Monday, August 1, 2011

Chapter 127: Tree Line

Well, I didn't get murder raped, but some local riffraff did come up to my campsite to drink beer and play their banjo. So that was terrifying. Once they noticed my tent, however, they simply—and politely—left.

How sad.

I spent the 26th of July hiking over Moosilauke or however you spell it. It wasn't hard at all, just long. That sounded dirty.

After breezing past the Jeffers Brook Shelter, I walked by a crashed Toyota Prius, its hood crumpled into the trunk of a tree. Oddly, nobody was inside or sitting around nearby, crying, waiting for a tow truck to come. It was as if the driver had deemed it just a particularly poor parking job and decided to go on with their day.

Puzzled, but not particularly alarmed—why should I care if the owner didn't? And it's not like there was blood seeping from the trunk or anything. But I digress—I continued on. And immediately got lost. The trail followed a road uphill for about half a mile, but thanks to a conspicuous lack of adequate signage, all I had to go on was faith. Thankfully, I was distracted by the sudden arrival of several moose, who watched me tentatively from a nearby meadow. Otherwise I might have been more disturbed by my seeming aimless wanderings.

But then I found the trail again, and the moose, the Prius, and the vagaries of the Dartmouth Outing Club were soon forgotten.

Four miles later, I'd climbed 3,500 feet, and was above tree line for the first time. I wasn't disappointed.

With fifty mile an hour winds at the top, I almost had to walk sideways. The surrounding grass rolled in the wind, reminding me strongly—and unexpectedly—of the Irish seaside. After the exertion of the climb had worn off, I actually found myself getting quite cold, so I put on my thermals and ducked into the broken foundations of the old summit house to get warm. There, I met and talked to Maddy, the caretaker of the D.O.C. Ravine Lodge, for a while. She was amused to hear my stories of pizza and drunkenness, and was of course thrilled to meet a trail legend such as Major Chafage. Eventually her fawning obsequiousness became too much even for me, and I politely excused myself and moved on. Such is the nature of my celebrity.

Hiking down the Beaver Brook trail later was more fun than difficult. I'd been warned about its steepness, and inherent danger. I simply stowed my trekking poles and treated the whole thing as one big rock scramble.

While I stayed at the Beaver Brook shelter with Popeye, Smokestack and others that night, the following morning I was faced with an almost immediate choice. At Kinsman Notch, I could A) hitch into Lincoln to collect a mail drop containing my heavy sleeping bag, resupply, etc., then come back and try to make it to the Eliza Brook Shelter; B) Continue hiking over the Kinsmans to Franconia Notch, then hitch into Lincoln and do all the above stuff only to stay at a hostel in town, or C) none of the above. Stupidly, I went with C.

I got the Eliza Brook Shelter at around 2:30 PM. I thought I could make it to the Kinsman Pond Campsite by 4 or 4:30, and the Lonesome Lake Hut by 6 PM. Unfortunately, I could not guarantee myself getting work for stay at either of those facilities, and getting into town around 8 didn't sound so good either. So I stayed. Relaxing? Yeah, for the most part. But then I was running out of food, and now had to do a couple or several 15 mile days in order to stay on schedule... Oh no! Whatever would I do???

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