August 12th 2018
Ethan pond Shelter – Lake of the Clouds Hut (mile 1856.6)
14 miles
Total miles: 1881


I don’t like camping on those wooden tent pads. They are noisy and you can hear every move of the other people, plus we were practically on top of each other anyway. I pitched my tent with the fly just draped over the top and the doors open so when it started to rain around 3am I had to zip the doors up and try and angle my shoes underneath so they didn’t get wet. I was the asshole that knocked over their water bottle and probably woke everyone up! 

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The problem with having your tent fly just draped over the top means that it’s not totally waterproof and the rain was dripping down onto the base of the inner and it was becoming wet underneath. I managed to stay dry inside but Jukebox woke up to a puddle in her tent! 

One of the guys we were camped with started packing up at 5am. Too early! Also in the night I definitely heard something splashing in the lake. I’m pretty sure it could have been a moose. Apparently there is a resident moose here but we never saw it. 

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The whole area was covered in mist in the morning and we could barely see the lake as we hiked out. It was a small matter of hiking 3 miles down to Crawford Notch and we heard from a couple of southbounders that there was trail magic in the parking lot so we hiked as fast as we could to get there.  

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We were very happy to see such an amazing set up, a gazebo and lots of people, headed up by Amy and Jeff who hiked the trail last year. We were offered pretty much anything we could think of to drink, I had a chocolate milk. And then I got served an egg cheese and bacon bagel. It was so good. Amy then made us sandwiches to pack out and we took a few bags of crisps and I got a chocolate doughnut. 

She also had muffins, fruit salad, gluten free stuff so Jukebox could eat, beer, soda, mimosa (what we would call a bucks fizz)…I had a mimosa before we left. We ended up staying there for about 2 hours and Amy was definitely trying to vortex us. She was about to cook up burgers and hotdogs as we were trying to leave. So many hikers came and went in the time we were there. I was also able to get some more toilet paper which was perfect because I was worried about running out. 

It was some pretty A+ trail magic. I met Crazy Brit, a 69 year old British man from Plymouth who has been living in Florida for many years. He had the strangest mixed up accent and sounds a bit Irish.

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Crazy Brit!
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Crazy Brit and some more old blokes!
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She’s eyeing up my breakfast!

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He has drawn a Patagonia logo on his Frog Toggs. HAHA!

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Breakfast Mimosa

When we eventually dragged ourselves away it was 10:30am and we had 11 miles of uphill to do. The first part was steep rocky and slippy. It wasn’t raining exactly but the clouds we were in were making the air wet and the trees would rain down every time the wind blew. I got really cold sat at the trail magic but I warmed up pretty quickly as I went uphill. I was moving along ok. The others were in front of me because they are so much faster than me going uphill. I just can’t make my body move that quickly. 

I caught up to a group of hikers and they told me to pass them but it was in a really crappy place and I stood on a big sheet of rock that looked too slippery to step on but I had nowhere to go. My foot went straight out from under me and I landed hard on my right butt cheek. My water bottles went flying out of my pack and rolled down the hill. Thankfully one of the guys was able to rescue them for me and threw them back up, only for me to drop them again. The cap of my sawyer filter that I had so carefully protected this whole time was cracked and the guy said he would get rid of it for me and tucked it into his pocket. 

I hiked fast to try and put some space between me and them and I could feel a pain in my bum every time I stepped. There were a couple of teenage boys ahead of me and they weren’t keen on letting me go past, every time I caught up with them they would try to go faster. In the end I hung back because their conversation was getting on my nerves. One of them thought he knew everything about everything and some of the things he was saying were questionable. I put my umbrella up as the rain had got a bit worse and it was just about doable with the steep rock climbs but it definitely made it a bit harder. I saw the boys again at a viewpoint and the know-it-all asked me if I was enjoying the peak. He was being cocky because the only view was the white of the clouds. “What peak do you think we are on?” I asked. “The mountain beginning with W” he replied. “Oh you mean Mt Webster? Well we are still a mile and a half away from the peak! Happy trails!”

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I carry on and the rain gets a bit worse and the rocks get steeper and more slippery. The trail goes up sharply and then has a few breather spots where it flattens out and goes back into the forest. When I finally made it to the summit of Mt Webster I just walked straight over it. Visibility was about 20ft and there was absolutely nothing to see. I caught up to Jukebox and the trail just got steeper and steeper until it was pretty vertical rocks. We climbed up them using our hands and our trekking poles were getting in the way. I would launch mine ahead and pick them up as I passed. I had to put my umbrella away as it just wasn’t compatible with rock climbing so I was getting pretty wet in the drizzle. 

The climb to Mt Jackson was pretty brutal, and it was very windy and exposed at the top. These peaks must be easily accessible from somewhere because there were lots of day hikers about. At the top of Mt Jackson there were some people sat there in their rain gear trying to eat their lunch. Why?! 

On the way down I managed to slip and fall again, this time bashing my knuckles on the rocks as my feet went out from under me and I landed on my butt. I was getting pretty annoyed with the trail and all I could think about was getting to the hut and getting inside and out of the rain. I was wet and cold and tired. There were lots of bog boards to walk over and I was being extra careful after hearing Amy’s story about how she broke her wrist falling off one. 

I had had enough of the weather and the rain and the rocks and how slippy everything was and I was very happy when the hut came into view. I had used my umbrella on and off and I was a bit damp from the fine rain. 

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In the hut the others were sat with Crazy Brit and his friend and he wasn’t too happy because he had asked the hut for a work to stay and they said no. Basically these fancy huts, which are $140 a night, will take in a limited number of hikers and let them stay on the dining room floor and eat leftovers in return for about 20 minutes of work. On one hand it is understandable because they were there early and were capable of hiking on and making it to the next hut, but also these teenagers who are working there are turning away two 70 year old men – who have hiked over 1800 miles to get here! – and making them sleep outside in their tents in the rain. That’s not right. 

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I ate all my goodies that I packed out from the trail magic. My sandwich was delicious. I wasn’t keen on moving on because I was so cold and I didn’t want to go outside. We still had 4.7 miles to get to the next hut where we were hoping to get a work for stay. 

The trail ascended steeply away from the hut and that warmed me up quickly, I was trying not to let the other two get too far away from me and I was lucky that Jukebox was having problems with her knee so they were going slower and I managed to keep up. After the steep climb the trail did get a bit less intense and had it been a nice day it would have been a really nice walk between the huts, but it was a total white out. It was a surprise when we saw people coming towards us emerging from the mist. 

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We were discussing the ‘letting the old people stay in the hut situation’ and peaches got animated and said she would have liked to have said f@#! you to the teenagers but as she said it a man came around the corner and she shouted it in his face. She was so embarrassed and was trying to apologise telling him she didn’t mean it to him specifically. It was pretty funny. 

The trail is above the tree line and it’s exposed and windy. The wind was coming in from the right and my right cheek and my ear were getting sore. I was on the edge of being too cold but I managed to be ok with just rolling down my sleeves and zipping up my neck. It wasn’t raining anymore but the cloud was blowing across the ridge and clouds are wet. 

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looking good in the background!

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This section reminded me of a cross between the UK and the Terarua ranges in New Zealand. It’s windy and cold in both of those places too. It would have been beautiful I’m sure on a nice day. And we would have been able to see Mt Washington. We tried to go fast and with only a mile to go I could wait for a wee any longer and just had to go. 

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When we arrived at the hut we managed to get a work for stay place and we were told to wait around while the guests were seen to. We were able to take off our wet shoes and put dry clothes on and just doing that and being indoors made life feel instantly better. We arrived at the hut at 5:20pm and a southbounder arrived about an hour after we did. Then a couple of old guys came in also on a work for stay. One of them was a Brit who had been living in the states for 29 years but he hasn’t lost his British accent at all. It was fun to chat to them all and we had a lot of time to chat because we didn’t get to eat until 8:30pm. We were all starving. We did get a small bowl of soup while the crew were doing their little speech to the guests to keep us going. 

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Before we ate we swept the floors and the atmosphere in the hut was really weird. We were definitely outcast the the corner of the room and had to keep a low profile, and we had to wait for everyone to finish eating before diving into the leftovers. Not a single one of the guests spoke to us and it was like we were invisible as we tried to sweep the floors around them. 

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We did eventually get to eat and it was a very similar meal to the last hut we were at. This time it was spinach and ricotta stuffed shells instead of lasagna and we had peas to go with it and fresh bread. There was a tonne of food again and the 6 of us barely made a dent in it. There was also carrot cake for dessert. We found out that the leftover pasta is blended and turned into ‘tomato and basil soup’ the next day. Not sure how I feel about that. 

After dinner, at 9pm we had to do 25 minutes of work. We were in the kitchen and the other two had to scrub pans and I had to clean the back splashes and the fronts of the ovens. It wasn’t too bad but using my arms like that was a shock! They turn the lights out in the communal area at 9:30pm and after that we were allowed to set up our mats and sleeping bags. What we didn’t realise was that people would stay up playing games. It’s now 11pm and there are two groups of boys playing board games. The noise of the dice being thrown is pretty annoying and the loud whispered voices are making it really hard to fall asleep. 

At least we aren’t out there in the cold and the rain, I guess. 


Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 96

 

 


 

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