Day 161: Mahoosuc Notch

Day 161

September 22nd

Carlo Col Shelter to Speck Pond Shelter

Miles Hiked: 9.5

AT Milage: 1920.2

Today I woke up around 7:30 and got on trail at 9am. I sat around talking to the other hikers at camp. There were a lot of NOBOs and I was excited. My body was very sore so I wasn’t in a rush to get hiking. I wanted to give it a little extra time to get ready for a tough day. The first part of the day I spent traversing the exposed alpine peaks of goose eye mountain. There were a few bogs on top and I tested them to see how deep they were with my trekking poles and they sank in pretty deep! The ups and downs were extremely steep and required some ladder climbing. Finally about 4 miles in I got to take a break at a shelter where I talked to some other hikers including Doc, Sponge, and Great Fish.After the shelter, I began a downhill descent into Mahoosuc Notch where the “hardest mile” of the AT begins. The descent was pretty slow going for me. I was constantly bracing myself against my trekking poles in order not to hurt my knees. When I finally arrived at the Notch I was greeted by the enormous pile of boulders I was expecting. I didn’t have fun in the Notch at all. I think my biggest mistake was attempting it alone. I put my trekking poles on the back of my pack and began to weave through the maze. The boulders were so big that I had to pull myself up and over then using my arms. I had to scan the field carefully for the next white blaze. Sometimes when I couldn’t find it I had to guess which way the “trail” went. When I went the wrong way I would often run into a boulder so high there was no way I could go over or jump off of it to the other side or a crack so small I couldn’t squeeze my pack through. It was a puzzle. The Notch had a very cool temperature in some places just like a cave. There were many deep dark chasms in between the rocks that I tried not to imagine myself falling into and getting stuck. Scenes of Aragog’s (the enormous spider) lair from Harry Potter were running through my head. I also thought about how easy it would be to get stuck in one of the holes or wedged between a tight crack like the movie 127 hours. Clearly I made it through just fine but I felt a little traumatized after spending almost two hours navigating that nightmare. At some point about halfway through I realized my phone was no longer in my pocket. I panicked for a second before putting on my headlamp and going back through all the boulders and small caves peering into all the dark holes looking for it. Luckily enough I found it sitting neatly on a ledge. Besides bouldering, the notch required some small cave crawls. I was originally nervous about it but once I crawled inside them I felt better. The thing that sucked about them was having to pull my pack through since I wouldn’t fit with it on my back. My pack was so heavy I took out my food bag and miscellaneous bag and carried them through separately before taking my whole pack in. I felt like I hurt my back by awkwardly trying to drag it.When I reached the other side of the Notch, I was so relieved. I sat down for a half an hour and ate some food before continuing on. I felt a little traumatized. My next challenge was to climb Mahoosuc Arm. I wasn’t expecting much of the climb after navigating the awful notch but I was surprised! The Arm was so steep if it was slightly steeper I thought someone could bolt it for a sport climbing route. It was crazy. So many people had hiked up the dirt on the side which was completely erroding the trail. If I had to choose between breaking a limb or killing myself vs causing errosion, I would choose erosion like the tons of hikers before me. I couldn’t believe how dangerous and unsustainably built the trail was. I can’t blame people for not wanting to get hurt. I have no idea how someone would do this section in the rain. Finally I reached the summit where I enjoyed the view of the previous and future climbs ahead of me. To end the day I descended into Speck Pond Shelter. It was large, new, and beautifully built. Hanging from the rafters was a pair of rock rings. All I could do was laugh at them after a day spent doing more rock climbing than hiking. For some reason I decided to use them and see if I could squeak out a pull up. I was happy to find that I still could but very disappointed to see how much upper body strength I have lost (as expected). Happy Trails!

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