My White Mountain Emotional Rollercoaster: Part One, Moosilauke
At the time of my arrival at the base of my first White Mountain, Mount Moosilauke, I wasn’t exactly in the best of spirits. I had just hiked through a stretch of trail that was dense with mosquitos, who seemed either to disregard my repellent entirely or who were undeterred in attacking me due to sweating it off. At one point in hiking through the cloud of relentless biting insects, I unleashed a primal scream. I didn’t care who heard me. I was just so frustrated having to hike fast to not get eaten, and ultimately get so fatigued that I had to rest and be eaten alive anyway. I was yelling out, “Fuck this!!! It sucks so much!!!” and questioning my life choices. To add insult to injury, I had just rejected a ride to a hostel where I could have stayed the night protected from these psychosis-inducing skeeters. After rejecting the ride, I commented to my friend Lotus that I would commit homicide for a soda. It was so humid and hot and uncomfortable. I couldn’t believe I had said no to escaping this misery and gaining unlimited access to the cold, sugary, effervescent liquid that seemed to be the only thing in the world that could comfort me.
Instead, I stayed on trail, getting eaten alive. In my distress, I accidentally bypassed my intended destination for the evening. After realizing my error, unwilling to backtrack, I continued up the trail and looked for a dispersed camping spot. As soon as I saw a flat area suitable for tent camping, I set up my shelter as quickly as I could and retreated inside. I had hauled 3.2 liters of water up to my campsite, and although I would normally try to conserve my limited water while dry camping, I could not help but chug a bunch of it. The brutal heat and humidity, along with the extra effort required to stay in constant motion to mitigate mosquito bites, left me super thirsty. I couldn’t bring myself to exit my tent to cook my dinner, so I took the risk of using an open flame inside of my highly flammable shelter. I did not burn my home down, but it wasn’t the best decision. It was either that or not eat, which was also tempting, honestly. I was exhausted by the day, and wasn’t looking forward to the short seven-mile stretch I had to hike to arrive at the hostel the next day.
The next morning, I slathered myself in repellent and realized I didn’t trust it, so I wore my rain gear as a mosquito shield. I left camp with only 300 ml of water, which is the least I have ever started a day carrying. I had been so thirsty that I drank nearly everything I had. I climbed a small mountain, Mount Mist, in my full rain gear, which was hot and uncomfortable. But I was traumatized by the skeeter attack of the previous day and couldn’t think of a better solution.
I eventually arrived at the hostel situated at the base of Mt. Moosilauke. Unfortunately, there was a break in the main water line for the town, so there was no water. I couldn’t shower or do my laundry. I at least was able to resupply and eat some town food, and also receive a package I had mailed myself from Bennington, VT. It contained my puffy jacket, wool base layers, and gloves: the winter gear I figured I wouldn’t need until I reached the White Mountains. The universe blessed me with a perfectly-timed cold front that came through the area that evening. The next morning, the cool weather made me feel a little better about climbing my first White Mountain. I had been really struggling to climb in the hot and humid weather.
I was still nervous about summitting Moosilauke. It would be the biggest climb of my hike to this point. I had so much self-doubt about my abilities after being slowed down and worn out significantly by the more difficult terrain of the Northeast coupled with the punishingly uncomfortable weather. But as I climbed, with a full pack no less, I felt good. The climb was totally fine. It was the boost of confidence I desperately needed to be assured of my ability to get through the challenging terrain of the Whites. And to my enormous relief, there were no mosquitos.
After finishing the climb, I took a blue blaze to the south peak of Moosilauke, where the wind was whipping. It felt otherworldly up there, unlike any mountain I had been on along the AT. Also, unlike at many viewpoints on trail, I was alone, and I felt so peaceful up there in spite of the wild wind. I wore my rain gear and felt comfortable in the cold. I was in a cloud, which would lift sporadically, briefly revealing sweeping and glorious mountain views. I was grateful for the reminder of one of the reasons why I’m hiking the trail. Being on top of a mountain is breathtaking.
I later continued to the Moosilauke summit, where I found an alpine steward posted up, available to take any questions from hikers. I asked him how laypeople can learn more about the alpine ecosystem. He recommended a book called “Field Guide to the New England Alpine Summits.” I was excited to keep an eye out for the book. I also learned that a main part of his job is to take pictures for hikers, so I asked him to take a photo of me in front of the summit sign.
I descended to my intended destination for the night, where I arrived at 1:00 p.m. Feeling good, I looked at my other camping options for the evening and decided to press on and take advantage of the great weather. I knew that Moosilauke would be a challenging descent, and it was forecast to rain the next day. I would get this descent done in the current optimal conditions.
I carefully navigated the treacherous descent, and it went well. I found a dispersed camp site to stay the night, and enjoyed a peaceful evening of solitude during my first evening in the White Mountains, happily free from assault by mosquitos.
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