The Hike of Doom never disappoints!
I’m pretty sure that Mark, Erica, and I hadn’t even finished hiking Mt Washington last year before we had started to plot a longer hike this year. I’m the avid researcher of our trio, so I spent plenty of time over the winter day dreaming about t and digging up info on possible routes, and we ultimately came up with a hut-to-hut hike of the Presidential Traverse. At a minimum the Presidential Traverse is about 20 miles, seven 4,000+ ft peaks, and over 8,000 ft of elevation gain. Our plan worked out to 20.24 miles, seven peaks (all over 4,000 ft), 9,001 ft of elevation gain, and 8,378 ft of elevation loss.
Love & glucosamine,
To say that I have been looking forward to this hike for months is an understatement. I had a lot of awesome things to look forward to this summer (Chicago! Falmouth! Weddings! Heaps of other stuff I won’t list!), but this trip has been at the top of the list despite being a relatively short one and including as much sweating as it did relaxing.
To say that this trip lived up to all of my expectations is also an understatement. Theoretically this “things I don’t want to forget” format means it’s a shorter post, but I don’t think that’s going to hold true…regardless, there’s a photo dump on Flickr and these are the things I don’t want to forget:
- On Saturday, we caught the hiker shuttle from our endpoint to our starting point. The shuttle takes an hour and I suspect it’s normally a quiet ride at 9am. We picked up a family at the second stop, and the mother, Shannon, sat with me across the aisle from Mark and Erica. Our 5am start was extra early for me (whenever the three of us are planning a hike I groan when they tell me what time we’re starting), so I was letting them carry the conversation. We had already been up for four and a half hours and were full of “let’s get this show on the road” energy, and as we were chatting and laughing hysterically about things that weren’t all that funny, she turned to me and asked “are they like this all the time?! Do they ever crash?!?” I told her that this is 100% standard for them at any hour of the day, but I’m not sure she believed me. Until we caught up with her again at Madison Spring, where we were equally as hyper and loud. Surprisingly, she (and her husband and son) didn’t run screaming to find new seats when we sat down with them for dinner.
- We dropped our packs at Madison Spring, had “lunch” (my fourth meal of the day, but it was around 12:30 so that makes it lunch?), and then headed up the last half mile to summit Mt Madison. Mark and Erica go up much faster than I do, so I when I finally got to the summit a few minutes later they were already up there, standing next to a couple who had been on the shuttle with us earlier that morning. I got there and pointed at the couple and was all “hey! I know you!” But you guys? I totally don’t know them. They were normal and quiet and were probably trying to avoid us on the shuttle. I force friendship with strangers while I’m in the hiking with the same dedication with which I avoid eye contact with strangers while riding the T.
- Steaming feet! Gross, but also hilarious? Maybe just gross.
- Speaking of forcing people to be friends with me, I would like to state for the record that while we did make friends with a lovely family on this trip, it was THEM that found US this time! I offered to share our deck of cards with Ben when he was looking for some in the afternoon, but it was his father Gary who chose to sit with us at dinner and there was no going back after that. Bonus: they were also staying at Lakes on Sunday night, so the fun didn’t have to end after just one vicious post-dinner game of Hearts.
- We caught most of the sunset from Madison (I’m such a jerk – I kept thinking “meh, the sunset from Lakes is so much better” but the truth is that the sunset at Madison is equally beautiful even if it isn’t a straight westerly view), but I didn’t think about going back out after it was dark (it was cold, I’m a wuss). Then I went to bed, and holy cow! I had an amazing view of the stars out of the window next to my bunk. Given that I woke up no fewer than a half dozen times over the course of the night, I took complete advantage of that view.
- Sunday started off with a bang! By “with a bang” I mean “with losing Erica”. Erica took off like the mountain goat that she is as we headed from the hut to summit our first peak of the day, Mt Adams, and left Mark and I straggling behind. We scaled the boulder pile that is Adams, got to the top…and she wasn’t there. It was windy and chilly and incredibly foggy and we figured she must have headed down to keep moving and stay warm, so we took our photo and started down. Maybe five minutes later we thought we heard my name, but when we turned around the group behind us didn’t acknowledge us and we couldn’t see anything through the fog, so we kept going. Then we heard my name again, and realized that Erica somehow ended up behind us. We hollered back asking where she was and heard “I’M AT THE TOP OF F*CKING MOUNT ADAMS!” Hilarity ensued (for Mark and I. Erica? Not so much), and you better believe that Erica learned quickly to stay within sight/hearing of us for the rest of our trip.
- Sunday was brutal. It was 7.9 miles, 3,540 feet of elevation gain, and about 3,300 ft of elevation loss…we went up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down all. day. long. But after we had descended Jefferson, as we were working our way towards, up, and over Clay and about four miles into our day (I think), I could NOT stop looking around and feeling overwhelmingly happy. Hands down this ~2 miles was my favorite hiking of the trip.
- S: “I see Crawford Path!” M: “You see AFRICA!?!” Almost, Mark. Almost. Let me tell you three more times so that you will actually hear it.
- Swimming at Lakes! So cold. SO cold! So worth it. But seriously. SO EFFING COLD.
- Monday morning, before we left Lakes, I forced our new friends to both take a photo with us and to add us as friends on facebook while explaining that they were stuck with me for life (it’s like I’m the little sister they never wanted!). This is how I operate. At least I told them it was happening instead of saying goodbye and acting like we would never meet again all normal-like…and then later using my stalker skillz to find them on facebook, like I did last year to Viagara and He Who Shall Not Be Trail Named.
- We kept bumping into another couple who had been on the hiker shuttle with us, but instead of accosting them anonymously I introduced myself to them when we bumped into them at the summit of Mt Eisenhower. We crossed paths again when we stopped for a break at Mizpah Springs, but they left to head down the final ~2.5 miles before we did. About halfway down, we came across Dave standing in the middle of the trail, looking into the trees and looking rattled. As soon as he saw us, he told us he had been rushed by a squirrel and let us pass him while he recovered from the shock…we realized Liz wasn’t with him and asked if the squirrel had got her. Turns out she was just rocketing downhill, so when we caught up with her about a quarter mile from the trailhead we told her that Dave had been rushed by a squirrel and her response was “is that what he said to tell me?!” I told her that it was true, that there was blood everywhere. ;) (We’re super hilarious to run into in the middle of the woods.) She was a good sport and we assured her that he really was fine and she did not have to go back to find him, and then we were off on the final flat stretch back to the car.
- That final flat stretch? Easy hiking but so warm and so moist…like being in a crock pot. The difference in temperature between the valley and the summits is sometimes jarring. The analogies you make after three days in the woods are also sometimes jarring.