Monday, 22 October 2012
Tues 20 Oct.
Hello from London town everyone!
Well I made it over Mt Moosilauke and into Lincoln. It was a great way to end my long walk up from Springer Mountain in Georgia. I did not make it through the White Mountains, but with above treeline altitude, snow and wind like a scythe, I did get a good taste of them on the first of these big boys. Glad to be finished off now though, because while hiking in these mountains in temperatures at times below zero (within reason and as long as one can do it relatively safely) is do-able and fun, camping out is not.
The morning after my last missive the weather was supposed to be clear and sunny - sort of - but I woke up with rain hosing down and blustery winds. Great! However, by 9am the rain and wind had stopped and so I headed out, wanting to be in Lincoln by that night. Sunny but cloudy, but while I was still heading up the road I got a light sprinkling of granular snow. There were plenty of cold clouds around so I wasn't too surprised, and I reasoned that a little snow would be fine to push through and if the weather got seriously crazy I would head back down and try again next day. The southern ascent of Moosilauke is relatively easy by now: a steep slope, which is very long but also very constant like a very long and steep ramp. As I got higher I had a few more dustings of snow until about 2 thirds of the way up, I saw that there was a light covering of snow on the forest around me. This got thicker and deeper the higher I went, until by the time I was right up in the evergreen forest I was ascending through a completely white world. I saw footprints on the snow and realised that there were 2 people ahead of me, which was reassuring. It's good to have company up there on a day like that. I caught up with them in the upper forest and it turned out to be a French Canadian father and son whom I had met 3 days before at the Moose Mountain shelter (on Moose Mountain's South Peak). We decided to walk over together and very soon we found ourselves going over Moosilauke's lower height. And got our first taste of that summit wind. It was already cold but that wind definitely put a whole new dimension to things. We got over the rise and down into the saddle between it and the true summit. By now we were in the krumhotz: a region of stunted conifer trees of more or less uniform height not more than about 2m and kept that way by the altitude, the cold and the wind. We were now walking up a lane between the trees and stopped to put on our bits and pieces of cold weather kit: gloves, face mask and double layer warm beanie for me. And boy did we need them. When we got out of the krumholtz and were now above the treeline and in the open, that wind was very strong and VERY cold. There was only very small, low plants, rocks and gravel up there with little snow except where it had drifted in hollows or built up against windward surfaces. A very cold but starkly beautiful, elemental place and I'm very glad I got to experience it. Believe it or not there were people up there: day hikers who arrived just after us and who were less well equipped but relatively ok as long as they were careful (and the weather didn't get bad). By this time the water was freezing in people's drinking tubes.
Around us we had an uninterrupted 360 degree view and could see all kinds of weather in a vast panorama around us. Above us and the mountain top however, was a very black and cold disk of cloud. We pushed on, got back into the trees (and out of the wind) and began heading down.
The 2 French Canadians stopped at the Beaver Brook shelter where they planned to spend the night. I was keen to press on, because of the time, and so didn't stop for lunch but ate snack bars to keep things going. I'm glad I did because the northern slope of Moosilauke is very steep and rocky. It is very challenging at the best of times, especially going down, but with snow and wet it is quite dangerous and I needed to take my time to be safe. Despite this, this is also a very beautiful place with the trail running next to a cascade for most of the way down.
And then I was down; and at the trailhead on route 112; and my 1794.8 mile walk was over. Perhaps one day I'll get to finish it and get to Maine and Mt Katadin. Still, it has been a life changing journey - challenges, but a whole lot of fun too. And a very great deal more. And It's addictive. I wonder about just how I'm going to adjust back to life in a place like London.
I spent the next 2 days in Lincoln at Chet's place (Chet is a great guy, an ex hiker who has an informal hostel in his garage) and met up with some old friends, some going south, and some I had caught up with. Ate, washed, washed clothes, booked bus ticket to Logan airport in Boston and finally, caught the 7:25 bus to Boston. It all went quickly and uneventfully (this is good) from there, though the BA flight was really cattle-class: cramped and under-changed, smelling-of-fart air. At least in the days of smoking they couldn't skimp on changing the air and changed it as often as they are meant to.
And so back to London.
But is REALLY great to see my brother and Zuz and my nieces again.