Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Day 129: The Longest Day On the Trail!

July 14: Happy birthday to me! To celebrate my 40th birthday, I woke up early--at 4:30 in the morning--and checked out of our motel. I told Amanda that we didn't have to check out so early--she could come back and go to sleep--but she insisted it was okay and to go ahead and check out. So I dropped the key off at the key dropbox at the front of the hotel, but I cleverly left the door unlocked and told Amanda if she wanted to go back, the door was unlocked. We might be checked out, but she could still use the room! =) (She told me later that she did go back and get more sleep.)

Views in the morning along the ridge to Mount Lafayette were fabulous!

Amanda threw me off at the trailhead by 5:15 in the morning, but the trailhead was nearly a mile away from the actual AT where I got off the trail, so I had to hike a quick but easy 15 minutes and was on the A.T. again and hiking by 5:30.

The reason for the early start was because I intended to hike a fairly substantial distance to the Zealand Falls Hut--about 20 miles. I've done 20-mile days before, but this was 20 miles IN THE WHITE MOUNTAINS! It's not the same thing.... I figured it was best to get an early start. If I finish early, great. If it takes longer than I thought, then hopefully I'll still finish before it gets too dark.

I hiked hard for nearly twelve solid hours! The trail climbed steeply out of Franconia Notch, then largely followed ridgelines the rest of the time. The ridgelines weren't as steep as the initial climb, but they definitely weren't flat either. Well, some sections were fairly flat, but most of it... not!

My first rest break was at Mount Lafayette with absolutely spectacular views in all directions! I stopped only briefly, maybe 15 minutes, to eat some snacks and enjoy the scenery, but I still had a lot of miles to do and soon was back to hiking.

At that point, the weather turned foggy and damp. It didn't rain, although a chance of rain was in the forecast and was almost guaranteed later in the day. The next summit along the trail, Mount Garfield (named after the president, not the cat!), held no views due to the fog so I kept hiking without a break.

Looking back towards Mount Moosilauke, which I went over two days earlier.

My next rest break would be at Galehead Hut where I could get indoors and out of the cold, wet fog. I stopped for another 20-minute rest to eat some snacks and noticing all of the old registers for the hut on a bookshelf, leafed through them until I found my register entry from my 2003 thru-hike in which I spent most of my time taunting Rubberband Man for being behind me. I couldn't remember that at all.

But I still had miles to hike and the weather was looking increasingly ugly outside, so I didn't linger for long. I wanted to get through as quickly as possible before any rain started!

Another hour or two later, I stumbled on a remarkably flat piece of trail and badly bent my trekking pole. I was okay, but I spent a few minutes trying to straighten out the trekking pole.

After 12 hours of hiking--with only two 20-minute breaks the whole day--I finally arrived at the Zealand Falls Hut where Amanda was already waiting for me. Somewhat surprisingly, I beat the rain.

We had the idea that it might be fun for the both of us to stay at the hut if we could work it out. I could stay for free doing a work-for-stay program--although I wasn't above begging to work-for-nothing in honor of my 40th birthday. I had the driver's license to prove it really was my 40th birthday! But it was also contingent on Amanda being able to book a bunk space. The huts are very popular and usually are full, but when we had looked online, there was one bed actually available. If it was still available, we could have both stayed there.

But that last bunk had filled and there was no space for Amanda. Plan B was to hike back out to the nearest trailhead (where Amanda had parked the rental car) and drive to a motel somewhere. I really didn't like this option because the nearest trailhead was three miles away and I'd already walked over 20 miles over some pretty rugged terrain, but what else could we do?

I rested for about 10 minutes--but by now it was starting to get dark and rain still threatened so we didn't want to linger for too long. I did take the time to write a note in the register joking that turning 40 was hard. Yesterday, I was 39 and feeling great wandering around North Woodstock during my zero day. Today, I turn 40, I'd walked over 20 miles and my feet hurt! What a difference a day makes! Turn 40 and my body just starts falling apart!

We finally arrived at the trailhead and rental car at 7:00 that evening--nearly 14 hours after Amanda dropped me off on the trail. We decided to drive into North Conway where we'd find a motel for at least the next couple of nights.

On the drive back, I saw a moose walking across the road in front of us. "Moose!" I shouted to Amanda in the car.

She starts looking around frantically. "Where?! Where?!"

"On the road! DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF YOU!" Where the heck had she been looking?

She slowed down and I whipped out my camera to get a photo or two, then tried getting a video of the moose. It didn't last long--the moose soon finished crossing the road and entered the trees on the side, disappearing from view. But we saw a moose which was very exciting!

We arrived at a hotel and pulled over to inquire about the rates, but it was more expensive than we wanted to pay so we had a try a few places before we found one that we were happy with.

Back in the room, I pulled out my pedometer and was stunned to see the number of steps I had taken that day... about 68,500 of them! By comparison, my biggest day (in terms of step counts) on the AT was 56,000. I'd never broken 60,000 since I started carrying a pedometer, and I absolutely blew through that number! I was on the cusp of 70,000 steps!

"$#!^!!!" I said to Amanda. "I have to go out again. I need 70,000 steps. Just to say I did it." As if I had nothing better to do. *rolling eyes* Stupid Fitbit.

I put my shoes on again, then walked around the parking lot of the hotel for a half hour until I had the 70,000 steps. My feet were sore, although I would have expected them to hurt more after such a huge day. It wasn't the longest day I'd ever done in terms of distance. My official trail miles for the day was a mere 20.1 miles. In fact, I had 22 (twenty-two!!!!) days on this trail where I had done more miles than this! Although I didn't count 4 of them since they weren't on the trail (but were still required to get to and from the trail). But given the difficulty of the terrain, my steps were smaller than normal and I had racked up a huge number of steps--even by my thru-hiking standards--if not a huge number of miles.

So that's how I celebrated my 40th birthday: I walked my feet off! Happy birthday to me. =)

It's a SPOR, don't you think? =)

Mount Garfield is visible ahead, but by the time I got to the top, it was socked in with fog and provided no views. So I have nice views OF Mount Garfield, but none that are FROM it!

Inside the Galehead Hut.

Found my old register entry from my 2003 thru-hike!

Tut! Tut! Looks like rain!

I think it's kind of cool being able to see the new growth on the pine trees!
Fortunately, my trekking pole suffered more than I did in this fall!

This is the water pump that gets water for the Zealand Falls Hut.
Zealand Falls Hut
The inside of the Zealand Falls Hut was packed with people! Probably because the weather outside was so cold and damp and everyone staying at the hut at already arrived for the evening.

Your body just falls apart the day you turn 40!

The last three miles, hiking from the hut back to the car, I had Amanda to keep me company. =)

My personal best! There were probably days on the PCT where I might have done more steps, but I didn't carry a pedometer then and don't know what those numbers would have been like. This is definitely a new best I've ever recorded with a pedometer, though! But it seems like I should have done something more fun for my 40th birthday!


Rebiccola said...

Happy Half-Birthday!

MoonshineOverKY said...

Lovely pictures today! A birthday on the trail - sounds like a lovely 40th to me! I'm hoping to be on the AT for my 47th or 48th, so another 6-ish years. Getting the kids through high school first. Then, I'm off!!!! Happy half birthday!

Karolina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karolina said...

Happy birthday, dear Green Tortuga! =)

R said...

Happy birthday! I see you are a true letterboxer, finding a SPOR and identifying the evergreen (spruce?) as a PINE!! Never fails. LOL