A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

My parents are hiking the Appalachian Trail. Since they just got to NH, I thought I would join them for the weekend. Tyson was still out of commission, so he helped with the car runaround.

I met up with them just north of the Dartmouth skiway and hiked to Glencliff. The weather was reasonable and didn’t rain until Sunday evening. I took that forecast into account when packing and didn’t double bag things or bring a complete change of clothes. I also lightened my pack by relying on the shelter for lodging and my parents for most of the food, the stove, fuel, and water filteration. Having a lighter pack was my only hope of keeping up.

The most notable thing about the hiking was the mud. It has been raining continually for the past few months. This has translated into the trail being an endless ribbon of mud. If the mud was solid enough that you wouldn’t sink in over your ankles, people just walked through it. Other places where it was deeper, and people tried to walk around. There weren’t nearly enough rocks to step on because these places weren’t supposed to get wet. It was impossible to keep your feet dry. The other through hikers footwear varied from boots to tenis shoes to sandals, but the first thing everyone did on getting to the shelter was peel their footwear off and try to dry their feet. The mud also tired you out. You could see where people had slid in the mud, or stepped way too deep into boot sucking mud. Sometimes you gave up and just got wetter rather than trying to jump from solid object to solid object.

While we were out there we saw two people who were not section or through hiking the AT. There were plenty of through hikers going each way. There were four or so young kids (actually my age) who hiked very fast. Fly-by was their leader’s name. They hiked in one day the entirety of what I did over the weekend plus some. But when we got to the hostel at the end, they were still there having rested for a day. Apparently a day or two prior, they had gotten distracted by pizza in another town and stayed there an extra day. So Mom and Dad kept catching back up to them.

There was a young couple southbound whom we met at the shelter. They had gotten married and then started on the trail. These two were taking it leisurely. They took two days to hike what we would hike Sunday.

Tyson ended up giving a ride after dropping me off to another guy who caught up to us at the shelter. Apparently he figured out soon enough who Tyson’s future inlaws were based on Tyson having knee surgery. That guy had a nifty little alcohol stove that I want to look up for an emergency skiing stove.

The two guys closer to Mom and Dad’s age and pace were less talkative than some of the younger folks. We did end up taking one of them, Braid, to dinner with us Sunday. The hostel had a shuttle to town, but you needed a certain number of people, and since Tyson showed up to drive us to town, that left only him. Apparently this guy manages to go cross country skiing down in North Carolina. The other thing about him was that he’s naturally skinny, so he’s been having real issues keeping his weight up on the trail. We passed him at lunch time when he stopped to cook himself a real meal.

On the way up to the shelter Saturday night, maybe 3 miles out, we ran into a family pumping water. They were worried that since the guidebook said the shelter had an unreliable water source and they were going to carry all their water up. Or at least the parents were. The kid ran off well ahead of the parents so he could claim a spot in the shelter. The parents tented. That dynamic seemed a little odd to me.

We looked at the map and there was another stream crossing marked before the shelter, so we kept going. I couldn’t imagine that there would be a water shortage given how sopping wet everything was. We got to the marked stream, but it was brown with tanins and foamy. Dad decided we should keep going and hope for better. At the turn off for the shelter, there was the guidebook specified water source brook, and that looked fine. We continued to the shelter to drop our packs, and found that the ditch next to the shelter had clear flowing water. So much for a water shortage. At least two other people carried their water in based on the rumor.

The wackiest guy showed up towards the end of the evening. He was from Romania and had come to the US just to hike the AT. He showed up in Maine in March, bought himself some gear, and then started hiking south on the 12th of March. This is not what most people do and for good reason. He tried sleeping the night in his sleeping bag — no tent — and almost froze to death. He ran out of fuel the following day trying to melt snow for tea. And so, he decided to backtrack and took a bus down to Georgia to try hiking from the other direction. That appears to have been more successful given thet he made it to NH.

Overall I was impressed with how fast information traveled on the AT. The evening conversation was all about catching up on how other folks ahead and behind on the trail were doing and what to expect in the next few days of hiking.