July 19, 2013
Today’s mileage: 5.7
Total mileage: 1815.5
We cleared out of the dining room before breakfast and were back on the trail by 7:00. Bobby, the caretaker that had cooked breakfast, gave me a piece of homemade coffee cake on our way out the door. There’s nothing like eating a fresh-out-of-the-oven piece of coffee cake as you start your hike. Too bad the rest of our morning wasn’t as pleasant.
We didn’t think the three miles down to Franconia Notch would be all that bad, but we were quickly proven wrong. First, we took the wrong trail, so we had to backtrack to the hut. That added an unnecessary .6 miles to our day right off the bat. The AT follows several trails in the Whites and the signs don’t always tell you if you’re on the AT. Our guidebook tells us when we switch to a new trail and the AT is always white-blazed in the forest, but you just have to make sure you’re paying attention. It was slow going as we hiked down the trail, which was more of a stream/mud pit than anything else.
Then, we came upon Cascade Brook. The water was raging and high after the storm from last night. We had no other choice but to ford since the bridge had been washed out and not been replaced yet. Remember how I was scared crossing the log over a brook in Vermont? Well, this was ten times more terrorizing than that crossing. Miles went first and made it safely across. Now, it was my turn. He stayed close to the rushing current near the edge of the brook ready with his poles, in case I fell in. I stepped into the cold water in my Crocs, my shorts rolled up, and my pack cover on. As I approached the rushing current, I became disoriented from the movement of the fast-moving water. Fear struck my body and I backed off, telling Miles that I couldn’t do it. All I could think about was the one misstep that I was likely to make and how my pack would anchor me below the surface and whisk me away downstream. Drowning. It was all that I could think about. But, I knew there was no other option. Slowly, I fought against the current. I was so scared, I started crying as I got stuck in the harsh waters, afraid of what might happen if I took a wrong step. I guess you’re supposed to stay composed in situations like this, but all I could taste was fear. Miles reached out to me and I swiftly grabbed hold of his hand as I slipped a little on the bed of rocks. I walked to the edge of the brook still crying, not wanting to look back at what I had just done. I knew that my reaction wasn’t only set off by the brook crossing, but a release of every emotion that I’ve been feeling lately. It just took a moment of fear to release everything that had been bottled up inside me for so long.
I sat at the brook’s edge putting my shoes back on, exhausted, but relieved that I had made it across. I waited for what bad luck might come my way next.
After almost 2.5 hours, we made it to the trail crossing where we would have to take a mile side trail to Route 3. This was our toughest hitch yet. It took about 30 minutes until someone pulled over to pick us up, an older man who had just shuttled three other hikers to the trail. I sat up front with him as we drove into Lincoln and he said that his son thru-hiked in 1989 and did the Pacific Crest Trail in 1994. He took us to Price Chopper where we resupplied, called our parents, and then got lunch at a pizza place. It was super hot in the valley in comparison to the mountains, so we were glad that we were heading back out soon. We quickly realized this morning that there was no way that we would be able to hike to Mt. Garfield, which was ten miles from Franconia Notch. We knew the Whites would slow us down, but we didn’t realize how much. We took our time in town, knowing that hiking to Liberty Springs 2.7 miles on a steep uphill was the best option. There was a threat of thunderstorms, and the last place we wanted to be was on the Franconia Ridge Trail, fully exposed to the elements for two miles.
We took our time on the ascent and arrived around 3:40. We set up on the tent platform and relaxed in the sun, the wind drying our sweat-drenched clothes. We talked to the caretaker for awhile and learned about his daily, weekly, and monthly privy maintenance. Miles realized that he left one of this shirts and a pair of shorts at the hut this morning. It’s unfortunate for him since we only carry a couple of pairs of clothes total. He may be able to get them back somehow, but he may just have to leave them behind for good.
I’m ready for bed and it’s only 8:00 PM; an early night for us. Tomorrow, there is a higher chance of thunderstorms during the day. We’re hoping to get up early, so that we can get over the exposed ridge before the storms hit. We can only hope that luck will be on our side.
As a SOBO hiker mentioned to us in Vermont: “It’s high adventure in the Whites!”
That it is. That it most certainly is.