START: Pinkham Notch, NH
FINISH: Kinsman Notch, NH
DISTANCE: 70.4 miles* (see Choices below) (113.3 km)
DAILY AVERAGE: 14.1 miles (22.7 km)*
TOTAL DISTANCE: 389 miles (625.9 km)
A sign just east of Lake of the Clouds hut in the White mountains reads as follows:
The area ahead has the worst weather in America.
Many have died there from exposure, even in the summer.
Turn back now if the weather is bad.
“No shit”, I grumbled, as I was buffeted by yet another 70 to 80 mile an hour blast of wind and rain courtesy of Hurricane Sandy. Drenched to the bone, colder than a shylock’s heart and not exactly a happy hiker, I took refuge in the emergency shelter located beneath the shut-for-the-season Lake of the Clouds Hut. Known appropriately as the “Dungeon” (see photos below) in fine weather this dark, dirty and dank cesspit wouldn’t rate a second look, however, under the circumstances I would not have been any happier had I just checked in to the Presidential Suite at the Waldorf Astoria.
My disposition was significantly improved when within ten minutes, I had removed my wet clothing, gotten under my quilt and made some hot chocolate. I called the AMC for an update on Sandy’s movements as well some advice from people who know these trails a lot better than yours truly. At first I was thinking of descending immediately via Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, however once my core temperature had returned to normal levels, I decided to go a little further along the ridge and descend to Crawford Notch via the Crawford Trail.
*Choices: Due to Hurricane Sandy I took the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and the Crawford Trail, route choices which equated to 13 or 14 miles less than the official AT between Pinkham and Crawford Notches (Note: The stats listed above reflect the official trail distance, which I have left for no other reason that it makes future calculations simpler). Due to the extreme weather conditions both decisions were no-brainers. Above tree line in the Whites is not the place you want to be for any longer than you have to during a hurricane.
Beardoh & Sweet Pea: During my days in the Whites I had the good fortune of spending time with thru hiker friends Beardoh and Sweet Pea (see photo below). Besides putting me up at their home during the worst of the storm, this wonderful couple shuttled me back and forwards to the White Mountains trailheads (i.e. Crawford, Franconia and Kinsman Notches) which allowed me to dry out in between drenchings. Thanks again, guys, for all of your kindness and amazing hospitality. Best of luck for your 2013 mega tandem trike odyssey and 2014 CDT thru hike.
Aero-blazing?!: If only I had packed my umbrella, I may have been able channel my inner ‘Mary Poppins’ and “aero blaze” (i.e. take an aerial route rather than the ho-hum white blazed official route) on the wings of Hurricane Sandy all the way across the Whites to Glencliff. Indeed, just to complete the picture, I could simultaneously belt out a “Spoonful of Sugar (makes the medicine go down)”, or better yet an AT version of the tune……..perhaps “a handful of trail mix makes the hiker head to town”………..I think I may be starting to lose it………
Accents: Speaking of Mary Poppins has there ever been a worse accent in cinematic history than Dick Van Dyke’s turn at a Cockney chimney sweep? Maybe James Coburn’s Aussie accent in The Great Escape (one of my favourite movies) or Richard Gere’s attempt at an Irishman in The Jackal?