6/30-7/12 85.9 slow miles
“Platinum blazing” is when you use your credit card to stay comfortable. It’s rare to find younger hikers platinum blazing, they are generally on very tight budgets. The older crowd has more resources. I pretty much platinum blazed my way through the beautiful yet difficult White Mountains.
Since the caretakers at Hikers Welcome Hostel discouraged us from slackpacking to Lincoln, NH, the next town, we did 2 low mile days. I got to see Uber, Patience and the best dog, Skeeter, both days!
Crossword and I got a shuttle into Lincoln 7/2, walked to a brewery and then to another for another beer and second dinner. Kevin and Leigh drove by as we were walking back to the motel and gave us a ride. 7/3, a zero day, they drove us to lunch and stores. Kevin will hike out with us to an Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) campsite that has a caretaker and a fee.
It was weird to pitch my tent on a platform, tight to other tents on the 4th of July. I love the people though, hikers on long or short hikes this busy weekend. It was a brutal 10.8 miles in 10 hours, hard!
Since the great tip from the old guy at Hikers Welcome made it seem possible to book huts last minute, I booked my first at Zealand Falls Hut. There were too many kids but also Slingshot, B, Crossword and Scott from yesterday, a nice guy out for the weekend. The Croo (not Crew) that works at the hut does a bunch of skits to explain Leave No Trace (LNT) procedures like packing out trash. 4 of us had a bunk room to ourselves, away from kids. Nah, the kids were fine. I saw Little Cave from the CDT last year!! He’s SOBO (southbound), wow! All in all it was a better day than yesterday, I don’t have to carry much food since the huts give us dinner and breakfast. Plus Crossword yogi-ed an IPA for me, glad he doesn’t like them!
Slingshot is having some injury issues and B is sticking close. He doesn’t have to, he’s just a good guy, a professor, former gymnast, skate shop owner and more. They’re going to stay at an AMC lodge in 7 miles. I’ve corrupted Crossword with my “lessons learned on the CDT” philosophy, which involves taking alternate (blue blazed) routes off the white blazed AT if they are better tread or a better route, so we are heading to Mispah Hut via another trail to link with the AT, cutting 7 miles.
Mispah was lovely, another great Croo and excellent food. The weather came in and it’s still raining with more to come so we’re changing our plan and going another short day to Lake of the Clouds Hut just 1.5 miles south of Mt Washington. That way we can get to the summit on a good, clear day!
It was a super short day with plenty of time to chat with other hikers, long haulers going SOBO or NOBO, casual short haulers enjoying the views, wind protection and food. Kevin, Crossword, B, Slingshot, Poncho and Pep, along with others whose names I didn’t get or forgot. I had a great little nook in the 10-12 person bunk room. The whole hut held 60 I think?
I went up Mt Washington the next day, fantastic views, food and a museum. A road and a cog railway also go up here. Why did I walk? The observatory dates back to the 1930’s and claims to have the worst weather in the world with wind speed of 241 recorded back then. The best part about this place is that there has been a series of cats living in the observatory since then too. I talked to the museum volunteers who said the current cat had caught a flying squirrel the day before. His words, flying squirrel.
The naturalist program at Madison Spring Hut by Andrew was fascinating! He described the history of the AMC trail building program since the 1880’s—it was broken into 3 distinct phases, starting with trails straight up to the peaks and building huts for people to stay in.
The 4 of us dropped down (literally in Slingshot’s case as he took a header about 1/2 mile from the end) to the road and Joe Dodge Lodge. The shower was heavenly, the bed as hard as a rock. Crossword says he’s coming down with a cold.
Slingshot and B stayed a second night at the lodge but CW and I continued to Carter Notch Hut after a straight up through rocks that briefly plateaued at Top Cat gondola from the Wildcat Ski Resort. Another great Croo and food. I think this is the last AMC hut and we’re near the end of the Whites. CW snored all night in the bunk room, his cold isn’t any better. Had to use a buff to hold my bundled up puffy over my earplugs to down out the symphony of my hiker roomies. The huts have been great but the group sleeping arrangements are getting to me. I’d like some solitude.
On the last night before Gorham, my own sweet tent on my own platform at the far end of the campsite. Bliss!
Got the Barn Hostel shuttle into Gorham. On the front door was a list of reasons why you would not be allowed in—Covid protocols for the first time since I started the AT April 24. And they worked. Crossword was honest and said that yes he had symptoms, cough, congestion, etc and was told he had to stay outside. He could pitch a tent. He should go to the fire station a mile away and get Covid tested.
I figured if he had Covid, I’d either have it asymptomatically or the other hikers at the hostel would be paranoid that I did since we came in together and they heard the discussion. I picked up my pack, didn’t ask for my money back and went to the Quality Inn while poor Crossword went and got tested. Positive. He’ll isolate in a different motel for 5 days.
Got my solitude. Not the way I’d imagined.
Any readers that know me will get my anxiety about this situation. I spent the first night in Gorham at the Quality Inn, rather than stay at the hostel I paid for. I struggled with a moral dilemma. I had no Covid symptoms. If I tested positive and was asymptomatic I’m supposed to isolate 5 days and test negative. I just don’t want to hang around a motel for 5 days when I have no symptoms. I knew I should cross my fingers, get the test and go from there. That’s the right thing to do. The wrong thing is to pretend I wasn’t exposed and so can’t possibly have Covid and spread it to the immunocompromised humans in my vicinity.
I went to the fire station and got tested. Negative. I went to the hostel to tell the owner that and see about shuttles I’d paid for as part of the 2 nights I was supposed to stay there. He said that since I’d left he sold my bed to another hiker. He handed me my money back and said that “the county” said I had to get out since I wasn’t a paid guest. How rude. I slammed the door on my way out without saying another word. So much for doing the right thing. Virtue is its own reward.
I walked back to the Quality Inn, contacted Ziggy who does shuttles and got a round trip to Walmart for resupply—the last Walmart for 300 miles. In the car when I got back was Tyvek Shaman who I hadn’t seen since a great talk at Greylock Lodge in Mass ages ago. Cool! I walked back into my room and heard a knock. SOBO Frosty and I had waved across the street earlier in the day, hikers recognizing hikers. He invited me to a chat and a beer and to dinner with some other SOBOs who I’ll never see again. His act of comradeship came at the exact time I needed it. Slam the door closed on one person and open it to a kind face. Thank you Frosty from Florida!