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)