Day 136 – Saturday, July 23: White Mountains Hostel (Gorham, NH) to Gentian Pond Campsite, 11.8 miles, 1,902.6 total AT miles.

We woke up late and hung out in our room waiting for breakfast, which was included in our stay. By 8:00am we were enjoying French toast and bacon – it was delicious. After eating, Greyhound and I returned to our room to finish packing. My food bags were overflowing again.

We left the hostel with Black Santa at 10:30am after slowly packing all morning. I weighed my pack on a hanging scale in the garage before departing – 47 pounds! I couldn’t believe it!

We hiked up Mount Hayes – Black Santa spotted some moose poop on the trail. We also found wild blueberries – they were very tasty! We kept stopping to munch on blueberries – but we had to get going. Storm clouds were moving in. Black Santa took off ahead – Greyhound and I eventually lost him in the distance.

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We hiked on in the rain for the rest of the afternoon. It was cold and miserable. The trail wasn’t exceptionally rough, just more of the same slow-goings. It was impossible to stay dry. At one point, I slipped on a boardwalk and fell backwards onto the planks. I stuck my hand out to pick myself up (and avoid getting more wet), when my arm sunk deep into the mud. I almost lost balance and fell in! I got lucky and righted myself – we took off for the next shelter at Gentian Pond.

We arrived at 7:00pm, thoroughly soaked and both of us unwilling to hike any further. We quickly set up our tents – it had briefly stopped raining and put on dry, warm clothes. Man, I’m getting really sick of being cold and wet out here! We walked up to the shelter to cook dinner and saw that Ralphie was bunking there for the night.

We hadn’t seen him in a while – but he saw Black Santa today. As we cooked, we wondered as to how far Black Santa was going to hike. We thought there was a very good possibility that the rain knocked Black Santa off the trail and we passed him trying to get to Gentian Pond. After consulting with Ralphie, Greyhound and I were nearly sure of it – Black Santa was somewhere behind us.

After dinner, the sun set and the temperature dropped. Greyhound and I said goodnight to Ralphie and headed over to our campsite. We stayed up discussing our plans moving forward for the better part of an hour and came up to a few conclusions.

First, there’s no way we can summit Katahdin on August 7th like Black Santa wanted to. We could theoretically push ourselves and potentially make it, but choosing that date leaves zero room for error. We were already in a position where we couldn’t take any more zero days – we simply needed more cushion, more time.

Second, August 9th not only marked my last day to finish the AT in less than five months, it marked Greyhound’s 150th day on the AT. Suddenly, that date became much more meaningful.

We decided to do our best to keep up with Black Santa’s timeline, but acknowledged we may not be able to keep up with his ambitious pace. I sent him a text explaining my situation at 9:00pm, dozing off to sleep not too much after that.

 

Author: Chris Kummer

Hey y'all - Cool Dad here. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to thru-hike the AT. It remained a nagging thought for nearly a decade - then it got loud enough to warrant my attention. So I quit my unfulfilling job(s) in Seattle and commenced hiking north from Springer in the spring of 2016. And I'm exceedingly thankful I did. The people I met, the things I saw, the gross foods I ate - not a day goes by without fondly remembering life on the trail. If you've already thru-hiked a long trail, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're thinking about tackling a long-distance hike, do it. Do it now. I'm probably gonna do it again...

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