AT 2019.. The Final Miles

 

Invitations to my fellow AT hikers were sent and the weekend in New Hampshire was planned. I had 17 miles to go to complete my entire AT adventure. I invited family and friends who hiked parts of the AT with me during the past four years to join me for all or part on this weekend hike. On Friday, October 19 we would hike from Grafton Turnpike NH (mile 1767.3) and head south to Etna Road (mile 1755.7). This would be an 11.6 mile hike up and down two “mountains”: Holt’s Ledge, a 1200-foot climb  followed by Moose Mountain, a 1500-foot climb. Saturday October 20, we would hike the VERY LAST stretch starting at Etna Road (mile 1755.7) and continue south into Hanover NH (mile 1749.8). This would be a 5.9-mile hike with one “mild” uphill to Velvet Rocks followed by a walk into town to the Dartmouth College Green, the official “END OF HIKE”.

No tent camping for this hike! We spent a comfortable night at the “Breakfast on the Connecticut” a fantastic B&B in Lyme, NH just a short distance from the tail head. After a nice B&B breakfast we shuttled cars and started our hike…

Brave hikers today included Jan and Chip who made the trip all the way from West Virginia, Tom and Leslie (the original AT hikers from Cooperstown), John and Maureen (the newest Cooperstown AT hikers), Stephanie and Ed. It was a cold and cloudy day but the rain stayed away all day. My good friend Bill (aka Adventure) was recovering from his own hiking injuries recently sustained in Virginia. He couldn’t make it. We missed you! Best wishes for a full recovery. Also hope to hike some more in the future with Lee (aka Morocco Mole) who was unable to attend. Cousin Dan was enjoying the sun in Palm Springs. We missed you as well. Last but by no means the least, we missed Brietside and her bright spirits and Bruce.

 

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Leaves were at their peak and clearly had starting falling.

Ed got the “Better Bauer” award of the day by making the trip all the way from Houston TX.20191018_143512

The hike ended about 5 PM and we had a filling pot luck dinner back at the B&B.

Our hiking crew enlarged the next morning with the addition of Bob and Michelle, Henry, and Ben and Sidney. I was so proud and happy that all four Bauer Boys, each whom had previously hiked sections of the AT with me, were able to join us for the final day of hiking.

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This had to be a perfect hiking day: Sunny, cool weather, fall leaves turning color, just the right amount of ups and downs to make it into a “hike” but not a killer day. In summary, a nice walk in the woods.

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Sidney, Bob, Ben and Michelle

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John says “I really like this hiking business!”

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By 4 PM we surfaced out of the woods into Hanover NH. The hike was complete! Cheers for everybody.570357301019191613_hdr

Partied all night….

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Received an official document to go on the wall…5717

Just like that, we all went our own ways the next morning and the 2190 mile journey was over…

As I’m finishing up this blog, I would share some thoughts about the two most often asked questions put to me since I have returned…

  1. How has the hike most effected you ?
  2. What comes next ?

When I first started my hike in May 2016 I had planned to complete the entire trek in one 6 month season. That didn’t quite work out,  since after about 800+ miles, it was getting colder and colder out there and it was evident that finishing that year was not going to happen. I had to adjust my expectations to realize that I had to view a “successful” hike as a more long term goal. That turned out to be just fine, since every subsequent winter for the next three years, I had lots to look forward to. It’s a bit of a cliché to say “Its not the end of the trail…but the journey to get there” that makes it all worth while. To me, that is a real life lesson.

I was not “born to be an outdoor hiker”. There were few opportunities to hike and camp outside growing up in NYC. In fact, I had never spent a night backpacking or camping overnight in the woods until my first AT hike with Tom B.in the spring of 2015. That was the first night I ever put up a tent in the woods. Didn’t sleep every well that night with all the strange noises out in “the wilderness”. Now, hiking is second nature. I’m more confident out there and have no issues hiking for several days all by myself. I sleep like a log in my Big Agnes tent that I view as my little “palace in the woods”. I would otherwise likely never have hiked alongside the occasional rattle snake, bear or moose.

Hiking the AT is also a “social experience” at times. I’ve made some new life long friends. I would say I have a somewhat quiet, reserved personality.  Meeting and socializing with hikers on the AT has made me more at ease striking up conversations with strangers (hikers) in the woods, at hiker hostels, town diners or at local pubs (common meeting places for hikers).

Finally, I have come to appreciate the essence of “being in the moment”. There are so many unbelievably beautiful moments outdoors while hiking the AT. I’ve taken hundreds of pictures but none of them really do justice to the memory or experience of being there. I think one of the best parts of the AT experience was stopping while hiking up and down the mountains…  stopping at the nice views.. stopping after crossing over a stream… and just being able to appreciate and enjoy that moment.

What’s next…? Many of my new AT friends are still itching to hike some more. As long as my legs and other body parts will comply, I aim to join them as long as I can. It might be for a day, a weekend or even for a month or two. Maybe parts of the PCT (Pacific Coast Trail) or the CDT (Continental Divide Trail).

Stephanie is retiring at the end of this school year. She has promised to get out her backpack and her new air mattress for adventures in the woods with me. We may also make it more of a “Platinum hiking experience”. That means more nights in nice hostels and real restaurants.

I want to thank all my friends and family for supporting me during my time out on the AT these past few years. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Thanks also to all my loyal blog post readers and fans. I’ve never been a “blogger” before this and have enjoyed documenting the Trail with you. I hope you have enjoyed “following” me. Thanks for all the encouraging “comments”.

Best wishes and love to all

Mike

aka White Cloud

ala The Lung Ranger

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