Day 133 – Wednesday, July 20: The Dungeon, Lake of the Clouds to Stealth Camp (Pinkham Notch), 15.0 miles, 1,869.7 total AT miles.

We must’ve fallen asleep by 8:00pm last night – we were that tired. I woke early at 5:30am and ran outside and upstairs into the hut to use the bathroom. It was freezing outside and completely socked in with grey clouds.

I entered the Dungeon as quietly as I could and started packing up – Greyhound woke when she heard me stirring. We were up and ready to go by 6:30am. We briefly went upstairs and chatted with Black Santa. Part of his WFS was helping out after breakfast in the morning – he wouldn’t be getting back on trail for another two hours. We made plans to meet a Pinkham Notch fifteen miles north.

Greyhound and I set off into the cold. The wind was brutal – it was easily in the mid-30s. At least our packs were light. Our massive resupply we each purchased with Medicine Man had dwindled down to next to nothing. We set off into the cold wind.

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The hiking was tough. Neither of us were in a good mood. Here we were, freezing on the top of mountain, in late July. Despite the arctic temperatures, we hiked quickly, trying to keep warm. On our way to the summit, we ran across three hikers breaking camp from behind a stone windbreak. They were turned away from LOC last night and had to find shelter at 6,000 feet.

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They claimed to be doing fine – Greyhound and I would in fact end up leapfrogging them all day. At 8:30am, we reached the summit of Mount Washington. We tried to climb the pile of stones and boulders at the summit, but the winds quickly forced us down. After nearly falling backwards due to a wind gust, Greyhound sped off. She was done with this weather.

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We started our descent of Washington, slowly peeling off layers as we lost elevation. We hit the Mount Clay and Mount Jefferson bypass trails by 10:30am.

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I turned and watched a beautiful lenticular cloud form over Mount Washington, now almost five miles behind us.

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We pushed forward on the rocky terrain. While the skies had cleared and the temperature had risen, the wind was still fiercely howling. We stopped in at the Madison Spring Hut and were treated to free (cold) oatmeal and raisins. We quickly ate and pressed on. We hiked along the exposed ridge, eventually making our way over Mount Madison and beginning our descent into Pinkham Notch.

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Greyhound fell into a bush on the way down – she was fine (it was actually pretty funny). Today was just not her day. We eventually make the seven miles down Madison into Pinkham Notch by 5:00pm – not bad time on the day considering what we traversed this morning.

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Black Santa was waiting for us at the bottom – apparently, he left LOC earlier than expected and passed us while we were taking a break. There were a lot of section and day hikers mulling about the parking lot. We were approached by two girls Greyhound and I had met as we descended the mountain. They offered us a ride towards town so we could resupply.

Turns out, we went the wrong way. Instead of heading towards a town with multiple restaurants and resupply options, we found ourselves in a small grocery store next to a Dairy Queen. The three of us resupplied as best we could before heading over to the DQ to buy ice cream and dinner.

As I exited the store, I caught up with Black Santa and Greyhound – they had secured us a ride. She was waiting in the DQ parking lot. Fifteen minutes later, we found ourselves back at Pinkham Notch. We crossed the highway and entered the woods, quickly finding a suitable campsite maybe .2 miles away from the notch and visitor’s center.

I made camp and ate DQ fried chicken – it was delicious. I even saved some for breakfast. Black Santa hung out with another hiker we had been running across and I spoke privately with Greyhound.

This hike had gotten very hard, very fast. We were originally planning an ambitious August 5th finish date, but the difficulty of the Whites had blown our schedule out of the water. We both had flexibility however – our dates were totally arbitrary after all. I wanted to finish this thing in less than five months. That’d mean I’d be summiting Katahdin on August 9th – that became our new arbitrary finish date. Black Santa was still leaning closer to the Aug 5th date.

Greyhound and I also looked at the elevation profile for the weeks ahead. Things didn’t look to get any easier for quite some time, we’d still be in big mountains for at least another week.

I went to bed extremely tired. My feet were starting to hurt again.

* * *

I checked the bottoms of my Montrails and the grip is nearly all worn off. I’ve been having a lot of trouble slipping lately and never even dreamed it could be my trail runners that were only two weeks old. I can’t believe that I’m back in the market for new shoes.

Author: Chris Kummer

Hey y'all - Cool Dad here. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to thru-hike the AT. It remained a nagging thought for nearly a decade - then it got loud enough to warrant my attention. So I quit my unfulfilling job(s) in Seattle and commenced hiking north from Springer in the spring of 2016. And I'm exceedingly thankful I did. The people I met, the things I saw, the gross foods I ate - not a day goes by without fondly remembering life on the trail. If you've already thru-hiked a long trail, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're thinking about tackling a long-distance hike, do it. Do it now. I'm probably gonna do it again...

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