Day 4 – 6/16/2014 – Zealand Falls Hut
Summerset and Cameron coming in over the Bonds to meet me at Zealand Falls Hut today. That was uppermost on my mind, as they had lots of miles to do. Summerset wanted to get those peaks for her grid, and Cameron was up for it.
I woke to bright sun around 5:30a. Dozed for an hour until croo woke us all up at 6:30a with a guitar and a song. Breakfast was pancakes plain or with chocolate chips, plus oatmeal and sausage patties. I was not feeling hungry, nauseous in fact. I still
l put down canned peaches and 4 cakers. I knew I’d need the energy for the hike.
Took off late, on purpose. I was sort of hoping to meet my two on the trail, as unlikely as that was. So late start – around 8:30a. Then a leisurely climb up the very steep trail to South Twin. 0.8 miles, but trail in excellent condition today. Mostly dry, good footing. Trail well maintained. Lots of stairstepped rock work. Took pictures out to Garfield on the way up, plus Franconia Ridge. Summit of S. Twin was 360 views, very clear. Not muggy. Pictures all around.
Gentle descent to Twinway, through 2.0 mile section to Bondcliff junction. Section easily some of the most pleasant I’d ever had in the Whites. Nice smells, nice footing, level rolling terrain, mossy open woods in places, trail in great condition. Easy to walk along and enjoy. My peeps too far away, based on a guy I met at the junction who had passed them. Also met a foreign guy who had gotten bad directions from someone about the AT. He ended up on Bondcliff Trail when he wanted to go AT northbound. Said he’d been following white blazes for 800 miles.
I headed north myself towards ZF Hut, over Guyot and Zealand Mt. I dropped my pack and went the extra tenth down to Z summit with its memorable sign. Rolling terrain, fairly steep final descent to the hut. Checked in ahead of my two, around 2:45p. Sat at the waterfall, feet in. Scrubbed them as well as I could – cold, cold water, and dirt really needed a brush to work it out. Summerset and Cameron made it in about 4:30p, about 11.5 hours on the trail. They were in great spirits, looked good, chipper. Settled in to our area, taking 3 of 4 bunks, almost a private little area which was sort of nice.
Dinner was turkey soup, salad, barbecue chicken sandwiches on hearty bread rounds, broccoli slaw, and plain couscous. I ate a ton tonight, really felt hungry. Summerset and I traded a bunch of gear. I lightened my load to ease the next few miles – every pound counts. Also opted to swap hiking sandals for shoes. Feet are raw from the Garfield Ridge Trail day where they were so wet and gritty all day. With lots of open area across rocks in the Presis coming, decided that full shoes were a better call. So, have been treating the raw areas on my feet with New-Skin, this horrible smelling stuff you brush on. Also have several bandages with me just in case. Really hoping the shoes are not a mistake.
Naturalist spoke on mostly the history of the Whites tonight, picking out various anecdotes and personalities of interest. She went for about an hour, passed out photos, etc. Interesting discussion.
Cell service non-existent at Zealand Falls. Just “Searching…”
Day 5 – 6/17/2014 – Mizpah Springs Hut
Woke up early, but was hard to get going. Finished packing before breakfast. Was pretty well set to go. Breakfast was egg frittata, sausage patties, oatmeal, canned peaches, although I was a bit nauseous again. Hard to eat. I didn’t get enough calories. Just couldn’t choke down anything more than a couple of sausage patties, a little oatmeal with fruit, and small piece of frittata. Hit the trail with Summerset and Cameron about 7:30a. Walked with them to A-Z junction. I headed down A-Z, they headed out to catch a 9:20a AMC shuttle back to LW parking lot.
A-Z was a steady but gentle climb up for quite a while. Was also my first steps in shoes for a while. Opted to go with the Ventilators and send the Tevas back with Summerset. Decided that protecting my feet was the best thing to do considering all the rocks ahead of me in the upcoming terrain. Comfortable ride, no issues.
A-Z is mellow for a long while, but then climbs steeply to the junction with the Willey Range Trail near the junction to the spur of Mt. Tom. Shortly after that, it descends similarly steeply. Eventually it runs into the Avalon Trail, where it terminates at the AMC Highland Center off the 302. I was a bit tired at that point.
Thinking back on A-Z trail, it was some of the most enjoyable miles I’d ever spent in the Whites, similar to Twinway coming off of S. Twin yesterday. Pleasant trail, well-kept, rolling forest, many songbirds, sunlight coming through the trees.
Hung in a shady spot at Highland Center complex for a bit, messaged Summerset to let her know I was doing okay. Loaded some water, ate a bit. Then got going again. Based on the map, I’d estimated the climb to Mizpah Springs Hut was 2.2 miles. Signage near the head of Crawford Path pointed out it was actually 2.6. The climb from the 302 to the Mizpah Cutoff Trail was a slog. Trail was well maintained and easy to place feet overall, but was just relentless. I puttered up there, taking 2 or 3 significant pack-off breaks. Hot. Drank a LOT of water over the course of the whole trail from Zealand Falls Hut, about 1.25 gallons.
Arrived at Mizpah about 2:30p. Assigned to bunkroom number 5. Two other guys in there were crashed out, exhausted from their day’s hike. Scarcity of hooks at pegs at Mizpah, which overall is quite a different layout from the other huts. M is a long, more narrow hut. Upstairs features a hallways with several bunkrooms on either side. Also a loft area with a skylight, table, and benches where the library and games can be found.
I managed to get unpacked, clean up, and change. Also bought some chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, a pumpkin muffin, and lemonade to fill in some of missing calories from the day.
Crew up here from REI, guided by a guide from the AMC. REI team is testing gear from Thule. Bunch of writers, columnists. Interesting group. Trouble under the right circumstances, I bet. They were passing around the bourbon, seemed pretty jokey.
Weather today has been warm – shorts and t-shirt. Wore my cap almost all day, but I feel burn on my neck and maybe forearms. Feet are doing okay. No new rub spots or other damage. DRY FEET today, too. Not wet at all – such a relief after the all-day wet feet experience on Garfield Ridge Trail to have 2 days of dry feet.
Dinner was lasagna, peas, honey oat bread, salad, black bean soup, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for dessert.
Called Summerset, and asked for her to meet me Friday night along the 16, hike up to Carter Notch Hut with me, then hike out on Saturday. Has become very important to me that she be there at the end as I complete this trek. CN had an opening, and so she reserved and we coordinated pickup to be at the Great Gulf trailhead on the west side of the 16. She will hike up to meet me if I’m not there.
Slept well, but the weather rolled in overnight. Woke up to a thunderclap in the middle of the night sometime, even through my earplugs. Several people commented on it in the morning, so it wasn’t just me.
Cell service at Mizpah Springs Hut was functional outside the hut, at least enough to make a voice call. iMessages were not being delivered. Inside the hut was no service.
Day 6 – 6/18/2014 – Lakes of the Clouds Hut
Woke around 6a, drifted back. 6:30a croo woke us up with an acoustic guitar number. Something about a ghost – I don’t recall the name of the song. But it was sort of catchy.
Breakfast was cakers 3 ways – plain, blueberry, and chocolate chip. Also bacon and oatmeal. I have learned to like the Berry Zinger tea + sugar they have on the table. Good stuff. Better appetite this morning than the last two, but still not quite right. Robin hopped about in front of the hut looking in the windows as we ate, picking happily at worms it was turning up without much trouble.
Weather sort of awful, but could have been worse. Mizpah in a cloud, wind blowing hard. Brief downpour during breakfast. But…not raining steadily (although everything was soaking wet outside) and temps in the 50’s. So, not so bad. Decided just to go for it and get up to Lake of the Clouds Hut, a 4.9 mile walk from Mizpah, at least the way I was going…the fastest way possible, i.e. not over summits.
Got on trail about 8:30a, and was feeling good immediately. Steep ascent with rough footing for the first several tenths towards the summit of Mt. Pierce, but it didn’t wind me like the ascent to South Twin did from Galehead. Trail nearly leveled towards the top, and I picked up the pace a good bit. Summited Pierce, then rolled along. Caught the REI/Thule team that had left Mizpah before me just past the Pierce summit. The visibility was very poor and signage lacking, so I double-checked with the AMC guide that I was headed the right way, etc. I knew I couldn’t be going the wrong way, but was paranoid after the miscue on Lafayette. She confirmed, and I passed their group of maybe 8 or 10 people.
For the rest of the hike to Lakes, I would go ahead of them, find a spot out of the wind, and wait for them to catch me. It was a comfort to hear the chatty group behind me considering the conditions. The signs were poor and I think even missing in some places. At least two posts had a sign down low, but not high, as if the higher sign was simply gone. My route was simple enough – follow the Crawford Path and avoid the summit loops over Eisenhower and Monroe. But in the hard wind and extremely low visibility – only 50 feet according to the weather – getting turned around or making some other mistake seemed plausible. So the sanity check with the AMC guide-led group was a good thing.
And about the wind. I have never, ever hiked in such driving wind. Mizpah told us the wind speed would be 50-70 mph, and I believe it. Imagine driving down the highway and sticking your head out the window – it was like that, only the wind was hitting my entire body on the most exposed sections. Thankfully, it wasn’t a constant exposure. Hiking up and down the rock fields, plus in and out of the krumholtz, made for several spots where it wasn’t such a big deal. For example, about 2 hours in, the trail offered a huge boulder that was completely out of the wind. I actually checked in on my phone tracking app and ate a Clif Bar.
Oh – my phone. Running low on power overall, so was not able to run the tracking app the entire time today. Chose instead to do a quick update at two intervals. Once at that 2 hour mark I just mentioned, then another when I arrived at the hut. That way, at least folks following me will know I got somewhere, without eating the battery up.
Arrived at Lake of the Clouds Hut about 11:30a. I just stormed in the door. Felt absolutely amazing the entire time, despite the weather. Reportedly, I’ve gotten my hiking legs or mountain legs, depending on who tells the story. I hope that sticks with me tomorrow for the trip to Madison. But such a feeling of ability, like you can hike forever. Flying up most of the inclines, and level or declines were simply assaulted. I felt so good, it was like I tore the trail down. Can’t imagine what I might be capable of if I dropped about 30 pounds and kept up with the hiking. I’m thinking about it.
Lunched with hut friends met at Zealand 2 nights ago. They did not make it to Mizpah on schedule as they took on the entire Willey range yesterday, and were exhausted. They stayed at Highland Center last night, then stormed all the way up to Lakes, making that trip in about 4.5 hours.
After that, napped in my bunk. Happy time. So, so many people here at Lakes. Place is filled to capacity. Several people stayed over an extra day rather then go to Maddy because of the lousy weather and high winds. Several families and groups are here. Hut is a happy, bustling place. Folks playing games, sharing food and drink, croo scrambling to find enough bunks, good smells coming from the kitchen. Feels safe and warm here, high up in the mountains. The wind is still a steady 40 mph, and the only view outside is cloud. But this little group of humanity has clustered together in this place at this time to share a unique experience. There is no place I would rather be, although I wish Summerset was with me.
It occurs to me that in just a few days, I will be off the trail, not able to simply get up and hike. I am very upset by this thought. Each time the realization comes into my head, I choke up. In this diversion I’ve taken from my every day working life and constant cycle of stress and being busy, I’ve learned that living simply is a blessing, and my needs are met by shelter, food, warmth, and companionship. The rest this consumer-oriented world offers is nice, but matters so much less than the basics. The basics are truly enough.
Dinner was roast pork, green salad, cheesy garlic bread (dry), mushroom barley tomato soup, applesauce cake dessert, roast corn medley. Bread was great – I ate too many pieces to recall. Group was there to celebrate someone’s 50th birthday. Noisy group, bags of wine, etc. Nice folks – I sat with them inadvertently for dinner.
Cell service at Lakes is okay. Was able to get messages through to Summerset.