NH Gear Review

Gear review!

I took lots of new(ish) gear with me on my NH section hike. Here’s a rundown of some of it:

Pack: SWD 35

This pack is a little big in the torso for me. I think if that were fixed it would be my dream pack. The pockets are all easy to reach while it’s on. I can reach and replace my water bottle from the lower small pocket, snacks from the upper small pocket, and tripod or poles from the tall pocket. The bottom mesh pocket held up really well, especially considering how many times I scooted across rocks on my butt. My legs are completely scratched up and bloody, but the pack looks great.

Shelter: Borah Bivy and MLD Grace Solo

I really like to sleep in shelters, for reasons that aren’t especially clear to me. So on this trip, I really only tented once. As usual, the Grace Solo was fairly easy to set up, and the bivy was great for the mosquitos. However, having the bivy really made a difference on some colder-than-expected nights. Even in the shelters, slipping the bivy around me helped block the wind and extend my quilt a few degrees. I didn’t zip it all the way up, but it did make quite a difference. I’m pretty sold on the bivy/tarp life.

Sleep: Thermarest Prolite Short, Down Booties, and EE Quilt

I’ve been a pretty dedicated CCF pad sleeper for a while now, although I’ve dabbled in other pads, like a winter inflatable and a Klymit X frame. I’ve always hated how long it takes to blow up inflatables, and how high off the ground they are. The Prolite takes about 3 breaths and is barely thicker than a CCF pad, but is a lot more comfortable. The weight is fairly comparable, and with my feet propped up on my empty pack, everything just…worked great! Some of the better sleep I’ve gotten on trail. The quilt was about as expected — I’ve had this quilt for over 2 years and it’s kind of a workhorse for me. Good for a lot of temperatures.

And the down booties. Ohhhhhh the down booties. These will be an “every trip except dead summer in the south” item. They add so much warmth for so little weight. Such a treasure. #blessed

Clothes: Patagonia Barely Baggies, Patagonia Tropic Comfort Shirt, random Sleeveless shirt

I switched from my usual Lululemon shorts to Barely Baggies for this trip. I wanted something a little thicker, and the pockets were intriguing. They definitely held up well and dried quickly. Good shorts. The tropic comfort tee was essential for the long stretches above treeline in full sun. My legs and hands are sunburnt, but my arms aren’t. Pretty impressed with how breathable and comfortable the shirt was even when I was hot and sweaty. The sleeveless shirts started with is an old Onzie hot yoga shirt. I used to love it, but felt like it was really holding on to sweat this trip. So I grabbed a neon pink tank from The Notch hostel and wore that, so that I could blind people with my shirt, if not my beauty. It was great.

Shoes: La Sportiva Ultra Raptors

This was a big shoe change for me. I’ve messed around with Salamons, Altras, and Hokas, but La Sportiva may be the end of the line for me. The Ultra Raptors were super grippy on rock and wet rock, even though I was mostly too scared to trust them. I only got one blister the entire time, and that’s a near miracle for me. My feet were definitely fatigued at the end of each day, but they recovered quickly and really, that’s nothing new. Overall, I’m very impressed. I did change up the lacing to take some pressure off my high-volume feet, and added in a heel lock. As usual, wore with a variety of Darn Toughs.

Insulation: Melanzana MicroGrid Hoodie and Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, Patagonia Capilene Lightweights leggings

I get cold easily. The Melly was fantastic on cold mountains and to sleep in. The hood draws up easily to cover as much as you want it to. I did miss the venting from the quarter zip on my old fleece, but between the Melly and the Patagonia Tropic Comfort long sleeve, I had most active situations covered. The GW was warm enough for chilly nights (we were around freezing some nights), and I never resented having packed it. If things got much colder than the 30F we saw, I’d have wanted something much more substantial, but for this trip, it was a killer combo.

The leggings were…pretty good. I like how light they are, and they’re definitely comfy for a sleep layer, but they stretch out a little too much for me to really want to hike in them. Also, one sharp rock on Mt Washington ripped them pretty easily. That’s a bummer, but probably not entirely the fault of the leggings since those rocks also ripped my own legs to bits. Everything else stood up well, though.

Rain: Outdoor Research Helium II and EE Rain Skirt

The OR was good. I have no complaints. The hood worked well with my hat. I thought I would miss having pit zips, but somehow I survived. I do think the supper is a little tight — it’s hard to really move with one hand. It’s kind of weird to explain, but my Patagonia rain jacket is much easier to zip and unzip with only one hand. Maybe I’m weak?

The rain skirt was surprising to me. I didn’t expect it to make a huge difference, but it’s really nice to have dry underwear after a soggy hike. Usually I get rain dripping down my shorts, but this skirt thing was breathable, easy to hike in, and will likely catch me a man. Sold.

Misc: Xero Shoes ZTrek Camp shoes

(Lol sorry, I forgot to take a picture of these on this trip, so the only actual picture of these sandals is from a Reddit meetup hike a few weeks ago.)

Look, I have foot problems. Tell me to strengthen them all you want, but some people just have a harder time with feet. I liked having these lightweight sandals for hostel stays and around camp. They’re zero drop, which helps gently stretch my calves and Achilles out after a long day of hiking they easily fit in the mesh pocket of my pack with a small CCF pad for my butt, and it was nice to let my feet air out and stretch and flex. I like camp shoes, and these are pretty good ones. I will say, however, that I do not recommend speed walking across an airport in them. My calves burned for days.


As usual, I still have more things to try out on my next trip, but for now? There was nothing I brought that was an absolute failure for me! And that, my friends, is pretty good.

8-10: Garfield, Ethan Pond, Lakes, The Barn

8: Garfield Shelter to Ethan Pond Shelter

Today was hard.

It was hard from the moment I woke up, my hips and calves and knees aching. It was hard when I had to decide to get out of my sleeping bag, the sun shining straight into my face at 5:45am. It was hard when we immediately went downhill, rock scrambling down a waterfall. Literally.

We saw what I believe to be an angry adolescent bird.

We climbed up South Twin, which wasn’t terrible. We sat in the sun and wind and ate.

We went down, which was ok.

You can really see how the trail is made in this picture below. Dirt and plants have a shallow, tenuous hold on the great granite slabs below. Footprints from the last 90 years (or more?) have eroded the dirt down to the rock. It’s no wonder trees blow down so frequently here — to hold on, they spread roots against prevailing winds, building up strength in one direction. A strong wind change and suddenly everything is different!

We stopped for water at Zealand Falls Hut, which was nice. (We also stopped at Galehead Hut in the morning for water and snacks.)

We kept going downhill, and then we had 6 miles of FLAT.

It was pretty, it was good trail, but I just wasn’t here for it.

I’m annoyed that everything is so hard. And it’s not that I hate hard stuff, but I’m just over it. The views are all huge and amazing but it’s the same thing as yesterday, only I’ve walked 15 miles. It’s not a good headspace to be in. I like to enjoy hiking— it’s still my vacation, after all! But I’m not enjoying the whites very much. Maybe we’ll slow down a bit and take more breaks. That will probably help my knees and feet, which are constantly aching. Maybe I’ll save the Wildcats for another trip. I don’t know what I’ll decide yet, but right now I’m pretty set on sleeping late tomorrow. I’m exhausted.

Miles: 15

Trip total: 93.3 or so

MVP: taking off shoes and putting my feet in the water

LVP: feet.


9: Ethan Pond to Lakes of the Clouds Hut

There’s nothing for it but to walk. There’s no other way to get out of the woods except to walk, and that’s the exact thing we’ve been doing, so we might as well continue on.

From Ethan Pond we had a long downhill to Crawford Notch. Bent started talking to Gardner, a thru-hiker, but I was antsy and wanted to hike alone, so I passed them and flew down the trail.

I got to a parking area and started on the short road walk when a man approached me.

“Are you a hiker? Are you hiking the AT?”

“Oh, well, I’m sectioning the AT.”

“I’m feeding hikers down there, let me feed you! I’m Fresh Ground, and I’ve been doing my Leapfrog Cafe.”

Well boy, did my eyes light up. I met Fresh Ground in 2016, when I sectioned Hot Springs to Fontana Dam through the Smokies. He came in to the shelter, the one just south of Newfound Gap, late at night with another hiker named Mustard. He entertained us with stories and in the morning, he made me a fresh ground cup of coffee while we watched the sun rise through the snow-covered trees.

Fresh Ground in 2016

There are some people who don’t do a whole lot, but they leave a huge impression on you. Fresh Ground was that for me that trip. And he was for me again this trip.

I went down to his cafe, which was a couple of folding tables and a ton of food and a few chairs. He made me an omelette just the way I like it. While he was cooking, Bent made it down and joined me but chose banana pancakes instead. We sat and talked with Fresh Ground, enjoying his company and his trail magic.

Everyone always says trail magic comes when you need it most. As a woman of faith, I believe that to be true. Today is just another point of evidence for that.

There’s nothing worse than not enjoying the thing that makes you feel the most like yourself. It’s depressing. Fresh Ground is a trail angel. He changed my entire mindset. He fed me, gave me water, walked a bit down the trail with us. It is truly amazing, the people who come into your life when you least expect it and need it most.

We started up Webster Mountain with lighter hearts and fuller bellies. The climb was long, but only really tricky in a few places. There were some incredible views.

We walked through an alpine bog.

And made it to Mizpah Hut, where we stopped for water, soup, and a break.

The entire day was uphill for the most part, and a good chunk of it was above tree line as well.

The trail was… really ok! After the deep depression we were in yesterday, it was nice to be ok with the level of pain we were currently experiencing.

And even though the AT was closed for a section, which meant we had to go OVER mt Monroe instead of AROUND it, we were still ok.

We made it down to Lakes of the Clouds Hut, and asked for a work for stay. It’s supposed to be just for thru hikers, so we…stretched the truth.

After the paying guests had eaten, we helped ourselves to all of the leftovers and ate with the Croo, in the kitchen. These AMC huts are staffed by young adults, who hike up all the food for the Hut and their own personal stuff for the summer season. They cook, do educational tours, change linens, all that sort of thing. And they can choose to feed thru hikers in exchange for some chores.

We washed dishes, wiped down shelves, swept the dining area, and deep cleaned tea pots.

And tonight? I’m sleeping on the floor, with a toilet and running water. Feels pretty fancy! (The toilets are still just holes in the ground, but they have stalls and toilet paper, so it *feels* legit.)

I also learned that the creepy bird we’ve been hearing is most likely a White Throated Sparrow, and the giant puffy angry bird I snapped a picture of the other day is a Grey Jay, and they are VERY friendly.

It’s been a good day. Tomorrow: MT WASHINGTON!

Miles: 14.8

Trip total: 107.9

MVP: Fresh Ground



10: Lakes of the Clouds Hut to The Barn

Sleeping on a dining room floor may SOUND glamorous, but you don’t even know the half of it. First of all, people pee at alll times of the night, so the bathroom doors are constantly slamming. Secondly, some weirdo guests stayed in the dining room after the lights were turned out, reading by headlamp and like…watching us sleep or something. And thirdly, guests get up at 4:45am to talk about wanting coffee and discuss which trails they were hiking today, and they do it right next to your head. One couple decided to play Bananagrams at the table I was sleeping under.

So anyways, Bent and I sat up, looked at each other over the table between us, and decided to pack up. We were packed and on trail by 6am.

The climb up to Washington isn’t terrible but it’s kind of long. The views were amazing, and it was neat to watch the Hut get farther and farther away.

And shortly after, we arrived at the top of Mt Washington. For all I’ve heard about it, the wind was calm and we were the only people there. It was pretty neat.

I walked around the side of the visitor center and found a chair. I relaxed, chatted with some other hikers, and ate (of course).

After a nice break, Bent and I set off. This time, the downhill was rocky and slow.

We had to cross a snow patch. I had chatted with a hiker who warned me about it. He seemed to know what he was talking about and said he climbed up over it, instead of walking through it. So when Bent and I arrived there we tried that, but couldn’t find a good path. Then we tried going below it. Same problem. So we gave up, risked life and limb, and slowly crossed the snow.

We survived!

Around the side of Mt Clay and Mt Jefferson, then up and over Mt Madison. Seen here as a realistic depiction of a villain’s lair.

It was as terrible as it looks. Did you know the whites were formed with like some volcanic activity or something? I know that, because these rocks were SHARP. I scraped every part of my leg multiple times. I eventually started bleeding.

And eventually we were back in the tree line. The trail was steep for the first couple of miles, but eventually leveled out some. Not until we navigated more blowdowns, of course. There’s nothing like climbing over a tree while losing 4 feet of elevation at the same time.

A million water crossings and we were in the home stretch. And at Pinkham Notch, just as we were coming around to the parking lot, who should call out to me but Fresh Ground!

FG made us grilled cheese, hot dogs (with toasted buns!) and even made us fresh cut french fries. Truly amazing.

He had given me a hugely motivating talk the other day, to push hard to finish this section after the Wild Cats, but Mt Madison killed me. Every single inch of me below the waist was on fire — from muscles to tendons to blisters to sunburn to scrapes and cuts. I just couldn’t do it. FG said as soon as he saw my face at Pinkham Notch he knew I just didn’t have it in me. And I really didn’t. Ever the amazing trail angel with a true servant’s heart, FG gave us the encouragement and food we needed, and helped me clean the blood off and finish the trip happy. Even if I didn’t do all the trail I wanted to, I still accomplished a lot. Everyone we talked to today asked where we came from and where we were going. “Wow, that’s a really big push. Tough trail!” Even the Lakes Croo said that. They were right. And I could feel proud of having survived, I guess.

We called The Barn hostel for a ride, and planned for the next day to be relaxing before a long, long day of travel.

I do feel good about what we accomplished. That was 122.8 miles of the hardest trail I’ve ever done. I can’t say that I love The Whites, but I can say I’m proud of how I hiked it. And when I come back to finish the Wildcats and the Mahoosics, I’ll plan 8-10 miles per day 🙂

Miles: 14.9


MVP: Fresh Ground’s french fries!!

LVP: Mt Madison can fall apart and turn to gravel for all I care.

4-7: Jeffers Brook, The Notch, Garfield Shelter

4: Hexacuba to Jeffers Brook

Did you know that the sun rises at 5am? It does. And by 6:30, Bent and I were on the trail. I prefer to wait for anyone else there to leave first, so that I can make sure I don’t forget anything in the shelter. So we waited for Running Bear and Trail Dog to leave, then headed out.

The climb up to Mt Cube wasn’t all that bad. My ribs are no longer sore from my gasps for breath, so I feel like maybe I’m getting better at hiking.

There was so much to look at up there. We even saw Smarts Mountain, only 6.9 miles away. It’s incredible, seeing these mountains that look so huge and empty, and knowing that you’ve only recently walked all over them.

Just like little ants.

After Mt Cube things got real boring. There was a lot of boring woods, a boring mountain that didn’t even count as a mountain, and a lot of mosquitoes.

We saw some appallingly large blazes, forded a river (no oxen died), then started the very long climb up Mt Moosilauke. Fortunately we only had to go one mile tonight, because it had started raining and we were ready to get dry.

There’s nothing better than putting on warm, dry clothes after a sweaty hike.

We don’t have all our plans made yet. We have no idea how or when we’re going to Lincoln to resupply, but I guess we’ll figure it out soon.

Miles: 15.7

Trip Total: 44.4

MVP: Mt Cube!!

LVP: mosquitoes 😦


5: Jeffers Brook to The Notch

Sometimes things just seem to happen so quickly.

Climbing Moosilauke didn’t happen quickly. It was 4 slow, grinding miles up.

And I mean slow. I learned about most of Josephine Baker’s life in that time.

But eventually the trail flattened out, and the big boulders changed into smaller gravel.

And eventually we made it up. That’s what I kept telling myself, “eventually I have to make it to the top.”

We couldn’t see much. It was very cold and very windy, so we started down.

Now, most people prefer to hike Moosilauke southbound. We went northbound. And the reason they prefer to go south is that it means you climb UP the super scary steep part, which is easier than going down it.

Of course, we went down it.

We even got the pleasure of trying to figure out how to leap across this washed out section. It just went straight down to a roaring waterfall, if you’re wondering what’s so bad about a washed out section of trail.

At the bottom, we decided the best course of action was to go to The Notch hostel. We could resupply and slackpack 16 miles the next day, and that would take care of resupply, laundry, showers, and keep us on track.

It was a great decision.

We came to the hostel and got checked in, then went to town and got Mexican for lunch, then went to price chopper to buy our groceries for the next 6 days.

We walked 2 miles back to the hostel, which was nice. Showers and other chores took care of the rest of the day. McDonald’s for dinner (of course) and then we were ready for bed.

Miles: 8

MVP: Getting to the parking lot

LVP: downhill.


6: slack pack the Kinsmans

We decided to slackpack 16 miles today. Slackpacking is when you leave most of your stuff at the hostel and only take what you need for a dayhike. It’s great for super challenging hikes and for knocking out some miles.

After we made pancakes, Bookie, the manager at The Notch, drove us up to Beaver Brook, where we’d left off after coming down Moosilauke yesterday.

We immediately went up. And up and up and up.

First came Mt Wolf, which was unimpressive and not worth talking about.

Then came the climb to South Kinsman Peak. People say they have a favorite mountain, or they say the super hard hikes are fun. I’ve never really gotten that until today.

This was hard. It was VERY hard. It was steep uphill and with huge, giant slabs of rock you had to pull yourself up. It was like a puzzle, trying to find the route that would give you the elevation you needed to move on.

I got tired of that about .2 miles from the summit, but that’s ok.

I was worried that the clouds rolling in would mean another foggy summit, but I was wrong.

A quick mile lead us to north Kinsman mountain. The views were amazing.

After a nice break, we started the descent. Look, it was hard. My knees will probably never recover. It’s slick rock slabs and giant boulders and everything else for about 3 miles, and then the trail evens out and we could pick up a little speed.

Good thing, too, because we had to book it to meet our shuttle on time. We went so fast, this picture is blurry.

Bookie picked us up, and after more McD and showers, we repackaged our resupply and are ready to stretch until our muscles will let us sleep.

Tomorrow, back up to the whites. And the beginning of the Presidentials!

Miles: 17

MVP: that climb up!

LVP: that climb down!


7: The Notch to Garfield Shelter

It was hard to leave The Notch. I know I’m all about those woods, but hostel life is fun too. We had a very grumpy guy at the McDonald’s, our morning pancakes, stories and chill time with Bookie, new people coming through…hostels are an adventure too!

But bookie drove us up to Franconia Notch and we said goodbye. We hiked the mile on the bike path, then started up to Mt Liberty.

It was a long slog, but not too technically difficult, which was nice. We dropped our packs and took the .3 blue blaze to the Mt liberty summit. Great views!

Back on trail, we soon hit what Bookie described as “pick up sticks.” 60-70 giant trees downed in a huge storm in October. We clambered and limboed and scooted around, under, over, and through.

Once we survived that, it was time to climb up Little Haystack. We could see Mt Liberty and the entire ridgeline we’d just walked. It’s incredible how far away things seem. That was only a mile or two away!

From Little haystack up to Mt Lincoln.

And from Lincoln up to Lafayette. The views were amazing, and the wind was fierce.

A long, slow descent that was not at all kind finally put us back in the tree line. We dropped down and then went back up to climb Mt Garfield.

We barely stopped, then started down to the shelter. We were tired. The 17 yesterday and all the rocks today had drained us. Our knees were tired and we were hungry.

We set up at the shelter, paid our $10 each, and settled in for an early bed.

Miles: 10

Trip total: 79.3

MVP: sour punch straws

LVP: knees

1-3: Hanover, Smarts Mountain, Hexacuba

1: Hanover to a stealth site

There’s something very calming about traveling. The way I travel isn’t always necessarily calming, but eventually, I find it relaxing.

Case in point: I got up with plenty of time to get to the airport, but hadn’t secured a ride. Augusta, the bustling metropolis that it is, had zero uber or lyft drivers at 5:30am. Quelle surprise.

So I drove myself to the airport, and yes, I will pay almost $100 to park there. But I’m an engineer now, not a student, and that makes it all better.

Anyways, I got to the airport, made it up to TSA, and then received a pat down because I was “sweaty” or something.

And then TSA threw away my peanut butter.

AND THEN my flight to Charlotte had “heavy fog” and had to do some special maneuver to land, which used such sensitive instrumentation that we had to turn off ALL electronic devices, not just put them in airplane mode.

We did land ok though.

Anyways, I made it to Boston, ran to Bent, then we took a bus to Hanover. In Hanover, we stopped at Zimmerman’s to pick up our packages that we’d mailed to ourselves, then went to the Co-op to buy food.

After a delicious “turkey and cheddar grinder” and a reprisal of the BEST apple juice I’ve ever had (Bent said, “ wow this tastes like the juice of apples!”) we hit the trail.

It was amazing to be back in Hanover, one of my very favorite towns. But the feeling of leaving it behind, stepping into the woods…that was incredible too.

The mosquitoes were out in full force, and we paid for every single day we’d been off trail. The air was heavy and humid, the climbs were steep, and we were as happy as two people can be.

We managed to find a decent spot to Camp for the night, so we set up our “homes” and ate dinner before heading off to sleep.

Miles: 6

MVP: Apple juice

LVP: I got a mosquito bite INSIDE my ear.

2: stealth site to Smarts Mtn Fire Cabin

My parents gave me an alarm clock for my birthday (I asked for it, it wasn’t a passive aggressive thing or anything). It simulates sunrise, and I programmed it to wake me up with bird sounds.

When I woke up today, it was to the sun rising through the trees as birds sang from the branches. It was peaceful and tranquil and is one of my favorite parts of sleeping outside.

We had breakfast and packed up. The weather was lovely, with a nice breeze to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

We walked through some beautiful meadows, the air heavy with the sweet hay smell that I remembered from Massachusetts and Vermont.

We made it up to Moose Mountain South and stood to appreciate the views. The day was getting warmer, but the bright sun just illuminated the green mountains around us even more. They positively shone.

We went down to moose mountain shelter, intending to fill up on water and take time for lunch. Sadly, there was no water.

Actually, this is the water. Delicious!

We did stop for a great lunch at a stream with loads of clear, cold water flowing down big rocks. It was some of the best water I’ve had all year.

We crossed a marsh, where I evidently impersonated a Boy Scout.

Another amazing brook, where I washed my face and felt like I’d taken a whole shower.

Up to Holt’s ledge, with amazing views.

Do you see the firetower in this picture?

Look close!

That’s where we were headed. It’s amazing to think that’s only 2 trail miles away.

The trail there was…difficult. After the first view (where those pictures were taken), it was .9 to the next view, and then 1.2 to Smarts Mountain. But the last .5 took us 30 minutes. This is partly why:

But we made it, although Bent was suffering and I was out of breath and almost out of water. We went .2 down a side trail but only managed 1/3 of a liter, and that was full of dirt.

We’re tucked up in the cabin with Running Bear, a section hiker. The next 2.5 days are promising constant rain, but we have Mount Moosilauke coming up and that will have to be dealt with…somehow.

We have some plans in mind, but a lot of it is dependent on how well we manage in the most difficult terrain I’ve ever hiked.

Miles: 17

Trip total: 23.4

MVP: that water

LVP: when there wasn’t water.

3: Smarts Mountain to Hexacuba

One of the other settings on my alarm clock is a “wind down” mode with the sound of a gentle rain. So it’s no surprise that, at 6am, when we woke to a muted sunrise and the sound of wind and rain on the cabin roof, we all rolled over and went back to sleep.

We slept for quite a while. Around 10 I ate some cereal and drank the last 3 sips of my water. Around 11 Bent and I finally got up. I’d reworked our agenda, allowing for an extra short day today and a short day at the end, in Gorham. We’d toyed with the idea of going to Grafton Notch, in Maine, but transportation logistics for this section and the next are a lot easier from Gorham, NH. And Bent’s knee is bothering him some (and to be frank, I think yesterday almost killed him! He slept almost the entire time we were in the cabin), so not pushing the miles so much seems like a good decision. It’s better to enjoy yourself than feed your ego, anyways.

So we had a long 4 miles down Smarts Mountain. The downhill was much easier than the uphill, although we were dodging giant piles of moose poop every 10 steps, on average.

I’m not kidding. We actually counted.

After 4 miles we hit Jacob’s brook and water. LOTS of water. We filled up, ate a slow lunch, and finally brushed our teeth.

The rain had almost stopped by the time we started up towards Hexacuba and Mount cube (though the rest of Mount Cube will be tomorrow). The quartz rocks were slick and dangerous, so we carefully picked each step.

I read this book today about Alex the African grey parrot. The author, his trainer/researcher, talks about how babies use “crib time” to babble new words and practice phoneme combinations. Parrots do the same thing, trying out words in the privacy of their cage, testing combinations.

I think hiking gives me that space too. At home I can distract myself from changes. But hiking, around the usual thoughts (“I need to eat some nuts for lunch, they’re too heavy,” “how many liters of water have I had today?” “Is that the top of the mountain? Oh. No.”) is space to test out new thoughts and experiences. “I’m an engineer now.” “We broke up.” “My dad has cancer.” They roll around your brain in different combinations, taking shape and color and meaning. Maybe that’s what other people call “processing.” To me, it feels more like testing out a new word, one I’ve only read, trying to place the emphasis on the right syllable, learning the feel of it.

We came to the shelter and set up, changing in to warm, dry clothes. It was only 3pm, so we were quiet, thinking and taking inventory of pains and twinges and feelings.

The rain has mostly stopped now, just drops from the trees, and one bird is singing in the forest. Soon we’ll finish our nightly chores (put food somewhere, and that’s really it) and settle in to sleep.

Lest you think everything is a romantic dreamscape, Thoreau at Walden Pond sort of thing, Bent just asked me if I’ve ever eaten aspic and one of the other hikers just farted. Trail life!

Miles: 5.3

Trip total: 28.7

MVP: rain skirt

LVP: no moose