Friday August 13th, 2021, 0645-1830
Nauman tentsite to just past Galehead hut, SOBO AT mm 360.6
6283 gain, 6624 loss
I just realized, now at the end of the day, that it was Friday the 13th. Well nothing bad happened yet, so hopefully I’m in the clear.
I slept pretty well in my tiny hole in the dense forest. I was supposed to set-up on a wooden platform the night before, on infrastructure that’s common to this region. But as my tent is not free-standing, it doesn’t play well with a tent pad. I really need earth to hold my stakes and poles. I could have made it work with rocks and such, but in the fading light, I needed to get things done quickly. Luckily my tent fits just about anywhere, though I had to set-up pretty close to a guy in a hammock, who of course snored. But that’s on me and I have earplugs, no big deal.
In the morning, I packed everything before heading over to have my breakfast near the hut. I then walked back to where Toe Jam was hammocking. I didn’t see him stirring whatsoever. I felt bad just leaving without saying goodby. I hadn’t even seen him since we started setting up the night before…it seemed like he went straight to bed. I hoped I hadn’t broken him.
The hut crews offer breakfast handouts to the stray cats, but not until after 8 am. I dilly-dallied long enough in the morning, no way was I waiting around until that late. So I set off, alone as always, lamenting my already 45 minutes lost per my usual start time. It was foggy and humid, but still quite warm. I came to a huge descent just as the clouds started to lift and I could see the long way down into Crawford Notch. This was one of the steepest SOB descents yet, with numerous rock walls to negotiate. I was glad I got it over with at the beginning of the day. I felt sorry for all the NOBOs heading up. Anytime the trail comes to a notch, you know it’s going to be a lot of work.
Crossing a highway, I began the climb out of the valley, which was mercifully easy compared to the rest. The trail was like a normal trail for once. After only a mile up, the trail flattened out for over 5 miles. It felt like a miracle and I flew like a bird. I made it all the way to the Zealand Hut by the early afternoon, now confident that I could manage another 20 mile day. In my planning the night before, I wasn’t sure if I could make it much past the hut. You never know how the tread’s going to be, even on a flat stretch.
Before beginning another climb, I needed to soak myself in the nearby falls. The heat was nearly unbearable, so a cold dunking was a necessary revival. I went in with my clothes on and even dunked my head. I also had a bowl of free soup (what not to eat on a hot day) and talked trails with Anvil, a triple crowner out for a repeat round on the AT. He tried to annoy me by making fun of my SOBO ways…”don’t you get tired of the sun being in your eyes?” I know he said this just because it’s such a ridiculous concept. He also stated that there would be no more views after the Whites but I know that’s also BS because I’ve walked the Long Trail portion of the AT and there were heaps of mountains with views…Killington, Bromley, Stratton, and Greylock to name a few. Maybe he was again just messing with me.
I headed up to another ridge, climbing steeply for a short stretch, then gradually going over Zealand, Guyot, and South Twin mts. The last descent to the hut was another technical rock scramble but at least I’m getting used to these. I got water at the hut but since there was no nearby campsite, I traveled on to a stealth site that I had read about in the notes. It was very close to the trail but behind some trees. My tent would be mostly out of sight, especially in the dark. Stealth camping is technically not allowed in the Whites but there are sites everywhere. As late in the day as it was, I doubted there was any risk. I also practice leave no trace principles, namely by not making fires. My tent footprint is so small, I need very little clear space. Sometimes I’ll go so far as putting debris back where I have cleared my small space, so no one can tell I was ever there.
Just as I was setting up, I saw a lady walk by wearing a distinctive cowboy hat and immediately knew it was Jetpack, a friend of mine from the CDT. She hadn’t even seen me so I had to chase her down the trail. We talked briefly but as it was getting dark soon, she needed to keep going. She had a reservation at the hut and I wanted her to enjoy it as much as possible, knowing how nice they are. We’d have to catch up another time. Still, it was great to see her and what a nice finish to the day! Wish I’d gotten a picture of the 2 of us.