Location: Garfield Ridge
I could have slept forever in that attic. With the amount of food around me, I probably could have lived there at least a year. The small window faced west so the sun hardly lit the small room. The clanging and clanking of pots and pans from beneath the wood floor told me that it was time to wake up. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome and possibly jeopardize my breakfast. In addition, I had slept naked on the floor because I only have one set of clothes and they were soaked from last evening’s rain storm. I can only imagine the experience of waking up to shrieks of one of the female crew members. That would have been hilarious. Anyway, I put back on my wet clothes and packed my bag. I couldn’t resist the temptation; I took two Hershey’s bars from the wall of candy. I crawled down the ladder steps and dropped into a busy kitchen. Breakfast was almost ready. I walked into the common area where the guests had already taken their seats at the picnic tables. I passed by without stopping and went out onto the front porch to organize my pack and spare everyone from the sour stench of my wet clothes. I could barely stand the odor myself.
As I packed my bag, I realized that I felt uncomfortable about taking a seat at the tables. I didn’t know if last night’s hospitality was just a onetime thing or if I was allowed and welcomed to sit with paying guests. I thought by doing so I might be abusing the hut crew’s generosity and service. I decided to take a seat on a bench by the entrance to the kitchen. The crew busily served the guests and cooked the food. They passed me without acknowledging me. As breakfast concluded, the hut staff participated in another lame exercise. Two men and two women performed a skit, a takeoff of Cinderella that included three main points or instructions: pick up any trash you find on the trail, fold the blankets on your beds, and not to forget to tip the crew. The skit was lame, but some parts made me laugh. After the skit and cleaning the tables, the crew called me back into the kitchen where piles of leftovers were waiting. I ate half a dozen chocolate chip pancakes, two big slices of last night’s bread and a couple pieces of last night’s cake. I stuffed myself unashamedly. I had watched the other guests eat with my empty stomach and I didn’t know if I was going to get the chance to eat.
I ate breakfast with another person working for stay. He was not a thru-hiker, but I think he might have told the staff that he was. He attends College of Charleston but is visiting friends from home in New Hampshire. He has been trying to go to college for many years, but the costs have always been too great. He earned a music scholarship for guitar to C of C and has only been in school for one semester. Following breakfast, he swept the dining room and bunkroom floors. He certainly looked like the oddball in the crowd with his Mohawk hairdo and guitar strapped to his pack, but he was as nice as he could be. He gave me some Gatorade powder, a granola bar, and a Mountain House meal because he said his pack was too heavy. I packed them in my bag happily because the meal should be enough to get me all the way to Glencliff, NH.
I thanked the crew for their hospitality and left the hut around 8:30am. Immediately I realized that yesterday’s operation had drained my energy. I struggled mightily to reach the summit of Gale Head Mountain. The humidity took its toll, and sweat poured from my face. I had to stop every dozen steps or so to rest. I passed many of the hut guests on my way up the mountain. They too were equally as exhausted as I. All of my energy was gone. I decided to rest at Garfield Ridge campsite long before I ever arrived at the shelter. When I arrived, I collapsed on the plank floor. I pulled out my air mattress and napped in the morning heat of the valley. I woke up around 2:30pm as the campsite caretaker walked by the opening of the lean-to. We had a lengthy conversation about deaths on Mt. Washington and the rescue operation yesterday. He decided to waive the eight dollar camping fee and marked me off as work for stay. Apparently helping with a rescue operation can earn many rewards with the AMC, the non-profit organization that manages the White Mountains. Maybe I will get another free night at the next campsite. I’ll be sure to drop the story to the caretaker.
I treated myself to a hot lunch this afternoon. I boiled Beef Lo Mein Lipton noodles and wrapped them in tortilla shells. It made for quite a decent meal. It reminded me of my lunch at Cooper Brook Falls over five weeks ago. I can’t believe how far I have hiked over the past six weeks. I will only be in New Hampshire another week or so, barring anymore rescues. I only hiked three miles today. I could have gone further, but truthfully I didn’t think I had the energy to outrun a lightning storm if one trapped me on Franconia Ridge. Tomorrow morning I’ll cross the four mile exposed ridge before afternoon thunderheads muster.
I may stop for lunch at the Flume attraction in North Woodstock tomorrow. The only food I’m really lacking are lunches. I resupplied two days ago, but they didn’t have acceptable lunch foods. We will see. Maybe I can Yogi some food off of a day hiker or weekend hiker. ‘Yogi’ is a term I heard a couple days ago from another hiker. It refers to Yogi Bear, who stole food from visitors to Jellystone Park. A unique lingo exists out here on the trail. I’ve heard many words and phrases that I’ve never heard before, mainly because they pertain to hiking which is something I have never really done before this trip. I need to make sure to remember and record some of the words and phrases because many of them are clever.
Of all the unique qualities of the trail however, the most astonishing to me is the community surrounding it. Out here I have witnessed a generosity among strangers seldom seen in a normal everyday life of urban and suburban America. Yesterday dozens of people came to the aid of a disabled stranger. I’d imagine she’d do the same if in their position. Nothing mattered but taking the woman safely from the mountain. There were no arguments or complaints during the exercise outside of the expected chaos. People shared snacks and water and carried each others’ packs as we took turns on the litter. The willingness of most to help impressed me. Rarely do I get to witness such situations.
Also, people on the trail are often willing to share food and water. While sometimes it isn’t an option, often there are victuals to be spared. For two consecutive days, I have been given food by weekend hikers. The first, at Ethan Pond, gave me a granola energy bar and a packet of GU, a carbohydrate gel. On a side note, he only has one eye and wears special glasses while hiking to protect his remaining eye. I can understand his paranoia. The second person to give me food was the Mohawk man from today. I can’t remember the last time a person offered me food in Raleigh. Then again, circumstances are slightly different. But here people are willing to inconvenience themselves in order to lessen another person’s pain. This quality extends beyond the realm of food and water.
While staying at Imp campsite, a man from Connecticut who I had only known for a couple of hours gave me his contact information in case I needed anything while in Massachusetts or Connecticut. He maintains a section of the Gould trail and a shelter on that trail.
Most townspeople around the trail are generous also. They are the so-called trail angels that perform trail magic or simply help you when everything seems to be going wrong. Hitching rides is relatively easy, at least compared to the effort involved to hitch a ride in a city or between cities. People are willing to put you in their cars, take you into their homes, or at least allow you to stay in their barn. All of these acts of generosity and goodwill I have never had the pleasure of experiencing before this trip. I only hope that the hospitality of the trail community persists as I move into the Mid-Atlantic States. Perhaps it will become even more welcoming, but I find it hard to believe that people could be more generous.