Northern New Hampshire
Here’s the next installment. I’ve started back to work, so my free time has dried up some, but I am still working at getting caught up on my thru hike entries! Thank you for your patience. Enjoy!
Day 138 – Garfield Ridge Shelter to Ethan Pond Campsite
I slept ok last night, even with the snorers in the shelter. However, this new sleeping pad is not as wide as my last one, so that took some getting used to. More than once, I went to roll over and almost rolled right off the pad – and at almost 4” tall, it would’ve been a loud “thunk” if I did! I woke up to a cold, windy, misty day outside. I packed up and ate breakfast, getting on trail about 7:15, just as Bookie was surfacing. I said goodbye to Banana Bread as she headed back to her life in the city, and hiked solo up to Galehead Hut, where I enjoyed some free leftover pancakes and a couple bottles of water. The weather seemed to clear up quickly once I was on trail, with the sun coming out and warming the air a little, but it remained windy all day. The trail was a lot of steep rock stairs, making my legs very tired very quickly. I was really feeling alone this morning, so I waited about a half hour for Bookie to get to the hut. We hiked together briefly, but I pulled ahead and was solo again soon after, and remained that way all the way to the Zealand Falls Hut. I ate lunch, including a bowl of soup purchased from the hut. I have to say, for $2 per bowl, I expected more than a powdered mix added to boiling water. They could’ve at least added a few potatoes to the “potato-flavored soup” they served. I am guessing they get a good 10-15 bowls per pot, and it probably cost them $5 for the package of soup… so the AMC makes money while barely providing anything. Not a fan at all. Bookie arrived at the hut about 45 minutes later, and I waited another half hour so we could walk out together. We walked together most of the way to the shelter, except for the last two miles or so. This part of the trail was less rocks and more roots, mud, and bog board bridges, which is very mentally taxing. When Bookie arrived, she pointed out to me that No Shame was missing her food pack, with all of the pup’s food in it. So Bookie set up her tent quick to reserve her space, and we headed back to the trail to find the pack. Thankfully, someone had found it and draped it across the shelter sign, so we didn’t have to walk more than the blue blaze trail. Talk about trail magic! Looking at the pack, it looks as if the dog ran through some brush and it caught, ripping the strap seams. We walked back to the shelter, filtered water and went to cook dinner, but before I could start my dinner, another hiker approached me and offered me his dinner. He was hiking with his young daughter, and had mistakenly cooked far too much food for the two of them, and they didn’t want to carry out the nearly full pot of rice and chicken. The seasoning they used was a little too spicy for Bookie, prompting her to pass on the offering, but I gladly accepted their pot and did my best to clean it out! We chatted with them, and three other hikers who were from Israel, while we all ate, and talk about some interesting conversations. It’s always interesting to talk to foreigners who have come to hike the trail. While we were cleaning up after dinner, the caretaker came over with a big pot of instant no-bake cheese cake with honey and walnuts added in, and offered everyone as much as they wanted. Apparently, it was more than he expected, too, so we all had some dessert. It got dark quick in the woods, so we packed up our food, stashed it in the bear box, and headed to bed with full stomachs. Unfortunately, the three guys from Israel got lit up before coming to the shelter and were loud and giggly for a long time before finally passing out.
Day 139 – Ethan Pond Campsite to Mizpah Hut/Nauman Campsite
I slept ok, once the shelter went silent, but it was short lived – the three friends from overseas had an alarm set for 5, and immediately started talking in full-volume voices and making noise as they cooked breakfast and packed gear. They woke up the entire shelter. These are the moments I am not fond of the cultural differences found on trail. I got out of bed at 6, and slowly started the day. I knew we only had three miles o go before 10 this morning, so there really wasn’t a rush. Of course, it started raining about 7:45. We hiked down to the road crossing, with it sprinkling on and off, and then waited for Bookie’s friend, Tess, to arrive. About 10:30, Tess arrived and took us to North Conway for resupply. We were going to get lunch while in town, but neither Bookie nor Tess were hungry, so it got skipped. I just grabbed a Clif Bar before heading back on trail. Tess wanted to hike with us for a while, to spend some time with Bookie, so I hiked ahead and was quickly solo. The weather was on and off again, making everything wet and slippery, but I got the hut and campsite at 5:45. The mountain was fairly rough today, and almost broke me emotionally. There were steep, wet, almost vertical scrambles, with lots of rocky trails and bouldering. And no views, because of the clouds. I fell twice, once on a slippery rock, which wasn’t too bad, and once on a wet root, falling sideways into a bush (ouch!). The rain seemed to stop a little while before I got to camp, but it was hard to tell with all the dripping trees. Unfortunately, it’s predicted to rain all night, too. I set up my tent, got water from the hut, and cooked dinner. While I was eating, Bookie and Tess walked into camp. They sat and chatted for a bit, while Bookie set up her tent, and Tess walked back out to the road just as it was getting dark. Bookie and I chatted with the AMC Caretaker, David, some, getting a bit of good information about the trail north of here. It was cold and windy as I climbed into my tent, but warm and dry inside, so all should be good.
Day 140 – Mizpah Hut/Nauman Campsite to stealth site near Lake of the Clouds Hut
There were no storms overnight, but it was cold and windy most of the night. Thankfully, this new sleeping pad is very warm, and I slept good. I woke up about 6:45, and climbed out of the tent to find promising skies with only scattered clouds. We were on trail by 8:15, with a steep, rocky start to the day. But then we hit the ridge, and it turned into a really nice walk with good views. I got to Lake of the Clouds Hut about 11:15, and Bookie was about ten minutes behind me. When she arrived, she confided that her legs were really hurting her today, and she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to make it to our intended campsite, a good 10 miles away, so we inquired inside about our options. The hut workers were fairly rude and unhelpful, obviously not wanting to help “non-paying thru hikers”. We finally were told of a stealth site about a mile away from the hut, and given directions to find it. With that information, we ate lunch and relaxed in the sun, talking with some of the weekend guests of the hut and enjoying the very impressive views. Part of me had the thought to leave my pack here and slack pack up Mount Washington while the weather was nice, but that would require backtracking a few miles and having to do it all over again tomorrow, and being lazy got the best of me. Around 3 or so, we packed up and headed for the stealth site. We followed the directions and searched the area for over 45 minutes, but never did find an area that would provide space for a campsite. After a bit of an argument about planning, or lack thereof, we headed back to the hut to see if there was anything else available. Once again, the hut worker was fairly indifferent to our case – heaven forbid they have to help an injured hiker – but finally, a different hut worker came out to assist. His name was Goose, and he had just finished his thru hike, so was sympathetic to the trials we were going through. He was able to give Bookie a pep talk, and gave us directions to a different stealth site, one he had personally stayed at on his hike. We hiked down to his site, and while small, it will work for the night. And the view is pretty impressive, with Mount Washington behind us and the valley below the mountain in front of us. We set up our tents and cooked dinner in silence, watching the Cog Train going up and down the mountain. I also noticed clouds starting to roll in. We watched a decent sunset, with a fighter jet “buzzing” the mountain at a pretty low altitude! We chatted a little as it started to get dark, Bookie telling me how frustrated she is by her knee pain and her lack of speed. I can sympathize for her, but not for her lack of communication – not that I am innocent of keeping my struggles to myself, either. The evening was cool, so we headed to our tents fairly early once it got dark.
Day 141 – Stealth site to Osgood Campsite
I woke up at 6:30 after a decent night’s sleep. Everything was wet from the dew but the skies were clear, even though there was a lot of wind. Packing was interesting in the gusts. We packed in a hurry and got on trail at 7:30, reaching the hut again by 7:45. We filled water bottles and used the bathroom, before started up Mount Washington at 8:10. It was cold walking in the shadow of Mount Washington, especially with the high winds, and about halfway up, the clouds started to roll in. By the time I reached the summit at 9, the entire summit was fogged in with visibility less than ten feet. I took a few pictures of the summit, but anything else was pretty useless with the clouds. I walked around the visitor center and museum for a while, waiting for Bookie to catch up, then we headed to the snack bar. A hot chocolate and bowl of chili later, we were warmed and ready to tackle more clouds. On our way out, we stopped at the information desk and got some great trail info from the State Park Ranger manning the desk. We finally got back on trail at 11:30, which was much later than I had expected. With the fog/clouds, and our different hiking speeds, Bookie was very quickly out of sight. The walk was rough, too, with mostly rock scrambles and bouldering. There were no white blazes to follow, either, which made things a little more intense in the fog. All I could do was follow the cairns, and when I couldn’t see those, I used the rocks to try to figure out where the trail was. That was the most reliable, yet slowest, method of them all. If the rock you are standing on is covered in moss, you are not on the trail. Look around, find a rock with no moss, and THAT is the trail. It was a slow method, but ultimately the most reliable. It is really disappointing how little trail maintenance and trail markings there are, especially considering the AMC charges hikers for pretty much everything out here. I’m surprised there isn’t a “per-use” fee for using a privy. They charge for everything else. I arrived at Madison Spring Hut at 2:30, and went inside to warm up and eat lunch. And wait. I am worried that Bookie won’t make it to the campsite tonight. Bookie arrived at 3:15 and said she feels ok, so we ate and hiked out at 4:30, just as it started to rain. And what a hike it was! Three miles took us over two and a half hours. It was rock scrambles and a tall, steep incline over Mt Madison, then two and a half miles of downhill. Once we got to the tree line, I thought the trail would get better – or at least the conditions. But hope doesn’t go far in the Whites. Below tree line it turned to rock scrambles that were hidden by overgrown pine branches. And wet. Wet rocks. Wet roots. Wet pine branches that drench you as you brush against them or shake the tree. I am pretty sure I almost died on the way down when I slipped and almost face-planted on some rocks. Thankfully, I caught a pine tree instead. We arrived at the campsite at 7, just as it was getting dark, and my knees were shot. We set up camp and cooked dinner, eating quickly so we could get into our tents and dry off. What a miserable day.
Day 142 – Osgood Campsite to Pinkham Notch/Gorham
It rained on and off all night, but I slept pretty good once I got my legs comfortably medicated. I woke up to drippy trees and partly clearing skies at 6:30, but we were slow moving today, not getting on trail until well after 8. It was a fairly nice hike down to Pinkham Notch, with us getting to the visitor’s center at 11. We hiked the last mile or two with another group of hikers, enjoying the conversation and laughter. We wandered around a little, enjoying the warm sun, and explored the visitor’s center. We decided to eat lunch at the café there, then hitched into Gorham. Within about ten minutes, we had our ride. Elizabeth, whom I had met briefly at Madison Springs Hut yesterday, saw us and did a u-turn to take us back to Gorham. We checked into a hotel, got showers, dried gear in the sun and then hitched to Wally World to resupply. We bought salads and snacks and ate dinner in the hotel room, making phone calls home while relaxing. It’s amazing how town days always turn into late nights, though.
Day 143 – Pinkham Notch/Gorham to Imp Campsite
I got up at 6:30 and packed, eating a quick breakfast. Bookie decided she didn’t want to hike the Wildcats, to give her knees a chance to rest. Her plan is to move to a hostel on the edge of town and wait for me to hike back into Gorham tomorrow, with her taking the two zero days to rest. I walked out to the main road at 8 to catch a hitch, and got picked up pretty quick by a nice man who’s name I neglected to write down. But, I do know he was the husband of Box Turtle, a thru hiker we had met in Virginia. Small world. It started to rain as we drove out to the visitor’s center. I used the restroom and topped off my water bottles quickly, and hiked out of the visitor’s center at 8:30. There was drizzle, wind and fog all morning, making it a pretty miserable day to be hiking. And today was ALL uphill (or so it seemed…) Even the downhills had uphills to them. I got to Carter Notch Hut at 1, and went inside to dry off, warm up, and eat lunch. The workers there were really nice, too, which was in direct contrast to what we had experienced at any other hut. One of the workers here gave me a bowl with a muffin and some corn bread in it, telling me he had just completed his thru hike three weeks prior and remembered what it was like to be wet and cold. I got back on trial at 1:45, knowing I still had a lot of trail to cover before dark. And it was a long hike this afternoon, but the trail got a little better for a while. Unfortunately, there was lots of steep downhills just before the shelter, making the knees ache when the day was over. There were lots of slick bog boards, too, which seemed odd – who would’ve thought there would be muddy bogs on the top of mountains?! The rain stopped around 3 or so, but there were rumors of hail tonight that kept me pushing hard for the shelter. In my rush, I nearly took a header down a rock face when my trekking pole strap broke. I did slip once, twisting my left knee, but it wasn’t too bad. I made it to the shelter at 6:15, filtered water, changed into dry clothes, and then cooked and ate dinner. I was climbing into my sleeping bag by 8, to get warm, which was fine since a thunderstorm rolled in about 8:30 and is making a ruckus on the metal roof of the shelter. I am going to sleep great! Today was a good day, though. Long, but good. And I enjoyed being out here alone. It gave me some time to think, and it forced me make decisions and plan FOR ME, instead of “for us”.
Day 144 – Imp Campsite to US-2/Gorham
It rained most of the night, but I did sleep great. I woke at 6:30 to a misty fog, which was coating everything in slick wetness. I packed up and was on trail a little before 8, with the trail starting as rocky and slippery as it was yesterday. Thankfully, it got a lot better as I hiked along. The last few miles were simply “normal trail”, like they were in Virginia or North Carolina! I was shocked. But there were still some areas of rock, which kept me from letting my mind wander too far. In one of these rocky sections, I rolled my left foot pretty bad, the pain feeling similar to that I experienced when I sprained my foot back in Georgia. But the pain went away shortly after, and didn’t really slow me down too much. I got to the US-2 road crossing just before noon, and caught a hitch to the hostel. Bookie had reserved me a bunk and they were expecting me. I got a nice long, hot shower, changed into dry, clean clothes, and then we ordered out for lunch. We lounged around all day, watching tv and texting friends. Bookie’s ankle seemed to be doing better, too, so hopefully things go smoothly tomorrow. The evening turned late again, with us getting wrapped into some tv sitcom until nearly midnight.
Day 145 – US-2/Gorham to Gentian Pond Shelter
We were woken very early while another thru hiker packed his gear, even though he knew he was getting up two hours before everyone else and didn’t pack last night. This is the sort of inconsiderate thing that really irritates me. When he finally left, we all snoozed for a while, getting up around 7 to get ready for our shuttle. It was a lazy morning, with our shuttle not leaving until after 8. We had to run back into Gorham to get Bookie’s trekking poles, which she left at the hotel two days ago, and then we headed for the trail. We got on trail at 9:15, with some clouds in the sky and scattered sprinkles throughout the morning. I hiked alone most of the day. Bookie’s legs were still hurting her a little, and she had to walk slower to keep them from hurting too much. I made decent time though, and enjoyed a beautiful day, the trail a big mix of rocks, roots, mud, boulders and normal pine needle-covered trail. There were a few sprinkles at lunch, for which we set up Bookie’s rain fly to avoid getting too wet. After lunch, I really made good time, getting to the shelter at 4:30, thanks in large part to my brain getting lost on thoughts of “the future” – jobs, money, relationships, family, living arrangements and such. I am so conflicted about the future, but thankfully I have a while to figure things out. I filtered water at the beautiful pond, taking my time to absorb the scenery. There were rumors of a moose in the area, but there was no sign of it, of course. I cooked dinner and ate, and was in my sleeping bag by 7:30 to get warm, watching the sun set behind the distant mountains from there.
Day 146 – Gentian Pond Shelter to Full Goose shelter
Today was not backpacking. It was rock climbing with a 35-pound pack on. The day started earlier than expected when an inconsiderate southbound kid woke up the whole shelter at 5 by cooking breakfast in the shelter, banging his pot and dropped gear on the shelter floor. After he got yelled at and finally left, I snoozed until 7. It was a cool morning, requiring multiple layers while doing camp chores. We needed to filter water again this morning, so we had a later start than usually, getting on trail at 8:45. I hate being last ones out of shelter, but it seems to be a common occurrence lately. Once on trail, it was a rough hike, with lots of hills, rocks, roots, mud, bog boards, and rock/boulder scrambles. It took forever to get to the first shelter, where I stopped for lunch. Just before reaching the shelter, I crossed into Maine! Goodbye, New Hampshire! I took a longer lunch than expected, but the morning hike was tougher than I had expected. And after lunch, it was downright brutal, made up of mostly rock scrambles or rock faces and lots of ups and downs. I got to the shelter at 5, to find it empty. A few others had passed me throughout the day, so I figured they would be there, but they must have all moved on. But shortly after, the shelter filled up. Two large college orientation groups arrived, along with a group of five NOBOs who came in right at dark. The college groups were fine, keeping to themselves and staying somewhat quiet. The five NOBOs were not, being loud and smoking “anything you can think of” like chimneys. Thankfully, they smoked the herbal items outside of the shelter once Bookie told them she was allergic to it.
Well, that’s it for New Hampshire. I’m still working on Maine’s post, and all of the states I leap frogged over. Be patient, they’re coming! And remember to always Spin the Compass!
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