Monday, August 6, 2012

7.28.12 - 8.5.12 - The White Mountains

From where I last left off, I was at Dancing Bones Community. I hiked into Glencliff, NH the next day and stopped at the Hikers Welcome Hostel to pick up my new shoes, 30 degree sleeping bag, and sister's camera. Unfortunately I made it there before the camera did, so I had to have it forwarded on to another location further north. Houdini was there when I got in and had stayed the night. I spent a few hours at the hostel getting prepped with my new gear before we headed out around noon. I road walked back down to the trail and just as I entered the woods there was a stream to cross. I started across it and wouldn't you know...stepped on a sort of dome shaped rock that was wet and ended up submerging my right foot! Not even 5 minutes on the trail with my new shoes and already soaked! What a way to start the White Mountains.

Did a slow, yet tough, climb up Mt Moosilauke at 4,802 feet. This was our first big climb in a long time, but it was a fun climb. I could tell my legs are stronger now than in the beginning. Had a decent view on the way up, but then it got cloudy and windy as we started to make our way down. Then it started to rain, then pour. It was coming down like crazy and the steep rocky trail became a river. I'm not sure how, but in the few miles we had to hike in these conditions to the shelter, neither of us wiped out. We made it to Beaver Brook Shelter, soaked. I did put on my rain coat, so at least my upper body was somewhat dry. There were already some people in the shelter, but plenty of room for us to hop in. I got changed into dry clothes and evaluated what got wet. Unfortunately, my phone got soaked. It was totally my fault for not having it in a dry bag to keep water out. Even though I had my pack cover on, my backpack still got wet. Sleeping bag was dry, but there was a puddle of water in my backpack. The light on my iPhone was on, but it wasn't doing anything. Eventually, that killed the battery.

Next day (7.29), put on my wet clothes and hiked out. I was the first one out of the shelter, but Kate who was out for a few days, caught up to me quickly. It was a steep, wet descent down Moosilauke into Kinsman Notch. Kate and I hiked together up Wolf Mtn, South and North Kinsman, and then at Kinsman Pond Shelter, she met up with the caretaker who is one of her friends, so we split. I moved on to Lonesome Lake hut. The Appalachian Mountain Club built 8 huts in the backcountry of the White Mountains. I had heard of the huts when I read the book Not Without Peril (a great read if you want some insight into just how crazy things can get in the White Mountains), and I had seen one in the distance when I was at Mt Washington and Tuckerman Ravine before. During the summer, there are "croos" (crews) that run the place. Mostly college kids. They take care of guests who stay there and make some really good meals. They have to hike in all the food and some of the supplies, and hike out all the trash, including meat scraps that can't be composted. The huts utilize green energy in the form of wind, solar, and hydro electric power. These places are awesome, and for thru hikers, they allow a certain number of hikers to do work for stay each night. If you get work for stay, you typically do some chores like setting the dinner tables for the guests, doing dishes, sometimes even stirring the compost toilet material, and in turn you get to eat the leftover food they have (which is often plentiful), and get to sleep on the dining hall floor. Well, I walked through Lonesome Lake hut and checked it out but pushed on to Lincoln, NH to stay at Chet's Place. Tons of hikers stay here, tons of hikers like it, tons of people know about it, but it's not listed in any guidebook. Chet wanted it left out because anyone could buy a guidebook and find his place. He just wants hikers there, and surely they know how to find it.

I decided to zero the next day (7.30) at Chet's to see if my phone would dry out and work. I put it in a bag of rice and let it sit in the sun for most of the day. In the evening, I plugged it in, and it wasn't doing anything. The light on the back wasn't even coming on now. Turned out to be a wasted day, and great weather that I could have been hiking in.

The next morning (7.31), Pedestrian and I got a ride back to the trail from the guy I got a lift into town from, Duster. He and his wife thru hiked in 1998. We hit the trail early and got up to Franconia Ridge late morning as some clouds were moving through. The weather was nice and maybe even better than the previous day. The clouds cleared out as we walked the ridge, which provided some of the most spectacular views we have seen all trail! Mountains for as far as the eye could see. Varying shapes and sizes, and different colors with distance. On Franconia Ridge we crossed Little Haystack, Lincoln, Lafayette. We could see Greenleaf Hut a mile off trail but didn't stop. Instead we continued hiking over Garfield and over to Galehead Hut, named because it is at the head of the Gale River. We saw Konan and Banjo on the way there. They were sitting on trail having a smoke break (I don't get smoking period, but even less with hikers!). They mentioned they did a work for stay at Greenleaf and said we should come try to do one with them at Galehead. Forget that! I know they only take a small number of hikers. As much as I like my fellow nobo's, I wasn't about to wait for these two to quit smoking to get moving to the hut, plus there is the threat of sobo's taking the spots too. I pushed on and at times was running uphill to the hut. I covered 0.8 miles in no time! I didn't want to get snuffed out of a work for stay! I got to the hut, red faced and sweaty, and asked the croo about work for stay. They said I was the first one there, and they'd take me! They also asked if anyone else I knew of was coming. In the spirit of watching out for my nobo brothers, I told them there were 3 other nobo's just behind me. All 4 of us got the work for stay. We set tables and washed dishes. We were given tons of good food. Lasagna, chicken, soup, cookies, peas. I ate way too much and felt miserable until late into the night. I've overeaten before, but not that bad. I couldn't even sleep at first and had to get up and walk around a bit.

The next day (8.1) we stayed for breakfast and swept the floors for the croo. I still wasn't feeling normal after that much food, which made it hard to hike. Almost felt like a hangover, but from food. We hiked over South Twin and Mt Guyot and ended up stealth camping near the Saco River at Crawford Notch. Stealth camping is camping in places you're technically not supposed to. New Hampshire makes it tough because a lot of the places, you have to pay to stay.

On 8.2, I left camp early and started making my way up Webster Mtn. It was a tough climb up, especially first thing in the morning. Banjo caught up to me when I thought I was at the top. We sat and took a break, and Trips A Lot showed up. We walked a little further and realized we were just at the start of Webster Cliffs which meant we weren't near the top yet! Buzz kill! Ha great views on the way up and we popped out of tree line time and time again. Finally we made it to the top. Conan caught us there, but still no sign of Pedestrian. We took a break at the summit and got a great view of the magnificent Mt Washington. We were talking about needing to resupply food, as a family overheard us. They came over and gave us some bars and pretzels. Then a solo hiker also came over and gave us some homemade trail mix. Banjo needed the food, so he took most of it.

We made our way down Webster, and over and slightly around Jackson, Pierce, and Franklin. We made it to Lakes of the Clouds hut around 4:30pm, and talked to the croo there. As they can handle about 90 guests (due to ease of accessibility), they can take a lot of thru hikers for work for stay. We had a lot of time to kill, so we sat around and rested. In the meantime, two older ladies brought over some food they didn't need and offered it to us. Without thinking, we gladly accepted it. We used the tuna, salmon, some mustard, cheese, and potato dill soup that the croo gave us to make a spread to put on the whole wheat crackers the ladies gave us. It would hold us over til dinner. While still needing to kill time, Banjo and I hiked around the lakes and up to a ridge. When we got back, I took my inflatable sleeping pad over to one of the lakes and floated out on it! The water was cold, but I was having fun, so I didn't really care! The guys came and took pictures and some movies of me floating around. If I've learned anything, it's all about having gear that serves multiple purposes. I guess this would be considered extra credit! We helped set the tables for dinner, then hung out until the guests were done eating and dishes were done, then we got to eat. Shortly after that, Trips a Lot and I gave a thru hiker presentation to the guests. We told a little about ourselves, then it was opened up to question and answer time. Tons of guests attended and they asked a lot of good (and funny at times) questions. It was enjoyable seeing the interest and shock on their faces as we talked about our experiences. We got quite a few laughs out of the group too. Eventually it was time to end the session just before lights out. I hate public speaking, but had a blast doing this and could have gone on for hours longer!

8.3 - today was a tough day. We hiked from Lakes of the Clouds, up to Mt Washington, where there were tons of people who had taken the cog train up, driven up, or hiked up from Pinkham Notch. It was windy and all socked in with fog and clouds. No view at all. Luckily I've summitted before and had a view. We hung out for a while, then headed out into the cold wind and little bits of rain. We hiked down around some great gullies and gulfs, then made our way over to Madison Hut. It was a lot of rock hopping and stepping on and around boulders as we ascended and descended. We took a break at Madison Hut and a couple we had talked to before, bought me and Banjo bowls of soup and some coffee cake the hut had made. We took off and climbed up Madison. It was steep, but not bad compared to what came after. The downhill was insane. Worst one yet in my opinion. It was down a crazy steep section with boulders and it just kept going and going. Finally we made it to where we had aimed for at Osgood Campsite.

8.4 - I woke up early and made it out of camp before the others. I wanted to make it to Pinkham Notch to pick up my new phone as early as possible and get it charged up. I made it there around 8:20am and when I walked in, there was Mamaw B and Rainbow who I haven't seen in forever! Plus, Runner and Skunkape were there too, who I hadn't seen in a while. It was great to catch up with some familiar faces from a while back. Got my phone and got all set up, and Banjo, Pedestrian, and The Flash showed up. We grabbed some food to eat and then hit the trail after a nice break. We climbed up the Wildcat Mtns which people said were really hard. They were tough, but we knocked them out. The view of Tuckerman Ravine and Mt Washington and some of the other presidentials was great from up there. From there we hiked on to Carter Notch Hut, the last of the huts in the White Mtns. It was tucked somewhat low between 2 mountain ridges. We tried to get work for stay, but they only took 4 and there were 7 of us there. We let 2 of the older guys, Sixty Five and Runner have spots since they'd been there first. The rest of us did rock paper scissors to see who would get work for stay. Unfortunately I was one that didn't make the cut, so 3 of us went to set up tents at a stealth site about .25 miles away that the croo told us about. It started raining as we were setting up our tents. When they were set up, it poured down hard and there was close lightening. Luckily I stayed dry in my tent but the water seeped all around and under my tent. I had about an inch of water pooled up in my vestibule. There was even some hail with the storm. My tent floor was getting wet, so I had everything and myself up on my sleeping pad. I couldn't stretch out my legs for the 45 minutes or so of the storm, so my knees were killing me! Finally the storm ended and I got out of my tent to make and eat dinner as the trees dripped.

8.5 - tough climb to start the day going up Carter Dome. I was feeling a little off as I set off in the morning after eating my breakfast. I had a sort of sick to my stomach, knot feeling going on. It almost felt like what I'd had in Africa, as I kept burping uncomfortably while hiking. The uphills would wear me out very quickly and make me feel like I was going to throw up. I slowed things down and took it easier. The whole day was up and down along the Carter Moriah trail. Downhills weren't too bad, but the uphills hurt. I threw up one time but just a little water. I saw a few other hikers, and after one uphill I felt so worn down that I took about a 10 minute nap at the top of a rocky mountain, right out in the sun. I hiked on feeling a little better, but then threw up again, this time watery, but a little more, after another strenuous uphill. I made sure to keep drinking water, and even choked down a protein bar. I felt like garbage the whole day and wasn't sure I'd make it the 15 miles into town. Luckily I felt a little better after another nap and drinking more water. I eventually caught up to Chesty, Roadhouse, and Runner and we hiked some easy few miles into Gorham.

The Whites were tough work, but the most awesome and beautiful part of the AT so far. The rewards of views were well worth the effort put into get them!

When we got in town after a hitch from Wolverine (thru hiker mentioned in Awol's book), Chesty, Roadhouse, and I went and got food. I was able to eat a 6 inch meatball sub and drink se powerade and soda. I was starting to feel better already. I stopped into a rafting outfitter and asked if there was anywhere to camp in town. They said no, but we could put tents up behind their place. Sweet! Hostels were $20-30, and we had heard about a lot of people having "the plague", some sort of illness that was being passed around, so we avoided the hostels. Got laundry done, and it poured rain for quite a while that night.

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