The climb today from Saco River to Webster Cliffs was hair raising. If I haven’t told you yet, I am afraid of heights. Well today was one of those days I tried hard not to look back. Mostly because I would have only seen wide open space. It was only if I looked down, that the full implication of what could happen to me if I got vertigo came into realization. That thought alone was all I needed to spur me onward and further upward.
When 10 Bear and I stood at Webster Cliffs with gale force winds I was more than happy to quickly move on after taking a few pictures of her near the edge. The rest of the day was spent trying to stay upright in exposed areas and when the wind would gust. By the time we arrived at Mt Franklin the clouds had moved in. It was to cold and windy that I rolled my pant legs down and put on my rain jacket so any warmth I generated wouldn’t just get blown away.
It is an eerie feeling to hike in and out of clouds as they are blown by you. You can see the landscape ahead of you and then you can’t. All you see is white. No trail. No markers. No hiking buddies. By 4 pm it was starting to get dark because of the cloud cover and as we hiked out of the gloom appeared the Lake of the Clouds Hut. We were never so glad to see shelter. Ok, that is a lie. There were a few other times I had thought the same thing prior than today.
We grabbed the door handle and got ourselves blown into the interior with a gust. At the front desk was a worker and immediately we asked for “work for stay.” This is when you can do some work in the huts to help out the staff with the paying guests. Since the weather was such as it was, there were a lot of hikers seeking shelter. We were told yes and so we went to relax, charge phones and wait for the assigning of the tasks once the guests had eaten.
We ended up being able to eat and then it was cleaning time. 10 Bear and 5 Star swept the floor and I went in the kitchen and got a tray to scrub. This would be the first time that I meet Zuko. We had our sleeves rolled up and we each had a baking sheet that we were assigned to scrub all the charred food off of. When it was 9:30 pm it was lights out for the guests and we were able to finally set up our mats and bags on the dining hall floor for the night. It wasn’t a very restive sleep as many guests and hikers were up during the night making their nightly hike to the bathroom. The squeaking and banging of the door was ridiculous. At 6 am all the hikers were woken up and asked to quickly pack. We could stay and help with breakfast or we could head out. We had had enough and headed out the door.
We only had 1.7 miles to the summit. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we could see the summit from the Hut. I was half way up to the top when I turned around and looked back. I’m not sure what about this day, this moment struck me, but something did. I just stood there feeling humble, small and grateful. I didn’t want to move from this spot. I knew in this moment, that this was the reason I had hiked the AT. This was the moment. It brought tears to my eyes. I could go home now, if I wanted to and be satisfied with my hike. (At the writing of this, I wish now I would have just sat down and enjoyed the moment more). As I turned to continue up towards Mt. Washington, I knew I would never feel this way again. It is like that with all firsts, isn’t it?
We got to the top of Mt. Washington to discover that yesterday’s winds were clocked at 91 mph. That hikers that were to…were told they couldn’t hike beyond the summit and were taken back down the mountain by the workers at Mt. Washington. I believe it cost them $35.00 down and $35.00 back. Sometimes, it is best to just hunker down below the summit for better weather.
Tomorrow we have a 1000 ft. elevation drop and then a 2500 ft. elevation gain. In 2 more days we hope to be out of the White Mountains. Then hello 100 Mile Wilderness and hello September.