Lost Photos from the Appalachian Trail

John Leader
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On June 23, 2013, almost exactly one year ago, I set off on the greatest adventure of my life. To celebrate our one year anniversary of thru-hiking the AT, my hiking partner, Freaky John, emailed me a slew of photos that I'd completely forgotten existed. Here are a handful that carry with them fond (and sometimes funny) memories. If only there were more....

John Leader

The AMC hut system in New Hampshire's White Mountains is one of the standouts of the AT. These rustic relics from a bygone era of mountain men now cater to hikers of all experience levels. During the weekends, hundreds of people conglomerate on the famous ridges of the Presidential Range, and for many of these visitors, the huts provide an ideal place to spend a night beneath the stars while still enjoying the creature comforts of the real world. For AT thru-hikers, the huts are wonderful resources that often mean steaming coffee, sugary treats, and work-for-stays.

The above picture was the first hut we stayed in at Carter Notch. Situated in the heart of a deep, precipitous canyon, next to a pristine mountain lake, Carter Notch was possibly the most difficult place we ever had to leave along the entire trail. After enjoying an egg, bacon, and pancake breakfast, I got to touch a guitar for the first time in about two months, and the feeling was truly indescribable. I'm not the best or most passionate musician by any means, but two months away from anything that's normally such a fixture in your life, is difficult to comprehend until you have it again. It was akin to putting on my first pair of jeans after four months in the same pair of shorts.

John Leader

To anyone else, this shot of blueberries would be just an interesting camera shot at most. To me though, these blueberries represent a 20-mile hike from Dalton, Massachusetts to one of the best shelters along the entire trail at Upper Goose Pond... We stupidly began our day at 2 p.m. About half way in, we reached a blueberry farm where we picked 4 pounds of berries to take to a shelter where we'd heard there was a caretaker who would make pancakes in the morning. After night-hiking for three hours with dim headlamps, losing our way, and rolling our ankles too many times to count, we finally arrived at Upper Goose Pond Shelter. In the morning, we realized it was all worth it, as we enjoyed bottomless coffee and all you can eat blueberry pancakes.

After breakfast, we ventured down to the lake, where we may or may not have eaten brownies that may or may not have contained just a teensy, little bit of THC. After a very giggly canoe ride on the lake, we hit the trail, where we encountered the strangest thing we could have possibly witnessed, at a time when we really didn't need to see anything strange. It was a northbound hiker who was hiking with, not a dog, but a cat. A cat! A cat that had traveled 1,600 miles sitting on the pack of this hiker.... So that's what those blueberries mean to me. Pancakes, canoeing, and backpacker cats.

John Leader

The next day, we were understandably relieved to get out of the woods and into the civilized town of Great Barrington, MA, where things would hopefully return to normal just a bit. They didn't. First, we visited a wacky, hippie restaurant called, The Gypsy Joynt , which was easily the most unique restaurant along the entire trail. Don't get me wrong, it was amazing. I had a burger that was loaded with Bayou bacon, barbeque sauce, jalapenos, carmelized onions, potato chips, and macaroni & cheese, followed by a cinnamon roll that was as large as my chest. But the whole environment was simply out of this world.

As Freaky John and I were sitting on their porch, with the sun setting, wondering where we'd sleep that night, a rough, bearded man approached us and offered to take us in for the night. Perhaps over-eagerly, we accepted and subsequently hopped into the bed of his beaten up pickup truck. Fifteen minutes later, pitch dark, and still riding deep into rural Western Massachusetts, with an eerie fog hanging over the surrounding cornfields and dilapidated farmhouses, we began second-guessing ourselves. These thoughts intensified when our driver turned onto a bumpy gravel road surrounded by dense pine forests and continued down it until reaching a cabin that seemed like it was plucked directly from a horror film. At this point, I resigned myself to certain death. But what followed was the most impressive act of hospitality I've ever experienced in my life.

John Leader

The bearded man, Ritch, allowed us to sleep in his one-room, no electricity, no running water, epitome-of-rustic cabin, and in the morning, he made us fried eggs with toast and French Press Coffee. I'll never forget it.

John Leader

Unfortunately, these are some of the only photos that exist from our adventure. Neither one of us carried a camera, so we have to rely on a few pictures of mountain huts, blueberries, and scary cabins to help us celebrate our One Year Anniversary departure date.

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