I’ve been on a trail a month today, having climbing Katadhin on July 3 and now here I am ready to climb Mt Washington on August 3. I can’t plan these things, they just are, and are beautiful.
It was a cozy night in my bunk, and at one point I woke in the night to go to the bathroom and looked out the window to see the clouds had cleared, and the big dipper perfectly framed in the window. It would be a good day.
Breakfast was oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and cornbread, and soon after eating I was huffing my way along the presidential traverse. The views were incredible…the storm had cleared all haze from the sky and I could see we were surrounded by mountains in all directions. It was a stunning day.
I felt strong and fast. It was a proper She-ra day. I reveled moving my body through space and time. This place is spectacular. Words just cant…
I pass hiker after hiker, practically floating up to 6,288′ and the summit of Mt Washington. Three trains passed me as I approached the mountain top, passengers close enough to wave at me (yes there is a train and a road people can take up to the top….I know!)
And then, people. I topped out and was overwhelmed with hundreds of tourists milling about. I made a beeline for the bathrooms and cafe. The food selection wasn’t bad and I quickly ate a piece of cheese pizza and hot dog before deciding to do a small but expensive resupply here. I just needed a few days of food to make it to my rendezvous with NEMO soon.
I saw lots of other hikers in the crowd, you can spot their ragged, tan, and dirty legs in the mix of fresh faces and white t-shirts. We also walk around with a shell-shocked look to us.
I was approached by some folks who saw me hiking up from the train, and chatted with them for a few minutes, but in general didn’t engage the crowd. I dumped my trash (you have to take advantage of every trash can you can!) and made my way outside again. The line to get your photo taken with the Mt Washington summit sign was ridiculous, so I snapped a few selfies with other parts of the summit and carried on.
The trail down to Lake of the Clouds Hut was glorious, and filled with people too. No matter, this day was probably the most view-worthy day of them all, and I was entranced.
I might even go so far as to say it was a fairy tale hiking day. If you are thru-hiking, please do yourself a favor and time your traverse right. Camp high, stay high, don’t rush it, and wait for good weather. As Model said later in the day (she passed me at the end of the afternoon), “Is this what the PCT is like all the time? Easy hiking with all these views?”
“Yes,” I replied. I had been thinking the same thing. “Yes, all the time.”
No offense AT, the presidential traverse is a small taste of what the west has, but this is a special treat because you don’t have it all the time.
But the other big difference is the people. So many people. That is the compromise.
And I walked.
This was an afternoon that called for Radiohead, that heady floaty music would see me through rest of the day.
When I saw Model, I realized that I’ve met a lot of sobo solo ladies out here: Gormet, Model, Fat Chill, Anna, Teri Beri… I love it! And my girl Carrie (Anonymous) is still hiking north, now solo as Mr Pencil is motoring up to finish the trail, and she is soaking in some solo hiking time too.
It gets hot. I feel parched by the sun. Roasted even. I take out my pagna and tent it over me for shade while I break, and drape it across my shoulders when I hike again to save my already sun-scorched skin.
A few miles from camp I meet Mary and Mitch from Wisconsin. They had driven out to hike for a few days and were next headed to Acadia National Park on the Maine coast. There they would gaze at the sea and drink wine. That image was so overwhelming that I found myself yearning for the same thing: to sit and watch the waves for a while, wine glass in hand. But I was here, having the most fabulous day. That possibility will be here soon enough. Kirk and I are pretty good at doing that very thing on the Oregon coast.
Someone mentions cheese, and we go into the talk of cheese curds in Wisconsin. Mitch was from Stevens Point (my birthplace!) and we all proceeded to talk about school trips to the cheese factory…cheese really is a major part of the culture).
Ok, the day is getting long and I’m getting tired. I twisted my ankles several times today, each time quickly walking it off, but the trail is getting rockier and steeper and I need to pay attention so I don’t seriously hurt myself.
And then I get to camp on the side of Mizpah Hut with many, many other hikers.
By the time I lay down for bed I felt disgusting. It had been a week since my last shower and laundry and I felt positively sticky. I would be getting to a road tomorrow, and even though I didn’t need food anymore, I started to fantasize about washing my hair. Maybe….just maybe…