AT miles hiked today: 12.5
Total AT miles hiked: 970.6
This morning Sparky and Stubby drove us back to Crawford Notch with nearly empty packs so we could slackpack up to the top of Mount Washington. We had good weather predicted and we had to make sure to reach the parking area on Mt Washington no later than 6:45pm, because that's when the auto road closes and they would be forced to leave the mountain. If we missed our ride we would have to spend the night on a very dangerous mountain, with the strongest recorded winds on earth, where many people have died, and we wouldn't have tents or sleeping bags to keep us warm. We all had to make it to the top on time. That was really our only option.
We hiked up the Webster cliffs and stopped at a hut to refill our water from a faucet and use the bathrooms and check the register. It was a steep climb up roots and rocks and then we got onto the boulder kind of rocks, which really slow me down. I am very cautious on the rocks and try to test each step to make sure the rock won't move out from under me. I also make sure my trekking poles are planted in case I slip or the rock shifts. Other people seem to bound around on the rocks with no fear. I wish I had that kind of agility and confidence on the rocks, but I just don't. So I picked my way cautiously along, took my time, and hoped I would get there safely and not miss my ride.
Mt Washington appeared on the horizon seeming so far away. I could see the towers on top, which is how I knew it was Washington. I finally got to Lakes of the Clouds hut, which is very pretty, so I took pictures. Some clouds were blowing in and it made for nice pictures but I knew how the weather can change up there and the top of Mt Washington had some wispy clouds gathering. As I hiked up Washington I kept turning around to take more pictures. I passed a hut Croo girl with a giant pack of supplies for the hut. She said her pack weighed 81 lbs!
Just as I arrived at the top of the mountain at 5pm, the clouds got a little thicker and the wind picked up. The rest of the group was waiting at a picnic table and applauded as I came over the hill. Chief and Low Gear were still about an hour behind me, so I went into the Visitor Center and explored some of the history of the mountain. Just after they arrived the thunder started and then lightening struck somewhere very near with a massive crack just as I walked into the Visitor Center. It scared me badly and I was very grateful I was under cover right then and not out hiking on the rocks. The Cog coal powered train pulled up in the fog and it was kind of neat and also smelly and loud. Then we headed down the auto road, which terrified Stubby with its steep dropoffs. As we got further down, a rainbow appeared and we stopped to take some more pictures.
Once we got back to the condo Sparky and Stubby ordered eight large pizzas and picked up banana split supplies, and we ate ourselves silly and showered and did laundry again. What luxury.
I can't believe this is really happening. Tomorrow they will drive us back up to the top of Mt Washington so we can slackpack down and they will pick us up again for one final night at the condo. We really are the "lucky ten." I never could have imagined such generosity and I have no way to pay it back. I can only hope to pay it forward someday.