13 down; 1 to go
As of yesterday, we completed our 13th. state, crossing into Maine. This morning we tackled the most difficult mile on the trail- Mahoosuc Notch. It is a jumbled ravine of house-sized boulders. The trail goes up, over, around and through the boulders. It ate my shoes for breakfast.. hopefully they will make it the rest of the way! The official tally is 250 miles left to go.
Ahhh! My first day back on the trail was a beautiful and rewarding one! That is not to say that it didn’t hurt. We started by climbing Mt. Mousilauke. It was our first climb above treeline. The climb was over 3,000 ft and was long and sustained for about 4 miles. As the hike continued, we moved into thickets of Christmas trees. The air was thick with the smell of pine.
About a mile before we reached the summit, the trail flattened out. The trees shrunk to about 5 ft. tall. We could look up and beyond to see the highest point of the mountain. It was round and barren, covered with just a thin layer of grass. Carefully stacked rocks formed cairns that marked the trail. They stood out, lonely, against the pale, blue sky and empty grasslands. The trail was covered with loss, round rocks, the size of golf balls; they shifted precariously under our feet. It was difficult to not take-off running to the summit. It was an epic moment with amazing scenery. At the summit, an old foundation still remains; an old lodge was constructed there in the 1860s. Now the foundation looks reminiscent to an old stone fort, complete with ramparts and embankments.
It was a triumphant moment and we lingered atop the cornice for a long time. The descent was just as epic, but far more challenging . The trail was practically vertical and asks the hiker to climb down slick rocks. At certain parts, bars of re-bar had been drilled in to the rocks. I had to ditch my trekking polls and use my bare hands to keep from falling.
Rough day! Amazing day! I cannot describe the full glory of the Whites, but man are we working hard for it. The climbs are very steep and very difficult. Yesterday we slacked–packed, but it still took so much time.
Today was probably the most beautiful day on the trail. We climbed up Mt. Lafayette. It looked spectacular and awe-inspiring. The trail ran along the spine of the mountain; it looked like the Great Wall of China. Hundreds of black specks moved along the ridge and further into the distance, tourists! We summited atop a remote cornice, but were still overwhelmed by day-hikers. The winds across the ridge were very strong and I had to hold onto my trekking polls to keep from falling over.
The climb was a strange site as the entire trail was above treeline. You could look from one point on the mountain, see the trail move down with the dip of the ridge line and then raise back up to the next peak. The ridge made a large, sweeping, and shallow “w” shape.
In other news, I am extremely sodium deficient. I drank all my water only 4 miles into the hike. When I reached the cornice, I had to bumb water off the day hikers. I felt bad asking because I didn’t want them to think I irresponsibly packed out insufficient water supply.
The whits have been so unkind to me! Albeit, they are quite spectacular, but they are seriously brutal. I haven’t written in the last few days and I am not sure I’ll be awake long enough to recapture everything. Yesterday sucked! We climbed up to Lafayette again and it was so treacherous. The winds were so strong and we were fighting to stay upright. What was a picturesque view the day before was no a cloudy wasteland, shrouded in white wet. We eventually made our way down to the boreal forest and the terrain was just as tough. It took us forever to go only a few miles.
We ascended up straight rock walls. There were very few hand holds and everything was slippery. The wind swept over me; it seemed to almost intentionally try to blow me over. Still, I made the wet, slick climbs no problem. They were more annoying than anything. Every step I took to get closer to the shelter was more and more painful. I think I have strained something in my leg, behind me knee.
This day wasn’t particularly difficult. We took our time and stopped at every hut and place we came by. The day started with a steep, abrupt, and quick climb up to Pierce Mountain. After that, we meandered 3 miles up a steady incline to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. It really was an easy section and I maneuvered over the rocks with no problems.
The whole of the day was spent above the treeline and it was obvious that I was going to get a gnarly sunburn. At Lakes Hut we stopped and had pancakes. I sifted through their lost and found in desperation and found a synthetic shirt that fit me perfectly right on top. I then found some other nice things and snagged them for myself.
After that, there was only a 1.5 mile climb up to Mount Washington. The entire mountain was covered by medium sized rocks of a black, dark grey, and bright green color. They were sharp with ridges. Surprisingly, the climb up the the second tallest mountain on the AT wasn’t steep or difficult.
When we reached the top of the mountain we were greeted by construction workers and scientists working at the weather observatory. Hundreds of tourists covered the mountain; they all flocked to the highest promontory of rocks marked by a “summit” placard. There was actually a line to climb the summit and get your picture taken. I thought to myself, “These people didn’t actually climb Mt. Washington, so why are they taking their pictures there so triumphantly? I actually climbed this!” Finally, the line to the summit was small enough that I was hiked up to it and got my picture taken.
Holy cow! What a crazy day! This morning the hut crew read off the daily weather forecast; severe thunderstorms, 80 mph winds rated at hurricane speeds. They told us to make sure we were below treeline or finding shelter by early afternoon. We were only planning on going 8 miles to Pinkham notch.
We had a nice morning, hanging around the hut for breakfast and waiting to do out hut chores. The start of our hike was easy, but when we reached the cornice of Madison, we were met by severe wind. The summit was merely a giant pile of rocks and it was extremely difficult ot move around whilst the wind pushed us over. I could barely keep my footing. We sought shelter behind a cleft in the rocks. We stowed our trekking polls and tightened our packs down. I toyed with the idea of waiting out the wind, but the forecast said it was only going to get worse.
We decided that it was imperative to continue moving and began to slowly crawl over the rocks, staying as low as possible. Crawling helped cut down on the winds influence, but the rocks were so sharp and jagged that each time I placed my hand upon a rock it cut me. I had to fight through each slicing of my hand in order to continue crawling. Standing on the rocks in the hurricane force winds was so dangerous. Our progress was so slow that it took us almost two hours to move a mile. It was very frightening; it was on time in this entire journey that I feared for my safety.