Wetfoot and Arry, Vol. 17, Days 36 and 37: Salubrious Days
Day 36: 14.5 miles
It rained. All night long. Actually it stopped about 3 a.m. I woke up and had the thought, “Oh. maybe everything will dry out now.” And then it started raining again and didn’t stop.
I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to the sound of rain, laid there, and hoped if I waited long enough maybe it would stop. At 7 a.m. we gave up and started getting ready. If any of you have not tried to have two full grown adults in a two-person tent with only one door and one vestibule try to get ready and stay dry in the rain, let me tell you it is a tricky and slow business.
By the time we were on the move the rain had mostly abated and soon let up completely.
The first five miles today were probably the easiest five miles on the AT. Extremely flat, with barely any roots and rocks. There were some bog bridges, but mostly we just walked down a mostly straight, smooth dirt path until we reached Zealand Falls hut.
At the hut we stopped for a break; like the name suggests there were falls right next to the hut! We also got some free soup! It was a delicious and hearty lentil soup that helped warm us from the chill left behind from the rain. They also had many, many baked goods, so we ate some blueberry bread as an added bonus!
As we sat on the bench enjoying fresh snacks, we saw a snake! It started to slither and we realized there were two! By the time we were headed out, there were four snakes in the pile. Curious, we looked at the rocks below us and there they all were, about eight or so snakes, with their heads poking out from the rocks wall. I did get a picture this time!
Good thing we powered up at the hut, because we climbed a great deal of elevation to reach Zealand Peak. There was no view on the summit, but the sign was pretty unique! We did get a pretty spectacular view from the Zealand Cliffs!
We kept climbing toward Mount Guyot, and must have just waltzed right over it. Around or just past the peak the trees became tiny and you could see for miles.
After some relatively flat, but boggy and rocky traversing, we climbed a very rocky and muddy section to South Twin Peak. We started passing groups of hut hikers who had started at Zealand Falls hut and headed to the Galehead hut. I think that is an awesome way to traverse the White Mountains! Arry, just being Arry, brightened their day.
I know why people love the White Mountains now. At the summit of South Twin we could see for miles and miles, mountains in all directions. I wonder if this is similar to what out view on Mount Washington would have been like. We stayed there for a good amount time; Arry enjoyed running across the peak with us as we explored the view from every angle.
Eventually we had to descend. It was a short, straight descent to the Galehead hut. We had one free remaining baked good left to redeem from the huts, and it was my motivation as we scrambled down rocks and boulders. In the words of a hiker who climbed it right before we descended, “It was steep, but there is steeper.”
This hut had cinnamon rolls as their baked good! Yum! I think the fudgey oatmeal bars are still my favorite, but the roll was delicious. Most of the hikers staying at the hut had arrived for the night and Arry made sure to befriend them all. It was cute to watch them all say goodbye to her as we began the final two and a half miles to our campsite for the night.
The final miles of the day always feel much longer than they actually are. It took what seemed like forever to pick our way, mostly uphill, through countless patches of mud until we were a half mile away.
I started to get excited, and then looked ahead. The final half mile involved climbing basically a rock face up the side of the mountain, with a stream flowing down the middle. I slipped and banged my ankle, but we kept going.
Finally, after we reached the sign for the Garfield Ridge campsite, I rejoiced! It was a long walk into the camp, even more uphill, but we made it!
The campsite was extremely full, but the caretaker assured us he has dealt with more crowded nights. We saw Sweetpea and our friends with their pup Nahla. I was excited to see them and share pictures of the moose we saw!
Our tent was a little damp, the rain fly was soaked, but our sleeping bags and clothes were dry. As the temperature began to drop we cozied up inside the tent. It was a long day of hiking, but rewarding. One more day until we reach Franconia Notch!
Day 37: 10.5 miles
Garfield Ridge has a gorgeous view. I was so cozy in the tent I didn’t even think to get up to watch sunrise. Oh well.
We were the last to leave the little group of tent platforms, but that’s OK. I figured it would be an easy-ish day back to the car, and from there to the hotel I booked this morning from the tent, and finally to pizza!
The day began with a steep climb up Mount Garfield. It was gorgeous. I feel like the views keep getting bigger and better. That might in part be due to the weather, but the fact remains, Mount Garfield was one of my favorite summits.
There were the remains of an old foundation on the summit; an old fire tower I presume.
As we put our packs back on Arry stood on the summit looking down at us as if we were her loyal subjects. She likes being up high and people watching, especially when we walk around the neighborhood. Sometimes we just stand there and I awkwardly feel like I have to say hello to the people she won’t stop staring at. When we have a view and can see a road she will stand high and look down as she watches the cars drive by.
The path from Mount Garfield up to Mount Lafayette was extremely well manicured and smoothly grated. Several trail runners, literally with a CamelBak running the trail, passed us. For the time we rejoiced in the “tourist path,” as we called it. Little did we know how true that would be on this salubrious day.
About a mile from Mount Lafayette we left the cover of the treeline and began the ridgewalk from Mount Lafayette to Mount Lincoln to Little Haystack Mountain.
As we began the final ascent up Lafayette, a group of about 15 middle school aged boys passed us singing “1,000 bottles of beer on the wall.” We heard them sing from 987 to 952 and I thought I was going to go crazy. Their poor counselor trailing them apologized, but I feel more sorry for him having to listen to the entire 1,000 bottles.
As we chatted for a moment, giving him a quick respite from the incessant singing, as they were out of hearing range for the time being, he provided some trail magic and gave me an orange! Fresh fruit is a delicious thing! I love it but on the trail it seems I eat it rarely.
We met a sweet young girl and her father as they descended. She asked if she could pet Arry and as her father said it was OK, she very gently petted her, first with the back of her hand and then with her fingers. I asked if she had a dog and she said they had a cat. My boyfriend, who grew up with a cat, said, “Cats are nice,” to which she immediately responded, “He is really mean.” I couldn’t help but laugh at her seriousness.
At the summit we sat and relished the orange, which tasted all the more delicious paired with the beautiful view after having carried it in my hand up Lafayette.
The Story Behind Salubrious
When I was younger my grandparents would have each grandkid come visit for a few days to get some one-on-one grandparent time. One of my favorite parts was having a picnic at the zoo; the zoo was cool but the picnic was my favorite part. We woke up one glorious morning and my grandpa announced, “It is a a salubrious day!” as we headed to the zoo.
We arrived and the line wrapped around the parking lot. Instead of the zoo we went to the aquarium and had our picnic by the lake that day; my grandma jokingly blamed my grandpa for all the people there because he used the word salubrious.
That year I got to have two picnics with my grandparents. It was the highlight of my trip. And since then, I’ve been careful using that word; it is a special word with special powers to be used with only the most responsibility.
My friends, it was a salubrious day on the ridge.
As we continued to enjoy our lunch break it grew more and more crowded. We hadn’t seen another dog, besides Nahla (also thru-hiking) in days, but today we kept seeing more and more.
I thought the walk along the ridge would be quick due to the nice pathway and gradual terrain. However, as we continued along the ridge we had to continuously stop and let what seemed like parades of day hikers pass as they headed to Mount Lafayette, to enjoy lunch on the summit I presume.
The views along the ridge were gorgeous. But as we continued I grew annoyed and claustrophobic. I couldn’t wait to get off the ridge and away from all the traffic; I came to the AT to get away from everything and find myself in solitude and these people weren’t part of my plan. It seems silly, I know, to wish yourself away from such natural beauty, but after two miles I did.
Once we reached the edge of the ridge and entered the treeline we began a long descent to Franconia Notch. The majority of it was relatively gradual, but for a mile or so we clambered down a steep incline of huge boulders. Our knees took a beating and our progress was slow with extra breaks.
Arry seemed to know there was something special about our final destination. She probably can associate the word “hotel” or maybe the sounds of traffic alert her. Whatever it is, instead of resting during our breaks she wanted to keep moving.
Eventually we reached a trail intersection that said .6 miles to White House trail. We took that trail and somehow missed the turn south, continuing westward along some previously walked path. The footprints ended. I could see the highway, but the trail was no more. Checking Guthook I found we were definitely off the trail, by about .3 miles. Oops.
Thankfully, White House trail is a paved biking and walking path running parallel to the highway. We blazed a path from where the footprints ended to the bike path and headed south, where we found where the actual trail popped out of the woods.
My boyfriend parked a car, many days ago, in the Liberty Springs trailhead parking lot. I thought the parking lot was right where the trail came out of the woods, but it was .8 miles away! And so we headed by foot power .2 more miles along the bike path, and then took a .6 mile trail to the parking lot.
And there he was! My car! Prince Phillip Henry James the Third. Arry saw the car and started wagging her tail fiercely. She knew what the car meant; she loves hiking, but she also loves lying on comfy mattresses once it is over.
After a short drive to the hotel and showers to wash away the hiker stank, we walked to the pizza place across the street where we shoveled pizza and cheesy garlic bread into our faces with fervor. The pizza sauce was extremely flavorful. I felt like we ruined one of the best cheese pizzas by adding toppings.
We concluded the night with ice cream, obviously. Tomorrow we will head home.
Once again I’m taking some time off the trail to spend time with those who are important to me. And to let my knees recover with some rest and recovery at the lake on our family vacation.
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