Editorâ??s Note: We are thrilled to let you know that Ashley Mullins aka â??Stoatâ? and Kelsey Barklund aka â??Poppinsâ?? have returned safely from their adventures on the Appalachian Trail. You can hear about their thru-hike on Sept. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at Culpeper Baptist Church.
There is a saying on the Appalachian Trail â??When a thru-hiker is three-fourths of the way done, they have only expelled one-fourth of the effort.â? The last 500 miles of the trail are in New England territory with the majority consisting of New Hampshire and Maine. New Hampshire is, of course, best known for the White Mountain National Forest while Maine is best known for the 100 Mile Wilderness and Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus of the AT. Pushing toward Mt. Katahdin the adventures of Poppins and Stoat continue.
Most individuals are at least mildly aware of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. They are by far one of the most photographed portions of the AT. Seriously, simply Google â??epic Appalachian Trailâ? and seven out of ten of the photographs will probably be from the White Mountains. Poppins and I spent a total of five days in the Whites and enjoyed two and a half days of dry weather which were accompanied by stunning photographs. When we stalked over Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Washington we had clear, chilly conditions and we were able to properly behave like awe-struck tourists; which was quite an enjoyable break from the monotony of looking at a wall of trees all day long. In the White Mountains we also encountered a significant amount of continuous rock scrambles. The game had changed. The views were stunning but we could no longer keep our typical pace through terrain that was now peppered with rock climbs and boulder hopping, our days became much longer and sometimes frustrating.
The White Mountains are also an interesting place because the weather can change quickly and kill people. With this thought in mind the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), the maintenance club that is in charge of managing the Whites, declared that hikers can only stay in designated areas. Some of these designated areas are regular campsites while others are â??huts.â? Huts are normal four walled buildings that bring all the comforts of civilization into the vast mountain wilderness for a nominal fee of about $150 per person, per night. Now, Poppins and I are technically homeless wandering hobos for the duration of our thru-hike so we tend to shy away from spending copious amounts of money. Fortunately the AMC is aware that a thru-hikerâ??s budget is typically strapped and has implemented â??work for staysâ? at all the huts in the Whites. A â??works for stayâ? is generally an hour long task in exchange for sleeping on the dining room floor at night and polishing off any leftovers. Not a bad deal in a thru-hikers eyes, although it did make me feel sort of like a peasant begging for the kingâ??s table scraps. I had to scrape a freezer.
We had a remarkable time in the White Mountains and ended our experience at a little hostel in Gorham, NH stuffed with northbound and southbound thru-hikers alike, where everyone compared notes about the terrain that was yet to come. Since then we have pushed into Maine and have our eyes set toward our last two hurdles. The 100 Mile Wilderness and Mt. Katahdin are known to be the â??final examâ? for northbound thru-hikers. Everything up till this point has just busywork apparently.