Mornings at Mizpah begin with song, grub, then a weather report to get you on yer way. The dude with the raisins in his hand looks hungry. Photo by Wood Frog.
Water, food, shelter/rest, and weather. Those factors dictate the rhythm of life above and below treeline in the Whites, on the AT, or any sustained outdoor adventure. Trekking through the White Mountains, hikers are lucky to have a series of full-service huts, run by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). You can refuel and stockpile knowledge on each of said factors, which is what the plan was as we popped out of the woods to Mizpah Springs Hut.
The cats that man the huts are truly remarkable folks--a gauge against which I will probably measure customer service for the rest of my life. The huts are a study in conservation, self-reliance, and community. Toilets are composting, energy/refrigeration are fueled by propane tanks, supplies are hiked in and trash hiked out by the "croo." There are no napkins--that would mean more trash. Lights are out at 9:30 p.m., and you will be waking up to songs at 6:30 a.m.
We had the great fortune of having an "all-alum" croo, return to their posts from the mid-1990s, from their new roles as teachers, parents, etc. They were riotously funny, helpful, accommodating beyond belief. As we were getting ready for dinner, they announced we had an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker with us, who was working in exchange for food and bed, and who would talk about his south-bound journey after grub.
Turns out that "Woody," was the happy hiker who cruised by us on Crawford. Talking to him, he had a wonderful simplicity to his approach. He had a modest budget he was sticking to; he gave himself six months to get from Maine to Georgia, and he carried nothing he didn't absolutely need with him, including opting for no tent. He mentioned he was from Texas and that he started in Maine with a friend, who was now a day or two behind him.
W: "I'm thinking of stopping for a week or so around Washington, D.C., to visit with my grandparents, who live in Maryland."
MV: "Sounds like a sweet plan. Where do they live in Maryland?"
W (looking doubtful): "It's just a small town on the Eastern Shore, I doubt you would know it."
MV: "Try me, you might be surprised."
W: "St. Michaels."
MV: "No sh#$!"
Turns out Woody (above, real name James Woodring. You can follow his AT adventures in his online trail journals by clicking on his name) knows and digs the Maritime Museum, and is actually more than casually interested in the boatbuilding apprentice program at CBMM. Remind me to expense the trip to the Museum--apprentice recruiting.
Dinner featured the best split-pea and ham soup known to humans; bunk arrangements featured the most musi-comical snoorer (a woman) ever heard; and breakfast was carb-a-licious, followed by a weather report, and the veteran croo pulling off a skit complete with the rare Chinese blanket folder.
It's not the Village People, it's da Croo! I am almost afraid to comment farther. Photo by Wood Frog.
So that's interlude one, and puts the number of story installments at about four now. The morning of August 1 called for great weather, and we lined up our longest day of the trip. We asked around, but didn't get the full scoop on the Dry River Trail, cutting through the Dry River Wilderness, care of the Dry River Falls, which sounded worth the roundabout route. We had no idea what we were getting into, how long a day it was going to be, or the different terrain we would encounter, and certainly not the soon-to-be compulsion to crank out fast miles for food. All that and more, in the next chapter of the Adventures of Tuckerman and Wood Frog... TO BE CONTINUED