My body chose the usual 5am wake up time again this morning….why??? When I can sleep as long as I want to, do I continue to get up at 5am? It’s solid routine now. Asking questions won’t change that.
I was packed and ready to go by 6:30…an early start even by my standards, but we had a few mountains to climb, and the unanswered question of the Mahoosucs…will we or won’t we? Both challenges come at the end of the day, so we can only really know when we get there and see how much energy we have left.
I told Gormet that I wanted to go through both with her. You see the Mahoosuc Arm is one mile that drops 1,500 feet…nearly vertical in some areas. The Mahoosuc Notch is a gauntlet of massive boulders with gaps between that seem to have no bottom, water, ice, and who knows what else hides in the shadows. The Notch is the most difficult mile on the trail because it is like a giant jungle gym. Sometimes you have to take off your pack to squeeze through an opening, sometimes take a leap of faith over a chasm…having another hiker there for both features is a good idea, not just for safety reasons, but so you have someone you can complain with.
But first we had Baldplate Mountain to climb, and then Old Spec….well over 5,000′ of climbing before we got to either Mahoosuc.
I was feeling strong and worked my way quickly to the top of the mountain. Glorious views surrounded the mountain and I could see the infamous Mount Washington shrouded in clouds in the distance. Wow!
I took a fat chill up top (not to be confused with the hiker, Fat Chill) and luxuriate in the sunshine…although the wind was chilly enough that I put on my jacket. That’s a first! I have yet to put on my jacket during the day, it’s just been too hot and humid.
When Gormet comes up I follow her down off the mountain; we have to go up again before we go down (of course) and during the descent we stop at a shelter for water.
Then down down down to Grafton Notch where we ponder the meaning of “Notch.” We conclude it means pass. Out west the mountain passes are where roads can travel through the mountains, and the notches here seem to serve the same purpose.
Then I start the 3,500′ climb in 3.5 miles. Seriously?
The trail met a wooded junction 0.4 miles to the top of the mountain, but I passed it by. I’ve had plenty of views and don’t need to add 0.8 miles to the day.
Ok, we descend to Speck Pond where we have to make our decision: hike down the arm and camp? Hike down the arm and through the notch and then climb a mountain and camp? Or stay right were we were at the pond. It was 3pm. We chose the arm and camp.
Nobos came huffing and puffing up as we started down and we congratulated them…some were excited, some beaten down. The steep was as steep as some of the other crazy insane descents we have already encountered in Maine, but this was longer and steeper. We picked our way down, knees screaming at us the whole way.
We were just about to a camp spot when I pull over to let another hiker pass and he says, “Renee?”
What?!?! I look closer and before I can register the face under the red beard he says, “It’s Cargo.”
Cargo??? What are the chances??? Cargo is from Oregon and hiked the Oregon Desert Trail a few years ago, even stranger, after that I was in the Denver Airport one spring flying to the CDT kickoff in Silver City when Cargo walks up to me…he was starting the CDT that spring. How crazy! We have a history of meeting up randomly, and here we were on the Mahoosuc Arm, chatting it up. Cargo had started hiking in January from the tip of the Flordia Keys…and was just about done. We made plans to chat this fall when we are both home, he wants to talk trails, and so do I.
So I hiked on and almost around the corner I find Gormet at camp. What a relief. I am so ready to stop walking.
Dinner is ramen with a side of mashed potatoes.
I think notch means you get to put a notch in your belt after make it past the notch. (or maybe notch your pistol grip if you are of the age of watching old westerns)
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