Day 160: Lakes of the clouds hut to Osgood campsite // 10.1 miles. After going to bed late and a rough night’s sleep, we waited for breakfast leftovers at the hut and headed out to summit Washington with a big group. It was steep, but not too long, and I guess I’d always pictured doing it in hurricane force winds. But though it was cold it wasn’t too windy. At the top we ate and warmed up a bit in the visitor center (yeah, it’s one of those climbs where you struggle up there and then find everyone else took a train to the top) before heading back out for more exposed ridge line hiking. Lots of rocks, but the fun kind, big boulders you can sort of run across. It got windier. It was hard to control my temperature–I’d be sweating and freezing all at the same time. We had three peaks to do before we went back below tree line. The ridge is beautiful, but it’s so harsh, and we’d been up there for two days, and I really hate wind after awhile. So I was motivated to get it done. After the first two we stopped at Madison Spring Hut and ate lunch with Dancing Feather and Grizzelle. It was SO hard to go back out. The last peak was the worst. Very steep, with wind that could knock you over. Much worse weather than on Washington! My bag felt really light and it was easy to leap from boulder to boulder, and it was starting to sprinkle, so we practically ran down and back into the trees, sprinting past slow day hikers. I was determined I was sure as hell not about to get rained on as a finale to the past couple of hard days. We managed to put up the tent before the sprinkle turned into rain. It was such a relief. I prefer to forest to all that exposure for sure.
Day 161: Osgood to 1/4 mile N of Carter Notch Hut // 10.8 miles. We picked up a box full of goodies at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center pretty soon after starting in the morning. My mom has started putting a couple of bottles of Ensure in each resupply box so I can drink them when we open it and get some extra nutrients. I can’t say they’re delicious, but since my appetite has been MIA lately it’s nice to get whatever is in there without having to chew and digest. We ate a really expensive breakfast sandwich, then started a long, long climb up Wildcat Ridge. We were both really sore from our boulder running the day before and it was hard climbing, really steep. Also cold, which for me means a lot of taking off and putting on layers. We made pretty good time though, and after hitting Peaks A through E, descended into Carter Notch to sit inside the hut for a minute before finding a stealth site. We ended up about a third of the way up the other side of the notch, wedged onto a semi-flat piece of ground among the boulders. It was really cold that night, freezing at least, but we were protected from the wind by all the big rocks around us.
Day 162: Carter Notch site to Gorham, NH // 15 miles. It was a big day to get into town but we desperately wanted showers and a bed and real food, so we decided to go for it. There was no major climb today, but plenty of little rock scrambles. The day ended with a lot of downhill, and my knees were feeling it, but eventually we made it to the road. We got a hitch pretty easily, and the nice people who picked us up even gave us money to buy dinner! They also encouraged us about our timing when Eric expressed his reservations (“Aw, you’ve got plenty of time!”). It was awesome, such a nice change of pace from the “You’re a little late aren’t ya?” we’ve been getting for so long.
Day 163: Zero in Gorham. I think we’ve seen everything HGTV has to air now, but luckily this motel got BBC America and it was Earth night so David Attenborough for the win!
Day 164: Gorham to Gentian Pond Shelter // 11.8 miles. Went to the delicious coffee shop for breakfast, got a hitch back from a woman fresh off the plane from Sweden. We decided to do six days before our next resupply, so we’ve got a lot of food and it’s heavy! It was chilly still but nothing like being up on the ridge feeling the brunt of the wind
Day 165: Gentian Pond to Mahoosuc Notch north end // 12.3 miles. Very cold morning–summer is fleeing fast. We made it to Maine just after lunch and were very excited. I sort of couldn’t believe I was standing there, considering how full of doubt and defeated I was in Vermont. But the Whites were sort of just the challenge I needed. That and getting back into better shoes. I’m wearing an Altra model with a ridiculous amount of cushion, way more than I would ever wear in regular life, but my legs are so fatigued they need all the help absorbing the endless shock of the day hiking they can get. Lots of choppy hiking to the start of Mahoosuc Notch. The guidebook calls it “the most difficult or fun mile of the trail”. It’s a mile through a super narrow canyon full of boulders, so lots of scrambling over, around and through huge piles of rock. It takes a lot of time. We really needed to get to the other side, so we started making our way through at 5:45pm, which these days is when the light starts threatening to fade. We were totally exhausted and still heavy with food so it was quite a challenge. I preferred to avoid squeezing through narrow gaps that required taking off your pack, so I tried to find alternate ways around those. A lot of time was just spent deciphering each new set of boulders to see what the more efficient way would be, so it was mentally tiring too! Can’t just put your head down and grind it out. It was a little bit too bad because if I’d been feeling fresher I would have loved that section (clambering around on boulders is my thing). But we caught up with Honeybun and So-Crates (yay!) and made it to the other side pretty much exactly as the sun set. We took an hour and ten minutes to go through the mile, and we’d been cautioned it could take two or three, so we didn’t do so bad! Usually everyone else is faster than me. I’m glad the AT gave me my mile to shine.
Day 166: Mahoosuc to Frye Notch Lean-to // 12.8 miles. Started the morning with a big steep climb up Mahoosuc Arm (what is down must go up, on the AT), passed some nice ponds (which I still say are lakes), a big descent and then more up. I am spending a lot of each day mentally ensconced in the Game of Thrones world. I never intended to get into that phenomenon, but when I got my free audiobook trial from Audible, I wanted to pick the longest one possible–32 hours! After that of course I was hooked and got my own membership so I could get the rest. At first the narrator’s voicing for the characters was not my favorite, but now I can’t imagine hearing it any other way. Whoever he is, I wish he could know how many long hard miles his voice has accompanied me on :). Of course I intended to come out here and think every single thing through in long meditative hours of hiking, but at this point I am too tired for that and all I think about is how tired I am. The leaves are really starting to turn, and it’s let up a little bit terrain-wise since leaving the Whites, but just barely. At four we checked the guidebook and got a bad surprise–we still had 3.5 more miles to our goal. Got in late and had to do all our camp chores in the dark, bummer. The was commotion from more college freshmen at the shelter, but we were camped far enough away that I fell asleep immediately. At this point it would have to be a big commotion indeed to keep me up. There’s a solution for everyone with noisy neighbors–just exhaust yourself everyday and sleep will be no problem!
Day 167: Frye Notch to Sawyer Brook // 12 miles. Woke up at four AM and felt cramps coming on. It was cold and dark and there was nothing to do about it so I just lay there and tried to pretend I didn’t exist. They did their thing, getting worse and worse, eventually got to the throwing up part. Wrapped that up by nine AM and started hiking. Felt really weak for awhile, but in the afternoon the terrain was slightly easier and I started feeling stronger. Finished late again, just after sunset, because of our late start.
Day 168: Sawyer Brook to Bemis Stream campsite // 14.8 miles. We were running low in food and slightly behind schedule because of my cramps. In the morning when we were getting snacks ready for the day I was looking at what we had left and asked, “…is that it?” It was, and I knew it wasn’t enough to get us comfortably to town. We were camped near some section hikers who were leaving the trail this morning, so Eric asked if they had any extra food and scored us a bunch of random snacks. Should be enough to stretch what we have. Tough morning climbing out of the notch, going immediately back down, then back up to the summit of Old Blue Mountain. I wish they’d install giant zip lines to bridge these gaps between peaks! We’d had our eye on some easier looking low-elevation terrain for the afternoon, but that section turned out to be very root-y and rocky, so our progress wasn’t any better than if we’d been climbing. All afternoon it threatened rain, and I was on edge about it, but it never did. We got into camp at dusk again. After we’d gone to bed it started raining, and kept up all night, but our tent did well and we were cozy and dry.
Day 169: Bemis Stream to Rangeley, MA // 14.2 miles. It was really cold and drizzly in the morning. We were dying for town. It was so windy and damp I couldn’t ever warm up but just kept hiking, drawn by town, doing the zombie walk. We passed three or four beautiful “ponds” (I would call them lakes). It would have been nice to sit by them in the sun, but as it was I didn’t even want to stop walking to eat lunch. We got to the road into Rangeley, and the cheap place we planned to stay was closed for the season, but they gave us a ride into town to stay at their friends’ hostel. Scored a nice private room they’d recently renovated themselves. Felt glorious to get a hot shower and sit under some blankets–I feel like I haven’t been able to properly warm up in days. The remodeling job is hilarious straight out of HGTV. It’s rustic-chic, very on trend right now. And I would know, trust me. My hours of HGTV have taught me all I know about interior decorating, and my knowledge has never been greater: knock down as many dividing walls to get as open a floor plan as possible, paint the kitchen cabinets white, expose hardwood and chip board, there will always be water damage somewhere, and make sure you have a cute table with crayons for the kids. What more do you need? We walked into town to eat nachos in a little bar where we felt super out of place because everyone else knew each other. On the way back we stopped at the grocery store to resupply and now, since there’s no TV to watch HGTV on, it’s podcast and sleep time. I save the episodes I’ve already heard for nighttime listening with Eric because nothing puts me to sleep faster than Roman Mars’ deep voice gently announcing, “This is 99% Invisible.”