We got an early start and realized pretty quickly that we basically camped at the summit. There was a little stream just past where we slept, so we filled up with water as we were both completely out due to our impromptu camp set up and dinner from the surprise hail storm.
We then came out of the woods and the whole world just opened up to us. We were overlooking a beautiful, misty valley and the trail was pretty exposed. The grass soaked our feet but we didn’t care because the flowers sprinkled throughout the meadow and the views were so spectacular. It was such a great start to our day. We still had the morning shade of the mountains, but were so glad we didn’t push through the night before and try to do this section in the hail storm. We now got to fully enjoy its breathtaking beauty and we soaked up the lovely morning.
We took a nice mid morning break by a stream where we ate, filled up with water and I began the process of drying things out. Then we continued on with a picturesque day of flowery meadows mixed with pine forests and aspen groves.
We then took a nice long lunch break by a beautiful creek and set out our things to dry more fully. I elevated my aching feet and laid out on my sleeping pad. I wish I had done this more on the AT. Both Red Stripe and I had similar experiences where we constantly felt like we were trying to catch up to someone during our AT thru hikes. It was hard to take breaks for however long you might want when you’re playing catch up with a much faster hiking parter. We are making it a point to take breaks as often as we feel like it and really soak up the beauty at our own pace (which just so happens to be the exact same pace as each other!). It’s pretty incredible how we hike at such similar paces and want to take breaks at the same times.
After our lunch break we started to notice clouds roll in and about 5 minutes later the thunder started. We picked up the pace as we only had 10.8 miles left until Kenosha Pass where we would hitchhike into Jefferson to resupply. We basically outran the storm for a solid 6 miles. We then had to take a small break when the sun came out, take off our rain jackets and shoes for a minute, and then continue on. The last 4.5 miles were very tough. We were cruising and made the decision we wanted to take a nice 2-3 hour break in town so we booked it. The altitude started to get to me as we were breathing heavily up the climbs. I found it difficult to drink water and hike and breathe all at the same time. Every time I took a sip of water I felt twice as out of breath. I started to feel a little bonky and I felt like I had mild flu-like symptoms (likely the dry/heat/sun/altitude combo). I ate half a gingerbread cliffbar and felt a little woozy. I knew I just needed to keep moving but the last 3 miles hurt. My feet hurt, my left shoulder hurt (old AT injury from my scoliosis... still haven’t figured out a fix for that...), my body just ached all over and I even felt a little foggy brained. We just wanted to get to town so we kept pushing.
After 24 long miles we finally reached Kenosha Pass. We met another hiker in the parking lot who we had said hello to on trail about a mile back. We asked for a ride and she happily gave us a lift 4 miles down the road to the tiniest town of Jefferson. We went into the market and were so happy to see tables and chairs! We first put on our puffy jackets and hats because the AC fan was blowing so hard and we were a little wet from outrunning storm two the last 1.5 miles. I then put on my crocks and just sat for a minute. I ordered fries and ate the whole basket along with a coconut water and a bag of salted cashews.
We then asked the owner for our resupply boxes and she only brought out one. Red Stripe’s box didn’t make it yet. Luckily, I had an extra day’s worth of food in my pack from when we postponed our start a day and then we decided we would try to do the next 72 mile stretch in 3 days again and hold on to our pace. This meant I had an extra day in my box also. I was able to give Red Stripe 2 days worth of food and we decided we would stop in Frisco (in only 33 miles) because there is a Whole Foods there and that is the town Red Stripe is moving to after this hike.
We washed our hands with soap and that felt incredible. As we were sitting there about to figure out how in the world we were going to hitch back to the trailhead, two older gentlemen walked in. We had seen them hiking the opposite way two days in a row now and we chatted with them. They offered us a ride back to the trailhead. Hallelujah! We got to chatting and one of the hikers had on a shirt that said Katahdin or Bust! It turned out that he had hiked the AT over the last three years and had written a book about it geared toward helping seniors on trail. He had so many good stories and it was fun to meet another AT hiker!
We decided to forego the campground with bathrooms at the highway and hike about a mile out to find the perfect camping spot. As we were hiking I said to Red Stripe, “Oh my gosh a bear! Oh wait, never mind, I think it’s a human in all black, we’re being way too loud for a bear. Wait - it’s a horse!” But then as we got a bit closer we realized there were two moose near the trail just staring at us. We were entirely taken aback! Neither one of us got to see a moose in Maine on the AT, and now we had a very intimate encounter with two moose who seemed to be walking alongside us. They would go ahead and then stop and wait and look back at us along the trail. This pattern repeated for 3/4 of a mile and it was seriously the most incredible experience we’ve ever had on trail. It felt like a once in a lifetime experience to get to hike along with two moose friends.
Just after that we came upon the most perfect campsite right at a view of the valley with mountains in the background. We set up our tents and went over to watch the sunset.
When we walked back to our tents I made a little mushroom risotto (Patagonia Provisions) and it was SO delicious! We don’t really have a plan for tomorrow, we will just see what the trail and weather provide to us tomorrow.