(11.9; 356.9 total, 1817.1 to go; -3.1 from pace, -183.1 overall)
It’s an early start today to be ready for a shuttle back to the trail; I eat breakfast and pack up and am on the trail again by about 8:30. It’s a nice walk up to Ethan Pond Campsite, where I duck in to sign the register. I’ve been ducking in most places and huts along the way hoping to find Dan and Leah, since I’m carrying their Companion, but no sign of them anywhere; it’s starting to worry me. This campsite apparently has big bear problems, and there’s a specially designated cooking area about a hundred feet from the shelter; I’m glad I’m not staying there, because that looks like it’d be really frustrating to have to use.
The next stop is Zealand Falls Hut, next to Zealand Falls, and the trail is an extremely pleasant surprise. It’s incredibly flat and easy terrain, and I cover the 4.8 miles between the two places in just under two hours; I rave about the easiness of the terrain in the register at the hut so northbounders will be aware of it. After lunch I continue onward.
The next terrain isn’t nearly so easy, and I make fairly slow time. I’d hoped to make Garfield Ridge, nearly ten miles away, by the end of the day, but instead I find it’s getting late and I’m only near Guyot, 5.5 miles away.
It’s a 0.7 mile trip off-trail to get there, but I’m not really in the mood to bushwhack to find my own site the requisite distance from trail, so I stop there early. My only thru-hiker companion is a guy named “R.B.” as I recall. Dinner is some rice and dried vegetables I picked up from the leftover hiker goods at White Birches; I don’t have directions, so things don’t turn out perfectly rehydrated, but it’s still very much edible. After dinner it’s straight to sleep.
(5.5; 362.4 total, 1811.6 to go; -9.5 from pace, -192.6 overall)
I wake up a little late this morning, but it’s not wakeup time that makes the day go slow; to be honest, I’m not really sure what did make it go slow. All I remember is that it gets to be midafternoon and I’m still not even to Garfield Ridge Campsite, which is more than a bit frustrating. The last stretch of trail up toward the site is incredibly, ridiculously steep. I stand at the bottom marveling at it when I hear voices from up the trail: “That’s way too steep to be the trail, no way that’s it.” I yell up, “Yes it is!” for massive hilarity from my point of view. Day hikers.
It’s still kind of early, but there’s no real place to stay unless I go to Greenleaf Hut, and the register at Ethan Pond said to avoid it, so I stop super-early for the day. I’m eventually joined by a bunch of other hikers: Old Dawg and the Foot Machine are northbounding, and Medicine Man, Privy, and Hungarian are southbounding, among others I don’t remember. The caretaker, Claire, comes around to collect payment
in blood from people staying the night; her job during the winter is “Solid Waste Supervisor” (not human waste, note) or somesuch at McMurdo in Antarctica. I try to get to sleep early so I can get an early start the next day and hopefully make more reasonable mileage than I’ve made the last two days.
(15.1; 377.5 total, 1796.5 to go; +0.1 from pace, -192.5 overall)
I wake up around 5 and get the early start I’d intended. Before I head out, I sign the shelter register. The register has an amusing, unsigned (of course) rant yesterday from someone complaining about going into the wilderness to get away from capitalism yet still being followed by it and the AMC monopoly. In my entry I take the time to differentiate capitalism from monopolies (capitalist societies do often act to curb them, after all) and note that it’s really the government-sponsored monopolies, as here, that are most dangerous.
The first stop is the top of Mount Garfield for a sunrise; the valleys around are still covered in fog, making for a beautiful view.
Next up after a bit more hiking is the famous Franconia Ridge, consisting of Mount Lafayette and Mount Lincoln (and I suppose Little Haystack Mountain). The views from both peaks and along the ridge are fantastic; here’s what it looked like from Lafayette:
The walk along the ridge, despite going up and down a bit, is actually easy walking. The descent down is the usual sheer-cliff drop, but once I get past most of it it’s easy walking to Liberty Springs Tentsite. However, I’m making good time and it’s early, so I continue on.
Around 17:30 I reach Lonesome Lake Hut, the southernmost of the huts. Its main attraction is Lonesome Lake, and the swimming looks too good to pass up. I stop, swim and dry for an hour, pick up six Snickers bars to tide me over for trail snacking out of the Whites, and continue on another two hours to Kinsman Pond Campsite. It’s the last fee site in the Whites (yay!), and I’m even offered a work-for-stay while I’m there, but I want to make good time the next morning, so I pass it up and fork over my payment
in blood of $8. The shelter’s super-duper new, and it’s really spiffy.
(13.1; 390.6 total, 1783.4 to go; -1.9 from pace, -194.4 overall)
Unlike yesterday, I don’t get an early start; in fact, it’s really rather sluggish, and I’m passed by a couple thru-hikers who opted to stop for the day yesterday at Lonesome Lake Hut.
On the trail things proceed at a mellow pace. I pass a trail crew doing maintenance, with a radio playing Steve Miller’s Jet Airliner in the background. There are a couple people at Eliza Brook Shelter when I pass by, but I continue on. There are an awful lot of people heading north toward the shelter that I pass as I head toward Kinsman Notch, and I suspect some people were forced simply due to lack of space to tent.
Around 19:00 or so I reach Kinsman Notch, at which point only 1.6 miles remain to Beaver Brook Shelter on the slopes of Mount Moosilauke, the last above-treeline travel on the A.T. heading south. One slope is so steep there are wooden blocks and rebar in places for hand- and footholds; my understanding was this was the southern slope, so I’d be hitting it tomorrow morning. My understanding was wrong. Oops. It’s now twilight and I’m busy scrambling up a ridiculously steep ascent with a weak flashlight as the sun goes away; it’s about 20:30 by the time I finally reach the shelter, safe and sound, in full nighttime darkness. The shelter’s full, so I pull out my tent and use it bivy-style for the night after a quick dinner.
(7.9; 398.5 total, 1775.5 to go; -7.1 from pace, -201.5 overall)
I wake up around five when another camper is taking pictures of the sunrise; it’s a nice sunrise, but my camera can’t capture its colors very well.
I slowly meander into making breakfast, in no rush since I’m planning on a short day into Glencliff and the hostel there. I’m hiking by about 7:45 and reach the cloud-covered top of Moosilauke by about 9:30, at which point I start my descent into the hiker superhighway south of the Whites.
Today’s terrain is nice and easy, no steep ascents or descents, and I’m into Glencliff shortly after noon. I grab a bike (rock on!) and head over to nearby Warren for resupply, including a half gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream (eaten in Warren before the return trip), and return with supplies to get to Hanover and the NH-VT border. Several northbounders (among them Doctor Zayus, Start, and Chef, whom I met in a backpacking trip over spring break down in the first two hundred miles of the A.T. in North Carolina) are holding a small barbecue, so I chip in some money and get awesome food for really cheap; alas, they go for cheap Budweiser, so I have to buy my own Guinness bottle to have anything tasty to drink with the meal. After eating and doing some more trail update writing, I head to sleep.
Now that all the hard stuff is done, it’s time to start cruising; it shall be awesome. Also, as a note from the future, I’m currently at -173.9 after stringing together a week or so of averaging around twenty miles a day, including one gangbusters thirty-mile day. Things are looking great for an on-time finish, although I’m now starting to eye a possible one-week off-trail hiatus to do trail maintenance for the fun of it during my thru-hike, which might just fit in my schedule if I can keep up a good pace. We shall see…