Monday, September 11, 2017 (Day 132)
I did not set an alarm. If anything the alarm system seemed a hindrance. All it did was break up my sleep. I was far too liberal with the snooze button.
I woke around 7:30 am. I was ecstatic to take note of the dry state of my sleeping bag, the warmth in the air. I had coffee and breakfast and set off .
I had certainly made it through the most difficult part of the descent last night. For this, I was grateful.
I quickly came to Lonesome Lake Hut. In the White Mountains, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) has numerous huts placed along the trail. These huts serve breakfast lunch and dinner and have dorm rooms with bunk beds and are outrageously expensive (around $180/night, reservation only). Thru-hikers can do work for stay or pay $10, often times sleeping on the dining room floor. Thru-hikers can also pop in and eat any leftover breakfast for free, which mostly includes pancakes and oatmeal. Baked goods and cliff bars are available for purchase, as well as soup in the afternoon.
I was curious, and headed inside. The staff was busy with the helicopter that hovered just beyond the building, dropping fuel and packages of resupply from above. I filled up my water, took a slice of bread and some cliff bars, left money in the wicker basket, and left.
After a substantial climb, I stopped at the spring at Liberty Springs Campsite. I sat near its rocky base and drank and rested.
Then, I set off for Franconia Ridge.
The traverse was stunning.
After the summit of each mountain another one rolled in to view. It was amazing. It was also very windy, and the sun had begun to set. I did not wish to be on the ridgeline after dark. I made it below tree line, my trek illumated by the last fading rays of light.
As the trail leveled, and the forest thickened, campsites came in to view.
I sat, resting my body, reviewing the maps, the elevation of the coming terrain. Garfield Mountain was next. I boiled water by the red light of my headlamp. It was only 7:30 pm, and it was already dark. I ate a dinner of mashed potatos and drank a cup of hot coffee. I bundled up, donning my wool base-layer top beneath my fleece. It had been cold on the ridge, I suspected the same on Garfield.
Franconia Ridge was so beautiful, and inspiring, and energizing. I could not have stopped, I had to keep moving. I wanted more.
So, again, I set off in darkness.
Mount Garfield is the connection between Franconia Ridge and the Twins Range. It stands at 4501 ft, and is supposed to be a steep ascent and descent.
I was ready!
The climb was not as difficult as I imagined, but it was most certainly a climb. I grew uncomfortably hot quickly, stopping mid climb to shed layers. There were scrambles, and enormous steps at sharp inclines that left me surprised at my own strength. Often times I had to throw my trekking poles ahead of me and climb using roots and sturdy stones to pull my body upward. I thank each tree silently, that I use to guide my way. How strong these trees must be that line such trails!
I reached the summit and took a short spur trail that led to a giant slab of stone in a wide clearing. I stood at its center. I looked out at the expanse of world below me, I gazed up at the brilliance of the night-sky; of the stars. Oh, the stars!
For a moment I considered sleeping right there. Right there on that grey slab beneath a blanket of stars. But no, I had to travel further.
The descent down Garfield was quite the challenge.
I soon came to the trail junction to Garfield Ridge Campsite. Just before it was a beautiful, gushing spring.
I stopped and sat beside it, boots in the water as I perched on a stone and drank. I collected some for the evening and continued on.
The descent continued, sharper than ever. The rushing spring water made its descent as well, cascading strongly down the middle of the rocky trail.
I glance up. The moon stares at me knowingly, in its warm copper splendor. I cover my headlamp with my hand for but a moment, to truly sense her light. I smile, then laugh. I continue, tossing my poles ahead, skidding and slipping and stepping in wells of water that soak my boots.
I am grateful for the clarity of the night, the freshness and abundance of water, the glow of the moon, and the challenge of the hike.
The trail mellows. I continue before finding a lovely campsite .2 before my mileage goal. I am usually very adamant about making the goal, exactly. The clock had just struck midnight, and proper tentsites were scarce.
This would do.