6/23/16 Unmentionable Hostel 16 miles
I had a very nervous stomach this morning when I woke up. Today we summit Moosilauke and for some reason I am suddenly terrified. Darwin has been worrying about this mountain since before we even got off trail last year. I am ready to get this beast out of the way.
We started out this morning at a very cruisey pace leaving behind Rambler, Popeye and Olive-Oil who were still packing up. We shared most of the first few miles with just each other until we ran into a Southey. This hiker knew immediately who Darwin was from watching a few of his YouTube videos. This was the first time Darwin had been recognized on the trail so we both giggled with excitement after we stopped and talked with him. Darwin would never admit it openly but he was totally stoked someone recognized him. PEOPLE ARE WATCHING!!!
We made it to a shelter to take an early lunch trying to power up before our climb up Moosilauke. I found it hard to eat as my stomach did flip-flops. I kept on thinking of that stupid elevation chart in the guide and of Roub’s notes for this section. Roub had sent us notes for certain upcoming sections of trail and for Moosilauke he warned us of a steep, slippery decent down a waterfall that was very dangerous. Great! I was trying to convince myself Roub must have been really tired when he had climbed and it wouldn’t be that bad however, I wasn’t very good at convincing myself. The reality of it was Roub knows how I hike and he would be honest as Abe in order to make sure we were prepared. Ugg.
In the middle of our lunch Rambler arrived which made me feel better. She is a strong hiker and I really enjoy our conversations together. Maybe we could talk our way up and over the moose. We passed thru our last “pasture land” at the bottom of the mountain which I was glad for. Darwin and I have become freaks about checking for ticks on these overgrown sections.
We finally began climbing and noticed the gain in elevation was not as drastic as we had expected. We had a lot of water running down the trail from small springs which was very refreshing. Stopping a little here and there to see what we could between trees, I started to feel that everything was going to be okay. Although the climb was long it was not terrible and before I knew it we were on a stretch of somewhat flat ground popping out above tree line. Once at the summit the three of us slapped the sign and took our pictures. We took in our 360 degree view not really knowing what mountains we gazed upon but appreciating the view the AT had finally bestowed upon us.
Feeling like hiker rock stars we started to make our way down. We chatted for a while about random things waiting for the supposed dangerous waterfall to appear. As we continued, our decent became steeper and the rumble of the waterfall could be heard. It wasn’t bad at first and we all stopped to admire the falls; beautiful! As we continued we got closer to the falls and the trail became muddier and rocky. Rambler and Darwin started pulling ahead of me and my frustration to try to keep up grew. Then with just a slight turn the trail changed for the worse. It was like I crossed an imaginary line, this was exactly what Roub had warned about, wet slippery trail with no options to avoid it. My eyes were instantly pinned on my feet watching myself take every step down from one rock to another wet rock, my body suddenly feeling very top-heavy. Just as I was really cursing the rocks, they were gone along with any sign of dirt trail. What was left was worse! Blocks of wet wood, loosely bolted into the side of the mountain’s rock face with the occasional rebarb step (which of course was wet due to the waterfall). Ahh! Give me the rocks back! Are you flipping serious!
I felt like an old rickety lady with a cane going down Moosilauke. The only way I was able to take each step was to analyze it before taking it, shake my trekking poles, take a partial step then step back up, take another partial step then back up, look at Darwin and shake my head, bounce a little like a baby bird about to jump from the nest, then finally make a successful step down. This whole process took a least ten minutes each time. Occasionally I’d stop and wipe the sweat rolling down my face and wipe my sweaty hands on my shorts. It was at this time I would take in my situation and review the options. I’d could either A: plummet to my likely death hitting every freaking wood block on the way straight down, but a least be off the mountain B: buckle from exhaustion into the water fall on my left but at least be cooled off or C: somehow make it down the damn mountain and swear to hate waterfalls the rest of my life.
I went for option C, conquering the longest and most terrifying mile and a half in my personal record book. I was shakey once we reached the bottom and sincerely felt I was going to vomit but I was at least on flat dirt trail. Rain or shine Roub, this was totally my worst decent.