I woke up in the clouds. Madison Spring Hut is at 4800 feet, and the weather changed overnight. Visibility was very low; Mt. Adams, so close by, was invisible in the fog. While we were eating breakfast (BACON!), we watched the mists swirling in the wind, sometimes hiding, sometimes revealing the tiny trees just outside the hut. I still was not very hungry. But I ate.
I was hurting. My arm hurt, my knees hurt, my hands were sore from gripping the poles so tightly, I was banged up and bruised up. My plans to finish the Presidentials, do the steep climbs up five-peaked Wildcat Mountain, and then take a double zero in Gorham to celebrate went sailing off into the mists. I needed that rest NOW.
After getting advice from the hut crew, I opted to take the much easier and more direct blueblazed Valley Way Trail down to Rt. 2 near Gorham, rather then stick to the AT – the AT has a steep climb up the last Presidential, Mt. Madison, then a long, steepish descent to Rt. 16, at Pinkham Notch. I was just not up to it at that point.
So, the blueblazed trail, while steep at times, was much, much easier terrainwise than anything I had done the day before. Eventually it leveled out to a pleasant dirt path walk in the woods, alongside a river with waterfalls. And then to the Appalachia Trailhead a few miles out of Gorham. I caught a ride into town with two others who had been at Madison with me.
My first choice of hostel was already full, so I stayed at Libby’s B&B and Hiker Barn, run by a very kind man named Paul. At first, I wasn’t sure – the sleeping room was up a pretty steep staircase, and I didn’t want to keep going up and down, I wanted to rest the knees. But he set up a comfortable air matress for me downstairs and I slept well.
I did take advantage of his daily shuttle to Wal-Mart to pick up some V8, food for dinner, and most importantly, a knee brace. I would have bought two, but the place only had one of the kind I wanted. It is helping quite a bit. I also made reservations for Sunday and Monday at the White Mountain hostel I originally wanted to stay at, and I may extend that to Tuesday as well. I will see.