Monday, August 6, 2012

Castles, Stripes, and Now Mountains (My Favorite Whites)

If I could sum up the Whites in one word, it would be "majestic." It would be easy to use "hard," or "butt-kicking," but at the end of the day, these views needed to be earned to be seen.

I use the term "earned" because this was definitely the hardest section of trail yet. I have been trying to maintain 100 miles a week, but that just wasn't possible. There were several days that I did 10 miles or less, but it felt like I had hiked 20. The steep ups and downs worked muscles I hadn't used much on the trail, not to mention the abuse my feet, ankles, and knees took.

As incredible as these mountains were, knowing that I just finished them means only 1 thing- it's time for Maine. There are still a few miles left of New Hampshire, but those shouldn't take but a day. But before I cross into the 14th and final state, I am taking a much deserved and needed day off.

Here is my painful and glorious review of the Whites.

Day 140 (7/29) - Glencliff, NH to Beaver Brook (9.1 mi)
Today was a tough day. But before I get into that, I had the most incredible mountain top experience. This was a literal one that easily turned into a spiritual one. It was cloudy/rainy all day but the rain had stopped once I reached the top of Mt. Moosilauke. I was eating my lunch with absolutely no view and all of a sudden I felt a little sunlight peek through. I turned around and the clouds were slowly breaking up, revealing miles and miles of mountains and valleys. It was incredible. Sad how the incredible can sometimes get overshadowed by the crappy stuff like having to cross a stream getting my shoes and socks soaked first thing this morning then the descent down Moosilauke, which was almost straight down and nothing but wet rocks. I slipped and fell once, banging up my left hip and leg a bit. I will definitely feel it in the morning. Needless to say, my first day in the Whites was a mixed bag, but I am excited to push on tomorrow, hoping I will get even more of a view!

Day 141 (7/30) - Beaver Brook to Lonesome Lake Hut (13.5 mi)
So first off, I passed the 1800 mile mark. Secondly, man my hip hurts. I don't have nearly the padding I used to. And that is the side I sleep on so I was pretty miserable last night. And speaking of last night, it was the first night I camped by myself on this entire trek. Back to today, there were two mountains to climb- Mt. Wolf and Kinsman. Wolf was a nice, mild climb and Kinsman was a bit steeper, requiring the use of hands and feet to get up some of the climbs. I was more worried about the downhill on both. After yesterday, I was hiking a little too paranoid. But luckily the sun was out all day and the rocks were half way dry so it wasn't as bad. I pushed hard to hit the hut with hopes that I could get work for stay. It's kind of a race to get to the huts since most only take 2-3 hikers. I was number 3 and they let me in. All I had to do was clean out the pantry. It took 15 minutes and with that I got dinner- lots of dinner and could sleep in the dining hall. I can have breakfast too if I want to wait around, but these last 2 days have shown me that if I want to do any more than 12 miles, I will need a real early start.

Day 142 (7/31) - Lonesome Lake Hut to Stealth Camp (15 mi)
All I can say about today is INCREDIBLE! The weather was perfect, the pancakes at the hut for breakfast were perfect, and the views were beyond perfect. Starting off, I had to climb my first 5000 footer since Tennessee. The climb was actually pretty easy compared to the last few days. But once on top, my world was rocked. I have never seen the kind of views I saw today. I was looking down on the world as if I was in Heaven watching. There were mountains and valleys as far as the eye could see. And looming off in the distance was my first look at Mount Washington, towering above all other mountains. The views were so amazing I sat on top for several hours. I even got sunburned a little. This was the money shot of all views and it worked out that everything was perfect to make it spectacular. The climbs down even seemed easier since the rocks were dry. I wanted to shoot for another hut since I had a lot of fun last night, not to mention all the food I ate! Unfortunately, I didn't get there quick enough so it is stealth camping for me tonight. It's been a while since I camped at almost 4000 feet so it might get chilly.

Day 143 (8/1) - Stealth Camp to Crawford Notch (14.7 mi)
It definitely got a little chilly this morning. I must have hit the snooze button 5 times because I didn't want to get out of my sleeping bag. I finally forced myself to get up and going, starting my morning with an 1100 foot climb. It took a while for my feet and knees to warm up today. I think they were just to sore and tired from all the rocks they have had to bounce on for the last few days. After the climb, the rest of the day was relatively downhill. I stopped at a hut for lunch and had a bowl of soup, then pressed on to get to the notch. I hiked with Hot Shot quite a bit today and got to know him some. We met for the first time in Dalton, MA and have been crossing paths since. We decided since both of us were sore and tired, we would hitch a ride to motel and grab showers, dinner, and laundry. It's amazing what a night off the trail plus getting clean can do for your soul. The girl at the front desk at the motel even let us borrow her car to get around. Amazing! I guess even 2 burley hikers can look trustworthy.

Day 144 (8/2) - Crawford Notch to Lake of the Clouds Hut (11.2 mi)
What an amazing day. This has definitely ranked up in the top 3 best days on the trail. The hotel last night worked its magic and helped give me the energy to push up mountains all day. It started with rock climbing up Webster Cliffs then catching the ridge line up through the start of the Presidential range. A small thunderstorm popped up to make the rocks a little slick, but it moved out quickly. The views were absolutely amazing. I have never hiked so slow just because I wanted to soak it all up. I finally made it to the hut where I hung out with Meat, Banjo, Trips-a-lot, Hot Shot, Konan, and Pedestrian. Our early evening entertainment came from watching Meat blow up his NeoAir to see if he would be able to float in the lake. It worked, and it was very entertaining. The poor guy is probably going to get hypothermia now. There was so much food left for all of us hikers. We feasted like kings. My stomach is so full. And the sunset was absolutely gorgeous as well. I think I will make the call and say that this may actually be my favorite day on the trail.

Day 145 (8/3) - Lake of the Clouds Hut to Osgood Tent Site (10 mi)
So how could the trail change so much that I went from my favorite day to the hardest day? After a huge breakfast I started the climb to the top of Mt. Washington. It was cake, though it was hard to see anything because of cloud coverage. Once on top, I hung out with Meat, Pedestrian, and Banjo in the visitor center. We got geared up to hit the summit and then begin the descent. I actually put on a long sleeve shirt and my winter puffy coat. The temperature on top was in the low 50's and the wind speed was hitting 45 mph. Mt. Washington holds the record for the fastest recorded wind speed and it can snow every month of the year there. We climbed to the summit and I almost fell over because of the combination of wind and uneven rocky ground. Actually, those were the two bad words for the day- wind and rocks (plus a few other bad words that came out of my mouth due to frustration). The wind gusts would make it hard to keep balance, especially in the higher elevations. The temps got back to normal after we descended around 1200 feet, but the trail continued to stay rocky through the Presidentials. We didn't summit all of them, which was good or it would add another 2 days of hiking. This is how bad it was- my average pace was 1 mph. The end of the day was a steep 500 foot climb up Mt. Madison followed by 2.5 miles of steep descents all on rocks and most on an exposed ridge line. I couldn't be happier to get to the campsite and set up and get in my tent. Tomorrow is a new day and I am praying it will be a lot better than today.

Day 146 (8/4) - Osgood Tent Site to Carter Notch (11 mi)
Today wasn't too bad...which was really good. It was pretty smooth sailing (with rocks and roots of course) all the way to Pinkham Notch. The temptation here was to just hitch a ride into Gorham and call it an early day and try to arrange a slack pack tomorrow. Instead, I just ate my lunch at the visitor center and continued up the trail. The climb up Wildcat Mountain wasn't too bad. There were several stretches of climbing that required hands and feet. Now this isn't like regular rock climbing, where you wear a harness and have rope. These rocks are at just enough of an angle that someone deemed it safe to climb without safety gear. Luckily my pack weight was down a little with hardly any food or water to not pull me backward as I climbed. It did get harder when I would turn around and see the highway I just came from like 1200 feet below. Wildcat Mountain is a ski mountain so there was the temptation of riding the gondola. I fought it off and pressed on. The plan was to do work for stay at the Carter Hut so I wanted to get there to try and get a spot. Once i did I found out I was too late. They only could take 4 and there were 7 of us. Meat, Banjo, and myself had to find a stealth site to set up camp. As soon as we did, a storm popped out of nowhere right on top of us- lightning and thunder at the same time kind of storm. Thank goodness we are below the tree line and not on the exposed ridges like we have been the last few days. I had to wait it out for about an hour while it hailed and poured rain and soaked everything. All of us had puddles inside our tents. We cleaned up and dried up as best we could before cooking dinner. I guess the Whites had to get one jab in today. Tomorrow will be the last day through this challenging stretch. I am excited because that means a zero day and Maine are just around the corner!

Day 147 (8/5) - Carter Notch to Gorham, NH (15 mi)
I guess the hut workers felt bad for us since we had to sleep out in the storm and offered us breakfast. I am not one to turn down free food so I got a little later start than I wanted. 15 miles in the Whites is not an easy task. The hike today proved that. I climbed up the three points of Carter Mountain and then a nice long down, then the climb up Mt. Moriah. Once I started climbing Moriah, the skies started clouding up and I was afraid I was going to get caught on top of the mountain with a storm like last nights. So I started running. I hauled tail up some steep climbs, only getting up mostly on momentum. That was one long mountain. Every time I thought I was on the top, there was another climb. Finally the trail took a downhill turn and luckily all it did was lightly rain. Unfortunately, that's all it takes to make the rocks slick. After about 2.5 miles down Moriah, the trail turned into a nice gentle slope with hardly any rocks. It was almost like the Whites letting me pass in peace. I did it. I made it through the most prestigious mountain range I have ever experienced. Now, it's time for a much deserved zero!

1 comment:

  1. Yea!!! One more state to go. Then you can start planning the continental divide hike! So are we going to get a visit when you get back?