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Sunday, August 28, 2011

When it rains, it pours! And...the trail is closed. When Zack wrote this blog early yesterday at a coffee shop in North Woodstock, we had no idea that a few minutes away, the cabin where we had stayed with Ry and Vanessa was flooding, due to the rains brought on by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene and the overflowing nearby river. When we got back after a trip to the movies, we were shocked to see the cabin complex underwater. Ry ran into the cabin to rescue Fern, their dog, and as the water receded, we were able to go in and retrieve our possessions. As nomads these days, it was a strange feeling to not know whether our only belongings would be salvageable, but we are grateful to report that after a trudge through the water, we were able to gather it all - except my phone, which drowned when the waters rose - from the sopping cabin.

Ry and Vanessa dropped us back in Glencliff, NH, where our trail crossing is, but we had to take a roundabout way because so many roads had flooded. Now, we are at Hikers Welcome Hostel, and though it's a beautiful day today, the water levels everywhere are incredibly high, so there's no hiking today...or maybe even any time too soon. The USFS has closed the White Mountains - and all sections further north - until further notice. Apparently, that's never happened before. We're hoping that the USFS will be able to open the trail soon, and that our dream of finishing the trail this year will be a reality.

We're ready to get moving (feeling restless), but we don't have much of a choice. We also discovered that Zack's pack is broken, so he went on a journey back to Hanover, to get a new one. We're very grateful that things weren't worse, humbled by the news coverage of people, homes and towns (even ones we were in as recently as a few days ago) washed away. We're staying positive too, and as my Dad says: "You two just keep making memories!"

Here's what Zack wrote yesterday, pre-Irene:

We've completed twelve states now, and have two of the roughest, most rewarding left to go. New Hampshire has to be one of the most talked-about states. One section hiker, heading southbound, grimaced when we asked about the terrain to come, then cackled, "Enjoy NEW HAMPSHIRE! AHAHAHAHAHA." We've heard dozens of times now that the Whites are unlike anything else we've seen on the trail. Our plan? Take the challenges in stride like we have for the last 1700+ miles and enjoy every minute of it.

Manchester, VT to Mountain Meadows Lodge (near Killington, VT)
We left off in Manchester Center, VT at the Green Mountain House hostel. From there we caught an excellent view from a fire tower on top of Bromley, got our boots soaked in pond run-off and narrowly evaded a boisterous electrical storm. The northern section of Vermont is a flowing, needle-covered, primrose path, adorned with spruce and pine. We built a Cairn on White Rocks and made friends with some Czech students on a "genius," whirlwind trip around the U.S. Then--surprise!--we met up with the most lovable of fellows, Matt S., near Clarendon Gorge for a visit to Camp Sangamon ("oh Sangamon, oh Sangamon, oh Sangamon our home!!!"). He even took us to ice cream. What a guy.

We were able to dodge two thunderstorms in the same day, one on top of Mt. Killington, another on the northern face. Passed Maine Junction, where the Long Trail diverges, after 100 or so miles, from the AT, and turned due East towards a little slice of heaven. Situated on Kent Pond, the Mountain Meadows Lodge proved to be a glorious afternoon respite for two weary hikers. Bill and Co. took us in for the evening, even though they were shampooing the carpets. We loved it there, and can't wait to go back.

Mountain Meadows to Hanover, NH and Beyond
Happy and full, we left Mountain Meadows for our last Vermont section. The "flatish" terrain turned out to be a real roller coaster of ups and downs--some of our toughest days in the state. Our good friend Bruce, prescient with detailed elevation maps in hand, sent us off one morning with a shout of, "YOU'RE GONNA CLIMB TODAY, BOY!" Alas, even downhill segments felt uphill on our way to Hanover. Lucky for us, the home of old Dartmouth is chock-full of motivating temptations for thru-hikers: Free bagels at the Bagel Basement. Free Pizza at Romuntos. Free Coffee at the Dartmouth bookstore. Strangers upon strangers offering their apartments for nights on end. We found a nice balance between asceticism and indulgence, feasting at the Bagel Basement and food co-op, getting our chores done, and still making 17 miles that day. Hanover definitely makes our list of "must-go-back"s. (Our weather timing was not quite as good that day though; after nervously awaiting storms all day, we stayed dry through 17 miles, until we got poured on in the last five minutes of our hike.)

Hanover, NH to North Woodstock, NH
Two more big days over Smarts Mountain and Mt. Cube gave us a taste of what's to come: long, rocky, rooty, slick climbs with incredible views at the top. Can't wait to hit the trail again with Mt. Moosilauke (hopefully) on Monday. The weathermen say we've got some beautiful weather in store for the week, so we're hoping they aren't pulling our leg this time.

Less than 400 miles to go.
Zack (and Lara)

PS - Check out our pictures! Click on the thumbnails above.

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