New Hampshire: I Freely Lived Without Dying

14 Aug

Day 45, Mile 441

I’m here in lovely Hanover, NH—just one mile from the Vermont border! I can’t believe it, but I made it through NH and the White Mountains in just thirteen days. It feels good.

New Hampshire was awesome. To begin with, the weather was great. I had heard horror stories about the wicked weather in the Whites—sleet, snow, hail, freezing cold—but none of that materialized for me. Instead, I had sunshine almost every day for the past two weeks!

Anyways, a group of about eight of us rolled out of Gorham and headed up into the mountains. Before getting too far though, we decided to stop for a quick swim. After missing so much great swimming in Maine because of the weather, I have vowed to go swimming as often as possible from here until it gets too cold.

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Our next ten days were spent climbing through the major peaks of the White Mountains, including the storied Presidential Range and Mt. Washington, which claims to have the “world’s worst weather.” The hiking there is so rewarding because the trail spends so much time above treeline. For instance, Old Speck Mountain in Maine involved a 2000 foot climb to a wooded summit with limited views in one direction; Mt. Madison in the Presidential Range was a 3000 foot climb and was the start of a ten-mile ridgewalk above treeline with astounding views in all directions.

I think the pictures can describe some of my joy from the last two weeks better than words, so I’ll let them do the storytelling now.

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Sunset from Imp Shelter

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Me and the Gang with the Presidential Range behind

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Approaching the Summit of Mt. Madison

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Mt. Washington (left) and Mt. Jefferson (right) as seen from Mt. Adams

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Lakes of the Clouds

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Gray Jay, with Presidential Range in background

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Moonrise from Zeacliff

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Fog Clearing from Mt. Moosilauke

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Mt. Moosilauke

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Mist burning off from Smart Mountain

There are a few aspects of the Whites however which I must mention. The Appalachian Mountain Club maintains numerous trails throughout the Whites and a series of “alpine huts” throughout the Whites which are essentially full-service hostels for weekend hikers. Hikers show up, pony up $100, and get breakfast, dinner, and a warm place to sleep. Thus, the trails were crowded with day-hikers. Mt Washington (the highest peak in the Northeast) was the worst by far. Not only do ‘all trails lead to Washington,’ but there is also a cog railway and a road all the way to the summit. The place is a zoo, to say the least. I had to go to all three gift shops to find my “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker.

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This Hiker Climbed Mt. Washington

The huts do this cool thing though were they allow thru-hikers to “work-for-stay.” Some thru-hikers hate this, because they think that the AMC is commercializing the wilderness. I however think it’s great, because it meant that I got to have hot, real breakfast and dinner, plus an indoor place to sleep, all for a couple of hours of work. And really, I use the word “work” liberally here, since some huts were, uhm, quite “creative” with the “jobs” they assigned to the hikers.

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Madison Hut

At the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, I did actual elbow-grease work for two hours; scraping out the ice from the freezer and sweeping the bunk rooms. At Madison Hut and Mizpah Springs Hut however, my assignments were a bit different. When I rolled up to Madison Hut, I told them I was looking for work-for-stay and they asked me if I had any talents. Later that night I found myself in front of their 50 or so paying guests answering questions about thru-hiking the AT and playing the guitar for an hour. The next morning, I got to do my best Yoda impression in the morning skit. Another guy at Madison got to dress up in a spandex jumpsuit and be chased by the Hut “Croo” with a BB gun. At Mizpah, I was in charge of planning the morning skit and finding a way to involve the ten other work-for-stayers as well. We ended up doing a parody of Goldilocks and it including a song about how “Mizpah Hut’s Alright” to the tune of “Afternoon Delight” (yes, that song).

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Shenanigans gearing up for the hunt

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The Cast of Goldilocks and the Three-Huts

Finally, one last anecdote: while in the Presidentials, I met a section-hiker named Dutch who lives nearby. She invited me and a few of my buddies to come and spend the night at her house. I know from first-hand experience how good Dutch hospitality is, but this was unparalled. She picked us up from the trail and cooked us meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, salad, cornbread, cake, plus breakfast the next day—and did I mention that all the vegetables came from her garden? It was amazing. Thanks again, Dutch! You’re the greatest!

I’ll be back in Dallas next week (Aug. 19-24) for my final interview for the Rotary Scholarship! I am really looking forward to recharging and stuffing myself silly with Mexican food. Call me and we can hangout!

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3 Responses to “New Hampshire: I Freely Lived Without Dying”

  1. Julia September 7, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    These pictures are amazing! Good times! You didn’t even need to go to the Arctic Circle with all this fun and beauty right at your American fingertips!

    AND congratulations on the Rotary Scholarship! That is incredible! I am so excited for you!

  2. Christy August 18, 2009 at 1:05 am #

    BOB. I LOVE the pictures–seriously they are awesome. and I am pretty J of you getting to hang out with Molly and eat Mexican food. so J. and Im super proud of your skit skills. that sounds like a delight!

  3. Molly August 15, 2009 at 9:52 am #

    how fun! i love the pictures! and i am so proud of your beard! can’t wait to see you this next week!

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