Days 120-121: The Mahoosucs Part I - the NH/ME Border and Mt. Success (Gentian Pond Shelter to Carlo Col Shelter)
1861 miles on the Appalachian Trail
I wake at 6:00 am to squeeze in my second shower at Libby House. Paul runs his daily shuttle to the trailhead at 7:30 am. Nighthawk, Tenacious, and I pile our packs into the trunk and jump into the backseat.
Today, we enter the Mahoosucs, a mountain range straddling New Hampshire and southern Maine that is known for its ruggedness. The weather forecast calls for rain in the upcoming week, but the sun still shines today: I plan to take full advantage of it.
Nighthawk and Tenacious took full advantaged their afternoon in Gorham and packed out a generous amount of food, including an entire six-pack of Coke. Around lunchtime, Nighthawk and I reach a rocky outcrop bordered by pine trees. Nighthawk sits atop her pack, digs out a couple bottles of Coke, and offers one to me. The sun warms my back as I shovel in my lunch - crackers and tuna - while taking sips of soda.
I find parts of the trail hard to follow today. After crossing one stream, I enter a section of trail where every white blaze is chiseled from the trees. In another, the trail circles a pond before doubling back over a muddy outlet. I check my GPS over and over, looking for the telltale blue dot that indicates my location.
As I walk over a series of planks toward the end of the day, I spot a squirrel with a gigantic pinecone in its mouth. It stares at me, paralyzed for a second, before scampering up a tree.
We stop at Gentian Pond Shelter, home to a cow moose that stops by the pond for water in the evenings. Tenacious and I hang around the pond at sunset, hoping for a glimpse of the moose. Though we see many beavers gliding and flipping through the still waters, we miss the moose.
A ranger drops by, holding an old trail sign. "The AMC can do this, because they're a nonprofit organization: Sometimes, they auction off the old signs. Some of them can fetch quite a lot of money."
A veil of mist covers the mountain the next morning, and an afternoon downpour is in the forecast. I run into Nighthawk as I hike over Mt. Success. The wind picks up. We briefly shelter in a copse of trees, where we decide to just hike half a day to Carlo Col Shelter, where we'll wait out the weather.
"Should we wait for Tenacious?" she yells over the wind.
"Let's get off this mountain, then wait for her!"
The wind feels like it's gusting up to 50 mph: enough to displace my legs, but not enough to knock me off my feet. We get to a more sheltered area under a rock wall, hunker down for lunch, and wait. My thermometer registers a temperature in the low 40s - and dropping. We start pacing back and forth, waiting for Tenacious.
I am glad for the company as I scramble over boulders with my friends. We reach the Maine/New Hampshire border in what seems like a short time, then go through a boulder field before reaching the shelter.
The shelter is already nearly full, with hikers crammed into the top and bottom floors like sardines. At one point, there are 17 hikers inside, all eating lunch or scoping out the weather. It is quite cold, even with all these bodies huddled together.
Tenacious and Nighthawk set up on the bottom floor and slip into their sleeping bags. "At some point, I have to work up the courage to get out of my sleeping bag," Nighthawk says after a few hours. "Maybe I can inch over there...Oh never mind...I'll get out of my sleeping bag at some point."
Tomorrow should be warmer and partly cloudy. Tomorrow, we will tackle Mahoosuc Notch, reputedly the hardest mile on the Appalachian Trail.