In the bunk room, a tall girl asked, "Are you from Massachusetts?" What the......! Trapz! This was insane. I couldn't believe it. Of course we chatted a little more, then decided that we may hike together on her final day on AT, summiting Mt. Katahdin. Oh her hiking buddy Patty, who didn't stay at the hostel, was one of those who enjoyed pizza at the volunteer event.
To save money and hangout with hikers, I stayed at AT Lodge in Millinocket, ME. It is very cozy, clean with many beds to choose from. There were already two south bound (SOBO) hikers ready to take off the next morning. One of them is a cancer survivor, always want to do this trail, finally retired to fulfill his dream. Trapz's mom and Patty's whole family came to the lodge as well, ready to witness and accompany the hikers' big summit day! It's very impressive how supportive the families are.
The gate of Baxter State Park opens at 6am. There were already 40 cars in line by then. Trapz and Patty were both there waiting at trail head. I started climbing 30 minutes earlier while they wait for their families. Sure, both of them passed me when I was 1 hour in. They've been practicing for 4 month on the trail. There was no picture taken on the way to the summit. The trail is very very steep. Some huge boulders have metal bars mounted on so hikers can grab onto the bars and pull themselves up. As a short person, it was harder but manageable. A small portion above tree line is on a narrow ridge with steep cliff on both sides. It took quite a moment to work up some courage to go through it. Once you get to the plateau at the last portion, it was much easier and flatter to walk to the top. The plan was that Trapz and Patty summit and take pictures first, then come down to meet their families who hike a bit slower, and hike up again with them.
Patty's sister passed me as well. But eventually we made it to the summit. Katahdin is breath taking. Works can not express the feeling. Many north bound (NOBO) AT hikers were gathering by the sign, crying, laughing, shouting, goofing around...... So proud of everyone. Oh there's a young boy hiked up with his dad. Wow.
This was my first time meeting everyone else but Trapz. Somehow everyone looked and felt so familiar. Proud of the hikers, very much respect to their families. Together, we descended the mountain, crackered jokes, talked about life, asked the two hikers a million questions about their journey. Wish the mountain was taller so we would have time for more questions. Back to the trailhead, surprisingly it was not hard to say goodbye. A light hug then we were on our way home. Maybe we all knew that we would meet again somewhere someday. Trapz said, "Yun, let new know when you are hiking the AT! I'll join you, as well!"
I stayed one more night at the lodge. The following morning, 11 SOBO hikers started their journey. It was so tempting to just take off with them. So tempting. Best wishes to the hikes! Have an amazing trip to Georgia on foot, and make lifetime friends! Time to go home, hauling one NOBO hiker to his uncle's house, might as well.
Been trying to winter hike earlier this year. Didn't make it. Scared like a new born chicken. Hopefully it would happen this winter. But, summer is here. Time to throw myself into the embracement of the White Mountains if she's willing to take me in.
Day 1. It rained pretty hard...after I started the hike at the foot of Mt. Washington. This was supposed to be an easy out and back route on AT from Pinkham Notch to Mt. Washington Auto Rd. The rain got heavier from drizzle to downpour. Well, too late to turn around. Let's practice on this short hike. Rain jacket on me, rain cover on the pack. Then what... There is a sign on the left - Raymond Path, 1.8 miles. The maps shows that this path leads a loop back to starting point. Plenty of daylight left. Let's try it. 2-mile became 6. There was no one around maybe because of the rain. So I started to talk to the birds and talk my ears off. It was a little scary, too. Every black colored item felt like a bear.
There are always surprises on unfamiliar trails. Raymond Path ends at Huntington Ravine Trail, then connect to Tuckerman Ravine Trail, then back to Pinkham Notch. It was that short part of Huntington that really showed the force of mother earth. The current in streams were very strong due to the rain, and there were several streams to cross to get to the other side of trail. So I pulled the pants up, stayed low, held on to the rocks, and stepped into the water. It was knee high and really cold. My feet became num for a while. "practice makes perfect," as Steve, the Mountain Wonderer bookstore owner, said after hearing this little adventure. The stream crossing made falling into a hole between roots not a big deal. One big mistake was assuming that the map was waterproof. It tore itself apart in the rain. Now we know...
As usual, the night was spent at the Notch Hostel. "...owner Serena Ryan co-founded the hostel in 2015". Here you'll meet so many outdoors people and Appalachian Trail hikers. Everyone has his/her own stories to tell. Guests hangout in the kitchen, in the living room, out on the porch, around campfire, sharing the mountains with each other. Maybe you'll meet life long friends here, too. During AT hiker season, talking to the hikers full fills the entire day. So much to learn from everyone.
The next morning, sun decided to shine through the clouds. Grandpa toad got out to get some Vitamin D. The water drops made themselves visible in thin fogs and they dance in light beams. Hello sun, long time no see!
As the elevation gets higher, trees grow shorter. Gradually the clouds are down there. Oh here's Greenleaf Hut! You can stay here for the night, enjoy the hospitality, the nutritious food, and of course the sunset, painting the colors in the sky and in the hearts.
On top of Mt. Lafayette, I forgot how to speak both in Chinese and English. Is it real? Is it a dream? How did I get here? What are those cotton candies above, around, and below? Thank you White Mountains! Thank you for taking me in, for taking everyone no matter who we are, no matter how we human think of each other.
Diapensia, alpine flowers above treeline. They are so little yet so strong, live through the snow, the storms, gust of the wind... wish I could be like you, little one. And also jealous that you are so close to the cotton candies every day. Well, thank you for your encouragement. See you again soon!
Weekend passed by so fast. Bye White Mountains, bye mushrooms, bye beloved Notch Hostel. Every one working here is like the alpine diapensia, beautiful and resilient, Serena, Kelly, Tricia, and Molly. Cheers to you all, take care, and see you soon!