Well folks, it's over. I'm done! I summited Mt. Katahdin at 11:15 on August 22. The great journey is over. However, I imagine it is quite far from over for all of you, since as far as you are all concerned I am still about to climb Mt. Washington back in New Hampshire. I am now here to remedy that situation.
So, when I left you last we were about to cross Mt. Washington. Mystery Chicken, Widowmaker, and I got moving pretty late for us. It was close to nine before we hit the trail, but we had a fairly short day planned. I felt pretty bad as we got going. I think I had too much caffeine or something that morning (coffee) because I was all light headed and my stomach felt weird. I was having a bit of trouble keeping up. Fortunately that faded after a little while and I was able to catch everybody up. Practically all of that day was above treeline so we had some really good views of what was coming up ahead of us and what we had just done. It was really pretty but very raw looking, lots of rock. We stopped in at the Lakes of the Clouds hut just to see what it was like. It was nestled just at the foot of Mt. Washington and it just suddenly appeared over a rise as we approached it which was sort of cool. After a little while spent there we headed up the big deal for the day, the location of the worst weather in the world, Mt. Washington. Chicken was hiking really good but both Widowmaker and I were feeling really weak. My stomach thing and lightheadedness really came back and Widowmaker was apparently feeling simirlarly. The temperature had been pretty pleasant for most of the morning but almost as soon as we left Lakes of the Clouds it started getting really windy and much chillier, so that added to our discomfort. Fortunately, the climb really isn't very hard or long so we did get to the top without mishap.
Mt. Washington was pretty cool in that it seemed like a magnet for all of the clouds in the area and it was sort of cool to watch all of the local weather swirling around us. Also it was a clearer day than I think many people get from up there so we were lucky that way. On the other hand the number of people up there was rather off-putting. There were tourists everywhere. And oh, that reminds me of something. There is a "traditional" rail car that takes tourists who want to the top of the mountain. I hate this thing. It seems utterly contrary to what we encountered everywhere else in the Whites. Everywhere we looked there were signs reminding us to stay on the trail and be cautious of the local flora and fauna which were very fragile. And then there is this train that is purely a tourist sop that is belching large amounts of black smoke into the atmosphere which was both an eyesore and looked pretty corrosive. It frustrated me to no end.
Unfortunately, Widowmaker was apparently feeling even worse than I thought because once we reached the top he decided to take a shuttle down into town to rest for a day or two. Chicken and I had to push on alone. The whole afternoon I was afraid it was going to storm on us where we had no good way to get back under treeline. Fortunately, that never happened and in spite of some of the cloud cover there were some really good views that afternoon. On the other hand that afternoon was about 7 miles of almost complete boulder hopping which gets kind of tiring after a while. As a result Chicken and I decided to choose the closer of our two possible stopping points for the day, the Madison Hut. We were able to procure work for stay no problem and unlike the previous hut we stayed at this hut crew didn't take advantage of our situation and didn't work the junk out of us. In fact were able to pretty much take our ease that evening and we had a nice chat with a couple of the women who were staying there at the hut. Next morning all we had to do was straighten the bunkhouse a bit which only took 30 or 40 minutes. It was a much more positive hut experience, but wasn't really enough to make up for how annoyed we'd been by what had happened at Galehead.
Anyway, the next day we got out around nine. The first few miles were steep (both up and down), rocky, and slow. We stopped at Pinkham Notch for lunch and I picked up a new mail drop. As a result we were there for about 2 hours. It was longer than I had really wanted to stop for, but it was a good break. After Pinkham it was time to head up into the Wildcat range, which we had heard was going to be pretty tough. Of course ten minutes later we were walking along side of a river decided it was hot enough that we wanted to take a swim, which we did. Rather, we jumped in and out again really fast a couple of times. Surprise, New Hampshire mountain rivers are really cold. Who knew. It was, however, extremely refreshing so we were nice and cool when we started the Wildcats.
It wasn't enough. The Wildcats were a butt-kicker. The climb was practically vertical, quite rocky, and had about a dozen false summits. Oh and on the way up we got passed by a bunch of day hikers on the way down who didn't look nearly fit or sweaty enough to have done what we were doing. Then we realized they had probably taken the gondola to the top and were just walking down. Cheaters. Eventually however, the summits stopped being false and we succeeded in conquering that range. That night we camped in what I think might be the only good stealth camping spot in the entire state of New Hampshire. We were about .3 miles south of the Carter Notch Hut.
The next day we left the Whites behind us forever. On the way out we came across TinTin (a member of the group The Brooklyn Boys, and a guy neither of us had seen in some time), and Dirty Ernie who I had walked with for about the first week and who was now Flip Flopped and walking south. It was pretty cool seeing Ernie again but he had, contrary to most people, some pretty ominous things to say about Maine. Apparently the state was a rain covered swamp. Anyway, that night I ended up in Gorham, NH waiting to meet my friend Josh Terry who was coming out hike with me for a couple of days.
I swear there will be another post in a couple of days at most and at some point I'm going to do a post that is entirely pictures.
The Breadless Horseman