Day mileage: 16.3
AT total mileage: 1,812.3
Time: 7.5 hours
When my dad and I parted ways yesterday afternoon, I gave him a few pieces of gear I've gone without using for weeks now. My goal was to try and cut down on some of the weight I was carrying, so I sent home excess clothing and other stuff, including stripping my tent down to just the rain cover and pole system, basically giving myself a giant umbrella. This would normally be fine, save for the gigantic gusts of wind and dry duff on the low elevation forest floor that essentially turned my tent-like shelter into a snow globe of leaves. Regardless, I was asleep at an exceptionally reasonable hour, and stayed asleep until shortly before 4 when I woke up for the day. The sun rose and eventually everyone packed up, heading for the trailhead parking lot where we would eat breakfast and prepped for the day. Dorothy, Legs, and Rocket would continue slack packing with Bangarang while Santa and I decided that it was time to load up and start carrying our gear again.
The day would begin with a 6 mile gradual climb to the summit of Wolf Mountain. The terrain was rocky, rooted, and typical of New England but allowed for a steady pace and good conversation as Santa and I hiked together. Stopping once I had service in order to post the blogs from the last few days, we then carried on to the summit where climbed a short side trail to a vista overlooking the valley below and mountain ranges in the distance. Lingering for a short while, the four of us began the descent down to the Eliza Brook shelter where we would meet Dorothy and have lunch. As the heat of the day picked up energy levels dropped and after eating a large lunch, I laid flat across the floor of the shelter and took a brief nap while everyone talked and finished their lunches. The afternoon would include a 10 mile hike up and over South and North Kinsman peaks, a solid climb of 2,000 vertical feet. Legs took off from the shelter first, while Rocket, Santa, and I began the climb together. We skirted along a gorgeously flowing river for nearly a mile before the trail steeply turned away and began a challenging climb towards the summit. The closer we got to the south peak, the more difficult the climb became. I actually went so far as to collapse both of my trekking poles, strapping them to my pack in order to facilitate some serious hand over hand rock climbing. Thankfully it was an absolutely gorgeous and clear day, but there were absolutely visible reminders of the monsoon rains that have swept through the region in recent days. At points it was necessary to wedge the edge of a single shoe into a 1" jutting ledge in a rock face in order to extend a hand upwards to pull yourself to the next level of trail. As we had been told by northbound thru-hikers who had done this already, Kinsman is more of an upper body workout than a leg workout. Regardless, summiting the southern peak gave us unbelievable views of the ridgelines in the distance, including that of Moosilauke from yesterday's climb. Continuing on after fitting my iPod & headphones for some afternoon motivation, I hiked alone the mile of trail to the north Kinsman peak. From here there were panoramic views of Mt. Washington and the rest of the Presidential mountain range. Soaking it in for a moment, that unbelievable feeling that I did in fact walk here, I took a deep breath before heading on. Another 6 miles of trail, mainly downhill, would bring us to another trailhead parking lot where Bangarang would pick us up.
One of the highlights in my day was on the descent from the northern peak of Kinsman. Nestled down in the lower shadows of Kinsman is an Appalachian Mountain Club building called Lonesome Lake Hut. A destination for weekend hikers year-round, they operate in the summer as an outdoorsy hotel of sorts, charging upwards of $125/person for a night of a home cooked meal and a bunk house stay in the mountains. Having hiked and stayed there many times as a Boy Scout many years ago, it was unbelievably nostalgic to be there again. I had even planned ahead and had my dad bring up my 12+ year old Lonesome Lake hiking shirt. Despite my excitement, the hut staff was completely impartial to the arrival of Rocket & myself, and offered us nothing by way of running water or anything of the sort. We later heard from a shelter caretaker that the hut employees were quite cold to hikers on a regular basis, so I felt a little bit better. Hiking alongside the lake, with Washington's barren summit towering above, Rocket and I descended the remaining 2.7 miles of easier trail down to the parking lot where Bangarang was meeting us. He was taking us to the home of a local hiker who had converted his garage to a hostel of sorts. Chet's Place has bunks and carpeted floors, refrigerators and showers, washing machines and countless food and clothing items that others have left for hikers to use. We arrived there after piling 6 people and backpacks into the Jetta station wagon, and met the gracious and welcoming Chet who invited us into his home. A quick shower and change of clothes allowed me the feeling of normalcy for a moment, and we headed into town as a group for a dinner of pizza and buffalo wings at a local restaurant. Back to the house and into my sleeping bag atop a comfy mattress, it was time for bed.
Tomorrow the storms are starting to move in from the Great Lakes, so I'll be interested to see where we end up in the mountains. Hiding from lightning storms will be interesting 4,000 someodd feet up. Regardless, with a limited amount of days left, I'll be hiking again come tomorrow. For what it's worth, I'll mention now that regularity of the blog posts might be compromised as we move further north. The cell service is extremely limited, and will likely get worse as I move up into Maine this upcoming weekend. That being said, I hope you know I'll do my best to get them up and on the web in a reasonable time. So yeah. That's that.
Some photos for your enjoyment. It truly is gorgeous up here.