Coco and Magnus — Days 150 through 159 — Disney, Outkast, and Acceptance
So. Today marks two months from having summitted Mt. Katahdin. YES. We did it! It’s also been three months journey-wise since I last made an update. Think of this post (and those to follow) as the twenty you found in your coat from last winter. Yes? Yes.
8/4 Tuesday — Day 150
* The morning after the storm — clear and beautiful. We made our second summit of Mt. Lafayette. This may sound sarcastic, but… lucky us! Franconia Ridge is exquisite!
* We reoriented a confused section hiker back northbound on the AT. He was hesitant to believe me and asked several other hikers before choosing to follow my suggestion, but at least he finally did.
* We hiked down a waterfall. Not near or beside a waterfall — down a waterfall. I think this area of the trail should be reconsidered. About halfway down I slipped and grabbed a nearby tree to keep me from cascading along with the water across the rocks. I have to thank yoga for constant practice of engaging many muscles at once. Had I not, I surely would have dislocated my shoulder. All was fine. My muscles were sore the next day, but no injuries.
* Saw a friend of the confused section hiker at Galehead Hut and he offered to buy soup for us for getting him back on track. It was such a sweet gesture. Everybody won, though, as the Galehead Hut croo already offered us soup. Potato dill soup after a day in the Whites. YES. Turbo, Peacedawg, Magnus and I looked like extras from Oliver.
* Magnus and I hiked a mile off trail to get to our campsite at Guyot Shelter. Ehh why not. We had already hiked an additional mile and change to get back on trail in the morning. What’s another mile? It’s very frustrating to hike such challenging terrain and then hike more miles that don’t “count,” but there isn’t much else to do about it.
* In the morning, we climbed through boulder fields. We arrived at Zealand Hut where we ran into Wharton who we hadn’t seen since Virginia. Other than Wharton (who was taking a zero for a shoulder issue) we didn’t see any other NoBo thru-hikers all day.
* After Zealand Hut, we encountered the most agreeable terrain we’d seen in months. We stuck in our headphones and moved as fast as we could. Still got it.
* In a somewhat nondescript portion of the trail, Magnus noticed a bunch of Gray Jays kind of following us. Having heard of their familiarity with hikers, he held out his hand. A bird landed on it!!! It was like a living Disney movie.
* Since we made good time, we decided to push on a little further beyond Crawford Notch to find a stealth camping spot. Y’know when you’re driving and you need restroom facilities and you’re like “just a little further!” only to realize there isn’t a restroom or secluded spot for a hundred miles? That’s how we felt but with finding a place to live for the night. We climbed a mountain before we found a suitable spot. The place we spent the night was on top of Webster Cliffs. It was gorgeous and windy. The scarce trees surprisingly provided us with a decent amount of break from the wind. We set up camp then set upon the task of hanging our food bags and cooking dinner. What’s inevitable when you’re exhausted and hungry? Rain! We just started laughing because there’s nothing left to do. What happens when you finish eating in the rain? The rain stops!
* The intense wind continued. We climbed Mt. Webster and Mt. Jackson. Naturally, my head ran through alternate lyrics of Ms. Jackson on repeat. (“Me and Mt. Webster, we got this thing goin’ on. You say it’s just a breeze, I say it’s full blown” and so on and so forth…)
* The wind became even more powerful — up to 65mph — through miles of alpine zone around Mt. Eisenhower and Mt. Monroe. It was overcast and breathtaking as though we were on a different planet. I can’t imagine hiking that day with such forceful wind without trekking poles.
* Magnus and I got work-for-stay at Lakes of the Clouds Hut just south of Mt. Washington. Full house. Despite there being “no room” a lot of hikers slept on the dining room floor just like the work-for-stayers. We did a lot of working — broke down and cleaned the massive stove and cleaned the fridge and freezer. Earned our keep. We also got a backstage view of the croo putting together their morning skit for the guests. This croo was so great and fun. I’m so glad we were able to be a part of their world for a little bit.
* During the night the wind slammed against the hut walls and windows. We were all so grateful to be indoors for the night.
* In the morning the skies were clear and we could actually see the summit of Mt. Washington. This is a rarity for this dangerous mountain known to have some of the worst weather in the world. Yaaay! We were going to have clear views from the summit! All we had to do was eat breakfast and hike on. Ahh, breakfast. First the guests ate. Then the croo performed their hilarious skit which had me nearly in tears. Then the croo ate. Then the work-for-stayers could eat. By then the clouds were starting to roll in. We ate as much as we could (which is a lot) then ran out the door. The views during our ascent were lovely. As soon as we hit the summit — whiteout!
* Much like Clingmans Dome it was kind of overwhelming to be suddenly surrounded by tourists who arrived by car and railway. We loitered for a little, listened to a park ranger go on about AT politics, watched intense weather videos on repeat, then went on our way.
* Mt. Madison. Insanity. A huge pile of rocks to scramble choose-your-own-adventure-style. Then the descent. I thought it would never end. My knees hurt with every single step. I slept like a baby that night.
* For five whole miles in the morning we enjoyed normal hiking just like the good ol’ days. Hiking that did not involve upper body strength and acrobatics. It was like a dream.
* We hit Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and then loitered for a few hours. Delicious breakfast, a coin-operated shower, and a hiker lounge with plenty of outlets kept us content. Hilariously, there was a vending machine fully stocked with Diet Coke. No self-respecting thru-hiker would waste their precious energy on Diet Coke when the full-calorie version is available.
* Directly after our Visitor Center extravaganza, we tackled the Wildcats, a series of severe mountain peaks. I was so frustrated. More rock climbing when I thought I had signed up for hiking. It was hot. I was tired. My coin-op shower cleanliness had already worn away. I made my way up a rock face to a flat area only to reach a steeper, slicker ascent with even fewer holds for my hands and feet. I just stood there staring up the mountain knowing that Magnus had already nearly effortlessly clambered up and beyond. I didn’t feel like I could keep going. I hate this, was all I could think. I don’t want to be here and I hate this. My throat constricted and my eyes started to fill. This is how I knew how angry I was. My options: continue onward, turn around, or live on the ledge. I had the tent and snacks, so living there didn’t seem so bad, but I’d have to go ahead to get Magnus and tell him anyway — and I wasn’t going to turn around because I’m stubborn as hell. That only left the option of continuing on this godforsaken trail with all of its stupid rocks. The realization struck me that no matter how ticked off and frustrated I could be, the trail is incapable of change. The rocks are not going to adapt and are indifferent to my existence. The only single thing I can do is accept the literal path I have chosen since I dedicated myself to following it in a continuous northbound manner. So I accepted it. My irritation was considerably less immediately and my shoulders relaxed, the temperature seemed to drop five degrees. I climbed. By the end of the day I almost enjoyed myself. I finally made peace with the mountain.
* At Carter Notch Hut, we stopped to inquire about work-for-stay. There were seven hikers and only four would be able to participate in work-for-stay. Magnus and I were some of the lucky ones. No, strike that — the hikers who were turned away to stealth camp were lucky. They were fed then sent on their merry way. The croo vanished for a little while and they were so out of their heads that they forgot to feed us. Magnus and I provided our work-for-stay duties by speaking to guests about our somewhat unique experience of thru-hiking as a couple. A former croo member happened to stop in, and he is the only reason we got any food. Doesn’t sound like a big deal to eat dinner late, but our stomachs were hurting by 9pm when we were offered food. The croo reappeared and another thru-hiker showed up around 9:30pm. There was an awkward conversation between the hiker and a croo member about work-for-stay. The croo member allowed him to stay based on the late hour and with the condition that he provide work in the morning. He was then fed. We all set up our beds. Since work-for-stay hikers stay on the dining room floor, we were right next to the kitchen. Ahhh, sweet sleep. At this hut, the croo quarters are separate from the guests. We thought this would be an advantage. Nope. The croo were loud with zero attention to hiker midnight (aka 9pm). In other huts, lights out is 10pm which is later than any thru-hiker would prefer. Earplugs were necessary to drown out the croo. Physical exhaustion is a great compliment to sleep, though, so I have no idea when they finally shut it down.
* Lying, filthy thru-hiker. The guy who came in late packed up his stuff at 4am to avoid his portion of work-for-stay. At least the croo didn’t clearly remember him coming in, so hopefully they don’t think less of thru-hikers in general. It did mean Magnus and I needed to stick around to do his part of work, though. Boo.
* One member of the croo awoke the guests by playing a saxophone. It was absolutely incredible hearing live music carry through the valley.
* Turbo and Peacedawg hollered “Breakfast!” from the mountain above us mimicking the morning call of the croos.
* Through the Carters and up Mt. Moriah, a series of bald rock faces. Push, push, push. We were rewarded at the end of the day with a relatively level trail along the Rattle River. With such great terrain, we decided to plow on through an extra few miles to get to town. The power of food and shower strong. In a matter of minutes, we caught a hitch to Gorham, NH from another thru-hiker taking it easy while he heals from overuse injuries. Thanks, Bad Brad!
* Zero day!
* The usual — resupply, laundry, and TV.
* The unusual — second lunch and ice cream with Varsity, Varsity’s lovely mom JoAnn, and Funk! It was fabulous.
* We stayed at the Royalty Inn, which is affiliated with a health club. I could care less about their exercise equipment, but they have a hot tub and pool. Whuuuuut. We took full advantage of our luxurious surroundings.
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coco & magnus!!!!!!!!! whats up its mars. hope you guys are doing well and re-adapting smoothly to (ab)normal life. so glad we got to see you guys up on Katahdin one last time!
MARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😀 I miss you so! It’s so good to hear from you!
I love your posts!! Thanks for coming back and leaving more!!