This posting is my second piece in my ‘reflection’ posts. These posts are meant to bring past adventure to life. I hope it does.
It may be inevitable that solo-hiking 20 miles over the Presidential Range and camping between coffin-shaped rocks at 5000 feet under a blue moon is memorable.On August 30, 2012 I started over the Presidential Range (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/94/NHpresidentials.JPG). I began at Mount Madison and headed up the Airline trail. The last time I had been on Madison was in the dead of winter. A friend and I were attempting the traverse on January 16th. Conditions held us back and I lost a toe-nail to frostbite. So, there was certainly some meaning and caution for me as I ascended Madison on that warm, August day. On this day, the views never stopped. Large puffy clouds drifted overhead, and occasional hikers which either passed me or passed by me were of the same cheerful outlook : it was a good day.
After clambering up Madison and over Adams I reached the approximate half-way of the trip in in a saddle between Adams and Jefferson. At the time I was at about 5,000 feet. I scouted around for a place to camp for the night. My plan was to simply lay out in an low-impact area on top of the mountain. I found my ideal spot between two larger boulders. As I reasoned there was no plant vegetation to trample and and the boulders would provide considerable shelter from the winds which can arise at any time in the White Mountains. Until 2010 Mount Washington held the records for the highest, directly measured wind gust on earth. 231 mph! The bounder crevasse tapered out to fit my shoulders and down to fit my feet. It was just over 6 feet long and had a flat rocks between it. Certainly, it didn’t slip my mind that I was crawling into a boulder coffin. At least it wasn’t premonition.
Supper on the summit was perfect. A hot meal of pesto tortellini and tea. I got to enjoy a magnificent sunset. As the final pieces of fire left the sky the lights of Conway and the city life were far below me. The big dipper was overhead. It was a relief that I was only able to watch the city life, no noise from the city made it up as far as my mountain saddle perch.
No sooner had the sunset disappeared, and the moon came up. I’ve seen a lot of moon rises in my life, but never one quite like this. Low hanging clouds on the horizon caused a nuclear reaction. The big blue moon lit up the landscape in a beautiful mushroom cloud of whites and yellows. Aided by the elevation you certainly could have read a book by its light. About 5 miles away as the crow flies the Mount Washington Observatory was lit like Zeus had just come home to Olympus. The stars still shone brightly overhead and all of the major constellations that I know could be seen. I sat and watched the moon and stars for a couple hours before finally crawling into my rocky coffin for the night.
When I awoke the next morning I was greeted by a distant fiery sunrise. However, the fog that mostly obscured the eastern sun was a living being. It shifted and blew through the canyons and valleys all around me quickly. It shifted like a flock of starlings and disappeared quickly before forming a new flock of water droplets. I got to enjoy this new mountain cover and think about the moon rise the previous night. It was such a change!
The rest of my hike was defined by wind and rain. Gone were the vistas, but the fun was now in the challenge of finishing the traverse in these less-than-ideal conditions. I summitted Washington, and headed down from there, abandoning a summit of Eisenhower due to the conditions.
This hike certainly stands out as the hike to beat for me. The chain of sun, sunset, stars, moon, and sunrise were incredible and dynamic. But, these legs of mine have a lot of adventure left in them so maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance.