June 21, 2018
Destination: Eliza Brook Shelter Today's Miles: 15.90
Start Location: Jeffers Brook Shelter Trip Miles: 1809
I woke up early at Jeffers Brook, before 5, but snoozed and so I really just started moving a few minutes before 5.
Last night I had talked with two cool section hikers who were moving southbound. They were Tufts University alumni and knew some of the folks working at the huts. They said they would write me notes to hand to their friends at the huts to take care of me, whatever that might mean. Maybe a bit of food, or a floor to sleep on! Either way, it was super cool of them, and I was kind of excited about getting to deliver a “hello how are ya” note on the trail. I felt like some kind of mountain courier. They had left the notes for me under a water bottle, so I quietly grabbed them as I prepared to head out. I have this funny camp thing - no matter what time I get up, I can’t get on the trail until a few minutes past 6. I could probably get up at 2am and it would take me 4 hours and 15 minutes to hit the trail. Today was no different - I started hiking at 6:15.
Today was a big day. I would climb Moosilauke, resupply in Lincoln, and end up somewhere depending on how long that all took. I was very excited walking along. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the scenery on the Whites. I wasn’t sure how Moosilauke would be. It was a good excitement though. I had planned my last food supply well after Transformer and I poured over the book and miles to see how we could keep ourselves light for the Moose. I had about a heavy half day of food and I had eaten a good calorie-rich breakfast. I was carrying a little less than a liter of water. I felt strong and agile on my feet. This was going to be good! And it was. The climb up was steep but not that bad. It was normal hiking steep - I didn’t have to take my pack off or do any bouldering. The trip down the mountain on the north side was steeper. This was the piece I was most concerned about. But, I think it had become something so crazy in my head that when I actually hiked it, I thought “oh...ok. This isn’t bad at all.” It wasn’t bad. I just took all of the advice - I went slowly, stayed on the path, paid careful attention to the wet rock, etc. in my head I was going to be hanging off a cliff with one hand while swinging to an anchor point, something like Sylvester Stallone in that movie “Cliffhanger.” In reality, it was just a steep, rocky hike. That was all good stuff and a real confidence booster! What wasn’t ideal was that as I climbed up the Moose, the fog and wind rolled in. Today was an absolutely gorgeous day, except for when I was on the Moosilauke summit. I got up there and went to the south peak first. I saw two rabbits and a whole lotta grey. I then continued to the summit, where the winds were probably gusting at 25-30 mph and just blowing fog across the mountain into a grey abyss. I had to put my rain jacket on to keep warm, and water dripped from my beard where moisture from the fog was collecting. After all the buildup, I was really hoping for an awesome view. That said, the trail always gives me what I need when I need it, and so I have to trust in that. Maybe I needed one last reminder of how fast weather can change here. Maybe I needed to be reminded that nature doesn’t care about my plans; that I am insignificant. Or maybe I just needed to remember that sometimes just doing something I’m nervous about is enough of a win. I did get some nice views through the trees going down the north side of the Moose, especially along a long cascading waterfall beside the trail.
I was elated when I got to Kinsman Notch. I got there at about 11am, filtered some water at a brook just before the parking area, and ate the last coffee crisp Whotewater had sent me from Canada. Nom nom nom those things are good! At the parking lot I went up by the road and stuck my thumb out to get a ride into Lincoln. An older gentleman named Kevin pulled up and offered me a ride. Kevin was a shop teacher at a nearby high school. He had two little dogs in the car, which were barking at me. One little wire haired dog was named Otis, and he quickly took a shining to me. Kevin was pretty funny. He said “sometimes I regret picking up hikers because they stink SO BADLY! Especially when it’s wet out. I mean, I get it, but then I gotta go have the upholstery in my car cleaned.” I laughed and told him I was glad I made the cut. He’s right though - sometimes we do smell pretty dang awful!
Kevin wished me luck and dropped me at Price Chopper. I thanked him profusely, handled my resupply and bought a sandwich as well. I sat outside and ate the sandwich. As I finished, a skinny hiker walked up and introduced himself as Fat Tony. He is a flip flopper and Carl had mentioned him yesterday. He was resupplying as well.
I walked back out to the road to try and hitch back. A few people stopped, but they were going to other places away from the trailhead. Still, I was impressed at how many stopped. At one point I had my thumb out as a state trooper drove by. Fortunately he did not stop and give Me a ticket! As I walked and thumbed I came across an ice cream stand. I definitely needed some soft serve! As I sat eating, an older gentleman approached and asked if I was hiking through. I said yes and he asked me where I was going and if I wanted a lift. AWESOME! Their names were Paul and Joyce and they had just finished playing mini golf next door. They had both thru hiked together in 1998! They also have thru hiked the Vermont Long Trail, the Buckeye trail, and the American Discovery trail - pretty impressive! They were just the nicest and most supportive couple. They had lived in New Hampshire all of their lives and had very distinctive New Hampshire accents. It was unique sounding, though I guess I haven’t met many people from New Hampshire. I felt bad because we went to the wrong trailhead at first and had to drive back to Kinsman Notch, but they were not phased at all. I really liked them and hope that when we are that age, Gillian and I will have a rap sheet of adventures too!
When they dropped me off at Kinsman, the two Tufts section hikers, Isaac and Tim (Taffy and Rook were their trail names, respectively), were trying to hitch into town. I watched as Paul and Joyce scooped them up and headed back to Lincoln. They are just incredible people! At this point I was feeling like a million dollars. Lincoln was a super cute town, I was excited about all of the great people I had met over the last few days, I was overflowing with gratitude for all of it, and I was totally excited about the Whites. I was ready to keep hiking!
The climb out of Kinsman Notch was challenging with a fresh supply of food. I didn’t think New Hampshire had copperheads, but I walked up on a smaller one sunning itself on a rock in the trail. It moved off, fortunately. The hiking for the rest of the afternoon was what everyone says it will be - tough. Steep climbs, big step ups, and in a few places some seriously deep mud! It was gorgeous though. I climbed Mt. Wolf and got a view of Franconia Ridge to the north. It was almost 6:30 when I got to the shelter. It was a really nice setup - no one else was there! I still set up my tent, as I prefer to sleep in it. I made my dinner and have the place to myself tonight. Unfortunately I have no cell signal.
What a day! I’m crushing so hard on New Hampshire right now! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. I’ll see my first hut tomorrow and climb some big mountains. I was so grateful for this entire journey today, and for the important lessons it is teaching me. I was grateful for the wisdom and support of Kevin, Paul and Joyce. People like them and all of the other trail angels are like beacons on a broader journey. I am grateful for their light.