Yes folks, Nimblewill has laced up his Oboz trekkers and is shouldering his Murmur backpack
one more time–for the last, last time!
This year’s odyssey will be known as “Odyssey 2021 ‘Bama to Baxter – Hike On.” This will be the ultimate journey in this old man’s life, one of body, mind and spirit.
This trek begins at Flagg Mountain, the southernmost mountain in the Appalachians
Mountain Range. From Flagg he’ll follow the Pinhoti Trail through northeast Alabama into
Georgia where he’ll connect with the Benton MacKaye Trail–which leads to Springer Mountain
in north Georgia. On Springer Mountain he’ll pick up the Appalachian Trail and hike it on to
Mt. Katahdin in Maine.
Journal entries and photos will be posted often. Gonna be another predictively unpredictable
Nimblewill Odyssey – Bama to Baxter 2021 Hike On.
Sure be great to have y’all come along…
Sunday–September 19, 2021
Location–Crawford Notch, then to AMC Highland Center, Shapleigh Bunkhouse
A good night’s sleep, plus an energy packed breakfast at Mizpah Spring Hut, and I’m ready to go for the day. Hiking with me will be my dear friends, Copperhead, Speedy, & Greenleaf (who hiked in last night to be with me today).
The hike ahead will be much as we’re the past number of days, steady climbing, up and down on the rock-strewn trail. That is, as I’ve been told (and can remember), until the last couple of miles, which will pitch us off a steep, nearly vertical bluff, a drop of 2,500 feet to Crawford Notch.
Another dear friend, Chickety, comes to join me midday and we all start the scary downhill together. Turns out, it’s not the demon I’d feared. We take our time and work our way down fine.
A short day of hiking with Greenleaf & Chickety, and it’s farewell. Also, today is the day Copperhead & Speedy must head back to Alabama. So long dear friends all. I’ve been so fortunate to have had your company on this journey–thank you!
Evening, Odie returns to hike the remainder of the Whites with me, then all the way to Mount Moosilauke.
Chickety drops me off at the AMC Highland Center and she’s gone. Dang, these goodbyes are so difficult for me to deal with.
Ahh, but Odie has returned to support me on through to Mount Moosilauke and he is here at the Center to greet me. So good to have you hiking with me again Odie!
Demons are like obedient dogs;
They come when they are called.
(Remy de Gourmont)
Saturday–September 18, 2021
Location–Mizpah Spring Hut
One of the longest continuous night’s sleep I’ve had in awhile. A hard day on the trail plus a full tummy did it.
Wake up call is six-thirty this morning, breakfast promptly at seven.
Copperhead & Speedy wait until guests are out of the dining hall so they can have breakfast, then help clean and tidy the place. Cat Tracks and I linger, finally getting on trail a bit before eight.
Not as rough trail today, but still, plenty of (wet) rocks and boulders to ricochet through. More up and down, past Mount Monroe, Mount Franklin, Mount Eisenhower, and Mount Pierce. Many north and southbound AT thru-hikers, plus a fair number of day hikers.
Jackets and other warm clothing off and on all day as the trail crosses back and forth over the high tundra ridge, trading sides with the Presidents. More fog-driven cold wind, then clear, opening amazing uninterrupted vistas in all directions. Clouds that aren’t being driven through occupy the lower elevations way below. It all makes for unbelievable photo ops. What an amazing time, a blessed time–for this old man to be alive, taking it all in.
A short day, a blessing all its own. The trail and these mountains have beat me up plenty recent days, tiring me, wearing me down. So, what joy to arrive Mizpah Spring Hut early afternoon. Cat Tracks has arrived well before me, has saved me a lower bunk.
There are nearby platforms for tenting. So, Copperhead & Speedy are able to set up comfortably for the night.
My dear friend, Greenleaf, who lives nearby has hiked in to greet me. He’ll set up at the tenting platform too, then hike out with us in the morning.
Supper is turkey with all the trimmings. Though very sleepy after such a fine meal, I manage to stay awake long enough to get caught up on daily journal entries…
Clouds come floating into my life,
no longer to carry rain or usher storm,
but to add color to my sunset sky.
Friday–September 17, 2021
Location–Lake of the Clouds Hut
The Hut System is quit remarkable. It’s been around, catering to adventurous hikers for many years. I’ve “poor boyed” my way through two different times, the first in 1998 during my northbound Eastern Continental Trail (ECT) trek, then again during my southbound ECT journey, Odyssey 2000. Certain of the lodges accommodated a few lucky thru-hikers by offering “work-for-stay.” I had the good fortune of lucking out a time or two back then. This trek, however, I’m going to lavish myself by reserving stays (handled by Nathan Switchback Wright, my itinerary manager) for pretty much the entire hut system. Whats so neat is that it’s possible to trek nearly the entire Presidentials/White Mountains Range by simply hiking hut-to-hut. They’re arranged along the AT in such a way that it’s possible to get in a respectable day of hiking between each one. A warm bunk, plus a hiker-feast supper and breakfast are included in the stay fee.
So, my first overnight was last night at the grand Madison Spring Hut. Tonight it will be the huge Lake of the Clouds Hut, which is located just below Mount Washington. Copperhead & Speedy tent camped near Madison Hut last night. Tonight they’ll be permitted to stay in “The Dungeon,” a small basement-like area under the hut main floor here at Lake of the Clouds. The “work-for-stay” option is available and has been offered to them, which includes bunk space, plus supper tonight and breakfast in the morning. For that privilege they’ll need to help clean up after breakfast in the morning.
Out of Madison Spring Hut we’re headed into another weather-perfect day in the White Mountains/Presidentials Range. Plenty more of challenging, rock- and boulder-strewn trail as we climb past Mount Quincy Adams, then Mount Adams, Mount Sam Adams, Adams Five, Mount Jefferson, Mount Clay. Then comes the steep and steady ascent up Mount Washington. On that final climb for today comes the cold wind, bringing the eerie shroud so common to Mount Washington. We’ve been able to see its peak (cloaked in clouds) the past two days, and we’re now in that shroud as we climb.
Making our ascent, rattles past us the last three cog railway trains for the day, one up and that plus two others down. It’s well past four when we finally reach the summit. By then I’m in the early stages of hypothermia. The folks managing the visitor center take pity on me by providing piping hot coffee, then clothing–gloves and a beautiful Mount Washington wool coat. A true blessing; thanks folks, Mount Washington Welcome Center!
A small stack of boulders adorn and mark the mountain peak (between communication towers and weather monitoring structures). We make that short climb to take photos by the summit sign before descending the mountain.
Over Washington it’s pretty much a bail-off, down and more (slow) down, a mile-and-a-half to Lake of the Clouds Hut. We use up the last bit of daylight to get in. Though late for supper there’s plenty of food left for us.
It’s been another difficult and challenging day, almost entirely above tree line.
Once we believe in ourselves,
we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight,
or any experience
that reveals the human spirit.
(E. E. Cummings)