One last thought on the Vermont / New Hampshire border: the last town in VT on the AT is Norwich. The Trail actually brings hikers through Norwich, over a bridge and through Hanover, NH before they return to the mountains. I snapped the earlier VT/NH picture from the center of that bridge. I am pretty sure the walk is 3.7 miles and it is the longest non-mountain stretch on the AT. Norwich, VT and Hanover, NH are two picturesque small towns that both look like New England post cards, with Hanover being the larger and more artsy.
On Monday, June 5th, I experienced two more instances of Trail Magic, which brightened a mostly rainy day. The first was ice-cold Cokes. The second was a bit unusual. Halfway up a 1500-foot ascent there was a large plastic box labeled “Thru-Hikers.” I opened the box and and thought I had won the lottery! It was full of Cokes, large packages of double-stuffed Oreos, tortillas and Snickers bars. I did what any thru-hiker would do: took four Oreos and rolled them up in a tortilla, making a delicious Oreo wrap. I saved a Snickers for later. This find was unusual in that it was rather high in the mountain. I had seen and spoken to a ridge runner (a volunteer who maintains and repairs sections of the Trail) about a half hour earlier and I suspect it might have been him. If it was, he certainly gave no indication he was the Trail Angel.
Although it rained hard all the night of the 5th and the next day was cold, I was committed to reaching the Rt 25A trailhead 17 miles away because Diane and my sister, Arline, were meeting me there. I got up at 0430, packed, made coffee, had a bite to eat and left at 0545 in the cold, pouring rain. I knew it would be a difficult hiking day because of the weather, two challenging ascents and one steep descent. I was not wrong. It was by far the most grueling day I’ve had on the Trail. It took me 13 hours to do those 17 miles. Many streams had to be forded, and the Trail had significant flowing water and mud on ascents and descents throughout the 17 miles. It was very cold and windy, considerably more at elevation, and it rained all day. Unfortunately no pictures were possible, because views from the top of Mount Cube would have been stunning had there been blue skies and clear visibility. I arrived at the trailhead just before dark, shivering with the cold. It was so good to see Diane and Arline and get into a warm car.
Arline lives part-time in Lincoln, NH and we all enjoyed some time together. The Trail needs some warm weather and a reprieve from the rain to dry out. The thought of continuing my hike in those conditions was ridiculous, not fun. A zero could not have come at a better time. After I had a wonderful shower, Arline made a great New England boiled dinner consisting of steamers, lobster, corn on the cob, sausage, and potatoes. It was delicious.
Thankfully, June 7th and 8th were warm with no rain, which made Trail conditions much better. I was eager to do some slack packing while Diane and Arline were nearby. On the 8th I passed this welcome sign on the Trail.
Also on the 8th, I climbed Mt Moosilauke. This mountain has been on my mind, since it poses the most difficult elevation profile for me yet. The ascent was 3800 feet and the descent was 3000 feet. It was my first test in the Whites and I thought I did reasonably well. It certainly did a lot for my confidence. Much of the initial ascent was paralleled by an accompanying waterfall. The heights of the Trail going up and the waterfall coming down were very impressive. It took me an hour to climb this amazingly steep and long waterfall trail.
After two hours of what seemed like all vertical climbing, I thought I would be as high as heaven. After three hours, I knew I must be looking down on heaven. When I reached the summit, there were no trees, which made for wonderful, unobstructed 360 degree views. It was a good hiking day.
The evening of the 8th, Diane, Arline and I all went out to eat at The Common Man and ordered Nantucket Pie (essentially a sea food casserole): a five-star meal. I can’t get enough good New England seafood!
Knowing that I faced a week of extremely strenuous hiking, Diane planned out a detailed schedule, including reservations at several Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) huts, which are strategically located throughout the White Mountains. We are trying to set me up for success in the Whites, and spending nights at these huts is an option many thru hikers utilize. Hiking will definitely be more difficult and much slower for the next week.
Before Diane left to return to NC on the 10th, she and Arline dropped me off at a trailhead and we both resumed our very different paths. I am going to miss Diane, as she spoils me and has incredible organizational skills and helpful suggestions. As I said in an earlier post, she is my rock.
Fortunately, although Diane had returned home, Arline remained in NH which allowed me to slack pack another day. Despite the reprieve from the Beast, my slack hike was more rugged and time consuming than I anticipated. It lasted more than 13 hours and I was pretty much spent at the end of the hike. Diane suggested I take another day off, and Arline was more than willing to help. Done! Sunday was a Zero.
After Mass on Sunday the 11th, Arline and I drove to Mt. Washington to ride the cog train. When we arrived, we were told the train would only go 3/4 of the way up, due to sustained winds of 55 mph and gusts up to 80 mph. Yet the weather was wonderful and we could clearly see the summit the whole way. This gave me pause, because I must climb Mt. Washington.
We returned to Lincoln and ate at The Station, another good restaurant.
Today I had to get rid of a good but stinky friend. These two pairs of hiking shoes were once identical, but one pair has served its purpose and needs replacement. Before seriously getting into the Whites, I want new tread and no holes in my hiking shoes.
Because I took an extra zero, it affected the Appalachian hut reservations Diane had made. Arline suggested that I go back on the Trail for 4 days, and she would pick me up at a trail head at Crawford Notch, NH on Thursday, June 15th. I could take a zero on Friday the 16th, which would put my upcoming reservations back on schedule. So that is what we will do.