Miles today: 14.0
Miles total: 327.2
Miles total: 327.2
Currently sitting in the dining room of the hut...
It's a great day to be in the Whites! Paranoid about getting caught in the infamous afternoon thunderstorms, I skipped out on a hot breakfast at Carter Notch Hut and set out early. My legs were still feeling adequately sapped from yesterday as I climbed Wildcat Mountain, which is home to a ski resort in the winter. I got to the top before I knew it though. Credit that to a fresh mind and a beautiful sunrise. Walking along Wildcat peaks A, B, D, and E, I caught glimpses of the Presidential Range to my right. It was distractingly beautiful and intimidating. The Presidentials apparently wanted to sleep in this morning and ordered their own personal cloud cover. A fluffy white blanket hid all the summits from view. I walked past the ski gondolas, kind of a weird sight, and started the descent of Peak E. Many nobos have said it is their steepest climb of the whole trail. My knees and I were quick to believe them; losing over 2000 feet in 1.7 miles meant some steep downhill. I was slightly worried that I would topple forward into Pinkham Notch, but in the end I survived and celebrated at the Joe Dodge Lodge with a Coke.
What awaited me was a climb up Mount Madison, my introduction to the Presidentials and my tallest mountain to date. I walked the five miles to the base and fueled up with peanut butter and the last of the apples that Cosmonaut sent with me. Below treeline, the climb was steep and rocky, but I paced myself and I soon popped out above treeline. The climbing got less steep but the terrain changed to boulders and the wind began to blow, unblocked by pine trees. To my left I could see Mount Washington, a black ribbon of asphalt stretching up to its still-clouded summit. The sun shone at intervals even though it began to sprinkle. I donned my pack cover, which made it stop raining. Some figures came into view on Mount Madison's peak. Once I summitted, I saw that there was a veritable party. At least 7 people awaited me. Among them was a man that had just climbed the last of New Hampshire's 4000-foot peaks. He poured me a glass of wine and I celebrated my own accomplishment of reaching over a mile high. Katahdin fell 13 feet short, but Madison beat its height by almost 200 feet. I grinned as the beauty of the day finally washed over me in full. Across the sunny valley, I saw the mountains I had climbed since Gorham: Moriah, Carter, Hight, Carter Dome, Wildcat. They all looked deceptively smooth and round. I saw US 2 stretching through Gorham and Mount Washington's towering summit. Luckily, I've done my climbing and can just walk across the ridge to our slightly taller neighbor, where a snack bar awaits.
Tonight, my timing was perfect and I lucked in to another work-for-stay position. I am joined in my indentured servant position by three other hikers: Blue Moon, a northbounder, and Newton and Kermit, a father-son duo who are doing a flip-flop. They began hiking on June 1 in New York, and upon reaching Katahdin, they will return to New York and hike southward. I really enjoyed the company of these three. We shared tips about the trail ahead and talked about our motivation. As we waited for the guests to finish their dinner, we went insane from the delicious smells. After dinner, Blue Moon completed his "chore" of speaking holding a Q and A session about his thru hike for the guests. He's a good speaker and got people really interested. They gave him snacks and crowded around him for more questions after the session was over. We all kind of became celebrities, and I was glad the paying guests found us interesting.
I can't believe I was so anxious about the Whites, because at this moment I'd say this is the most beautiful part of my trip. I will go to sleep tonight supremely happy.
Pictures: the Presidentials in their cloud blanket; a warning at the Joe Dodge Lodge; the climb up Madison; a newly-minted mile-high club member.