We got to the Glencliff trailhead around 12:30. We were only planning an 8 mile day, but it included an impressive 3800' climb up to the top of 4820' Mount Moosilaukee. This was to be the first time above tree line.
It was a cloudy day, but the sun managed to peak through every now and then. The climb was a bear, but I did it and felt good. There were quite a few people on top and the views were limited by the cloud cover, but still spectacular.
We were in to camp by 5pm. This shelter faces an absolutely stunning view of the Franconia Ridge - Mt Lafayette, Haystack, and Lincoln. They look so distant and yet I'll be right on top of that ridge in just 2 days.
Somehow, I seem to have lost my rainpants, a t-shirt, and a few other pieces of clothing. They're calling for a cold front to move in and I just can't afford to not have my rainpants. I only found out that they were missing when I went to put them on tonight. I'm going to hitch in to Woodstock or something tomorrow to try and get a replacement. I just can't afford not to have them through the Whites.
The tent pads for this shelter are uneven, gravel-filled, and too small for my tent, so I'm in the shelter. Julie, One Life, Briar, Lone Wolf, and 2 section hikers are here as well. I hope we have decent weather tomorrow.
It was good to have FireBall's company on the trail again. I think the climb was tough on him after a full month off, but I know he's happy to be back out.
At our first road crossing, FireBall hitched into N.Woodstock to get me some rainpants and he needed some items he'd forgotten as well. I continued on with Micah and leap frogged with Julie and One Life throughout the day. We all arrived at the Eliza Brook Shelter about the same time for a long break before tackling the last 4 miles of the day up and over Kinsman. What a climb! It was a full body workout. There were innumerable places where it required actual climbing with hands and knees.
I've come to hate the sound of Micah's nails scratching on rock. He'll try anything with all his heart. He's usually in front of me and I have to watch him as he does his scrambling. It just sends my heart up into my throat when I see him struggle and slip. Sometimes he'll be almost to the top of a sheer, steep rockface climb and he'll knock his pack on a projecting tree limb and it will knock him off balance and send him skittering back down the rock face, just barely keeping his feet under him. I removed his pack quite often throughout the climb and FireBall or I carry it up the rough sections, but Micah always tries it with the pack on first.
It was very slow going today. I did a stellar faceplant today walking over a rocky section. I just slipped and went down face first. I rammed both knees directly on to rock points. I was just a muddy, bleeding mess and I have a lump on my right knee the size of a golf ball. It happened near the end of the day, but it's really made my steps very tentative at times. I hate falling! My legs look and feel like hell.
Lonesome Lake was about the prettiest sight of the day. We didn't really pass any other viewpoints. Lots of Dartmouth freshmen out on the trails today. It's supposedly all part of their orientation. They looked pretty miserable from what I saw. They were in casual dress clothes being made to run up and down trails, jump into lakes, etc.
I was so cold by the time I got into camp that it took me an hour in my sleeping back just to stop shivering. I'd really like to see the sun again sometime soon.
On the bright side, I crossed Franconia Ridge today. What an absolutely exhilerating feeling to walk above treeline for two miles! We got there just early enough to get some views of the surrounding mountains. Clouds kept rolling up and over the ridgeline and we were buffetted by 40mph wind gusts the entire time. Just as we began to descend, the clouds truly blanketed the ridge and it began to snow! I knew the temps were cold, but it was just wild to be pelted with little snow flurries so early in September. They say it can snow every single month of the year on these mountains.
We spent the day leapfrogging with a lot of other thru-hikers: Abe, One Life, Julie, Wiggly, Grizzly, Big Bird, Mountain Laurel, and Lone Wolf. Many of us stopped by the Zealand Falls Hut to enjoy some leftover cold pancakes and some wonderfully delicious, hot soup.
The only reason I was able to do so many miles today was because the last 5 were "easy". The trail runs down Zealand Notch along the path of an old railroad bed. It felt so good to be able to stretch my legs out and walk with a confident stride again.
Ethan Pond looks like a postcard. A beautiful pond surrounded by Tamarack trees and ringed by mountains. Big Bird and Mountain Laurel are at the next platform over. Other than one other section hiker, the place is surprisingly empty for a Friday night.
It was still fairly warm, but much cloudier and a chance of rain forecasted for the afternoon. We met dozens of day- hikers as we approached Crawford Notch. Micah has got the "SIDE" command down pat. As oncoming hikers approach, I tell Micah "side", and he moves to the shoulder of the trail and stands until I release him with an "OK". We mentioned to one group of dayhikers our need to get rid of some trash and they offered to haul it off for us - yeah!! I was carrying 2 gallon bags of the stuff.
It was a long, tough climb up Webster Cliffs, but the trail is still in better shape than it was on Moosilaukee or Kinsman. The final scrambles near the very top left my legs shaking and my body all tense from fear. When I think of all the scary climbs I've tackled over the last few days, I'm really quite amazed. My fear of heights and falling really wears me out more than the miles I cover would merit on their own.
Mt. Washington loomed ever closer throughout the day. It's shocking how quickly it's become a reality and not just some distant peak on the horizon.
We saw several Spruce Hens today. They seem to have no fear of us whatsoever and are barely willing to put out the effort to fly out of the way before we step on them. We also spent some time watching the crows playing in the air currents off Webster Cliffs. They would glide along and then suddenly fold their wings in and do a spiraling free-fall or turn over on their backs and clasp at the empty air with their feet. They were obviously enjoying themselves immensely.
We're in an overflow tentsite here. There are hordes of people here, it's noisy, and the tentsite seem to be less than 15 feet apart. Just a few hundred feet past the tents is the Mizpah hut and another crowd of people. Oh well, such a pretty area is bound to attact people.
Tomorrow we summit Mt. Washington!