Start (approx.): 4:30 am Camp (approx.): 11:30 pm
4000 footers climbed: Mt Hale (10:30 am), Mt Tom (3:25 pm), Mt Field (4:35 pm), Mt Willey (5:30 pm)
Miles hiked: 25.8
I had heard a weather forecast that predicted rain starting at 5 am and I hate packing up a wet tent so I set my alarm for 4 am. Sooo early! But I eat my breakfast biscuits and get up. The Stillwater ford is a rock hop and the Shoal Pond trail is fairly easy to follow. There are a few stream crossings but nothing sketchy and the trail itself is fairly flat but it’s definitely in need of maintenance. There are a lot of downed trees I have to step over and it’s a bit overgrown.
It’s starting to get light out before I hit Shoal Pond but the day is very gloomy and drizzly. I eat a snack at the pond and am thinking it feels like early winter. Soon after I’m on my favorite trail in the Whites. The Ethan Pond trail! It’s follows an old railroad bed and is flat!!! I love it!
At Zealand Falls hut I chat with one of the hut croo and some late thru hikers just heading out after a work for stay. I guess it’s still fairly early eventhough I’ve already covered 7 miles. : ) I leave my backpack on the porch and finally set out to summit Hale. I don’t know why but I’m really dreading this trail. I think I just have issues dealing with mud at this point. It really isn’t a hard trail to hike and luckily it turns out not that muddy this time around. At the top I have one of those moments where I get totally swept up in the stormy weather, the wind is fierce and I’m loving it! Nature’s force is awesome!
I get back down fairly quickly and pick up my pack. I chat some with wind battered and soaked thru hikers, they were on the more exposed trail around Guyot, thankfully I had the trees protect me so I’m relatively dry. On my way to the A-Z trail I pass some hikers with big packs and one even carries a tent in his hands. I’m glad my pack is finally getting lighter. I’m not looking forward to hiking Mt Tom, Field, and Willey. The overgrown wet trail is soaking my rain clothes and I’ll have to go up and down and up and down to the peaks and then repeat for the last two since it’s an out and back. The views are total pea soup until the last time I go up to Field. The sky is opening up a bit and I can see some glimpses of a sunset.
I’m hoping it will clear completely but when I rejoin the A-Z trail there is another short rain shower. I’m feeling good energy wise and love the Crawford Path so decide to continue to Nauman Campsite. It shouldn’t be that hard in the dark and I can just tag Jackson in the morning.
Trails always seem longer in the dark and the higher I get the more miserable the weather is. The higher elevations are in the clouds and so are the last two miles to Nauman and it’s pretty breezy too. Once I get to the hut I have some trouble locating the campsite but I do find a skunk walking around with its’ tail in the air. Yowza! I backtrack to make sure this is the way to the site (I’ve never stopped here before) and sure enough it is. Back to the skunk I go! It’s now near the food area and thankfully, tail in the air, walks off. I pass the two group platforms and am kind of hoping to find a platform with some dirt around it because I don’t know how to set up my tent on a platform. I dead end at a site with a barking dog and don’t see any of the other platforms. The dog woke up the owners and I feel bad but I ask them where the other platforms are. It’s 11 pm and I’m so confused. They direct me back and I finally spot another platform. I really have to set up my tent because we’re in a wet cloud, oh boy, how am I going to do that? I figure I can tie the front string to a tree and I stake the two front stakes in the ground. But how to stake out the rest of it? My regular titanium stakes won’t work but I’m also carrying some others that are big enough to wedge between the wooden slats. It’s not a great set up but the front part is tall enough for me to sleep in and not touch the tent fabric. I push my empty back pack to the back to keep the fabric up a bit more and have my water bottle and food bags propping up the corners. I eat some breakfast cookies while I’m arranging things and somehow lose track of where they are. I find them in the morning soggy and underneath my sleeping bag. Doh!