The Penultimate State

After following the Long Trail in Vermont for about a hundred miles, the AT turns east and heads for New Hampshire and the White Mountains. From this point to Hanover, NH we walked on fine trails, leaving behind the mud in favor of drier ridges and better views.

One morning, we waited with several other hikers in front of a bakery until the proprietor unlocked the doors. For breakfast we shared a strawberry-rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream, maple soda and fresh strawberries dipped in maple yogurt. The feast continued through the day as it seemed that every road crossing brought us close to a farm store selling local ice cream and other Vermont products. In West Hartford, VT we were able to tent for the night in the backyard of a hospitable couple. They entertained our group with stories of previous tenants’ misbehavior while we admired their two beautifully refurbished Model T’s.

The following morning we nearly made the it the final ten miles to Hanover before the rain started, and happily found that our hotel shared a parking lot with a large and wonderful grocery. We spent our Independence Day in wholehearted repose and then set out to tackle “The Whites” with our food bags so full that we were burdened by the weight and mocked by our fellow hikers.


Dry, soft pine needles cushioned our footsteps on the much improved trail.


Well, mostly improved trail. I fell into this mud hole up to my knees.


Near grassy and sunny patches we found delicious wild strawberries.


A ladder down a rock face was a first for us on the trail. We were glad that Willett wasn’t there to negotiate it.


On our last day in Vermont, the view of a ski slope seemed to be giving us a high five.


Anne bravely ascending the lookout tower on Mount Smarts.


The view from the top of the tower. There are some tall looking peaks in the distance…

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About real.pretty.food

After five months of Snickers Bars and couscous, eating all the meat and vegetables I can get my hands on...
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11 Responses to The Penultimate State

  1. Kassi says:

    You’re only one state away!! Woop! How shall you celebrate making it into Maine?

  2. Battleax says:

    Hoorah Semper Fi
    battleax

  3. Manchu mile says:

    outstanding. I applaud your efforts. And your writing has me checking in every day to see if there is a new post. As Battleax says…hooah. This coming from a Munchu who has walked a thousand miles.

  4. Glenn in AL says:

    Great adventure! I also found your blog from the Ryan piece on CNN.com. I have a thru-hike of the AT on my bucket list. Would love to do it with my boys. Your blog only increases my desire to do so all the more.

    Two questions for you.
    1. How do you find five months to do something like this? Us middle-aged guys with 3 kids and a mortgage don’t really have that option.
    2. During your hike thus far, have you ever been at a point mentally/physically where you said to yourself this is not fun, it’s not worth it, let’s quit and get back to the real world? If so, how did you overcome those feelings and continue on?

    Keep up the great work — the goal is in sight. I plan to follow along with all the other CNN.com readers!

    • Hmmm… Let’s see!

      1. The first question is harder for us to answer as we had many fewer commitments to put on hold. The majority of those hiking the trail are 20-somethings in our same boat or those who have recently retired. That said, we see many, many section hikers who eagerly tackle 1-2 weeks of the trail per year while still maintaining a “regular life.” This manner of hiking the trail has the added benefit of always being a refreshing escape. By the time you’ve been out a month, getting up every day to hike 15-20 miles becomes rather job-like.

      2. We are lucky that neither of us has yet expressed an interest in jumping ship and boarding the next Greyhound bus bound for civilization. From Maryland to New York we hit a few patches where the tedious terrain and spring rains made Maine seem awfully far away, but not unattainable. As for being physically drained, we try to take a bit of extra time off (a whole day!) whenever the weariness of hiking day in day out begins to accumulate. So far so good!

  5. I found your blog on CNN and have been reading all of the archives. In 1996, I attempted the AT only to blow my left knee out. My hiking trips have since been limited to two and three night trips in the mountains of West Virginia (lived at Snowshoe for five years), mostly the Dolly Sods area. I’ve enjoyed every word you have written and I hope that you all realize what an amazing accomplishment this is going to be. Can’t wait to see how it ends.

    So, what is the next big hike? Maybe the Continental Divide Trail?

  6. jaelmancke says:

    Cannot wait to read more!

  7. 300hikes says:

    I am so excited to have found this blog. I would love to hike the Appalachian Trail at some point in the not-too-distant future. If you get a chance, take a look at my blog. I’m shooting for 300 hikes throughout the course of the year. I’m slowly working my way towards bigger and better things. Enjoy your journey!

  8. Michael says:

    Found you through the CNN article and have made this my nightly reading the past few days. I always have pipe dreams driving I-90 through Mass. as the AT crosses over the highway. Question for both of you- you mentioned a little about footwear, but how have boots held up? Have you gone through many pairs? All the rain and mud must be hard on them!
    Looking forward to following you to the end!

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