The Cohos Trail Unsupported FKT - A Fast-packing Adventure in the Northern Forest

Note: The photos are in chronological order. They are mostly landscape photos of the journey as I reverted back to the type of photography I most enjoy. I’ll shortly have a video together which delves a bit deeper into the personal aspects of the trip. All were shot with the incredible Sony RX100 vii camera. Also, you can view the photos separately in a larger slideshow/filmstrip by clicking on a photo and scrolling forward.

So, I’ve become very good at failing. Over the past four years I have attempted to break the Long Trail Unsupported FKT (Fastest Known Time) three times. I DNF’d twice and finished once in 8.5 days, much slower than the record pace. This year in particular, I really felt that I was dialed in but for various reasons, my attempt in late June was over almost before it started due to sleep issues.

I had also originally scheduled to crew my buddy at Tor des Geants, a massive 210 mile race through the Italian alps in early September, but due to changes in plans, that also dropped off the list and here I was, left with already approved (by both wife and boss!) vacation days and a chance to redeem myself on another exciting journey through the northern forest. 

The Cohos Trail is a relatively new trail that stretches the entire length of New Hampshire’s largest (by size) and smallest (by population) county, Coos County, from Crawford Notch in the White Mountains to the border of Canada and the headwaters of the Connecticut River. I had thru-hiked it back in 2007 and was looking forward to revisiting this gem of a trail.

A view south from the Davis Path.

One of many scenic rock outcrops from the Davis Path.

A grey jay waits for hiker crumbs atop Mount Isolation.

There is only one FKT (Fastest Known Time) for the Cohos Trail, set by my buddy Rob Rives who completed it in a self-supported fashion in a blistering 2 days and 18 hours (66 hours). He dropped numerous caches, picking up various food items and packs along the way. You can read about his adventure here. I was going for the Unsupported FK, meaning I would carry everything I’d need for the whole trip, excluding water which I would get from natural sources. I was hoping to break 100 hours in the process.

On the surface, the two methods may seem very similar, however going self-supported provides two major advantages over going unsupported: 1) Carrying only what you need for a short section means your pack is lighter. It doesn’t take much weight to make a pack too heavy to run, and when you can’t run, you walk. Walking is slow. 2) An unsupported trip means you have to sacrifice something to keep the weight down. On a multi-day adventure, this often means limiting food. If you’re self-supported you can have enough calories to replace those you lost. On an unsupported trip longer than a few days, this is very difficult to do.

September 6 was my anniversary, so after a dinner with my wife and kids in Hanover, NH, I headed up to the Maple Leaf Motel in Littleton, NH to finish organizing my pack and get a decent sleep at a location near the trailhead. In an effort to not add any additional stress to my tight schedule, I didn’t do a full weigh-in of my food and my pack, but my rough calculation suggests I had about 28 lbs of total gear including food, supplies and a liter of water. Given that any completion would establish an unsupported FKT, I decided that I’d be willing to give up a bit of time in order to do some photography and video. All told, I probably spent about 5-6 extra hours on the photography and video stuff, and I carried about 3 pounds of camera gear.

I pulled into the Davis Path trailhead parking lot just before 10am on Saturday, September 7, took a few short videos and hit the trail at 10:11 am, starting three trackers simultaneously: my Garmin 945 watch, my Garmin Inreach Satellite tracker that uploaded to an online tracking system that my friends and family could follow, and my phone in airplane mode using GaiaGPS. This last tracker I was able to keep going continuously for the whole trip.

After crossing over the Dry River, the trail headed steeply up along the Davis Path, a beautiful remote trail which follows the Montalban Ridge deep in the Presidential Range Dry River Wilderness. This scenic path wandered among a dense forest with occasional scrambles along granite outcrops, past numerous peaks above 3,000 feet including Mt. Crawford, Stairs Mountain, Mount Davis and Mount Isolation. Since they all required short spurs to reach the summit, I chose to only summit Mount Isolation which had the shortest spur and was the highest point along the ridge.

Clouds pour over the Presidential Range as seen from Mount Isolation.

Just another rugged trail in the Whites! That sky sure does look  a bit ominous.

Looking south from the Mt. Eisenhower Trail, the Dry River valley winds through the  Presidential Range  - Dry River Wilderness.

I saw a few hikers at the beginning of the day and then nobody for the next nine miles until I reached Isolation, where I ran into half a dozen folks knocking off another peak from their 4,000-footers list. It was in the 60’s and breezy with a slight overcast, perfect weather for hiking. I was feeling good and was happy to have carried two liters of water from the start as there were no easily accessible water sources along the ridge.

I continued along the Davis Path, and after a short spurt on the Isolation trail I hit the Mount Eisenhower Trail which took me up to the col just northeast of Mt. Eisenhower. This col, around 4,500 feet was the highpoint of the trail and the only time I was truly above tree line. I wasted about 30 minutes dealing with some photography stuff and enjoying the views, then headed down the Crawford Path (also the Appalachian Trail) for a few hundred yards as I was buffeted by 20-30 mph winds. Although I would have loved to have played around on the Presidential ridge, I had many more miles to do so I headed down the Edmands Path to the base of Mt. Eisenhower. By 6pm or so I had reached the road, and according to my calculations, I had seen 17 people in the last 17 miles. Not bad for a nice Saturday in the Whites. That number would surpass the total number of hikers I’d come across for the rest of the trip, by a large margin!

The telltale dome of Mount Eisenhower as seen looking south down the Crawford Path.

Mount Franklin as seen from the top of Edmands Path.

Just above tree line on Edmands Path, looking northwest.


This sign, just across Route 115 before the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge, was the first time I saw anything noting  that I was on the Cohos Trail.

As the light began to fade, I headed down the road and then onto the cross-country ski trails near the Mt. Washington resort. Then the rain came. And came. And came. A torrential downpour began and only subsided for short periods for the next 12 hours. Luckily, I had downloaded the GPX files from two previous Cohos Trail thru-hikers (thanks Mike and Jeff!) and I just followed the line on Gaia, checking my phone every 10 minutes to make sure I was on the right path, while hunched over it trying to use a touch screen as everything was soaking wet. I eventually popped out at the Mt. Washington Hotel on the golf course, and walked along route 302 until I found an overhang near an Irving gas station where I could get a brief and welcome respite from the rain.

I had originally planned on doing about 30 miles the first day and didn’t know where to camp. Planning to stay in shelters all but the first night, I had decided to forego a tent, and all I had was a non-waterproof bivy and very small tarp, banking that I would either find a sheltered spot to crash for the night, or the rain would let up. As I walked up Cherry Mountain road, then into the woods and over Cherry Mountain, Owls Head and Mt. Martha, then through the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge, I kept on thinking I’d find a logical place to camp. But the rain kept on coming and I kept on walking, delaying the inevitable. Eventually I had a long walk up route 115A and by the time I got to the trailhead for Mt. Starr King at the southern end of the Kilkenny, I had walked almost 47 miles. I hadn’t seen another person, other than the Irving attendant, during the final 30 miles.

Finding a short side trail off the main path not far from the parking area, I put my groundsheet down, put my bag in the bivy and draped my tarp over me and my gear like a blanket, then I tried to get some shuteye. 

After a whopping one hour of fitful sleep, the wetness and daylight had me up again. My sleeping bag was fairly saturated, my clothes were soaked, and I was cold and stiff. Nothing to do but to move forward. The rain had (temporarily) stopped, but it was cold, foggy and wet. I saw numerous people on the trail, all most likely summiting Mount Waumbek, the easiest 4,000-footer in New Hampshire.

This moment, waking up from half-sleep, wet and tired, was my first real test. I’m a bad sleeper. Often at home in bed after a busy day, I’ll just lie awake staring at the ceiling. For some reason, even though I typically sleep really well on traditional backpacking trips, I have had a hard time falling asleep on these speed attempts. On my recent Long Trail endeavor, I didn’t sleep the night before which really got me down, then I couldn’t sleep the first night on the trail, even after hiking for sixteen hours straight. 

The beginning of a wet day on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail.

I'm a big fan of hiking poles.

The fog along the Kilkenny Ridge Trail made the green of the  mosses and lichens glow.

 Anyways, there I was on the trail with a chance to test my mettle. Would I let a lack of sleep, and comfort, get me down, or would I embrace the challenge and move forward?

I did neither. I called Dominoes. Just kidding. I knew I couldn’t change the past, and if my body wanted to sleep it would, so I’d just keep on moving. I also knew that regardless of how cold I was, if I moved I’d warm up. So I moved.

The trail climbed steadily upward, into the clouds where the delineation between air and water was almost imperceptible. I knew that despite all the rain, the Kilkenny Ridge Trail which traverses two ranges through the Kilkenny, the northernmost section of the White Mountain National Forest, had very few opportunities for water. So at the one known spring around 3,000 feet in elevation, not far below the summit of Mt. Starr King, I drank some water using my Katadyn water filter and filled up close to two liters, hoping that would be enough to make it through the next 15 miles or so. I thought back to 2007 where I had inadvertently walked over a mile in back in the wrong direction after a short detour in the middle of the night. Let’s hope I didn’t repeat that mistake this trip.

Although wet, I was actually in good spirits. I was ahead of schedule, my body felt great, so far I had no blisters or major chafing, my KS-50 backpack was doing its job, keeping my gear relatively dry (or at least not getting wetter) and I floated along the ridge, through a wild, moss-covered high elevation stunted forest. Roots reached out from the earth, like flailing arms trying to grab any appendage. The trail was fairly eroded up through Mt. Waumbek.

Beyond Mt. Waumbek however, the trail immediately took on a different character; much less used, less eroded but also less maintained. I took a massive digger and landed hard on my left knee. It immediately started swelling and bleeding. Nothing to do but keep on moving.

Old Man's Beard?

A fern filled birch forest shows the first signs of fall along the Kilkenny Ridge Trail.

"Back in my day..." - this tree

The view south toward Terrace Mountain, as seen from Bunnel Rock near the Mount Cabot summit.

At the summit of Mt. Weeks, I met one more person who was working on his New England Hundred Highest peak bagging list. This would be the last human that I would see for the next 30 hours! Eventually I made it over Terrace Mountain to Mt. Cabot, the northernmost 4,000-footer in New Hampshire. I entered into the cabin near the top and immediately took out my gear to hang and dry as I did a quick interview for the camera and ate as much food as possible while trying to stay warm in the soggy 40-something degree air.

By the time I left it was almost dark. Visibility was down to a few feet, I was walking through a cloud. I had forgotten how difficult the northern part of the Kilkenny Ridge Trail was, and from Unknown Pond to South Lake it was pretty slow going, with lots of blowdowns and so much overgrowth that much of the time I was unable to even see my feet. I did stop briefly on Rogers Ledge and enjoyed a dark clifftop perch, poorly illuminated under an obscured moon that was both haunting and relaxing. The Advil I had taken at the top of Cabot had kicked in and my knee was fairly limber again, so I kept on moving.

After getting off the ridge I was finally moving quickly again on roads and snowmobile trails. The weather had cleared up and although I was still wet, I wasn’t actively being precipitated upon. I was also heavily into a fun and stupid audiobook called “The Call” which is described as a combination between a horror novel and the Hunger Games. I’d say that was an apt description. (My friends think I’m nuts as I love hiking deep in the woods during the night listening to the scariest books I can find.) So yes, I do use music, audiobooks and podcasts. On a hard effort like this, with a lot of night hiking and hiking in the rain, I probably had my (open-ear bone conduction) headphones on for approximately sixty percent of the time.

Maybe this is a good time to discuss my feelings about “hiking your own hike.” We all have different reasons for hiking, different backgrounds, different logistical considerations. Just because I may choose to hike a trail to see how fast I can go, pursuing an inward journey as much as a physical one, doesn’t mean I don’t get a chance to appreciate the trail. In fact, fast-packers often see more sunrises and more sunsets, we see animals before or after everyone has left the trail. Even hiking through the woods in the dark provides a unique experience many hikers don’t get. And is going 3 mph that much faster than going 2 mph? I bring this up because anytime I mention I’m going for an FKT, someone always insinuates that I’m not appreciating the trail. Well, I am. I hiked the Cohos Trail southbound during peak foliage over a decade ago. I did it in 12 days and took a lot of time doing photography and hanging out. I enjoyed that immensely as well. I believe that criticizing someone for going too fast says more about the person making the comment than it does about the person who is hiking.

Sorry, ‘nuff said.

Finally, around 3 am, after getting onto some obviously rarely-used trails, I reached the sign for the Devil’s Rest shelter (which, btw, is about 2 miles past where the northbound databook says it is). It was a half a mile off trail, but the ease of setting up and knowing I’d have a roof over my head if it rained was enough to convince me to do the spur. I had hiked a total of 80 miles in 40 hours. That was almost half the trail distance, and I had climbed almost 18,000 feet of vertical gain, 60% of the total vert.

When I arrived at the empty shelter, I just threw my stuff down, pounded some food, and passed out. That’s right, I fell right asleep! The moment my head was down I was out, and I woke up two minutes before my alarm went off four hours later. I took that as a good sign. Like other new shelters on the Cohos Trail, this was a beautiful timber frame structure and was as nice as any 3-sided shelters I had seen.

By 9 am on Monday the 9th, I was back on trail and moving. And it wasn’t even raining! I was in the Nash Stream forest, a dark, cool, green region that feels totally remote. It feels old. The mosses and lichens cover everything and the cool streams flow through small valleys. Unfortunately, due to my time constraints, I didn’t summit either of the Percy Peaks as the spur trails were just too long. The winding trail rolled up and down, with no big climbs but few flat sections as well. The forest was less rugged, more intimate, and yet very challenging still, especially with the mud from the prior days’ rain. 

Devil's Rest shelter.

Yellow blazes marked the Cohos Trail north of the White Mountains.

So the trail is a bit rough in places.

Lichen coats the weathered rock deep in the Nash Stream Forest.

I passed by small beaver ponds, short sections of open grass where I followed a minimal backcountry road before heading into the dark recesses of Gadwah Notch. There were so many ferns and hobblebush plants that at times I had to constantly check my phone to make sure I was on the trail, and for large sections I was completely unable to see my feet. I passed through beautiful birch forests and by large glacial erratics, seemingly dropped in the middle of the woods by a careless giant. Although it wasn’t raining, I had to wear my rain pants most of the day to avoid being saturated by the cold moisture that clung to everything.

I was still feeling pretty great, not moving fast, but progressing consistently. I was getting a bit tired however, and when I would stop, my knee would lock up. It would take another twenty minutes each time after stopping before my knee loosened up again. By the time I reached Baldhead Lean-to, twenty miles and eight hours after I left Devil’s Rest, I hadn’t seen anyone all day and I needed a break. The shelter was located atop Baldhead Peak, just over 3,000 feet in elevation.

I love the wood lettering on these, and many of the signs along the cohos trail.

The mountains are small up here, but prominent and rugged.

One of many streams I crossed in the Nash Stream Forest.

The Nash Stream!

Thank goodness for flip screens, as taking ground level shots can be a bother with a full pack on.

Glacial erratic.

Sneaking a peak into a beaver wonderland.
Occasionally the walking was easy!
I always find it fascinating how the closer I look at the small details, the more they remind me of the larger landscape.

I began my ritual of charging my headlamp, earphones, phone and tracker while stuffing as much food into my gullet as I could take. I had brought an assortment of fine culinary treats including one and a half pounds of sour patch kids, along with life savers, dried mango, snickers bars and other exceedingly healthy snacks. I also had individual packs of nut butters including macadamia nut and coconut combo, hazelnut banana, and maple almond. These proved to be highly palatable calorie-dense fat-heavy shots of pure energy. I also had a fairly large bag of my favorite trail mix: salted roasted almonds, shelled pistachios, dried cranberries and raisins, and dark chocolate m&m’s. There were a half a dozen clif and greenbelly bars, some jerky and epic meat bars, and one pound of Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar. I had a fair amount of powdered drink mix, mostly in the form of Tailwind and Tailwind Recovery. (I had learned from past experience that even when I can’t eat, I can force down liquid calories.) I’m sure there were a few other things I’m not remembering, but all told I had about 16-18,000 calories and I ended up eating about 90% of what I brought.

While sitting there, I heard a “hello cabin!” yell from the woods and I shouted back. Shortly after, a man in his thirties, carrying a big pack and a huge grin popped out of the woods. His name was Rob, he was a southbound thru-hiker, and was the only person I’d seen (or would see) that day. We chatted and it was nice to have some human companionship. He had thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail many years earlier, and was doing the Cohos in a dozen days or so. He had sworn off the phone, instead relying on a plastic single-use camera, a large paper guidebook and a soggy databook along with some leisure reading and various other luxuries. I mentioned he might want to take some pics of the databook with his phone before it fell apart completely but he said no. I admired him for his steadfastnest…as I typed away an Instagram post!

I left around 6 pm and it was soon dark. Not long after that I popped out on a dirt road which lead to a much wider road that I climbed under the light of an almost-full moon. The road led to a mountaintop wind farm and it reminded me again why I have such mixed feelings about ridgeline power in New England. I’m all for renewable power, but the environmental damage and ecosystem fragmentation created by carving the infrastructure for these huge machines in previously contiguous lands is something I just don’t support. Okay, off my soapbox now.

Soon I popped into the woods along a rough trail which turned into a sodden, muddy, vegetation filled, ankle-busting, abandoned road along a ridge of old ski trails from the now defunct Balsams Wilderness Ski Resort. It was very windy and wet, so unfortunately I bypassed the Table Rock outlook above Dixville Notch. I had been there before but given the conditions and my condition, along with the sheer darkness, I knew I needed to move on. Down to the notch and up again along the Sanguinary Ridge, I missed the daytime views, but enjoyed moving through the darkness, a lone homo sapien climbing higher into the cold night.

By this point in the hike, I was accompanied by my second audiobook, Richard Russo’s latest book “Chances Are…” Nobody writes like Russo. His subtle humor and nuanced portrayals of flawed yet realistic characters speak to his understanding the misgivings and idiosyncrasies that make us human. His books are entertaining but make you think. Anyways, thank you Richard for helping me through some late night hiking!

Details abound, just look down!

A view of wind turbines around sunset from Baldhead Lean-to.

Rob, the first, and last, Cohos Trail thru-hiker I met until the last hour of the trip. Fun dude.

The last bit of evening glow reaches the bottom of a cloud.

I walked under the almost-full moon without a headlamp for a while following the large road up to a wind turbine installation.

The moon, as seen from Panorama Shelter.

Eventually I came to Panorama Shelter sometime around 3 in the morning, about thirty-two miles from where I had started eighteen hours prior. It was cold, and looking at the forecast on my phone I realized it could possibly drop below freezing. I dumped out my backpack, blew up my Thermrest Uberlight sleeping pad (wide and extra long) and made sure everything I’d want was within hands reach. Then I put on my long underwear bottom with rain paints and dry(ish) socks, a windshirt and down puffy on top along with gloves and a hat then got inside my sleeping bag liner then inside the bag which due to age and wetness was probably a good twenty degrees off its original fifteen degree rating. I was just barely warm enough and once again, fell asleep quickly and woke fairly easily four hours later to golden light hitting the mountainside and a valley below filled with fog.

Fog fills the valley below the Panorama shelter.

All of the outhouses at the Cohos Trail shelters were well maintained and showcased the crescent moon.

Early light hits the wet plants around the shelter.

Dropping some beads.

Panorama Shelter.

 My pack was getting lighter as I ate all the food, and my body was adjusting nicely to the hiking lifestyle. I left the shelter 70 hours after I had started with 115 miles or so completed. Although it was a cold start, it was a glorious morning. The sun was out and the world was ringing with life, the chill of the almost-fall air turning the leaves of the less robust trees various shades of orange. The trail took me through logging cuts and past sun dappled streams and into Coleman State Park. 

I took a second to get a few good swings in on the playground and then began a very long stretch on mostly dirt roads through a beautiful rural farming community, replete with dairy cows and long range views. Although I’m not typically a fan of road walking, the lack of vehicles, quick miles and beautiful views made it a respite from the wet trudgery from the day before. 

When I arrived at Weir Tree Farm, a spot I fondly remembered from my previous thru-hike twelve years earlier, the wind was blowing, the sun was shining and a deck with Adirondack chairs overlooking a panoramic view of a beautiful mountain ridge, greeted me like an old friend. In less than an hour, everything I carried was completely dry, even my socks!

Fern art.

A two leaf maple tree.

Autumn had begun high in the north country.

One of many blowdowns I had to climb over.

Hobblebush is one of the most colorful understory plants in the fall.

I loved these wooden blazes.

Remaining trees in a logged area show off their fall colors.

Another day, another stream.

The view south down Diamond Pond Road out of Coleman State park.

The open road walking provided some of the best long range views.

Barn for sale. Any takers?

Are you, looking at me?

A pre-cheesy photo opp.

Cows on a hill.

A view south toward Lovering Mountain from McAllaster Road.

That's one shady looking hiker!

I packed my bag, and headed down the road, which at first was a curvy ATV trail, passing by numerous double seater covered fancy ATVs which were probably worth more than my car. Actually, they were definitely worth more than my car. That turned into a road which paralleled the south side of Lake Francis.

As I eventually got back on trail and headed north, my joy of being dry was short lived. Apparently I was so caught up in the good weather, I neglected to check the forecast and was surprised by a few sprinkles, which turned to a steady rain, which shortly thereafter became a complete downpour.

I put my head down and continued on, popping out of the woods after crossing over the Connecticut River, headed down the road, spoke to a dude with a fishing pole, then turned around and headed back a few hundred yards into the woods, realizing I had missed a turn. I came out into the glare of Young’s Store in Pittsburgh, which was closed, and headed down US Route 3 to huddle under a small nook outside an ATV gear store. 

Will do.

One of the many streams flowing into Lake Francis. 
Lake Francis.

Even the weeds are beautiful in the fall.

Cedar Stream.

 After a wet but short road walk, I headed into the woods to climb Prospect Mountain and Covell Mountain. This was where I really started to have a difficult time. Up until this point I had secretly thought I’d be able to break four days. I had plenty of time and not that many miles to go and I was physically okay.

But the rain was punishing and for some reason this section of trail really threw me for a loop. It was very well marked, as in every twenty-five feet, which was a good thing because at least in my somewhat restricted vision using a headlamp through rain, I could barely tell there was a trail there. It was up and down through a muddy, rocky woods, in every direction but a straight line. By the time I reached the Neil Tillotson shelter, I was deflated.

So I got naked. Everything on me was soaked, and I peeled it all off, got in my wool long johns and curled up in my bag. I tried to eat but I really just wanted to fall asleep. Which I did. For about three hours.

I got up before sunrise, although the transition to day was more like a shift from black and white to color without much increase in brightness. It was wet and dreary but with eight hours to do seventeen miles, I knew I had it in the bag. By this point the trail was just rolling along through a mix of open forest, with occasional muddy bogs and scrub, following the Connecticut River as it raged with the recent rains. 

The yellow blaze beckons.

Um, if this is a road, you've got some work to do.

The final snowmobile trail, Sophie's Lane.

A micro world of wonder.

Third Connecticut Lake.

Fog rolls across the ridges next to the Third Connecticut Lake.

I crossed small roads and paralleled US 3 (aka the Daniel Webster Highway), went past the dam below the Second Connecticut Lake and finally hit a snowmobile trail which at first was a nice dirt road, but turned suddenly into a dense fern filled rolling path that was super muddy. I stopped briefly at the Third Connecticut Lake and shortly thereafter spotted the sign warning of the border in 500 yards. When I came out into the open, around 99 hours after I had started, I met a couple that had just come back from the roundtrip to the 4thConnecticut Lake and were about to begin their SOBO thru-hike. I bid them a good journey then headed up the steep wet clearing that delineates the border between the United States and Canada. 

Just hundred of yards and thousands of ferns south of the border.

This nice red eft gave me a thumbs up for job well done.

The US/Canada border. Almost there!

Before the hike I had decided that my logical place to stop the clock would be at the junction with the 4thConnecticut Lake Trail. It is where Rob finished his self-supported FKT and it just felt right finishing at the junction of the lake. The databook however has the hiker circle the lake then come back down to the border station and finish there. I didn’t feel the record would benefit from a short .5 mile loop and a retracing of trail I’ve already hiked.

Anyway, I stopped the clock at the sign, recorded a video, re-recorded a video and celebrated… only to realize I was celebrating one sign too early. The sign I stopped at said Fourth Connecticut Lake was 300 yards ahead! So I did a short segment on my watch. It apparently added thirteen minutes to my time to do that short 300-yard section! Oh well, I was there at last, 99 hours and 21 minutes after I had started.

99 hours and 21 minutes. Pretty pumped.

Fourth Connecticut Lake.

Straddling two countries.

I think I'm about 6 inches, err, 15 centimeters into Canada.

 I recorded (another) celebratory video, circled the lake and came back down. (And for those who want to give me grief about stopping the clock where I did, I DID make it down to the border crossing under 100 hours, one mile beyond my official stopping point in something like 99 hours and 49 minutes.)

The Cohos Trail Unsupported FKT has been set. The journey was challenging and rewarding, frustrating and exciting. I think I had a good balance between enjoying the trail, taking quite a bit of photos and videos, and pushing my body and my mind. Other than one small blister and fatigued legs, I felt great at the end of the trail. Sore, stiff, but great.

The Route.

My friend Suzanna picked me up at the border. She spent an entire day just driving to the middle of nowhere to pick up my sorry butt and take me back to my vehicle in Crawford Notch before heading back to her home in Strafford, VT. We had a somewhat passable meal in Colebrook and chatted the whole ride. I can’t thank her enough and one of these days I’ll pay her back for all the times she has retrieved me at the end of one solo adventure or another.

I also need to thank my coach, Shawn Bearden, who somehow got me in position to accomplish this with only 8-9 hours of training a week. He keeps me accountable and provides guidance and support. The funny thing is he’s probably the closest person in my life that I’ve never spoken to in person, as all of our communication have been through training programs and emails.

Also I want to give a shout out to Mike McDuffie, who almost a completed an unsupported FKT a few years ago, and Jeff Faulkner who just recently completed a fairly speedy thru-hike. They provided me with GPX files which I had on my phone, and allowed me to focus on moving ahead without worrying about navigation nearly as much as I would have had I been using just the map, guidebook and databook.

Finally, thanks galore goes to my wife Julia and my kids Levon and Ani for allowing me the time and space needed to not only chase these wild dreams I have, but also the time to train and put myself in a position to make the journeys sometimes successful and always worthwhile.

The Cohos Trail is amazing, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a varied, scenic, moderately difficult journey through a surprisingly wild corner of New England. This adventure also reminded me that although I’m a mid-pack ultrarunner, I’m really at home on the slow methodical multi-day adventures that require me to be completely self-sufficient. I will never be fast, but I like to suffer, I embrace the pain and challenge, and that’s all that’s really needed to be successful in whatever difficult endeavor you set your mind to. That, and sour patch kids.


  1. Eli - Thanks for sharing your pics, stories, and inner musings. Horror stores while solo hiking at night?! Wow. Just be glad Doc Benton doesn't wander that far north! (Or does he?) Hike fast, take chances....

  2. You are an amazing inspiration, Eli! Wonderful report and recap. So happy for you!


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