August 11th 2018
Mt Lafayette – Ethan Pond Shelter (mile 1842.6)
18.4 miles
Total miles: 1867

In the night 4 more people came and set up their tents on top of the mountain. So there were 9 of us there in total. Really we shouldn’t have been camping there and we could have got a $100 fine if we were caught, but we weren’t. And we left absolutely no trace. 

The sunrise was worth it. I got out of my tent at 5am and wrapped my sleeping bag around me. I had been cold to start off when I went to sleep but woke up sweating. The sunrise was awesome and the sun came up behind Mt Washington. It was so cold up there so we packed up quickly and got moving, trying to find a warmer place at a lower elevation. 


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We all needed to poo but there was nowhere to go above the tree line, so we had to hold it. We descended down a steep rocky path and got back into the trees. It got warmer straight away. I saw a bunch of people stealth camped at various point. When we got to the bottom I couldn’t wait any longer and I had to take a little side trail and have a poo.


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I had also run out of water and I had about 2 miles and a steep climb before I could get any. The climb up to Mt Garfield was a struggle because I was so dehydrated. It was steep and rock as usual and there were so many people on the trail. I realised it was a Saturday and the white mountains are a popular place. It took longer than it probably should have to get to the top but I made it eventually. 


I asked peaches for a sip of her water. She didn’t have much left but just setting my mouth was enough. We didn’t stay up here for too long as it was pretty chilly and we headed halfway down the descent to Garfield shelter where there was a beautiful spring. I filled up my water bottle and I wanted to chug a load but it was too cold and was giving me brain freeze. Instead I chose to carry more than I normally would. 

The caretaker of the shelter was there and he was explaining his job to us. He works 12 days on and then has 3 days off. $10 an hour for 8 hours work. He does ridge running, trail maintenance, and site maintenance. One job is to also look after the privy including turning over the mulch and removing anything that shouldn’t be in there. He said he has found all sorts of things in there, the usual gross stuff that people would throw down there, plus underwear, a cell phone and a whole sealed packet of Oreos. Who takes Oreos into the privy with them? My biggest fear is losing my phone down a pit toilet. 


He also said that a previous caretaker had made curtains for the little window in there and someone had taken them down and used them as toilet paper. Gross. When they find stuff like that they have to fish or out and wrap it up and take it down the mountain so please people do not put things down there that you aren’t supposed to. In most of the privies the excess liquid from the waste drains deep into the ground, but in places where the campsite is close to water then it drains into something they call a ‘mank tank’ and the liquid has to be dispersed appropriately away form the water. They have helicopters ship in supplies at a cost of twenty five thousand dollars. 

It was really interesting to learn about all that stuff and True Grit, who hiked the AT sobo last year told some great stories. I also wasn’t that keen on paying $10 to camp when you can pitch up in the woods for free but after hearing all the privy stories ten bucks seems like a small price to pay. 

We continued on down the mountain where the trail follows the water and the stream is cascading down the rocks like a waterfall, and then onto some gentle ups and downs, but the trail was still pretty rocky, and we stopped in at Galehead hut, one of the fancy huts, and there were tonnes of people there. Most of the people we passed on the trail arrived while we were there. We saw so many trail runners out and lots of people were doing some loop trail I can’t remember the name of. 


This man had an enormous load, I don’t know how they do it!


Then there was a big climb up to South Twin mountain which was a slog. Steep. Rocky. Hot. Mack and Animal were at the top, we had been leapfrogging with them for most of the day. 


After descending from South Twin the trail really starts to even out slightly. There are a couple of small climbs up to Mt Guyot and Zealand mountain but nothing too bad. I saw a couple ahead with a dog and she shouted over to me “are you ok with dogs?” “Yeah I love dogs”, I replied and I walked by. Her dog was so well behaved, sitting between them as I passed. “Thank you”, I said, you are the first person who has asked me that on the whole trail. “Have you come from Georgia?” he asked. Yep. More dog owners should be like them. Later on I was passed by a woman and her dog and she practically pushed me into the bushes as she ‘squeezed’ by! 


Jukebox was having some problems with her knee today and the right knee was very swollen. She has had it before and thinks she might need some fluid drained off it. They had gone faster than me but when I caught up to them Jukebox had hurt her knee more and thought she might need to go to an urgent care a little sooner than she thought. We discussed pushing on and going further to the road rather than stopping at the shelter. I stayed behind Jukebox just in case she fell or hurt it any further. 


We were hiking along as suddenly I hear all these cheers. Animal, Mack and Peaches were there cheering and blowing kazoo things and I see they have made me a 9000 mile marker. A while ago I told Peaches that at mile 1836 I will have hiked 9000 trail miles and she remembered and threw me a party! I have hiked 9000 miles on long distance trails. Nine thousand miles! 

Peaches had been carrying cans of Mountain Dew, cakes, candles, Twix, party blowers and party hats for days! I hadn’t suspected a thing, in fact I had kind of forgotten about it and decided that I probably wouldn’t have anything to make a mile marker out of. 


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I was so emotional, partly because I’ve walked a really long way but mostly because that was such a nice thing to do. I was very touched. There aren’t any hats that say ‘congratulations you have walked 9000 miles’ so my hats said happy birthday. Everyone I saw from then on wished me happy birthday! I stopped trying to explain that it wasn’t my birthday and just accepted the birthday wishes! I wore my hat for the whole of the rest of the day. 

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We hiked together down to Zealand Falls hut, on the way a dog came out of a side trail and started barking angrily at us. “Hey man”, Animal said, “you should keep your dog on a leash”. He had a valid point. No one wants to encounter an angry barking dog on the trail. It’s scary. But the man got arsey and aggressive, just like his dog. As we hiked on we saw more people on the trail and more people wished me happy birthday. Just before the hut was a great water slide and we peer pressured Peaches into sliding down it, which she did! (see the daily video) 


The shelter was packed and it was full of Québécois. A huge group of them were staying the night. I’m sure it would have been a fun night and a Canadian thanksgiving dinner was on the menu. It would have been pretty noisy though. 

Jukebox was still keen to keep pushing to get to the road and she wanted to hitch to town tonight to get food somewhere. I was concerned that we wouldn’t get to the road until it was getting dark and I really didn’t fancy hitching in the dark. Plus if we went to town where would we spend the night?!

We went inside the shelter and I was hoping they might offer me a treat after hearing my ‘birthday’ story, but I got nothing! We asked them about urgent care options and they knew surprisingly little. There was a small rocky descent after the shelter and then it flattened out it both senses. In terms of elevation and in terms of terrain. The rocks disappeared and we were on an old rail line.  Not that wide anymore but nice and flat. I took the lead and we were motoring along, moving faster than we had for days. We were all hungry having not really stopped to eat properly today and we sat by the junction of the falls, deciding eating was more important than the falls. My food bag is a random mix of stuff and I have no idea of what I’m carrying will last 2.5 more days! I was really craving pizza in that moment. 


We were still passing a lot of people and this one guy moved over but not far. He went to speak to me and then I recognised him…it was Recon from PCT 15. What?! We had been in touch and he was going to do some trail magic in Massachusetts where he lives but I had already gone through when I heard from him. I was so surprised to see him as I thought I’d missed my opportunity. I then realised that we aren’t that far away by car from Mass. 


He asked if we needed anything, not really. “Do you want pizza?” he asked. Er yeah I’ll talk some pizza! He had three slices of pizza he had packed out so we had them and he continued on to spend the night at Zealand Hut and party with the Québécois! 


We moved on again and maintained a good pace, until with about half a mile to go to the Ethan Pond shelter I was starting to wilt. We decided to call into the shelter because we needed to poo and Jukebox really needed to go, she said she couldn’t even think straight. By the time we had done that it was 7:30pm and we still had 3 more miles of rocky downhill which would mean we would get to the road late and have to hitch in the dark. Luckily when I had returned from the privy thay had spoken to each other and decided to stay here the night. The shelter is $10 to stay at and then this gives us a hiker pass which we can use to get future huts at 50% off, plus we get soup and 2 pastries at the huts. Sounds like a good deal to me. 


We are on a tent platform, Jukebox and I, with an older guy who is snoring his head off, and Burgundy, the French man we have been leapfrogging with for a while now. It is very cramped and I’m hoping the snoring man will not keep me up all night. At least it’s warm tonight.

Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 95