Friday, November 9, 2012

My first experience on the AT

Mounts Lafayette and Lincoln
I was 17 in the summer of 2003 and I went on a hut hike through the presidential range along the AT.  A hut hike can be done through the White Mountains in New Hampshire, as there are bunk-huts about 10 miles apart along the trail. The huts are mostly for weekend hikers, though some thru-hikers are able to snag spots in the huts if they trade manual labor like cleaning the huts and cooking food. It was my first time hiking any of the Appalachian Trail, and I remember seeing the thru-hikers at the huts, and wanting to be them SO BADLY. It's only taken a decade, but now I get to be.

I hope that when I'm thru-hiking I see weekend hiker teenagers along the trail, and inspire them to be thru-hikers one day as well.

I went with my friend Sara, as well as her father, two brothers and sister. Below is a copy-and-pasted journal entry that I wrote as a 17-year-old, 9 years ago. I have not edited this journal entry, and it is a rare and special glimpse into the mind of teenage Kit.
(Click the "Read More" link!)


July 26th, 2003

Alright, let's start from the beginning. I went hiking in the White Mountains with Sara and her family! It was, upon reflection, an excellent time indeed, though I have uncountable blisters, and my pinkie toenail has come off... I'm tempted to take pictures, but it's too gruesome. Along with Sara and I was Sara's dad Malcolm, brothers Ethan and Archie and sister Molly. 

First, I have to clarify that we were being pirates while hiking up and down mountains in the middle of the wilderness. The closest we got to water was hiking down a waterfall the second day, and we didn't have a battleship, let alone a raft (except for that time we "raised the sails".. aka, tied a shirt between our two plastic swords and paraded around with it). But we considered ourselves pirates nonetheless.

I, stupidly, didn't bring a camera with me on our adventure, but Sara brought her video camera so we did film "Pirates of the White Mountains", yet another epic movie to add to Sara's collection. (Edit: the rest of this paragraph copy-and-pasted from a later journal entry in 2004, after some more videos that we made during senior year) "Pirates of the White Mountains" is unlikely to hold a candle to "Orc-Side Story," but we did what we could. For those not in the know, Orc-Side Story is the tale of a family of Orcs suffering terrible prejudice after the release of the Lord of the Rings movies, and the star-crossed romance between one orc and his human love. We'll see how I feel after I graduate high school, go to college, get married, etc., but I reckon that Orc-Side Story will live forever in in my mind as one of my life's greatest achievements. (Edit from present-day Kit: CONFIRMED).

Day 1: 

Uphill the ENTIRE way. What a great way to kick my sodden summer-soggy body back into awareness. I was not without entertainment as I was asked to dance by many a mosquito. I believe that somewhere, somehow, bugs send out telegrams to one another that dictate exactly where to find people like me. The worst part is I couldn't even hear them. The only way I knew I was being assaulted is that I would suddenly get very fatigued, and realize that it was because my entire flow of freshly oxygenated blood was being pumped from my veins by vile little creatures. Creatures that will eventually grow so large on my blood that they will need to register for airspace time so as not to run into passing airplanes. 

I was also carrying our two plastic swords strapped to the back of my pack. Because, you know, pirates. At one point I was separated from my group and I passed some other hikers.

Random Hiker: ...You preparing for battle or something?
Me: My and my friend are making a movie.

Greenleaf Hut

A moment later I realized how silly that must have seemed, as I was apparently COMPLETELY ALONE at the time. Yes, my friend Harvey and I. He's a giant rabbit, you see, and totally legitimate.

We got to Greenleaf Hut covered in sweat. The huts were marvelous and completely destroyed the idea of real camping. They gave us dinner and breakfast, and nice bunks to sleep in. TOILETS, TOO!

Day 2: 

Up at 6:30, Breakfast at 7 (oatmeal, pancakes), set off at 7:30 to the hardest day of the whole trip. We started straight up Mount Lafayette, which was treeless and covered in fog. I couldn't see more than 3 feet in front of me, and often I would have to crawl. It gave me the feeling of ascending the mountains outside Mordor. Except colder. I like to think that I'd be Frodo, but really, I'm a Sam and there's nothing I can do about it.

Meanwhile, it was pouring rain and windy. I eventually became oblivious to these conditions, as hiking made me hot.  I was in a t-shirt and shorts in said bad weather and perfectly happy. At least it was comforting to know that the liquid dripping down my face wasn't my own sweat. About an hour or so into the day I finally figured out that attempting to avoid the mud was not only foolish, but staggeringly inept. So I accepted the fate of muddy shoes, and trod on. 

Sara and I went up Garfield, and discovered that the descent was quite literally a waterfall. The path was a rocky one down the mountain face, and the trail had made a perfect funnel for all of the rain water to pour. Every step we took meant that our shoes would fill with water. Sara and I slipped and fell more times than I can count, but the pain was alleviated by the fact that each of us had a turn to point and laugh hysterically at the other person on her back like a turtle, weighed down by a heavy pack, arms and legs waving helplessly in the air. 

The whole time I had Malcolm's voice warbling "The touch... the feeeeeel... the fabric of our LIVES, is Polypropaleeeeeeeeneee" stuck in my head. I like Sara's dad, as he's the only person I've ever known to compose a serenade to rain ponchos. He randomly burst into 'Dancing queen' a lot. Eventually, when we started noticing cheerful people coming down the path towards us, we knew he had to be close ahead.
Galehead Hut

We arrived at Galehead Hut- the most remote hut and the only one that had a handicapped-accessible ramp... much to the befuddlement of us. We couldn't help but wonder if a person in a wheelchair made it 8 miles up the mountains, why they couldn't somehow manage to get up three steps into the hut itself. 

Outside the hut, we began shooting for our movie, brandishing our plastic swords at one another and shouting various pirate-like things. I wondered briefly why we weren't embarrassed to be doing this. In any case, I'm sure we inadvertently provided a decent bit of entertainment for the other hikers at the Hut, at the expense of our own dignity. We roomed with two cantankerous old women... they slept. And eventually, so did we.

We were lulled to sleep by the beautiful music made by 1,000 mice crawling over absolutely everything.

I still think I might have swallowed one in my sleep.

Day 3: 

For some reason, I can't remember anything that happened this day. Uhhh... Right, it was seven miles long, and we got to Zealand Falls Hut (my favorite!) very sore and tired indeed. 

I found out that waterproof pants are of no use when one is sweating more that it's raining. 

We shot some movie, we slept, we got woken up by A THOUSAND SCREAMING CHILDREN! AAAAARGGH! THE SCALLYWAG LANDLUBBER WHELPS! I oughter keelhaul them dungbies!!! ... I was not actually pirate-ified enough to voice any of this, though Sara did numerous times. For this, I have great respect.

Day 4: 

Hiked mostly across downhill and flat areas. Archie and Ethan left half an hour early because they wanted to hike up two extra mountains (and they still managed to pass us before the end of the hike. As Sara put it: "Talk about demoralizing."). The other four of us left by 8 and were back at the parking lot by lunch. I did a little dance. Sara and I huddled in the back of the truck as we drove back around the mountains to the other truck. Then we all drove to our final hut- Pizza Hut! Where we all promptly gained back any/all of calories we'd lost the entire trip. Sweet deal. I like cheese.

In conclusion: Though Sir Stately-English-Man and Sir Mute never did catch Cap'n Jacques Sbarro and Sir Stagnant- all was not lost. As the Pirates won out in the end! The booty! The booty! (Was it in the pants the whole time? We'll never know.)
Sara Ray's family is uber fun- but that Sara? Why, she's the most gleeful sea-dog matie of them all. 

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