The Whites Were A Bunch Of White Lies*
*DISCLAIMER: My experience through the White Mountains/Presidentials has no relation to what other hikers have/are/will experience. The weather changes hourly there and my encounter through the Presidentials is mine alone and in no way discredits the Herculean task others have endured tackling these grueling Mountains.
Phew, now that’s out of the way let’s get down to business.
Leading up to the Presidentials, Riley and I took a ZERO day, our first on the trail to be exact, at the AMC Joe Dodge Lodge. We spent the day lounging by the fire, doing yoga, stuffing our bellies full of delicious food, and catching up on some severely neglected Netflix binging (Mindhunters!). It was exactly what we needed going into the monumental task of conquering the Presidentials.
For a day and a half I watched the weather forecast religiously, and found out that the days we intended to hike Madison and Washington were going to be PERFECT conditions. I’m talking out of this world perfect. Temps in the 50s with winds gusting 0-30mph. It doesn’t get much better than that folks.
Come hiking day we were ready…and fully loaded down with a nine day resupply of food. I think my pack was approaching the 50lb marker.
After I somehow managed to not so gracefully sling my pack onto my back the morning we left the lodge, I began to channel my inner Stephen Katz and was soon considering shedding clothes, food, toilet paper, tooth paste, anything really to lighten the burdensome load that was breaking my back and feet with each step I took away from civilization and into the most grueling 20 miles stretch along the AT.
Mt. Madison. I have no fond words for this climb. Never in my life had I been passed by a fellow hiker, until this loathsome day. Every quarter mile Riley and I stopped to gasp for air, drink copious amounts of water, and rest against or on any sturdy surface that would support us. It was the longest 3 miles in my life.
Then we ran into a recently finished thru-hiker out on a day hike who lifted our spirits and took us under his wing by coaxing us to the treeline. Once there it was smooth sailing. Literally. The wind at this point in the morning was gusting upwards of 60mph and with my pack as large as it was, the wind easily caught its expansive surface area and lifted me up off the ground then threw me against the ground. Call it a wake up all, call it a “falling” to Jesus, it’s was at that moment I knew it was going to be a bumpy ride.
For the next 2 miles we rock climbed in heavy winds to the summit of Mt. Madison. With Riley leading the way it took my mind off of the treacherous winds and I began to relax seeing how much she was enjoying herself.
Before I knew it, we had reached the peak and boy was it a beaut. Little to no clouds in the sky, the views expanded for miles in each direction uninhibited. It was at this point we ran into a flip sobo we had met the week prior, SlowMo. Riley and I instantly paired up with him, descended Madison, and then stopped to take a quick lunch and figure out a game plan for the rest of the day. With the winds dying and expected to clear out by the end of the day, we came to the group consensus to push for the Dungeon in the basement of the Lake of the Clouds hut just past Mt. Washington for our stopping point of the day.
For those that aren’t familiar with the Presidentials, that would mean a 19 mile day for Riley and I over what most hikers consider to be the most challenging miles of the entire AT.
But hey we came to hike, so that’s what we were going to do.
The next 8 or so miles flew by. Turns out, the Presidentials are really just large mountains made entirely of large rocks you hop/step across, and on a clear day like we had that was incredibly easygoing.
It wasn’t until 5pm that we summited Mt. Washington. As we made the ascent we were passed by the tourist tram that hauls visitors to the top on a nice little train like set up so they can gawk at dirty hiker trash making their way step by step to the top, only to have to wait in line behind said tourists to take a picture with the summit sign…
Anywho, call me bread cause I was more than done.
We snapped our picture and then hiked another mile and a half to the Lake of the Clouds hut where there’s a “dungeon” room hikers can use as a shelter for the night.
We had done it. We had completed the most demanding part of the trail in a day and weren’t even that taxed by it. It felt as if a million pounds had been lifted off of my shoulders; partially from knowing we beat the infamous winter weather, but primarily because I was finally able to take my pack off for the day.
The next day’s weather was even more celebratory. 10 degrees warmer and not even a whisper of breeze on the ridge line. Consider another 17 miles tackled that day.
Leading up to this point in the trail, I was petrified based on what many hikers, commenters and random people had told me of the Whites and how virtually impossible they are to pass through even on a good day. And it’s my own fault I let their opinions and superfluous description of it cloud my judgment ultimately painting them as this big scary monster I should fear; whereas in reality the Whites turned out to my favorite day on the trail.
Tip to future hikers:
It’s beneficial to take others people’s advice, wisdom, and forewarning to heart, but it’s even more important to keep a level head and make your own opinion of the situation once it arises.
Thus far I wouldn’t change a single thing about how our hike is going. Yes, there are ways I would do things differently next time, but each choice we’ve made so far has had particular outcomes and frankly it’s been an ideal hike.
Exactly one month in and we have covered 423 miles and are only one day away from the Vermont border. We are crushing miles, putting mountains to shame, and feeling more and more at home every day. This trail is truly special, and has something to offer everyone who steps foot/paw upon it.
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