June 25, 2018
Destination: Stealth Campsite at Mile 1871.9 Today's Miles: 15.40
Start Location: Lake of the Clouds Hut Trip Miles: 1871.90
I slept well on the hut floor. I woke up early, at about a quarter to five, as the crew got into the kitchen and started to work.
We all started getting up and ready, slowly but surely. As an aside, I forgot to mention in my last post that Zoom Zoom also did work for stay. The weather outside looked pretty ugly. The wind was blowing foggy mist all over and visibility was quite poor. We hung out at a side table while the hut guests ate breakfast. At around five past eight, we decided to make our move. Apollo, Skutch and I went out first. There was a large group of people heading up the mountain in single file from the hut. They were moving pretty slowly, and we were pretty cold, so we went back in the hut to give them some time to get up the mountain, rather than try and blow past them. I also changed into my long sleeve smart wool and put my rain pants on over my shorts. After a bit we headed back out and started up the mountain. Apollo and Skutch went first and I hung back to go up with Zoom Zoom and Fat Tony. Snuggs was doing some work to get breakfast.
Visibility on the way up was basically cairn to cairn. It was a short mile and change up and not a difficult climb. It was very windy and pretty cold, but we have been in much colder and worse conditions before, so it was fine. It was a bummer not to have any views, but we took a summit photo and went inside the visitor center. In the visitor center they had a snack bar, bathrooms, trash cans and A few stealthy outlets. I focused first on the latter two, plugging my phone and battery pack to charge in an outlet right below the registration log book, and dumping my accumulated trash in the trash can. It felt good to ditch that weight, and my phone was almost dead so the outlet was a timely find. There was a sign in the lobby that said “ Mt. Washington: Worst Weather in the World.” Apparently it really does have some of the highest winds and most volatile weather. There was also a plaque that listed the names of all the people who had died on Mt. Washington. It was not a short list. It included how they died, and I saw one that said “drowning.” Wow, that sucks! You climb to the second highest peak on the AT, prep for the weather so as not to die at the summit, and then fall into the Lake of the Clouds and drown! I ate a freshly baked cookie and had a cup of coffee, chatting with the others.
After a while we decided to go down. I changed back to short sleeves and rain jacket and took my rain pants off to hike in shorts. We carefully made our way down, visibility still being a problem. We hiked down around the side of Mt. Clay and Mt. Jefferson, and I think it was around the time we went around Mt. Adams that it started to clear up. At first there were still clouds shrouding Washington’s peak, but eventually they moved away and left us with spectacular views of Washington and the other Presidentials, or The Dead Presidents, as I like to call them. We stopped at Madison Spring Hut before climbing Mt. Madison. I ate a ton of breakfast leftovers there and poured maple syrup all over my pancakes and oatmeal. I felt like Elf. After a break there, we set off to climb Madison and then descend into Pinkham Notch. We had absolutely gorgeous views of the Presidentials from Madison. It was pretty darn epic! I loved watching hownthe light would change as clouds passed over the mountains, briefly casting their shadows on the mountain sides and valleys.
The descent down into Pinkham Notch was brutal. It was knee-jarring, rock-hopping, slow-going, find-your-footing-or-break-an-ankle brutal. Zoom Zoom and I held up the rear, and by the time we rolled into the Pinkham Notch visitor center, we had Bambi legs and were hallucinating about food. Sadly, while they served food there, it was seemingly just for lodge guests, or we got there too late. Snuggs was there and also said no dice on the food. We got snacks inside from the shop instead. I was pretty tired and just ate a bunch of garbage. My dinner consisted of Reese’s cups, a Twix bar, a turtle ice cream bar and a huge brownie. That brownie was soooooo delicious! Pretty sure I was borderline getting diabetes eating that “meal” though. Oh well.... the trail will provide?
After the visitors center we walked like tired zombies to find a stealth campsite. Me, Fat Tony, and Zoom Zoom ended up camping just north of Apollo, Skutch and Snuggs. We camped right beside a beautiful river. In warmer weather I would probably have gone for a dip in the nice swimming hole that was just in front of our campsite. Today, while I didn’t have visibility on the Washington summit, I did have incredible views traversing the other Dead Presidents. I was grateful for this, to have hikers to team up with for safety, and to be able to make it to a nice spot to camp for the evening (rainfly free!). Tomorrow I will work my way up Wildcat mountain and a handful of other mountains. If all works out I will go to the next notch and stay at Rattle Rattle River Hostel. We’ll see!