July 21, 2013
Today’s mileage: 14.0
Total mileage: 1846.9
Tired from our late night into camp and a long day the day before, we “slept in” and left at 8:00. We are slowly becoming earlier starters. It only took us four months. Surprisingly, the first five miles were relatively flat compared to all of the other hiking that we’ve done in the Whites. It felt good to cruise again as we made our way towards Crawford Notch. I rolled my right ankle this morning as I lost my footing going down the trail. It hurt at the time, but ended up being okay. I had rolled my left ankle in Massachusetts, which had bothered me for a few days, so I was hoping that I wouldn’t have another repeat of that incident.
At Crawford Notch, we crossed the busy Route 302 and then started our big climb up to Mt. Webster. We had an elevation gain of 2,700 feet in 3.3 miles. There were several sections that we had to hoist ourselves up using our hands instead of our poles. A little like rock climbing for us. A few times, I was almost pulled back down by the weight of my pack. And we had to be extra careful when the rocks were slippery. The hard climb was worth it, as we were rewarded with amazing views down to the notch and of the mountains that we climbed yesterday. It was an absolutely beautiful day, one that we’ve waited for for awhile. The temperature was perfect, the humidity was lower, and the wind cooled us down on the mountaintops. We took a break at Webster Cliffs, overlooking the Saco River and several mountains across the notch. It was turning out to be a really good day for us.
After continuing our steep climb up to Mt. Webster, we got our second view of Mt. Washington. The summit was in the clouds again, but we could really see it now, the peak standing out among the other Presidentials. It looked barren, desolate, one that stood out among the rest. Our closest view yet made us excited for our climb up there tomorrow. We also had a view down to the Mt. Washington Hotel, its red roof standing out in the green valley. Even though the Whites are so close to where we live, this is actually only the second time that I’ve been here in my life. The last time I was here was when I was two or three years old when my family and I came here to cross-country ski back in the early 90s. Our visit is one of my earliest memories. I remember sitting in my small, wooden sled being pulled by my dad as my parents and sisters skied down the trails.
From Mt. Jackson we had an even closer view of Mt. Washington. This time, the clouds cleared away and we could see the summit perfectly. We could also see the Mizpah Spring Hut, our destination for the night. It’s cool when you can see the huts as you hike through the Whites. We usually can’t see our destination for the day on the AT, so it’s a unique experience for us. We arrived at the hut at 4:15, several guests sitting out in the sun. Although we could have gotten work-for-stay, we wanted to tent instead. It looked like it was going to be a nice night and we wanted to enjoy our night relaxing instead of being at the whim of the hut schedule regarding our work, dinner, and sleep. The hut workers are really nice and are always welcoming to thru-hikers, but we decided that we would rather pay to camp and stay away from the crowds. The tent site is just off in the woods from the hut. We met the caretaker and she directed us towards our tent platform. We were some of the first people here, but now the place is at capacity, full of mostly SOBOs and weekend hikers. It’s a popular spot since it’s about six miles from Mt. Washington. It’s cooler up here at 3,800 feet. I had to wear my coat for the first time since I don’t even remember when. Somewhere in Virginia.
I’m getting used to the terrain here and I no longer worry about doing the steep climbs. I just try to take it one step at a time and to make sure I’m concentrating fully on my steps up or down the steep, rocky sections. We hope that we have a good day tomorrow on Mt. Washington, but you never know up here. The weather could change in an instant.