With 'Retro' being the buzz word of the day, a re-run of the 1996 hike (group picture as noted) over the Presidential peaks in the White Mountains was a natural.
4:00am Sunday morning (June 19th) saw Dipper, Sungod, and Pack it in/Pack it out depart Fall River, following the time honoured routes to the Whites, via various Timmies and Big Stops.
We picked up Scrounger in Millenocket, Maine just before noon--he had been working the past few days on the AT with Gimp, doing volunteer trail maintenance. Gimp had returned home with Mike Bell (since named Rain Cloud) after Mike had done a few days in the 100 Mile Wilderness.
Over highway #2, Skowhegan, Farmington, Rumsford, and finally arriving at the 'Farm' in Franconia where we met up with Mae West and Mime. Mime had been working at the Pinkham Notch--the trail head to Mount Washington, as a 'Walmart' greeter, noting the highlights and conditions of the trails, and weather, to hikers that were planning to hike that day.
We had a time of hugging and story telling with Robert Sherburn, owner of Pinestead Farm Lodge, on the front deck, taking in yet another beautiful sunset. It was great to be back.
Monday morning it was over to Gorham, Mickie Dee's for breakfast, and shuttling a car to Pinkham Notch, where we come out of the mountains in a few days.
It was now time to climb with a guarantee of sun from the Sungod. The Pinelink Trail, 3 1/2 miles with an elevation gain of 3,400 feet, afforded many views of the valleys below as we ascended to Madison Springs hut.
Our times were slower than 9 years ago, in fact we were less than 'book time'---we are still trying to discern whether that is due to being slower (older) or due to the fact that we had longer water stops than years past. Probably due to being older also.
We decided, and later proved our findings to be quite accurate, that we were becoming members of a new 'splinter' group:
The 50/50/50 club--50+ years old, hike 50% of the time and rest 50% of the time. And we were loving it!
After having some soup for lunch and some great bread, Dipper, Packitin/Packitout, and the Sungod slack packed to the summit of Madison at 5,367 feet, some 500+ feet above the hut, had some great views, returning to find Mime and Mae West had safely arrived.
For those that have not seen the huts on any past trips, and although they are not cheap--($75.00usa per night), they are a pampered way of hiking the White Mountains. You don't have to carry a tent, sleeping gear , cooking gear, and food. It is a hoot hiking with an 18 pound pack rather than 35+.
There are 11 huts, spaced out through the range at distances that can reasonably be reached in 7-8 (or less) hours of hiking. They are all very different due to their various locations, but basically laid out the same--common bunk rooms, washroom areas-cold water only, a large common eating/meeting area, and a large kitchen for the 3-5 person 'croo' to cook your scrumptious meals. You will not be hungry and you will not lose weight.
After lights out we were entertained by 6 or 7 kids (aged 12-16?) who were under the care of a very 'patient' man--Cody was a winner. When asked the next day about the kids we were informed that they had various levels of concerns, most of their other friends are presently incarcerated. We learn with glee they were also headed to Lakes of the Clouds for the next night---Oh good, I thought it might be quiet and boring.
After a BIG breakie we were off, over Mount Adams (5,774 ft), Mount Jefferson (5,712 ft), Mount Clay (5,532 ft) and Mount Washington (6,288), before we descended 1,233 ft feet to Lakes hut.
Summitting each of the peaks required a total of 2,500 feet elevation change. It was sunny and hot on the climbs and sunny and very nice on the levels---minimal wind--an absolute magical day. We arrived at Washington mid afternoon for a 'cold' coke and salty refreshments. Dipper, not being influenced by Wayne's trail moniker, made record time from Mount Clay to the facilities at the summit.
Things were clouding over as we made the hut, we were placed in a room with 7 other 'adults' to our relief--this hut has a number of various size rooms rather than a large common bunk room.
For those that were at the hut, remember the cigar. For those that were not, there is a story to be told with the proper research.
Night time brought wind, and fog, and rain--and when it does this in this range it may not be pretty. That is why they build these big piles of rocks (cairns), some 5-6 feet high, to find your way in the fog and also (note picture with Wayne), have a sign noting extreme weather and 'people have died!--Nice thought, eh!
During breakfast the wind, and rain, and fog, kept coming in and out. We left the hut at 7:45am with two routes--if the weather dictated we would go over the Washington Plateau and drop down into Pinkham via the Boot Spur. This would keep us exposed above tree for only an hour, or hoping the weather would lift, follow the Davis Path and Glen Boulder along the ridge, not dropping below tree line for close to 3 hours. To our luck, the rain stopped before we put our packs on, and the fog, coming and going, finally burnt off and we had a great hike with fantastic views. We were again hiking in 't' shirts and shorts.
We met up with Robert and Sue who 'Dropped' down the Boot Spur, more protected, shorter, BUT steeper, wetter, and rootier---real tough on the legs and butts---4/5 point stances, eh!
Off to Motel in Gorham, showers, couple brewskies, and real good meal(s) at Mr. Pizza.
Thursday morning we said good bye to Robert and Sue who were heading to Montreal to pick up Bob's motorcycle, before heading back to PEI.
Wayne, Ross, Brucie, and myself headed up to Berlin and the trailhead of the Mahoosuc Notch. After a 30" drive in the dirt logging road, and an hour pedestrian hike to the Notch itself, we begin our 'slack pack' of what is described:-"regarded by many who have hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail as the most difficult mile."
The best way to describe the one mile section comes from the trail guide---", don't be deceived, most rugged in the Whites.", "use great caution." boulder caverns", "ice remains in summer", could be impassable in early June because of snow.", "slippery rocks and dangerous holes.", "the trail winds around and under huge fragments of rocks that have fallen from the cliffs of Mahoosuc Mt."
The through hikers have to 'obviously' hike the trail with full gear--We did this section a number of years ago and it is extremely tough. Being the 2nd time (5 times now if you take in the yo-yo theory) some of us are doing this with only water and jackets, we are looking forward to 'dancing' through the notch, albeit dancing very carefully.
MENTAL BRAIN FART---Remember when your mother told you not to play in the street, wear your bike helmet, and to not throw snow balls! Remember when you told your kids to not .............................................!
Well, as Roscoe, Wayne , and myself were nearing the end of the Notch, we were instantly being 'carpet' bombed by snow balls. Picking up the remnants of one at my feet, I snuck a look around a protective boulder, saw the Dipper peak around a big rock, and let fly--my first response was---"that's a pretty good shot" to "that's a great shot", next there was a scream which gave a sinking feeling in my brain. Bottom line, and luckily, bruised retina, some drugs, still some vision problems with a promise from Doctor(s) that all will be well.
Possible bonus, with the upcoming Geezer Mile, is one of the drugs is a steroid---I would suggest that Dipper be made to 'pee' in the bottle after the race!
Out of the woods mid afternoon, and drive right through to our personal motel (Econolodge) in Bangor, arriving around 7:00pm, few brewskies, off to the Round Ground for a "BIG, RAW' steak, and back to bed.
BONUS TIME---Game #7 of the NBA Final---San Antonia beats Detroit.
Uneventful Friday as we returned to Canada, dreaming of another 9 years down the road when we will do again, chasing the elusive 'book time.'