Tenting to Lakes of the Clouds Hut – 22.9 miles
I wake to wind and mist in the low clouds on this ridge. I’m packed and hiking at 5 AM. As usual, the rock climbing is ridiculous! After the descent off the mountain, I enjoy almost eight miles of ‘flat’ terrain. I almost forget I am in New Hampshire. It feels great to cover some fast miles again. Based on the profile in my guide book, it looks like I might be able to pull back some missed miles.
At 2 PM, the rain comes to stay. After passing Mitzpah Hut, I begin pushing hard for Lakes of the Clouds Hut, less than five miles away. If I make it there, I can eat and work for stay. It seems like a perfect place to get out of this weather and to get a lot of food, because I need it.
From Mt. Pierce onward, the weather is brutal: winds probably over 40 miles per hour and mist/light rain, which doesn’t seem so light with the driving winds. It’s difficult to walk in such high winds when I’m exposed above treeline. I just put my head down and walk as fast as I can over the fairly level, but very rocky terrain. As I’m driving along, the hut appears out of the clouds when I am practically right up on it. It’s such a welcome sight.
It’s early, about 5:45 PM, but I need a break from the weather and Mt. Washington is 1.5 miles farther and higher and the weather will likely only be worse. Plus, there is still probably 10 miles of above treeline hiking, which means no place to tent. Basically, I have to stop here for the night; it’s the wisest thing to do.
I enter the hut and get setup with work for stay. I am the first thru-hiker of the season (I believe this is the first week the hut is staffed) and I’m the only thru-hiker here tonight. I hang out at the back wall and perimeter of the dining room to stay out of the way of the staff and paying guests. I drink many cups of hot tea and hot chocolate to warm up my wet, chilled body. I drink until I am warm, then change into my dry, warm clothes, and hang out until all the guests have finished eating dinner. The dining hall and staff is very much like being at Scout camp. I talk with Lindsay for a bit; which is fantastic!
Once all guests have eaten, I’m invited into the kitchen with the staff to eat all the leftovers: chicken breast, couscous, soup, ginger bread (left over from last night’s dinner), and chocolate chip cookies. It is all really good and I eat as much as I can (as I am expected to do). There is more than enough food. After dinner, I ‘work’ for about 1-1.5 hours scrubbing moldy dish racks (which would probably be trash if the health department found them).
It’s after 10 PM before I am in my bag on the dining room floor.
Wet. A couple offers to take my photo shortly after passing Mitzpah Hut.