Day mileage: 16
AT total mileage: 1,887.1
Time: 6.5 hours
I wasn't kidding when I closed yesterday's blog by mentioning the cold weather. Waking up this morning was quite difficult in the mid-40 degree chill of the mountains. Nestled under the pine trees, still shaded by the thousand foot mountain towering above me, I was glad to still have my 20 degree down sleeping bag. I tossed and turned for a bit before biting the bullet and packing up my gear, hoping to start a movement amongst Legs and Santa to do the same. Our destination for the day was the town of Gorham, NH, the last trail town in the 13th state of the Appalachian Trail. In order to get there at any kind of reasonable hour I had hoped to leave early, though we didn't make it onto the the trail until nearly 8 AM, keeping my North Face jacket on for the first 1/4 mile or so just to warm up.
The climb from Carter Notch was 1.2 miles to the summit of Cater Dome, lingering nearly 2,000 feet over the AMC hut below. A steep climb for first thing in the morning, it took me almost 40 minutes to summit Carter Dome, calling my dad on the hike up to talk about plans for my finish date in Maine. From the top of the Dome there were gorgeous views to the west, and after waiting for Santa and Legs to arrive at the top we headed down to Zeta Pass at the bottom of the next gap. With yet another rocky climb ahead of us, we carried on towards the Imp campsite/shelter where we had originally intended to spend the night before. The climb up after Zeta brought us over the summits of South, Middle, and North Carter mountains. Leaving the peak of North Carter, the trail immediately turned downward in an unbelievably steep manner. Sheer rock faces at harsh angles made the descent challenging, combined with some large and wet areas that made it even more difficult to get down. We ultimately dropped 1,000 feet of elevation in under a mile, eventually coming upon the Imp shelter where we ate a long lunch. It would have been ideal to keep lunch down to a short period of time, however I knew we would be resupplying in town that afternoon so I actually went so far as to cook a dinner meal for lunch. After mashed potatoes and a bowl of soup, we hung out for a while and then pressed on the remaining 8 miles to the trail's crossing of Route 2. There was one more steep climb out of the shelter's location to the summit of Mt. Moriah before a nearly 6 mile descent down to the road. Maintaining a steady pace up as led by Santa we reached the peak and turned downwards towards the road that would lead us to town. After a steep beginning including a few stream crossings and more obnoxious root and rock strewn trail sections, the path leveled out a bit and allowed for quicker pacing. In an effort to make it to the post office in Gorham before it closed I began some extremely quick walking, long strides that caused both Legs and Santa to jog along behind me to keep up. We covered 3.5 miles in 45 minutes at this pace, arriving at the Route 2 road crossing around 1700hrs.
It took a while to hitchhike the 4 miles into town, but a previous thru-hiker who shuttles hikers every summer picked us up and brought us to the post office. Picking up Legs' packages from the post office we then turned our attention to finding a hotel to stay at. The Four Peaks Motel had a room for the night for $60 which we agreed to split, and a MA resident named Doug picked us up to bring us the mile to the hotel. He's currently working on completing his New Hampshire 4,000 footer mountains, and was eager to hear about our time in the Presidential range. Settling in at the motel we then got picked up by Bangarang to go to WalMart for a resupply. An hour later we were meeting up with Rocket, Dorothy, and Deep Blue who were also zeroing in town after a tough day atop Mt. Washington. They had decided to hike from Lake of the Clouds to Washington's summit at 3 AM to watch the sunrise, and upon reaching the top were approached by two 60-something year old hikers who spent a very unprepared night on Washington's summit lying on the ground under the cog railroad tracks. Shivering and likely hypothermic, Rocket sprung into action getting them into sleeping bags and searching for help. They were brought inside and warmed up, but shortly thereafter Dorothy started feeling ill so the thru-hiker trio hitchhiked into town for the day. We ate dinner as a large and reunited group at an AYCE (all you can eat) Chinese buffet, together for what will likely be the last time.
Returning to the hotel I took a long and hot shower, eventually crawling into my sleeping bag as Legs and Santa occupied the two beds. Absolutely exhausted, I'll sleep well. Tomorrow will be a warm day, and we should make it across the state line into Maine. The end is absolutely near, and this will likely be my last relaxed day on the trail. It's hard to imagine, but in two weeks this adventure will come to a close. Until then, I hike.
Onward and upward.