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You choose a title! (Part 1)

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I had several ideas for the title to this blog, but couldn’t decide which to use. If I thought anybody would take the time to respond to this blog, I might ask for a vote. Instead, I’ll just make it clear that my tales could be titled -
“Better Late Than Never”
“Not Ready For Prime Time (ie, the Whites)”
“A Tale of Two Walks”
“For Lack Of a Hiking Pole”
“Quote from Lethal Weapon

It is certainly a legitimate question on why I have no A.T. hiking to report until August of this year. Sad to admit, but this truly IS my first major hiking of 2016.
Despite the constraints of WHERE I can hike and for how long (which I’ve discussed many times), I had hoped to go to Mount Rogers NRA in the spring and to the Whites in the summer. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to go south due to rainy forecasts, too many family schedules, and the inability to find a shuttle.
In June we found that the 75-year-old cast iron pipes in our house were leaking, requiring a complete redo of our bathrooms – a task that is STILL not near completion (long story). Thus, I’ve felt like a prisoner in my own house for weeks, as I can’t leave while workers (different ones depending on the task) arrive every weekday. Last week was literally the first time this summer that Shuttle could handle the workers AND we had nothing on our plate AND the weather in the Whites was not intimidating. Thus, with a relatively minor amount of planning a few days ahead of time (forecasts MUST be checked on that short a time scale), last week was the time I FINALLY got my chance to escape.

I had no problem driving up to Lincoln NH on Monday, and found a nice place to stay for one night
I awoke at about 5am and was at the Basin Parking Lot (east side) by 6am. Last year in this area,
I hiked up the A.T. from the Liberty Springs Parking Area
to the crossing of Cascade Brook
and then back down to The Basin.
This year I decided I could easily get up the Basin Cascade Trail to the same crossing of Cascade Brook, then continue on the A.T. to Lonesome Lake Hut, then down the Lonesome Lake Trail to Lafayette Campground.
This trek was, indeed, not much of a problem. I photographed my first step on the A.T. in 2016 (posting it on Facebook); then crossed Cascade Brook in (literally) a matter of seconds. I figured that crossing at this ford – which used to have a bridge, but will be without one for the foreseeable future – would be my last major hurdle of my time here. Definitely not true!
My trek to Lonesome Lake was swift & uneventful, and I got some great photos there, due to the mirror-like calm on the water. I got some rest at the LL Hut, then had an easy time down the LL Trail to Lafayette Campground.
Showers in this place are four quarters for five minutes of hot water. I’ve found, over the years, that a shower after or during a hike definitely invigorates me, so I figured I’d pay the dollar and get refreshed enough to do the second part of my planned hike. This meant I had to provide my own soap & towel, but neither was a problem – I just carried them. I left the small bar of soap for the next person in the shower, but now had to decide what to do with a soaking wet towel. Since it was a beat-up, throwaway towel; I figured I’d just leave it there. If someone took it, no problem; if it was still there when I came back later, fine.
I was finding that the dew point, even this far north, was sufficiently high that my usual long sleeve shirt was just getting soaked in sweat. Again, it’s a beat-up near-rag; so I just left it at the shower as well.

The “second part of my planned hike” began about 11:30am and, for any half-way decent hiker, would not have been a problem: hike from Lafayette Camp up the Falling Waters Trail to Little Haystack, then along Franconia Ridge to the Liberty Springs Trail (ie, the A.T.), and go down that trail so as to end fairly near the Basin Parking Area. Years of hiking The Trail has shown that I can do about one mile an hour, so I figured to be at Haystack by about three in the afternoon, thus giving me about five hours to get down. Since I was having no pain, was wearing only a day pack, and had been refreshed by the shower; none of this seemed overly optimistic.

Unfortunately, I had both under-estimated the difficulty of these trails and over-estimated by abilities – never a good combination. Falling Waters is NOT an easy trail, even to the first waterfall, and (for the most part) it gets more difficult as you get closer to Little Haystack. Plain & simple, there are a lot of rocks that your feet need to watch out for, and a lot of places that you (well, at least *I*) need to grab onto something while going up. Thus, I never got a really good moving pace at any point on this trail – it was one scramble or “watch out” or “hold on” after another.
Adding to my miscalculations was my forgetting my pole when I started the hike. This forced me to use my legs for balance a lot more than I prefer. Again, not a problem for real hikers; definitely a problem for me.
Having to look down at my feet on just about every step led to an embarrassing meeting – namely, between the top of my nose and a granite outcropping. Ouch! I always carry a lot of first aid gear, so simply holding a baby wipe over the cut for a minute or so (pretty much) took care of it.
In addition to everything else I was doing wrong, it started to rain on the trail. Now, when I’m sweating like a pig, my basic view of rain is that it’s “free sweat”: ie, your shirt and hat get no wetter from rain than they do from sweat, and this water cools you just as much as sweat, but you need not replenish this cooling water. So, for the first twenty minutes of drizzle, I just kept walking at my typical slow pace. Eventually, however, the rain was coming down sufficiently hard that (1) some of the stuff I was carrying was getting soaked and (2) the trail was getting a bit slick. So I just walked over to a boulder under some trees, sat down, pulled my rain poncho over all parts of me, and decided to just wait out the rain (for the curious, I’ve found that hiking while wearing a completely water-proof poncho results in me getting just as drenched from my sweat as I do from rain – thus, a poncho generally means I have to stop walking). Unfortunately, the rain did not let up for over thirty minutes, so I lost almost an hour in slowed and non-walking.

No surprise – I didn’t get to Haystack till WAY after 3pm. In addition, I had very stupidly not refilled my water bottle at Lafayette, so I knew I was going to be short on water. To the person who left some water in a camel-bak on Little Haystack Peak, THANK YOU!!
In retrospect, I should have just cut my losses and immediately gone back down the Falling Waters Trail. Unfortunately, at this peak I figured that, since this part of the A.T. is all downhill from here, I could maintain a speed of a mile an hour and get back to the parking lot just as it was getting dark. Another bad choice!

My legs were so out of shape, The Trail here was so filled with rocks, and I had to be so super careful about balance; that it actually took me three hours to go the two miles from Haystack to the junction with Liberty Springs Trail. So now it’s well after 6pm – and I know it will start to get dark about 8pm – and I STILL have to go down the three miles to the bike trail that will take me back to the parking lot. In the same level of optimism that had General Custer tell his men at the Little Bighorn not to take any prisoners, I figured I could get two of those miles by 8pm, and then walk the last mile after dark. After all, I figured, I had a flashlight, and trails tend to get pretty easy to walk on as you get within a mile or so of the parking area trail head. Indeed, I had walked from Bierstadt Lake to its trail head in pitch dark,
so this walk couldn’t be much worse.