Lake of the Clouds and Mt Washington (7/8, 7/9, 7/10)
Day 133, 7/8: zero in North Conway
We got up and went to breakfast in the main building. At breakfast, we watched the weather channel tell us about the severe weather warnings today, and I was relieved we weren’t attempting to go up on the ridge line towards Lake of the Clouds. We walked back to the room, and spent the morning watching TV, snacking, and napping.
In the evening, I walked over to the microwave at the main office and called Louis and my mom. They were meeting at the lake house to unload the rest of the furniture from our house. I heated up my chicken pot pie and egg rolls, and went back to the room. I spent the rest of the evening on Facebook and watching American Pickers.
Day 134, 7/9: Crawford notch -> Lake of the Clouds hut (11 miles)
I woke up before 5am, and relaxed in bed on my phone until 7. We ate breakfast at the hotel, and got packed up and out by 8:30. We walked the 0.4 miles to the main road and stuck out our thumbs, like always. The road was a highway and very busy, but we were hitching for 30 minutes before a van stopped. This was our longest hitch yet.
The lady’s van had the seats removed with tarps down and hay scattered over the tarps. We sat down and we’re greeted by 2 wonderfully sweet dogs. It was a long drive, 25 minutes, and we got to pet the dogs the whole way. The lady’s husband does a lot of hiking, and she had stories about skiing and coming face to face with a moose.
We were dropped off at the trailhead, and found Winter sitting on the side of the road. She had gone to the Yellow Deli with some other hikers. I started up the grueling climb to Webster Cliffs. My pack was too heavy with too much food, and I was feeling it. The climb was miserable. I passed a father and son out for a few days with massive packs. The father had a gun on his belt, and the son had a huge machete knife on his. I finished Outlander, the audiobook I was listening to, and switched to music.
I finally made it above treeline and had the most spectacular views. It was truly breathtaking and made me remember how amazing it is to be out here, even with the misery of a heavy pack. The rest of the climb up Webster Cliffs was a lot of hand over hand with parts that were dangerously steep. I came across Winter sitting at one of the views and said hi.
On the climb to Mt Jackson, the trail was crawling with day hikers. I passed a large group of teenager boys who were shouting obscenities and yelling at their friends from outlook to outlook. The screaming was a bit much to deal with, so I didn’t linger on the mountain. On the way down, I found a group of SOBOers and chatted with Rapunzel and Packaged Meat.
I finally made it to the first hut, and talking to the crew realized I missed Rash and Piñata by 30 seconds. The trail to the next hut wasn’t terribly difficult. I passed Pockets and his crew. The weather started out as beautiful and sunny, and after getting on the ridge line, the dark clouds rolled in, and the wind started to pick up. I delayed putting on my rain jacket, thinking it would pass, but thankfully decided to stop and put it on. The wind picked up even harder, and pulling myself up over a large rock at the same time as a gust caused me to lose my footing and fall, scraping my leg.
I was starting to get nervous, because the shelter was still a little over a mile away, and the weather looked ominous. The sky was black, and small raindrops were starting to pelt down angrily. I jogged to get to the shelter before I got caught in anything major. Being completely exposed at a high elevation with bad weather and the threat of worse weather was scary. I thought back to all the stories I’ve heard from hikers like Nomad getting caught in storms in the Whites.
I made it safely to Lake of the Clouds hut, and found the place packed with thru hikers and day hikers with reservations. Rash and Piñata were talking with Birk and Medicine Man, Winter was sitting on a bench, and Lilo and Stitch were there, but were without their packs. Their friend was slackpacking them, and planned to drive and meet them on Mt Washington (1.5 miles away), but the auto road up Washington was closed due to the weather. I realized somewhere along the way, either from the wind or my fall, I lost one of my Smart water bottles. Luckily it wasn’t my main one with the rubber holder.
We met a group of SOBOers: Fern, Big Friendly German (BFG), Nature Boy, and Doc (a NOBOer) and had a fun evening talking. We were all doing work for stay, and got the leftover stuffed shells, peas, salad, and brownies. We all found places on the floor to set up our sleeping pads, me in between Birk and Piñata, and we turned in after lights out at 9:30pm.
Day 135, 7/10: Lake of the Clouds hut -> Pinkham notch (15 miles)
I didn’t sleep well last night, and woke up tired around 5am as people started to stir. We packed up, then waited on the bench while the day hikers ate breakfast. We were impatient to get on the trail, but we still had to complete our work for stay. I went outside on a bench with Winter and the nature coordinator, and cooked oatmeal. A small pit bull wandered up, shivering, and we pet her until her owner came out of the hut. He was tenting nearby, and the dog followed him to the hut for breakfast, but she wasn’t allowed inside.
After my breakfast, I waited even longer for the day hikers to finish breakfast. We were eager to get on the trail and start our 15 miles to the hostel. Piñata called ahead and reserved bunks for us. When the day hikers finally finished, we rushed to complete our work for stay. Rash scrubbed the flattop, and Piñata and I, along with the rest of the thru hikers, cleaned the bunk rooms. We folded blankets, swept, and fluffed pillows. We got on the trail a little after 9am.
The 1.5 miles to Mt Washington was rocky, but went by quickly. The huge weather towers loomed over me, so having a goal in sight made it easier to scramble up the rocks. I stopped to put my poles away in the side of my pack, and used my hands to climb the rocks. I was afraid of breaking my tips off, and using hands to climb was more balanced.
It was cold and windy on the summit, but not terrible considering how strong it could be. We took pictures and hung out in the visitors center for a while. I drank hot chocolate and we filled out cards since the visitors center has a post office. We hiked down the rocky summit and passed the cog train on its way up.
During the hike after Washington, I met a Quebec lady and passed her. Shortly after, my foot became stuck in between 2 rocks, and I fell forward. It was on a downhill, so my poles were pinned under me and I couldn’t use gravity to get them out. To make matters worse, my wrists were securely pinned in my pole straps, and I had trouble wiggling out of them. My whole pack weight was pushing down on me, and I struggled to roll over because of my pinned wrists. When I finally got out of that mess and stood up, I saw that thankfully the Quebec lady I just passed didn’t witness my slightly humiliating ordeal. I met Rash and Piñata sitting outside at the next hut. I could see Piñata’s pink rain jacket from the top of the mountain.
Rash and Piñata left shortly after I arrived, but I was exhausted, so I went inside the hut to relax for a few minutes. I put my head down on my multipack and ended up falling asleep for a few minutes. When I woke up, it was starting to drizzle outside. I got my stuff together and slowly started pushing up Mt Madison, which is entirely made up of large rocks. The rain didn’t make the climbing any faster. When I finally made it to the top, the view was breathtaking. The rain clouds were blanketing the sky on one side, and on the other, it was sunny.
The sun came out while I made my way down the other side of Madison, but I was still moving very slowly. The rocks were precarious and slippery. Once I was finally on the descent with ground instead of rocks, the trees became larger. The temperature went from chilly and needing a rain jacket to 80 degrees. The bugs that were absent at high elevations came out in full force, and I stopped to apply Deet and take off layers. While I was stopped, I met a man with dreads and a day pack who is attempting the fastest unsupported thru hike.
I tried hurrying through the last few miles, but I was exhausted. I got my headlamp out for the last 15-20 minutes. I came to the visitors center and found Rash and Piñata sitting on a picnic table. We called the hostel and were picked up by Paul. We didn’t see any moose on the drive, but he assured us they were prevalent through this area. Once we arrived to the hostel, we went to the gas station for food, showered, and turned in.
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