“Wow!!” I grinned, ear to ear, as I gazed up at the sparkling white, snow-covered summit of Mount Washington, set against the most amazingly clear bluebird sky I’ve ever seen in the White Mountains. It was hard to believe that just a few days before the winds had been blasting across the mountains at 171 mph with temperatures dipping down to -13F (-25C) since today the sun was shining, temperatures were rising into the teens, the winds were calm, and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. Not a single one!! I couldn’t have asked for better weather for me first winter overnight on Mt. Washington! (Trip report and gear list below)
In 1998 my brothers and I set off on an end-to-end hike (a thru-hike) of the 271.1 mile Long Trail in Vermont. For the majority of the hike the three of us wore matching blue shirts, and we were nicknamed the blue crew :) It was an awesome adventure. On that 19-day backpacking trip I came to the conclusion that I would enjoy thru-hiking. Although I dreamed of an Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike, I never could have imagined that 20 years after that first thru-hike I’d completer the triple crown of long-distance backpacking with the completion of the CDT (2018), PCT (2014), and AT (2013).
On my CDT thru-hike I used three different backpacks: my 2013 Exos 58, which finally wore out after 3,662 miles of harsh use, and two different 2018 Lumina/Levity 60 packs. Below, I review the two models (3 packs) I used on the CDT (see “The Gear That Got Me Thru (CDT Gear List)” for my complete gear list).
“I don’t understand why my pack is so heavy,” I mumbled, heaving my pack onto my back, “I have all the ultralight gear.” Peru laughed, “That’s exactly the problem. You have ALL of it!!” I laughed too. She wasn’t exactly wrong.
The tall meadow grasses brushed against my bare legs as I walked slowly, reverently, towards the granite blocks of Soldierstone. Soldierstone was described in Yogi’s Continental Divide Trail Guide as “the most unique, peaceful war memorial on the planet,” and the two veterans that were leaving the site when I arrived had both found the monument to be profoundly moving. I was thinking about those veterans when I stumbled onto the first of many Quote Stones:
“Phhhhuuht,” something I’d never heard before snorted outside my tent at 3 in the morning. I let out a sigh of my own as I rolled over and grumbled, “Go on now, Git!” And, hearing whatever it was shuffle off, I promptly fell back asleep.
I had water, but I walked down to the mountain spring to check it out anyway, almost as though I needed to make sure it was real. I leaned down scooped some up and splashed it on my face. It was cold and awesome.