We spent a long night in the tent trying to warm up in our sleeping bags from our crazy cold, wet Mount Washington summit the previous day. It harder to get up but we still managed to get up at 5:30AM and snag a hot cup of coffee from the nearby Mizpah Hut. We spent some time eating breakfast and trying to dry the dampness from the mist off our tent. Our spirits were a bit low but we rallied and set off to do our biggest day yet in NH…17 miles.
The sun finally burnt off the fog around 8:30AM and we enjoyed great views from the Webster Cliffs. The views brightened us up a bit but then on our way down to Route 302, a NOBO passed us. He was still grinning ear to ear and informed us there is trail magic ahead. We moved as fast as we could to get there expecting some sort of cooler or bag on the side of the road. We were very excited and tried to guess what it would be, we were also remarking about the timing as our food bag was getting low.
The AT is truly an amazing place. Trail Magic seems to appear when you need it most. After yesterday’s brutally long ridge walk from Washington in high winds and dampening fog, the magic we needed was in form of a former thru-hiker, known as “Burrito”. He was in the parking lot cooking up sausage, egg, and cheese sandwiches on a bagel. The best trail magic we have had yet! He had an amazing set up with cold soda, chips, fruit, and some delicious cold brew coffee. He made us each 2 big sandwiches and we hiked out with 2 white claws for the night. We chatted with him for a while and had fun playing with his adorable golden retriever who we found out completed 1000 miles off Burrito’s thru-hike until it got too hot for the poor pupper.
Even more unbelievable is a completely separate person was doing trail magic just next across the drive! There were actually competing trail magics! There were so many NOBOs coming through that both trail magic providers had seats always occupied. We could not stop smiling for the rest of day. Our low spirits were a thing of the past and we had the energy to muscle through.
The ascent up from the parking lot was fairly gradual, the next 6 miles were fairly easy and we knew we had this long day in the bag. We got some nice views at Ethan Pond but didn’t stay too long. We had really nice flat terrain for several miles which is almost unheard of in the whites. We saw Zealand Falls and were very surprised how low it was from the drought. We climbed up to Zealand Hut, one of the smallest and most accessible huts. At Zealand Hut, we cashed in on our 2 free baked goods (we got the last 2 carrot bread/cakes!) and a bowl of lentil soup thanks to our Thru-hiker passport.
We cruised up to Mount Zealand, one of the 4000 footers of NH, and set up camp. A couple of curious grey jays said hi. These are among our favorite birds in the whites. A handful of hikers tagging the 4000 footers also came in and we enjoyed chatting with them a bit.
The temperature is much cooler at this elevation but we’re looking forward to some enjoyable sleeping weather. We grateful to be dry, warm and full. What started as a lackluster day really turned itself around thanks to the kindness of others and of course the sun!
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