Into the Whites Part 1
Into the Whites
We made breakfast in the hostels kitchen the next morning and readied our packs. I was very surprised when I weighed my pack and it was 40 pounds. I must be packing more and more food because I don’t think I’ve added anything. We were driven back to the trail and started our out ascent into the White mountains. The trail was very gentle for 2 miles but then it got steep. I was dragging along with my heavy pack and took a few “extended breaks”. I was hiking with Mary Poppins after our break at the summit but after awhile I noticed she wasn’t behind me anymore. I ended up reaching the shelter pretty late but recognized the care taker who’d been at Speck Pond as well. Socko asked me how I’d gotten in so late and said he’d been there for two hours. His comment made me upset. I cooked in the dark and went to bed wondering what had happened to Mary Poppins. A few days later a girl told me Mary Poppins was doing ok and I felt much better.
Don’t tell me I’m Slow
I didn’t sleep very well in the shelter and started a little late the next morning. I was told that once I was up the first mountain it would be like coasting, that was not the case. The climb had some rock scrambles that reminded me of Maine because I had to stop and think how to climb them. I was taking a breather when a couple from Canada and Socko showed up and I walked with them to the top. The ridge had a lot of ups and downs and was slow going due to the typical rocky terrain. We got a nice view of the presidential range along the way. It was hot and I was going through a lot more water then anticipated but the couple offered me some water which made my day. We got to the top of a mountain with a 360 degree view and Socko commented that I’d most likely be 3 miles back if I wasn’t with their group because I was so slow. This comment really cut deep because I am slow and take a lot of breaks, but that’s just who I am. It will take me more time to finish this hike than the average thru hiker but that’s ok. I’m trying to enjoy it and at least I’m doing it! I replied back to him that I had 1000 miles on him so maybe he shouldn’t say any more. We had one more easy climb and then a steep descent to Carter Notch which may be the truest notch on the trail. At the bottom there’s a cute pond and a side trail to the first “hut” I’d encounter. Sitting at the lake there was a familiar face who recognized me instantly. I had trouble with his name so he had to remind me he was Qtip. We hung out and talked for awhile and then set up our tents at a very small stealth site with Chicken Feet. I went to the hut to check it out and get water. The huts are buildings in the white mountains that have a dining room, bunks, a kitchen, a super enthusiastic staff, and recycling toilets. They have work for stay opportunities at the huts but I wanted to give my self distance from Socko and wanted a good nights sleep. Instead I hung out with Qtip till it got dark and had a lots of fun conversations about life after trail.
Going back to Gorham
It was predicted to rain the next day all day. I didn’t get an early start as wished but the weather looked promising. I headed up the steep climb out of the notch and stopped at a spring for awhile because it was pleasant to hear. The couple showed up with Socko on their heals and the first thing he said was, “Oh my god you’re so slow”. That was all it took to get me going. I sped up the rest of the hill and hurried over the wild cats. At the bottom of the mountain I ate some warm food and watched as a thunderstorm came down hard. At Pinkham Notch I ran into some north bounders and hitched with a girl named Disco back to Gorham. The weather was going to be really nasty for the next two days and as I had the presidential range next (a long twelve miles above tree line) I was going to wait out the weather in town. We went to Wallmart to pick up some food and then headed to the Royalty Inn where she had reservations with 3 others. That’s when I saw Moose and Raw (well now Hairball and Sweatball). It was nice reconnecting with them at the pool and they introduced me to their friends who were looking for a 5th Roomate at the Inn. I took the offer and set up in the room and then we all went to hang out in the hot tub. We went to the Salt Pub for dinner and I got poutine and chicken liver (the menu was unusual). Then the cousins and I parted ways and I got aquatinted with me new roommates while we watched the olympics that night.
Everyone in the room took a zero the next day. We watched Seinfeld in the morning and then found out there was a Marathon of the last two “Hangover” movies which ,naturally, absorbed all our attention. Outside the mountains were hidden by a heavy fog and it was cold and dreary outside with the best occasional rain. We were glad to be inside but kept anxiously checking the weather hoping the next day would be better so we could start hiking again. The weather the next day sounded terrible but then changed to promising so I decided I’d hit the trail early the next day. With that in mind we all went to sleep early.
Everyone but me left at 6 the next morning to try and hitch back the trail. My hitch would of been a little more complicated so I decided to pay for a bus (only $7) back to Pinkham Notch which left at 7:50. The first few miles flew by and I stopped at the Osgood campsite to have lunch before heading up the big climb. I could hear gusts of wind and was worried about climbing above tree line and I became more nervous when a section hiker heading north told me he had to crawl on top of the ridge so he wasn’t blow off. I filled up on water and started the steep climb up (nearly 3000 feet). It wasn’t as bad as people had described or as bad as the elevation profile made it look but I got a stomach ache half way through and had to break. It was windy when I got up but I could still walk normally and it was very different then anything I had seen before. The ground looked like just a mass of loose rocks with cairns leading my way up the path. I got a little scared when the clouds started rolling in and threatened to storm on the exposed ridge. I got to the top of Madison and had to stay low to the ground due to the heavy gusts and did some butt sliding till the wind was back to normal. I looked down and could see the huge Madison hut in the gap below. When I arrived I walked in and asked the girl working if they needed any help. She asked if I was a thru hiker and I responded with a yes and then she gave me my first work for stay opportunity. She laid out the rules: work for an hour or two, set up at 9:30 in the dining room, be packed by around 6:00 am the next morning and I could stay if I wanted to work for breakfast leftovers as well. I hung out and waited until I could feast on the leftovers of stuffed shells and lentil soup. They had me do dishes and organize the fridge and then I waited a little till I was able to blow up my sleeping pad and sleep in a cozy corner on the floor. I was so thankful to be inside a warm hut.
It looked gloomy outside and I was reluctant to leave the next morning. I waited for everyone to finish breakfast so I could have leftover eggs, oatmeal, and coffee cake. I was set to work sweeping out the bunk rooms which they stack 3 layers of beds. It wasn’t hard work and I wasn’t ready to go outside. It didn’t look any better out there when I was done but I threw on all my rain gear and headed out the door. The fog was so thick my glasses were clouded and dripping. I could barely see the next carn ahead of me. A couple from New York caught up to me and I followed them. The trail was full of loose and jagged rock which made for difficult footing. The fog and wind slowly subsided and when we finally began our ascent we saw views of the surrounding area and could see the Washington Hotel, the cog railway, some of the presidential mountains we’d looped around, and occasionally the top of Washington itself. A mass of people awaited us on top and I had to wait for my summit photo behind people wearing flip flops who’d obviously not walked. It’s kind of ridiculous but also nice that they have a huge building on top. There’s a US postal office, some hot food, outlets, and surprisingly flush toilets. I got some soup and pizza and relaxed while charging my phone. I saw some views from the top of the mountain but the road and railway were in the way. I felt sad that this magnificent beast had all these ugly buildings on top. It felt like a violation of nature and even though it happens all the time I was sad because Mount Washington is a magnificent mountain. The Lake of Clouds Hut was just over a mile below and I could see it the entire time as I walked towards it. They had some work for stay opportunities left so I grabbed one and waited with the 6 others until we could eat and be put to work. The food was pretty good (not as good as Madison) and the work was a little longer. I scrubbed a pot for nearly a half hour with steel wool trying to clean it and then worked on the other dishes while the others did hard work as well. We were working till 9:40 and the lights were out when we finally left the kitchen to go set up for bed. I found a cozy corner where I hoped to see a good sunrise and fell asleep shortly after.
Below are photos related to Mt Washington-views, the climb etc
The next day I did get my promised sunrise at Lake of Clouds and it was one of the best sunrises I’ve gotten on the trail. I also got another surprise, food poisoning. I was up twice in the night and around 8 times in the morning to use the facilities (which were thankfully close by). I had to take my first Imodium on the trail before I tried consuming any food. The sky was blue and it was warm outside as I made my way down the path looping around the peaks with views of all the surrounding mountains. I wasn’t feeling that great from the night before and had to pop some vitamins I as well. The clouds started rolling in and a light drizzle began. I decided to cut my day short to recover and stay out of the rain. When I got to Mitzpah Hut I bought a bowl of soup and talked to a couple for awhile inside. After an hour I braved up and headed to the campsite next door. I set up my tent on the platform which instantly became soaked on the inside and outside and then went inside to try and warm up. The care taker came by and started moving my tent with me inside until I said something. We squished 3 tents on the platform and none of us could have our rain flys set up properly. I cooked in the rain and then went into my wet tent and fell asleep safely on my dry sleeping pad before it was even dark that night.
It was still drizzling the next morning and it took all my will to get out of my warm but wet on the outside sleeping bag and pack all my wet things into my wet pack. The trail down to Crawford Gap was slightly treacherous. There were times I was exposed and the heavy winds tried to knock me down. The AT was following the Webster cliff trail so I followed a series of cliffs on my way down. A lot of careful butt sliding was required. I felt wet and tired when I got to the gap and was thinking about camping there but first decided to go eat some warm food to cheer up. A girl gave me a ride to Willies down the road where I got a chili dog, Mac and cheese, and ice cream. I spent some time drying out my tent and rain gear and when I eventually hitched back I decided I had enough time to walk to the next campsite, Ethan Pond. The trail was in better shape then most I’d seen lately and I arrived at the pond with time to spare. I set up my tent between two others on the platform that night but all were one man tents so mine fit fine. As I looked at my tent I finally felt I’d mastered the platform. I cooked up some grub and went down to the pond to look for moose but all I got was a beautiful view of the pond. I went to bed in a much better mood than I had for the past two days.
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No one should make comments about the speed at which someone is hiking. I find it very disrespectful and demeaning. Hike your own hike and be safe. The Whites sound very challenging and slow is better than getting hurt. Good luck!!!
You have done more hiking miles than most people ever will in their lifetime, so be proud! Remember, there is Karma in the universe and those who hand out negativity will eventually have it come back to them. There are lots of us sending good vibes your way so remind yourself of that!
Good vibes coming from cousin Sue. You’re going great! Traveling Mercies is a book/quote by Anne LaMott, and it means, “May God go with you, ENJOY THE JOURNEY and come back to us safely.”