Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
White Mountains hiking and trail magic tripThe White Mountains used to be my weekend playground. By 2006, I had been ignoring them in favor of less traveled (and less challenging) hikes. This was a short trip back to familiar territory.
Thursday, September 7, 2006: Medford, MA to Imp Shelter
I drove north, stopped into the AMC center at Pinkham Notch to get any trail updates on the Rocky Brook Trail and to say hello to Michael, a friend who works there. I found out that there were apparently a large group of thruhikers who had headed out earlier in the day and they might be at the Imp site that evening. Since that was where I was headed, I stopped in Gorham to grab a dozen donuts to bring up to the campsite. While there, I also stopped in at the hostel to say 'hi' to Bruno and Marianne.
By the time I got to the trailhead, it was already mid-afternoon. The AMC "book" time indicated my hike should take about 3.5 hours but I managed the 4.3 miles and 2100' elevation gain in less than three. Given the trail, I was pretty happy with that. My conditioning must be better than I thought. All the short hikes near where I live plus the bicycle riding I've been doing this summer have paid off.
Casey, aka Dingle (AT'04), was caretaker this summer at the Imp site on the Carter-Moriah Range. Since he was on his last ten-day stint there this year, I figured I better get up there to say 'hi'. The Stony Brook Trail was a nice easy hike for the first half and then some steep and rough trail for the second half. Before I hit the Carter-Moriah Trail, I could hear people talking at the campground but it would be another half an hour and a climb over Imp Mountain before I took the turn to descend into the Imp campsite.
I found Casey there with Tiger Lily, his Beagle/shepherd mix. He was just about to start registering all the visitors so I grabbed a spot in the shelter while he went about his business. I stopped to watch a bit of the pretty sunset from an overlook about 50 feet from the shelter. Casey got dibs on the donuts as he goes for much longer stints away from "civilization" than the thruhikers. But, there were plenty left for the thruhikers and section hikers that were there.
Unlike everyone else who went to sleep at typical thruhiker bedtime, I stayed up with Casey. We ate a late dinner. I laughed when I saw how Casey cleaned his plate. He just let Tiger Lily lick it off. We stayed up until after 11:00 talking about everything from life as caretaker to thruhiker/AMC relations.
Friday, September 8, 2006: Imp Shelter to Jeffers Brook Shelter
Even though his stint still had another day to go, I walked out with Casey who had to get some errands done in the morning.
We cleaned up at the Joe Dodge Camp and then went for brunch in Gorham at the Moonbeam Cafe (formerly Loaf Around). It's got a similar selection of bread but the menu has changed a bit. It's still the best food in town, though. Then Casey headed back up the mountain.
Having Boulder's itinerary, I went to seek him out in Kinsman Notch. I met a section hiker there who had seen him the day before and knew his plans had changed. So, I ended up heading for Glencliff to talk with Phat Chap and got an update on Boulder's plans. I spent the night on the trail at the Jeffers Brook shelter. On the trail but only a few hundred feet from my car parked at the nearby trailhead.
Saturday, September 9, 2006: Jeffers Brook Shelter to Crawford Notch
Knowing where to expect Boulder, and knowing to expect to find him with friends, I picked up more goodies, sodas, and doughnuts and staked out the Ethan Pond trailhead, waiting for all the thruhikers coming through Crawford Notch. There are a surprisingly large number of hikers still going through the Whites at this time of year. They are still all planning on making it to Katahdin going northbound. Some may have to flip if they want to summit Katahdin before the peak closes to all but winter hikers.
First out was Mouse Hat. Then Possum. With Possum spending the night in the Notch, I left her with the trail magic and shuttled Mouse Hat to Crawford Notch for munchy resupply. He was continuing along the trail. Then I took Possum and Charlie Foxtrot to Bartlett for DQ and resupply before going back to the campground to check into the bunkhouse. There, Moonbeam, Wooly Bear, and Dead Bear were able to tell me that Boulder would soon be coming out of the woods so I went back to the trailhead just as Boulder emerged. Perfect timing.
It had been pouring with thunder and lightning for much of the afternoon so Boulder looked like a wet rat. Back at the bunkhouse, I ran Dead Bear down to Attitash to pick up a pizza and then Boulder, Possum, and Wooly Bear and I ran into North Conway for a gear stop at EMS, a Walmart stop, and then a supermarket stop at Shaws. It was way past thruhiker bedtime so we grabbed dinner at Burger King and headed back to the bunkhouse.
Sunday, September 10, 2006: Crawford Notch to the Nauman Tent Site
Dead Bear and Moonbeam were heading to the Highland Center for AYCE breakfast so I drove the rest of the group to the trailhead and joined them for the hike up to the Mizpah Hut. It was 6.4 miles with a lot of climbing and a bunch of hand over hand stuff. The only other time I had ever hiked that trail was during my thruhike. It was so much more pleasant with a backpack that weighed only 15 pounds or so.
Even with the light pack, I surprised myself with my fitness and ability to hike that rough trail. In the last few years, I've doubted my ability to hike some of these rough trails but I think I've now put my doubts to rest.
I tented at the Nauman tent site where No Pliers was working for a week. During the afternoon, I hung out with Righty and John, thruhikers going through the Whites slowly. That evening, I volunteered to give the evening program. While I wasn't looking for anything in exchange, when I was offered dinner in exchange, I knew that even the leftovers there would be better than what I had in my pack. The soup, pasta, corn, and chocolate cookie bars beat my tuna packet any day.
During my thruhike, I had given the evening program as work-for-stay a few times but having only hiked from Georgia to New Hampshire, I couldn't include my thoughts about Maine. This time, having I was able to include stories from Maine, too. It was a small crowd so after talking about the AT for an hour, the discussion morphed into a lightweight backpacking talk.
Monday, September 11, 2006: Nauman Tent Site to Medford, MA
After packing up my tent site, I stopped into the hut just as they were clearing the breakfast tables and ended up munching on a few leftover cold pancakes. Even cold, they were better than Poptarts.
Then I headed up Crawford Path, took the Eisenhower loop, skipped Munroe, and got to Lakes of the Clouds in time for lunch. To get out, I skipped the summit and took the Westside Trail and Gulfside Trail past the cog railroad, and took the Jewell Trail down. (10.7 miles with a book time of 8:05. I spent 1.5 hours at Lakes and more time at a couple of other breaks and took 9 hours total. Not bad.)
I got to the cog railroad trailhead just as a train pulled back in from the summit. Perfect. Knowing that everyone would be going to Route 302, I asked around for someone going south on 302. I quickly found a ride from a couple of Canadian women vacationing in the Whites for a week. I was able to play a bit of tour guide for them, showing them the "slow"-cut of Mt. Clinton Road to get back to Route 302, then pointed out the Highland Center, Saco Lake, Elephant Head, the Willey House site, etc.
They dropped me off at my car at the Webster Cliff trailhead just as I saw two hikers walking down the hill.
It was Pranna and ??? (can't remember), a couple of thruhikers who knew a bunch more were coming out behind them. Sure enough, soon Daniel came out, a car dropped off Spirit who had just resupplied, and then four more hikers came down. The four latecomers and Spirit were continuing so they finished the sodas and munchies I had left in my car, I took their garbage, and they were on their way. Then, I took Pranna, ???, and Daniel to the campground to check into the bunkhouse. There were three people there already, two of whom were in for the evening. Trail Boss, whose father I had met up at Mizpah Hut and then seen again at Lakes, was there. Trail Boss joined Pranna, Daniel, and ??? as we went into Bartlett to resupply at grocery store. The DQ grill was closed so we went up Route 16 a short distance to Kringles for pizza and subs.
It was about 9:00 when I finally dropped them off. I could have crashed in North Conway but instead decided to drive home. I was tired but looking forward to being in my bed.
Whenever I have friends or strangers in the car with me in the Whites, I always warn them that I may make sudden stops in the car. I haven't hit more moose than I can remember and I want to keep it that way. Usually, I'm the one who sees the moose first so my passengers are usually very surprised when I slam on the brakes. On this trip, I hadn't seen any moose but sure enough, while going over Bear Notch Road on my way home, I had to stop for a moose. This big bull moose ended up turning and trotting down the road ahead of me. So, I put on my blinkers, and followed it staying far enough back so that I could just see it with my lights. It finally turned off the road and I continued on. I was beat so every time I got to a rest area along the road, I stopped for a nap. That extended my three-hour trip to about four hours. I got home at 1:00am this morning.
Last updated, February 18, 2014.
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