Day 155 – August 9 – 9.8 miles – Madison stealth spot to Wildcat Stealth Spot
Elevation Change: 6998 feet
Today began with a climb up Mt. Madison. When we had seen it yesterday, it looked like a giant pile of rocks.
It was only a 566 foot climb to the top and we got to the top quickly.
When we were almost at the top, we caught up to a group that came from the Madison Hut. They were dressed for cold weather, and didn’t pull off to the side when we came up behind them. It was a little annoying but understandable. The wind was howling at around 40 to 50 MPH, and they were having a hard time coping with it. One lady yelled over the wind to her friend, “I NOT USED TO THIS!”
When they got to the top, they immediately sought whatever cover they could find. We got a few weird looks from them when we glided past while wearing shorts and short sleeve shirts.
By no means am I making fun of them. They were pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones and that’s a cool thing to do.
We stood on the top of Mt. Madison for a few minutes even though the view was clouded over. It was the last mountain in the Presidential Range, and it was the last time we would be over 5000 feet until we reached the summit of Mt. Katahdin.
Once we came down about 100 feet or so, we came out of the clouds and got a view of the ridgeline that would slowly take us down the mountain. From the summit the trail would steeply descend 2837 feet in 2.8 miles over very rocky terrain.
Very quickly it became evident that coming down from Madison would take a while. The “trail” was marked by large stone cairns that marked a general route across the boulders. How you got from cairn to cairn was up to you.
It was impossible to go down at normal speed. Each boulder was at a different angle from the last. One wrong step could be disastrous. A hiker we met later in the day described it wonderfully. He said, “It was like walking on a beach jetty. Except this jetty was at an 45 degree angle, or more, for three miles.”
It was a beautiful area, so we didn’t mind having to take it slow.
Our knees minded though. Our knees minded very much. The constant slow, jostling impact from hopping from boulder to boulder was taking its toll.
When we got to treeline, the trail became more uncomfortable. The trail still was made up of boulders, except now they were even steeper and wet.
After 2.6 miles we came to where the trail made a right hand turn and leveled off a little. The Tramily decided to take a break. Our knees needed a chance to cool off from putting on the brakes for so long.
While we were sitting down, a chipmunk popped his head up from under a tree root. It seemed convinced that if it didn’t move, we couldn’t see it.
Stoat was able to get real close to it.
After leaving that spot, the next 4.8 miles felt like they were almost flat.
At the very bottom of the valley, we came to the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center.
The Visitors center had a picnic area, a gift shop, vending machines, and a restaurant area.
The Tramily went over to a picnic table and sat down. We were a lot more tired than we thought we were going to be. The unexpected brutal descent from Monroe took it toll.
It seemed that we weren’t the only ones. More Thru Hikers came by and sat at the table. (Thru hikers tend to flock together even if they don’t know each other.) They too, were surprised by the severity of the descent. There wasn’t anything mentioned in the several different guidebooks available that let us know how rough it was going to be.
We sat at the table for a long while. The sun was shining, and we could buy food anytime we wanted to.
It took some effort to get moving again.
Once we were back on the trail, we went through a wetland area that was a popular moose sighting location.
We didn’t see any moose.
From the wetland area, the trail makes a sharp left and begins a very steep climb up to the Wildcat mountain Range.
It was very steep. There were several spot that required actual climbing. We were very happy that it wasn’t raining.
After climbing 1000 feet in half a mile, we were done. We were tired, and it was obvious we were not going to make it to our originally planned destination. Somewhere between ledge 2 and ledge 3 on the climb, we started looking for anyplace to camp.
Zeus and Flashfire found a flat spot in between some large boulders. Stoat and I looked around and decided to look somewhere down the trail. Stoat headed out first, and then I did a few minutes later.
I found a spot that would work for me not long after leaving Zeus and Flashfire. I shouted to see if Stoat could hear me, but he was already too far up the trail. I was too tired to go after him. He would either find a spot or have to turn back.
As I lay down in my hammock to go to sleep, I realized there were several widow makers (large leaning trees) around. I really should have packed up and found another spot, but I was just too tired. Its funny how the need for sleep can subdue the will to live sometimes.
Stoat wound up finding a fantastic spot. There wasn’t room for another hammock though. So I din’t feel too bad about it.