Day mileage: 8
AT total mileage: 1,796
Time: 4.4 hours
I apparently have made a habit of inviting my father to join me hiking in days with strange trail traditions. If you remember back a few weeks, he tagged along hiking on Naked Hiking Day. Today, he joined us on a day where the guys traditionally wear dresses while climbing Mt. Moosilauki. I can't tell you the origin of this tradition, but it certainly is a weird one. So there's the backstory on the title of today's blog, a title specifically requested by my father.
We woke up rather late this morning, with few people stirring before 7 AM. I of course was not this lucky, but was able to close my eyes again after waking up at 5. Packing up gear in the damp air of the morning, we somewhat slowly got things going, and I carried a minimal amount amount of unneeded gear up to Bangarang's VW station wagon to load up for another day of slack packing. After being informed of the dress tradition by Santa and Dorothy, my dad decided he would also wear a dress while hiking the mountain. I'm not sure I've ever rolled my eyes so drastically, but sure enough he wiggled into Bangarang's thrift shop floral printed dress. It was absolutely hysterical to watch him be adjusted by Rocket and Radio Man, and I truly loved how easily he was interacting with my friends. Once he was situated, Legs, Santa, my dad and I headed off the 0.3 miles to the parking lot at the base of Mt. Moosilauki. A truly fitting entrance to the White Mountains, Moose (as I'll affectionately shorten it to) is a 3,300' climb over 3 miles to both a southern and northern peak. The climb was strenuous but absolutely fair, a long but evenly sloped ascent over typical rocky and rooted New England terrain. As we made our way up in elevation it was quite obvious how the vegetation was changing to match the exposure to weather. Typically sized greeneries and leafed trees traded places with low lying vegetation and bare pine trees, obviously tortured by winters atop the mountain. We stopped every twenty minutes or so for a quick break, only ever long enough for a drink or snack, then carried on at a great pace further up the mountain. Luckily due to the grade of the mountain's trail, there was very little flooding or muddy areas on the path, making for an easier ascent than many of the ones we encountered the day before. As the wind severely picked up, we hiked on, reaching the southern summit of Moose in just under two hours of hiking. Turning left onto the carriage trail that skirts the summit ridge-line, we hiked another mile on the ridge to the northern summit of the mountain, some 300 vertical feet higher. The wind was howling, literally blowing my rain cover off my pack, forcing us sideways as we tried to hike. With poles situated on the down-wind side to fight back, we made it to the summit where stone bunkers have been erected by hikers as a hideout from the wind. Huddling into a waist-high bunker, we each drank a celebratory beer left over from our underwhelming July 4th celebration the night before. Snapping a few photos in the frigid wind, literally almost being blown over at the summit while trying to take a photo, we packed up and headed down the bald peak and set our course back towards the wooded area of the trail.
The descent would take another 2 hours to hike, an exceptionally tough section of trail that was rocky and unbelievably steep at many points. Bangarang, who has done this descent before, affectionately calls it the knee buster. He can't be that far off, my legs were killing me by the time I reached the trailhead parking lot some 2,000' below the peak. Having hiked by a gorgeous waterfall that parallels the Trail for half a mile or so, there were many scenic vistas that made the challenging descent worthwhile. Reaching the parking lot where my dad's car was left overnight, we dropped our gear and met Bangarang with his car. I'd end up driving him the half-hour trip to the southern side of Moose so he could climb it himself, then I would return his car to the northern lot to be there after his descent. During the hour it took me to drive him, Legs worked on Naila. The puppy has had some issues with the pads of her feet recently, and has made them worse by licking them in camp at night. The best thing for her is time off the trail, so we've been brainstorming solutions for where to keep her as we go through the Whites. Ultimately my dad ended up taking her home with him for a week or so, giving her time to rest as we complete the difficult terrain of New Hampshire. Legs will then pick the dog up in a week or so and get her back on the trail. Piling into my dad's car, we ran errands through town including a delicious lunch and a quick stop at Price Chopper to resupply food for the mountains. Once everything was settled and we had done our errands, the four of us and the dog returned to the trailhead parking lot at about the same time that Rocket, Dorothy, Radio Man, and Bangarang emerged from the woods having finished their Moosilauke climb. We sorted our gear, I ended up sending a few pounds of stuff home with my dad, who parted with the dog around 1900hrs. We eventually found a campsite with enough space for our group, and got our gear situated. This is the first time in 3 weeks that I've actually set up my tent, as we've been staying solely in shelters. We sat around for a while, but I was in a strange mood, quietly retired to my tent, and went to sleep rather early.
It was phenomenal to share my first White Mountains climb on my Appalachian Trail trip with my dad. As I've mentioned before he's an exceptionally avid hiker in these woods, so it was great to have him along. He was very patient and invaluable in our quasi town-day assisting with the resupplies, and it was great to be able to hike with him again (despite his doing it in a dress). I don't much mind the short day, it was the right decision to keep the group together instead of pushing to the next shelter, and allowed time for vital organization in town. Tomorrow we'll hike on, summiting Mt. Wolf and South Kinsman, working our way through the White Mountain range, closing in on Maine and ultimately Katahdin.
On with the sun in the morning.