Trapper John Shelter – NH 25A
We noticed a very distinct difference between the PCT and AT when we got up this morning: we were the first ones up. On the PCT we were some of the later risers, but this morning no one else in camp was stirring yet when we started packing up. We hiked out at exactly 6:30 and did see Tadpole and Survivor packing up as we left. We started the day with a quick climb up from the shelter, and then had a nice descent to a road. The morning was super misty which looked really cool, but I hoped it would clear before we got to the first view points.
We debated eating breakfast at a parking area, but then I decided we should climb up to the first lookout and eat there. Of course, as soon as I started climbing my stomach began growling angrily, unhappy with me for passing up a chance to eat. It was well worth it when we got to the view point though. We got to sit on a slab of rock to eat with a sweeping view of mountains all around.
Double Orca joined us at the tail end of our break which was really nice. We found out that she’s also a section hiker which made me feel better. Tadpole and Survivor also caught us just as we were leaving. After breakfast there was more climbing. Most of it was fairly chill but the last 0.8 mile to the top of Smarts Mountain was pretty intense. It was like climbing a giant rock staircase for almost a mile. The trail work was really amazing though.
At the top, we climbed up the fire tower with Double Orca to take in the view, which was pretty incredible. 360 degrees of mountains. We had a bit of a snack break at the bottom of the tower, and tons of other hikers from camp started to show up. The descent down the back of Smarts Mountain was really nice. Pretty smooth and gradual, almost PCT-like. At the bottom, there was a really beautiful brook with a bridge and a waterfall where we sat to enjoy lunch.
At the top of the fire tower!
After lunch was another climb, up to Cube Mountain. I put my music in for the climb and was feeling super strong. The climb was also just really cool, with lots of rocks to climb up and quartzite slabs with great views of the surrounding mountains. It was definitely challenging, but more of a fun challenge for me. At the top, there was yet another epic view and tons of hikers. Double Orca told us she’s going to offer a slack pack tomorrow since her parents live nearby, but we were planning to push farther than where she would be starting.
On top of Cube Mountain!
We started down Cube Mountain feeling pretty good, but things started to go downhill quickly (da dum tiss). The descent was not nice like the one earlier in the day. It was super steep and full of rocks and roots and I felt like I was moving incredibly slowly. We had planned to go another 5 miles but it was already 5pm and I was super tired and that plan was quickly seeming unlikely. We got water at another nice creek and tried to decide what to do. We had wanted to go over Mount Moosilake tomorrow, but with the way the campsites are laid out it seemed like it would just be too big of a day. We eventually decide to take Double Orca up on her offer of the slack pack, and stay at the Hikers Welcome Hostel at the base of Mount Moosilake, which is what most of the thru hikers seem to be planning on.
After this decision had been made, Gummies hiked on quickly to try and find us a place to camp near the road for the slack pack, and I still felt like I just couldn’t move fast enough, even though the downhill had mellowed out significantly. I hate feeling so slow, and I was getting pretty down on myself for it. I know we’ve only been out here two days and we’re not in long distance hiking shape right now, but Gummies still seems to be able to hold his own with the thru hikers and I just can’t.
I eventually caught up to Gummies and we found a nice place to camp on a soft bed of pine needles and sand, with Tadpole and Survivor. After relaxing for a bit and eating dinner, I started feeling a lot better. Before bed, Gummies and I reminded ourselves that we’re out here to have fun. This is our vacation and we shouldn’t be making ourselves miserable by hiking unsustainable distances. We set a goal for where we’d like to finish this section, but there’s nothing else holding us to that. We can go as far as we want to or can, and then we can stop. We decided from now on we’ll try not to push ourselves too far in trying to reach a certain point. We’ll just go with the flow and have fun and make this trip feel good. I’m really excited for our first ever slack pack tomorrow, it feels like we’re really getting into the spirit of the AT!