Monday, August 17, 2015

Presidential Do-Over, Part Deux

Where were we? Right, going up the Air Line trail to Madison Hut. We'd just broken through the dense woods and had entered the krumholz (the stunted growth pattern of trees forced to endure the harsh conditions of icy winter winds, etc.).

This is where my heart starts to sing: above treeline. The cairns are not the work of whimsy, they're there so you don't get lost when the fog rolls in. Up and up we went...




...til we found the cut-off trail to Madison Hut.  We checked in, dumped our packs on our bunks (I took one for the team and picked the top bunk of three) (word is, Madison Hut used to have bunks stacked five high), helped ourselves to hot cocoa, and headed out for nearby Mt. Madison. 

It was the usual White Mountains scramble up a pile of rubble with the usual stunning views. Happy sigh.


Looking north...




...and east.


That dark green hump of undulations in the picture above is Howker Ridge. Later, a Hut crew member told us this was one of his favorite trails. Of course, you can't trust a guy who can get from the trailhead up to the hut loaded with a 55-pound pack of supplies in an hour and a half. So who knows if the Howker Ridge trail is passable by ordinary mortals.

Best of all was the view to the south. Mt Washington, wreathed in clouds, the toll road snaking its way up the back.


Eventually we headed back to the hut. Family-style dinner was served promptly at six. Afterwards, I approached the day's cook - a fellow Sarah - and offered her Reiki in thanks. She took me up on it. We found a quiet corner in the crew's bunk room and she soaked up twenty minutes like a sponge. Ahhhhh....  That night, I wish I could say I slept the sleep of the just, but I was hot and sticky and even with earplugs, could not tune out out the mellifluous syncopation of other people snoring. 

We were all up and at 'em by 6:30 the next morning.

Communal life in the AMC huts is made possible by a few simple rules: with respect to the food, "take all you want, but eat all you take"; no open flames; quiet hours from 9:30 pm to 6:30 am; and of course, the all-important, "fold your blankets thusly".  This last rule was acted out at breakfast via a skit based on Jurassic Park. 


You can tell that's a dinosaur, right? Yeah. Working in an AMC hut requires a little crazy. The good kind of crazy. We stuffed ourselves silly at breakfast and headed out for a day hike. Our goal: Mt Jefferson, 3.8 miles away. No sweat.

We knew we'd be in for a treat as soon as we popped our heads out of the hut. Glory Be and Hallelujah: a clear day!


That's Mt. Adams: we'd be skirting the back of it (on the right) and then heading left, over to Mt Jefferson.
 


Melissa and Liz

The first part of our morning took us along the headwall of King Ravine and offered a great view of the Air Line trail we'd ascended the previous day - it's that rocky spine to the right.



After we rounded Mt. Adams we got within sight of Mt. Washington, wreathed in nothing but crisp air, not a cloud in sight. 



Our target, Mt Jefferson - to the right and just out of the shot above; in full glory, below.


Sun = Smiles.



Washington in the background, Jefferson in the foreground at right.



The summit of Jefferson is - wait for it - a big pile of rocks. We joined about a dozen other hikers to take in the views.

Liz snapped one of me and I snapped one of her.  

It's always entertaining when someone's face gets distorted in making of a panoramic shot. Sorry, random stranger!


We inhaled some lunch as clouds rolled in and turned around for the hike home.


Contemplating Adams on the return journey.  

We played leap frog with an Appalachian Trail section hiker on our return. He wondered which one of us had the maniacal laughter. Guilty as charged.

Back at Madison Hut, I visited my bunk to make sure gravity still operated in normal fashion.


It did. 

I roused myself soon after so as to participate in the all-important business of chatting with other hikers out in the late afternoon sun as we waited for dinner. We chatted up a woman wearing a triathlon t-shirt. "How'd you do?" we asked. "I won!" she answered. Wow. 


The next morning, Liz got up extra early to make the first shuttle from the trailhead back to her car, but Melissa and I gave ourselves more time to dawdle on the descent.

Bunchberry - Cornus canadensis



It was over far too soon. Except for the part about not having been able to shower for three days.