FireBall took me up to the closest road approach to the Winturri Shelter. That means I skipped ahead on a 56 mile section of trail. That shouldn't take me more than 4 days at most to complete after I summit Katahdin. It was only a 2 mile hike in to this shelter and FireBall hiked in with me and Micah to spend the night. I will begin my thru-hike once again in the morning.
I'm staying at the Rosewood Inn in South Pomfret, VT. It's owned by Donna Wood Jones. She's quite an amazing woman and this house and the surrounding lands have been in her family for three generations. This was the house she was raised in and to keep it, she has renovated the entire inside of the home and converted it to a B&B. She welcomed both me and Micah into her home and Micah got to spend the evening mooning over her little white Spitz, Abby. Dingle and HatTrick showed up later in the afternoon and I was glad for their company.
I had dinner plans for the evening with Donna, a woman who I'd come to know through the internet. We'd been talking back and forth for some time, but this was to be the first time we would meet in person. She, her husband, and her daughter Michele met me at the B&B and whisked me off for a great seafood dinner and a little New England hospitality. It was a great evening of trail talk and they even had a little birthday celebration for me when they found out my birthday would be this Firday. It was good to spend some time with such nice people.
It took me until 6 pm to get to complete just 13.7 miles and get to my campsite. The Happy Hill Cabin had been torn down and now there is just a tenting area with a fireplace, privy, and nearby creek. I set up my tent pretty quickly and went to bed early. There are a number of other thru-hikers camped on the other side of the creek: Dingle, HatTrick, Easy, Baby Steps, and Lost Soul.
I got into town by 9am. The Dartmouth Outing Club's (DOC) bulletin board was my first stop. I had originally planned on just picking up my mail drop and pushing on out of town, but I really wanted to see a little of the Dartmouth campus and the skies were threatening rain once again. The DOC's bulletin board directed me to lodging at the Alpha Omega fraternity house. I hit town during the school break, so there are really no students around. Alpha Omega has one big empty room that they let hikers crash in. They allow us to shower, do laundry, and use their kitchen, too. There are a few fraternities and residence halls that extend this welcome to hikers, but Alpha Omega was the only one open over the break, so everybody was there.
By the end of the day, there were 18 thru-hikers crammed into this room. 3 of them were southbounders and I met several northbounders I'd never seen before. At 3pm, 5 brave souls met at the Ben & Jerry's Icecream shop to battle "The Vermonster" - 20 scoops of B&J icecream piled into a bucket and covered with every single topping they had: brownies, bananas, M&Ms, Reeses Pieces, Gummy Bears, jimmies,... Dingle, Hat Trick, Lost Soul, Ox and myself were the sacrificial lambs. It was a battle worth watching and Domino, Baby Steps, Easy, and Abe came along to watch the spectacle and cheer us on. It ended up being a solid victory and the playing field was wiped clean in less than 20 minutes. Lost Soul guzzled the last sweet victory drops and got to keep the bucket as a momento of his valiant efforts above and beyond the call of duty.
I skipped dinner tonight. For some odd reason, I just wasn't hungry.
I was out of town by 8am. Cloudy skies with possible rain all day. The rain held off most of the day, but I could hear thunder and see the storm clouds moving in as I began the ascent up to Holt's Ledge for the last 2.5 miles of the day. It was a tough climb, but we finally reached to top still ahead of the rain. Holt's Ledge is a nesting site for peregrine falcons, and endangered raptor. This site is home to one of only 15 mesting pairs in the state of N.H.
There's a large group of people here from a local school. It looks like 9 students, 6 leaders, and 2 dogs. My tent is set up about 10' from the privy (it was the only site I could find)!
The rains began just as I finished cooking my dinner - perfect timing!
It rained all last night and much of the day today. The trail was a mud bath for the most part. There were portions of trail where it was up over the tops of my gaiters! These muddy sections were punctuated quite frequently by steep climbs up slippery, rain covered rocks. Smart Mtn and Mount Cube were definitely respectable climbs.
When I reached the top of Mount Cube, there was FireBall. We had originally planned on meeting at Hexacuba Shelter, but I was too muddy and wet to want to spend the night on the trail. FireBall had lugged quite a few birthday goodies 3.5 miles up that mountain: champagne w/5 lbs of ice, 18 cupcakes and a tub of icing, presents, and 30 yellow roses!! He took it surprisingly well when I told him he was going to have to walk right back down that mountain. :^)
We decided to head back to Hanover and watned to stay at Alpha Omega again. Unfortunately, they had just closed the doors to thru-hikers for the remainder of the break, so we were out of luck. I washed up as best I could in the bathroom of the Outing Club's offices and then we headed to Molly's Baloon for dinner. I had gotten some birthday cards from my Mom and Dad bearing some nice green pieces of paper, so we had an excellent meal.
Sleeping quarters? What more could a woman ask for on her 30th birthday than to sleep in The Governor's Mansion?!? We'd heard about a woman who lives near the trail that allowed hikers to sleep in her hay barn. Mrs. Thomson's husband, Merlin, was once governor of NH, so the barn is nicknamed "The Governor's Mansion!" That's exactly where we slept and it was a trip. I fell asleep on a sweet smelling mattress of hay and had one of the best night's rest I've had on the entire trail. It was great!
FireBall met me at the Glencliff road crossing and we headed out of town for Gorham, NH. FireBall was going to be hiking with me through the Whites and we found a B&B up in Gorham where we could leave the truck and they would shuttle us back down to Glencliff. The drive was breathtaking. We got to see many of the mountains we would soon be climbing. It was neat to get a view of them from the road first. Quite impressive! We also spotted an osprey sitting in a dead tree by a roadside lake. He merited turning the truck around and coming back for a closer look. He looked so regal and proud, inspecting all those below. He humored our presence for some time and then finally took off from his perch, we spotted a large fish clasped in his talons.
The Libby House was a home away from home. Paul, Maggie, and their 3 month old daughter, Lily, welcomed us like family. Our room was the entire 3rd floor and commanded views of the Whites and the surrounding mountains from every window. Maggie has photos of the house tracking its history and the story of the Libby family. There are centerfolds from Look magazing, postcards, family photos, wedding announcements, graduation certificates, and a lot of the original furnishings. The house has quite a history and Maggie has done quite a lot to preserve it and to restore the house to its original beauty.
I got a chance to catch up on e-mail, did some journal writing, and played my new flute that I got for my birthday. It's a cedar Coyote Oldman style Native American flute. What a difference in sound quality and tone.