Friday, January 29, 2016

Day 136: No-good #*@ing trail....

July 21: I woke up early and hit the trail even before breakfast was served at the hut. As much as I enjoyed the dinner they served last night, and I'm sure breakfast was just as good, I did want to reduce my pack weight and eating my own food certainly helps in that regard. And--I wanted as early of a start as possible. I had miles to hike!

And once again, the trail proved to be extraordinarily difficult--far more so than I remembered from my 2003 thru-hike. I reached what appeared to be the edge of a cliff and would look around, wondering what happened to the trail, and then I'd notice the next blaze far down at the bottom of the cliff. WTF?!

I'd throw my trekking pole down the cliff--I certainly couldn't use it on such steep terrain. It would just get in the way. So I'd throw it down and then figure out a way to scramble down myself grabbing onto trees, roots and whatever else I could find to help lower me down.

Even when there were sheer, vertical cliffs to contend with, the rocks and mud along this section were legendary. My pace was agonizingly slow.

It didn't take long before I passed huge herds of southbound thru-hikers. I must have passed a dozen of them in the morning. The only northbound thru-hiker I saw was Jigg who caught up with me late in the day.

Most of the day, the weather was beautiful, but late in the day those mean-looking clouds started blowing in. By the time I reached the Rattle River Shelter about 14 miles in, it started raining.

But I was in the shelter, safe and dry. I kind of wanted to keep hiking, though. After my dismal 5.9-mile day yesterday, I was behind schedule. Another two miles ahead was a hostel, directly on the trail. I totally had the energy to do a couple of more miles, and even if it meant hiking in the rain, at least I could get indoors and dry when I finished.

I marched onward. In hindsight, I'd have waited an extra half hour because that's how long the rain lasted before it stopped. Just enough to get me wet. This trail was really starting to piss me off!

I checked into the White Mountains Lodge and Hostel. Although my clothes were only one-day smelly, laundry was included with the price of the stay so I had my clothes laundered. I chatted with other hikers, and the pizza delivery man became a regular fixture at the hostel arriving every half hour with more pizzas that hikers had ordered.

The hostel was quite crowded with people, and I was surprised that the southbound hikers seemed to outnumber the northbound hikers. While I was hiking northbound, it makes sense that I'd see southbound hikers more often, but even at the hostel they were outnumbering us northbounders! I didn't order pizza, but more than one hiker had ordered more than they could eat and gave away the rest which I ate from.

It was a great place to stay. Southbounders told horrible stories of what we should expect from the trail ahead, and us northbounders tried to scare them just as much with that they'd soon be grappling with. (And, we pointedly told them, that section between Pinkham Notch and US 2 is perhaps the most difficult section of the entire trail. #@*#!)

Numbers.... I'd first heard of Numbers back in North Carolina, and Amanda had actually met the guy while doing trail magic. I had almost met him at one shelter where he was being grilled along with two other thru-hikers by a troop of Boy Scouts, but I hung back in the shadows and just watched. So I actually saw the man in person, but never actually met him. He hadn't even realized that I was in shouting distance of him at that point.

Anyhow, I mention Numbers because this was the first time I had actually spoken with the man and it turns out, he had a rather ugly-looking injury on his foot in the form of a severe burn. He had started using a new pot to cook on, a pot with a metal handle. After boiling some water, he grabbed the handle forgetting that it was metal--a great conductor of heat--and attached to a boiling pot of water, and promptly burned his hand by grabbing it. That wasn't so bad, however, compared to what happened afterwards when he jerked his hand away and spilled the pot of boiling water on his foot.

He was wearing socks when the accident happen, but the boiling water still scalded his foot severely. I was stunned to learn that he was still hiking with it. At the very least, I'd have expected him to take a couple of weeks off the trail to give it some time to heal. It would be a lot longer than that before it would be fully healed, but surely with a burn that bad, he'd have to take at least a couple of weeks off the trail and see how it shaped up.

These two girls were out for about a week and were trying to hit all of the 4,000-foot mountains in New Hampshire. They've been working at it for a few years and are mostly done. I didn't know who they were or what they were doing when I took this photo since we were hiking in opposite directions. I just saw them stopped and admiring the views and liked the dramatic background with them giving the photo some scale. (That's Mount Washington behind them, in case you were curious.)

But no, he kept on hiking! He had burned himself a week earlier and was still putting in full days of hiking. He'd clean the wound and bandage the foot each night, and replace the bandage in the morning. He said walking in it didn't actually hurt so much because the foot didn't move around in his shoe all that much, but rather the most difficult part was just getting his shoes on and off each day. And pulling the bandage off at the end of the day. That, he told us, was what really hurt the most.

I asked to take a photo of it--I'd never seen such a severe-looking wound on a thru-hiker before. I needed documentation! For those of you who like to scroll through all of the photos before reading this, you know what I'm talking about. For those of you who haven't scrolled to the bottom to see all of the photos yet--be warned, there's an extraordinarily ugly one at the one!

WTF?!!!! There were so many places like this cliff along this section of trail, it was infuriating. There's just no easy way to get up or down this type of stuff!

Just look at how steep and rocky the trail is! Argh! When will it end!

For as difficult as the trail is, the views were just as spectacular!

And with just a touch of rain, just to make sure we're good and wet before we quit for the day!
Amanda might have left, but it would appear that she left her mark on the way out of town after dropping me off at Pinkham Notch! (At least I hope it was Amanda. Otherwise, I have another stalker that I know absolutely nothing about!)

Trail magic at US 2!~Woo-who! Ice cold drinks!

White Mountains Lodge and Hostel--my home for the night.

Numbers had the ugliest trail injury I'd ever seen! This was about a week after he burned himself when he accidentally spilled a pot of boiling water on his foot.


Karolina said...

That wound looks even worse than my arm after I had burnt it with steam at work! I never got open wounds red from blood... Maybe because my arm was immediately treated.

Mary said...

It really doesn't look bad and it's not infected but he should have gone to an urgent care clinic.

Ryan said...

For all I know, he did exactly that. I didn't really ask about that....