I was afraid there wouldn’t be anything to report this week. Whatever sickness I caught ended up keeping me in Hanover until Friday afternoon and moving at a slow pace. About a mile out of town I met a group of hikers taking a snack break who greeted me with, “so you’re the Hollywood everyone’s been talking about”. I’m not sure who has been talking about me or how they knew who I was, but just like that I found a new group. They’re all very nice and are already looking out for me. I’m still hiking my own hike, but it has been fun to be back with a group for a few days.
On my second day with this group we decided to do an easy 17 mile day to a store we saw in the guidebook that allows hikers to camp. It didn’t really give much of a description at all, but it seemed like a fun adventure. The guidebook said the store was the Mt. Cube Sugar Farm, however, there must’ve been a misunderstanding, because we were asking every day hiker we saw if they knew about the Sugar Cube Factory in town. We were fully expecting to pitch tents in front of a factory. When we got there that night, our hitch dropped us off at a small maple syrup country store and drove off. We stood there confused for about a minute, then a man ran out of a trailer that was behind the building next door and greeted us. We quickly learned his name was Maple Jim and he was going to take care of us. He corralled all seven of us into the maple syrup factory, showed us where the sleeping pads were, and encouraged us to grab our wallets so we could buy some stuff to grill up from the convenience store. We did as we were told and were driven to the closest food store about twenty minutes away. We bought hot dogs, beans, chips, cookies, candy, and anything else that sounded good at the time. Maple Jim got us back and fired up the grill. We feasted, then got a fire going, sang songs and told stories. It’s funny to me how rarely we do that on the trail. Before I started I thought it would be fires and stories every night, but often we are too tired for that and just go to bed. I’m learning to cherish the times it happens. In the morning, Maple Jim got the coffee and pancakes started, then showed us how the maple machines work. I didn’t totally get the whole process, but we put the syrup on the pancakes and I’m very satisfied with how it turned out! Who knew that such a random stop would lead to such a fun adventure. We didn’t want to leave Maple Jim and the maple farm, but the Whites were calling.
We hiked a short day to the last hostel before the Whites, then rested up before our big day. The hostel had hundreds of DVDs and a small tv, so we all had to huddle around to watch anything. It was hilarious seeing twenty smelly hikers squeezed into a tiny room trying to watch Forrest Gump and quoting every line.
When morning came, we were all business. It was time to hike Mt. Moosilauke. The hike up was shockingly easy. It was about 3,500 ft up over 3.7 miles and we were able to reach the summit in just about two hours. When we initially reached the summit it was foggy and not much past the summit could be seen, but within about thirty minutes it cleared up and the view was simply breathtaking. I wanted to stay up there all day. I think I would’ve too, but I knew how difficult and treacherous the descent would be, so I figured I had better get started. The first two miles down weren’t bad. It was steep, but nothing worse than the ascent. Then with 1.3 miles to the bottom the trail met up with a stream and followed it the whole way down. I don’t think I breathed for the entire 1.3 miles. Every step was cautious and a risk. One wrong step would either send you slipping down the jagged rocks or the rushing water that became a waterfall every hundred feet or so. I have never seen that steep of a descent. Thank God it wasn’t raining! It took almost as long for me to go down that 1.3 miles as it did to climb the other side of the mountain. Finally I reached the bottom and remembered how to breathe. It wasn’t until I got to the bottom that I was able to say, “that was fun. Let’s do it again!”. The original plan was to hike on another eight miles that day, but I was still feeling a bit under the weather and felt no need to push it more, so Law and Yaegermeister went into town with me and we found a hostel.
This week I am missing old friends, but thankful for the new ones who have entered my life. I’m excited to see what the rest of the Whites bring and what stories I’ll gather with this new group. And hopefully I can finally get rid of whatever illness has been knocking me down for more than a week.