The Hike: Day 3 of our White Mountain odyssey included climbs over Mt. Garfield, South Twin and Mt. Guyot.
Distance: 7.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,475
Date Hiked: September 14, 2016
Way back at Liberty Springs Tent Site, we chatted with Quinn, the Caretaker, a lovely young woman who didn't seem to mind answering questions she'd probably been asked a thousand times about what it's like to spend the summer using a privy that "flushes" with mulch.
And whose job it is to carry the mulch in question up a 2,100 foot climb, anyway? (Hers) Could she employ a llama if she had one? (Um, no.)
Maybe my questions haven't been asked a thousand times.
A White Mountain love story unfolds, and I get to help.
As I dreamt of having my own llama, Quinn asked me to deliver a message to a boy at the Guyot Shelter. Of course I said yes! What fun to play a tiny role in a White Mountain love story.
She entrusted me with a tiny square of paper folded a couple of times with "Jimmy" penned elegantly on the top.
No, I didn't read it.
Instead I tucked it into my hip belt where I knew it would be safe and off we went. It would be two days before we reached the Guyot Shelter. Snail mail, indeed.
After leaving Liberty Springs, we traversed Franconia Ridge. That took a whole day and we didn't get as far as we'd hoped.
So today we woke just as our campsite started filling with light. Up at 5:30am with headlamps for a 7am start. It didn't suck because it was fairly warm. But we knew rain was coming, so we skedaddled as best we could.
After Mt. Garfield, I'd thought I'd be able to run up and tag Galehead, too, as it's just a mile or or so off trail.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.
I crack myself up.
By the time we got to the spur trail, it had been raining for a couple of hours. The temperature was dropping. I was soaked. I was wearing shorts and starting to shiver when I stopped.
Ralph kept wanting to stop and sit and eat wet trail mix and soggy bagels with peanut butter. Even though he'd read an entire book of stories about people who died in the White Mountains.
He loves to remind me how unpredictable the weather can be.
I had to will myself not to fantasize about the nice folks at the Galehead Hut offering some trail magic--hot cocoa, a home-cooked meal, a warm bunk, fellowship.
Hut dwellers are a different species and don't seem inclined to favor wretched hikers with wet dogs.
Mercifully, our trail didn't pass the hut.
It climbed, instead. 1,500 steep feet up to the top of South Twin in 1.1 miles.
Here's an approximation of the view from South Twin (recreated with the help of my bedspread):
70 mph winds? Exhilarating!
It had stopped raining by the time we got over the top and, after a blessedly easy traverse of the mossy fairyland col between South Twin and Mt. Guyot.
Then we got to the top of Mt. Guyot and found out why so many people die in the Whites.
If they don't kill you, gale-force winds make things "exhilarating."
Which is code for:
Assume the sumo stance and get ready to use every ounce of strength you have to stay upright for the next twenty minutes.
Clutch tight to your pack cover so you don't sail off into the unknown and become another chapter in that book about people who die in the White Mountains.
Don't ask Ralph about his trekking pole. (It snapped, giving it's life to keep him upright.)
Hug the trees when you get to tree line. That they deal with this "exhilaration" day after day, season after season is a testament to their greatness and they deserve accolades and awe. Plus, those little guys make great windscreens. They bend and twist to the wind so we don't have to. (I am the Lorax...I speak for the trees!)
By the time I was hugging the trees, I was eyeing every flatish spot in the forest, ready to pitch a tent and crawl in and whimper. But we were already off trail and I had a note to deliver so, nothing to do but press on.
Except, I'd started to worry about the note.
Did it survive the rain storm?
During a soggy bagel break, I'd noticed my pack cover had failed and my pack was as soaked as unspun laundry. (Luckily, I'd lined the pack with a trash compactor bag, so stuff inside was mostly fine.)
But I was too cold and wet to stop and resuscitate the note if it was in need of CPR. I was already suffering with a soupcon of hypothermia, so we didn't stop till we got to Guyot Shelter, a mile downhill from the gale blowing across the top.
I had to keep going to stop the infernal chattering of my teeth.
Guyot at last--the shelter that parties!
We heard them before we saw them.
The caretaker, Rachel, and a crew of four or five young guys--Carhartt-wearing, chainsaw-wielding college guys with month-old beards and mugs of frothy beverage.
They were there building tent platforms during the day, taking R&R to new heights during the evening. Food. Warmth. Fellowship. Fun.
Shelter crew, 1. Hut dwellers, 0.
I asked for Jimmy.
He was there, jovial and friendly and excited about getting a note, in spite of the teasing by his Carhartt-wearing crew.
My fingers weren't working very well, but I wrestled the zipper to my hip belt open and fished around in there for the note.
What Jimmy got instead was a wad of macerated paper stained with mottled blue ink.
An epic mailman fail!
The note reminded me of a third-grade spit wad.
Or a back-woods wipey that some unthinking people leave behind trees when they pee in the woods. (NOT COOL, BTW!)
Poor Jimmy. I told him it was the thought that counted and promised him it wasn't a wipey.
He graciously said he'd dry it out and read it later.
God love him for that.
When we finally got to our tent platform after getting a tour of the site from the caretaker, Rachel, Ralph set up the tent while I changed into my dry clothes. He gave me his jacket and made me get in my sleeping bag. We went to bed without dinner and Rico officially stopped having fun today.
We all dug deep.
But it was definitely exhilarating.
For everyone except Jimmy, maybe.