Location: Hikers Welcome Hostel (Glencliff, NH)
Even though I wanted to wake up and get moving early this morning, I left camp around 7:30. Three rock climbers walked past me while I was eating breakfast. They didn’t care that I was camping there and they didn’t see me until there were right on top of me.
I started up Mt. Moosilauke within the first mile of the day. The climb was steep and difficult, but I handled it pretty well. I just put my legs in low gear and consistently pushed up the mountain. The wooden steps and ladders tired my legs, but they made the climb easier. I stopped for a hot lunch at Beaver Brook lean-to. I was out of snack foods today, so I had to cook Lipton’s pasta for lunch. The view from the lean-to was amazing. It offered a panoramic picture of Franconia Ridge and the Presidential peaks behind the ridge. I took a long lunch because my plan was to cross Moosilauke and stay at Jeffers Brook Shelter before going into Glencliff, NH for a zero day.
I finished the climb up Moosilauke after lunch. The top half of the mountain was surprisingly easier than the bottom half. Above tree line, the wind blew hard and chilled my body. I could see the peak of the mountain long before I got to the top, and it was teeming with people. I could see the bold colored windbreakers from a mile away. The summit looked like a decorated Christmas tree. A road allows people to drive almost to the top of the mountain, but they still have to climb a quarter mile or so to stand on the summit. I took a seat on the summit as people took pictures and ate lunch. A group of elementary school students had taken a field trip to the top, and they yelled and laughed around me. I didn’t stay long at the top. I had a woman take a picture of me and then I left the summit. I followed the tall cairns to the timberline. Just before I went into the trees, I took a long look around me. I won’t climb back above tree line on this trip.
As I hiked down the mountain, I had a tremendous feeling of success. I had hiked 400 miles through the most difficult terrain that the AT has to offer. I moved quickly and confidently down the trail. After about three miles to the base of the mountain, I came to an intersection. I could go left or right. I couldn’t find the white-blazes that designate the AT so I asked a hiker walking by the split. I was horrified to find out that I had taken a trail other than the AT off the top of the mountain. I hiked the River Gorge trail down to the same side of the mountain on which I had started this morning. I had hiked to the summit and come back to within about two miles of the parking lot where I camped last night. I looked on the day hiker’s map for an alternate route to Glencliff and amazingly I found one.
The Hurricane Trail, maintained by the Dartmouth Outing Club, was labeled as the route to Glencliff. I decided I’d just hike the seven mile trail into Glencliff. Whether or not hiking the trail was a mistake or not, I can’t really say for sure. I did manage to get to Glencliff, but the Hurricane Trail was the most poorly marked, poorly maintained trail I’ve hiked yet. It looked as though a hurricane had torn through it. Trees were downed everywhere. Bushes were overgrown. There was more mud than grass or straw and I had to climb wooden fences and metal gates. I never saw another footprint. If I had been injured on that trail, my body would have probably never been found. Eventually I crossed the AT and took it into Glencliff, but until that trail junction I had no idea where I was or where I was going. I was a muddy mess when I came out on the other side of the mountain. I decided to go to the hostel tonight instead of waiting another night. I wanted a shower and a beer. I had only planned to hike about 10 miles today, but because of the detour I hiked over sixteen. I was on the edge when I finally made it into town. I was hungry for pizza and thirsty for beer. Of course, though, things went wrong. Everything closed early on Sunday evening so I couldn’t get to a restaurant or a store. Also, all the bunks were taken, so I slept on the picnic table in the backyard of the hostel.