AT 2017: Day 140, Lonesome Lake Hut to I-93 (North Woodstock)

You carry your pain wherever you go

Ralph, Stick, Steam and I experienced last night some of the negatives of a work-for-stay in an Appalachian Mountain Club hut. We experienced another one this morning.

We were woken up at 5 a.m. when a croo member started rattling around in Lonesome Lake Hut's kitchen to prepare breakfast for the paying guests.

I don’t wish to gripe about these negatives. We didn’t expect to get something for nothing. And to be sure, we were given a reasonably warm and definitely dry place to sleep and free food last night in exchange for only about 45 minutes of work.

And though the leftovers were cold and the dining room was not the most comfortable place to sleep, our options for a place to sleep were few.

DateMonday, August 28, 2017
WeatherClear and cool, warming to the low 70s
Trail ConditionsGradual descent with rocks
Today's Miles2.9
Trip Miles1816.6

Rules set by the National Forest Service, which include an agreement made with the Appalachian Mountain Club, put extreme limits on where camping is allowed in the White Mountains. For example, camping or fires are not permitted within a quarter mile of an AMC hut, shelter, picnic area or campsite.

Are these rules in place to protect the environment, or are they just intended to protect AMC's investment and revenue stream? The answer depends on how cynically you want to view the relationship between the National Forest Service and the AMC.

Whatever your viewpoint, the situation remains the same. Finding a place to pitch your tent without having to stray far from the trail is difficult. For that reason, Ralph, Stick, Steam and I were glad for the work-for-stay opportunity last night, but I can also see why some hikers resent the hut system.

There’s one more reason why last night’s work-for-stay worked well for us. We didn’t have to go far off trail for a place to stay, and that is not a trivial advantage.

Of course, whether sleeping in a hut or in a tent, when you venture out into the woods you risk injury. And that’s what I came close to doing almost immediately after leaving the hut this morning.

We were walking down to the lake when I tripped over a rock. I didn’t injure myself, but I paused to remind myself that I need to be more careful where I step.

When we reached the lakeshore Steam took our picture, then we were ready to start hiking.

Barely on the trail two minutes, I tripped again, but this time I felt an immediate, sharp pain shoot up my leg from my right foot. This was the same ankle I’d sprained before.

I wanted to assume I only sprained my ankle, but the pain was bad enough it wasn’t impossible to think the worse.

I quickly found a large boulder to sit on and take weight off my foot. I was feeling a take-your-breath-away-except-for-when-you're-cursing kind of pain.

It took me several minutes to regain my composure and confirm the ankle was only sprained. In the meantime, Ralph and Stick could only look on and hope they didn’t have to carry me out of the woods.

Eventually, though, I was able to put weight on my foot, so we began walking down the trail. Initially I limped slowly, but at least the pain had subsided enough that I could walk.

I also had the good fortune of only needing to go a short distance today over progressively-easy trail. It was all downhill as we followed Cascade Brook for much of the way.

As planned, we walked to a parking lot after crossing Interstate 93. We had made arrangements for a taxi driver named Tiny to pick us up at 10 a.m., and we arrived there in plenty of time, despite my hobbled walking.

Tiny drove us to The Notch Hostel in North Woodstock. We were greeted there first by Bartender. I first met her at a trail magic spot in the Pennsylvania woods on Day 89. She was zeroing here today and confirmed what we expected, that this was a nice place to stay.

A short time later we were met by Bookie, a former thru-hiker who is now helping to run the hostel.

Bookie took us first to a nearby shed where she explained this was where we should keep our packs and dirty gear. The Notch had rules like this to maintain a clean and comfortable living space.

We were assigned bunks in one of several bunkrooms in the house, then shown where showers and other facilities were located.

Because we arrived so early, Ralph had plenty of time to catch a ride to where he had parked his car. He then drove it back to the hostel and made arrangements to leave it here for the next few days.

I was also glad our short hike had put us here early. After taking a shower, I sat in the sitting room with my leg stretched out on a couch and kept an ice pack on my ankle.

During the afternoon, several other hikers arrived, including Uncle Puck, Dancing Bear and Ten.

Later, Ralph drove us to a restaurant and brewery in town called Woodstock Station. The food was good, but the beer was only so-so.

After dinner we stopped at a Price Chopper grocery store to resupply for the next few days.

Today was about as close to zero as a nero (near zero hiking miles) day could be.

It was just what I needed, but I wasn’t sure it was enough to heal my ankle. Lingering pain has me concerned.

I will keep going until I can’t, and just hope that “can’t” never comes.

Now what's to found, racing around
You carry your pain wherever you go
Full of the blues, and trying to lose
You ain't going to learn what you don't want to know

From "Black Throated Wind” by John Barlow and Bob Weir (Grateful Dead)

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