We helped set the tables for breakfast, cleaned up after everyone was finished, and enjoyed the delicious leftover quiche, cornbread, and oatmeal. After that was more cleaning. I swept and tidied the bunk rooms with Beer Burger and scrubbed a muffin pan with steel wool. Bear Bag and I left a bit before 10 for 7.8 miles to the road to Gorham. We started up Mt Madison and I thought to myself, This isn't so bad...
And then we got to the top of the mountain.
I've been hiking for more than 1800 miles and almost 6 months and I have never been more miserable. The mountain and ridge were a scramble of sharp rocks to walk over, and the rain made it difficult to step without slipping. Add to that 40 mph wind with higher gusts, 40-degree weather before windchill, and 20-foot visibility. I was cold, wet, and couldn't move fast enough to warm myself up. My nose was running from the cold and the snot was literally blowing out of my nose, across my face, and down over the mountain. Not my finest moment. The rain was stinging and the wind crippling...a few times I had to stop and brace myself before I took another step. At one point I half slipped and half blew over and found myself sitting on a rock slab. Cairns marked the trail and we could barely see the next cairn when standing at one. Crazy. What was even more frustrating was our slow pace. We had been traveling for an hour when we passed a sign that said Madison Spring Hut was .7 miles back. A half hour later we passed the 1-mile-away sign. So slow and all I wanted to do was get off of that ridge!
I'm not sure how long we were above treeline but never in my life was I so happy to see trees when we finally started to descend. The foliage blocked the wind and I also was never happier to be hiking in rain. Just rain. Still cold though but we were able to move faster as the trail became a rock and soil mixture. After a steep downhill the trail was pretty flat for the rest of the day. Lots of mud and water everywhere and several stream crossings. Soaked to the bone, Bear Bag and I made it to Pinkham Notch and hitched a ride with a guy who worked with the park service. He drove us into Gorham and we stopped at Burger King for first dinner. We checked out a couple hotels and settled on the cheaper, The Top Notch Inn. A hot shower and laundry cycle later, I am warm and dry and feel human again. We had pizza for dinner and I cannot wait to sleep in in the morning!
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