Trail Notes – August 11 (Mt. Madison, Pinkham Notch)

Oh, people.

The word of the day is euphoria! But it didn’t start that way. I will explain.

I woke up at 5 am in my completely unstealthy stealth camping spot. It had been a kinda restless night, but I got a fair bit of sleep. No large animals (or small ones) disturbed me or my food bag, for which I am grateful. I was packed and on the trail at 6, as soon as it was light out enough to see where I was stepping.

Down, and down, and down. Steeply so. But it started leveling out after about a quarter or third of a mile; I was not very far from the campground at the bottom of the long down after all, but I felt proud of myself for making the right call and camping where I did. It would have been downright dangerous by headlamp at night.

At the campground, I refilled my water, had a pit stop, and chatted with a few hikers packing up. I was the first one on the trail from the campground north, oddly enough. You can always tell. The first to break trail in the morning always gets a faceful of cobwebs along the way.

From the campground to the point where the trail crosses the Mt. Washington auto road was 2.7 miles, and crossed a number of streams, big and small. I had to rockhop all but one – that one had a suspension bridge. Bleh!

This 2.7 mile stretch, I must admit, was very hard on me. Not because the trail was particularly hard, but because I was still feeling worn out from yesterday, I hadn’t had much to eat since breakfast the day before, and psychologically, I was wallowing in a nadir of despair. This post was going to be a plea for encouragement from all of you, but you are spared that. 🙂 Because before I had a chance to cry out to all of you for help, I cried out to God once again to help me get through this, and He works much faster and more directly.

Across the auto road, the AT turns onto the Old Jackson Road. Now a trail, it really was a rutted road once, and the roadish quality remained – I made much better time on it, and in consequence felt better about myself. Answer from God #1.

Along the 2 mile stretch from the auto road to the Notch, I met a group of ladies headed up to a point south. We stopped to chat, and their reaction when I confirmed I was a thru-hiker reminded me all over again that this is an achievement, that this is an accomplishment that other people look up to. Hearing that from a total stranger boosted my morale immensely – I was reminded all over again that there is more to this than endless steep & rocky slopes. Answer from God #2.

I reached Pinkham Notch about 1 pm. As I toured the AMC Visitor Center, the reality that I was finally finished with the Presidential Range started sinking in, and my mood swung toward euphoria. It was impossibly hard, it banged me up, bruised me, made me fall, made me cry, made me hurt… But it didn’t break me, *I* conquered *it*, despite everything, and I walked every step of the way, plus an extra 8 miles on a blue blaze. I am proud of it! 

 My original plan was to reach the Notch, then take a gondola up to the top of Wildcat Mountain, and continue hiking, but as I looked around, I reconsidered. There is a lodge here, as well, and the price, though a bit steep, included an all you can eat dinner buffet and breakfast buffet. Plus, they have an evening astronomy program at 8:30, and we’re on the middle of a meteor shower. Hiking is not all about the miles, but also about the experiences, and I never watched a meteor shower before. I decided to stay. And even though I am not an AMC member, they gave me the AMC rate anyway. Answer from God #3.

The rest of the day was quiet things. I purchased a pair of Mt. Washington shorts that actually fit, to replace the pair threatening to fall down; I read some; I bought some shoe glue to repair my boots; I went and sat by a bubbling stream for a while and took pictures; I ate dinner, which was very good. In about 45 minutes, I’ll be watching for meteors.

Tomorrow, I take the gondola up after breakfast, hike the Wildcats, and part of the Carters. Since today was a short day, tomorrow will be 10 or more miles, but doable since I will be spared the long climb. I figure that since I had to hike almost 8 extra miles because of an injury, I can skip 3 miles of trail to avoid injury – the initial climb up from the Notch to the top of the first Wildcat peak is seriously and dangerously steep and exposed, and it’s supposed to rain tomorrow on top of that. I’ll pass.

I hike on!

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