Twig Adventures

AT Day 19: The Presidentials

Thursday August 12th, 2021, 0645-1930
Pinkham Notch to Nauman tentsite, SOBO AT mm 339
19.7 miles
8028 gain, 6243 loss

It was another smashingly big day but so much fun! I got to climb Mt. Washington finally and it did not disappoint.

For once, I got a great night’s sleep in the hotel room. I slept on the floor on a sleeping pad, so maybe that had something to do with it. I just can’t sleep well in a bed. In the morning, we got a shuttle with Ziggy again. He took our photo at the notch sign. Stellar was slackpacking the section I did 2 days ago and Toe Jam and I were heading south. But first we had to go about 5 miles north to wrap around and up to the ridgeline of Mt Madison.

Along the way, we passed multiple trails that go directly up to Mt Washington. But the AT is a grand tour. It doesn’t take the shortest, most direct route. It wiggles and wags to ensure one sees almost the entire range. So first we had to climb a steep ridge to Mt Madison, then weave along the ridge past Mt Adams, Jefferson and a few lesser peaks. This was all fine because I was above treeline most of the day, with fantastic weather and views.

Many complain of the horrible rocks and boulders lining the slopes of Madison but I found it to be no different than the many scree slopes I’ve negotiated in the Rockies. I had fun rock hopping all day, though it did get to be hard on the feet.

I stopped at the first AMC hut I came to around 11 am for a free baked good, per my discount card that I got at Spec Pond back in Maine. I selected the largest piece of coffee cake and crammed it into my mouth in seconds. I sat outside for a moment, watching clouds lifting and forming all around the mountains. Still fearing the thunderstorms that were forecasted for the afternoon, I hurried on. Toe Jam had fallen behind on the climb so I did the 6 mile ridgeline to Washington by myself.

I was not alone, however. Tons of day, section and thru hikers were out and about. The Presidential range may be the most popular hiking destination on the East Coast. The huts make the region attractive to those seeking a little more comfort in the Backcountry. They cost $100-150 a night. For that you get a bunk, breakfast and dinner. Plus a staff member alarm clock promptly at 0630…no sleeping in. As always, my tent will be my preferred sleeping arrangement in this section but hopefully I can take advantage of the often leftover food they give to us hikertrash.

Though the stretch to the mountain top was hard, it was incredibly scenic the whole way. I stopped to peakfind a few times. I really wanted to see Mt Mansfield and Camels Hump in the Green Mountains of Vermont but it was just too hazy. Still, I could see all the surrounding mountains way back to Old Spec, as well as the many yet to come in the Whites. From Washington, one can supposedly see 5 states, Canada, and the ocean on a clear day.

On the final climb, I started to parallel the cog railway leading to the summit (there’s also a road leading up). It’s tradition for thru hikers to moon the passing cogs. I came to the railway crossing just as a few cogs were going down and well, I’ll leave it up to your imagination whether I stuck with tradition. Let’s just say that a dress makes a lot of things easier.

Finally at the summit by 2 pm (and only 13.5 miles done by this point), I got to join the rest of the tourists waiting in line to take a summit picture. It seemed so ridiculous that 1, there was a line and 2, what significance does such a photo hold if all you did to get up the mountain is sit in a motor vehicle? I guess I’m a bit biased but I can also be very proud of my summit photo. I earned every inch of that 6288′.

I went to the cafe for some snacks, where I met 2 SOBOs, Yak and Scrinch. We talked trail while I inhaled a chile dog… it tasted amazing. Just as they set off, Toe Jam got to the top, giving me an excuse to hang out some more. He knew the 2 SOBOs I had just met so we decided to try to hike another 6 miles to where they planned to stay.

The rest of the day was pretty cruisy. The ridge on the southern side of the mountain was much easier, with some flat sections and real trail for a spell. The weather continued to be so nice, warm and clear. It’s not often that this ridgeline can be enjoyed in a dress with no layers. It was downright hot today, with temps in the 70s. The valley was experiencing a heat warning, with heat indexes approaching triple digits. It’s so crazy that it’s as hot and humid here as it is in Miami.

We got to our target hut and campsite just as it was starting to get dark. It was also just in time to be in line for handouts at the hut. Sometimes when there are leftovers from the paying clients, they’ll give the scraps to the stray cats, us thru hikers. But not until after 8 pm…a time when I’m often already in bed. But because of our late arrival, we had a good shot this night. I had said to Toe Jam earlier that maybe they’d have lasagna.. .something I was really craving at that moment. Can you believe it, that’s exactly what they had! Along with corn salad and mixed greens. I got a full plate, even though competition with the NOBOs was fierce. Luckily there was more than enough for all. One lady was even feeding her dog, who had lost too much weight on trail.

I can’t imagine having to look after an animal and carry the extra weight of dog food, which as she described, is very heavy. Like backpacker meals, there’s dehydrated dog food but it costs her $10 a day. I barely carry enough food for myself, especially this stretch since I knew I could rely on the huts somewhat. Well at least I’m not quite starving yet, not with all these towns, huts, and trail magic. I went to bed way too late but excited for another day.

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