Well, here we go – the White Mountains. Other than Maine, this is what we’ve been waiting for, and perhaps even fearing because of the ruggedness and extreme weather that can occur. Planning is important, and mileage needs to be seriously evaluated. I planned on purpose on going very slow, with short-mileage days, keeping tabs on the weather, and making reservations at huts, so I wouldn’t have to rely on work-for-stay once arriving at the huts. While pricey, the reservations turned out to be prudent, and I really enjoyed the hut system, taking advantage of the relative luxury they afford. I watched the work-for-stay game being played from the side, often resulting in rejection because hikers (many of whom I knew) showed up a bit too early and were asked to move on, even though they may be tired or conditions might be questionable. I’m fortunate to be able to have some retirement dollars for this kind of thing!
I also lucked out on weather through the Whites, and had only one terrifying day in the wind. Unlike me, Rumblejunk, Peanut, and two others were caught out on the ridge south of Mount Washington, and had to hunker down in a two-person tent behind a boulder for 10 hours waiting for first light. They weren’t even able to crawl on the trail due to the wind. The weather gods were clearly on my side for my time in the Whites!
The early day from White Mountain Hostel started with rain, which increased into the morning as I went up toward Mount Madison out of Pinkham Notch. Other than some of the summits in Southern Maine, Moriah, Carter and the Wildcats, this was the first hike into what could potentially be treacherous conditions. The wind started as expected as I got above tree line and got too high to hike without being blown over (which happened several times), so I took a fortuitous cross trail called the Parapet to get to the gap between Mount Madison and Mount Adams. Even though more rugged, it got me out of the wind, which got worse as the day went on. I met only one other person that day who went over Madison, and he looked pretty beat up after crawling between cairns over Madison in the fog and wind. Madison Hut was a welcome sight, a safe haven in the storms that occurred that night.
It was nice to see Owl that night, who stopped in for work-for-stay. He mentioned that Southwind, his hiking partner until Vermont, had gotten off the trail.
I got a chance to visit Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest while in North Woodstock wherected I did my Master’s research at UNH. Luck would have it they were having a going-away lunch for a couple of employees so several people that I worked with in the 1980s were there. I also got a tour of the sample archive system and building that my wife Cindy put together when she worked there. Wow, what a treat!
The list of NOBO encounters grows: The Dude and Gatherer (the one I traded jerky for water on Albert Mountain) on Madison Ridge, Owl at Madison Hut, B-Ryan (yup, all the way back from North Carolina) and Berkeley at Lakes of the Clouds, Long Legs, Beast, Moonfire and Moose Dancer between Lakes and Washigton, Bones and Peril on Garfield Ridge, and Turtle atop Mt. Lafayette. I’ve encountered several more NOBOs I didn’t recognize, or perhaps no longer recognize, many of whom may have passed me months ago during that craziness of the bubble in the south.
I met several more NOBOs at the Hikers Welcome Hostel in Glencliff, all of whom we’re anticipating the first rugged section of the Whites (and of the entire trail for that matter) on the south side of Mount Moosilauke, and that doesn’t let up for some 300 miles. Southern Maine. I’ve just exited that same stretch going south, and know that they have a long, tough hike (or climb as it is in some places) ahead. Man am I glad to be out of that!
One last NOBO bubble (dubbed the “Party Bubble”) was just making their way out of a Hanover when I passed through. They represent the last of the hikers coming north. I anticipate encounters now to be much less frequent and reserved for those considering section hiking or splitting. And guess who was in that bubble -Firefly! Yet another chance encounter between us, now the last, as we’re headed in opposite directions.
Fall is slowly arriving – cooler nights, shorter days and some changing colors in the forest. Although five states left, time-wise the end is in sight! A trip to the chiropractor and my normal dose of Vitamin I will hopefully keep me going!