Thursday, September 17, 2009

Backpacking The Whites - Part 1

Day 1
Sunday, August 23, 2009
NH112 Kinsman Notch to Beaver Brook Shelter
Add On's: Mt. Jim, Mt. Blue, Mt. Moosilaukee

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I woke up Sunday from my slumber at one of the local Lincoln Motels and headed deeper into town to get some food and to help Annie Resupply for her Appalachian trail Adventure. I waited about 25 minutes for 2 Dunkin' Donuts and a chocolate Milk. I couldn't stand the mobs anymore so I headed up town to check out LaHout's and see how the summer sale was going. After strolling around, Lahout's and Annie getting her Fuel, I brought her back to The Basin where she was to reconnect with the trail on her long journey south. Myself? I headed for NH 112 and Kinsman Notch, where I'd park my car and start hiking to the nights shelter.

The purpose of this vacation was to enjoy some much needed time alone in the outdoors, but to also share the outdoors with the New Students in UNH's Outdoor Education Program. More on this later, but basically, these students were all taking the backpacking class I took last summer, and I felt like I had something to offer their own journey through the whites. So with a pack stuffed to the brim and gear clipped on and tied down in every which fashion, I stepped foot onto the Appalachian Trail and headed south up the flanks of Mount Moosilaukee.

As I enter the woods I pass a beer can sitting on top of a rock. Rubber banded to the can is a bag of M&M's and a note for Mats Roing and MEB. These two were hiking the diretisima, all 48 Four-Thousand foot peaks in NH without using assistance or a car spot. A daunting task Mats had accomplished the summer before and now trying to replicate. It was funny to see a can of Dale's Pale Ale from Colorado and a bag of M&M's.. though I never saw the gang only to find out earlier they bailed from the adventure with 4 peaks left. A magnificent try none-the-less.
(Dales Pale Ale)

I continued on up the Beaver Brook Trail slowly from stone step to stone step. The trail obviously parallels the Beaver Brook up the side of the mountain. A variety of waterfalls cascades towards the valley below in a veil of rushing white and clear. It's humid, not really hot, but opressive weather wise. Not long into the hike I was soaked with sweat and gasping for air, not used to carrying the heavy bag. The weather looks so inviting. I stop and take in the natural beauty of the waterfalls before carrying on. Not much farther up the trail I spotted a place to drop my bag, drop down to my shorts and stand under the falling water. It was breathtakingly cold yet refreshing and my damp shorts would keep me cool the rest of the day.
(The Backpacker)

(Baptised)

After playing in the water I made my way into The Beaver Brook Shelter Area. When I arrived I was alone. Not a voice in sight, just the rustling of leaves and the light falling of drizzle from the cloud that enshrouded the mountainside. I decided to leave the wet shorts on, layer up on the top and set up my tent on one of the open platforms. I wandered around the shelter and scoped out where the water was, the privy and what was laying around in the shelter. The quiet was deafening and it was definately time to wander off on a mission.

I left the comfy confines of the shelter with no shirt and no water.. no nothing. Just me heading up the mountain to explore. At the first junction I took a right on the Ridge Loop and made my way to Mount Jim. Once there I was pleased to know I had completed the connection of this location to the ridge, a place I had turned away from once previously. I made my way back to the junction and headed for Mount Blue. The rain came and went in short bursts of intermitent downpours. I was cold if I stopped so resolved to keep moving. I was wearing nothing more than shorts, socks, shoes and a hat. The whole time I wondered when I should turn back, but I continued to move forward, daring the mountain to challenge me.

I came to the herd path where one travels off to the top of Mount Blue. As I made my way through the whack, the tight grip of the woods scratched and scraped at my body leaving tiny bloody opennings. I winced and itched and felt uncomfortable until I reached the top. I openned the new summit jar and signed into the new book. Then I searched for my old entry which was almost 2 years previously. I had no idea time fly by so fast. I restuffed the contents into the jar and headed back to the mian trail. On my way back I heard voices afar and decided to keep going up. Not long after I ran into the first UNH Group. Brent Bell and Megan Jeffs were teaching a wonderful group of kids whom were excited about their educational experience. I said hello and asked how far to the Benton Juntion, "Not Far." and I decided to carry on. Brent asked where my pack was and I told him back at camp... oh how his risk management mind must have been turning.

I hurried up the trail and picked up a light trot comign to the junction of the Benton Trail. I stopepd only long enough to see the summit was all of .4 miles ahead. I had come this far, I needed to continue. As I stepped out from the shelter of the trees, I realized that the weather up high was windy yet warmer than it is down below. The inversion warmed my soul as I cruised across the Alpine fields to the sign up high. Mount Moosilaukee... and in all the times I've been to this peak, this was the first time I'd been here all alone. I stopped and sat down on the rocks and glanced out into the clouds. When they'd break I'd catch glimpses of the valley below only to watch as the clouds swallowed the earth once again. A spiritual moment that ended all too soon as it was time to head back down.

I bounded down the trail eventually meeting up with the class. I enjoyed conversation with the various students, and enjoyed observing their abilities and level of comfort in the woods. They were an intelligent group, patient and steadfast. I enjoyed being in their company as we headed into camp. Brent thanked me for setting up my tent to save them a spot... funny, I had set up my tent for ME. But I understood, took it down and was welcomed into the shelter for the night. After the group retrieved water, set up shelter and got themselves settled in. I listenned to a weather lesson and proceeded to cook dinner along side the class. After dinner I gave my first of 4 White Mountain History Lessons explaining the finner times on Mount Moosilaukee and the Kinsman Ridge. No other hikers made it into camp that night and as the lights went low, I fell sound asleep as rain fell lightly on the top of the tin roof shelter. Brent snored and his insulin pumped beeped insesantly. I put ear plugs in and slept finally like a baby.
(The First Class)

Day 2
Monday, August 24, 2009 - Section 1
Beaver Brook Shelter to NH 112 Kinsman Notch

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I woke up at 6am to hear the rain absolutely crashing down from the heavens. It rained so hard upon the tin roof that I woke up thinking I was sleeping under one of the waterfalls. It was an incredible display of natures force. Once the rain stopped, the campers roused from their bags and set about making breakfast. I slowly packed up my things and got ready for the hike out all the while munching on a pop-tart and a nutri-grain bar. Once everyone was ready to go, I joined the group for their hike down to NH112.

On the way down the steep trail we carefully placed our feet along the stone steps, the wooden blocks cemented into the mountain side and the long stretches of rebar set out for hand placement. The group moved slower than I'm accustomed to hiking and it rather frustrated me. I patiently waited my turn to move in the back. And then, at one point.. it happened. My foot caught on a rock and then as I went to bend my knee, my leg was stuck on the inner lining of my rain pants. Long story short, I began to fall and it all happened so quickly. I did all I could do to make my body go limp and to allow my pack to take the brunt of the fall. As I turned I landed on my forearm first, my right knee second and did a foreward summersault down a step section of rock steps, rolling about 10 feet down. I was stunned, picked myself up, brushed off and was immediately helped by Megan and Brent. "I'm an EMT, are you in need of assitance?" "Not unless you can heal my pride.." I was banged up pretty bad, shaken and had just experienced the hardest fall I've ever had in my life.. but luckily came out of it with a huge bruise on my forearm and a bloody knick in my knee.
(Megan and Brent)

I continue down the slope slowly. My pride crushed and my knee in some serious pain. Every time I put weight down on my leg, my knee goes numb and I get the wind knocked out of me. Not much further down the trail, the class wanted to stop.. again.. and I couldn't take it anymore. I excused myself from the group and bounded down the trail, off to my car, to prepare my own resupply for the next destination. As I near the end of the woods, I find a mushroom and write a message on it for my professor, John Dewey 4 Life was etched into the 'shroom and left on the final bridge over Beaver Brook. I emerged from the woods and immediately began ripping my bag apart. I gathered my trash and prepared to take the trash from the class. I refilled my pack with a new set of supplies for the rest of the day, night and first part of tomorrow. The class emerged from the woods and I marched over to gather their trash in a bag. I also took any unwanted gear and packed it all into my trunk. I offered a Thru-Hiker (Poco loco) a ride into town, to which he declined. A few moments later, a different hiker came walking towards me looking for a ride into town himself. I obliged, pilled him in with my gear and the class's trash and headed for town. Part one of my adventure had ended.