Nauman Campsite (1850.8) to Bushcamp (1866.4)
My headlamp lit the rocky trail in front of me. In the far distance the faint orange glow of morning. It was an early start to my hiking day.
The Presidential Range is often quoted as the most scenic section of the whole Appalachian Trail. The last of my incredibly good weather window was today, but storms were forecast for the afternoon and hiking on Mt Washington was the last place I wanted to be in a storm. This place has a reputation as having the worst weather in North America, if not the world.
I climbed Mt Pierce as the morning light appeared. The sun had risen but it was hidden behind Mt Washington.
Not many people are on trail at sunrise. In fact it seems that few are on trail before 8am. So most of the morning I got to enjoy the sights of the Presidential Ramge alone. My hiking buddy Thumper opted for a sleep in. He’ll catch me later in the day.
The weather was postcard perfect as I approached the climb up Mt Washington. I stopped for a quick top up of water at Lakes of the Clouds Hut but a large group of teenagers had me moving out of there quickly.
It was around 8.30am when I started up the slope towards Mt Washington. Clouds were already forming on the summit. This mountain can create its own weather.
The climb wasn’t too difficult as I weaved my way over the mess of broken rocks. For a place renowned for its strong wind I reached the top with only a slight breeze. Clouds were starting to build all around but the views were unlimited. I faced something strange at the top. There was a line up to take a photo next to the summit sign.
I lingered a long time on the summit and ate lunch at the overpriced bistro. Clouds were rolling in as I descended off the mountain. My hiking buddy Thumper joined me as we hiked downhill past the cog railway. We didn’t take part in the hiking tradition of mooning the passengers of the train, we had our eyes on the clouds. Storms were brewing.
The views on the descent were equal to any of the great views on the whole Appalachian Trail to date. Rain was moving in when descended the first couple of thousand feet. The rain turned to hail then the thunder started. We were in an area of small shrubs. Not much shelter from the storm. We continued over a pass to Madison Spring Hut. Once inside we were offered hot soup by the friendly staff. We waited out the rain.
Then the decent from hell began. Steep, wet tree roots, slippery rocks and wet mud. By this time my hiking buddy Thumper had taken several falls and lost his nerve. He also broke one of his trekking pole. I took a fall that could have broken my arm or collarbone, but luck was with me. We moved slowly and carefully, maybe less than 1 mile per hour.
Our 15 hour day ended at a small bush camp near a river. Today was tough. Both of us had pain in our knees. One of the toughest days on trail. The White Mountains have beaten me up, but the views and experiences have made it all worthwhile.
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