Some time ago I noticed several posts in a online women’s hiking group about wanting to go out backpacking but having no or limited experience. I thought it would fun and rewarding to take a group out and help them feel more comfortable to stay out overnight. I planned a beginners group and got a request for an intermediate as well.
The beginners group consisted of five women ranging in age from fourteen to late forties. I chose a mellow route of about four miles to the Eliza Brook shelter. Getting to the trail head was a little rough and we parked in the lot just before the actual trailhead because I knew there were big rocks at the turn off. Rachel was running late and I was afraid she wasn’t going to make it but she pulled in just as we were ready to get started. I don’t doubt she would have caught up to us being a pretty speedy hiker but having her with us from the start was much better. This being in the White Mountains there were of course a few steeper inclines but everyone did great. It seemed that all the ladies had looked at the pack list I had put together before hand and nobody was carrying a monster pack which is always helpful. I only had to give out one virtual penalty to Emma, the teenager, who was wearing a cotton t-shirt. Thankfully she did have other layers with her which were non cotton so we didn’t have to fire her from the group. We had one decent view on the ridge and just as we were about to take a group shot a gentleman walked by. We jokingly asked him to join in our picture and he totally seized the opportunity to photo bomb our shot. So funny.
When we arrived at the shelter we set up our tents on the group tent platforms, it was cozy but we fit them all in. Initially I had planned for those interested to go up to South Kinsman to tag a 4000 footer but the weather wasn’t great and it turned to drizzle and rain soon after we got to the shelter. Here’s where Laura and Dolores came in, our two social members of the group. They kept conversation going and Laura asked questions like which musical artist we would choose to listen to if we were stranded on a deserted island and had to pick just one. Other entertainment was provided by Appalachian Trail hikers stopping in for a break and others stopping here for the day as well. Most were fun to talk to but one of them was terse and later wrote in the shelter register that he stopped in to hear the sewing circle cackle. We thought this to be rather rude.
After dinner we continued chatting for while and figured out that the older man in the shelter wasn’t ignoring us on purpose, he just couldn’t understand us. Thanks to Veronica we found out he’s from Spain and hiking the AT. She had a nice conversation with him in Spanish while I added my lame basic phrases I remembered from college. Two other guys came in and decided to stay in the shelter for the night. They were very nice and changed our name from cackling sewing circle to Team Ovarian Steel. That sounded much more hard core, we liked it!
In the morning we were all happy to see that our gear held up in the rain and after breakfast we headed back down the trail. The down hill and creek crossings were no problem for anyone and we were back at the trail head in no time. The first overnight was a success! : ) (and no, we didn’t know we were all going to wear aqua shirts lol!)
The intermediate overnight was this past weekend and ended up just being my friend Anna who I had invited for fun and my facebook friend Rachel who I hadn’t hiked with yet but I knew she was a strong hiker. Rachel was the only one who hadn’t backpacked before so both Anna and I were telling her what stuff she could take out of her pack and leave in my car. I knew the two of them were strong hikers who could probably walk circles around me so I picked a redline for me and a challenging AT section for them. We were going to climb Goose Eye mountain and then hike the so called ‘hardest mile on the Appalachian Trail’, the Mahoosuc Notch. We were impressed with the view from the Outlook on the way up the Success Trail and had a nice break there.
We continued on but took it easy and chatted up a storm. Before we knew it we were on the ridge and our ascent mellowed out a bit. I was sweating buckets because it was so hot and grabbed some emergency water along the way, it’s a fairly dry ridge but we found some water next to a bog bridge. I was happy when we found a better source a bit further on and I could dump the giant piece of moss that was floating in my bottle.
We climbed up to Goose Eye Mountain using ladders and metal rungs and again had amazing views! We’re so lucky! We only saw one hiker on the trail the entire day, and its pretty quiet at the shelter site.
At the Full Goose shelter we set up on the group site platform. Well, the girls did, I was too lazy and slept out. It didn’t seem too buggy but it only takes one buzzing insect to drive me crazy. Luckily the buzzing stopped and I slept well. In the morning Rachel tested out the different sleeping pad options and we discussed the pros and cons of hammocks and the different types of tents. After the luxurious morning coffee we set off to scramble through the Notch. We saw a several AT hikers and a few section hikers that day and had fun negotiating the boulders and caves. There was still some ice left which made it nice and cool for such a hot day.
We had a leisurely lunch at a stream, made sure to hydrate and started up the Mahoosuc Arm. We took our time and chatted away and before we knew it we were on top! After that we took the May cutoff and headed down the Speck pond trail back to Anna’s car.
It was so much fun hiking with all these ladies, I may have to make this a yearly tradition. And I’ll definitely hope some of this years’ participants will join me again, or organize their own trips. : )