We started out our day powered by “Patriotic Pancakes” thanks to some help from a fellow hiker “After-Burner” and Harrison from Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camps. We had read about this place from the guide and from a map hanging in the shelter. Roub had also listed this place as a MUST so we had no choice but to check it out and what a great place it was! Harrison was a wonderful fellow and a great cook. The camp was and is everything Darwin and I want to do. There is a magic there that was very hard to leave; hopefully we find it for ourselves one day. (I failed at eating all of my thirteen pancakes leaving maybe three behind.)
We took the ferry across the Kennebec River a few miles after our pancakes. I can easily understand why so many have tried to walk across; the river is very deceiving. The ferry operator was extremely nice as well as his two young sons who assisted with all the vital paperwork before crossing.
We saw a few old trail markers today which was super cool. They were so old and rusted over you could no longer read them. The tree which one was attached to had even started growing over the marker. Only a keen eye could spot these guys. What a piece of history!
The heat hit by mid afternoon when we came across a few open ridges. The heat from the sun from above and the heat radiating back off the rocks was intense. I had to back track .4 to grab some water for Darwin who got over heated. We passed up our last water source before the shelter (thanks to AWOL fucking us over) and could not see pushing it two more miles to the lean-to with nothing. Darwin’s brain had melted, so he sat in the shade with our packs while I hiked back. Water is such a precious thing, we take it so for granted as a society.
We finally arrived at the lean-to and sat and talked with a Southie named “Dar” and his dog “Ridge” who seemed less than excited to see us. Seeing a dog sent instant pangs of longing for Bowie. Man I miss her!
We set up camp and were eating dinner when more Southies emerged from the darkening trail. We listened to them talk about their day and Darwin shared notes on trail terrain heading South. One girl reminded us of Supermoon even making us do a double take when she had arrived. Another was hiking in sandals made from old tires; we listened to his woes as he inspected his wounded toes and narley blisters. I am so glad we are almost done. The Southies are all so happy and unscathed from the trail; I find myself feeling sorry for them.
We hiked up Saddle Back today and were both super glad we didn’t pay the hostel to slack us as this section was relatively easy. The hostel owner and a few Southies had warned us that Saddle Back was a beast and there were re-barb hand holds for climbing. HaHa!
When we arrived at the re-barb Darwin and I looked at each other, smiled, and giggled. There were maybe eleven handholds made of re-barb and they were totally not needed, we simply walked around them. Even though it was drizzly and foggy the terrain itself wasn’t bad. We could have covered the trail even faster if it was dry. I busted my ass a few times but no hardcore damage. (Beware the green shit on the rocks!)
We stopped for lunch at Poplar Ridge Lean-To and of course discussed the tragedy of Inchworm. We took a full hour lunch and enjoyed the break from the drizzle and fog. The more we talked about moving the longer we sat. The longer we sat the colder we got and the more it seemed to drizzle. After mindlessly eating half my supply of Trix Cereal we officially called it quits and started to set up the tent.
We found what we believed to be the only flat tent spot, pitched the tent, changed into dry clothes, and then took a nap. I woke to the sound of arriving hikers and dressed in all my warm gear to avoid the chill that had came over the mountain. We ate dinner amongst at least twenty Southies. I enjoyed watching them unpack their insanely heavy gear and drooled over their extra food they didn’t have the hiker hunger to eat.
After enjoying our dinner and the free entertainment, we headed back to the tent and fell asleep to the sound of a steady rain. A nice small day on the trail.
We crossed into Maine today! We got our asses handed to us today! We having been waiting for this day for over a year but we are so exhausted we can’t really comprehend our accomplishment. I fell victim to the hiker high having officially lived thru the White Mountains; I felt invincible. Maine has reminded both of us both we are wee little insignificant hikers.
We woke to a windy morning but felt like superheroes thanks to the Batman Cereal we destroyed the night before. (It should be noted that ingesting superhero cereal seriously makes you develop temporary superhero powers. It should also be noted this has absolutely nothing to due with sugar.) I have no idea why I started hitting the wall around mile five today. Darwin was insistant that we only stop at the border for a break/possible early lunch. I was barely able to pick up my feet when the border sign was finally in view; my legs had turned to sandbags.
I slumped onto the sign and hugged it. I cried but only for the fact I was ready for a break and who was I kidding, lunch too. I plopped down in the dirt and started to dig out my food bag saying nothing to Darwin about my decision to lunch early. He asked to take a picture of the sign but I just glared at him practically growling as I shoved a tortilla in my mouth. He took the clue and started digging out his food bag too. Once I gained some sort of humanity, we started talking with a few other hikers that had arrived at the border one of them being a Southie. We listened to his stories of the hardships of Maine when we all looked up and noticed we were being spied on by a perfectly placed moose. Maine had gifted us a moose (yes, she was on the Maine side)! Finally! Darwin tried to take a picture of her but she wasn’t to photogenic and took off.
Our Maine high didn’t last to long after lunch. The first mile into our last state both my boots became acquainted with Maine Mud after I sank down over my ankles. Why did I feel so tired today? I was moving so slow Darwin was stopping and waiting several minutes before I could catch up with him. We had plans to do the Notch today but due to my sluggishness we were not going to make it. This put me in a bad mood thinking about our now longer miled tomorrow. Our climbs today felt steeper, the mud was every where (were we not supposed to be done with mud in Vermont?), and the trail had turned to slippery wooden boards again. Shouldn’t I be killing it right now? Shouldn’t the trail be giving us a break? Maybe Maine was really as bad as Southies have been telling us. I feet like a total ween. The only thing bothering Darwin was me, I was slowing him down.
We finally arrived at the shelter and were greeted by two happy older men. I felt like I could claw their eyeballs out for being so happy. Darwin and I were sweaty and tired and I was covered in mud. Once I ate a snack and had a pity party for myself I felt a bit better. I grabbed the log book and was surprised to see entries from last year. Darwin and I read a ton of entries some from even from Roub, Apple Cider, Mufassa, and Aussie Legs. Almost all of them were bitching about Maine being super tough, making low miles, exhaustion, mud, rain, and heat. Wow! Maybe I’m not a ween! Maine is already hard! I felt relieved and comforted from my friend’s entries.
After getting cleaned up and starting dinner, I felt less raw and really enjoyed the company of the two older men staying in the shelter. They gave Darwin and I a few extra granola bars and extra cheese which we consumed immediately. Later into the evening a Southie named “Hand Made” arrived and shared his stories of travel with us. It is really all about perspective. A little pep talk from old friends, good conversation, and extra food can go a long way out here. I just hope I remember this tomorrow.
We escaped The Dungeon at Lakes of Clouds early this morning (the awful work-for-stay experience continued into the morning) and started climbing Washington. I have been super worried about this mountain even before we started hiking the AT. Although Bean-Dip kept on telling me how easy the climb was, I wanted to hurry up and over this wigged white guy. The weather report at Lakes was calling for storms today which made me even more speedy up the climb. I did stop a few times to glance back on my way up. I understand how Lakes got its name. The hut slowly disappeared into what I could only describe as a “lake” of clouds. It was truly beautiful being up so high above.
Darwin and I made the summit first and had it all to ourselves. We looked around taking in our 360 view with not another soul in sight besides our fellow hikers immersing from the climb. The sun was out, the wind was none existent, and all was quiet not at all what I expected Mr. Washington to be. We all took pictures with the summit sign. Bean-Dip and Rambler were crazy impressed with the lack of people and shared stories of waiting in line for the summit before. We all felt a bit of entitlement as we had earned the summit today, we had didn’t take the train up or drive, we hiked. We practically skipped down into the observatory with thoughts of hot dogs and patches dancing in our head.
We had unfortunately summited so early this morning nothing was open. There were a few security guards wandering around but no food and no gift shop. We decided we were going to hang out until something opened when we were approached by a guard who asked us what our plans for the day were. Darwin excitedly told them we were thru-hikers and were planning on camping at Osgood for the night doing only a small 10 mile day. Upon hearing this the guard immediately told us to leave. In our joy and rapture, we were a bit confused and informed the guard we had hot dogs in mind and a rummage of the gift shop. The guard explained to us a bad storm was brewing and could arrive within the hour. The words golf ball sized hail and 60 mile an hour winds fell from his mouth and smacked me in the face. Then I remembered we are on Washington, the most dangerous weather in the U.S. and possibly world is made here and I’m on top! Get me down, get me down!
In the blink of an eye, Darwin smoothed talked his way into the gift shop and just paid the guard for his patch. Birdie, Bean-Dip and Fiddle looked at a map and decided to yellow blaze a bit, then hit a blue blaze into Gorham, NH. Rambler had already hauled ass out the door to start hiking. I looked at Darwin (who was concerned I couldn’t hike fast enough to beat the storm), looked at Bean-Dip, Birdie and Fiddle (still looking at the map), and looked at Rambler again in the distance, and took off after her. We were so worried about the on coming storm Darwin had actually considered yellow blazing along with the others for safety reasons. I had made made the final decision having made it this far without skipping miles I sure wasn’t going to do it in the Presidential Range.
A little out from the summit Darwin and I looked back to see gray clouds heading our direction which made me put a little more stank in my step. I passed over the train tracks where numerous hikers before me had dropped their pants to the passengers onboard but never saw the train. I hobbled as fast as I could the next six miles glancing back here and there taken in by the beauty of the land but feeling very exposed. Being above tree line I could still see Mt. Washington in the distance slowly being over taken by grey clouds and all the trail I had already covered. Darwin and Rambler were ahead of me for most of the six miles to Madison Hut occasionally disappearing in the clouds. I felt like I was hiking in a world of my own.
Although the clouds were catching us we only caught a few spits of rain here and there. We made it to Madison Hut and took our chances by making it our lunch stop. After lunch and eating left overs provided by the hut, we headed back out for the last few miles of the day. This would be our last long section above tree line. Our worry of the bad weather had faded since leaving the big dead guy. The trail ahead of us dove into the trees and we felt safety was in our reach so our paces slowed. We finally descended into tree coverage just in time for the wind to start picking up and the first few claps of thunder could be heard in the distance. We hit the sign announcing our arrival to Osgood Campsite and said our goodbyes to Rambler who was continuing on into Gorham. She had to make more miles before leaving trail for a wedding in the next coming days.
Darwin and I set up camp in Osgood and enjoyed each others company. We haven’t been by ourselves since before the Whites and it was nice to have the whole campground by ourselves. I was completely amazed how well our journey thru the Presidential Range went. The high mileage we kept thru the Whites, the amazingly calm Mt. Washington and great weather thru it all was more than any hiker could ask for. I can fairly say if it rains everyday till we finish, I can’t really complain.
As we settled in for the evening I wondered how Bean-Dip, Birdie, and Fiddle were doing and of course Rambler. I had really enjoyed spending time with them all and although I was glad to have the time alone with Darwin, I was a bit sad I may never see them again. The trail has a funny way of providing and taking away.
**That night the storm came thru waking Darwin and I up several times with huge claps of thunder and lighting that lit up the whole campground. We were never so thankful for the protection of the trees around us.