I enjoyed the Granite State, I suppose. The White Mountains are supposed to be some of the grandest on the trail. And they were. Majestic, truly. But they were also cold, metaphorically and otherwise. Rocky peaks rising into the sky, gray, hard, dry, treeless. Not my cup of tea. The highlight for me was a night hike and dawn viewing from Franconia Ridge. Several of us had made plans to hike the ridge under the full moon, but sleep set in, and it turns out half of us were lost anyway. So a few days later, J and I went back to complete the missed section, cowboy-napping by the highway, and I finally got myself to wake and rise in the dark, around 2 a.m. It was my first night hike, and there were no hitches really, except that by the time I got above treeline, where the moonlight could actually illuminate the trail, the dawn had begun with rusty colors. Still, I turned off my headlamp and made my way to the nearest large peak, Lincoln, with the almost-full moon over my left shoulder and the growing colors over my right. The stars dimmed behind me, the black sky turned purple, and by the time I got to Lincoln the dawn was casting harder shadows than the moon was. I waited on that peak for 25 minutes while the colors became maroon, rose, coral, peach, yellow, and the bright orb rose to warm my shivering body and running nose. I watched the line of light crawl down the peaks to the west. I was all alone, and it was totally worth the early rise. I've seen dawns before, but nothing as wonderful as dawn from a mountaintop. I'm sure I haven't conveyed any idea of how wonderful it was. A few hours later the ridgeline was mobbed with hundreds of dayhikers for the holiday weekend.
I cannot fail to mention someone else's dayhiker-free Mount Washington story. From Madison hut, six of us southbounders set out towards Washington in terrible rain and wind and cold, a seven mile journey to the next hut, all above treeline. About five minutes out, I decided to turn back to the hut and zero (J was disappointed). But J and four other hikers continued. Sadly, the group was one short when they made it to the next hut, for the one had fallen on a rock and busted his face. It's so terrible, but I'm glad it wasn't me. I hiked by myself the next day, in great weather, and caught up shortly.
Chet's hostel in Lincoln was great fun, what with an adult trike and a tandem bike. hanover, home of Dartmouth, was not exactly the college town most of us expected. We were already hating the Outing Club, which conducted freshman orientation backpacking trips without tents for the students, meaning large groups took over every shelter, a major faux pas in the woods. J and I were loving Pittsfield, VT. We stayed at a farm, pulling weeds for our stay and for sandwiches in the general store. The farmers are two hikers we met down south, and Danny Boy (Snipe) from Georgia was there as well, so it was a fabulous reunion! We never expected to see Dan again, and there he was with full beard and his picture on the front of the Wall Street Journal (Sept. 21) in an article about work-for-benefit on the trail.
We stayed at Amee farm two nights, and the next morning J set the record at the general store for eating a breakfast challenge--huge plate of food in 14 min 28 sec--thereby earning himself a free meal. Then we hitched to Burlington, VT, to visit my friend from my work at howell Farm. And here we are, devouring Becky's library and watching all her movies. In another coincidence, we met her friend Sam, aka Samwise, who just finished a northbound thru-hike. he recognized me from a shelter in Maine, and we talked about being vegan on the trail, and about his new vegan backpacking blog. What a coincidence!
But potluck tonight, and then hitching back to the trail tomorrow. Just a few days short of 1000 trail miles. Not even halfway, but still going with the flow, still having a great time.