I approached the tough part of this journey with the best send-off possible; a hike with Stephen and Banner up Smarts Mountain. It felt good to be walking with him and it felt ridiculously true that the mountains were getting steeper and more technical. Here it comes. I know that I had a hard time accepting the difficulty of these mountains last time. I felt offended by the need to scramble often, using your hands to hold on to rebar or make three points of contact down short pitches with your heavy pack on. This time, I figured I could at least remind myself to laugh at it, rather than feel personally attacked. It’s not personal, these are just rough ranges.
I made it to Moosilauke the next day, which is considered the southern-most mountain that will kick your ass. It was beautiful. So much of this experience has been made easier by mental preparation. It is hard, no doubt. It’s hard on the level that even though I remembered it as strenuous, I still felt like it was harder than I anticipated. Some things are just like that, like the cold in the mid-west or the mosquitos in the Boundary Water Canoe Area. No matter how bad you think it’s going to be…it’s worse.
I settled in for lower milage days and signed up for a couple of slack-packing opportunities. I also saw a chiropractor, which helped a lot with some chronic hip pain that was plaguing me. I met a nice man who is traveling around without many deadlines, and he helped me out with a couple of rides to make the chiropractor visit possible. I made friends with the assistant at the clinic, who drove me the 45 miles back to Crawford Notch after my appointment and joked with me about anything else I might need, like a good man (she has a single son in Whitefish). I joked back, “I am in the market for one of those. Let’s talk.” It was fun to be in her presence and I deeply appreciated her support.
That night I caught back up to Seeker on top of Webster Peak, and watched the mystic moon sliver over the twilight glow, as the stars came out. With mountain-tops all around us and a cool breeze on our faces, it felt like the opportunity of a lifetime. So many of these moments do. We had a blast the next day summiting Mount Washington and a few other presidential peaks. We stopped along three different huts and had lemonade and coffee and warm soup. It was a tough day, and we did way more miles than I think I would advise, but we ended up at his friends’ house in North Conway that night, well-fed and sharing a converted bus, talking about our blessings. I cherish that feeling, when you’ve experienced a day that looks like a dream behind your closing eye-lids. It’s nice to have a friend to marvel at it with.
Now that the White’s are behind me, that means I’m on the home stretch. I’m in Maine. I’m still getting my butt whooped, but it’s beautiful. I’m trying to slow down and pay respect to this experience, this land, and this incredible journey.