Going off road for us usually means an engine burns gasoline and turns tires, propelling us through the world. But truly one of the most rewarding ways to go off-road is under your own power, whether it be paddling a canoe, riding a mountain bike or hiking on your own two feet.
Going by the trail name Colorado, a friend of our esteemed publisher is tackling the length of the Appalachian trail, from north to south. The trail begins in Maine and terminates in the Great Smoky Mountains of Georgia, a distance of about 2,200 miles. It usually takes hikers five to seven months to complete the journey.
ALSO SEE: Colorado’s Second Trail Update
So follow along with our friend Colorado, as he takes on the trail.
Hello again from the trail! I’m taking a day off in N. Woodstock, NH to clean body and clothing. I’m not sure which needed it more, although I’ll admit that my socks had to be run through the washing machine twice to ultimately pass the sniff test. But there was a good reason why everything got a bit gamier than usual this past week.
New England Heat Wave: The northeast has been under a so-called “heat dome” this past week, with unusually high temperatures and humidity that made hiking sometimes nearly unbearable. For three straight days I did some steep ascents in those conditions that left me absolutely drenched. I try to rotate clothing as best I can on the trail, but the humidity made it impossible to get anything dried out. I certainly wasn’t alone with this dilemma, as my nose could attest to as I passed other hikers. So as one of the common trail sayings goes, “Embrace the stink.” There was a lot of embracing going on these past several days.
Despite this, though, I passed through incredible country and scenery this past week as I made my way into New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
The Whites include a stretch of peaks called the Presidential Range, with the AT traversing above timberline over or nearly over Mts. Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Pierce, Eisenhower and Jackson. (For whatever reason, Mt. Trump is not on the AT, but I’m sure it is yuge).
Mt. Washington, by the way, is NH’s high point at 6,288 feet. That may seem low by Colorado standards, yet it took every bit as much energy to ascend as many of the fourteeners do. It’s a big mountain! It’s also very similar to Pikes Peak, with a road and cog railway to the top, and touristy entrapments waiting for you at the summit. I was entrapped by a $7 chili cheese dog.
Stealth Camping: This is the term used when you don’t camp at a designated campsite. I’ve done this a few times so far, and hope to do more, as it’s a very immersive experience to be alone in the woods like that. Ideally, a stealth site is any flat space you can find off the trail big enough to set up your tent. Better yet is when there is a good water source nearby. Up to this point through Maine and New Hampshire, these spots have been hard to come by due to the rugged and steep terrain. But the last one I found, right below tree line on the slopes of Mt. Madison, was perfect. (Note my futile attempt to dry sweat-soaked clothes.)
The Daily Grind: My days have become relatively routine. I’m almost always awake by 5am (the birds are getting warmed up between 3:30 and 4am), and start by taking my tent down and packing everything up. It’s now a system that I pretty much do in the same order every day for efficiency, with everything always packed into the same place so that I can lay my hands on anything I need literally without looking. I then make breakfast, clean things up, and am usually on the trail before 7am, trying to take advantage of the coolest temps of the day. I’ll take mini breaks throughout the day, with a full-blown lunch break after 4-5 hours of hiking. I like to be at my next campsite no later than about 5pm, if possible, to give me plenty of time to set up, eat, and read for a bit. I’m usually down for the count by 8pm, maybe earlier on those tough days when I’m really exhausted.
So where am I now? After five weeks, I’ve completed 373 miles, about 17% of the AT, with some of the most rugged parts now behind me. I’m more than halfway through New Hampshire and should be to Vermont in about a week. All the NOBOs I pass are quick to say that trail speed and daily mileage will start to pick up for the southbounders now as the terrain eases for them. I’m excited for that. But I’m also happy to report that I continue to feel good, with no injuries or nagging pains like so many on the trail are experiencing. I’m absolutely loving this adventure.
I hope you all are well!