"Fitch 46" Trip Report


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  1. #1

    "Fitch 46" Trip Report

    Saturday 8/6: 2:45 AM

    I woke up from a sound sleep for the third time this night, each time due to the fact that the folks on the site next to ours had been up drinking, playing beer pong and funneling beer since 7pm. Not sure how they hadn’t passed out yet, wished I had had the chance. With the alarm set to go off at 3AM, I decided to just get out of bed and start the day.

    I was very nervous, unsure of myself and the adventure that loomed before me. Heck, I had never done anything quite this grand before and had no clue if I would even finish. In fact, deep down inside.. Something told me I wouldn’t be. The week leading into this trek was one of the most hectic. With acupuncture, working a 40 hour work week, a Team Sherpa meeting packing for a weeks vacation in the Whites, and trying to organize my gear for the task at hand.. I was all ready well past spent. I was also emotionally spent, on the verge of tears at every corner, mostly from hurtful things said over the last few weeks from folks within the hiking community.

    I knew what my job was and knew I would give it my all, but “my all” is something I didn’t know how much there was left of. I sat on the dirt road of the campground and ate a bowl of Corn Pops for breakfast. Wished I had time for some eggs, but sleep was more important and I only had about 4 hours of it if I was lucky. I spilt my bowl, and lost have the cereal. DANG!! I cleaned u what milk had spilt in the back of Lendawgs car where we had stored the cooler. I then packed up the rest of my gear and headed for the campground gate.

    The gate was locked but the folks had given me a spare key. On the gate was a sign and when I got close enough to read it, it said “GO JOHN! GOOD LUCK! – Marvin.” Marvin has been the owner and operator of Crawford Notch General Store and Campground for 3 seasons now. He’s a wonderful man who has been very supportive of me this entire year as I use their location as a home base. I removed the note and unlocked the gate, drove up the drive and closed and locked the gate behind me. I sat back in the car… took a deep breath and said.. “Here we go.”

    I traveled down Rte. 302 through the sleeping town of Bartlett and into Glen where I turned onto 16. I was the only car on the road and felt very lonely in the enormous region it is. My eyes peered into the darkness scanning the side of the road for any wildlife that may decide to jump out. I stomped on the brakes! A moose had jumped out and crossed the road near Whitney house in Jackson. I pushed on and pulled into Wildcat Ski Area.

    With the only views attainable at this hour being the dark shadows the mountains cast in the eerie night ski, I placed my bike in the woods at the tree I had locked it to before, closed the lock and drove to my trail head. I reached Stonybrook trailhead with 5 minutes to go. I hopped out of the car and put 2 headlamps on, threw on my pack.. looked at my watch and ran to the trail. Right as the clocked turn 04:00:00 AM.. I stepped foot onto Stonybrook Trail and what would turn out to be my greatest adventure regardless of the outcome… had begun.

    I walked hastily up the trail. My breath would rise into the night after passing through the light from my headlamp. It was a very cold morning with temps in the upper 40’s. I was shivering a bit but knew I would warm up by moving faster. I past the old rusted bus hidden in the woods off to the side of the trail, not long after my imagination, tiredness and perhaps biggest fears began to take over. I heard voices in the woods, a VERY evil and cunning laughter followed by the sounds of ferocious dogs barking. At this moment I knew that I wasn’t emotionally ready for this journey let alone physically. I began to shake with fear and felt chills run up my spine. I decided to do something I had been lacking for some time now.. And that was to turn to faith. For the next 2 miles I would recite the Our Father and the Hail Mary to comfort myself.. And it worked.

    Soon I made my way to the 1st stream crossing without a bridge. I couldn’t remember if the trail went right across here or followed up stream for a ways. I followed where my head lamp led me and before I knew it I came to a dead end. OPPS! I turned back to where the turn for upstream occurred, and then crossed the stream and franticly looked for where the trail continued, I found it and the uphill climb finally ensued from here.

    At about 3,000’ I began to hear the hooting of bears below in the watershed. They were obviously shouting to each other to warn of my presence. I was a bit scared of running into a bear on the trail at night, but convinced myself that the trail swings away from the watershed… I was wrong.. it swung TOWARDS it. Not long after I heard a bear hoot, and it was so loud it was if the bear was immediately to my right! I SCREAMED and threw a rock into the darkness. Next thing I heard was the bear running down through the brush and I began to run uphill away from them.

    As soon as I got winded I stopped… While catching my breath and talking to myself about how silly I was being.. I heard the bushed to my right begin to break. I looked up and saw all the trees around me, small trees, had been bent over and broken from tension. The leaves stripped of the branches.. I knew what was laying beside me… a MOOSE! I screamed again and yelled and the moose got up and trod off down the mountain, I again.. ran uphill!

    As I reached the height of land on the Carter Moriah Ridge, the sun finally began to lighten the sky and I let a big smile engulf my face. I had no desire to check my watch as it felt like I had been hiking a good 4 hours so far. I took the left turn onto Carter Moriah trail and found my way to Mount Moriah. Once I reach the summit, I let out a humble “1” to myself, checked the time and saw it wasn’t even 6am yet. I was very pleased, had been moving right on target and as I turned to the West… I watched the sun rise above the great mountains of Maine. The sky painted itself pink and orange, the mountains turned a smokey blue and gray, and I gulped down some accelerade.

    After a brief pause I carried on my way over the Carters. Nothing eventful took place for quite some time. Just me and a lot of miles to go. The winds picked up from the west and it once again got cold hiking across the ridge. 7:40 AM Middle Carter, 8:01 South Carter, 8:41 Carter Dome and I made may way into Carter Notch Hut at 9:17 am. I decided to stop inside to eat some PB & J as my stomach had begun to growl. Inside I found the 2 caretakers. They greeted me with smiles, took my picture and asked, “So Sherpa John, how are you making out so far?” I could not believe that they knew who I was and what I was doing. They comforted me, gave me supportive words, poured some of that hut lemonade we all love.. and wished me well. One of the two used to be a VFTT Lurker.. now he doesn’t own a computer.

    I took off for the Wildcats. As I began the short incline out of the notch and to the Wildcat ridge trail, I looked up ahead at the Junction with 19-mile brook and a moose appeared from the left.. he saw me and immediately scampered off into the brush. Quite a difference seeing him while there is sun light. J

    I made it to Wildcat A for 10:01 Am, Wildcat D at 10:46 and Wildcat E at 10:52. I then turned around and headed back for the Ski Lift… As I ran towards the lift, all the tourists saw me running, gave me a weird look and I imagined their faces as I ran off the edge of the summit and down the ski slopes. When I reached the bottom, a few whom had been at the top came off the lift and laughed at me in disbelief. I gave them business cards, asked them to donate to our cause.. and I went right for the snack bar. I bought a hot dog, which came with a pickle and chips. I sucked it all down and then made my way for my bike. I unlocked it, threw on my helmet and pedaled my way the 8 miles down to the car.

    After reaching the car at 12:20pm, I loaded up and called Bob Hayes to relay my times. Man I had done great! I was in great spirits; I was right on time and feeling good. But as I drove back towards Glen down Rte 16, I was quickly getting sleepy. In Jackson I had to pull over and take a 15-minute nap. Man did it feel great. I then made my way into town and stopped at Irving to fill the tank. I reached the kanc and hid my bike at Pine Bend Brook trail head. I then drove to Oliverian Brook, refilled my water supply and was back on the trail at 1:32 PM.

    As I made my way Up Oliverian Brook trail, I decided I would run the flats near the base. I could put in a few 100 Yards of jogging but would have to stop and just speed hike. I wasn’t feeling tired, my feet hurt for sure.. but for some reason I could not run. I kept heading up to Passaconaway cutoff. Somewhere between the Junction of Oliverian Brook and Pass. Cutoff and Square Ledge Trail a muscle in my thigh tightened up and began to squeeze hard. The tendons that attached to my knee began to stretch out and I stopped rivaling in pain. I was unsure of what was happening but I paused to stretch the muscles in hopes of continuing.

    I continued up the trail and just before the Square ledge trail, The muscle tightened up again and this time it was worse, with it, my right quad and right calf muscle both tensed into balls. The situation was now grim. I was not feeling tired was still right on target times… but for some reason.. my leg had failed. I turned around and tried facing down hill… the leg felt fine. But when I turned back to use the “climbing muscles” they tensed back up. A mere mile below the summit of Passaconway, was going to be damned to let the mountain defeat me. I struggled to climb the summit cone, each step more painful than the one before as I climbed up the steep eastern face of the peak. I reached the peak at 3:09 PM, and immediately began to run down to Dicey’s Mill and Rollins trail Junction.

    As I reached the junction I checked my watch. As realized I was still somehow right on time and figured I would head over to Whiteface before making a decision. The Rollins trail has never been too difficult a trail for me, I knew I could make it. The hour that it took me to get to Whiteface felt more like 3 hours. It dragged on as I struggled to traverse the ridge. When I reached the Junction with Kate Sleeper Trail I sat down and cried. Since the muscle first tensed up I had been thinking about calling it quits immediately so I don’t severely injure my leg.

    As I sat there and cried, I tried to gather myself, gather my thoughts and come up with the most sensible decision. I knew that the right choice was to call the adventure over… and head down, but the thoughts that went through my head would wreak havoc over me for the next 10 minutes. What would everyone think of me? All those newspapers, the folks in the web communities.. I was going to be the laughing stock of the hiking world. I let Sarah down, all of Team Sherpa… and diabetes. I was truly beating myself up and then two hikers came from across the Sleepers.

    They asked if I was hurt or needed anything. It took me some time to gather myself enough to speak and when I finally did.. I just told them “I’m supposed to breaking some ridiculous record and well… I’m not.” They offered me help and I told them.. no.. once I gather myself.. I think am going to head down.

    I got up and headed over to the Downes Brook Trail Junction via the Kate Sleeper Trail. Downes Brook was my planned bailout in the event of injury, something I always plan for… and I couldn’t believe I was about to take it. I would late find out in an e-mail that Cath Goodwin, a woman hiker of epic proportions, had shown up at this junction 15 minutes after I had left it. If I had seen her.. I would have asked her to lead me over the Tri-pyramids to finish my day.

    I only had 7 miles left to hike.. alots of ups and downs with the Steep Pine Bend Brook ahead… nope… I would take the 5 miles down to the Kanc. The deciding factor in my decision is what I thought of before I took the turn. I stopped and had a moment I will NEVER forget. I remembered that I could not complete these tasks at hand while being afraid of failure, and that just because I did not hike hundreds of miles as intended… I would not have failed. Because we were collecting money at our donation locations all ready, our purpose was being served and it was all ready a success. Diabetes was brought to the forefront as was our cause. I had succeeded in only a small way, but the entire journey was NOT a failure. I swallowed my pride and as I began to sang Sarah and I’s song.. I turned down the Downes Brook trail headed for home.

    As soon as I fell over the ridge line, I felt as thought a million pounds had been lifted from my shoulder and for the first time in weeks, I had a genuine smile come across my face. This adventure isn’t ALL about hiking, its about getting the word out about Diabetes and raising money for a cure… that’s why I started enduring all of this pain and torture and its exactly why once I heal.. I will CONTINUE to endure the pain and torture of longs days in the mountains and eventually… breaking a record.

    I made it to the Kanc and tried hitchhiking to the car.. Instead I walked the pavement the entire way as a haggard and limping hiker never seemed to look like “I’ll give him a ride” material to your average traveler. I got in the car and drove to bear notch road where I knew I could get Cell service. From there I called my dad who was very glad to hear of my good judgment. Dad taught me everything I needed to know about being safe in the mountains and making good choices.. I thank him for that as after years in the mountains.. I finally fell upon a dire situation and made the right choice in turning down. I had hiked/biked over 43 miles and 12,000+' of elevation gain in 13 Hours.

    Over the week we raised over $200 towards Diabetes Research. A small yet rewarding victory. Sarah and I enjoyed a wonderful vacation in the Notch spending many days at our favorite swimming hole. On 8/9 we fed 7 thru-hikers treated poorly by Greenleaf and Galehead Hut Crews. On 8/10 we made it about half way across Webster Cliff Ridge then turned back. On 8/13 I hiked Garfield at times of moderate and SPEED HIKING speeds and once again felt great. Congrats to HikerBob on finishing his NH 48.

    I learned more about myself in one day in the whites than I have over the course of 23 years. I learned that I am not afraid to fail, that I can conquer my fear of darkness. I learned that this is NO easy task no matter how hard I train. I’ll be back again.. if I run out of time and cannot complete a Fitch 46 replication then I’ll hope to try again after I try for the true 48 speed record. Until then.. I know exactly what I need to do to boost my training, and what areas I need to work on. Those who know me, know that I’m not a quitter, nor am I one to accept defeat. This adventures purpose was not only to replicate history.. but to see what I was made of… and now I know what I really am made of and we’ll be out there the rest of the year and all of next.. Climbing Higher for a Cure.

    I want to thank everyone for their support thus far, including those who have donated to our cause. It is truly appreciated. This journey is entirely for Diabetes research. If I could stop it all and “just hike” like days of old.. I’d love to.. but that’s not in the cards until my mission is complete.. and my mission will be complete. $44,000 from now.

    “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself or better or worse as his portion; that though the universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him in till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor doe he know until he has tried.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  2. #2
    Good decision John.

    We'll be looking forward to the next adventure.

  3. #3
    A wise choice, and having hiked with you yesterday it's good to see that the leg is healing nicely!
    Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face. - Dave Barry
    Waterville 11/30; Loon 12/7; Cannon 12/13, 1/17, 2/23; Sugarloaf 12/20, 21-22; Bretton Woods 1/3; Jay Peak 1/24-25; Heavenly 2/9; Squaw Valley 2/10-2/11; Wachusett 3/3; Sunday River 3/7-8

  4. #4

    Good try John , keep trying

    Hi John,
    I was visiting a friend of mine this past weekend as my wife and I were up in Bartlett to hike North Twin. Her name is Maggie McAllister and her and her husband Tom used to own the Crawford Norch General Store and Campground for about 18 years. I went to college with both of them and was best man at their wedding. Their son (my godson) Joshua, recently got married. Maggie told me you were a regular at the campground and she watched you grow though the years. She told me of your goal to break the Fitch brothers record for diabeties. She is very proud of you. She wanted me to give you her best if i came across any of your postings on the web.

    It was a good try. Keep the faith and you will do it. Take care of the leg.

    There are certain places that are rarely ever seen; and in those you will find a special sort of magic.

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