The Longest Mile On The AT:The Mahoosuc Notch
Hikers had suggested it would be better to hike the Mahoosuc Notch northbound because the Mahoosuc Arm, which is very steep and rocky, would be less difficult, for me meaning safer, to ascend than descend. I accepted their advice.
Georgia and I headed north from Route 2 outside Gorham, NH. Of course, the trail was muddy, and it started to rain when we were less than a mile from Gentian Pond Campsite. But I spent a warm and dry night in my tent.
The next day started out cold, windy, and cloudy. The hiking soon became challenging as we bouldered up and down Mt. Success. Below is a photo of Caesar on boulders.
Next we reached the New Hampshire-Maine border. Although we had not yet completed Maine and were now heading north, it seemed like a milestone.
The Goose Eyes seemed endless as we slogged through mud. Bog boards disappeared underwater, as shown below. We were told by a passing hiker that someone who stepped off a board, sunk up to his waist deep into the bog.
In the photo below, Georgia clearly expressed how we felt about the mud.
We climbed up or down, sometimes on ladders or metal rungs in the near-vertical rock. We arrived at Upper Goose Shelter about 7 p.m. This 10 miles of trail was extremely difficult, second only to the 10-mile, round trip up and down Katahdin.
The Mahoosuc Notch
The next day proved to be the most challenging day on trail for me. After ascending Fulling Mill Mountain, we made sure all items were secured inside our packs as the scramble through the Mahoosuc Notch is famous for grabbing water bottles and other loose gear. We also put away our trekking poles as we wouldn’t be using them.
Then we entered the Mahoosuc Notch. It is impossible to convey the magnitude of the jumble of enormous boulders that one must scramble, boulder, or hoist oneself over or climb under through caves. At least once, I had to remove my pack and push it ahead of me through a cave.
Many times, I was at my wit’s end, questioning whether I could move forward. Should I go right or left? Above or below? The featured photo above shows Georgia resting on a boulder after going on a scouting expedition. Below is a photo of her going through a cave.
Each hiker has to find his or her own route through, what was for me, this nearly-impossible-to-hike trail.
Somehow, I made it. I stretched my limbs in unimaginable ways. I used all my strength. At one point, I felt like I was Super Woman.
Most hikers, who are younger, can traverse the Mahoosuc Notch in 2 hours. Several passed us, including 3 men hiking with the Warrior Expedition, which is for veterans. Traveling at the senior pace, it took us more than 4 hours to travel 1 mile.
The Mahoosuc Arm
Finally out of the Notch, we began the arduous ascent of the Mahoosuc Arm. Unlike the Notch, the Arm has a 1500-foot change in elevation in about 1mile. Now we were maneuvering up rock slabs and huge boulders in steep terrain. Georgia made up a game of naming the parts of the Arm. She started by saying we were at “her” shoulder. I said we were only at “her” elbow. We named neck, ear, tongue, nose, etc. It took us about 2 hours to travel 1 mile.
In early evening, the trail dipped down to Speck Pond, a high alpine pond with one of the highest shelters on the AT. We crossed over Speck Pond Outlet on a beaver dam, which had some fresh pieces of beaver-cut wood on it. Caretaker Brian issued us Thru-Hiker Passes, which entitles us to discounts at other AMC shelters and campsites and 2 baked goods and 1 bowl of soup at AMC huts. It took the entire day to hike 5.1 miles!
It was a very cold night. The next morning the outside of our tents were drenched in moisture. Below is a photo of the pond in the morning.
We safely finished this section of trail and were shuttled back south to New Hampshire by Homespun. Next comes the challenge of the White Mountains!
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