Great day of riding 320 miles ( motorcycle) into the great White Mountains of New Hampshire. I left the house at 9:30 AM and figured I had to put down 150 miles if I were to make lunch with my infamous Appalachian Trail friend, and increasingly famous Vermont trail angel, Bad Influence. I didn’t think we’d do much standing around:
I was there earlier than BI. had already bought myself a pair of hiking shorts for the new season. I wanted another pair of Pearl Izumi’s, like I had for most of the AT thru hike last year. They would have made it all the way, but I tore a huge rip in the ass end exiting the outhouse at the Secret Shelter, in New York. I ended up stitching it back together with dental floss and a needle, but it was basically reduced to a dirty rag by Vermont, so I threw it away. Actually, my wife STRONGLY suggested I throw them out.
I called out to BI as I was exiting the Dunkin’ Donuts with a turbo cup o’ Joe. We went back to the bikes. I wanted a photo commemorating the event. I asked a wiry guy with no shirt who was walking across the lot if he would mind taking our picture.
“No way, man, I don’t do nothin’ with cameras. But my old lady will take it for ya.”
Then I recognized him from being right in front of me in line at the Dunkin’.
” Hey, aren’t you the guy who just asked for 15 sugars and 10 milks in your coffee ?” I asked him.
“Yup, he said, that’s me !”
BI and me have similar, simple needs. Coffee, and the nearest food available. To our thinking, its all good. We hoofed it over to the 99 Restaurant right next door. We had sandwiches, fries, beer and caught up on all the old and some of the new news. It took us all of 5 minutes to be back in a great zone. Mojo working today.
We had planned to make this lunch together, each some 150 miles apart, as an excuse to ride our motorcycles and to hang out a bit, so we mopped up the table and rode North for a while. Soon, I saw huge snowfields up above treeline in the Presidential Range straight ahead.
BI and I stopped at the edge of a parking lot where Rt. 302 goes left and RT. 16 winds straight up through PInkham Notch. We sat by a bridge near a river a while, before we each went our separate ways: Bad Influence back to the greening hills of central Vermont, and me to the Lincolnville, Maine hills and shores. It was peaceful watching the water flowing by, and the discarded cans and paraphenalia at our feet signaled that this has been a traditional party spot for more than one gathering.
As I fired up the big twin and threaded my way uphill and north, I soon realized that I was riding directly toward Mt. Washington. How did I recognize it? Well, how about the half dozen communication towers, the bowling ball shape of the summit, and black sooty smoke belching out of the Cog Railway, coal-fired, steam-engined locomotive. It was thrilling to see it again like this, now against the snow. I enountered no cars on the road at all. The temperature was dropping, but up ahead was a huge number of cars lined the sides of Rt. 16 and filled all the lots at Pinkham Notch. Then it hit me. These guys are all skiing or snowboarding down Tuckerman’s Ravine! It’s free, but you have to hike up for every run. Sheesh!
As I passed the AMC’s Pinkham Notch site, I realized the AT crossed right here, where last August, I went vertical , over 3,000 feet of ascent, into The Wildcats, A-E , a series of successive peaks that were a bitch to get up and over.
I remember the day well. It was a Sunday, August 15th. It was grey, looked like rain, and I had just spent a Nearo (not quite a whole day of mostly doing nothing) at my sister-in-law’s near Conway, NH. The wind was fierce, and cold, even with me climbing steadily and under significant exertion levels. I was alone, and remembered that it was a tough day for me. It sure was. I looked up my Trailjournals.com entry for that day and this is all that I had written ( I had fewer than five days out of six month’s backpacking where I ended up too tired or cold to write) :
” 305.9 miles to go to Katahdin. Too late and much too cold up here to write. Will hope for easier end time tomorrow – Uncle Tom ”
But today I was tearing right on by these big guys, with the throttle rolling all too smoothly and effortlessly. It was glorious. I had The Soundtrack thumping inside the speakers I had installed in the interior of my motorcycle helmet I still saw no cars at all all the way up to Route 2, where I turned right , made short work of Gorham, NH , and headed back into Northern Maine. I also crossed the AT a few miles west of Gorham, where it heads into Maine , just two days later. As I went by the Trail again outside of Gorham, NH , I felt my heart skip like the needle on a record player. I now know why people who thru-hike return to one of those parking lots someday to shell out , some of them, what ends up being thousands of dollars worth of burgers, hot dogs, and cold drinks to the current pilgrims of The Big Walk.
I tried to take Rt 113 south back over Evans Notch, but was blockd by a gate across the road halfway up. Still snowed in. They don’t plow here in winter.
World’s Largest Snow Woman. It shrunk just a bit, and at the record breaking moment, was 122 feet tall!
It was a couple of more hours on increasingly cold riding before I finally made it home before 6 PM. The thermometer outside my house was at 48 degees when I got here. I was chilled to the core. I fire up the wood, and hung out some 6 feet away from it the rest of the evening, reading about Thoreau’s own illuminating trip to Mount Katadhin.
Another successful pilgrimage at The Church of Two Wheels.