July 22, 2013
Today’s mileage: 15.5
Total mileage: 1862.4
We woke up to a beautiful morning in the Whites and we felt ready to dominate the Presidential Range. On our way to Mt. Washington, we climbed up and around several mountains; each one taller than the previous one. We started with Mt. Pierce, skirted around Mt. Eisenhower, to the peak of Mt. Franklin, and then around Mt. Monroe before reaching Lakes of the Clouds Hut. Our hike this morning was one of my favorite sections of the trail by far. We were above the tree line the entire time and as we reached each peak, the clouds would clear away for us. It was as if Mother Nature was rewarding us for persevering through all of the rain, storms, and humidity of the past month. We even got a clear view to the summit of Mt. Washington, which is usually covered in clouds. I felt lucky that we had such beautiful weather for one of the most anticipated days of our thru-hike.
We took a break at Lakes of the Clouds Hut out on one of the benches. I was surprised at how warm it was there as we sat outside in shorts and longsleeve shirts. After our quick break, we made the final 1.3 mile ascent to the summit of Mt. Washington. The trail was very rocky in this section, you know, like Pennsylvania, but with way better views. As we reached the top, the clouds rolled in and we lost our view. Once we rounded the corner from the weather station, we entered Tourist Land. Even on a Monday, there were hoards of people roaming the area. I laughed when I saw a huge line of people waiting to have their picture taken with the Mt. Washington summit sign. People were snapping photos of us, since I guess thru-hikers are just a part of the show up there on Mt. Washington.
We went inside the main building to eat and warm up a little. It was fairly windy up on top, but was mild for the mountain. For some reason, there was a separate bathroom for hikers downstairs. I’m still trying to figure out why we would need to use a separate bathroom away from everyone else. Would we scare off the tourists? I used the “tourist” bathroom without any issues. I was half-expecting someone to yell at me for using the wrong bathroom and not putting my pack in the “hiker pack room.” One woman asked us if we hiked to the top and couldn’t understand what we were doing at all. It took Miles a few minutes to explain to her what we were doing. She thought we were saying that we were from Georgia and she asked us if we had driven part of the way up and hiked the rest to the top. When we told her we had hiked from Georgia on the AT, she said, “I’m from out-of-state, so I don’t really know what you mean.” I wanted to say the we were from out-of-state too, but I kept my comments to myself. She couldn’t fathom what we were doing and she laughed as she walked away from us. I laughed too. I couldn’t stand to be up there any longer, especially after a couple proceeded to stand right in front of me outside and blow their cigarette smoke right into my path. I bluntly had to state, “I’ve had enough of this shit,” and we got out of there as fast as we could. Once we were back on the trail, I let out a sigh if relief. It’s too bad that one of the tallest mountains that we climb is an unbearable tourist haven. It’s like climbing up Cadillac Mountain, but ten times worse. The most interesting part was the list of deaths on Mt. Washington. A lot of them seemed to happen in the winter in the ravines. There have already been two deaths this year. The most recent was in March when a 24 year-old man fell 1,000 feet to his death.
The ridge down to Madison Spring Hut was challenging as we hiked across miles of rocks in the clouds. This section was very remote, although we passed several people hiking from hut to hut. As soon as we descended down from Mt. Washington, we took off our coats and hats, the first time we’ve worn them while hiking in a very long time. It was a little chilly at the top, but not nearly as cold as I expected. We were back in shorts and t-shirts by the next hut. As we reached Madison Spring Hut, the clouds began to clear and we had beautiful views down to the valley. We weren’t sure if we were going to stop at the hut or not, but the the threat of bad weather tomorrow made he decision for us. It was 4:30, but we decided to hike three more miles to Osgood Tentsite.
We had a steep, but enjoyable climb up Mt. Madison, which loomed high above the hut. It was one of my favorite climbs that we’ve done so far. It felt so cool to be standing at the top of rocks, high above everything, looking out to the world below. The long descent towards Pinkham Notch was slow, steep, and rocky like the rest of the Presidential Range. It took us 2 hours and 45 minutes to reach Osgood Campsite, which was full when we arrived. I was so tired, but we had no choice but to move on and find a camp spot further down the trail. Finally, after .6 miles, we found a small spot near Parapet Brook.
I’m now finding it hard to believe that I never even thought to hike in the Whites until my thru-hike. I live a mere few hours from here and it’s never even crossed my mind. We’ve been very lucky with the weather the past few days here in one of the most beautiful and unforgettable sections of the AT. Today is another day of hiking that I will always remember.