Monthly Archives: July 2012

The hut rebound

July 26

13.8 miles, 1838.9 overall (Stealth camp, Saco River at Crawford Notch)
In the morning I’m awake at 5:45. By 6:00 I have my gear packed sufficiently that I could believably claim, if necessary, that I had not stealth camped here but had simply stopped here to eat breakfast. At 6:15 I have finished breakfast but I’m still tired having gotten a short night’s sleep after a long day. I lay out my sleeping pad with the intention of taking a nap but just a few minutes after I do this I start to feel rain drops. The nap isn’t going to happen. I pack up and hit the trail at 6:30.

It is hard to get going as I feel the lingering effects from yesterday. Still there is another hut only 6 miles away. My new goal is to get there in time to get leftovers from breakfast. The terrain is milder today and mostly flat to downhill. I listen to some audiobooks while hiking and hope it doesn’t rain on me. Although several times it sprinkles and I feel threatened with a downpour it never comes. I hike over Mount Guyot and then down to the Zeacliff Ridge. Much of the hike this morning is through forests of the short trees found at treeline. I do pass 2 tents set up next to each other only a bit further off the trail than I was and at 8:00 I think they are pushing their luck. Perhaps they are less worried about getting caught stealth camping so close to the trail. Or perhaps I have an unfounded fear of getting caught.

Eventually I reach the steep downhill that signals that I’m close to the hut. It is just passing 9:00 so I’m hopeful for some food. As I arrive I see a bunch of packs outside and wonder if some other thru-hikers beat me here but it turns out to be a guided hiking group. I enter, find a hutsman, and ask about leftovers. Once he confirms I’m a thru-hiker he shows me to the kitchen where there is plenty of leftover oatmeal, eggs, and bread. I help myself to large helpings of each and start chowing down.

I end up staying at the hut for a while. As I finish the food Wiffle arrives with Smiles, Gumpy, Peeper, and Hawk not far behind. Blues Clues is the last to arrive. We sit around the hut and eat some of the bread that is available for a donation. While we hang out the hutsmen go about trying to hang an oar in the dining room. It turns out the huts have rivalries and part of the fun of working here is going on raids of other huts to obtain a variety of decorative items. Raids can either be stealth raids (self-explanatory) or power raids where the target hut is overpowered, hutsmen tied up, etc. Stories of epic raids persist through the years, including one where the hutsmen from all the other huts dressed up as Indians and power-raided Lakes of the Clouds hut. The prized possession is the oar which this hut obtained in a stealth raid of Lakes of the Clouds hut the other day. To hang the oar they have brought in a large ladder. As I’m talking to the other hikers the ladder slips and the guy on it falls. The ladder comes crashing down and comes terribly close to catching me. I realize quickly that this had the potential to be a hike ender but luckily everyone turns out to be ok, including the guy who fell from the ladder. As they continue to hang the oar they are more careful about safety.

A short time later I leave with the others in a light drizzle which soon lets up. The trail is incredibly easy for the next few miles and we make good time down to Crawford Notch. When we arrive there is a parking lot and we run into M&M and Hoots, two thru-hikers from 2007. They have beers, Gatorades, water, chips, and other food. They evidently ran into Hawk and Wiffle up on Franconia ridge yesterday so they recognize the group. After a break and some conversation we take beers for the road and head out.

The parking lot is at Crawford Notch where we cross a road. Just after the road is a stealth camping spot we’ve been told about. We cross a bridge over a stream that runs parallel to the road, head downstream a bit, and find a large camping area big enough for all 7 of us to fit. Hawk makes a campfire and we cook dinner around it. It is only 5:00 but everyone is ready for an early night after getting up early this morning. I head to bed feeling much better about today than yesterday on the Appalachian Trail.

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The hut miscalculation

July 25

18.8 miles, 1825.1 overall (Stealth camp just past South Twin Mountain)
In the morning I’m up before 6. It is cold outside and there is still a gusty wind blowing in across the pond. As I pack up I’m glad to have my down jacket back. The temperature is below 50 and the wind chill must be close to 40 – strange having just come from the beach where it was about 85. I pack my stuff quickly and head to the shelter to retrieve my food for breakfast. I eat outside the shelter as everyone prepares to leave, making the inside of the shelter a bustle of gear and bodies. By 7:00 I hit the trail.

My goal is to make it to Galehead Hut. This is an ambitious goal as the hut is almost 18 miles away. Still I have some recon info from hikers ahead of me and I know that Franconia ridge should be pretty quick and with an early start I can average 2 miles an hour and be at the hut safely by 5:00, the opportune time to arrive and get a work for stay arrangement.

The first couple miles go quickly as they are downhill to the first hut of the Whites, Lonesome Lake hut. As I approach I recognize Chicken Feathers and say hi. He is still with the Lionkillers who are inside. I head in to get my first view of one of these infamous structures. On one side of the room is a kitchen and on the other are tables with benches for eating. Whipporway informs me of the faucet on the other side of the room that provides potable water for hikers. It seems each hut has a drilled well so water is readily available. I was hoping for some leftovers from breakfast that the huts often give to hikers but it is too early and the staff still hasn’t finished eating. I help myself to some water, talk to the Lionkillers a bit more and then head out, not wanting to waste too much time.

On the way out the path is confusing as it passes by the lake but I soon find my way. I follow the trail down to Cascade Brook where a bridge has been washed out leaving a formidable stream crossing. It takes a minute to get across but I’m able to accomplish the feat and remain dry. On the other side though the path again becomes confusing. As I’m reading the signs trying to determine the correct way forward I see a blaze and follow it. Soon though I’m wondering if I made the right choice. The blazes as I continue are no longer pure white blazes but look like blue blazes with white painted over them. I wonder if the trail was rerouted and some former blue blazes were simply painted over. I travel about 3/4 of a mile down this trail before I run into a hiker and ask him if I’m on the AT. He informs me that I’m not and, as I figured, I took a wrong turn at the stream crossing. 15 minutes later I am back at the stream crossing and quickly realize what I did. The stream crossing is upstream of where the bridge washed out, as is the trail junction. I saw a blaze that was originally meant for southbounders to lead them to the bridge. With the bridge no longer being there the blaze should have been removed but it remains, ready to confuse any hikers who dare to follow it.

Back on track I soon pass the Lionkillers who also took the wrong path but their mistake occurred at the lake. I take solace that I’m not the only one to get confused today, but now I’m a good 30 minutes behind where I should be. I try to make up some time on the downhill.

At the bottom is Franconia Notch where we pass under I-93 and then head back uphill to Franconia Ridge. I stop for a quick snack break. As I get going again 2 hikers catch up to me. They look familiar and I finally recognize them as I let them pass. It is Hawk and Wiffleball who I met in VT with Gumpy and Peeper. They set a good pace up the climb and I fall in behind them. It is 3000 feet to the top and it feels every bit of it. As we get higher the trail becomes gradually steeper until I have to stop for a break. Luckily there is a campsite on the way up and I catch up to Hawk there. He makes the astute observation that this site has the last water for 7 miles, making it prudent that I fill up here. I grab an extra liter before continuing up the last 500 feet.

At the top there is a brief walk along a ridge that is still covered with small trees before we enter the part of the ridge that is truly above treeline. For the next 3 miles we hike across the ridge with amazing views to either side. This is the great part of this section. The downside to this section is that it is extremely windy today and we are completely exposed. The gusts remind me of the few tropical storms that I have experienced. As I hike I have to lean into the wind, and both my trekking poles and my feet are blown away from where I want them to land. Just as I adjust to the wind, finding the proper amount to lean into it, the speed changes and I stumble to the side at the lack of counter-force.

There are 3 summits on the ridge. At the first a side trail empties day hikers onto the top of Little Haystack Mountain. As I stop to put an extra shirt on I notice Thunderstorm sitting in a windbreak eating lunch. I stop to join him for a few minutes to catch up while I eat a snack of my own. Then, knowing that I still need to hurry to get to the hut, I move on quickly. The next summit is Mt Lincoln, followed by Mt Lafayette. The crowds of thru-hikers get successively thinner the further I hike along this ridge until, as I come down off of Mt Lafayette and return to the forest, the crowds subside.

At this point it is about 2:00 and I still have just over 6 miles left to get to the hut. It is mostly downhill and I try to pick up the pace but the terrain continues to be technically demanding with plenty of boulder-hopping and scooting down rock faces. At 3 miles left to the hut I pass a shelter and, although I’m running late and should probably stop here, I push on thinking that I still have a good chance for work for stay. The rest of the trail seems easy enough in terms of elevation and it is not quite 4:00 yet.

This proves to be my biggest error of the day. I predict that I will hike a 2 mph pace but I’m truly hiking slower than that. Instead of arriving at the hut at 5:00 I don’t arrive until 5:30. It has been an 18 mile day not counting the 1.5 mile detour I took down the wrong trail. I’m exhausted, I’ve just run out of water, and I’m starting to bonk. As I walk up I see some thru-hikers already sitting outside and figure I’m too late. When I go inside and ask the staff they confirm my suspicion. I have miscalculated and now I will have to hike on. Luckily the staff are incredibly nice. The one who tells me there is no more room for work-for-stay (they’re only supposed to take 2 hikers and they already have 4) gives me a bucket with bread in it and tells me I can finish it for them. She also tells me where I can find a stealth campsite for the night. I chow down on the bread, sharing it with some of the other hikers, and I fill my water in the hut. Before I leave I try to “camel up” a bit, drinking as much water as I can before leaving.

Continuing my bad luck for the day, the hut is at the base of another large climb, this time up South Twin Mountain. To get to the stealth campsite I have to go up 1000 feet, then down a couple hundred. It is only a mile but, already exhausted from the day, it takes me almost an hour. By the time I find the spot it is 7:00. I figure it is late enough and nobody but other thru-hikers will come by at this point so I set up my tent. I hang my bear line, cook dinner quickly, and crawl into my tent at 8:30. While I’m doing all this nobody passes by, not even another hiker.

It was a long day but I learned a good lesson about the Whites: always have a plan B and be prepared to execute it. My biggest mistake was not planning for what would happen if I didn’t get a work-for-stay. If I had done some planning I would have realized that arriving late would have meant a strenuous extra mile or more. Knowing that I probably would have stopped at the last campsite rather than pushing on. I have learned the lesson the hard way. In the morning I will have to pack up early and get going so I don’t get caught in my stealth spot only a few feet from the Appalachian Trail.

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Categories: NH | 2 Comments

The out of order near-triple zero

July 21-23

1.5 miles, 1794.8 overall (Kinsman Notch, NH 112)
Note: this post chronologically should have come before the last one.

In the morning I consider getting up in time to see the sunrise. However I don’t need to meet Christy until 9:00 and I only have 1.5 miles to travel. I’ve heard it is a steep and incredibly technical downhill so I generously give myself 1.5 hours to complete it. Still, that means I don’t need to get up until 6:30. Sunrise is around 5:30. I figure I’ll wake up around sunrise, jump out of my tent to see it and catch a picture, and then get back in the tent. The only flaw in my plan is that for once I don’t wake up at the proper time. Instead of getting up around 5:20 I don’t wake until almost 6. At that point I can hear the other hikers getting up and preparing for the day. I procrastinate a while since I already missed the sunrise. Eventually I get up and pack. I join the other hikers for some conversation over breakfast and delay leaving until 7:30, at which point I get going and leave all of them still packing.

The advice I received about the trail was correct, it is very steep and very technical. The trail is essentially a side channel of the stream that runs, sometimes in cascades, down the mountain. There are no switchbacks. It is straight down, rock hopping the whole way. In a few places rebar has been drilled into the rock to provide steps or handholds, and in other places wooden blocks have been attached to the rock to provide steps. I take my time and it ends up taking the entire allotted 1.5 hours. I get to the parking lot with about 5 minutes to spare. Christy arrives just a few minutes later and off we go!

As a sign that she is getting used to this routine she almost immediately advises me that there appeared to be restaurants on the way in about 10 minutes away. We stop in town at a diner so I can have elevensies. Then we make the trek down to Boston.

The wedding is in Gloucester, MA but we have friends in Boston so we spend a day/night with them. It is great to see them again and they plan a perfect night out for us – a brewery tour at the Harpoon brewery (with tasting afterward) followed by dinner at a pub down the street. In between we have an hour to kill so we go to a bar. Between good beer, good friends, and minimal walking it is a great night.

The next day is wedding day. I wake up earlier than everyone else, still on hiker time. Christy and I make a trip to Dunkin Donuts to get breakfast for everyone. After breakfast come goodbyes and we head up to Gloucester for the wedding. On the way we stop at Kohl’s to see if we can find some pants that actually fit me. No luck, as always my inseam is shorter than all of the pants they sell. Blast being short! It turns out to be ok because the pants Christy brought were actually a little small before I left for the trail so they turn out to fit perfectly along with a new, smaller belt from Kohl’s.

The wedding is beautiful and again we get to see some old friends, both the bride and groom as well as other guests. The reception has stations (read: all you can eat) so I have my fill of pasta, crab stuffed sole, salad, beef tenderloin, chicken piccata, and several other dishes. The bride evidently warned everyone about the hairy guest that would be coming and why he is so hairy, so throughout the night I have random guests walk up to me and ask me about my hike. Christy tells me later that she finally knows what it must be like to be the President’s wife.

The next day is another zero and is meant for resupply and getting ready to head back to the trail. We drive into NH to save time the next morning. On the way we stop at an REI where I get new insoles to go with my new kicks, some energy bars, a smaller pocketknife to save some weight since I never use anything other than the main blade, and a poncho to replace my rain jacket. The pocketknife swap is more of a spur of the moment splurge but the poncho is something I have been considering for a while. I am tired of having to decide each time it rains whether I want to get soaked by the rain or by my sweat. Rain jackets simply don’t breathe enough for the kind of physical activity that thru-hiking demands, even with pit zips. The pit zips are also not great because inevitably you end up lifting your arms too high and the rain drips in. The poncho should be more breathable and has an added advantage of being able to keep my pack a little dryer because although I have a pack cover, some water always leaks through somewhere.

In addition to the new gear Christy has brought me back my 3-season sleeping bag and my down jacket. The Whites are notorious for getting very cold very fast so I want to be prepared. I’ve already experienced a “warm” night in the Whites which taught me I was not ready for a cold night. Now I am.

After a trip to the grocery store and some organizing of all the gear and food we go out for a nice dinner. I get scallops with rice pilaf and Christy gets steak with a baked potato. I spend the rest of the night catching up on things (i.e. writing this) while she putzes around. It is an early night to try to get me back on hiker time after going to bed late the last few nights.

It was a great few days off the trail and a perfect way to recharge for the last 400 miles. I was asked several times over the weekend whether it was a shock to be back in civilization after hiking for so long, and whether I would be able to adjust when I finish the trail. Other hikers who took zeroes in NYC talked about how much of a shock it was for them to be around that many people again. However when I finish the trail I’m not going anywhere as crowded as NYC, and over this weekend I didn’t have any problem with having people around. Although by the end of the weekend I was ready to head back to the trail, it was more because I am anxious to get into the Whites, to see who I’ll be hiking with now, and to finish my hike. When my hike is over there will be some adjusting to do for sure. I will need to regain my concentration. I’ll need to switch from eating whatever I want to eating a limited, well-balanced diet. I’ll have to figure out what to do with my beard. What I won’t have to do is stop wishing I was back on the trail. It has been a great experience and I’m excited for the last 400 miles which are supposed to be some of the best, but I am ready to be done and head back to life as a thru-hiker of the Appalachian Trail.

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Categories: NH | 3 Comments

The one where I re-enter the Whites

July 24

11.5 miles, 1806.3 overall (Kinsman Pond shelter)
I have trouble forcing myself out of the comfy hotel bed. It is warm and cozy, and I know I will miss that for the next month as I finish my hike. Still I need to get going in order to get back on the trail at a good time. Christy and I eat breakfast at the hotel and then load the car. She drops me off at 10:45 and after our goodbyes I’m heading out of Kinsman Notch toward Kinsman Mountain.

The initial climb is steep, serving as a great reminder of what I’m getting into. However it soon flattens out and I am able to make some decent time. I catch several hikers on the way, including Dos the Birds. Dos fills me in on some of the hikers who are nearby, many of whom I don’t recognize. It sounds like I’ll be meeting some more people over the next few days.

I am soon climbing Mount Wolf, a relatively small mountain that serves as a warmup to Kinsman which lies ahead. Near the top is a side trail to an overlook and, not being in a hurry, I go for the view. It isn’t as good as Moosilauke, but it is still a great view. It is even decked out with an American flag tied to the top of a small tree at the overlook.

Back on the trail I head downhill to the first shelter. The downhill isn’t terrible like the downhill to meet Christy was but I’m learning that no elevation changes in the Whites are easy, either uphill or downhill, and that the trail maintainers obviously don’t believe in switchbacks. At the shelter I meet Magpie and Gorp, and also there is Achey Breaky. Achey Breaky plans to stay while Magpie moves on just before I do after a quick snack. Originally I had hoped to get to the first hut today but with the late start it isn’t going to happen. Instead I would like to get up and over Kinsman today. The climb begins immediately out of the shelter. As I climb I realize that rain is moving in. Apparently I won’t be long before I get to test my poncho! By the time I reach the top of the mountain I am surrounded by a dense fog and rain sprinkling intermittently. I’m disappointed that I won’t get to see the view from Kinsman but hope that this one day of bad weather means several more of good weather.

Let me pause for a few quick notes about the Whites. Most hikers see their average mileage drop when they reach this point due to the tough terrain. A good rule of thumb is to plan on about 2/3’s the miles you were getting on the way into the Whites. I’m planning on around 12-13 miles per day. Also in the Whites shelters are fewer and further between. You also have to pay to use the shelters. As a result many people try to “stealth camp” instead, finding their own spot along the trail. Hikers who do this have to either camp 200 feet from the trail or set up late enough and break down early enough that they don’t get caught. It is hard to spot a good spot to camp from 200 feet in the woods so most hikers wind up opting for the latter option. The final option for a place to stay is at the huts. You can pay around $85-100 to stay in one or, if you have good timing, you can try to get a work for stay at one of them. With a work for stay you do some chores like sweeping, cleaning, etc in exchange for leftover dinner and breakfast and the privilege to sleep on the floor. The catch here is that each hit only has a few work for stay positions each day. If you arrive too early the hut workers tell you to keep hiking. If you arrive too late then the positions will have been filled. So in summary, if you don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars then finding a place to sleep in the Whites can be a pain.

Tonight I opt for a shelter. If I tried to go to the hut I’m sure I would arrive too late to get a work for stay. The best time to arrive seems to be around 5:00 and I wouldn’t get there until 6:30-7:00. On my way to the shelter a northbounder passes me and introduces himself as Hambone. He is hiking faster than I am and tells me he is trying to get to the hut to get a work for stay. I warn him that it is getting late but he is set on it and hikes on.

As I reach the shelter I catch up to Instigator and Expeditor. It seems I can’t get away from these two, they are always around when I get back from some days off the trail. They stay in the shelter with a group of kids while I opt for tenting on one of the tent platforms. I have to use my bear line to secure my tent to the platform since stakes won’t work, so I’m glad that the shelter has a bear box that I can put my food in. The shelter itself is very well constructed with new logs hand-carved to fit seamlessly together. It is quite a change from the CCC-era shelters we have been used to in the south.

The water source for the shelter is Kinsman Pond. It is erie looking as I get my water because it is socked in with fog. I cook dinner in the shelter with the other hikers before I head to bed. The night is windy, wet, and cold. As I go to sleep I hope that those conditions don’t persist until morning on the Appalachian Trail.

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Categories: NH | 3 Comments

The White Mountains

July 20

21.8 miles, 1793.3 overall (Beaver Brook shelter)
I am camped over 2000 feet and the temperature gets down into at least the 40’s overnight. It is just cold enough to wake me up every hour or two but not cold enough to force me to get up and put on more clothes. If I had had my cold weather gear I would have simply zipped up my sleeping bag a bit further, but I won’t have that gear until Christy picks me up tomorrow. Still, the thought of getting off trail tomorrow for a few days is enough to get me going this morning and I don’t feel the lingering effects of the night’s sleep. I pack up and I’m soon on my way.

The first task is to finish the climb up Mount Cube to the peak at 2911 feet. It doesn’t take me long to get there. I hear some day hikers on the way up but can’t tell if they’re on the same trail as I am or on a different one. I never do see them. As I reach the peak it becomes almost treeless, covered in bedrock. This offers me a fantastic view to the west where I see a blanket of fog covering the valleys. It is perfectly delineated with hardly any wisps escaping the main body of the cloud, making the cloud a pure white color that I spend some time admiring. I hope to find a view in another direction from the summit but the other directions seem to be blocked by trees so I proceed down the mountain.

On the way down I pass several southbounders. It seems there were a few groups of them camped just short of this climb so that I pass them all within minutes of each other this morning. I don’t spend much time talking to any of them. We exchange the typical hello’s and I let them know they have a great view coming up at the summit but then we go our separate ways, me toward Katahdin and them to enter the mid-Atlantics.

The rest of the day is a relatively easy approach to Mount Moosilauke, the entry point of the White Mountains. I have decided to hike up Moosilauke today so that Christy can pick me up early tomorrow morning. That means I need to make some miles during the easy part today. I want to be at the base of Moosilauke by 3 at the latest. I’m making good time listening to my audiobook as I pass Ore Hill. I stop for an early lunch of fish and cheese tortillas and although I spend almost an hour preparing and eating my food nobody passes me.

When I continue I hike over Mount Mist, an incredibly small climb compared to what is coming up. It is cool today and I’m able to keep a good speed even on the uphills. Down the other side the trail passes by a pond and I consider stopping for a swim. I’m incredibly tempted by the simple fact that there is a rope swing! I spend a minute contemplating but decide between the cool weather and the number of miles I have left that it is a bad idea. I chalk this one up to bad timing and move on.

Not long after I reach NH 25, on the other side of which the White Mountains begin. I have a bit of trouble finding the trail on the other side of the road but eventually notice the small cairn (pile of rocks) that hikers have built to draw attention to it. When I get to the trail I immediately have to navigate my way across a wide stream on the other side of the road. As I’m hiking upstream to what appears to be a good crossing site I notice several hikers on the other side. Over the noise of the stream and my audiobook I can’t hear what they’re saying but I can hear them laughing. I wonder if they are southbounders getting a kick out of a northbounder trying to cross a stream and remain dry. Unfortunately the thought takes my mind off what I’m doing and I end up taking a bit of a spill just before I cross the stream. I bang my knee a bit but nothing is really hurt besides my pride.

Once I make it to the other side I realize that two of the hikers are Manbearpig and Dudemanbro, both hikers that I met at Tom’s house in Dalton, MA. They got ahead of me when I took my double zero but they have spent all day sitting by this stream and now I’ve caught up. The other 3 hikers sitting with them are all southbounders and are friends of theirs who they have met up with. I spend some time chatting with them before I move on. It is almost 2:00 and I’m eager to start up Moosilauke.

I stop for a while at the shelter at the base of the mountain to have a snack and fill up on water. When I leave it is just about 2:30 and Dudemanbro is a little bit ahead of me. I catch up to him when he stops at a stream to get some water and I’m the first one up the mountain. The climb is steep, going from 1330 feet at the shelter to 4802 feet at the peak of the mountain. The steepest part of the climb covers 1000 feet in about a half mile. I’m relishing the climb though and enjoy pushing myself up a mountain again. I stop about 1000 feet into the climb for a quick break and some water. This allows Dudemanbro to catch up to me. As he passes me I get moving again, using him as a pacesetter. We climb the rest of the way together without stopping. It is nice to have someone to talk to on the way up to take my mind off the effort. The two of us make the climb in about 1.5 hours and for the first time in a while my muscles burn with the strain.

Dudemanbro is an interesting fellow. He is similar to Gato in that he is an incredibly positive person. I get a kick out of talking to him because he seems to really take pleasure in the little things of hiking. For instance he repeats several times on the way up the mountain how much he loves climbing a mountain again, and when we stop for water he comments on how cold and fresh it is coming off the mountain.

At the top the trail levels out for almost a mile before a final climb to the summit. Manbearpig is taking a break at that point while trying to dry his shirt. The summit is above treeline and he doesn’t want to get cold. Dudemanbro stops here too but I only take a short break before continuing. I’m too excited about the summit to wait. The trail takes me through a forest of dwarf trees, hardly as tall as I am. The further I walk the smaller they get until I finally break out above treeline. To my left I can see for miles over small mountains and hills. To my right are the White Mountains, huge summits and ridges obscuring what would otherwise be a similar view. I’m impressed by how quickly the Whites begin and I wonder what could cause it. This morning I never got over 3000 feet but now I am at almost 5000.

On the way to the summit are huge cairns, much bigger than any we’ve seen on the trail so far. They are as tall as I am and serve as markers of the trail in the winter when snow would be covering the peak. Once I follow them to the summit I’m able to finally survey a 360 view of my surroundings and I get a special treat. At the top is a girl who at first I believe to be a hiker but she informs me that she is actually an alpine guide. She works at one of the lodges in the Whites and each day one of the workers at the lodge is sent to this summit to answer questions for people about the terrain, vegetation, history, etc. I’m able to pick her brain a bit in the last few minutes she has before her shift ends and I find out that the pile of rocks on the summit are the remains of a hotel that burned down around 1940. Some of the rocks have been stacked to form windbreaks that I imagine are used in bad weather by the guides who have to take their turn up on the summit. To the east she points out Mount Kinsman, the next big climb, and Mount Washington, the tallest mountain in the northeastern US and another summit I’ll have to reach.

Manbearpig and Dudemanbro catch up and we take some pictures on the summit before I again leave ahead of them. It is almost 5:00 now and it is time to get to the shelter, still 2 miles away. I head down back into the trees. I’m a little sad to do it because I know since I’ll be leaving the trail tomorrow I won’t get to see this view again for a few days. The remaining two miles are easy enough and I reach the shelter without much problem, although the last bit is very steep and gives me a preview of what I’ll have to deal with in the 1.5 miles I have to hike in the morning.

At the shelter is a man with his son and daughter. They already have their tent set up and are cooking dinner. I set up my tent behind the shelter which has a perfect view of Mount Kinsman. In a short time I’m cooking dinner with Manbearpig and Dudemanbro. As I’m finishing up a southbounder arrives and the four of us watch as the sun sets, throwing different shades and colors on the ridge line across from us. I finally head to bed, making sure to put on extra clothes so I can stay warm tonight since, being camped 2000 feet higher than yesterday, I’m sure it will be colder than last night on the Appalachian Trail.

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