Eliza Brook Shelter – Flume Gorge Visitors Center
It rained almost all night last night. I kept waking up through the night and thinking it might be lightening up, then a few minutes later it would start absolutely dumpling again. I was getting seriously concerned that we would be hiking out in the pouring rain. At last, I woke around 5am and heard nothing but the sound of the rushing creek nearby. It had stopped.
We slept in a little bit given the short day into town and circumstances of the night before, but eventually began quietly packing our things so as not to disturb the row of othe hikers still asleep on the shelter floor. When we started hiking, the world seemed extra lush and green after the rain. The trail followed Eliza Brook for a while, twisting through an enchanted rainforest, cascading waterfalls around every bend.
We eventually left the creek and started climbing up South Kinsman. This was definitely the most technical climb we’ve had yet. On top of that, the trail had become a running creek in a lot of places after the heavy rain. I quite enjoyed the technical climb at first. It’s less exhausting for me than just walking straight up the mountain, since I can pause for breath every couple of minutes while I contemplate my next move. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun. We were scrambling up and over large boulders, occasionally using our arms to pull ourselves up or swing off a tree for support. Gummies was enjoying the climb a lot less than I was. He’d prefer to just walk up. But even for me, the ascent just dragged on way too long and I eventually stopped having fun. At points, it literally looked like AMC hired a giant to chuck boulders over the side of the mountain and called it a day once they resembled something vaguely climbable. I just wanted to get to the top and for it to be over. Of course, after finishing the climb, there would be a technical descent to immediately take on. There’s just no relief with this trail.
Solid view on top of South Kinsman
When we got to the top, we found ourselves inside a cold cloud, so we didn’t even get a view as a reward for our hard work. We sheltered behind a copse of stunted alpine trees to eat our breakfast before beginning the trip down the other side. The descent definitely wasn’t quite as technical as the ascent, thankfully, but it was still more than enough for more. I enjoy a technical climb, but steep technical descents just make me super nervous. I was moving very slowly for most of the way down. Oliver and No Collar from the shelter passed us, moving like mountain goats. I am definitely not a mountain goat.
View up to Franconia Ridge across Lonsome Lake
Once the trail levelled out a bit, we sat on the dirt to shove snacks in our face before making the final push to town. We passed the fancy Lonesome Lake hut, thick with tourists, and saw No Collar coming out. He said he got a pulled pork sandwich for 6 bucks… We might have to take advantage of that later in the trail. As the trail got closer and closer to town, it become more and more blessedly flat and smooth. It felt almost like the PCT, and we were flying. We did have a couple tricky rock hops across streams, but they didn’t slow us down for long. Soon, we reached the massive Flume Gorge parking lot.
After utilizing the flushing toilets, we headed out onto the highway to hitch into North Woodstock. A couple of mountain bikers pulled over to give us each a beer, but their car was too full to pick us up. It took about 25 minutes, and just as we were getting ready to give up and call a few local taxi company, a couple who were on their honeymoon pulled over to pick us up. Magical hitch hiking powers are still intact!
Gummies’ first town purchase
In town, we checked into Inn32, where we’d managed to call and book a room as we were walking up to the visitor centre parking lot. The motel is super affordable and also hiker friendly. There’s a hiker box in the office and they’re even going to drive us back to the trail tomorrow morning! Once we had showered, we put our laundry in at the laundromat just up the street, and resupplied at the small market directly across from the motel. This town is amazing. Everything is so close together that we finished our town chores in record time. They even let us print off some more car import paperwork in the hotel office, saving us a trip to the library. Once all chores were finished, we headed just down the street to the local brewery for an incredible meal. I forgot I wouldn’t have hiker hunger after just 5 days of hiking and ordered way too much food, but it was all delicious.
I’m now exhausted and ready to enjoy a well deserved rest in this lovely real bed. Tomorrow we head straight up to Franconia Ridge, which I am super excited about!