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.