I left Garfield campsite late this morning. I needed the rest last night. Before bed, I had a lengthy conversation with an elderly man at the shelter. He had joined his daughter and her husband for a few days in the Whites. When he first arrived at the shelter, I thought that he might be at risk of collapsing from exhaustion. He had kept pace with the young couple over 14 miles. He could barely talk he was panting so heavily. It took a couple hours for him to stop moaning and groaning so that I could finally talk to him. He spent half an hour trying to force down a Mountain House dinner, but he had no appetite and every bite he swallowed with a grimace. As he prepared for bed, I asked him about his teaching career. He has taught music, Spanish, physics, English, ESL and Mathematics. He has devoted much of his life to missionary work, and he spent many years in Mexico working with the Baptist Church. I enjoyed his stories of trying to convert Catholics to Baptist faith. I did most of the listening as I usually do when talking to old men, and I found much interest in how he had been called to missionary work. Because I am looking for a direction in my life, I like to hear how other people found direction in their lives, especially when a person claims to have been directed by a higher power.
I crossed Franconia Ridge today. Unfortunately the ridge was completely socked in. The ridge still though was a superhighway for hikers. Day hikers and weekend hikers were everywhere although visibility was only fifty feet. Occasionally the clouds would open to show some of the valley below with the pines and rocks, but I never got to see Mt. Washington or the other peaks of the Presidentials. It rained some on the ridge, but I managed to avoid the afternoon thundershowers, which was a primary goal for today. Not twenty minutes after I descended below tree line, I heard the first rumblings of thunder. When the storm arrived, it arrived with a fury. Inches upon inches of rain fell this afternoon and the trails quickly became rivers and the rivers swelled causing flashfloods.
I have not been as wet as I was today since the 100 mile wilderness. Water flowed rapidly down the trail and it filled my boots. Of course I had left my backpack rain cover at Madison hut, so everything in my pack got soaked. I tied my jacket around my pack to help keep things from getting too heavy as they absorbed more and more water. The rain fell in sheets. I decided to take the detour to the Flume visitor center in Franconia Notch for shelter. I quickly walked the one mile down a paved bike path to the visitor center. There I had the best and worst cafeteria food I’ve ever eaten. It was great to sit inside while the rain poured. I had to leave my pack and boots by the door of the building because they were so wet. I picked a table in the snack bar area where I could see my gear through the crowd of people waiting out the storm. I ate pepperoni pizza, chips, and candy like an animal. The visitors to the attraction watched me as through I were an attraction. Families, clean and dressed nicely, filled the snack bar. I sat alone at a table for four, devouring food without distraction. I didn’t dawdle long in the visitor center. I soon returned to the trail and the pouring rain. I made the final climb to Kinsman Pond campsite. I passed by Lonesome Lake Hut without asking for work for stay. Dinner was already being served at the hut. Since I had a pleasant experience with the AMC huts so far, I decided not to risk ruining my impressions by getting rejected at the final hut. I pressed on in the rain to the fee campsite. I arrived just before dark, making today my longest days of hiking as far as time is concerned.
Location: Kinsman Pond
I pulled my wet gear from my bag. I had no dry clothes to change into at the shelter. The inside of my sleeping bag was mostly dry. There were several men at the shelter. A couple NOBOs, a few section hikers, and one southbounder that caught up to me today, Dagobah. I think ‘Dagobah’ is the correct spelling. Regardless, Dagobah is the swamp planet that Yoda from Star Wars where Yoda exiles himself. Dagobah is from Northern Georgia. He dips and smokes and has the foulest mouth of any person I’ve met in my life. He rattled off curses like they were the only words he knew. I found it hard to believe he was a college graduate. He certainly didn’t look the part with his busted teeth and red Mohawk. He hiked with a small rat terrier named Smurf that he seemed to love more than his wife. He badmouthed her to the point that most people in the shelter blushed in awkward science. Dagobah is rowdy, loud and as far as I can tell doesn’t care one bit what anyone thinks about him. He curses and makes racist comments unashamedly. When I crawled into my wet sleeping bag and tried to get comfortable and warm. He kept talking to me and everyone else. When the headlights were turned out, he kept on talking. Eventually I had to tell him I was going to sleep. Hopefully I won’t get stuck hiking with him tomorrow. I don’t think I can stand an extended period of talking with him.