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AT 2017: Day 134, Moose Mountain Shelter to Smarts Mountain Tenting Area

Sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down

Hike with Gravity

Today was a day of two big climbs. Or more accurately put, it was a day of a big climb and a much bigger climb.

This was not unexpected. I’m in New Hampshire now, home of some of the biggest mountains on the Appalachian Trail. From here on out, they will get higher and steeper, especially once I reach the White Mountains.

The mountains ahead of me for the next couple days are just a warm up for the Whites.

Date
Weather Partly sunny, with temperatures in the low 80s
Trail Conditions Steep ups and downs, with a long climb up Smarts Mountain
Today's Miles 12.3 miles
Trip Miles 1,770.9 miles

But here’s the thing about that: Today was a warm day. After a few days of cool weather, the temperature jumped yesterday into the 80s. It was heading even higher today. Making matters worse, humidity was higher too.

Today would be the first day I had hiked with Stick since we left Lost Pond Shelter a week ago with his daughter.

Now he is hiking with his friend from Colorado, Dustin. Stick told me Dustin struggled a bit yesterday, his first day on the trail, but he seemed to be doing fine as we made our first climb of the day.

That climb took us up to a spot called Holt’s Ledge. From here we could see all of the terrain we would be walking today. Off in the distance was Smart Mountain, where we planned to camp tonight. Beyond that and just barely visible was Mt. Cube, which we will go over tomorrow.

At the bottom of the descent from Holt’s Ledge I arrived at Grafton Turnpike, a road that was constructed in the early 1800s, when it was common for state legislatures to charter for-profit companies to raise funds privately for the construction of toll roads and bridges.

A sign was posted at the road that made me laugh, though I’m sure it was posted here in all seriousness. A simple “No parking” sign apparently would not do.

At about 3 p.m. I stopped at Grant Brook, my last stop for water of the day. Minutes, Sun, Stick and Dustin were also there.

Sun said she was no longer hiking with Scout because she is trying to finish her hike by September 20. Scout told her he wants to go slower than that to stretch out his hike. Like many hikers, he isn’t ready for the experience to end.

A short distance away was a granite mile marker. It said I had 412 miles to go to reach Mt. Katahdin, which was wrong by several miles.

This struck me as odd. I wondered why someone would go to the expense and trouble of carving and placing a granite marker here when the length of the trail changes every year.

The next climb was difficult. After going up more than 800 feet in about eight tenths-of-a-mile, the trail reached a rock ledge on Lambert Ridge.

A second viewpoint appeared up another 400 feet on Lambert Ridge. Smarts Mountain loomed large from here, about two miles away.

Continuing onward and upward, the trail became brutally rugged with a tangle of roots. Going up Smarts Mountain was so hard the amount of time we walked was double what it would normally take.

In one spot the trail was so steep a ladder was needed. While going up I could hear thunder begin to rumble in the distance. I wanted to go faster to reach the tenting area where we planned to camp, but the trail wouldn’t allow it.

The tenting area was just below the summit of the mountain. When I arrived there, wind was beginning to pick up. It was obvious a storm was headed in our direction.

I quickly looked for and found a niche in the trees to pitch my tent, hoping the spot would lessen my exposure to the wind. Just as I finished setting it up a few sprinkles began to fall.

To boil water for my dinner, I put my stove just outside the vestibule on the leeward side of my tent. The front of the tent was getting pelted with rain drops, but because the rain was falling nearly sideways, the backside remained dry.

I quickly finished my meal and hung my bear bag. Just as I was about to climb into my tent I saw Stick and Dustin hastily hanging their bear bag. They struggled against the wind and didn’t finish before heavier rain moved in. I dived into my tent just as it began to downpour.

Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled for a long time as the storm slowly passed over the mountain. Because of the gusty wind that came with the storm, some water sprayed into my tent, but I was able to cover up my sleeping bag with my rain gear and stay dry.

Brown-eyed women and red grenadine
The bottle was dusty but the liquor was clean
Sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down
And it looks like the old man's getting on

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