Location: Ethan Pond
I slept late this morning. I tend to sleep late when I tent. My knees hurt worse today than usual, I think because of how I bounced down Mt. Washington yesterday afternoon when the weather had cleared. I slowly packed my things, but I was feeling pretty good mentally when the day began. I stopped by the hut to see if they had leftover breakfast, but the staff never approached the front desk so I filled my water bottle and left. I had a pop-tart for breakfast, but I knew that in seven trail miles I could visit a snack bar for a good lunch. I had been planning on visiting the snack bar since last night. For some reason, I couldn’t get my mind off of visiting the snack bar one mile West on US 302. Anyway, as I was leaving the hut, a woman asked me to take a picture of her and her friends. I accepted her camera. Before I knew it, I was juggling eight cameras. I took a picture with each, two with a couple at the women’s request. After taking a dozen pictures and receiving just as many thanks from the women with thick Boston accents, I started south.
I quickly caught up to a group of three men on the trail. The oldest man looked familiar and I could tell he recognized me from somewhere. After a few questions and answers, I realized that he and his son were the two that I had turned back to check on while hiking through nasty weather on the ridge leading to Madison Spring Hut. I hadn’t seen them at Madison Spring the night I stayed there, but I figured that I didn’t recognize them without their hats and hoods donned. The man thanked me for turning around to make sure that they were OK. I was glad to know that he was grateful, because I had been thinking that I might have insulted him by offering help, thinking that he couldn’t handle the harsh conditions on his own. But, he was thankful and he wished me luck on my trip.
I resumed my pace, which has quickened noticeably recently. The trail didn’t challenge me too much. The particular section of the trail had been graded to a mild incline that wound up Mt. Webster. I crossed the summit of Mt. Webster easily and then stopped when I met a couple on Webster Cliffs. They had hiked to the top of the cliffs from the road and planned to go hut to hut through the Presidentials. The man had gone photo crazy. He snapped pictures of everything in every direction, and then he changed the setting to panoramic and did the same thing. Then he handed me the camera. Again I was taking pictures of someone else today. I took a picture of him and his girlfriend, who was scared of heights and screamed or slapped him each time he tried to take her closer to the edge for a picture. When she had finally had enough of the photo shoot, he asked me to take pictures of him on the cliff, and he approached the edge. He propped one foot on a rock and put his hands on his hips. He looked away from the camera and into the distance and gave me a point to indicate that he wanted the picture snapped. In his Tilley hat and sunglasses, he faced the wind rising over the cliffs and signaled another picture as he gazed into the distance. I hope the pictures turned out well, but my hands were shaking because I could not stop laughing at this guy. I wonder if he has a bunch of framed solo shots of himself in strange poses in his home. I wanted to do a little Austin Powers impression with the camera but resisted the urge because I didn’t think that he or his wife would get the joke. I made my way down Webster and to the road. I crossed the footbridge over the river. Finally I crossed a river that I didn’t have to ford or rock-hop. I’m told that I won’t have to ford many rivers on the trail from now until Springer.
I started walking the highway with my thumb out. I expected to get a ride quickly, but instead I walked the three miles in the heat to the general store. In the valley the temperature reached the high eighties, much warmer that the pleasant sixties on the tops of the mountains. Heat radiated from the black asphalt. I sweated the three miles to the general store. I resupplied and ate a roast beef sandwich. The owner of the store gave me a ride in the back of his pickup to the trailhead.
When I got to the trailhead, I realized that a storm was approaching. I looked for my backpack cover. I took everything out to find it, but it was not in my pack. I realized that I had left it at Madison Spring hut the morning I left for Mt. Washington. If it had rained today, everything in my pack would have been soaked, including my sleeping bag. Hopefully it won’t rain for the next few days. I can get a new cover or a trash bag in North Woodstock in 40 miles, but until then I’m walking a dangerous line between comfort and misery.
I hiked the last three miles to Ethan Pond slowly. For some reason I was dragging. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the roast beef sandwich and the Dr. Pepper. For whatever reason, I had no energy. I wondered if maybe all the adrenaline that helped get me across the Presidentials had left my blood and now I was just completely spent. I worked and panted for every step to climb to Ethan Pond. I reached the lean-to about 5:00pm. I collapsed on the wood planks on the floor and closed my eyes. I was too tired to cook food. I wasn’t even hungry. I rolled around in my sleeping bag for a couple hours, still too tired to cook. A group of girls, campers I think, squealed and screamed all evening, but they redeemed themselves when they fed me a healthy helping of chicken breasts and pasta. I guess I got some trail magic. I didn’t have to cook and I ate well. Now my fatigue is really taking over. I’m sleeping in the lean-to in my zero degree sleeping bag which means it’s going to be a sweaty, wet night. I can’t wait to get a lighter sleeping bag. I hate waking up in the middle of the night, hot and wet. It’s the slimiest feeling. Falling back asleep takes forever. My mind has been rambling. Northbound thru-hikers telling stories are distracting me to the point of frustration. Tomorrow I might be more coherent. We’ll see.