The White Mountains
I woke from an excellent night’s sleep, hobbled to the bathroom, and got a cup of coffee. For some reason the coffee made me super energized. I eagerly dove into blueberry pancake production using a GF, vegan mix that Hobble-It and I got yesterday. The pancakes satisfied my craving.
We were shuttled back to Kinsman Notch and began a 16 mile slack pack. The trail cycled between ups and downs. I felt speedy, propelled by pancake power. All around were vibrant green moss, bright orange mushrooms, and trees that reminded me of the Pacific northwest. After a group snack break, we crossed wooden boards into an open meadow with a beaver pond and began the South Kinsman ascent.
It was fun! The ascent required my hands and was much easier without the weight of a full pack pulling me backward. At the top, we found a misty view and a cool cairn that had a rock throne on one side. We played around… Serendipity knighted Dinglebeary with her trekking pole. I took a turn at being queen.
The descent was steep and slick, taking more time than anticipated. We missed the 4:30 pm shuttle opportunity. The White Mountains really do contain tougher terrain, requiring more time and resulting in lower mileage days. Back at the hostel, we ate dinner and showered. I sat on a cozy sofa to do my journaling.
I went to bed too late, but slept solidly. All The Way bought a dozen eggs for the tramily so I put a couple in my pancakes for more staying power. Somehow the time ran short and it was a mad dash to eat, clean up, and finish packing.
Our tramily was shuttled to Franconia Notch, where we left the trail yesterday. It wasn’t so bad to carry my full pack weight once again. The ascent was a steady one and my body felt strong after two days of reprieve. After several hours, we reached Franconia Ridge. It was amazing!! The ridge is 2.5 miles in length, all above treeline, with majestic sweeping views in every direction. It immediately became my favorite section of trail to date. I love alpine terrain!
When I first gained the ridge, mist was drifting over the high peaks, but it cleared off and the sun shone brightly. Minus Dinglebeary, we ate lunch on the summit of Mt. Lincoln, a 5,089 foot peak, then climbed the even taller Mt. Lafayette. The trail was a ribbon amongst rocks. Then we dropped back into forest. It was a steep descent and then a steep ascent up our last peak for the day. At 4,500 feet, Mt. Garfield featured a 360 view and the remains of a firetower.
Dinglebeary was waiting at Garfield Ridge Campsite; our first AMC site. The caretaker, Peter, was super nice with a calm energy. He explained the facilities and gave us AMC passes. It was $10 for the campsite, but the rest will be half price. Plus I get one free soup and two free baked goods from AMC huts. Other than Hobble-It, we set up on large wooden tent platforms. We ate in the cooking area of camp then stowed our food in the bear boxes. Afterwards, it rained on and off, luckily lightly as my rain fly was attached to a couple rocks and one of my trekking poles.
When I woke it was chilly so I snuggled in my bag while I played on my cell phone. Still, I was the second one up! It was tricky going at first. The trail angled steeply downward over rocks and an intermittent stream decided to join in. It felt like descending a waterfall. Serendipity and I took funny pictures of one another doing “advanced” downhill techniques. Tracks did not join in on our shenanigans.
After hiking three miles, we came upon the AMC Galehead Hut. I used one of my baked good slots on a GF muffin. The staff was friendly and appeared to be having fun. They fed us breakfast leftovers after we swept the hut common areas and dorms. Then they gave us paper messages to deliver to the next AMC hut seven miles away.
The day remained overcast as we hiked to the summits of South Twin Mountain and Mt. Guyot. At our lunch stop and at Zealand Falls Hut, we were misted on and resumed hiking to warm up. The last five miles were fairly flat so we managed a 15 mile day.
When we reached Ethan Pond Campsite a large REI group had taken the last of of the tent platform spots. The host led us to the overflow area. It had oddly shaped, root-filled spots into which we fit five tents and one hammock. Our tents and ground tarps were still wet from last night’s rain. I set mine up, but kept my gear out until after dinner, when the tent was mostly dry. The fly I hung from two branches and it dried in the breeze.
It was a fairly easy, mostly downhill, hike to Crawford Notch. There we came across amazing trail magic!! The couple, Amy & Jeff, hiked the trail in 2017. They had lists of meal options for both meat eaters and vegetarians. I had a Beyond burger with cheese & pickles, yogurt, fruit salad, and orange juice. There were chips and candy plus coolers full of drinks. They even offered to make us sandwiches to go. Really nice people!
From trail magic, we split into trios. Hobble-It, Serendipity, and Tracks hitched to the AMC Highlands Center to get Hobble-It’s resupply box. Dinglebeary, All The Way, and myself walked to the Willey House to get my box. We had delicious fudge and swapped trail stories. There was a museum building which told how the entire Willey family was killed during a massive landslide in 1826.
Before the climb to Mt. Webster and Mt. Jackson, I stopped to get water from the Saco River. A minute after the guys took off the rest of our tramily showed up. Excellent timing! It was a steep ascent that involved sections of scrambling and handy tree assists. There were multiple sweeping views of Crawford Notch. Tracks pointed out the cloud masked summit of Mt. Washington in the distance. At first I felt the weight of my full food bag, but the scrambling took my mind off it and I had fun.
Our destination was Nauman Campsite next to Mizpah Spring Hut. Hobble-It and Dinglebeary ended up doing work-for-stay in the hut. They would sleep on the floor of the dining area and eat leftovers from the family style evening meal. The rest of us set up our four tents on one large wooden platform. I was eager to eat from my food bag. The sunset turned the clouds a bright pink.
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