(The difficulty of using one device as phone, camera, and blog writer is that you have to ration its use – especially if you are in the White Mountains where there is almost no electricity! So thanks for your patience; it was quite an adventure up there. Now on with our story.)
What started out with such exuberance became a testimony to endurance as we hit a number of new “extremes” in the Whites: extreme wind (read: blow you down), extreme temperature (read: below freezing with a vengeance), extreme fords (read: raging river), and extreme landscape (read: 90% cliffs and rock scrambles).
We planned for an 8 day hike through this section with one zero (non-hiking day) as recovery before continuing. Instead it took us 12 days and an extra zero for our mental health. Those of you who have hiked the Whites already know the challenges we would face and that it would take us longer than our usual pace. For those of you who know no more than I knew getting into this, let me share more of our story and some photos as well.
The morning after climbing Mt. Moosilauke the Welcome Hiker Hostel was bursting with hikers going north all trying to beat the October 15 deadline to summit Katahdin in Maine. We missed the first carload of 8 at 8 o’clock that were going to slack pack Mt. Moosilauke. We did get in on the second carload that left at 11 o’clock heading to the trail head after the mountain where we would continue our journey.
And, yes, there are 11 adults at 11 o’clock and all our smelly backpacks (some inside) and one dog in this car! Four of them and the dog are in the hatch area. That’s me in the orange cap smashed against the window.
Our journey was “only” 7.5 miles climbing up and over Mt. Wolf and ended at the first shelter/campsite we came to. Swagger & Trail Wreck, and Future & Belch (because he does A LOT – better check out his food allergies!) stopped there too. We didn’t have time to make the next 2000 foot climb before the sun set and the cliffs and rock scrambles it was made of didn’t allow for safe halfway camping spots. Thus we were introduced to a dynamic that would thwart us throughout the Whites.
A few days later the weather started out great:
But then it began to change:
We were among 13 hikers who made a dash for the Zealand Falls hut. A thunderstorm which had been brewing all day let loose with 2 inches of rain in as many hours with lightening strikes nearby. We were about a half hour behind the others and had only a moment to make a decision when we came to this newly raging stream.
With no safe place to wait out the storm except the hut on the far side of it we decided to cross. Loosening and unfastening our backpacks as a safety measure, we held tightly onto the downed tree you can see in the background and waded across with substantial effort to the other side. We got to the hut and joined the other weary wet hikers at the smelly thru hiker table. The first 3 had gotten work for stay but the others were told they would have to go back out into the storm unless they could afford the $125 per person. PD pulled out her Mastercard but our 20 – something year old companions didn’t have the option. They told us to enjoy and promised they’d be okay.
We hiked out to Crawford Notch the next day for a zero day and rented a second room so that they could all get in, get cleaned up, and dry out their equipment.
Our next goal was Lake of the Clouds hut just shy of Mount Washington but again we were thwarted by a second climb that we couldn’t complete before sunset. We did work for stay at Mizpah hut which means we washed dishes in exchange for dinner and breakfast and the opportunity to sleep on the dining room floor. This photo was taken on the top of Mt. Webster…or Jackson…
The next morning we headed for Lake of the Clouds hut as the weather began to turn again – as it does quickly in the Whites.
By the time we got to the hut the only reason we knew we were there was because we were suddenly standing in front of it – the fog was that thick! The staff took in every hiker to discourage any from making a foolish climb up to Mount Washington. We needed no such persuasion. That night was so cold the water from the bottom of our boots froze in puddles on the floor.
The next day we climbed Washington!
Other tourists took the famous cog train up the Mountain.
The views over the next days were spectacular but hard earned with the bruises to prove it!
We took our mental health zero at Pinkham Notch and finished our White Mountains odyssey two days later when we descended into Gorham, NH.
One really cool night shot as we stealth camped on Carter Mountain:
Another two days and we crossed into Maine – but that is a story for another post.
Blessings on the journey, Dragonfly