Crawford Notch: 1844.4
Thunderstorm Junction: 1861.7
Total miles: 17.3
Luckily, we did have a nearby restaurant for breakfast. Munroe's opened at 7, so we had to push back our shuttle. Munroe' s made us feel like we were back in the south again (biscuits, gingham, grits), which felt weird. At 8, we met the taxi in the parking lot and headed to the trail head.
Webster cliffs, the first climb of the day, got us very quickly up a few thousand feet. We would hike by and over a ton of summits during the big day. First up, Webster, then the northern presidentials, something like eight peaks during the day.
* Webster Mt.
Clem got a slightly later start than us, but took the shorter Webster-Jackson trail and caught us just after. It could not have been timed better. We headed to Mizpah shelter and the caretaker there was extremely friendly and kind. She quickly took out leftovers for us, let us take two baked goods for our thru hiker baked good tokens, and just generally seemed to care (being treated like a person can sometimes be rare on the trail). We were already up pretty high at this point and it was getting cold. Tyler didn't have pants and Clem was worried that he would be too cold on the ridge leading up to Washington (he would have been) and let Tyler take his extremely nice trekking pants for as long as he needed them. Once again, the Clem provides. He only hiked with us as far as Mt. Pierce and thought that he would finally head home after his third day of being our mobile trail angel. He will be missed!
*Mt. Peirce and Mt. Washington (hidden in the clouds)
Our next stop along the now gradual but continuous climb was Lakes of the Clouds, ten miles into the day. The special of the day in the hut (these huts, besides their exorbitant rooming fees, have really been treating us well) was crepes with chocolate and powdered sugar. They were spectacular. After the decadent treat, we began the final ascent up the cloud enshrouded Washington.
It was wet from cloud moisture, cold, and gusty. Not as bad as we all had feared, but we were all wearing rain shells (and Emily finally put on pants, though Dean soldiered on in shorts). The hike seemed epic and eerie and mysterious, though at the summit it suddenly became a foggy world of wonder. Shivering tourists who drove up to get a picture at the summit darted back and forth in the clouds. We had to wait our turn to get our own picture, but the auto road, and gift shops were soon closing and the last train was soon leaving. We enjoyed a hot cocoa inside, though unfortunately we were too late for hot dogs (Duck Fart had been talking about devouring half a dozen for days now). We sat inside warming up until the place was nearly empty. One tourist asked us if we had hiked up all the way from the bottom, we said sort of, from Georgia, to which he said "Nice!" As he was walking away.
*Photo courtesy of Sir Duck Fart
We had to wait a couple more minutes for our pictures, but eventually got them and headed down the mountain. Duck Fart was a bit concerned with the time since over confident hikers have gotten into serious trouble in washington, but after hiking through thr blowing clouds for thirty we suddenly found ourselves under darkening, but still blue skies below the Washington clouded summit.
The way down was slow. We hiked over boulders, down enormous rock steps, and had to spot cairns in the rocky terrain rather than blazes. Our pace was also impacted by the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the wilderness area below us. Now that we could see the sun again, we had trouble believing that we had just been trapped in a cloud.
Still, after our slow course and sustained marveling, we didn't make it to the side trail we were taking down to The Perch until nearly 7:30. Tempers were getting short due to hunger and exhaustion. The side trail was another mile off and by the time we reached the campsite below treeline. We received the bad news from Casey, the RMC caretaker, that The Perch was completely full. He checked the stealth sites in the campground too, but they were also occupied. Weekenders and Dartmouth orientation groups had filled it up. We, along with 8 Dartmouth students, would have to trek another 0.7 miles to the Gray Knob Cabin to spend the night. Understandably, we were not pleased. We sped off to the cabin. Casey caught us along the way and Dean chatted with him a bit. He was really kind and though we may have wanted to rip his head off for something completely out of his control, we couldn't stay mad. We finally reached the cabin, Duck Fart immediately opened the beer he packed out and Tyler a nip of whiskey, and we made dinner. The Dartmouth students showed up about a half hour after us. Casey had put the plastic mattresses on the ground floor for the students, and we all had mattresses on the top floor. Even though we had hiked more, getting an actual cabin to sleep in was pretty sweet. We also got to feel like wise and powerful wood folk heroes again when the Dartmouth students found out we were thru hiking. They peppered us with questions for the last fifteen minutes of the night such as how many times have we had Giardia? That's right, not if we have had it, but how many times. Zero times Dartmouth students, zero times.