Baldpate lean-to [mile 1283.3; SOBO 264.9]
Miles to the border: 16.9
Unexpected nero today. Baldpate Mountain killed my knees, and there’s another two miles of steep downhill to Grafton Notch then four uphill to Old Speck Mountain, where I was going to camp. Can’t do it.
Stopping here works out better, anyway, for a few reasons: 1) Dead knees. 2) Hopefully I can manage ten miles tomorrow and avoid paying the fee to tent at Speck Pond. 3) Assuming all the above works out, I get to split the Arm and the Notch into two days. Which would be great! (If I’d realized how hard Baldpate was going to be, I would have stayed tonight at Pine Ellis again—Grafton Notch is one of their shuttle stops. Pine Ellis is a great resource for hikers doing sections around here, and a lot of the hikers I’ve met in this area are doing just that—staying various nights at Pine Ellis and getting shuttled to the various trailheads.)
So right now I’m in my tent enjoying a delicious early dinner of what I lovingly call ramen gazpacho: ramen noodles reconstituted with cold water and chowed out of a baggie. Living large! 😉
It was cold again last night. Summer’s over for me, I’m afraid. The Whites won’t exactly be tropical, and by the time I get through them it’ll be fall. Sad thought, but pretty, too. The leaves in lower New England should be spectacular this year, given the rainfall. I’m already seeing the occasional spot of crimson here.
Makes me wish I’d asked my brother to send me my downmat; the Neoair isn’t quite cutting it at night anymore.
Anyhoo. Up early, and immediately the trail started climbing. This was a sliding board kind of day. The rock surface was rough but so steep that I had to go slowly. A couple of times I had to crawl because of the lack of footholds, and I stayed on the sliding board only by getting a tuft of moss in a deathgrip. Poor moss. Sunny, though, and the day warmed up nicely. And Baldpate was worth it. I think it’s my new favorite mountain!
These mountains have such innocuous names for such marvels. Old Blue. Moody. Baldpate. (‘Pate’ is a word that really deserves to come back into common usage.) I don’t know what I was expecting. Somehing Dickensian, maybe. Hikers have been talking about this mountain for days; I just figured it was steep.
Well… yeah. It was. But it was the moon up there, baby! The rock was phenomenal: rough and pocked, and in places swirling with ancient motion like a fingerprint. That rock moved. Just behind the solidity, about a gazillion years behind it, that mountain was liquid.
The striations were cool: black rock that shed red water, and blossoms of crystal. And green lichen that bloomed in fat circles like nowhere else.
I spent a good part of the morning above treeline (hiking, mind you, and not just smelling the roses; the trail stays up there for quite a while), and that’s what did my knees in. It was a constant downward angle, slow and cautious; this was a mountain you really could fall off the edge of. (Or into the bog, because of course there was a festering bog on top, with bog bridging. Welcome to Maine!)
Gorgeous. Silent. Blue. Up there, it seems you can reach up and tickle the bellies of the clouds.
Then came the descent, of course. There were stairs, a few hundred of them, as well as sliding boards and rooty-rocky precipices. Thank you for those stairs, MATC! (There’d also been some ladders on the ascent, where the slabs of rock were too high to negotiate.) All things considered, I think the SOBOs had it easier today. I’d rather crawl up a mile of rock slabs than come down, and if I have to come down the other side, I’m happy there are some stairs.
Tomorrow I might break down and use the knee brace. It doesn’t seem to help with much but the pain; but that’s where I need the help!
Hopefully the next time I write I’ll have finished the Mahoosuc Arm and be staring down the maw of the Mahoosuc Notch: the hardest mile on the trail. Even with the delay of a day, I think the forecast is for good weather. I’ll be thrilled when the Notch is done.
Hard to believe I’m this close to Mahoosuc. I’ve been dreading this moment for quite some time. 😉
Oh, which reminds me! I almost forgot! I had a reunion today. Waaaaay back at Clingmans Dome I met a Marine named Raider. (He’d been injured and was now out of active duty.) There are people on the trail who do little miles and people who do big miles, and then there are people who do monster miles. Raider did more miles than anybody I’ve heard of all year. He came out of the gate doing 25s and 30s.
He roared northward and developed a stress fracture in his tibia in New Hampshire. He went on for another 55 miles and slipped on a root (of course), which slammed him into a rock and broke the bone. Broken leg! He’s just back on the trail and says he’s slowed down considerably.
Welcome to Maine! Where the rocks and roots are in cahoots, and the land, it wants you gone.
Oh, and I almost forgot this, too. There was a pair of grouse on Baldpate, and I got pretty close to one. The pic is blurry because it was running away, but can you see it? I’ll put the bird pic last. The bird’s on the left side. Where’s Waldo? When those grouse freeze, they really blend into the background.