I had every intention to wake before sunrise and climb for the hour or so up to Franconia Ridge for sunrise. This is a highlight of the Appalachian Trail, the White Mountains.
My body had other ideas about the White Mountains and Franconia Ridge being so great. This terrain is difficult to hike on and yesterday took its toll. I was tired. I rolled back over to sleep on several occasions, something I normally only do when not on the trail.
My first steps of the morning didn’t come easily. Both of my calf muscles and achilles were tight. I have very flexible calf muscles that allows me to walk up steep inclines without needing to walk on my toes. There were a lot of steep inclines yesterday. I blame this flexibility for producing my small calf muscles. Talking about leg muscles, mine are shrinking, I now have a thigh gap. I seem to get this towards the end of all my long distance hikes. Maybe someone can explain why guys lose muscles while thru hiking and women gain muscles.
It was around 10am when I reached Franconia Ridge. My plan to be here for sunrise was long dead. I took a short detour to Mt Liberty. The weather was clear but just enough humidity haze to restrict views of the far distant peaks.
I followed Franconia Ridge along a trail through stunted trees for a mile or two until I climbed above the tree line. Ahead was Mt Lincoln. I could see distant shapes of hikers on the summit.
There were sweet smelly hikers, mostly speaking French. Quebec the French speaking province of Canada is not far away and this part of the world must be a popular holiday destination. There were also loads of hikers with their dogs.
I crest Little Haystack Mountain, Mt Lincoln and Mt Lafayette. The later mountain being the highest at 5260 feet. The day was clear and calm. I dream of days like this when exploring the world. Like an addict seeking their next fix it keeps me coming back for more. All the bad days of horrible rain soaked torture early on in the trail are long forgotten. I deserve these views, I’ve worked hard for them.
After leaving Mt Lafayette the day hiking crowds thinned. Only hikers planning to be here overnight remained. For most hikers including myself it was slow going on the constantly changing terrain. Up, down, over rocks then slippery tree roots or patches of damp mud. The Appalachian Trail is not easy.
I reached the top of Mt Garfield and looked back on Franconia Ridge with its high mountains. It had been a great section of trail. Clouds started to build as I continued along the trail to Gailhead Hut. I stopped long enough to fill up my water bottles and check the weather on my phone. I still had cell service.
The clouds of late afternoon were building up fast until the first clap of thunder could be heard in the distance. A weather warning flashed across my weather app. Strong thunderstorms with gails to 50MPH and possible heavy rain. I considered staying the night in the $100 per night shelter. I wasn’t going to pay that amount but I would set up my tent nearby. I considered a work for stay. A kind of volunteer program for thru hikers. Free meals for dinner and breakfast in exchange for a few chores. My travel visa doesn’t allow me to do such things so I kept hiking.
I had a steep climb up to the top of South Twin Mountain. The first storm had passed and a second storm was approaching. This storm was a bit more intense. I packed away my camera and phone into my backpack to stay dry then kept on climbing to the summit. Several waves of rain passed over me. When I made the summit there was a short break in the weather. The thunder was still all around. I got the camera out for a quick photo then I bailed off the exposed mountain. It was late. I found a small flat section just big enough for my tent. I was soaked but crawled into the dry tent for the night.