Phew! I made it through the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I've been nervous about them since I started the Trail. They are definitely the motherload of hiking. In fact, sometimes it's more akin to bouldering or technical climbing (without the luxury of rope and harness) than it is hiking. And except for a few minor slips on wet rocks, I made it through unscathed and uninjured.
My mother was very worried about me hiking over Mount Washington in bad weather. And who wouldn't be worried? Mount Washington has the worst recorded weather in the world! Now, not on a daily basis, mind you. But many people have died over the years and, admittedly, it's got its dangers. I was nervous about it. But we had great weather, well, over Mount Washington.
It was a gorgeous day. We hiked from one hut to the Lake of the Clouds where Odie and I washed some dishes in exchange for coffee and a bowl of soup. Then we started the ascent to Mt Washington - the tourist trap of deadly places. We got to the top, and I headed over to the side to get a picture of the view. The view was of a two-terraced parking lot over the side of the mountain. Yes, you can drive there. You can take a train there. You can get on a mini-van and get shuttled there. Why in the world was I hiking? Odie and I had a really good laugh at that.
However, we needed to keep moving. Rain was moving in during the afternoon, and we still had 2 miles of ridge above treeline to hike before we could get down safely. Well, that was not to be.
The clouds were coming in and we decided to stealth camp at this one little place just at treeline by a spring. Beautiful place. Pitched the tent and crawled inside. No thunderstorm (thankfully) but it rained pretty hard and the winds really picked up speed.
In the morning, we crawled out of the tent into dense fog. We HAD to get off that ridge, and it was 1.5 miles to the next hut where we could get out of the weather. There are small piles of rocks (instead of white blazes) indicating where the trail went on the ridge. The fog was so so dense we couldn't see the next rock pile (called cairns) from the one we just passed. So, that was slow going. Also, there were gusts of wind that almost blew us over, probably nearing 60-70 mph. Not to mention the wet rocks to boulder over.
But we got the beautiful weather AND the scary ridge-running moment (Odie wanted that) - all within 24 hours! Perfect.
One more story about the Whites. Odie and I had this crazy idea that we could slack 16 miles. That was our 1st mistake. We left our sleeping bags and tent behind, and started hiking. 10 miles later, we realize we aren't going to make 16 miles before dark with the ability to get off the mountain and hike back to our gear. So, we make it to the last hut in the Whites - Carter Notch Hut. We admit to the stupidity of what we did and asked if we could work to stay on the floor of the dining room, with perhaps the luxury of a blanket. They fed us, they gave us mattresses and blankets, and we had great conversation and guitar performance. In the morning, they gave us breakfast.
And then they told us about this ice cave. Who could pass that up? Led by one of the hut caretakers, Odie and I crawled through these collapsed rocks and down into the earth below the mountain. We got this amazing sight of ice and water droplets reflecting back like diamonds against the lichens that lived there. Wow. I didn't have my camera so this is an esoteric experience I won't be able to share with you. But diamonds shining in the darkness. So amazing, an ice cave.
We ended the day by hiking the rest of our "failed" slack pack, taking a gondola ride down the mountain (great pictures of another storm over Mt Washington) and hitching into town to an all you can eat chinese buffet. They put us as far away from the other patrons as we were just so muddy and wet, smelly and I did get a few scrapes on my legs from the sharp rocks in the cave. But nothing that didn't get washed away in the shower at the hostel that night before a good night's sleep.
And you all think I'm roughing it out here.
It's been a good week, and I think I'm adjusting to Odie's hiking style, and he's adjusting to mine. We're communicating much better and I think it would be a delight to summit Katahdin with him. We'll see what the Trail provides. And what I decide on the Trail too