Sometime in the middle of the night, I was awakened by the sound of an animal head butting my tent. I reached for my headlamp, clicked it on, and could clearly see a black kitty with a white stripe down the middle of its back. Oh Lord, now what? I’ve had training on what to do if a bear charges me, but I had no idea what to do about a problem skunk. I could ask it to go away, or even knock it in the head with a boot, but I had what I felt were valid concerns about the consequences of either of those actions. In the end, I did what I always do when awakened in the middle of the night. I pulled my quilt over my head and tried to go back to sleep. The skunk, however, remained adamant about joining me in the interior of my tent. I don’t know what the skunk was after (I had thrown away all my ice cream sandwich wrappers), but eventually, it gave up and went away only to return about 30 minutes later to repeat the assault. Finally, there was silence and I returned to my slumber.
While I was settling up my account this morning with the hostel owner, I mentioned the skunk incident and told him that it would have been nice to have known about the problem skunk before I decided to camp in his backyard. He told me that the skunk usually hangs around the compost pile and has never bothered a camper before. Are you saying that I have developed some characteristics similar to a compost pile? I had showered, so it must have been the socks. To settle the score, I tossed my damp clothes in his dryer for about ten minutes.
For the first mile or so, the trail tried to lull me into a false sense of easiness, but I had seen the elevation profile in the A.T. Guide and knew better. The trails in the White Mountains have been in existence a lot longer than the A.T., so they have signage with the original trail names. I walked down a couple of roads, crossed a small stream, and passed through a nice pasture on trails named the Wachipauka Pond Trail and the Town Line Trail before the other side finally dropped at the Glencliff Trail. Then my education on the White Mountains began in earnest with a steep 3,500-foot climb (not a typo) over 4.5 miles to the summit of Mt Moosilauke. This would be my longest climb on the A.T. so far and my first time over 4,000 feet since Virginia. I will leave the math to you math majors and construction folks, but I believe that works out to a 15% grade.
For three hours, I battled against this seemingly never-ending climb on rocks. Near the beginning of the climb, an older gentleman wearing a day pack passed me like I was standing still (I probably was standing still on one of my many rest stops) and a couple of hours later he passed me again having been to the summit and working his way back down. I looked at him and said, “Really?” He smiled and kept going. As I neared the summit, I was passed by an older couple slowly coming downhill that told me the trail turned into an interstate highway once I reached the south peak. People have shared their trail assessments with me before and I have learned to accept them with a grain of salt. This time, however, I discovered when I reached the south peak that her description was mostly true!
Suddenly, I was above the treeline and the views were stunning. I continued towards the main summit and arrived just before noon to join the hundred or so people that were already there (there must have been a nearby parking lot with an easy climb). The 360-degree panorama around me was breathtaking. After basking in the views for a few minutes, I found a place out of the wind and was eating lunch when I saw Malt and Jukebox arrive at the summit. It seemed like it was a long and refreshing break, but I only spent about 50 minutes on the summit before heading down.
I would like to report that, like the previous summits, the northbound climb down was easier than the climb up, but that was not the case. The A.T. follows the Beaver Brook Trail down for a total elevation loss of 3,000 feet in under three miles. In fact, the trail here includes the second steepest section of the A.T. with a 1,000-foot drop in 0.5-miles contained within a section that drops 2,000-feet in 1.5-miles. Although the trail parallels the Beaver Brook, at times it appeared that the trail was steeper than the waterfalls that I was walking beside (if you can call it walking). There are sections that are so steep that the trail builders have installed long series of steps to assist hikers to get up and down. I can’t remember ever being on a section of the A.T. as treacherous as this and I would suggest that no one ever attempt this descent when the rocks are wet. The entire experience was beautiful, wild, and exhilarating.
While I was pulling further away from Boo Boo, who was still enjoying his Yellow Deli experience, I was getting closer to Scar who at one time was as much as 70+ miles ahead of me. Scar had made it to Franconia Notch (16.3 miles from Kinsman Notch) and had gotten off the trail for several days to spend some time with his wife who was paying him a visit. He was staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Lincoln, NH and I intended to spend the night in North Woodstock, NH, which is only separated from Lincoln by I-93. During my Mt Moosilauke climb I sent Scar a text asking him if he would be interested in getting together tonight for a beer. He and his wife were spending the day driving to the top of Mt Washington and he told me to call him when I got close to Kinsman Notch and, if they were back from their day trip, he would give me a ride.
When I arrived at the trailhead parking lot, I called Scar who had come up with an offer I couldn’t refuse. His wife was leaving around midnight to drive to Boston to catch a flight home, so she had suggested that I come to the Holiday Inn Express and use the shower and extra bed in their room. In my mind, this immediately exalted Scar’s wife to the level of trail angel. Scar soon arrived to give me a ride and we finally had the reunion that I had been looking forward to for so many weeks. It was so good to see him again even if it was only going to be temporary!
Once we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express, I finally got to meet Scar’s lovely wife Brenda and I thanked her for letting me stay in their room. After we all chatted for a while, it was getting near dinner time and Scar invited me to go out with them. Since it was their last night together, I declined so that they could enjoy their final hours without me. I left to find some refreshments at the convenience store and took a shower when I returned.
There was a McDonald’s nearby, so I decided to head there to grab a quick bit to eat. While I was waiting to cross the highway, I looked up and saw Cousin Eddie, Cheese, and Einstein hiking down the sidewalk on the other side! I flagged them down and we all went to GH Pizza for dinner. During our dinner chat, I found out that they were planning to go to the grocery store to resupply and then stay in Lincoln at Chet’s, a very popular but unofficial hostel. After dinner, I tried to convince them that they needed some ice cream from the Ice Cream Delights store next door but got no takers. Cheese did walk over there with me so that he could at least see it.
There must have been a car show nearby because I saw at least three Maserati supercars along with many other expensive vehicles on my walk back to the hotel. There was also a regional motorcycle meet in town and one of the motorcycle clubs had taken over the breakfast nook at the hotel and were well stocked with a few dozen six packs of beer. Scar and his wife had returned from dinner when I got back to the room, so we talked stories and plans while I left occasionally to check the guest laundry room for an opportunity to use the one washing machine that they had available for a 250-room hotel. Now my laundry is finally done and I’m ready to get back on the trail. Than you Clay (Scar) and Brenda for a wonderful evening!
Date: July 29, 2017
Starting Location: NH 25, Glencliff, NH
Ending Location: NH 122, Kinsman Notch
AT Miles Today: 9.3
AT Miles To Date: 1,800.4