After a really great time in Hanover (and temptations to stay another night), Gribley and I successfully left town about 5pm. We hiked a mile and a half up to Velvet Rocks Shelter, which is just outside Hanover. Our logic was that if we stayed in town another night, we would spend money on dinner and drinks, and then in the morning we'd want to get breakfast and coffee and then not start hiking until about noon. By leaving that night, we knew we could eat dinner on the trail, and get up and really pack away some miles the next morning.
Velvet Rocks was nice night though. It was just me and Gribley and two older guys: Hillbilly Berry and Cheesy Turtle. Gribley met Berry back in Georgia so it was cool for them to hang out, so many miles later. We arrived with plenty of daylight left, and enjoyed a quiet night reading.
|Gribley reading and drinking tea at dusk at Velvet Rocks shelter|
|Sleepy faces! Breakfast at Velvet Rocks shelter. Hillbilly Berry on far left|
The next morning, August 12, we really began hiking New Hampshire. I have to admit, this was one of the hardest sections of trail we experienced. The grind of the trail was becoming increasingly challenging and seemingly less rewarding at that point. I knew once I was in the Whites and in Maine, the spectacular beauty would motivate me, but the stretch from Hanover to Glencliff (the last town before the Whites) was just regular old trail, but really tough. It was in this section that I found that 10 hours was barely enough sleep, and somehow my food supply was never enough. My body was becoming exhausted.
Anyway, we left Velvet Rocks and hiked up over Mouse Mountain. We ran into Gypsy Soul and Muck Fichigan just before the climb, where someone had left bagels as trail magic. They passed on the news that there was a huge group right behind us, that had all left Hanover that morning. This knowledge was motivation to keep hiking and try to beat the crowd. As we experienced in Vermont, a crowded trail is stressful - shelters and campsites have a limited number of tent sites, and sometimes we found ourselves setting up in less than ideal situations. Not to mention, part of the lure of hiking is the solitude and quiet time while hiking. We heard the group was heading to the Moose Mountain Shelter, so we pushed on 6 more miles to Trapper John Shelter. On the way there, we met a section hiker named Jenny who was really struggling with her gear and the terrain. She joined us for dinner, and Gribley and I shared some of the things we'd learned in the past 1750 miles. She was really grateful for our advice.
We left Trapper John Shelter with a tough day ahead: Smart Mountain and Mt. Cube. I remember thinking, these mountains are HARD and wondering how I would fair in the Whites. We decided to push past Hexacuba Shelter as we wanted to get as close to Glencliff as possible in the morning. As always, when you skip a shelter in hopes for a stealth spot, it is quite a gamble. In Virginia and Pennsylvania, finding a flat and durable campsite on the side of the trail was no problem. Up north, these small spots were a lot harder to find and more often than not, you end up settling for a not so great spot. Gribley and I both were really running out of steam and the day was running out of light. The hike down Cube seemed to take forever and as soon as we hit flattish terrain, we pitched our tents at the first possible spot.
|The "trail" going up Smart Mtn, yes vertically up.|
|Hiker trash lounging below the firepower on top of Smart. Bowser, The Georgia Boys, and Dewey|
|View from Smart looking out at the mountains ahead of us|
|Gribley hiking up Cube|
|Gribley on Cube|
|View from Cube, looking south at what we hiked earlier that day|
|Random stealth spot. Not ideal but it will do|
|Gribley's swollen knee|
Just back into the woods we recognized lots of tents - the Honeymoon Hikers, the Georgia Boys and Dewey, and Gypsy Soul and Muck Fichigan were all camping by a river and excited about starting the Whites the next morning. We chatted with everyone and then hiked on up to the shelter. We arrived around 6 and found Towelly and Cheesewater slashing around the brook. Gribley dove in, but as the temperature was dropping, I opted to stay dry and warm. We met two young guys who seemed pretty clueless and asked if we knew of any camping up on Moosilauke. We looked at them quizzically and explained that it was a major mountain, totally above treeline, and not only was camping prohibited due to fragile alpine vegetation, but it is extremely dangerous. The weather can change very quickly and you have no shelter from possible storms. We pleaded for them to just camp at the shelter and hike in the morning, like everyone else, but they shrugged off our advice and hiked on. As for us, we set up tents outside the shelter. A big group was there - the "Bros" and they had a big campfire going. I went to bed early, excited for the next day - the beginning of the Whites!
|Tents set up outside Jeffers Brook Shelter|