New Hampshire – peaks, rain and a month on trail
Saying goodbye to Maine
After 3 weeks, 5 days and 5 hours, I finally crossed my first state line, moving from Maine into New Hampshire. With Maine containing the second longest section of the AT (second only to Virginia), it felt like I was never leaving Maine (beautiful though it was). But even by foot, every step moves us forward, and it was time to move forward into my second state: New Hampshire.
New Hampshire time
New Hampshire is home to the White Mountains, being some of the biggest mountains on trail. Southern Maine had been tough, and I was nervous about what the Whites would bring. However, difficulty-wise, I have been pleasantly surprised by the Whites so far. While the peaks are big, there seems to have been more easy stretches in between than in Southern Maine, giving some small moments for recovery.
The Presidential Traverse
One of the highlights of the trail is the Presidential Ranges, and Mount Washington in particular. I knew I would likely only hike this part of the world once, so I wanted a nice day for my Mt Washington hike. This meant taking some shorter days into and out of Pinkham Notch, and waiting out what ended up being 44mm of rain in twenty four hours.
Mt Washington day arrived clear, but windy, and it was an excellent climb up the first of the Presidentials (Mt Madison). I got to enjoy my first mountain hut on Mt Madison for hot chocolate and cake, which was a welcome addition to a cold morning. It was then along the traverse to Mt Washington. The views were spectacular in each direction, although the course was mostly rocky, requiring a lot of concentration.
Climbing Mt Washington is a bit of a strange experience because after the toll of the climb, I arrived at the summit to be greeted by hundreds of people who had either driven or caught the historic railroad up to the summit. After over a month in the wilderness, the feeling when suddenly being around a lot of people (particularly non-hiker people) is a bit disconcerting.
Lakes of the Clouds Hut
We spent the night at the Lakes of the Clouds hut, just after the Mt Washington summit, as part of the “work for stay” program for through hikers. This involves doing a menial chore in return for food and somewhere to sleep (the dining room floor). The work for stay stop was necessary as it is not possible to camp in the 12 miles that the AT is above tree line through the Presidentials. However it was tough having to wait for the guests to clear out at 9:30pm so we could set up our beds (with my current bed time closer to 8pm). The sunset over the Presidentials was pretty epic though.
The next morning I completed the traverse and hiked down to Crawford Notch. The signage on the peaks in New Hampshire is pretty patchy, so I asked some day hikers for directions to get down to the Notch. Unbeknownst to both me and the day hikers, the usual route down for them was not the AT route, and I ended up at the opposite end of Crawford Notch to where I needed to be (about 5 miles away).
The trail provides again
So many times on trail, wonderful, lucky things have happened to me. There is a common saying among through hikers that “the trail provides”. And in this instance where I was a fair way away from where I needed to be, the trail did indeed provide. A couple was sitting in their car in the car park at Crawford Notch and I approached them to ask if they were going the direction I needed to go, and if they could possibly give me a lift. They were in fact going to that exact place to drop off their daughter and son in law. They explained to me that their daughter and son in law did the AT last year and that they like to help out AT hikers where they could. This lead to an invitation to come to their campsite for dinner and breakfast, before being dropped back off on trail in the morning. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse and I enjoyed a great night and morning with Joel, Nancy, Lidia, Daniel and Abigail.
I have since been making my way over more peaks, with more mountain hut stops. Due to planned bad weather, I stopped just below tree line one afternoon so I could hike Franconia Ridge (another highlight of the Whites) first thing in the morning. The 4:30am start, and 50 minutes of headlamp hiking, was worth it for a beautiful sunrise and a solo trip along the ridge.
Today is recovery day, where I am recovering hard by having two naps and a massage 🙂 I am looking forward to getting back out tomorrow to finish up the final summits of the Whites.
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