I failed to conquer the world. I couldn’t even hold onto the Eastern United States, though my single soldier dude in Irtusk or something like that fought on to the bitter end!
Oh. You want to hear about the hike, not my pitiful performance at Risk.
Morning Song and I caught the 7:30 shuttle to the Kinsman Notch trailhead, with just barely time to make and eat pancakes, because I overslept and did not wake him when I planned, but we still made it. From the getgo, the trail went up. Up, up, up. And it was all right for a while.
First we had to climb Mt. Wolf, which was very muddy. With granite, the water runs off, and collects wherever it can; into the soil, and the feet of hikers churn it into mud. There was a lot of rock hopping to avoid the worst patches. We climbed from 1870 feet to 3478 feet in about 4 miles or so, but the steepest part was at the very beginning before the energy levels had kicked in. There was a lot of up and down. And it was really great to be hiking with Morning Song again!
We ended the first day at Eliza Brook shelter, about 7 miles up. Days in the White Mountains are going to be inevitably shorter in terms of mileage, due to the elevation changes. The privy was almost full, but the shelter was not – MS and I were the only ones sheltering, the rest were tenting. We celebrated the first day climb with hot cocoa and peppermint schnapps; the temp is markedly cooler at the higher altitudes and I was grateful I had taken along the 20 degree sleeping bag, and sent the 55 degree one head to Gorham.
I woke MS at 7 am (I let him sleep in) and we were on the trail at 8:15. The actual climb up Kinsman waited… It was a pretty easy, if muddy climb, up to Harrington Pond and for the first 8/10 of a mile, the trail paralleled Eliza Brook, a very beautiful stream with plenty of small waterfalls. Then Harrington Pond itself was like a still mirror high in the mountains, with perfect reflections. We had to watch our steps carefully around this area – the normal wooden bog bridges that keep you out of the muck were there, but in this area, the mud and water were just over the surface of the boards, making them very hard to see. Every step was a routine of “tap with hiking pole to determine where the board is, and step very carefully, tap again”, etc. The mud was not just mud, it was liquid mud. Step into it and you sink knee deep, seriously. Though I did fall at another point on the trail where the mud was just thick and muddy, I escaped this section unscathed.
Then. Then the climb itself. Another hiker had described the climb as “brutal”, and I couldn’t help but agree! There was just over a mile of climb, but it was climbing up very steep rockfaces where poles were of little use. This was pure hand over hand climbing, and being short, I had a hard time reaching some of the crevices and rock handholds necessary for hauling myself up. Plus we were carrying 30 lb packs. MS was smarter than I was and took short breaks at times; I did not, and by the time we were close to the top, and confronting yet another very steep section, I broke down in tears. It was embarrassing. He patiently waited while I recovered myself, and after about twenty minutes, we continued… UP. Terrifying at times, almost impossible at times, and HARD.
Finally, above tree line, and on a rounded bump of bedrock, we were on South Kinsman Mountain. MS pulled out his sleeping mat, and took a short nap; I pulled out my fleece jacket to use as a pillow, and reclined as well. Before we left, we each added a rock to the tall rock cairn marking the top. Then it was on to North Kinsman Mountain, close by and not a hard hike; it had killer views of Franconia Ridge and the Presidential Range beyond.
This day ended at Kinsman Pond Shelter, after a grand total of 4 miles, with hot cocoa and rum this time. The water source for this shelter was a pond, which was also great to soak one’s feet in after a long, tiring day.
We veered off the AT to take the reportedly easier Kinsman Pond Trail instead of the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail that the AT follows… and somehow stumbled into fairyland. The trail in the early morning was lined with moss-covered trees and rocks, followed a bubbling, lively, tumbling brook downwards that often burst out into waterfalls, and the light filtering through the trees gave the whole scene an otherworldly quality. We often sat and just drank it all in.
And it /was/ a much easier trail. We reached Franconia Notch in plenty of time to meet his wife, Patti, at the prearranged time, after walking a mile on a paved bike path to reach the Flume Visitor Center, though we did not go to see the Flume itself. They kindly took me into Lincoln to resupply – I will need to carry 5-6 days of food to cover the next sections – and then dropped me off at the same hostel we stayed at two days ago. I had considered hiking on to the Liberty Springs Campsite close to the Franconia Ridge, but strong storms were predicted, and I did not want to be up at altitude if it could be avoided.
And oh, what a great night. The hostel is full of interesting hikers, including two from Nebraska… one is Carlee’s physical therapist and the other knows Marc Rowan. Go figure! A group cooked up a gourmet Italian meal with shrimp pasta, baked garlic bread with cheese, and tomatoes with mozzarella slices on top; beer was abundant; there were musical interludes, including a couple of us singing Veggie Tales songs at the top of out lungs; and hiker conversation continues as I type, though people are retiring now. Hiker midnight.
Tomorrow I plan to hike 10 miles, and cover the whole of the Franconia Ridge, and onto the Garfield Ridge. I also will turn in shortly; it will be a long day with an early start, but I am so full. I am told that this section will not be as tough as Kinsman. I can only hope!
Life is good. I will miss Morning Song all over again though.
I hike on.