8-5-12

AT miles hiked today: 13.5
Total AT miles hiked: 984.1

We got started with today's slackpack at the top of Mt Washington at about 8:30am and I finished at Pinkham notch about 8:30pm with my headlamp. Sparky and Stubby had once again provided breakfast and supplies to make sandwiches plus candy, fruit, snacks and chips to take for our lunches. There was rain predicted for later in the afternoon, but we hoped to all have made it below treeline by the time the storm hit. The wind was strong as soon as we started, though, and it blew my body and my trekking poles as I balanced from boulder to boulder, adding to my stress and slowing me down more than normal on the rocks. Clouds and fog blew around us and the fast hikers quickly disappeared in the distance.

Thank goodness Sparky had taken me back to EMS the first night at their house after he saw my trekking poles. They had worn down so badly on the rocks of the Whites that I could barely use them to hold up my tent anymore. The tips go into a pvc pipe and form the frame for my tent, but they were so rounded that they wouldn't stay in anymore so the last two times I set up my tent I bumped a pole in the night and the pole popped out and my tent collapsed on me. So Sparky took me to EMS and Michael helped me by replacing the entire bottom section of my poles. He said Leki calls it the "thruhiker special." I brought back the old sections because I had worm them down almost two inches and I wanted to show people. I should have Sparky send them to my house so I can remember.

I was incredibly grateful for those new metal tips today. I think we rock hopped for nearly eight miles straight. I was so tired of rocks. All I could see were fields of boulders going on forever. I may have bad dreams about them, though I made it through safely. The clouds got thicker and the wind picked up even more while we were on Mt Madison. We met an 18 year old thruhiker who had finished his 2012 thruhike in early July. His name is Dark Knight and he was with his father and sister handing out pastries among the rocks. He just finished his hike and he's already giving back by doing trail magic. Good for him, and thank you. We all hurried to get below the treeline as the rain started falling. I was worried about lightening, but also about slippery, wet rocks. Luckily, I got below treeline just a few minutes later and got out of the wind. Then the rain stopped, too.

Eagle Eye had slowed down to hike with me and not leave me alone on the rocks, and Chief had waited to hike with Low Gear and they were still behind us. I worried about the weather they might be getting on the top of the mountain, but had to keep moving. We also worried we were on the wrong trail for two miles that lasted at least two hours, but we finally got to the correct junction. The trails are very confusing in the Whites and they don't much seem to like the AT. They label the trails with their own names and leave out up to you to figure it out. Luckily we had the AWOL guide plus extra maps that Sparky and Stubby had printed out for us. Even so, it was very confusing and I was grateful for the arrow made of sticks that Toe Knee had left for us. There was so much mud on the ground that I realized it had rained heavily down in the trees. It seems as if Eagle Eye and I got in a bubble of no rain with perfect timing not to get drenched. Even so, I had to turn on my headlamp for the last twenty minutes.

Once again we got applause when we showed up and Sparky offered us a cold soda and then drove Toe Knee, Dame Quixote, Eagle Eye and I back to the condo. There was more steak, corn on the cob, sausage, ribs, potato salad, and banana splits for our 10pm dinner. Chief and Low Gear came in after 11pm and Chief seems to have gotten the norovirus. Uh oh.