9.5 miles, 1895.5 overall (Stealth camp on Dream Lake)
In the morning I take my time. Since I got in late in the afternoon yesterday I’m not in a rush to get going today. I figure getting done with the Whites deserves a little time off even if I don’t want to take a full zero day. Besides, when I get up in the morning my laundry isn’t done yet.
Breakfast at White Mountain Hostel is a big affair. We get some really great oatmeal, coffee, a breakfast burrito, and a bit more food that for some reason I can’t remember. By the time I’m done eating I’m not really full but I’m certainly not hungry anymore, so it is a good amount and if I wanted more I could have more oatmeal.
T is stuck waiting here until tomorrow morning. She is a section hiker and over the last 2 years she has done 1800 miles in two 900 mile chunks. Since she teaches during the year she saves up and uses the summer to do her hiking. She needs to be back at work soon and doesn’t have enough time left to finish another chunk of trail before she has to fly home. Because of the bus schedule and the time of her flight, tomorrow she will catch a bus to the airport and then wait another day for her flight. In the meantime she is spending another day here. She spends the morning trying to convince me to zero with her. I’m not convinced, but she does talk me into staying to watch a movie with her and Gorp. We watch The Way, which stars Martin Sheen as the father of a backpacker who dies on the Camino trail in Spain. The movie is about how he deals with his son’s death by hiking the trail for him. It is pretty well done and resonates well with us as backpackers. By the end I think we all can’t help but contemplate hiking the Camino.
I finally leave just around 11. The first mile or so is a road walk before I head uphill over Mount Hayes. The climb isn’t too bad and is much more like the climbs in the south than in the Whites, with a more constant, switch-backed trail. At the top I catch up to Gorp who only left a few minutes before I did. There is a search-and-rescue team at the top but I don’t think much of it. Several of them are out of breath and I don’t sense any urgency from them so I figure they are on some sort of training exercise. Gorp informs me that I’m wrong and that the hiker on the summit is sick and is getting airlifted out in about an hour by helicopter. This sounds way too cool to miss so I grab a spot near the summit from which I can watch and I wait.
While we’re waiting Wiffle, Hawk, Peeper, and Gumpy all come by. Wiffle and Hawk stay to watch but Gumpy and Peeper hike on. It sounds like the hiker was a section hiker who hurt his knee the first day out and then caught the stomach bug that has been going around. Several hikers have been getting sick from it, including Joiner (Beau) and a couple others at White Mountain. It is a 24-hour bug but in the wilderness in a 60-something year old man with a knee injury it became more serious.
The helicopter arrives and begins what we expect to be an uneventful airlift. It drops the medic, then flies away, then returns to drop the stretcher. This is where it gets interesting because the stretcher starts flying around under the helicopter, caught in the downdraft from the rotor. Luckily the crew are able to secure it before it flies too high where it could get caught in the rotor and soon it is safely on the ground. I catch it all on video with my phone. The helicopter flies off again and several minutes later returns and lifts the hiker to safety. We don’t stay to see the medic picked up.
The rest of the hiking today isn’t terrible, but it continues to have some steep ups and downs similar to the Whites. Because of the late start and the hour I spend watching the rescue I am fated not to get many miles done today. I had planned for 15 but now it looks like 10 is more reasonable. Around 5:00 I fill up on water at a stream and then start looking for a campsite. I find one just a few minutes later and it turns out to be a great one just a bit off a lake. I set up my tent and start getting settled. Gumpy, Pepper, Hawk, and Wiffle all pass me still hoping to get close to 15 done today. I cook an early dinner and hang my food. Before I climb into my tent I decide to explore a bit and I hike up the trail to see if there are any good viewpoints around the lake. Unfortunately I find that only several hundred feet from where I stopped to camp there is a side trail to a campsite right on the lake with a fantastic view of the sunset. I chalk this one up to bad luck, spend a few minutes admiring the view, and then head back to my tent to try to catch up on some writing and get to bed early on the Appalachian Trail.