Monday, August 20, 2012

Boots and Melody, and a few more Mountains Before Maine

The White Mountain Inn will shuttle you to the trail at 7:30 AM if you want, and so we let Greg know that we would need that this morning. We got up at 6, and went downstairs for breakfast. A few others were already down there, and Geri and Kyle were in their positions in the kitchen. They usually have homemade breakfast burritos and three-berry muffins, and also hash browns, juice and coffee prepared for the hikers. They operate like a well-tuned machine. Geri is in the kitchen each morning at 4:30. As hikers come downstairs, they let them know when they are ready to eat. Some prefer to sip coffee and wake up first. Since everyone gets up at different times (some will zero, some will hike out), breakfast goes on til 8. By 10 everyone has to have their beds stripped, and linens put in the Communal hamper. She is doing laundry continuously all day, between the linens and laundry for the hikers that are continuously arriving. They have between 700 and 800 hikers stay here during the 4 months of thru-hiker season.

We ate, showered, stripped our beds, and packed up, and soon Greg was letting us off back at Pinkham Notch to hike the 21 miles of the AT that would lead us back to their Inn. He said some youngsters do it in one day (one very energetic youngster did it in 6 hours!) but that we shouldn't attempt that. We laughed, assuring him that we wouldn't. We saw how difficult it was, passing over Wildcat Mt., Carter and Moriah, and also had heard other hikers (young ones) complain about the climb up Wildcat, and knew we wanted to take either 2 or 3 days. When we got out of his Ford Flex, the temperature was 49 degrees.

We started out with an easy, level 1 mile hike before it quickly began climbing up Wildcat. It was a steep climb with lots of tall rock steps. Once we got almost to the top we had to cross over some wooden steps that were bolted into a steep rock face. I'd much rather climb up these than have to walk down them like we did when we descended Moosilauke. I still think that was the scariest climb we've done yet.

The view as we climbed just got better and better, with Mt. Washington just across the road. We could see the observatory on top, and occasionally hear the train whistle from the cog train bringing tourists up the steep mountain.

We had the clearest day for views that we've had in weeks, and I was excited to take pictures. We climbed over Wildcat and its four peaks. As you can imagine, this took a while.

About 3 miles into the hike, we reached a peak that had a gondola ride on top. Just as we hiked by, Boots and Melody came out of it! They were the Swiss couple that serenaded our camp in the Smokies. We were hoping to see them again! We sat and visited with them for an hour and a half at the picnic tables up there. They had many entertaining stories to tell about their hike, and Boots is an energetic story teller, so we enjoyed hearing it all.

We all needed to hike on, so we said our goodbyes, assuring each other we would meet again, and headed north on the AT. Soon we were going down a very long descent into a notch where there was an AMC hut. This was a smaller hut, and only held 40 people. Just before the hut, we passed a couple of lakes where people were swimming. When we reached the hut, they had chicken and rice soup, so we had bowls of soup before leaving.

We left the hut, and took the trail heading toward Moriah and Carter Mountains. When we reached Carter, there really wasn't much of a view, but then we reached a smaller mountain called Mt. Hight, and its view was extraordinary - in all directions! Boots and Melody had decided to camp right on top, and were cooking supper. We visited with them a while, and they fixed Swamprat some tea,so he stayed behind while we went on down to find a stealth site just beyond Zeta Pass at the bottom.

We reached Zeta after a rather steep, rocky downhill, and found 3 sobos camped there. We went about a third of a mile farther and found another good spot to make camp.

Before long, Swamprat showed up, and told us how the sun had started setting, and Boots had said, "Okay, this is the trail magical moment," and began explaining the meaning of the song they were about to sing to Swamprat (because it was in Swiss). They proceeded to sing that same beautiful song that we had heard in the Smokies, to Swamprat as the sun set over those gorgeous blue mountains that surrounded them in every direction. He has heard us talk about Boots and Melody this whole trip, so I'm so glad he got to experience their special brand of trail magic first hand.

- Steady and F100

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