Day 161: The long slow descent

Nauman Campsite [mile 1357.4; SOBO 339.0]

Short day, weather-related. Somebody said the Whites were a game of strategy. Who said that?

Here’s how today’s strategy went. I started reasonably early out of the Dungeon (believe it or not, I’m not sure when; I might be going trail-senile). I stopped a lot to take pictures, change clothes when it got hot, reunionize (more on that in a minute), drink water, and check for an email signal. In other words, I spent more time than I should have on things that weren’t hiking. I never quite got the rhythm—if rhythm can be gotten when the footwork is so fussy.

The sun was high—hot summer! But the gray-bottomed clouds rolled over the blue like warships. Goodbye, Mt. Washington, goodbye! And I walked down and up and down mountains, looked out at mountains, looked down mountains and looked up mountains while the summer air thickened slowly with impending rain.

The rain came at around 11:00—not the big boomers I was expecting but a steady light soak. It didn’t linger for more than a half-hour, but that was long enough to slicken the rocks.

The path down to Mizpah Hut was slanted and sloped, and a little treacherous. I slipped a couple of times, which is usually my signal to look at the book and readjust my thinking. It was only one-ish; was there enough time to get down the slick Webster Cliffs to Crawford Notch and find a place to camp?

Sigh. There really wasn’t, not with any certainty. I’d be down there at dusk poking around looking for a stealth site, and we all know where that leads: sleeping on Mt. Adams. And Crawford Notch has some painful memories anyway, so maybe this was the universe telling me not to sleep there. No telling what dreams would have come of that, what ghosts would have been churned from their sleep. Goodbye, Crawford Notch. Rest in peace.

So here I am at another official AMC tentsite. Stuff adds up fast in the Whites; it’s like Disneyland with trees. I’ve loved getting reacquainted with these mountains, but I think I’m ready to be out… back to where it’s less restrictive and the backcountry doesn’t have pizza joints (top of Mt. Washington) and lemonade stands (the bizarre huts), all at premium tourist prices. It’s the Shenandoah of the north! 🙂

I’d like to be walking again, just walking. Walking hard and fast, swinging my arms… but the terrain’s too rough here to do that. Time’s getting short. I feel a little caged. The only way this trail gets done is by doing it, and the days are getting shorter.

The days are getting shorter.

My gear is failing. The tent’s consistently leaking at two corners and needs some sort of seam sealing. My air mattress needs to be replaced, either via maildrop or with a new one. My clothes are hanging off my body, but I don’t want to replace them. (A five-year-old told me yesterday that I looked hungry, lol. I’m assuming that was five-year-oldish for ‘Eat a cheeseburger, fer chrissake.’) The extra weeks on the trail come at a price.

And thus went the day!

Oh, oh! One of the three reunions I’ve been most waiting for! (Well, four, but DB and I passed like ships in the night.) A mile or so past Lake of the Clouds, guess who was coming up the trail? Trouble and golden retriever Melkie, Canadian Bacon and Zen Master, and Two Socks! Some of my favorite people on the trail! It was so great to see those guys again. We dropped packs and had a sit-down and got caught up. There are people you just miss when they’re not around to hike with (or even to leapfrog with over the course of a week or two or three or a month). All those folks are funny as hell. Two Socks was there on my favorite night on the trail so far: the top of Max Patch. I met Trouble and Melkie early on, when Fishhook and Panda were doing trail magic. And Canadian Bacon and Zen Master and I were orbiting in the weeks leading up to Trail Days. If you guys see this, I miss you! Have a spectacular finish! And thank you for being you! 🙂

One of the best gifts of flip-flopping, this chance to give people one last hug.

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Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Day 161: The long slow descent

  1. shari wb

    Third picture down. Gorgeous!
    It’s interesting to me that on could feel caged anywhere on the AT. Esp with those views but I totally get it! Society has invaded nature there.

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