Before I left Vermont and crossed into New Hampshire, hell yeah only two states left, I was listening to some Nine Inch Nails though my head phones trying to pump out some early morning miles, when I suddenly saw a blur of motion behind and to the right of me. Jumping as I pivoted, possibly squealing but you will never know, I fixed my eyes on a large black cat. By large I am talking the size of a German Shepherd, as it bounds onto a tree about 5 feet off the ground then explodes off, like a champagne cork, flying through the air then disappearing into the woods. What just happened? What was that? I rip my head phones out, heart pounding, as I look around. Well I wont need these for a while, my adrenaline is high enough for me to hike quite a few more miles before lunch! Could that have been a catamount (mountain lion for those not from the Northeast)? I thought the eastern mountain lion was extinct? I continue on at a faster pace then before from the excitement, looking behind and to my side much more frequently then normal!
It feels so good to only have New Hampshire and Maine left before for I finish my goal, even though they are supposed to be the hardest sections of the trail. With New Hampshire ranking #1 followed by Southern Maine at #2. Baxter State Park itself which is basically Mount Katahdin in Maine ranks #4. With only 2 states left I have 3 of the hardest sections of trail to hike since Maine takes up two slots on the list of hardest sections. New Hampshire comes in at #1 because of the White Mountains. The start of the Whites is generally considered Mt. Moosilauke (mile 1792), ending at the town of Gorham (mile 1891). I was as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve, so motivated was I by the pull of discovering what the view on the next peak offered, I had my personal longest mile day of the AT in what was rated the hardest section. The beauty of these mountains totally overshadowed the physical demand.
The Whites are considered the hardest section because Mt. Washington is home to the “worst weather in the world” and many climbs gain over 1,000 feet per mile. All this is worth it because of the outstanding views to be seen since you are consistently above treeline. One can even spot Wildcat, one of my favorite NH ski areas, which days later I will arrive at on the trail. The White Mountains are also one of the most popular sections of the AT. It hosts the Franconia Ridge which is a 6-mile traverse and one of the most highly rated day hikes in the country. It’s also home to the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) or the (Appalachian Money Club as some refer to it) the prices to sat at these huts are ridiculous, but thru-hikers can stay for free depending on demand. The hiker staying helps for a meal and space on the floor. Which I ended up doing once. I was trying to make a huge push over Mount Washington, but it didn’t happen. I stopped way short of my goal and was forced to stay at Lake Of The Clouds Hut before pushing on for coffee at the top of Mount Washington the next day.