What a difference a day makes! Yesterday was the perfect day (more on that in another post). Today I am huddled with half a dozen people I’ve never met before in a hut at the top of a mountain avoiding even thinking of venturing outside.
Mt Washington is well known for having the most extreme weather in the United States and the highest wind speed ever recorded by man (230 mph). The difference between yesterday and today shows how fast it can change. Things can go from really good to really bad in no time.
It started during dinner with the clouds moving in and with them the wind picked up and the temperature started to drop. It continued overnight and we woke this morning to rain, 75 feet visibility, 40 degrees, and winds blowing at 40, gusting to 50 mph. Plus a chance of thunder storms. And conditions are supposed to get worse before they get better. Winds to 60mph are a possibility.
Conditions are considerably better below tree line and in the valleys. But the next section of the AT for me is above tree line in the White Mountains for another 12 miles. No protection and the trail is rough and rocky. It is hard enough to keep my balance on the rough trail without being buffeted by high winds.
The good news is I am safe and comfortable. I stayed last night at Lake of the Clouds Hut next to Mt Washington. This is not your typical AT shelter. The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) runs a dozen or so of these huts in New Hampshire and Maine. They are more of a lodge than a hut. Staying here includes dinner and breakfast. They have a small store with some snacks and gear items. Sleeping is in bunk rooms of 8-10 people and includes a mattress, pillow, and blankets.
It is an amazing service to offer so much in such remote locations. And they charge accordingly. $140 per night for very rustic conditions but very enthusiastic and dedicated work croo. I was happy to learn this morning that they have room for me here again tonight.
There were about 40 people staying here last night. The majority of them did leave this morning. Most of them heading straight down hill to safety. For them, in 20 minutes or so they will be below tree line and conditions will greatly improve for them. A few of today’s departures though were headed in the same direction I am going. One of them, "Hamp", who I first met in VT, just returned reporting on the conditions. He made it two miles up the trail but the winds were too much, regularly buffeting him 10 feet off the trail. And he lost his phone somewhere out there too. Glad he made it back safely.
Lake of the Clouds Hut on a nicer day.
Onward and northward,
Day number: 64
Miles hiked today: 0
AT miles completed: 954
AT miles to go: 1235
Average miles per day: 14.9