Journal 221-ODYSSEY 2021: Bama to Baxter-Hike On!

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Tuesday–September 28, 2021
Trail Day–221
Trail Mile–-8.4/2254.9
Remaining Miles—362.5
Location–Liberty Springs Trailhead (I-93 – 373.1) to Viewsite (Stealth Camp – 364.7)

Up at five for a very long day. First, the shuttle to the trailhead. It’s a very long drive for Odie, but he has me and Cat Tracks on trail before eight. Second, so logistics get squared away for the next two days, Odie drives his (Hiker Yearbook) bus around to Gale River trailhead (the four-mile access trail to/from Galehead Hut) where we’ll come out/down tomorrow evening. Acadicus picks Odie up there and drives him back around to Liberty Springs trailhead, from where he then hikes in (up) to catch us.

Cat Tracks and I, we’ve a short hike from Liberty Springs trailhead to the AT. From there its up and up we go (again) through the heap of boulders and ledges. Its an uninterrupted ascent of 3,400 feet in less than five miles–to gain Franconia Ridge. We’ve not made it to the top before Odie (being the incredibly strong hiker he is) closes the gap to catch us.

Hiking together now, through the relentless mud bogs and boulders, passing Liberty Mountain, we enter the alpine zone to finally gain the summit of Little Haystack Mountain–which stands just shy of 5,000 feet. Here, and for our grand effort, at this vista, we’re afforded unlimited sky-high views out and across the Presidentials and Whites. I capture some breathtaking shots of these near and far off ranges. Standing here now I’m awestruck by the jagged landscape presenting in every direction, to the far hazy blue–all above the clouds. I wish the pictures you see here did the least justice to this heavenly scene that’s on display before me. Part of the appreciated joy of it all comes from experiencing the exhausting effort spent in getting here.

Franconia Ridge, all above tree line, rambles up and down, thither and yon, through eons-weathered boulders and ledges, which form this timeless place in the sky.

We’re fortunate to have reached Little Haystack prior to becoming cloud-bound. Before reaching Mount Lincoln (5,089 feet), then Mount Lafayette (5,260 feet) we’re totally engulfed in the cold, wind-driven shroud. No views from either bouldered topout. Just as well, for tarry we must not. Our destination today, just beyond a small spring, a sheltered campsite in the spruce at 3,800 feet. So, now it’s down and down some more, through the wet-slick boulders and treacherous off-camber ledges.

It’s very cloudy, the chill of the evening descending, as we reach the little saddle, a (somewhat) flat area protected by the stunted spruce and birch. With the benefit of bark from the nearby birch, Odie somehow gets the wet, saturated broken-off tree limbs and branches to smoulder, then burn. In a while the fire is dancing brightly, radiating the most welcome and comforting warmth. Our tents are all pitched now and we’ve prepared, best we can, for a cold mid-thirties night.

Sitting the fire on an old wet log, I anxiously await as Odie prepares a delicious hot supper for me.

What an amazing day this has been! Living life to the fullest folks–with dear friends beside me, to help and protect me. That’s been this day. Life can’t get no better for this (thankful) old man–it just can’t…

 

There’ll be two dates on your tombstone
and all your friends will read ’em
but all that’s gonna matter is
that little dash between ’em.
(Kevin Welch)

 

 

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