I quit yesterday, but it was a bad day. As the hiker expression goes, "Don't quit on a bad day,” so I un-quit.
I had no idea yesterday that today would be worse.
|Date||Wednesday, September 6, 2017|
|Weather||Windy and cloudy, with gusts up to 80 mph on the summit|
|Trail Conditions||Extremely rocky terrain|
The truth is, as bad as yesterday was, it ended up being a good day.
And that’s the way days on the trail are supposed to be. Even when you have bad moments, at the end of the day you should be able chalk it up to being another good one.
Thanks to special consideration from Jaleesa, Zak, and the rest of the Madison Spring Hut croo, we ate a good supper of leftovers and we spent the night out of the howling wind. I count these in the win column.
I can say, at least, my day was better than it was for one hiker. When he arrived at the hut last night at 11 p.m. he was cold and shaken.
The hiker said the batteries in his headlamp had died as he was trying to make the descent from Mt. Washington. To reach the hut, he had to navigate by picking out cairns among the shadows.
Stick and I woke up this morning at 5 a.m. and were out the door just before 6:30.
The wind was gusting, not as badly as it did yesterday morning. We were sheltered by Mt. Madison, which was immediately ahead of us.
The climb up the mountain didn’t go so much up a trail as it did up a faint path over the rocks. Cairns marked the way.
The higher we went up, the more fierce the wind blew and the more difficult it was to continue walking.
The summit of Mt. Madison was only a distance of a half mile and an elevation gain of nearly 600 feet, but it took us more than 30 minutes to reach the top.
The wind was so strong and gusty at the summit we couldn’t stand. Stick and I had to crouch down low to take photos.
I don’t know for sure how hard the wind was blowing, but a wind speed of 84 mph was recorded today on Mt. Washington. Based on our difficulty to move against the wind, I’m guessing we experienced about the same wind speed on Mt. Madison.
After taking our photos, we were ready to get off this mountain.
Then we turned to look at the trail ahead. Our hearts sank.
We could see cairns dot along a ridge more than a mile in length. We saw the trail went up and down the knobs of this ridge, completely exposed to the wind for the full distance.
This was distressing. How could we continue over this ridge when we couldn’t stand up without being knocked over?
We had no choice. We had to continue.
Each knob on the ridge was short, and each one led to another that was lower in elevation than the previous one. This didn't make the rocky and wind-swept trail any easier.
We were barely able to move at times against the constantly battering wind.
Sometimes I could only stand and brace myself until a gust faded just enough for me to take another step. Often I had to tuck my trekking poles away and just walk on my hands and feet like a crab.
Getting over these knobs was slow and arduous. At times, I had to just sit low in between rocks and hope the wind would drop enough so I could take a few more steps.
Once, I turned to Stick and at that moment saw his sit pad slip off his pack. Instantly it was gone, likely blown into the next county.
Later, the same thing almost happened to Stick’s down jacket. The hood caught the wind like a parachute and looked like it was going the way of the sit pad. Fortunately, I was able get over to him quickly enough to tuck the jacket back into his pack.
As difficult as this day was, and it was the most difficult hiking I had ever done, I never felt I was in danger. Too be sure, something bad could have happened. I don’t want to think of what might have happened if the weather had gotten any worse.
Instead, I embraced this as one more experience, another challenge to overcome. I wouldn't say it was enjoyable, but it was invigorating.
Even when I could only hang onto a rock so I wasn’t blown over by the wind, I felt myself winning in this test of my strength and will.
While climbing over the last knob I could see Wildcat Mountain looming large, but I knew that was not for today. It was on the other side of Pinkham Notch. We were just looking today to get to the notch, or maybe stop sooner at Osgood Tent Site.
It took five hours to go over this one mile ridge. Once I finally got to the treeline, the wind was lessened by the thick tangle of fir trees. That made walking easier, but not by much because the trail descended steeply down the mountain.
A short distance below the treeline I was met by a hiker named Friar Tuck. He had set up his tent in a small space between trees and rocks to wait out the wind.
Stick, who by now had gotten ahead of me, had asked Friar Tuck to pass along a message. Stick wanted me to know he had decided to stop at Osgood. I was relieved. That was only about one more mile away and I was ready for this day of hiking to end.
I thought I was a slow hiker, but Friar Tuck was setting a new standard in stretching out a hike. He told me he started from Springer Mountain last year and only got as far as Harpers Ferry. It took him six months. He's now hiking southbound, starting from Mt. Katahdin, and hopes to get to Harpers Ferry inside of six months.
The long descent to Osgood took me more than an hour. I didn’t arrive there until almost 3 p.m. Besides Stick, there was just one other hiker there, a SOBO hiker named Bagel.
We set up our tents on one of the wooden platforms provided for that purpose. Then rain began to fall. With nothing else to do, I climbed into my tent and took a much-needed nap.
By 6 p.m. the rain had stopped. At about that same time, Jason and his dog Maple arrived. They were soon followed by Boomer and another hiker named Single T.
It was a great reunion. Stick and I had not seen Jason, Maple and Boomer in several weeks. RedEye was no longer hiking with them. She was running short of time because her visa was about to expire, so when they were in New York she skipped ahead to do the Whites and Maine.
While we were finishing dinner, rain began to fall again, so we all quickly packed up and climbed into our tents for the night.
Just as I said, even when you have bad moments on the trail, at the end of the day you should be able to chalk it up to being another good one. That’s the way today was.
Tomorrow and the next day should be that way too. I’m taking time off from the trail to rest and heal.
You got to come on up!
You got to hold on
You got to hold on
Yeah! You got to wait!
Yeah! You got to wait!
But, I don't wanna wait