We did however, come up with a new plan for the ret of our trip. This plan had been brewing in our mind since partway through the day yesterday. The idea had slipped unbidden into my mind that Mount Washington would be a pretty epic place to end a section hike. And the more that idea rolled around in my brain, the more I liked it.
When I finally dragged myself up to the first view point where Gummies was waiting for our breakfast break, I completely broke down and cried for a few minutes. But after a long hug and some deep breaths, I felt better. Gummies asked me if I wanted to turn around and go back to the road, but I said no, I wanted to go to Mount Washington. I wasn’t going to give up on that.
After breakfast, the hiking became MUCH nicer. The trail alternated between flat and relatively gentle and steep rock scrambles. But the scrambles were short and fun and I found myself enjoying them immensely. I listened to a couple podcasts to get my mind of the morning, and then listened to a couple Panic at the Disco albums which got me super pumped up. I felt so much better and was enjoying the hiking so much. Plus, it was an absolutely beautiful day to be in the Presidential Range, with sunshine and blue skies. Of course, this combined with the fact that it was Labour Day weekend meant there were day and weekend trippers everywhere, but it honestly didn’t feel too over crowded.
Lunch break on Mount Pierce
It was super exciting to reach the top, but also also super weird. We had just done a hard day of hiking and climbing mountains to get here, and the top was absolutely swarming with tourists that had driven up or taken the train. It was a bit disorienting. We had to stand in line to get our photo with the summit photo. But it still felt absolutely amazing to have walked up, and all the way from Vermont! Unfortunately, the clouds had completely overtaken the summit by the time we got there, so there were no views, but the amazing views we’d got on the way up and the feeling of accomplishment were more than enough.
We packed up our stuff, retrieved our food from the bear box, and set off. Immediately, we had to finish the descent off Mount Garfield, which started with a sketchy scramble down a steep rocky waterfall. It didn’t last long though and then the climb became a lot more manageable. After the initial descent, the trail wound up and down a bit but was relatively gentle. We ate breakfast with views of the rolling green mountains, and not long after stopped into Galehead Hut, where most of the hikers we’ve been hiking around had congregated. The huts are kind of weird because they charge like 100 dollars for a bunk so they’re pretty elite, but we can at least use the toilets and fill up our water bottles from the tap, which is pretty awesome.
We started hiking down the other side, and the first bit of the descent was fairly chill. We crossed paths with Camino Steve, Buttcheeks, Faceplant, Double Orca, Super, Tadpole, and Survivor all going south, slack packing back to the hostel. We stopped for a snack break at the Beaver Brook hostel to rest up and energize before beginning the infamous descent.
The final mile and a half of the Moosilauke descent is one of the most notorious sections of the AT in New Hampshire, known for being incredibly steep and potentially slippery and very dangerous. Luckily, it had been dry for a while as we were attempting, so the slippery bit wasn’t much of a factor. It was still insanely steep, and took a couple hours of slowly lowering ourselves off rocks and some steps built into them. I definitely didn’t think it was quite as scary as everyone had made it out to be, but it would have been sketchy as hell after a rain. It was definitely still quite nerve wracking and my legs were certainly a bit shaky by the time we finally reached the bottom.
The descent followed the steeply cascading Beaver Brook Falls for about 1.5 miles
After lunch is when the mood of the day suddenly changed. I was not anticipating the ruggedness of the trail in the second half of the day. Once we crossed the road at Kinsman Notch, we immediately started climbing steeply up. I had been expecting this, knowing there was about a mile of steep climbing to do, but had not been expecting the difficultly to continue on through the rest of the day. I had been anticipating terrain similar to our slack packing day yesterday, but this was definitely not the case. The trail continuously alternated between climbing steeply up or down, over large boulders and tangles of roots, causing me to contort my body in strange ways to get up and over in some places. On top of this, I started feeling a weird twinge in my left knee. I suspect it was just rejecting what it had been put through today, and I’m hoping it’ll get better after some rest in town tomorrow. But it just sucked, and I was moving along pretty slowly and feeling a bit sorry for myself.
I caught up to Gummies at the wooded summit of Mount Wolf and we began picking our way down together. I listened to podcasts to distract myself from my misery, just wanting to get to camp. The sky began clouding over, and about a half mile or so before camp the forecasted rain finally arrived. It started slow, and we were so close to camp that I refused to stop and put my rain jacket on. We were in dense forest, which prevented most of the rain drops from reaching me, but we briefly came out into an open area of powerlines, and the cold wind whipped my bare arms with droplets. Back in the forest, it suddenly became extremely dark. I pressed on, trying to ignore everything but getting to camp. The rain kept coming down harder. By the time we finally made it to the shelter, it was downright pouring.
I reached the road into Glencliffe shortly after noon, and Gummies and I made our way over to the Hikers Welcome Hostel. Double Orca’s parents live right across the street, so we stopped in there to grab our stuff, and Double Orca’s mom even gave us delicious homemade cookies. The hostel was also amazing. It was all run on the honour system, and they had bunks, tenting, an outdoor bath house with showers, laundry, and a toilet, as well as snacky foods for sale. Gummies and I both got the hiker combo, which was a frozen microwave pizza, chips, can of pop, and ice cream sandwich for 5 bucks. We also both showered for 3 dollars.