AMC NH High Mountain Hut Traverse – Days 7-9 – 6.19-6.21.2014

Day 7 – 6/19/2014 – Madison Spring Hut

Weather broke overnight. Awoke to strong sun. Breakfast was oatmeal, scambled eggs with zucchini and broccoli, coffee cake, bacon. Due to heavy crowds and pokey teen in my bunkroom, I waited until late to pack up. I figured that giving the sun a little more time to dry off the rocks wasn’t a bad idea anyway. Hiking clothes were cold and gross to put back on. And smell ferocious. I might be killing wildlife just by walking down the trail.

Headed out towards Madison Spring Hut about 8:45a. Wore winter hat all day due to the wind. Temps in the 40s. Bright sun mostly, some clouds passing over the summits early in the day, but completely clear after 11am or so.

Took Crawford Path towards Mt. Washington to West Side Trail, which skirts the summit. WS Trail very easy to travel across. Well placed, flat rocks in many places. Outstanding views back to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. Ascended to Mt. Clay summit via loop trail, which I did not have previously. Nice views, lightly traveled. Not a difficult ascent. Descent somewhat steeper heading towards Jefferson. Stayed on Gulfside Trail for the remainder of the route. Wind was overbearing almost all day, getting worse as the day progressed. Some shelter from the wind was found around the side of Jefferson, but once clear of J and headed towards Adams, the wind was relentless with gusts increasing in ferocity. Descending Adams shoulder towards Maddy, the gusts had increased to the point that they threw me off balance. Footwork was already tricky in spots, and the winds made it that much more challenging. Good to be in the hut. Arrived about 3:15p or so, taking my time with frequent stops for pictures and food along the way. Route was I believe 7.1 miles, as the Mt. Clay Loop adds 0.3 miles to the 6.8 miles route between Lakes and Maddy according to the AMC guide book.

Did not have the magic mojo I had yesterday hiking from Mizpah to Lakes. Upper back sore. Legs a bit…tired. But overall, still finding that ascents are easier. Would rather go up than down at this point. Down is a lot of tricky work in this area due to so many loose rocks. Very glad to have changed to shoes instead of the Tevas. Banged my feet several times today on rocks. Lots of events where the rock I stepped on would slide, pivot, or roll.

Motorcycles were ascending / descending the Mt. W Auto Road today, nearing the end of the annual Laconia Bike Week rally. Was neat to hear the big Harley motors rumble across the mountains as I hiked.

Feet starting to feel the strain of the hike. Arches a bit sore. Some undertoe skin issues. Overall, minor complaints.

Will see Summerset tomorrow. Anticipating greatly. Have a sense of acheivement having made it this far. I could see the Wildcats and Carters today, and could see exactly where the last hut is. Looked far away, but I know that 19 Mile Brook Trail leading to Carter Notch Hut is very do-able.

Dinner was roast beef, whole wheat bread, roasted corn medley, white rice, salad, minestrone soup, peach upside-down cake. Thru hiker nearing the end of her trip across the AT with her husband chatted with the group after dinner. Was cold at Maddy that night, wind was constant. I slept under two wool blankets in my fleece and winter hat. Was comfortable like that.

Cell service at Madison almost impossible. There’s a set of rocks out front the croo has nicknamed “the phone booth” that offers a tenuous yet predictable signal. I was able to get a voicemail out to Summerset, but not an iMessage.

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View back to Lakes of the Clouds Hut.

 

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Panorama from Westside Trail going around Mt. Washington.

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Looking towards the Cog Railway, which ascends to the summit of Mt. Washington.

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Crossing under the Cog Railway.

 

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Plaque near the summit of Mt. Clay.

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Along Gulfside Trail going around Mt. Jefferson.

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Panorama from the side of Mt. Jefferson.

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Looking towards Mt. Adams.

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Near “Thunderstorm Junction.”

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Descending Gulfside Trail to Madison Spring Hut. Another windy day, this part being the windiest. The gusts were strong enough to keep knocking me off balance.

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Inside Madison Spring Hut, from my bunk. Maddy is a *beautiful* hut, recently renovated.

Day 8 – 6/20/2014 – Carter Notch Hut

Clear morning at Maddy, but windy. I was up about 6am, nervous about the ascent to Mt. Madison because of the cold plus wind. Temps in the 30s, winds 40-60 mph according to the report from Mt. W. Chatted with a couple of guys who’d done a lot of hiking in the Whites over the years while waiting for croo to wake everyone up.

Breakfast was cakers, bacon, oatmeal. There may have been a coffee cake involved. Don’t recall anymore.

I waited for my bunkroom to clear since I didn’t need to be down to Rt.16 until 2pm. No rush to leave. Plus, I was hoping the sun would warm things up a bit more. Opted to buy some gloves from the hut, since I was anxious about climbing Madison in the high wind. I went out about 9am fully layered. 2 Techwick shirts, fleece, wind/rain shell, winter hat, gloves.

Climb to Madison from the hut is a steep boulder scramble. Wind was indeed blowing as hard as predicted, almost to the point of comedy. I stashed my poles alongside my pack in their special elastic holders. Climbed using handholds a great deal. Legs were tight. Summited, then headed down Osgood Trail over the ridgeline. Osgood is very rocky with boulders and rough footing, very steep in places. The ridgeline was exposed to the wind, but overall was less wind than up to the Madison summit.

Descent into the woods from Osgood was a welcome relief from the wind, considering wind had been a prominent feature for 3 days of hiking the Presis. Osgood descends very steeply, and I continued the hike without poles. After many tenths, Osgood descent was more reasonable, and began to make better time. Stopped here and there to snack and check phone in case Summerset (who was out hiking some of W’s more insane trails with Greg) tried to reach me.

Continued Osgood descent to Great Gulf Trail, which became the easiest trail hiked throughout the entire trip. Gentle grade, few rocks, considerable sidewalk, easy to navigate, easy on the feet.

Arrived at GG trailhead along Rt. 16 at 1:18pm, and awaited Summerset and Greg to arrive from their adventure, which they did around 1:45p or so. A bit of car shuttling to get Greg to Pinkham Notch and us back to 19 Mile Brook parking lot. Then Summerset and I ascended 19 Mile Brook 3.8 miles to Carter Notch Hut. Long slog at the end, as the trail seemed to go on a few tenths longer than we remembered, and I was certainly out of gas. Was getting colder as we ascended as well. Layered up just below the junctin with Wildcat Ridge Trail, then cruised the last 0.3 to the hut. Checked in, changed, warm, dry, happy. SORE. Back, feet, legs…I’m done today. Longest day out at over 10 miles.

Carter Notch Hut was WARM. Yay. Small hut, about 23 guests for dinner. 3 were a group from NJ planning to hike all the way to Lonesome Lake Hut in 24 hours. They were going to get up at midnight and then go for it. They seemed well prepared. Carefully studying trail maps, plus had a sequence of trails and mileages. Knew exactly how many calories they were carrying, etc. Had been training as well. My hope is that Garfield Ridge Trail doesn’t break them, and I suggested that they mentally prepare themselves for the steep ups and downs and difficult footing.

Also met a German over for another section hike of the AT. He’d been doing 500 miles at a time for a few years. He talked about hiking in Germany. He thought it strange that in NH, staying at shelters can cost. That’s atypical for sure along the AT.

Dinner was bow tie pasta, black bean soup, salad, chicken with some sort of nut crust, red sauce, peas. Dessert was a honey pudding that the croo cook of the day was trying for the first time. We all liked it.

Well-deserved sleep for everyone tonight. Summerset had a big day with hiking buddy Greg on some tough trails on Mt. W before hiking up to CN Hut with me. We’re beat. A good end to the week.

Cell service at CN Hut is 1-2 bars of Verizon 3G. Solid signal, able to get data through.

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Steep climb up Osgood Trail from the hut to the summit of Mt. Madison.

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Well over Mt. Madison, and descending Osgood Trail. This picture doesn’t do this section justice. Comically steep. At the top, it was like looking over a cliff.

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Looking back over Osgood Trail towards Mt. Madison.

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Descending Osgood Trail (still) and heading towards Great Gulf Trail.

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Along Great Gulf Trail. After the challenge of Osgood Trail, which was a rocky knee-pounder, this relative sidewalk was a welcome relief.

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Bridge to make it back to Great Gulf trailhead, where I was to meet Summerset for the last section up to Carter Notch Hut.

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Summerset at 19 Mile Brook trailhead.

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Like Lonesome Lake Hut, Carter Notch Hut is split into multiple buildings. This is one of the bunkhouses.

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Carter Notch Hut. Small, cozy, and getting on in years. One of the oldest buildings in the hut system.

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Day 9 – Back to Civilization

The walk out from Carter Notch Hut with Summerset was a pleasant, easy walk down 19 Mile Brook trail’s fairly easy grades. We chatted, and ran into many folks on the way up. Nice to load everything into the car. Driving back was a bit weird for me, though.

We stopped at a convenience store in Gorham to pick up some Gatorade and snacks. This is the most normal thing in the world to do, and I didn’t think much about it. But I quickly found it overwhelming after so many days in the woods. All the items on the shelves, bright colors, signage, and people were a too much to handle. I exited the store, sort of freaking out. Got back into the car and was able to calm down a bit. That was a strange moment for me, someone who is in control all the time. I never would have expected that to happen.

Another weird sort of panic attack happened a few miles down the road. Being in the car felt very confining all of a sudden. I *had* to open a window so that I could get a grip. That was the last sort of thing that happened like that, although I went through moments of being upset that I wasn’t going to be on the trail the next day. Since being home, I’m all back and readjusted to things, but I’ve developed a fascination with getting rid of clutter. Something about having most of what I needed in a bag I carried on my back makes all the junk I have at home seem quite unnecessary.

Trying to wrap up this tale, all in all, the trip was an extraordinary experience. I loved it. I very much want to get back out and hike more. A lot more. Hiking has become the thought that fills in the cracks in my day, when I have time to think about something other than my rather crammed daily work schedule. And that’s not a bad thing. Frankly, I’ve been spending so much time in front of a screen over the last several months that getting away to do something completely different is a big deal.

Another thought is that the AMC huts are among my favorite places on Earth. I love to be there. I love the routine. I love the camaraderie. I love the stories of how and why fellow hut visitors are there. I love the views of the mountains. I love the relative isolation. The AMC huts represent history – past hikers and croo coming together to celebrate accomplishments. Yet, the AMC huts represent the future – leading the way in energy efficiency and living on Earth without leaving an indelible mark on it.

In summary, now that I’m back, I feel a little less at home. Not to put too fine a point on it…I’d rather be back in the woods. Very much looking forward to my next trip.

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The views from Carter Notch Hut are dramatic. The Carters are on one side, and the Wildcats are on the other.

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Summerset descending from the bunkhouse as we head out towards 19 Mile Brook trail.

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I take a peaceful last look at the wilderness I’m preparing to leave.

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Ladyslippers along 19 Mile Brook trail. A nice thing to see on the way out.

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