Back in July my friend Beth conquered her first two day overnight as we hiked around in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains.
The first day was wet. When we started out, the air was misty, but quickly turned to rain as we got closer to our site for the night: Valley Way Tentsite.
The AMC Madison Spring Hut was a short but tough hike up further up the trail. We set up our tent, dropped our packs, and headed up to get out of the rain. We got to enjoy some bowls of lukewarm soup but decided to leave as they served up dinner for the hut guests. It was so painful to know we were going back out to sleep in the rain.
Back at Valley Way, there was absolutely no shelter; nothing to shield us from the rain. So our dinner was granola bars and whiskey and we ended up going to sleep pretty early – one of my favorite things about backpacking.
The next day, the sun was out, and we tried to dry out as much as we could while we made breakfast.
We did the short but steep hike back up to the Madison Spring Hut. Here’s Beth cresting the trail as we arrived:
My legs were buzzing and wanted to run so I trotted up nearby Mt Madison. It was a creepy, misty ascent, mostly scrambling on hands and feet.
I sat at the top alone for a bit, waiting for the mist to clear so I could get a view. Which I did for a moment!
As I hopped back down to join Beth at the hut, two AT thru hikers passed, one with a New Zealand accent.
“Where in NZ are you from?” I asked. “New Plymouth,” he responded, which is the home of Mt Taranaki, a mountain that’s included in my collage tattoo of highlights from our round the world trip. I proceeded to show him my tattoo and he chatted excitedly about how he used to work as a guide, taking more inexperienced hikers up the mountain. It was touching to connect in passing with someone over a specific place so far away.
Back at the hut, the clouds were coming back in, so we began to make our way up the long trail to Mt Adams.
Mt Adams was a bit like Nate and I’s hike of Mt Taranaki was. Misty and slippery and confusing and perpetual. Taking my eyes off the rocks ahead of me, vertigo would set in quickly and I’d wonder what planet I was on. Visibility was super low and the mist was so thick. Soon we were cold and soaked though a drop of rain never fell on us.
Getting to the top of Mt Adams, which is truly just a huge rockpile, the wind was relentless. We found the summit marker, took some quick snaps of unintentionally hilarious photos, and headed down the other side, hoping for a glimpse of land or some refuge from the wind before we went crazy. I don’t think the wind ever knocked us over, but it was strong enough to stop us in our tracks at times as we braced against it.
Down the other side of the rockpile, wondering if the rest of our day will look and feel like this…
Finally we got under the clouds and got our first view of the trail we’d take for the rest of the day. Mt Jefferson and Mt Washington lay to our left, and we had a somewhat level trail to carry us over the ridge to our tentsite on the other side.
We thought for a moment about trying to hike Mt Jefferson, too. Physically, I think we could have done it. But mentally, after a scary morning of scrambling through near-hurricane conditions, we just wanted to enjoy some rest in the sun. So we headed over the ridge and curled around some of Adams’ smaller peaks to our tentsite (The Perch!) below.
We got to the The Perch around late afternoon. It’s run by the Randolph Mountain Club (RMC), as are a few of the cabins and shelters in the nearby area. The shelter and tentsites look right out onto a view of the rolling landscape north of the Presidentials. The Perch is an apt name.
When we arrived, we set up our tent and napped in the sun.
After dinner, the RMC caretaker came by. A guy in his 30s, he’s the caretaker for all the RMC shelters and cabins in the area, and trail runs to/from each one with his dog at his heels each evening to collect the camping fees. “Caretaker Tom” told us there was a great spot to watch the sunset down the trail from the site, so we mustered up the energy to check it out.
The next morning in this exact same spot, there was a stunning full rainbow laid out before us. My phone was dead, so no photos of it, but it was enough for my eyes to just drink it in.
This weekend showed me just how sweet sun and rest are after being soaked and sore and tired. There were moments of misery and surely moments of fear. And now I can attest to this even more: the best part of backpacking is getting to camp, putting on sandals, and finding a sunny spot to rest.