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Sun god writeup    Dipper writeup    Mime writeup
Sun God Writeup

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.'



Since this was a "memory tour", I had to make sure to repeat all my hilites from the '96 tour, even buying new hiking shoes for the occasion. I was really looking forward to getting back to a hut for an overniter. Madison was the first hut I was ever in and the first 'croo I met. That hot soup after our original '96 climb ranks as one of the best meals I've ever had. The hike up to the top of Madison was a real treat, especially the first view of those forming/re-forming clouds just off the peaks. Of course, I had my Tuborg beer with me (this year it was a Beck's)

Madison, for those in the know, is the birthplace of the original (and still the best) Gonzo Splinter Group...the Swim club. Specifically, Starr Lake with Bruce Murphy and Chris Hollebone. This year's version would not have made the cut. The water was pretty clear and since it was so shallow, quite warm, considering the environment. Although, I must add that the 3 young guys who also hiked up did a lot of wading and postering, but no full immersion (unless I was to believe later 'stories').

When Chris and I did the swim, the water was freezing and so muddy that it took a good 1/2 hour of cleanup to get acceptable again. The '05 first day finished with a BIG meal, a nature hike, and a glorious sunset on the longest day of the year. Too cool!

Day #2 was actually the first day of summer (Nude Hiking day on the Appalachian Trail...if you believe the hype). I got up just after sunrise and went for a little hike, including a small stint 'au natural' (by my guess the stint was all of 10 feet, the only hidden spot for quite a distance around)

Breakfast was a blast as usual and the hike to Washington is interesting. That first look into the ravine just short of the summit lets you know that you've done some climbing in the past few days. I was planning to ignore the summit, but...hey! it has a bathroom! I even got in a shave. So much for roughing it. The 50/50 club always has time for a shave.

My very first ascent of Washington was by car (I'm still embarrassed). But it was that trip that gave me my first view of Lakes of the Clouds, still my favorite view in that range.

Down to the Hut, drop my beer in the less public lake, go sign in, chat with with the 'croo, get changed, flop back up to the lake, have a dip, have a beer, have a little nap. Heaven can be so simple.

The final day's hiking was perfection. I got up before 5:00, hoping for a sunrise hike, but was met by lots of cloud, wind and rain. Put on ALL my hiking clothes and did a small tour of the lakes and spent some time just sitting, enjoying. The day's hike went from cloudy and rainy to just cloudy and windy to a really nice, warm sunny, gorgeous summer day. I love hiking in weather, I love looking down into valleys and I love hiking in the woods with the sun shining in. We definitely weren't working too hard, and I got in a another swim.

The last day was Mahoosuc. The temperature was perfect, like air- conditioning on a hot day. The rocks were a blast, and other than the snowball silliness, the whole day was a real treat. The steak/salad/beer combo at the end of the day was the best.

The biggest shock about how slow we hiked wasn't the actual speed, it was the total lack of resistance we showed. We still got the hike done, we all enjoyed ourselves very much, and we started another Splinter group - the 50/50 Club.

Too cool!


Mime's Tour

I'm sure that a few stories could be written about the "Gonzos in the Whites" in June, 2005….this one is a humbling story for me (Mime), who slogged it out for 3 days, with such mixed feelings and an exhilarating one for Mae West….always the adventurer!! Physically more tough than I ever remembered, having done the exact same hike with friends 4 years ago but even more awe-inspiring than ever, with views up to 90 miles away. 1st lesson here: get in shape, Mime!! And big thanks to the other Gonzos for their ever-patient encouragement: Pak It In/Out, Sungod, Dipper, Scrounger and 'specially Mae West, who never left my side. What DID Mae West think when I lay my head against the insurmountable rock and thought I'd NEVER get up that d----- hill?! (In checking with him, he was thinking back to a palaeontology class he had taken trying to determine what life form he was witnessing emerging from the rock) Now isn't that what it means to be a Gonzo??!!

Day 1 - Pine Link Trail from Dolly Copp Road, steady uphill for a few hours, then curving around the flank of Madison overlooking the #2 highway with Berlin NH in the distance. Berlin is a pretty little town originally settled by Russian and Scandinavian immigrants who arrived in the new world to work in the forest industry. There is still a working pulp mill that produces an "eau de Pictou" atmosphere which can be seen from half way up Pine Link. Oh yea, if you go to Berlin don't forget to visit an authentic Russian Orthodox church on the hill overlooking the town.

Balancing precariously on sharp and jagged rocks, Madison Hut comes into view, then Scrounger lounging in his "deck chair" with his book….just like when you were Thru-Hiking, eh Ross? Watched the other Gonzos come down from their peak-bagging of Madison……how many times now?! Downing gallons (would be litres in Canada) of lemon-aid, a great dinner with warm choco-chip squares so sweet your teeth ached, then out for a Nature Walk up to Star Lake……Dipper's Natal Dip many years ago. Mt Washington 6 miles in the distance, ablaze by the setting sun, then back to watch the sun go down over Madison Hut, built 1888, original life-saving destination for our hiking ancestors…..a tradition! Trying to sleep while 12 year olds (actual juvenile delinquents; not the Gonzos) are trying to "settle down"….HA!!

Day 2 - Feeling SO excited by this upcoming day….absolutely LOVE this Presidential Ridge walk, almost 8 miles, but with breathtaking views that are so clear and sharp. Yes, there's the Holy Grail, Mt Washington, tantalizingly in front of us, never seeming to get any closer! 'Round the mountains we go while the other Gonzos go OVER the top, always OVER the top!!!!!

Up and past Mt. Adams, waving at the Gonzo peak-baggers up there, then over the col to see the Great Gulf wilderness opening up in front of us. Past Thunderstorm Junction, then over to Edmands Col and the monument there. THEN, a surprisingly tough slog up past Mt Jefferson, finishing with a snowball fight after this stretch….yes, snow banks are still there! Curving around Mt Jefferson, then over the Bigelow Lawn, then stopping for lunch…….voila… come the Gonzos peak-baggers bouncing down Mt Jefferson and we had a picnic! Checked out that cog railway…oh yes…. and EVEN Luc with the oar……4 years ago, Mime saw it being raided from Madison Hut at 2:00 A.M. by the Carter 'Croo. Now, Luc has promised to get the Gonzo license plate from Galehead Hut by the end of summer!! It is a PRIZE in the Whites Hut system……but of course, mais oui, ciao baby!!

After a repose we headed off in all directions with the intent of soaking our feet at the lakes….a relief to put swollen feet in the frigid waters. Arrived to find the Lakes of the Clouds hut engulfed in cigar smoke. Mae West used his finely honed diplomatic skills (learned from years of attentive observation of Gimp doing what comes naturally) to "correct" the situation. According to Robert he was more upset that Duffy didn't bring him the promised coke down from Mount Washington.

Day 3 - Great sleep and awoke to the smell of bacon, eggs, coffee and 14 pairs of hiking boots. Hit the trail at 8:00 am with the other guys quickly scurrying beyond the horizon to Glenn Boulder leaving Robert and I to meander among the rocks on our way to Boott Spur. Quite spectacular scenery especially with the mist blowing off the mountains and seeing snow blocking the Headwall. It seemed to take forever to boulder-scramble down to tree line, pictures being taken as we slogged our way down…..then the trail got sort of rough and a bit wet. Encountered a wonderful ladder (about 30 feet in length) just recently built to help one navigate a rather steep vertical drop…..except for a giant tree root which I supposed we could've swung from…..

My knee gave out with a half mile to go but as there were no Sikorskys hovering nearby I had to hobble down the lower part of the Tuckerman Ravine trail to Pinkham Notch…..Mae West only saying "it was getting a 'bit' annoying to go so slow". We got there just in time as the guys (according to Wayne) were just about to start heading up the trail to see what was taking us so long. Actually, by the way the guys looked, sitting and lying outside the lodge taking in the rays, it didn't seem to me that they were ready to head up the trail. More likely they would have picked straws in a few hours to see which one of them would move off the bench to report us missing.

We decided to find a motel room with the guys (no, not so kinky…) in Gorham and have some BoBo platters. It took us a little while to catch up with guys in Gorham as Robert had to pry the driver's seat off the firewall as Dipper had "adjusted" the seat to shuttle our car to get the trail head vehicle.

We had a great supper being served by a new waitress. There were senior platters, 64 ozs. of watered down American beer, menu changes for Wayne (who I think was flirting with the waitress [who could have been his granddaughter]) and stories of having ears pierced and being keelhauled by Dipper who was reminiscing about lost youth. Ross, as usual was relatively quiet, except for when he ripped off his shirt at the supper table to show me that his bruise was bigger, more colourful and overall better than my bruised knee. He told us that he had fallen on an axe in the Maine woods doing trail maintenance with Gimp….. ya , and I have some swampland in Florida for you at a great price.

Mr. Duffy presided at the head of the table surveying this motley crew. I mentioned to Robert that Bruce seemed to have changed a bit and that he was rather reserved and quiet. Robert asked me if I would like spend some time with one of his doctors….hmmmmm……

All in all we had another memorable Gonzo adventure. I didn't even mind when the guys came into my motel room early the next morning (while I was in my nightclothes) to say goodbye. They were off to do the "toughest mile" of the Appalachian Trail; we were off to Montreal to negotiate rush hour traffic and rescue Mae West's mo-mo (lost in translation: motorcycle). No comparison!!!!!