I woke up to the tap tap tap of rain on the tent roof. Splash back from the platform left our sleeping bags a little damp. We lay in our bags a little while longer in hopes the rain will break long enough for us to pack up. It did and we were on our way by 8. All that was left for Pia was an easy 3 miles down hill to Crawford Notch and the Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center where she would catch a shuttle bus back to her car. We reached the busy road by 10 and stuck out our thumb. The Highland Center was 4 miles up the road. A truck/camper from the trailhead parking lot told us they were too loaded down to fit us in and were sorry they couldn’t take us. We were sorry too. We saw a state park truck drive out and hope he would stop. Nope. We stood at the trailhead for about 10 minutes before we decided to just start walking. 20 or so cars passed us including the state park truck again as we walked a mile down to a snack bar. We looked around the parking lots for friendly people and asked an older couple in a van. They were too loaded too. We kept walking and finally the state park truck stopped and cleared his bench seat for us to fit in. His name was Sean and he was on his way to the post office to pick up packages for hikers that were waiting at the Dry River State Campground. Sean dropped Pia off at the Highland Center and dropped me off at a gas station so I could buy some more food for the next section. I quickly bought my supplies (at an outrageous tourist price) and hopped back in the truck as he drove by again. I learned that Sean plays the harmonica in a local band. We talked about music as we drove down to the Highland Center where he dropped me off again.
I needed to take a minute to figure out my options. The weather was looking like heavy rain all day with a chance of hail. I didn’t want to be on top of a 5000 footer when that came through. I began to dream about riding back to Greenfield with Pia to wait out the weather again but I couldn’t figure out a way to get back up here in a reasonable fashion. Pia and I ate our discounted soup for lunch with free beer. Pia gave me hers since she doesn’t like beer. At 1:30 Pia boarded the bus and we hugged goodbye. An overwhelming feeling of sadness washed over me as I walked back into the Highland Center alone. The Highland Center had bunks but they were a bit pricey, I didn’t want to tent in the rain, it was getting too late in the day to reach the next shelter on the trail (it was a tough climb up). I began to scroll on Facebook for an hour perplexed. Of course, I felt worse afterword and began to cry. I had had enough beer. I took my almost full can and offered it to a group of hiker bros in the dining hall. A red headed guy accepted it with glee. I began to talk to them about their plan and they were trying to get into North Conway to split a hotel room. A shuttle there would be $20 a person. That option didn’t sound like a winner to me either so I said bye and headed back to my corner of the dining hall. I called Lucy for a second opinion she walked be through my options. I figured it was worth it to stay at the Highland Center since I was already there. I check on the availability at the desk and they had one bed for $120, way more than I had anticipated. I decided to go check in with the group of hikers I met earlier and their friend outside said they were going to get a cabin at a private campground down the road. They were out trying to get a hitch right now. Bingo.
I grabbed my pack and ran to the road hoping they were still there. I saw 3 guys walking down the road with their thumbs out. I asked if I could join them in the cabin and they happily agreed. I stuck out my thumb too and with in 5 minutes we had a ride in a Honda CRV. Three of us crammed in the back with our 25 pound packs on our laps while the other hiker sat in the front. The lady that picked us up was a fellow hiker and has shuttled folks around a lot in the area. The burly beards and dirty faces of us hikers didn’t discourage her. 10 minutes later we were at our destination, the Crawford Notch Campground. No cell service or Wifi. $30 each for a cabin with a full bed and 2 bunks. The 3 hikers were Maverick (31 year old former military), Rabbit (a 23 year old steel worker from NYC), and Quicksand (a 54 year old retiree). They were all Southbound. Rabbit ended up taking the floor and I got the top bunk.
We arrived at about 4 o’clock so we had time to kill. I took a shower, rinsed some of my clothes out, and ate Annie’s mac and cheese with soup veggies. Rabbit grill some hot dogs and Maverick bought two 12 packs of Bud Light. We sat around talking, eating, and drinking until the sun went down. It was good company and it never rained. Quicksand is vlogging his journey and here’s a link to the video of this day.
Miles: 1843.7 – 1846.6 (2.9)