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Sunny Presidentials and Foggy Franconia

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Sept 4-Sunday. Got up and cooked breakfast in the dark. My belly was so full I decided to let it settle before starting so I laid in my hammock and read for an hour. At 6 I broke camp and realized the pole I left by the trail to signal ginger tiger had disappeared. Rats! I tried to hike with one pole for a while but it threw me off balance so I picked up a stick and hiked with that all day. I passed Nathan and got a pic. I passed Tau but I could tell he didn't remember me. I got to osgood campsite by noon mile 324.2. I figured I was in good shape since I only had 3 more miles to the hut. All I can say is "I WAS SO WRONG". The climb was pretty standard for about a mile and a half and then I went above treeline and it was literally climbing a boulder field for the next 4 hours. I decided to camp near Madison Hut down star lake trail as the sun was setting. Might be a mistake in retrospect. I hung my hammock from a couple of boulders but my body weight pulled the straps just enough that my posterior was on the ground. I tucked my sit -upon under there as a ground cloth and ate cold hot dogs and trail mix for supper. It's barely after 8 and I can already feel the cold creeping in. No place to hang food so it's just laying on the ground beside me.

Sep 5-Monday. Last night was interesting. I woke at 1:30 having to pee so badly I couldn't ignore it so I slid out from under my rainfly ,which was soaking wet from condensation, and relieved myself. I saw how clear the skies were so I took down the rainfly, packed it away and crawled back into the hammock leaving the zipper open so I didn't get the inside of the hammock wet. The stars were amazingly clear-made me feel infinitesimally small. I dropped off to sleep and didn't wake until 5:45. Broke camp and went .2 to the Madison Hut for water. I got the weather report and sat on the veranda cooking my oatmeal and made sure I "camel up" so I didn't have to carry so much water on the climbs. Labor Day today meant tons of extra people on the trails and Mt Washington especially. The terrain was rocky but way better than yesterday so I made good time even with my crooked stick pole. As I approached Lakes of the Clouds Hut around 4:30 a helicopter landed, apparently a search and rescue team coming in. I got water and sat listening to the hullabaloo for about an hour. They had trekking poles for sale so I bought a set and gave them my old one for the hiker box. The girl at the counter said I could stealth camp about a qtr mile down the amonoosuc trail below treeline. I found a spot and set up as best I could on the scrubby pines. I moved my straps several times to get them high enough to keep my butt off the ground when the trees bent inward. Laying here listening to the babbling brook and watching the sun set. Small chance of rain tonight and another beautiful, clear day tomorrow. Thank you, God, for this weather. I made it to Mile 334.3-10 miles hiked.

Sep 6-Tuesday. I woke up every hour past midnight. The wind was blowing my rainfly around and it sounded like a bunch of Mylar balloons. I finally got up at 5 and sat nibbling granola and it started to sprinkle. Checked DarkSky app and it was forecast to stop in 30 minutes so I waited it out. Sure enough it quit and I packed everything up and headed up the slick rock to the Hut. I ascended into a cloud and my glasses became almost worthless. When I went through the hut door I heard a man say" oh, no way!!" By the time I got my pack off Twinkletoes was standing in front of me. I gave him a big hug and said I'd be right back after a potty break. When I came out WrongWay was waiting for a hug too. So great to see them! I sat with them and caught up while the hut guests ate and then gathered up when the work-for-stay hikers went for the leftovers. The cloud felt like rain and visibility was atrocious. Luckily trail was easy to follow and by 10 am fog had lifted so it was just a little misty now and then. I climbed Mt Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce and made it to mitzpah hut by noon. Something smelled delicious but I wanted to get to Rt 302 by dark so I just grabbed some water and headed back out. Mt Jackson was no big deal but Webster had some climbing and then the descent had the cliffs. I was not in the mood for cliffs today but I just took my time and prayed a lot. I was almost out of water or I'd have set camp up on a west-facing ridge and enjoyed the sunset. But no, needed water so down I went. And down. And down. And down. My knees were NOT HAPPY so when I came to a trickle of water crossing the trail I just set up camp , filtered a canteen full of water, drank a quart and climbed into the hammock. I feels so good to lay down today!!! When I checked guthook I was at mile 344.5 - another 10 mile day so even though I didn't quite make my goal I'm content with my accomplishment.

Sept 7- Wednesday. I had to pull a bunch of gear up into the hammock last night because some creature kept digging around in my plastic bags and making me nervous. I even turned my headlamp on and wrapped it around my canteen thinking maybe the light would discourage further visits. I woke up at 3 and the light was off - battery maybe? I'm glad that was the one I found and not the one I paid $40 for! I slept in a bit this morning, got on trail by6:45 and made it to Rt 302 by 7:30. The trail was crazy easy today,miles of smooth pea gravel level trail so I flew. I met Rambler, Lost, and Atlas&Straw during the day. Super great to see NOBOs I hiked with coming to the end of their journey. I stopped in at Zealand Hut around 2:30 for a quick potty break and forgot to check my water bladder. Trail started to get steep and rocky and about an hour up the trail I stopped for snack and used the last of the camelbak water. I still had 16 ounces but it was 2.5 miles to a campsite(mile off trail) or 4 miles to the next hut. It started raining around 3:30, just enough to wet the rocks, and then quit so I slowed down and made sure I had good footing. I passed a group of 3 older-than-me hiking back toward the hut and it struck me that they were dressed for a yacht club rather than a hike. They asked how far it was to the hut and I told them about an hour and a half for me (I managed not to ask whether they intended to break a sweat or just keep prancing daintily- LOL). The sky started looking ominous again at 5 just as I passed a sweet stealth spot. I thought about it a minute because another hour of hiking would get me closer to water but I wouldn't know what the camping situation might be so I whipped my hammock and rainfly up just as it started to sprinkle. I realized too late that I was set up over a puddle area so I hung everything from the hammock ridge line to get it off the ground. Trail mix for supper to save the water for tomorrow's hike. I'm going to try to hike out early and make it to the hut before 10 since morning hikes are cooler and need less water. I camped at Mile 356.2 - almost 12 miles.

Sep 8-Thursday. I woke up at 2 and struggled to go back to sleep. I dozed off after 3:30 and woke around 5. Packed up as fast as I could and headed out towards galehead hut and water. I don't know if it's psychosomatic or real, but I really felt sluggish this morning. I stopped several times to rest. Got to the hut around 10:30 and drank a quart immediately. The sun had come out so I took off boots and socks and laid out some damp clothes to dry. I sat there reading in the warm sunshine way too long. It was almost noon when I gathered up and got back on trail. I met tippy Toes (cottons friend) and gave him my phone number and took a pic. He said Mt Garfield was hard so I pulled up my big girl pants and marched on. It was steep but not really hard. At one point you climb up a small trickly waterfall that was kinda cool and not too slippery. I made it to Garfield pond around 5 and filtered some water, made dinner and moved on even though there were plenty of tent spots there. It felt like I was climbing a lot but the elevation profile showed a little bump. Guess I'm just tired today. I found a nice stealth spot around 6:30 and set camp, setting stakes extra sturdy because supposed to get thunderstorms overnight.Tomorrow is Franconia Ridge and Mt Lafayette -several people have said Franconia is the most beautiful part of the trail so I hope it's clear. I'm laying here journaling and it just started to sprinkle. SO happy I'm tucked in!!! Camped at mile 365.0 - 9 miles today.
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