A view of Madison Springs Hut on the way up Mt. Madison. A group of nurses who treated Wood Frog's head-butting scar were on their way up Mt. Adams, next door.
The only thing harder on your feet than climbing mountains is descending mountains. Particularly when the descent is largely hopping from rock to rock. To avoid the day-long journey to the land below treeline, the first thing we did was summit Mt. Madison via the Osgood Trail, which is also the way of the Appalachian Trail.
I've read Bill Bryson's book A Walk in the Woods, and there are stretches of the Gulfside and Osgood Trails that left me scratching my head as to how the self-described hapless Bryson traversed the rock fields. You do indeed pass people of all shapes and sizes in the Whites.
The Wood Frog prefers to do his hopping above treeline. Since our trip, he has been back to the Whites and stayed in Lakes of the Clouds hut with his daughter Olivia. You simply can't bring him down to sea level at times (seen at left on the summit of Mt. Madison), which makes for a great hiking attitude.
The last day's descent was the foot killer for me, despite lacing the Hardrocks tight and sporting two pairs of socks. Osgood shoots over to the Madison Gulf Trail, which put us onto delicious wooded single-track with falls and stream crossings, and I bolted down the trail, in part to redeem myself for being slower on the rocky downhill early.
The stream crossings were highlighted by an awesome swinging bridge, followed by more twists and turns through the woods. We hit the Old Jackson Road (the self-same road we did our trail run after arriving at Pinkham) after 4 hours on the trail.
We both remembered the speed of the pack-less run, and somewhat remembered the trail.
"Think we can do it in under half-an-hour?" posed the Wood Frog.
"I don't know, man, we've got packs on this go-round." Note to self: if you lean downhill with a pack on your back, it is akin to a rolling boulder picking up steam. We trucked down Jackson, arriving at Pinkham Notch 25 minutes later, with nary a drop of water left between us. Total time on trail for the day was 4 hours, 25 minutes, total distance covered was 7.8 miles. Pack weigh in showed a net loss of 7-ish pounds (water and food), giving the Frog a 23-ish pound load, and Tucks 16-ish.
The three-day fastpacking odometer reads 32 miles (plus 4 trail running), a couple summits; food consumed in Lakes, Mizpah, and Madison Huts; and one of the greatest pay-by-the-minute showers known to hikers at the Pinkham Visitor Center.
That's the short version chronology of the White Mountain adventures of Tuckerman and Wood Frog, now complete online. There has been much introspection since, and several threads followed, but those will make for another tale.
After taking about a week off of running, due to some Achilles tendon pain from the hills and rocks, I resumed running with a 13-mile slow run up St. Michaels Road this past Sunday. Though therapeutic to legs unaccustomed to altitude and mountains, Route 33 needs the assistance of an i-pod to jazz it up. The soundtrack of the Whites is not something that you can download from i-tunes.