AT 2017: Day 135, Smarts Mountain Tenting Area to Ore Hill Campsite

I got these old walkin’ blues

Trail markers on Mt. Cube

No damage resulted from the storm that rumbled over Smarts Mountain last night. Afterwards, the wind died down and I was able to get a good night’s sleep.

From where the tenting area was located, there should have been a couple spots to get a view of the valley below the mountain, but when we crawled out of our tents there wasn’t anything to see. The mountain was surrounded in low-hanging clouds.

Unsurprisingly, the ground and trees were still soaking wet. Though the sky seemed to be gradually clearing while I was packing my gear and preparing to continue hiking, I expected it would be a couple hours before the clouds lifted.

DateWednesday, August 23, 2017
WeatherPartly sunny, with temperatures rising from 50s to upper 70s
Trail ConditionsMuddy trail in the morning, long climb up Mt. Cube
Today's Miles12.8
Trip Miles1783.7

The last time I had an opportunity to wash my clothes was nearly two weeks ago. No question about it, that was too long ago. By now, especially after yesterday’s long hot climb, my shirt had more sweat and dirt in it than fabric.

I decided to put on instead the t-shirt that I mostly wear in town while doing my laundry. I then attached the dirty, sweaty shirt on the outside of my pack.

It seemed like a foolish notion, but I hoped doing this might dry out — and air out — the shirt, and make it a little more wearable until I get a chance to wash it.

I’m hoping to finally do laundry when I reach the hostel in Glencliff tomorrow.

Filtered sunlight

Sunlight filtered through trees and misty air as I began walking at about 7:30 a.m.

A fire tower was located at the top of the mountain, but I didn't expect it would provide much of a view when I reached it because of the low-hanging clouds.

The tower was only one tenth of a mile from the campsite and just 27 feet higher in elevation. I reached it in just a few minutes.

View from inside Smarts Mountain fire tower

After climbing to the top of the tower I discovered I was completely wrong in my expectation of the view. The sky was clear enough to see for many miles. This was a pleasant surprise.

View from Smarts Mountain

The clouds that had surrounded the mountain had lifted, revealing a wonderful view of the White Mountains. Looking southwest, I could see many of the mountains I had climbed the last few days while in Vermont.

Smarts Mountain is 3,238 feet high, which isn’t much compared to the four-thousand-footers in the Whites, but it was substantial enough.

Thick mud at end of puncheon

The descent from the summit was much easier than yesterday’s hot climb. Last night’s storm had made the temperature much cooler today, but it also made the trail much more muddy.

From the looks of things, though, this section of trail is normally muddy. There were a few places on the trail where puncheons had been laid down to help hikers stay out of the mud. They didn't always extend far enough, though.

Muddy trekking pole

In one spot, one of my trekking poles sank almost two feet into the mud. Thankfully, I did not.

Jacob’s Brook

I reached Jacob’s Brook a few minutes before 11 a.m. The stream was rocky and sunk much lower than the trail.

I found a path down to the stream, so I stopped here to get water.

Filtering water with a Sawyer Squeeze

I switched several days ago to using a Sawyer Squeeze for filtering water, after my Platypus gravity-feed filter started to clog. I liked the convenience of the Platypus filter, but now I like the Sawyer better than I expected I would.

The Sawyer is not ideal because squeezing a flexible bottle to push water through the filter is a little annoying, but filtering doesn’t take long to do. It’s also more difficult to fill the flexible bottle.

Still, the Sawyer is a little bit lighter than the Platypus, and that makes it worthwhile for me to make the switch.

Footbridge over Jacob’s Brook

After finishing my filtering and eating a snack, I climbed back up the bank of the stream and crossed the footbridge.

Rocky climb toward Eastman Ledges

The trail immediately began a steep, rocky climb up to a spot called Eastman Ledges.

Climb toward Eastman Ledges

The only good thing about this climb was, thanks to the rocks, there wasn’t much mud.

View of Smarts Mountain from Eastman Ledges

Once I reached the ledges I got a wide view of the terrain I had just crossed, including Smarts Mountain.

Log bridge

Near a side trail to Hexacuba Shelter, the trail crossed a log laid down as a footbridge. This would not normally be notable, except in this case the log crossed a six-foot-deep ravine.

I was glad the log was not slippery.

Boulder climb

The next climb was heading to Mt. Cube, but first the trail had to go over every boulder in its way and make a pass over a view spot called Quartzite Ledges.

Climb toward Mt. Cube

Maybe the trail builders took just the right route, or maybe I’m getting more adept at making these climbs over boulders, but this one didn’t seem as bad as some.

Quartzite Ledges

It didn’t hurt that there were several nice spots to pause for a view along the way, such as at Quartzite Ledges.

View from Mt. Cube

The time was just past 2 p.m. when I passed over the summit of Mt. Cube.. At 2,909-feet in elevation, it wasn’t as tall as Smarts Mountain. Thanks to the bare rock and stubby trees, however, no tower was needed here to get a good view.

The descent from Mt. Cube was easy, though it went through more mud.

Reaching the bottom of the descent I made another stop for water at Brackett Brook. After filtering enough water to cover my needs in case the water source at tonight's campsite was dry, I swung my pack back on my shoulders and headed up the trail.

At this point I was trying to press for time. I had gotten mixed information about a spot just ahead, and I was hoping some of that information was wrong.

In notes posted in the Guthooks app, plus comments from other hikers, I had learned that someone called the Omelet Man made a spot for himself right on the trail. From this location, I was told, he prepared giant omelets for hikers, free of charge. This extraordinary trail magic was available seven days a week, all day long.

Except, there was one comment that said Omelet Man left early on Wednesdays. Today was a Wednesday, but I held out hope the information was wrong or that he would still be there anyway when I arrived.

"Welcome to the Whites" sign

My heart sank when I arrived at his outpost. No Omelet Man, no omelets.

This could have been one of the highlights of my hike. Instead, it was nothing except a sign that said "Welcome to the Whites" and a few tables and chairs.

Dejected, I continued on, making the climb toward Ore Hill Campsite. I arrived there shortly after Stick and Dustin.

As I set down my backpack, I discovered my shirt was no longer hanging from the back. Frantically, I looked around, hoping it had fallen off when I set the pack down.

Not seeing the shirt, I immediately took off down the trail to retrace my steps. I didn’t have any idea where the shirt was, but I was hoping it had fallen off nearby. I feared, though, it had fallen off my pack when I stopped for water at Brackett Brook.

Along the way I saw Scout, so I asked him if he had seen my shirt.

No, he told me, but he offered to send a text message to Skywalker, who was behind us. Scout said he thought Skywalker was planning to stop earlier than us tonight. Maybe he saw or even picked up my shirt, I hoped.

Dejected yet again, but holding a glimmer of hope Skywalker would get Scout’s message and not just walk past my shirt, I returned to the campsite.

This had started out as a good day, but suddenly in the last half hour it had turned into a bummer.

I knew Omelet Man was just some trail magic that I missed out. I’ve had received good trail magic before and perhaps there will be good trail magic ahead.

I knew the shirt I lost was cruddy. I had worn it the entire hike, but there was nothing sentimental about it. This was actually my second shirt of this style. I had started out wearing an identical one, but switched to a smaller size after I lost a lot of weight. I can always buy another shirt.

Still, I ended the day in a bad mood.

I woke up this mornin', feelin' round for my shoes
Know by that I got these old walkin’ blues
Well, woke this mornin' feelin round for my shoes
But you know by that, I got these old walkin' blues

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