No rain last night, just cool breezes. It was a beautiful morning and I knew we would have a spectacular day for Franconia Ridge. Pia and I were ready to go by 9 and up we went to walk the ridge like to Little Haystack, Mt Lincoln, and Mt Lafayette. On our way we ran into a hiker named Cache 22, a guy from California I met in Virginia between Burke’s Garden and Bland. He had taken 6 weeks off and flipped up to Katahdin to start hiking south to Harper’s Ferry to complete his hike. He informed us there are wild blueberries all along the ridges through New Hampshire and into Maine.
Pia and I worked our way over the ridge to the summit of Mt Lafayette for a snack break. Lots of day hikers up here and even a guy with his little curly-haired dog on his back. After our break and a brief chat with a few day hikers we continued down Mt Lafayette and toward Garfield. Once we left the summit the trail became deserted. Day hikers didn’t go this far.
4 more miles to the campsite I had planned to stop at but it was early in the day and we were making good time so maybe we could shoot for Galehead Hut a little further up the trail. We took our time hiking down the mountain. It was steep and full of roots and rocks that could jump up and grab us if we weren’t paying attention. Soon we reached a view point that looked back at mountains we had just walked over that morning.
We reached Garfield Ridge Campsite around 3:30 and Pia was game for walking 3 more miles to Galehead Hut for a chance to do a work for stay. Huts in the White Mountains are a kind of bunkhouse with hot breakfast and dinner for paying guests. Soup is also available at lunch time. Thru hikers are allowed to ask for work for stay between the hours of 4 and 6. If you show up too early they will turn you away. If you show up too late, the spots may be full. After the hikers do their work they are allowed to sleep on the floor in the dining room until 6:30 the next morning in which the paying guests rise for their breakfast. A hiker and do work for dinner and/or breakfast. The breakfast shift is a little less convenient because your duties end at 9:30 am which is late to begin your day. Each work for stay comes with a hot meal too.
As Pia and I continued on to the hut my anxiety spiked thinking about arriving too late and being turned away to find a place to tent in the woods. The next campsite was 3 miles further and up a big ole mountain. Also, would they accept Pia as a section hiker? Pia and I began to conjure a thru hiker persona for her just in case. Pia would be called Cream Puff after her favorite sweet treat at the UMass cafeteria and she would be a flip flop hiker starting late from Mt Greylock after graduating her Phd program. Pia would be returning to Germany in December to start a job and wanted to take a hike before making the transition back. We had fun brainstorming our tall tale as we navigated more steep downhills. The sun sank fast as we inched toward the hut finally arriving at 6, just as dinner was being served. Another hiker was already there and secured a work for stay. Pia and I slowly approached the check in desk to politely ask for ours. After a minute the “croo” agreed to have us. No thru hiker ID needed, thankfully.
The other hiker that was there was Gear Boy. I had met him in Virginia at the end of June just before the Roller Coaster. It had been a rough day for me, hot, humid, hurting feet and everyone could see it on my face. I was amazed and astounded to see him knowing how far and how fast he would’ve had to hike to be at this point. Probably averaging 25 miles a day. He was on a 4 month schedule so he could finished in time to start a creative writing MFA in Oregon. His hiking partner, Trail Magic showed up about an hour later. She remembered me instantly and told me she had wanted to give me a hug that day. I wish she had.
We waited patiently outside as the guests ate dinner. My stomach was growling violently. I had been hungry all day and only packed two days of food hoping to use the huts for the bulk of food. At 7:30 the croo called us in for dinner and we filled our plates with pulled pork, green beans and corn, rice, and curry lentil soup. After we finished we waited about 45 minutes before we began working. Pia and I washed dishes, Gear Boy scrubbed pots, and Trail Magic cleaned and re-organized the freezer. It was fun. I was glad to be in the company of these folks. The croo are usually young college students on summer break. This croo was pretty laid back and easy to work with. Finally we were finished and allowed to set up our sleeping mats on the floor at 9:30 when the lights were turned off (the huts are solar powered).
I laid down relieved to have had a big dinner and a secure place to stay. It would be in the 40s tonight.
Miles: 1821.5 – 1831.9 (10.4)