I’m sat writing this on a sofa, eating cheese puffs which taste more like paper than cheese. I’m a few days behind on the posts but that’s not a problem. I’ve got an overnight train to D.C. tonight (28th) so hopefully, I’ll catch up on them then.
Greg and I got up at 5 this morning, in order to catch a lift at 6:15 and, all being well, make it to the White Mountains in New Hampshire before 9. I was offered the chance to go hiking in the Appalachians with some of his friends before I arrived and I agreed because why not! I sat squeezed into the middle seat of the car for two and a half hours, feeling my legs get number and number but the conversation, for the most part, kept my mind off it. The driver, Ethan, was probably the nicest guy I’ve met so far. A molecular biologist and keen cyclist, he’s a great laugh. He once fell on a stick whilst out hiking and impaled his torso almost from side to side yet miraculously survived and still, to this day, manages to joke about it.
A friend of his, an Israeli-American Google employee, who was born and raised in California, had some interesting stories to tell, particularly when I asked about my chances of finding work in the ‘Golden State’. It turns out that unskilled jobs are hard to come by, such is the number of undocumented migrants there. That said, a friend of his almost got work on a medicinal weed farm, so I guess it’s possible if you look hard enough. He told me that his brother had previously worked with ‘All Hands’, an organisation which helps those living in disaster zones to rebuild their lives. They’re about to move into Texas, to do what they can after Hurricane Harvey and offer free accommodation and three meals a day to their volunteers. I’d love to be able to say I helped, even in the smallest of ways, so it’s something I’m seriously considering doing. I was also told that you can get room-and-board in exchange for volunteering on campaign trails: his brother did so for Hilary last year. When the 2020 election comes around, it’s definitely something I’ll look into.
We arrived at Mount Lafayette Campground, just outside of Franconia, just before 9. Finding a place to park was hard – the White Mountains are so beloved by Americans and Canadians alike that people drive hundreds of miles to walk in them. That’s nice though – a common love for the great outdoors created a palpable feeling of community. Almost everyone you meet stops and asks how your hike’s going.
It’s a three-mile walk uphill to the ridgeline, a slow process as every step you take is to climb up and over the large slabs of rock that are strewn across the ground. There were no noticeable paths, just rocks.
We stopped to fill our bottles at the Greenleaf Hut, which is run by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Soup, bread and cakes were laid out on a table next to an honesty box. All of them were carried up the mountain by whichever unlucky volunteer’s turn it was to do so. As well as a shop, the hut doubles as a bunkhouse which could, if you were that way inclined, make for a scenic, if slightly chilly, nights sleep.
Soon after, we pushed on to the peak of Mount Lafayette, an extremely popular mountain named after a French military aide to George Washington. From here, the rest of the trail we were walking got a lot easier. After following the ridge down to the slightly lower Mount Lincoln, we eventually passed some fairly impressive waterfalls and, more surprisingly, a green-haired girl with hula-hoops in her backpack and a joint in her mouth. It sounds too good to be true but I promise you it wasn’t!
As the hours went by, I was grateful that we’d chosen to take the shorter 8-mile loop, as opposed to a 13-mile one. Walking continuously down rocks and having to wait every few minutes for walkers to squeeze by in the opposite direction meant that, for the most part, we were averaging about 1mph. Climbing the equivalent of 313 floors, according to my phone, was more than enough.
Driving back to Boston, we ran into a roadblock set up by the Border Patrol. Nobody in the car had seen anything like it before and the ‘interrogation trailer’ was highly suggestive that they were searching for immigrants, not fugitives. The focal point of media coverage on Trump’s immigration policy is on the wall and the Mexican border but it would seem that illegal immigration from Canada hasn’t been overlooked by the administration. After all, New Hampshire is relatively close to the Canadian border, or at least in American terms.
After a bit of General Gau’s chicken from Wok ’n Roll (what a name!) back at the apartment and a quick tick check in the mirror, I was dead to the world. But I’d just ticked off my second state and climbed a mountain on continent #3 so I was more than happy.