Day mileage: 14.1
AT total mileage: 1,918.1
Time: 8 hours
The rain continued through the night, making me glad we stayed in the shelter. Eventually waking up to find Violet, West, Joules, and Canary having packed up and departing for the day. They were happy to inform me that that the sun was shining and the sky was blue, leaving me hopeful for a good day with hopefully dry rocks which would make some of the traverses much easier. It wasn't until writing in the log book of the shelter that I realized it was the 14th of July, and thus realized if was my good friend Santa's 22nd birthday. Jumping over and hugging him, I then proceeded to blast Taylor Swift's song '22' on my iPod and speaker while dancing around singing along with Legs, doing my best to be foolish to get a smile on the guys face. Throughout the rest of the day I'd spend many occasions reminding him of his own birthday, and informing southbound thru-hikers of the momentous occasion.
We were on the trail around 8, immediately climbing upwards to traverse some bald-faced mountains. From the top of the first mountain, Goose Eye West peak, we could see nearly the entire day of terrain ahead of us, easily able to pick out mountains that matched the elevation profile I had seen in the book. Climbing Goose Eye was a challenge, a rocky and very steep traverse that at points required ladders and steel rungs pounded into the granite. Upon reaching the West peak we turned and hiked a mile along the ridge to the eastern peak before descending across a bog to the next range. Dipping down to just below 3,000' we came across the Full Goose shelter, a large single level building with plenty of space for probably 12 hikers. Eating lunch here with Joules, Canary, Violet, and West, hanging out for a half hour or so before continuing on towards Mahoosuc Notch. An area known as the 'most fun and most difficult' area of terrain on the entire Appalachian Trail would be the next traverse. We began Mahoosuc by rapidly descending another 800' further down into the Notch. Comprised of three sections of trail the Notch is basically a boulder field of mammoth proportions. Massive rocks, some the size of small houses, are piled on top of each other creating caverns and passage ways between open areas of the trail. In the lower parts between boulders the temperature dropped severely, repeatedly being cold enough for us to hike on ice and snow while in the deep crevices. There's a challenge associated with Mahoosuc, where hikers attempt to traverse the incredibly unique terrain in a 'record time' of sorts. Despite a large group size we actually did quite well, making it through the one mile of rocky jungle gym in an hour and forty-five minutes.
Leaving the Notch the trail began a hellish uphill towards Mahoosuc's Arm, a notable 1,700' climb that takes place over a mile of trail. Due to the massive amount of rainfall the many rock faces proved very difficult to navigate. It was around this time that our group was caught by another NOBO hiker named XC. As he introduced himself I realized I had met him before, and he quickly reminded me that the last time we saw each other was in the Blue Blaze Café in Damascus, VA some 1,500 miles ago. He was excited to know that he was only a few days behind me and hiked to catch up. This being the second day in a row I've seen someone I knew from a long ways back on the trail, it made me wonder who else I might run into as a result of slowing down to hike with Rocket, Dorothy, Legs, and Santa. XC went on to tell me about how others I knew were doing, and also told me stories of other hikers he met (ones I don't know) who spoke of wanting to catch up to me as I flew through the mid-Atlantic stretch. It's not uncommon to read a name in a shelter log book and get the idea of hurrying to catch someone ahead of you, but I never thought I'd be the subject of this kind of thing. Regardless, we hiked on Mahoosuc's Arm as ran began falling, arriving at the Speck Pond shelter and huddling under the covered roof. Filled with young boys on a summer camp trip, we squeezed to one side of the small shelter and immediately came to the realization that we would be hiking on. With two more big climbs in the day it was solely Legs and Santa that wanted to hike on with me. We summited Old Speck mountain before making a rapid descent down to a parking lot at Maine Rt. 26, also known as Grafton Notch.
Debating the 2 miles uphill from the notch to the next shelter, the three of us decided to stay put and sleep in tents near to the parking lot. Santa and I dragged a picnic bench over towards the side of the parking lot our tents were set on, and we cooked dinner as a little family. Singing 'happy birthday' to Santa, we then set him up with chocolate and cake frosting, allowing him to build a cake that any dentist would cringe about. Comprised of Three Musketeers, Snickers, and Milky Way chocolate treats, he applied cake frosting between each layer before eating the whole thing in one bite. We packed up dinner as rain began falling, calling it a night and residing to our tents. Hopefully the weather tomorrow will hold out and we can get some good hiking in without much issue.
Onwards & upwards.