'The 50'

As much as it pains me to sit, focus and stay awake right now, I want write this while the blisters are still fresh. Also, there isn't much else I can do since I have trouble standing up.

'The 50' is a fifty-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail that leaves from Hanover and ends at Mt. Moosilauke and goes over almost all the popular sites to hike near campus on the NH side. I don't know who started it, and I don't know why, but someone decided that it would be really bad-ass of people to hike the entire 50 miles over 6 peaks (3 of them major) without stopping for sleep. It is now a Dartmouth Classic. The DOC hosts this event twice every year by selecting several teams of three or four to complete the hike within 30 hours and providing food, water, medical advice, entertainment and motivation at several support stations along the way to make it easier or send you to the hospital, if need be. It is total insanity, but it feels like you aren't a real Dartmouth Student if you don't enjoy or admire these things.

My group wasn't selected, and we were accordingly heartbroken. And then something possessed us to do it anyway by providing our own support. So after a week of planning, 11 hours of planting food and water along the trail, and only 4 hours of sleep - here is our tale:

4:25 am Saturday - Drunk roommate finally came home after a night of pong while I was cooking oatmeal for breakfast and wanted to help and cook me some eggs. I obliged. They were delicious.

5:58 am - a group of excited, under-rested young women depart Hanover.

~9:45 am - '10' Still feeling good, and the food went down nicely, with much enthusiasm. We'd pretty much been at racing speed the whole time, but there was no significant elevation gain. Brought back memories of Freshman Year when my orientation trip hiked through this same spot and also stopped for lunch. A change of socks and we were off again.

~11:30 am - Moose Mtn South peak Uncharacteristically easy. Gave me [false] hope that I might actually be able to do this.

~2 pm - Holt's Ledge Starting to slow the pace, thank goodness, because I am out of shape and slow. Unfortunately it is because Marissa (the smallest in the group, carrying the heaviest pack) revived an old knee injury, but not so badly that we have to stop. The face reflects how much extra energy it took to hold my arms up like that. This is officially the longest hike of my life.On the way down, we met an old man on his way up for his daily workout who asked if we were thru-hikers (those who hike the entire AT from Georgia to Maine) but was satisfied with our specific quest and offered us free ice cream at his house, which was coincidentally at our next food station! His wife wasn't home, but he made it to the top and caught back up with us on his way down. A 70-year-old man totally whipped me. But it was OK because I got ice cream.

3:15 pm - Old Man's House, '20' We ate ice cream and were given trail names so that we could properly sign the log book. I was dubbed "Green Pea." He offered us a game of croquet and I was tempted, but I would have rather had a nap. The giant pepperoni stick we planted definitely hit the spot. I caressed my ingrown toenail and one large heel blister before changing into my hiking shoes. As it turns out, my sneakers were better. A shot of energy gel and the use of an actual bathroom later we were on our way again.

afternoon sometime - Middle Of Nowhere My throat suddenly started hurting, so I coughed up something worth spitting and inspect it. I hocked up a fly. This trek is officially Weird.

7:30 pm - Smarts Mtn. Fire Tower Foggy. There was very disappointingly NO view. And no cell service. It was starting to get a little chilly and dark so we broke out the heavy artillery: headlamps and long sleeve t-shirts. And a knee brace. We are officially injured.

~12:20 am - Jacob's Brook, '30' This is the stop we couldn't find while planting food, so we finally get to unload packs and eat some of the more substantial weight. Had I not had an upset stomach and needed a nap, I might have been thrilled. I was very sad to have not been able to eat the avocados. If there is one thing to be said for this trip, its that we ate well - probably the best I'd eaten all summer.

1:15-1:45am - Mt. Cube I have taken the lead for quite some time because my "turtle" pace is perfect for our injury. I have also been given a new trail name. See above. After playing more 'contact' than I ever thought I would we reach and enjoy the almost-summit of Mt. Cube. It is, without doubt, the most beautiful full moon/fog/mountains/trees scenery on which I have ever laid my eyes and this pain and suffering is suddenly all worth it. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I just want to sit. There was no way a camera could have captured that view, so I didn't even try. Summit:

~4:15 am - Rt. 25A After 2 more hours of 'contact', we run across some sweatpants-clad kids sitting around a campfire on blankets.
"Where are you going?"
"Mt. Moosilauke."
"Oh, cool! You're totally almost there..."
"uh, thanks."
"You want some beer?"
"No, that's ok."
"Ok, well good luck"
And then they have a good, hearty laugh at us. Because Moosilauke is still some 20+ miles away. In the meantime, two of us are near heart attack because we told a very generous group of friends who were going to drive out and meet us with treats and food and new gear that we would meet them in 15 minutes at a spot still 4 miles away. We prepared ship for Ludicrous Speed. And one of us was still unable to bend her knee. And there was still no cell service.

6:03 am - Atwell Hill Road, '40' All hell breaks loose. I have been hallucinating in the predawn light. I saw mailboxes, cars, rivers, roads, dead bodies, and snack shacks in the middle of the woods. Up close, my eyes would no longer focus and the ground before me looked like softly textured carpeting. I'm still amazed that I didn't trip over a root and break my face. There were three very sweet girls dressed in Spiderman suits, innertubes and fairy wings waiting for us asleep in their car with hot chocolate, sandwiches, and my new hiking boots! If only every step I took didn't reverberate through my skull and feel like my heels were slowly detaching themselves from my feet, I might have been more than happy to zombie through the remaining SEVENTEEN miles.

After an hour and a half of deliberation, we are finished. It was a terrifyingly emotional debate. Two wanted to continue, two wanted to quit, none wanted to separate, four needed sleep, and two denied needing sleep. We hiked 36 miles in 24 hours. I went back with the car full of very nice girls and arranged transportation for the other three. I slept for 22 hours and had trouble walking for three days. I still have blisters on my feet (8 days later).

And yet, I'm still thinking about trying it again someday.

1 comment:

Gemma said...

ahhh can't wait for the next installment!
And, you don't float eggs in a hat?