Monday, September 21, 2009

Backpacking The Whites - Part 2

Day 2 - Section 2
Monday, August 24, 2009
Lafayette Place to Kinsman Pond Shelter


I drove my new thru-hiking friend, who's name I missed, down into Lincoln and dropped him off at the Laundromat and Grocery store. I made my way over to McDonalds for a little lunch where I waited and waited and waited for my order to be handed to be as is the norm at the Lincoln Edition of the Golden Arches. As I sat in my car I was soaked from head to toe still. Yesterday's rain coupled with this mornings drizzle didn't do me well at all. All of my gear was soaked through, except for what I had in my back wrapped in plastic. Thankfully I had packed a few extra items in my car which stayed dry over night and I was able to pack some warm dry clothes for tonights destination.

I drove up to Lafayette Place where I parked my car, repacked my bags, flung them on my back and started up the trail at a quick pace. I was thinking how lucky the students in the classes were. As the week wore on their packs got lighter. But mine? Mine always seemed to stay the same weight. I resupplied every day and then I carried extra gear back down. My shoulders and back all ready hurt as did my injured forearm and knee. But I sucked it up as best I could and hiked briskly up the lower sections of the Lonesome Lake Trail. I met up with a couple from New York City who I found out through conversation were also Part Time Homesteaders in the Berkshires. I entertained them with my historical perspectives on the whites while they entertained me with their thoughts, quizical looks and questions.

Coming down the trail was a couple of children really enjoying their time in the woods. I had flashbacks to my childhood, hiking with my dad (whom they were as well) and simply bounding down the trail without a care. It was those early trips to the Whites that I could argue set my gears in motion into becomming a trail runner as I seemed to have a way with descending like floating over the rocks. And then I met their father, Jim Graham, who had written an article about me for the UNH Notebook. A publication designed to give some inspiration to potential incoming students to UNH. I stopped and chatted with Jim about some of his upcoming goals, a huts traverse, before heading on back up the trail in quick chase of that couple I was with earlier.

Lonesome Lake comes up on you quickly as you top out over the height of land on the Cannon Ridge. As I step to the bog bridges, the wind shifts and a cloud engulfs the lake. Cannon Mountain all but disappears and a quick gusty downpour ensues. I don't even bother to put my rain gear on. It's humid and muggy and I'm drenched all ready from the hike up. This would mark the 2nd day in a row that my clothes would stay soaked. I head into the hut to sign into the register, I walk out and hand the couple my contact info of which I hope they'll eventually use. I head back outside and start up the Fishin' Jimmy Trail when I run into a fellow student of the UNH OE Program who had no idea any other UNHers were even out here. We shared friendly conversation has he just spent the spring semester in India. I said good bye and headed up ole Jimmy.
(Cannon in The Clouds above Lonesome Lake)

It is quite discouraging to see the amount of damage done to the forest in and around the Lonesome Lake Hut Area. The forest has been picked clean of debris and blowdown, probably for the hut croos to burn in the inside wood stoves. Just up the Fishin Jimmy Trail a ways is a clearing where thru-hikers and others are forced to tent in the event of a full hut. This area alone is badly in need of revegetation assistance. I find it necessary for the AMC to review its policies on impact in the areas around the hut, especially here as I tread lightly by.

I was missing Sarah, so I took out my phone and gave her a call at work. As I walked along the trail, I held my cell phone out in front of me with the speaker phone on. This gave Sarah and opportunity to share the woods with me even if through electronic means. She heard the blowing of the wind, the rushing of the waters under foot and the songs of a few near0by sparrows and finch. As thru-hikers walked on by they each gave me the stink-eye and as I understood their displeasure, I sadly hung up and carried on up the trail in silence. The water was really rushing down off the mountains after 2 days of sporadic rain, and as I reached the "falls" I could see I was bound to get even wetter without the ability to avoid such occurance.
(Water Rushing Down)

I scrambled up the various steep rock slabs that lead the way up and along the mountainside. It is no wonder there is rumor of this trail being relocated in the future. Given the terrain it covers, the way the water flows down it, and the lazy hikers impact upon avoidance, it is very much necessary. I soon reached the height of land at the Kinsman Ridge trail where I made my way over to the care-takers shelter. I said hello to a fine young lady who is in charge of minding the campers. She of course also collects the $8 fee for the AMC. As I meander on my way I come to a group of loud hikers. I was warned by the caretaker that the Yale Kids were the loud ones. I knew it was them and I jokingly asked if they were from Harvard.

The laughs abounded through the woods and we broke into light conversation. One of the kids noticed my hat and asked if I had ever done the Death Race. I told him I had tried it two years previous and I also help put the races on. The rest of his classmates were surprised in hearing this as when he told the story of such a Death Race they thought he was full of crap. Now it was verified by a stranger. He then asked me if I knew Sherpa John.. to which I smiled and politely introduced myself. This group of Yale students was out on their Freshman Orientation trip. They had no idea where they were, where they had been. No idea of what time it was, no idea where they were going... nothing. I loved it, and I invited them over for my lesson later.
(The Yale Students)

I finally made my way to the UNH group I was here to meet. As I arrived at their tent platform I was greeted by awkward silence. Come to find out later, the group had no idea that today was the day I was to arrive. They thought I was meeting them on Thursday at a different location. Seeing how the group dynamic changed as I, "The Wrench," was thrown into the mix was interesting yet educational. Still, I set my bag down, made myself at home and settled right into their folly. Although, I'll admit now I was most uncomfortable and longing for home.
(UNH Trying To Stay Warm)

We played games and then made our way down to Kinsman Pond at which point young Liam gave his weather lesson. Following this lesson we enjoyed some time for personal reflection along the waters edge. The group then returned to the tent platform to prepare dinner. I made myself some beef ravioli which I had no idea would create such a problem in the realm of cleaning up. After dinner I walked back down to the pond to enjoy some more personal reflection. I enjoy the time alone. As much as I like being with these groups, the whole idea can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. I realize still how much I enjoy the company of others, but I also understand my life quandry as I suffer with knowing I love alone time just as much.
(Quiet Reflection at Kinsman Pond)

After the cleaning was done and things settled down, I invited the UNH campers and the Yale campers over to the newly constructed Kinsman Shelter. This afforded us the perfect sized amphitheatre for me to gather up the students and enlighten them with some White Mountain History. I passed around historicly relevant pictures and asked them to create their own ideas of what they were. Then, as I weaved my story around the truth, connecting each picture to the next, they sat quietly, mezmerized by words doodling franticly upon a blank canvas. And as the event wore down, I sent the Yale students to camp, and shared S'Mores I had also brought up for my UNH brethern. And as the marshmallows finished melting, we all returned to the platform one last time to rest our weary heads.

(To Be Continued)