Day 69

Tenting to tenting at mile 1,804.2 – 22.4 miles

I am on the trail at 5:10 AM. I hike well except for my estimated hour and a half of confusion and second guessing on Mt. Moosilauke. 

I make good time up the difficult, steep climb to the summit of Mt. Moosilauke. Above treeline, the visibility is terrible in the mist and fog, and the wind is strong.
At the trail intersection on the summit, I take a few moments to read the directional sign, consult my guide book, and decipher which way to go, left or right. It’s not quite clear. 

I choose left and start walking. I don’t really see any blazes on rocks, but keep walking down the rock trail until it dips below treeline. I go for maybe a quarter mile second guessing myself the entire time. I decide to drop my pack, head down the trail a few minutes further and see if there are any blazes or signs. Frustrated, I decide to turn around, shoulder my pack, and go back up to the summit to read the sign again. 

In the cold, wind, mist, and fog, it’s pretty miserable to be spending extra time trying to find the way and I’m getting frustrated. 

I get back to the trail sign, try to figure out where the trail is, look at my book again, and then I start down the trail to the east. My gut is that it’s not the right direction, but I walk for a ways and don’t see any blazes. As I start down the trail below treeline, the trail starts to get quite steep which is not what the profile in my guide book shows. After a long walk down this trail, I turn around again to head back up the mountain to the summit and back down the other trail.

When I get back above treeline and to the summit, the weather has cleared some, enough that I can see a weathered white blaze on a rock directing down the trail I had first taken. 

Back on the AT, I once again drop down into the trees and pass where I had turned around the first time. I hike about a minute further than I had before, and I see the trail junction sign I need. I am relieved to see it, but annoyed that I wasted probably an hour and a half, time that I can’t afford to waste. It’s tough to make up that wasted time at this stage of the game. 

[Some background about the AT in the Whites: the trail is rugged and the weather is dynamic, which combine to create dangers of exposed, slow paced hiking above treeline. There are many trails in the Whites, but the AT’s white blazes are spaced farther apart than anywhere else on the AT and the Great Gulf Wilderness Area has no blazes. The AT is always coincident with another trail and the other trail name is usually the one on the signs.]

I’m happy to be back on track and rolling again. 

The trail in New Hampshire is gnarly. There’s lots of steep terrain that is steep up and steep down, both ways being equally hard, requiring hand over hand climbing/descending, butt sliding, tree and root grabbing, etc.

On the long descent from Mt. Moosilauke, there a segment of trail that drops nearly 1,900 feet in under in about 1.3 miles. It’s crazy, especially the part on the slick rock descending beside Beaver Brook Cascades waterfall. 

[Nerves, tragic consequences, I block out all terrible thoughts and focus on one wet, careful step at a time. It’s easily the most dangerous part of the trail. Once at the bottom I read the trail warning sign. There is no such sign for NoBos.]

There is only one real climb and I’m happy to finish the day with 20+ miles considering what happened about mid-day. Nearing the end of the day, backcountry camping within a quarter mile of shelters/huts is prohibited, so I continue north, up the mountain, past Eliza Brook Shelter until I am outside of the protected area. I find a suitable place to tent, near the creek, about 6:50 PM.  I haven’t done laundry in a while and my underwear could use a cleaning, so I scrub them in the creek. As I’m doing this I can’t help but laugh because I’m upstream of the shelter. Better treat your water folks!

I am going to need some big days ahead. I am still shooting for two weeks left, two weeks to Katahdin, 83 days, and be home on 84.   
Benton State Forest, Benton, NH

Approaching summit of Mt. Moosilauke

Part of the descent beside Beaver Brook Cascades. It doesn’t look so steep looking up at it, but from the top, it looks pretty sketchy. 
The AT joins the Kinsman Ridge Trail, White Mountain National Forest. 


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