14.6 miles, 1910.1 overall (Stealth camp, Bull Branch campsite, north end of Mahoosuc Notch)
I’m up and out of camp by 7 in the morning. I know I have a long day ahead and I want to get as far as I can before I camp tonight. Whatever I get done today will make tomorrow’s hike shorter since tomorrow is a town day.
The miles are slow in coming today and they’re also incredibly uneventful. I pass a campsite/shelter and soon catch up to Shortstop who stayed there last night. Then it is a 1000 foot climb up Mt Success, the last big mountain in New Hampshire. Because of the name I expect something stunning at the top but the mountain doesn’t really impress me. It has a nice view, but nothing spectacular. The mountain itself is a bit of a beast, with lots of the boulders and hand-over-foot climbing that I’m getting tired of. My knees are especially getting tired of this day in and day out. I had thought once I left the Whites the terrain would get easier but it appears I was wrong. To make matters worse, my legs feel heavy today and I’m just not getting into a rhythm. I end up putting on some music to try to help me through.
On the other side of the mountain though I get a bit of a pick-me-up when I reach the Maine border. It isn’t as exciting as I might have hoped because I don’t have anyone to share the moment with but I take the requisite pictures, celebrate a little by myself, and then move on.
The forecast called for rain today, specifically afternoon showers. As I head over Goose Eye Mountain I can see the clouds forming so while I really like Goose Eye and its three summits, I don’t spend too long enjoying it. I have a target in mind today and it would help to get there before the rain begins. I check the radar on my phone and see scattered storms all moving northeast, the same direction I am going.
My target is the north end of the Mahoosuc Notch. The notch is famous as the slowest mile on the Appalachian Trail and people either love it or hate it. The reason is because it is a huge boulder field created by rock slides from the surrounding mountains. For just over a mile hikers have to climb over, under, and around boulders that are larger than they are. I don’t want to do this section in the rain.
I stop for a bite to eat at a shelter just south of the notch. As I arrive it is starting to sprinkle but it lets up while I’m eating. I try to get an updated radar but I don’t have signal. I’m going to have to make this call on my own. It is 3:45 when I decide to go ahead and push through the notch, figuring that if I wait until morning the rocks will all be wet from the overnight rain anyway so I might as well get it done. Just as I leave the shelter it begins to rain, this time a bit heavier than a sprinkle. I stop, still only a few hundred yards from the shelter, wondering if I made the right decision. I wait a few minutes to see if it passes. Right around 4:00 it lets up and I continue on, hoping I have seen the last of it.
I enter the notch at 4:45 and it is everything I have read about. For the next 90 minutes I am climbing over the 1.3 miles of scree, looking for handholds, squeezing between rocks, crawling through spaces underneath huge boulders. Despite the hard work (my core gets its best workout all trail) it is immensely fun, and lucky for me the rain holds off. I feel like a kid in a playhouse, other than my knees which feel like an old man’s. By the time I’m through I’m glad to be done so my knees can rest.
Fortunately there is a great campsite right on the north side of the notch. When I arrive there are some sobo’s already set up there. I grab a spot next to them and set up my tent. Pretty soon I’ve made the trip down the side trail to get water, cooked dinner, hung my food, and I’m getting into my tent. Around 9:00 as I’m about to go to sleep I hear 2 more hikers arrive who just finished the notch. I’m amazed they dared starting it at 7:00 when the light would start to become an issue and I decide that their decision to hike possibly in the dark was much worse than mine to possibly do it in the rain.
I’m camped 17 miles from the road into Andover. I would like to get into town tomorrow but I know it is going to be a push to do it, especially if the trail is anything like it was today. I try to get a good night’s sleep so I can start early tomorrow on the Appalachian Trail.