July 22, 2010 11:58 pm
Location: Dry River Campground Crawford Notch State Park NH
I had heard of “massive storms” expected later on Wednesday. I do not do so well with rain hiking. I get very moody when I have to hike in the rain, and if I have to put on wet clothes and hike in more rain the next morning, well let’s say I get down right pissy! But I know, you’ll never finish if you don’t hike in the rain.
Some people handle the rain out here a little better. Walker just moves right along singing and whistling despite any rain.
To be fair it only rained on me about 3 days for all of my time in Maine and that’s a state where you want it least. It has been quite the opposite in New Hampshire. I think it has rained 6 out of the last 8 days or so.
I had made 11 miles by 1pm and they weren’t too hard, I could have easily pressed on but instead made the decision to hitch hike to a state campground down the road from where the trail came out at Crawford Notch. Another hiker I had bunked with at Lake of the Clouds the previous night thought this was a little less than ambitious and was planning to press on another 5 miles to an AMC shelter.
I hitched a ride pretty easily, grabbed a tent site and set up my hammock. I tried to do a really good setup in anticipation of coming storms. John the parks employee had said of the weather “well those things are hit or miss”
I know most people tend to disagree but i have to say I think weather today is pretty darn accurate. Sure every day in summer on the east coast is “chance of thunder storms” It’s the humidity we have here. However if they say %60 or greater chance its a good bet there will be rain.
No sooner than I had set up and sat down to make lunch it started. Hard loud thunder and pouring rain. It rained for almost 12 hours straight.
I have to say my hammock held up incredibly! I did also put my rain poncho which doubles as a tarp over the top of the hammock rain fly. Not one drop I’d water in there though and damn did it rain hard at times, as hard as I had ever camped in.
It did continue with some rain the next morning as I headed out but boy am I glad I was not out or at altitude in those storms. I also had dry clean clothes and a shower I was able to take advantage of at the campground:)
July 22, 2010 11:54 pm
After I summited Mt. Washington the visitors center closed and I headed to the AMC Lake of the Clouds Hut with Walker.
The walk there was relatively short, about 1.5 miles. When we arrived the scene inside was pure chaos. The Lake of the Clouds Hut is the largest of the AMC High Huts with a capacity of 90. A group of camp children had shown up a day early and they were 20 over capacity.
Walker and I joined the other thru-hikers looking for work for stay on 2 benches. I was absolutely exhausted, my knees were throbbing with excruciating pain from the day of fast rough rocky terrain and all I wanted to do was sleep.
It was dinner time and it was so loud in there. I wasn’t wild about the situation. It felt like we were homeless people lined up on a bench waiting for a meal and a roof over our heads and we didn’t know if we would get either. No one from the staff had talked to us and with the group of +20 paying customers I had my doubts about how things would work out.
After about an hour a staff member asked us if we were hungry and brought us back to the kitchen where we were given leftovers of lasagna, green beans, and brownies. I was grateful for the food but had still heard nothing about where we would sleep. Had we not been above tree line I would have left to camp out long before.
I had imagined they would sleep us in the dining area on the benches or even the floor. I laid down on a bench and tried to close my eyes. One of the other hikers woke me up and asked if I would like to help with the dishes. I did and shortly after talk began between the staff and some of the other hikers about where we were going to sleep.
There was talk of sleeping us in a place they were calling “The Dungeon” It didn’t sound good and we pleaded for something else. One of the staff said well you can stay on the kitchen floor. I looked at the very dirty floor and said no thanks, I’d take my chances in the “Dungeon”.
4 of us headed down there including Walker. It was a cinder block room outside under the kitchen. When we opened the door it smelled of mold and was very damp. There were 2 bunks made of 2×4’s with plywood. The plywood looked wet and dirty. Someone said there were mice in there and we should hang our food.
I really, really wanted to camp somewhere else but at 6000 feet and above tree line I had no options. I was last one in and had to take a top bunk. I laid out my sleeping bag and crawled into my bunk. No sooner than we had all turned off our head lamps I heard mice making noises on the floor below.
I closed my eyes and tried to tell myself that in 6 hours it would all be over. I knew I would sleep very little but in 6 hours it would be light, I could leave and it would all be over. The plywood was cold, damp and smelled musty beneath me.
My thoughts raced and I remembered a power bar wrapper in my pocket. I was frozen thinking of a mouse crawling over me to get to it. I didn’t want to wake everyone by getting up to put it in my hanging food bag. I laid awake never so exhausted wondering if I would sleep a wink. As the night passed I wasn’t sure what was sleep, what was dreams and what was an awake state of paranoia.
As first light came we all got up, quickly packed our packs and headed out.
Despite the horrible conditions that night I was treated to one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever experienced the following morning. The sun was just coming up, the light was great, the scenery stunning and I was able to get what I feel are some of the best pictures of my hike yet!
July 21, 2010 3:53 am
Location: White Mountains National Forest Presidential Mountains
After summiting Mt. Madison I made my way down to the AMC lodge Madison Hut just down the peak and before the next peak Mt. Adams. Brookie, Walker, Flora, and Fauna were all supposed to meet up there.
No one else from our group was there. I figured Walker had to be ahead of me and moved on since he went ahead the previous day in the rain to the tent site near the base. Brookie and the girls could show up at any time I really had no idea.
It was only 2:30, I wasn’t wild about staying at this hut and after talking to Murph I was contemplating pushing on. Since this is all above tree line exposed ridge it would have meant making it 6 more miles and included a push over the big daddy Mt. Washington.
I thought it over. I might make the Lake of the Clouds Hut a little late, maybe 8-9 but I might make free dinner leftovers too. The weather was good. I repeated to myself, “the weather is good, the weather is good!!!” and I decided to make the push on.
I filled up with water as I left Madison Hut and realized my bladder had sprung a leak:( Not the one in my mid-section, but the water bladder in my backpack. Everything in the pack is kept separate in a pack liner bag and ziplocks so nothing got wet but this meant I would have to make this push with only the water I could carry in my 32oz Nalgene. I was guessing that being above tree line there wouldn’t be any water sources I could filter. I drank as much as I could before leaving, filled the bottle and headed out.
It was a very rough all rocky terrain. Unlike the AT in Maine though it didn’t go over every peak and instead went around most. I was already moving pretty fast when after about 1 hour I heard thunder begin to rumble in the distance and saw storm clouds building over near Mt. Madison where I had left.
The thunder got me moving even faster and for a while it looked like it might miss the more western mountains and Washington where I was headed. I out ran the storm for 2 hours but as I made it to the 1.1 mile marker to the peak of Mt. Washington rain quickly began to fall on me. I threw on my poncho and pushed on up towards the peak of Mt. Washington.
The rain quickly became very heavy, then frozen, then small balls of hail. The hail pelted my face and I soon lost all visibility. I stopped and laughed loudly. I could hardly believe the situation. I pushed forward repeating out loud over and over “I’m not done with this fucking mountain!!!” The winds picked up, I pushed harder and harder.
Eventualy I made it to the top of Mt. Washington. It was such a mess out I could hardly see anything, but I could barely make out the structure of the top observation visitors building. I had trouble finding the front of the building as wind gusts blew me into the adjacent weather observatory.
I managed to stumble my way into the visitors center. People were staring at me as I was covered in my soaked poncho and looking quite battered no doubt.
The sign in the visitors center said “Welcome to Mt. Washington Home of the Worst Weather in America” Thanks, as if I had missed that on my way up;)
I dragged my beaten self to a table in the cafeteria and pulled off my soaked poncho and sat down trying to catch my breath. As I sat and looked towards the big observation Windows I saw Walker!:) I was so happy to see a familiar face. I ran over to say hi and told him of my experience getting caught out there. We laughed and I grabbed something to eat.
Walker and I were both headed to the AMC Lake of the Clouds Hut since there were no other camping options at this altitude above tree line. The visitors center soon closed and we headed out for the hut
July 21, 2010 2:51 am
Location: White Mountains National Forest Mt. Madison
As I descended Mt. Madison, just before reaching Madison Hut. I met Murph. I said hello, she said “hello, are you a thru-Hiker?” I said yes. She said “you have that look”
I tried to think of something witty to say but had to focus on our conversation. We exchanged stories, leave dates, high/low points, and where we had come from and made it to today. As we said our goodbyes and I contemplated making the push to where she started, it came to me!!!
You “have that look”, “What, the look like I am subjecting myself to ridiculous amounts of pain and torture for what???” 🙂
Yeah that look. The “Thru-hiker” look lol.
July 21, 2010 1:12 am
Location: White Mountains National Forest Presidential Range Mt. Madison
After hiking the Carters comes Wild Cat Mountain a popular ski attraction. Some hikers take the ski gondola down Wildcat. However this cuts about 1.5-2 miles off the AT and since I am a bit of a purist and want to hike every step of the trail I hiked down Wildcat. The hike down was the most brutal downhill I have done yet. Lots of rocks and bouldering. It took me hours and by the time I made it to the bottom my knees hurt so bad I could hardly walk.
It was 4:30 and I knew I wouldn’t make it to the tent site at the base of Mt. Madison so I shelled out the big bucks to stay at the AMC’s lodge at the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center. The next day it was raining pretty hard and my knees could use the rest so I stayed another day and made it a zero day. Brookie, Flora and Fauna also took the day off but headed to a shelter to visit a friend of Brookies.
Early Tuesday morning I finally headed out for Mt. Madison. This section of the Presidentials has the highest peaks. Mt. Washington, Adams, Jefferson are all in this range. When hiking the AT south bound here most of your elevation gain is made on Mt. Madison. Some 4000 feet I believe. Knowing this and being 7 miles from the base I figured I would be in for a long hard day.
I made the 7 miles to the base fairly easily and there I met 2 women in their 40’s. They were section hikers doing all of NH. They had come down Madison the day before and said “It’s a real booger. All rocks and boulders”.
I pressed on. I don’t want to down play how much work it was summiting Madison but I think after doing all of Maine one is in decent shape and though a bit tiring I had little trouble with it. There were times I looked at the very impressive rock piles I’m front of me and thought they might take hours to overcome. I summited by 1pm.
It was simply magical up there. You could see the other very impressive presidentials including Mt. Washington.
July 19, 2010 2:22 am
A pile of rocks used to mark trails where it may not be possible or a good idea to paint a blaze.
July 19, 2010 1:48 am
The Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire is on United States Forest Service land. A US government organization. It is leased and managed by the Appalachian Mountain Club (In Maine it is the Maine Appalachian Trail Club)
The Appalachian Mountain Club is often jokingly referred to by hikers here as the Appalachian Money Club. I’d have to say they are not too popular with hikers here.
In Maine you can camp pretty much anywhere below tree line. Because of weather exposure you generally don’t want to camp above tree line anyhow. The Maine ATC leaves it up to hikers to practice leave no trace and good sense camping.
In New Hampshire there are a lot more rules about where you can and can not camp. The AMC has a system of “Huts” and “Campsites” they run and want everyone to use and of course there are fee’s to use these. Since most hikers are on a very tight budget this does not go over well.
To be fair the AMC does this to limit user impact on woods areas, however what you end up with is a monopoly where hikers who try to camp outside the fee areas can be ticketed and fined.
The AMC “Campsites” are pretty basic, have a maintained privy, shelter, tent platforms and a caretaker to collect the fees and maintain the site. The fee to stay at these is $8 per night.
The AMC “Huts” are lodges that have bunk beds, running water, a kitchen, dining hall and a staff of anywhere from 3-8. Some can sleep up to 90 people. The rate for these is $90 per night and includes dinner and breakfast.
These huts have some electricity for crew and limited lighting but none for guests to charge cameras etc. Since these huts are remote I understand and have no problem with no showers or electricity, however I feel $90 is a ridiculously high rate to charge for just a bunk and 2 meals.
Thru-hikers can do “work for stay” at these huts. Sounds like a good deal. Do some dishes, help cook, clean and get fed and a place to sleep. However, its not quite as good as it sounds.
The huts are all staffed and managed by young adults around age 18-24. There are a limited number of work for stay spots available per night at each hut and those spots are decided upon by staff. If the staff doesn’t like you or is a bad mood you can be out of luck or get shafted. I have had a horrible experience with this being forced to sleep in a mold and mouse infested basement. Others I know slept in a food storage shed.
The AMC does do good things, their staff is often great (and underpaid) and they keep some very well maintained trails.
July 19, 2010 1:43 am
Location: Carter Mountains, Presidential’s Range, White Mountains, New Hampshire
Brookie and I camped together last night as the girls pressed on to one of the Appalachian Mountain Club huts further on.
We were camped across from Mt. Washington in the Carter Mountains range. We were camped somewhere close to 4000 feet. The Presi’s as Brookie likes to call them are the tallest range on the east coast with Mt. Washington topping out at 6,288 feet.
At that altitude they have their own crazy and erratic weather systems.
We went to bed around 9 and though it was very windy the skies were pretty clear. Around 2 hours later I awoke to what sounded like the loudest thunder I had heard in my entire life. I ran out to move my pack under my hammock and throw my rain poncho over my hammock rain fly for extra protection. The skies lit with lightening bright as day.
We were pretty well below tree line so we were relatively safe. I wish I was able to get some pictures though, it was incredible!!! (picture above clouds coming off Mt. Washington next morning)
July 18, 2010 4:31 am
(image: 2 very greasy vegetable quesadilla’s)
Anyone that knows me well enough knows I have taken a in-depth interest in healthy nutrition the past few years especially.
Probably one of the hardest things to accept about doing the trail was that I would not be able to maintain the healthy eating I had become so accustomed to living in NYC.
I have eaten things on the trail, things which are not only nutritionally terrible for you but also very difficult for me to stomach with my digestion problems. I really wish I didn’t know the things I do about nutrition.
I have eaten pancakes. It’s been something like 10 years since I have eaten pancakes and I can think of few things more lacking in nutrition than a cake of bleached white flour soaked in refined sugars.
Ice cream, hamburgers, pizza, brownies, the list goes on. It’s difficult when you come off the trail hungry, starving and full of all kinds of strange cravings. It’s difficult not to eat everything you can get your hands on and unfortunately in some small towns all you can get your hands on is pretty limited.
It doesn’t help that because of all the exercising your doing you can eat all if this junk and still loose weight. After 1 month I am down 10 pounds despite the junk food.
A distance Hiker typically burns somewhere between 3000-5000 calories a day. It’s difficult to carry that many calories for 4-5 days and really almost impossible to eat that much.
I am learning though. I am learning to fight those initial cravings, to eat out less in town and to shop better for trail food even with limited selections. I have heard that as you get further south your grocery options do get better.
In the end though with limited resources and under extreme circumstances it is damage control. I am going to need a serious cleanse after this.
July 18, 2010 3:57 am
One who helps a hiker. One who performs trail magic.