Today was our last day in the Whites. After our breakfast buffet at the Highland Center, we headed to the Crawford Notch parking lot where we left off a few days ago, picking up a hitchhiker going there as well.
When we got there, we were pleased to discover there was trail magic, which we never would have seen had we parked at the bottom of the parking lot. Rainbow and Papa Monkey hiked on, but I couldn't resist grabbing a soda and watermelon there to start the day. Hosted by the parents of thru-hikers Loudmouth and M&M, there were also a number of different snacks, as well as sandwiches.
I should probably not have spent as long there as I did, given we had a 6:45 pm deadline on getting to the summit of Mt. Washington (when the auto road closes for descending vehicles), and with over a mile of elevation gain in today's 12 mile hike, it was clear it was going to be pretty difficult. It turned out, though, that I had plenty of time.
The day started off with the climb up Mt. Webster. It was "easy" enough at first, though steep. Then, it transitioned to a significant rock climb along the exposed Webster Cliffs. There were great views of the road and valley below, but. It was also pretty challenging.
After summiting Mts. Webster, Jackson, and Pierce, the AT begins to follow the Crawford Path, the first trail built to the summit of Mt. Washington. From there, the trail follows several ridgelines and passes near the summit of Mt. Eisenhower, summits Mt. Franklin, and passes near the Mt. Monroe summit, before reaching the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, the largest in the hut system.
While on the ridgeline along Mt. Eisenhower, I ran into a member of the CT Trailmixers, the group that gave me trail magic back in July. I didn't actually recognize him at first, but apparently, I'm distinctive enough that he recognized me, and took a picture of us to share with the rest of the group.
As I continued to approach Mt. Washington, the wind started to pick up and clouds zoomed in, blanketing the top of Mt. Washington in fog. I picked up the pace, not wanting to get stuck out in a rainstorm or in even stronger winds once I actually began to summit Mt. Washington itself.
I made it to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut at 4, and had a quick snack, before proceeding to climb Mt. Washington. Consisting of the same rock pile as when we hiked down yesterday, it was a little slow going, though uphill was faster.
I got to the summit at 5, and was going to take another picture at the at the summit, but there was a long line from a Victorian-themed wedding party there already, so I just went around the line, climbed near the summit, and went into the visitor center to find Rainbow and Papa Monkey.
Reaching the summit brought our trek through the Whites to a conclusion, coincidentally on the last day of my fifth month on the trail. It also brought me to over 1900 miles completed.
After six straight days and 80 miles of some of the hardest "hiking" I've ever done, I was exhausted.
We returned to the White Mountains hostel, ordered dinner from Mr. Pizza (conveniently, there was a delivery person there dropping off someone else's order, so we just had him take our order), and crashed.
If the scale at White Mountains can be trusted, I'm down 10 pounds from my starting weight, and it's really quite evident when I look in a mirror.
Tomorrow: I'm doing nothing.