When we got up to pack up, they were up early also. We had several critters peek out from our tent pad (a wooden platform built a foot above the ground). First, a tiny grey mouse darted out and began running up my trekking pole, before seeing me and daring back under. Then, a red squirrel ran out, saw us, and headed for the trees. Made me wonder just what all we had slept over last night. We hung our food bags in the trees - mostly we do it to avoid mice rather than bear. We have not seen any bear in so long, it's becoming hard to imagine they are here - although we know they are.
We headed out, apprehensive about hitting Mahoosuc Notch, the hardest or most fun mile of the AT, depending on your experience, I suppose. We reached it after a couple of hours, and I was glad we didn't try to reach it yesterday, because the clim up and over the mountain to get there was challenging in itself!
We reached the sign that we were entering the notch, watered up, stored our poles ( we knew we wouldn't need them, but would be climbing instead), and hiked in. It is a narrow gorge that boulders have fallen into from the mountains above, and you basically have a mile of his to get through, climb over or under, to reach the other end. Most people take 2 or 3 hours, and the challenge is to get through without removing your pack, because of the tight squeezes. We began with lots of energy and determination, and the boys were hoping to make it through in less than an hour and a half. After about an hour of pulling myself up and over these giant rocks, I could tell my legs were getting very fatigued, not to mention my arms and shoulders. We took about a 15 minute break in the middle to water up and eat a quick snack, and continued on. It seemed like it was taking forever, but I don't carry a watch, so I had no idea. It's really hard to judge how far a mile is when you are climbing instead of walking. Swamprat was in the lead, and soon I heard him whoop, and I knew we had reached the end! One hour and forty-five minutes, and we never took our packs off - very respectable for old folks!
We hiked on, and all noticed how tired we now were, knowing we now had a serious climb up Mahoosuc Arm, an 1800 foot climb up a formidable mountain. Yikes. Hadn't really thought about the Notch tiring us out before this climb.
We started climbing, and we're met with the most difficult ascent yet. It was if someone had poured a giant stream of cement winding down the side of the mountain, and that was the trail we had to go up! There were trees along the edge of it, so we used the trees to pull ourselves up when it was too steep to stand - which was a lot of it. Talk about exhausting. We finally reached the top and took our lunch break there. Perfect day - cool breeze - blue sky - big fluffy clouds - I could have laid there and watched clouds forever! But the boys would not let me.
We hiked on, knowing we now just had 3.5 miles of downhill to the road, where we would catch a ride into Bethel to resupply.
Yep, you guessed it - longest downhill ever! But it wasn't bad - mostly gradual, nothing like the other side of he mountain. We were jus so tired, and anxious to reach the bottom, it seemed slow. We lucked out and got a ride from John, a day hiker, who was headed home. He dropped us off at the grocery store, and we started asking around about a burger and fries. This is a ski resort town, full of B and B's, and Patty, the inn keeper at the Victoria Inn made us an offer we couldn't refuse. We decided to stay with her, get a good meal, and hit the trail in the morning.
We ended up eating at the Sudbury Inn, just a few doors down, in their pub, where a 45th high school reunion was taking place. They had great entertainment, and the folks around us really has lots of questions about our little trek. We had a blast visiting, and celebrating reaching Maine and hopefully being done with our toughest days on the trail.
(Keith's goose egg - kept hitting the same place as he climbed - ouch!)
(I had to laugh when I saw the cairn at the top of Mahoosuc Notch - someone had destroyed it - it accurately reflected how we all felt once we reached the top - you just want to inflict pain on the mountain for what it just put you through! Apparently someone else felt the same way!). Lol!
-Steady and F100