Waking up in a hostel between sheets, under a quilt, and with a real pillow is unusual, but not at the White Mountains Hostel! I knew breakfast was being served by the smell and went straight downstairs to the kitchen where I had two squares of egg casserole, sausages, and potato cakes with OJ and water to drink.
Eight of us were planning to do 21 miles of slack packing from Pinkham Notch back to US 2, where the hostel is. After breakfast, we learned that the departure time had been moved up, so when I saw a better school backpack hanging in the garage, I quickly swapped my gear into it. We loaded in the SUV and were off to Pinkham Notch.
Mombo, Tandem, and Camomile’s partner took off at 8:00 to start the 21 miles. I was slightly delayed by moving gear to different pockets for easier water dromedary access, but started at 8:15. Behind me were Camomile, Bacon Dog, and a pair of SOBO girls who, I found out later, weren’t getting back until tomorrow afternoon.
The first six or seven miles were over Wildcat Mountains E, D, C, and A. Wildcat D has a big ski lift on top, which was just cranking up when I got there. I caught up with a high school teacher from CT who was there to complete three (Wildcat A, C, and E) of the forty-eight 4,000 footers in NH. Anyone that climbs all forty eight are members of the elite Four Thousand Footer Club, and te had already climbed eighteen of them.
Once he found out I was an AT thru hiker, he kept up with my faster pace for a few miles to Wildcat E so that he could ask me questions about gear, planning, food, and best and worst times; we had a great talk. He is from Kent and agreed that it is not a hiker friendly town. Once we reached Wildcat E, he thanked me and took the blog address before turning around to hike back to Pinkham Notch.
Camomile passed us while we were chatting at the end. I hiked on down the steep backside of Wildcat E and eventually passed her. Near the Carter Notch Hut, where Camomile and I stopped for snacks and a privy visit, there was a great view of a pond and high stone walls. The Assistant Hut Master gave us fresh coffee cake. It started to rain while we were in the Hut but stopped by the time we left, with me leading
I took off up Carter Dome and reached the peak relatively quickly. As I descended Carter, I was distracted by the pouring rain and left the AT. By the time I had turned around and was headed back up the hill, Camomile met me coming down the same trail. We laughed when I informed her that we had both made the same mistake, but soon we were back on the AT.
Then came the big hike up South Carter Mountain. Once on top, Middle and North Carter weren’t as hard to climb. In one of the Carter valleys, I saw an adult moose protecting a calf. It was so goofy looking. Due to the rain, I didn’t have my camera phone out, but I did stop and wait for Camomile to catch up so that she could see them, too. She was very grateful.
It was 14:00, I was twelve miles into the 21, and I had one more mountain to climb — Mount Moriah at 4,049 feet. As I topped it, there was about half hour of lightning and thunder right overhead. After that, it was basically downhill for the six miles remaining to US 2. I reached the Rattle River Shelter by 18:30, leaving 1.5 miles to the road and hostel.
I finally got cell signal and a text from Mio. He is doing well and has been back on the trail this week. The prognosis is unknown. He will be duplicating our hostel stay and 21 mile slack pack on Saturday with Mosey and Jungle Jim, who I haven’t seen in a while. It is good to hear that they are only a couple of trail days behind us now.
I knew that there were three Geocaches in the last half mile before US 2. Since I had cell signal, I found all three of them, but I accidentally left the Z-Pack case for my iPhone at the first cache.
Before I reached the parking lot, I found a styrofoam cooler full of iced Cokes and Sprites plus many different types of great cookies and brownies left by a thru hiker from 2004. I enjoyed the trail magic.
I finally rolled into the hostel by 19:30. Everyone welcomed me back, and Tandem gave me a high five. I sorted my gear out of the school backpack, threw the clothes that I was wearing into the hiker dirty clothes hamper, and warmed my half large pizza to eat with those still at the dining room table. I enjoyed it with the quart of chocolate milk that I had left over, too. Everyone wanted to hear of my experiences and asked lots of questions. Mombo was jealous that I had seen a moose and calf; he had just mentioned this morning that he hasn’t seen one yet I spent a lot of time talking to a Scoutmaster who was staying there on the way to Boston to catch up with his touring Troop.
I was exhausted, so I wrote the blog for yesterday while I downloaded and listened to the Podcacher podcasts about their Geocaching trip to Norway. In show 478 I heard my Geocaching milestone of finding my 4,444th cache on Wolf Mountain on the AT.