Twenty one: The "Moose", my idiocy, and a rendezvous with my
August 28th, 1983
Last night it rained very hard, but the shelter only had one leak
although it looked like it would leak all over. Luckily the leak
was not in my area.
Got atop Mount Cube early in the morning only to see the valley
shrouded in fog. The taller peaks projected up over the fog creating
a surreal scene. From the summit, we trucked on down to the Sugar
House and each pigged out on a stack of five pancakes, and of course
maple syrup, milk, coffee, homemade apple pie and ice cream. It
was (and still is) extremely rare that I drink coffee, but since
my cup was instantly filled by the server each time it became empty
I went with it. The Sugar House was owned and operated by the ex-governor
of New Hampshire, Meldrim Thomson Jr., who came in with a dower
look on his face as he proceeded to check to make sure we had removed
our hiking boots. The type of soles on the boots of the '80s were
notorious for caking up with mud and spreading it all over their
clean floors. However, we had already complied with the sign indicating
removal before entering. The server, cook and chief bottle washer
was his wife.
Tonight, Al, Paul and I are camped out just down the street from
the post office in Glencliff, New Hamphire. Unfortunately we did
not arrive in time to retrieve our mail after an easy seventeen
mile hike - this post office closes at two in the afternoon!
Just talked to Dia on the phone and she seems to be in great spirits.
Hopefully I will see her Saturday on Mount Washington with my folks.
Tomorrow I will pick up my post office drop, and hit "The Moose"
(Mount Moosilauke) - my first "White" mountain of the
(Early morning views from Mt. Cube)
(Paul Nichols and Alan Savage on Mt. Cube)
Monday August 29th, 1983
Talked to mom and dad early this morning on the nearby payphone.
Got a great post office drop consisting of three packages from two
different people, and many letters. One of the packages was a package
that followed me from PO to PO. What do I do with all this stuff?
Eat, share, and carry the rest. I once again had my overalls and
flannel shirt. I knew that the higher elevations would bring colder
weather so it was prudent to be prepared for that. I did not read
Dia's letter at that moment, but wanted to savor it at a more meaningful
location. That location was to be at the top of Mount Moosilauke
which I would be climbing within just a few miles.
This will be the first time that I hiked "The Moose" from
the south side. The climb proved quite long, but not a problem.
Once I got to the summit, I read Dia's letter I had received. I
just love being above treeline with the essentials of life on my
back. That feeling of self-sufficiency is the ultimate freedom for
me. Being disconnected physically from civilization, yet communing
with the spirit of someone I loved at the same time was almost transcendental.
This feeling can't be acquired by driving up a mountain, but can
only be had after months of walking with your home on your back,
and eventually reaching a precipice both physically and mentally.
As I read, I pigged out on half a package of malted milk balls which
had arrived in one of the packages.
that I was officially in the white mountains, I decided that I would
crow like a Rhode Island Red Rooster on each peak summitted in the
Whites. That was my trail name after all. I may called myself Rhode
Island Red, but most hikers shortened Rhode Island Red to just Rhode
Island. But some of my friends, like Paul, called me by my first
mist climbed slowly in places, with the exception of wind funnels
between peaks. Wind funnels occurring between peaks compress the
air and increase its velocity, bringing along with it the mist that
it carries. It wasn't long before a storm came in forcing us to
bail out, and descend down to Beaver Brook. I had slept in a wind
funnel on previous trips and it shook the tent violently all night.
You pay a hefty price if you don't know the mountains and their
idiosyncrasies. The sensation I felt when I watched the mist climbing
the North Slope toward the summit is still somewhat of a religious
experience. The sight is so amazing! Soon we were engulfed by the
storm. As we hiked down the already steep and difficult trail, it
began to pour buckets and then began to hail. The cold rains were
torrential in nature, and I was completely soaked within minutes.
What was once a path soon became a drainage ditch, and the force
of the water was sufficient to push me forward and down the mountainside.
Here began the dichotomy of speed versus safety. At this point the
water was rushing past up to mid-calf height, so my footfalls were
obscured from my vision - and both the air and water temperatures
were dropping. I knew that safety could be had below tree line,
and ultimately in the trail shelter at the base. The temptation
was to move with reckless abandon to lower elevation, but I knew
this could be deadly. With one false step I might find myself lunging
forward onto jagged stone, potentially fracturing bones and ending
my trip - or my life. Rescue here would be a matter of many hours.
The other side of the coin was that with rapid movement comes a
quick descent to the safety of tree line, and an end to the rapid
fire assault from the stinging hail that now began to pummel me.
I chose to endure the hail and hypothermic conditions -to move with
brisk but deliberate intent, winding down the newly formed river
of ice cold water on its way to the bottom. Regardless of the weather,
the trail down was intensely beautiful.
Maybe partly because of the weather, once we got down to Beaver
Brook Shelter we decided to hitch into North Woodstock, New Hampshire.
The shelter is very close to the highway making easy access. An
easy hike to the highway and we were off to town. In North Woodstock
we found Ernie's restaurant, and pigged out. Once satiated, we returned
to the trail and backtracked the few tenths of a mile back to Beaver
Brook shelter for the night. This old battered shelter with little
life left in her still was able to provide a home and comfort after
such an eventful descent. I ate the rest of the package of milk
balls once bedded down inside the shelter.
Tomorrow is a big day. I had done this part of the trail years ago
and knew it had some rugged terrain. The topo's really do not do
justice to the exertion needed to traverse this particular section.
The climb up to Kinsman Mountain is not graded at all, and in fact
each step up stretched my muscles beyond their accustomed range.
It was like walking up a staircase three steps at a time. Those
many years ago it proved very tiring and it drained the strength
from my quads; however, on those previous hikes I had done the section
from North to South, and had noted this feature as being tiring,
and at that time I was going down rather than up. We will see what
difference it makes to go South to North this year. It does get
easier once you get to the Fishin' Jimmy Trail at Kinsman pond.
from Carriage Path)
like a Rhode Island Red Rooster on Moosilauke summit)
on descent off Moosilauke)
August 30th, 1983
Today was a rough day. Partly because of my own idiocy, and partly
because of bad luck.
It was cloudy most of the day, but the weather forecast called for
clearing skies. I had seen horsetails in the sky earlier that morning
indicating to me impending bad weather, and in the whites the weather
can change very quickly. First I hiked from Beaver Brook Shelter
to Kinsman Pond Shelter. Noting the skies to be clearing, I decided
to go on and tent at Franconia Notch rather than stay at Kinsman
Pond. Halfway between Kinsman Pond Shelter and Lonesome Lake the
skies darkened and began to rain. When we got to the Lonesome Lake
Hut we got confirmation from the hut-master of an upcoming storm.
We tried to talk the hut-master into letting us crash on the floor,
but no dice. Damn AMC, if they don't get their bucks they don't
give a shit about you. No way am I going to pay $26.00/night at
any damn hut, so we continued on to Franconia Notch arriving there
at about 7:00 pm. We set up an illegal camp just before darkness
crept in. Paul and I and both camped illegally by the side of US
Route 3 just out of sight. I knew of this place and used its flat
spot on many expeditions in the past. I'm glad we are here, but
it feels like we are in for a hell of a rain storm.
(Kinsman Pond from
from Kinsman Mountain)
August 31st, 1983
It rained like hell all last night, and this morning I woke to a
raging downpour outside my rain-soaked tent. The rainfly managed
to stave off the onslaught for most of the night, but alas, the
rain continued its onslaught and water had just begun to come in
as I awoke. At least I stayed dry all night. My sleeping bag is
now wet along with most of my other gear so the wise decision is
to go into North Woodstock to dry everything off and crash at Gene's
place. Paul went on so he will not see the splendor of Franconia
Ridge in descent weather. Gene was a friend of mine that owned and
cooked at the Scottish Inn located in North Woodstock. He had worked
as a chef in several five star hotels and had saved enough money
to buy his own place in NH. The food was great there. Beside the
restaurant he rented several small cabins situated in his back lot
between his house and the river. Gene
agreed to let me camp in the back of his truck for the night, and
had me work off a meal by cutting grass. The sun peaked out just
enough in the afternoon to allow me to cut the grass.
I discovered that yesterday I did two idiot things (that I am aware
1. I forgot my pack cover at Beaver Brook Shelter
2. I forgot my guidebook at Lonesome Lake Hut
I had to backtrack two extra miles in the pouring rain this morning
to retrieve my guidebook. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.
Tomorrow is supposed to be nice. It would be great to see the ridge
on a nice day.
September 1st, 1983
Got a lift to the A.T. from North Woodstock, and began hiking by
9:00 am. On the ascent up to Franconia Ridge, I met a African-American
(Winston Lumsdon) at Liberty Spring Campsite. The trail runs right
at the edge of the campsite and directly on the trail is great spring,
Cold and beautiful. We both stopped to draw water from the piped
spring flowing from the bowels of the earth. While chatting with
him I learned that he plans to be the first black man to hike the
A.T. from north to south. He seems to be well educated, and a nice
person. The spring was a great place to stop as the climb up to
the ridge from the road is quite steep. I felt good today, because
what had been a torturous climb for me in the past, littered with
heavy breathing and many rest stops, was so effortless now. When
I started up the trail to Liberty Spring, my mind was still fixed
in the past, and I had steeled myself for an arduous day. Fortunately,
that day never came. Instead it became a day of constant motion
as I flew past other hikers as if they were statues guarding my
path of ascension culminating in the reward of ice cold water and
a romp over the mountain tops.
I hit the ridge on a perfect day. I had forgotten just how beautiful
it was. These climbs seem so easy now. What would have killed me
before is so easy for me now. I had worked so hard to get these
views in the past, and today they just flowed into my consciousness
with such ease. I
can remember only a few times that I have felt better about myself,
and the world in general than I feel at this point. I sat on each
peak of the ridge, contemplating the beauty, and took many pictures.
I feel I have been repaid tenfold for the last few days of rain
I suffered through. At this very moment I am sitting atop Mount
Garfield. The sun is beginning to set here on top of the world,
and for tonight I go no farther - I will sleep here.
Dawn should be spectacular, and in two days I will see Dia.
from Mt. Liberty:
(Mt. Liberty Summit)
(View of Little
from Mt. Liberty)
(View back to North
Woodstock from Franconia Ridge)
(View of Cannon
Mtn from Mt. Liberty)
(Mt. Flume from
(Mt. Lincoln from
from Little Haystack:
(Mt. Cannon from
Views from Mt. Lincoln:
Lake from Mt. Lincoln)
Hut from Mt. Lincoln)
Lafayette from Mt. Lincoln)
from Mt. Lincoln)
from Mt. Lafayette:
from Mt. Lafayette)
(Route 3 from Mt. Lafayette)
from Mt. Lafayette)
(Galehead Hut from
view from Mt. Garfield:
(White Mountains from Mt. Garfield)
September 2nd, 1983
Another beautiful day for Rhode Island Red! I woke up early, packed
my gear, then watched the sun rise in the east as I crowed once
again. There is nothing more beautiful!!
Last night after I logged in, Robert Wagner and Janet Thigpen arrived
at Mount Garfield Summit. I hadn't seen them since Harpers Ferry
when we did the interview, and I was thrilled to see them again.
All three of us hit Guyot and Zealand huts where we pigged out on
some good leftover food for minimal bucks. Today I hiked with them
to Ethan Pond Shelter where I chose stayed. They continued on because
they are meeting someone in Crawford Notch. There is no reason for
me to go farther since Dia won't be at the hostel until tomorrow
gotten to the shelter early in the day, and as a result there was
nobody in the shelter. I knew that the next part of the trail would
be packed with weekend warriors since it was Labor Day weekend.
After Crawford Notch would be the the ascent up into the presidential
range, and longest traverse above treeline. Because of this there
are many that take this route for its unparalleled scenic beauty,
and because the AMC has been able to position huts at a comfortable
days hike apart for tourists. Added to that I was the busiest weekend
of the year - Labor Day Weekend. I knew that I would be among that
throng, and would be surrounded by souls for the next few days.
I was hoping above all hope that I would be alone this evening,
but as it happened, at dusk a pair of guys from New York City showed
up. My first impression of the lead guy was poor at best. As he
came bounding into camp he promptly announced the time it took him
to get from the notch to this shelter. I remained unimpressed. Some
time had passed before his friend pulled in, wheezing. Immediately
upon getting into camp, he shed his pack by hurling it unto the
ground, then promptly threw up into the fire pit. I could see agony
on his face as he collapsed on the shelter floor. I knew right there
that this would be his first and last backpacking trip. My second
impression of the first guy grew even less favorable as I could
see he was no leader, just a kid out to polish his image. Arrogant,
self-centered and egotistical and of course boastful. As it got
dark they settled into their spots and cooked dinner. I had already
eaten so I read the shelter news to see where my friends ahead were,
and how they were fairing. Once the boys finished we began to talk.
The usual questions were bandied about. The "usual questions"
begin with "where had I started this morning". I answered....
The first kid looked at his map, and once he located Mt. Garfield,
I believe that it began to dawn on him that I was not an average
hiker just out for a weekend jaunt. His face changed expression
when he looked at the mileage that I had done. When he asked me
how long I had been out I replied, "I wasn't sure, but it was
around five or maybe six months". His jaw dropped, and he looked
at his friend, who had been silent, and said, "This guy is
doing the whole Appalachian Trail"!! From then on the questions
flew at me, and they began to offer me food, which I took and ate.
They were so interested in my journey I was up 'til 11:00 pm telling
stories of my adventures.
following morning as I left, they bade me farewell. I couldn't help
thinking that the rookie was in for a hell-hike weekend at the hands
of his friend. I did come away with this lesson though: If I wanted
hiking partners to stay with me I would never treat them like that
treated his friend.
I will see Dia tomorrow.
(Sunrise and early
morning view from Mt. Garfield)
and Robert Wagner on Mt. Guyot Summit)
from Mt. Guyot)
(Mt. Garfield from
from Mt. Guyot)
(Rock Talus from
September 3rd, 1983
Even with such a late night storytelling, I was up and out by 7:30
am. I was unsuccessful at snagging a ride once I stepped out onto
the pavement of the highway leading to the hostel, and ended up
walking most of the way to where I'm supposed to meet Dia. About
a mile before the hostel I was about to give up hitching, when just
then a pickup stopped and offered me a ride. Franconia, Crawford
and Pinkham notches have many trail heads so seeing trucks with
backpacks is commonplace so I thought nothing about the packs already
there. I threw the pack in the back with the rest of them, and just
as I went to get in I spotted Robert and Janet in the cab of the
pickup. It was their packs in the bed! I was very surprised to them,
but they had spotted me along the road and insisted their friend
(the driver) to give me a ride. That was my first surprise.
the hostel sometime in the morning and waited for everybody.
my surprise, my friend Sonny came up to canoe camp. Sonny knew that
the family was going to meet me there so he said that he just happened
to be there at the same time. In truth he takes an entirely different
route to go to his favorite canoe camping spot, but I only found
that out years later when he brought me canoe camping to that same
spot. A second surprise.
and Andrea brought Dia up to the hostel, and that was my third surprise!
Bill is my best friend from high school, and Andrea is his wife.
I had been dating Andrea's sister Linda years ago, and Bill liked
Andrea so I hooked him up. We all enjoyed each other's company at
the hostel, and I hated to see them go, but it was to be just a
day visit because I wanted to continue on my schedule, and the cutoff
date to Katahdin was looming. I was resolute that I would climb
Katahdin with or without permission, and alone if necessary. I would
rather have permission if at all possible. I really did not know
what to expect once I reached Katahdin, but knew that the peak was
prone to major ice storms, and Baxter was known for its heavy snowfall
in fall. I had already instructed my parents that when they came
to meet me in Baxter State Park they were to bring my snowshoes,
crampons, 100 feet of Perlon rope and associated winter gear - should
a winter ascent be necessary. I figured if I could handle Mount
Washington in early February (which I had) then I could take Katahdin.
Better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.
of the first things out of Dia's mouth was that she worried about
me losing so much weight. I guess it has begun to show. AS aresult,
they took me through Crawford Notch to a Pizza Hut in North Conway
where I was sure to get enough food.
Dia just finished reading my journal, and now knows my aspirations
toward the Long Trail. Fortunately she says "go for it".
I will if all seems right. Right now my biggest worry is where to
sleep tomorrow. I didn't want to pay AMC fees nor did I want to
rely on their destinations. I didn't know how much mileage that
I could travel in one day, and counted on my gear to make my schedule
flexible. This above treeline business can be dangerous, and I've
been in a few hard blows in the past so I knew what could happen
and how quickly it could happen. These peaks are in the confluence
of several weather tracts and when the right conditions occur horrendous
storms can blow up within twenty minutes from the time they are
seen on the horizon. I can't stay above tree line, or can I?