We ran into Headin Out and Taggin Along in the hotel lobby and they gave us the sad news that Taggin Along was getting off the trail since her hip wasn't getting better. She looked devastated and started crying as she was talking. My heart really went out to her as we said our goodbyes. I can't imagine having to get off so close to our goal. We woke up the next morning ready to hike and execute our five day plan to N. Woodstock. We had to walk through town past the senior citizen center laundry mat, and right behind the ball field and into the woods. After getting water at Mink Brook, we started the climb up Moose Mountain to Moose Mountain Shelter, our home for the night. If you're gonna name a mountain Moose Mountain, there ought to be a moose or two on it. The shelter was quiet save for one other older guy, Solo, who was actually from MN but living in Arizona. I chatted with him for a bit before going to set up my tent and make dinner.
I woke the next morning hoping to get in 18 to Hexacuba Shelter. The shelter was .3 off the trail, so I had no intentions of actually going there, but at least wanted to be in that general area. I climbed over Moose Mountain North Peak and straight up to Holts Ledge which was a 'precipitous drop-off' with a nice view. Pants and I took a break before making our way down to Grafton Turnpike. Right near the fork in the road, a man named Bill Ackerly lived. We had been told he likes chatting with hikers, gives them ice cream and soda, lets us help ourselves to water, rest, chat or perhaps play a game of croquet. Intrigued by the variety of offerings this elderly gentleman seemed to advertise, we made our way to his large blue house. Unfortunately Bill Ackerly was not home. He had left a note on the top of a cooler of soda indicating he was sorry to miss us but to make ourselves at home on the porch. We hung out a bit and had lunch and I noticed a newspaper clipping about him tapped to the window. It made me even more sorry to have missed him as he sounded like a very sweet and interesting man. We finally left to begin our giant climb up Smarts Mountain. Pants got ahead of me and landed himself in a bit of a predicament. I came across him standing in the middle of the trail spasing out. Two SoBos stood on the opposite side a bit confused as well. Apparently he had sat down to take a break and unknowingly put his pack in a wasp nest. He realized this once he started getting stung repeatedly at which point the spasing out started. He was now in the process of trying to remove his pack, and various items he had taken out, from the wasp area, but seemed to be struggling.
The two SoBos and I took turns navigating ourselves around the trail to avoid the entire fiasco. I positioned myself up on a ledge out of harms way and offered my vocal support of his efforts. Unfortunately the angry wasps started coming towards me, at which point I immediately left and told him I would meet him on the ridge. I mean who puts their pack in a wasp nest? I got up to Lamberts Ridge and waited for the wounded solider to return from battle. He arrived angry and defeated and five wasp stings deep. We took a break and put some ointment on his stings. Unfortunately we were sitting on a ridge and had to finish the steep and rocky climb up Smarts Mt. Pants beat me to the shelter at the top, since I climbed the fire tower before it to get a view, and a view it was. I made my way to the Fire Wardens Cabin north of the summit, which was used as a hiker shelter.
There was one other hiker there, a SoBo named Gritz. We spent some time chatting with him as he gave us a bunch of info on the Whites. Pants decided he was going to stay, hoping it would remain a quiet night. I at least wanted to get down Smarts and try to get within a mile of Hexacuba. I bid them goodnight and started my descent. The north side of Smarts was much more gradual than the south side and I flew down it pretty quickly. I also passed five SoBos all going up it, which meant Pants quiet night wasn't going to be so quiet. I tried texting him but didn't get service. He'd find out eventually, when his shelter got invaded by SoBo's, who seemed to be outnumbering the NoBos lately. I finally arrived at South Jacobs Brook at the same time as Solo. The shelter was only a mile up the hill and he was headed there. I saw no reason to do that, and instead found a nice little spot up above the brook. I settled in for a nice quiet evening to myself and fell asleep to the sound of the flowing brook below me.
The next day was going to be a tough one - only 16 miles, but it included climbs over Mt. Cube, Ore Hill, and Mt. Mist. Turns out Pants had ended up leaving the shelter when all the SoBos started rolling in and camped about a mile behind me. He passed me in the morning while I was packing up, after which I started the steep climb up Mt. Cube. I took a brief break at the top to enjoy the view before making my way down. Right before the trail emerged onto NH25A, I found a nice little spot to have lunch. The problem with having lunch under the canopy of trees is you can't really watch those lurking clouds, so while I was about to spread my Nutella upon my wrap, it started pouring on me, seemingly out of nowhere. Annoyed, I packed up to start hiking, I'll just eat later.
I crossed the road, like three minutes later, and the sun was out shining and smiling. WTF? Must have been just one asshole cloud. I made my way to a flat rock and proceeded to re-continue my lunch. It started raining again. God must hate sandwiches. Since I wasn't being allowed a proper lunch, I just shoved a plain tortilla in my mouth like a neanderthal, packed up and started climbing Ore Hill. Of course the rain went away when I started walking but I didn't dare try stopping again. I made my way up to Ore Hill campsite when I surprisingly ran into Squatch. Hiking south again, film camera at the ready, we sat and chatted for an hour, him capturing all on film of course. The clouds started making some rude noises, forcing us to go our separate ways. I trudged my way up Mt. Mist, excited to be done with my last climb of the day. Now my original plan was to skip the Hikers Welcome Hostel in Glencliff, which would be down the road I was about to come across and go straight to Jeffers Brook Shelter, a mile up the hill on the other side. But Squatch, who had just spent a few days there, told me I really shouldn't miss it as it was an awesome place to hang out. I contemplated these options during my descent when I remembered a text DS had sent me earlier. Her and Gribley were a few days ahead due to our extended stay in VT. Apparently about a 1/2 mile before the road here, a wasps nest was in the middle of the trail and a lot of hikers had been getting stung. Shit. I forgot to look at what time it was when I was at the top so I didn't know how close I was to the road (Since I've been hiking so long, I can usually gage very accurately how far I've gone based on how long its been).
I started walking a bit faster, very wary of any wasp activity. I guess my plan was to run really fast when I spotted a wasp? All the sudden I felt a sharp pain in my ankle. RUN! I sprinted down the trail but my ankle kept getting stung. There was a wasp stuck in my shoe. When I reached down to fish him out my other ankle got stung. This was horrible. I ran the remaining 1/2 mile to the road pissed off and in pain. My ankle throbbing, I paused to look at it swelling up. Yeah I wasn't climbing up any hill to any shelter and slowly hobbled my way down the street to the hostel. I walked in the door and was greeted by several other hikers who had just survived similar attacks. I went around back and found a ton of hikers who I hadn't seen in awhile hanging out. Ranger Bill, who I hadn't seen since the Shennies, Roller and Sunkist, who I hadn't seen since NY, and White Wolf who I hadn't seen since the Doyle in PA. Headin Out (minus Taggin Along), Slowfoot and Solo were all there too. Squatch was right, this was a chill place to spend the night. It was run by former hikers, there was a bunkroom upstairs or you could just put your tent up if you wanted. They had an awesome shower and laundry room set up outside for us, as well as a giant covered picnic table and fire pit. Fat Chap shuttled me and White Wolf into town to grab some dinner at the deli and gave us a little tour of the area, which included stops at a rock that looked like a face and a missile that was positioned in front of the church to look like an obelisk. We spent the rest of the night listening to Bag of Tricks tell trail stories of his days with Baltimore Jack. All these guys are considered 'trail legends' so to speak. All older guys who have hiked the trail numerous times, like to drink and have fun and have continued their existence in and around the trail. It truly has become a part of who they are. I was glad I decided to stop and got the chance to meet some of them. Pants never showed so I assume he went on to Jeffers Brook. I finally made my way over to my tent to get some sleep as we all had a real challenge/treat the next day. The first mountain in the Whites, Mt. Moosilauke! From where I was I had about 5.5 miles of climbing to do the next morning. The elevation profile looked like I would be walking straight up into heaven. I was a bit nervous but thrilled to finally be here. I had been looking forward to these mountains for awhile.
|View from Smarts|
|Chillin at Bill Ackerly's house|
|First day out of Hanover, up we go!|
|View from M. Cube|
|Camping solo by Jacobs Brook|