Day 12: September 15, 2014

Start (approx.): 3:15 am                 At last trailhead: 1:40 am          At truck: 2:30 am

4000 footers climbed: Waumbek (1:20 pm), Cabot (9:40 pm).

Miles hiked: 35.2

I am determined to be done today so my alarm is set at 3 am. I’m comfortably warm in my sleeping bag but when I start walking I need to wear every piece of clothing that I have. Just after leaving the parking lot I hear a noise and see a giant bull moose looking at me lit by my headlamp. I turn my head back into the direction I need to go and hope he doesn’t follow me.

Jefferson Notch road turns out to be a long downhill and I’m so very sleepy and cold. Around 5 am I decide to take an hour nap until it gets light and maybe a bit warmer as well. I happen upon sign on the left side of the road that says camp B, I go down the little trail for a bit and don’t even bother looking for an actual campsite. Something flat is good enough. I put down my Z-rest and crawl in my sleeping bag. Heaven!

At 6 am I get up again and continue the road walk. I turn onto a rail trail and follow that for a while until I get too fed up with the small rocks. I switch to the road and continue onto 115A and to the town of Jefferson. Along the way I chat with an older guy who is out walking as well, he’s a local and says this isn’t cold, I should come back in the winter. Hahaha.

I realize too late that I could have taken the cut off through the golf course but what’s an extra 1/2 mile at this point? I find the little road that leads up to the Starr King trail and I’m off climbing again. The trail is in good shape and I fly up the mountain. I’m listening to music and am getting a lot of anger out. Very interesting.

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I chat with an older couple at the view point of Mt Starr King and breeze on to Mt Waumbek. I’m going fast and am optimistic about the rest of the day! And then, after Waumbek, the trail goes to shit again. It’s overgrown and narrow, there are downed trees and it has slippery rocks and roots. And the best part is that some of the roots stick out but are hidden by the plants lining the overgrown trail. So what do I do? I trip and somehow manage to land with my left on a pointy stick hanging out on the left side of the trail. My right hand is already bruised from other minor falls (landing on the handle of the trekking pole will do that to you) so now both hands are in good shape. I dig out a band aid because I don’t want to get an infection and off I go again. I’m frustrated because I was feeling so good but with this slippery obstacle course of a trail I can’t maintain the speed I had. After summiting south, middle, and north Weeks peaks I’ve had it and on my way up Terrace mountain I’m having a verbal fight with climbing, peaks, never ending crappy trails… It’s a good thing nobody heard me. ; )

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In the morning it looked like it was going to be a decent day but on the Kilkenny ridge trail it’s gloomy. The temperature is such that it’s too hot to climb with my wind jacket on but too cold without it on the descents or when I take a short break. On, off, on, off…

After Terrace mountain it soon gets dark again and I get a message that Rich will meet me at Bunnel Notch. I’m looking forward to it because this forest in the dark is really starting to creep me out. We meet up and he’s all excited because I’m almost done. I’m excited too but keep thinking about the miles I’ll still have to hike to get down and to the trailhead. At the cabin on Cabot I’m all ready to call it the summit but then realize that’s not it, there is more hiking to do. Finally we reach the real summit where it’s dark and there are no views in any direction. Yay!!!! Done!!!

We have dinner at the cabin where there is a table to put my last noodle meal on. Bleh! My food bag only has two more pasta meals left and one tuna pouch. I really did need to finish today and I probably would’ve lost my mind if I hadn’t. ; )

I’m pathetic on the way down, I’m so tired and sleepy, I keep asking Rich how much further it is to the road. He suggests that we could set up camp and finish tomorrow. But that is out of the question. I may be pathetic but I’m not a quitter! I want to be done!

Since Rich parked at the Fish Hatchery gate I have an extra two miles of road walking to do to get to the truck but there are promises of chocolate cake and a motel room and the road miles goes by quickly.

I’ve been hiking for about 22 hours but I’m done!!!!

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And the next morning there was breakfast!!!!

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Day 11: September 14, 2014

Start (approx.): 6:30 am               Camp (approx.): 9:40 pm

4000 footers climbed: Madison (2 pm), Adams (4:35 pm), Jefferson (6:35 pm)

Miles hiked: 14.1 + 1 mile the wrong way

In the morning I discover that I had set my alarm for 5 pm and not 5 am when I wake up surprised to see it’s already 6 am! Today is going to have some rough terrain so I really wanted that extra hour. Ugh!

At least the last bit to the road is easy and then we have several miles of easy road walking to the Dolly Cop campground. Rich arranges for a shuttle to pick him up and reunite him with his truck and I head off in search of the Daniel Webster Scout trail. I don’t know much about this trail but remember reading notes that it was okay. I ask the older lady at the campground and she just repeats what she has been told by forest service. “It’s a difficult trail only to be attempted by experienced hikers”.  Well, at least it’s well marked and there are even some bathrooms near the trailhead. I meet two other hikers going up but they get started before me so I don’t see them again until they come back down near the top. A little ways up I get passed by a runner with trekking poles, you don’t see that too often.

The trail is actually really nice and gradual until it pops out of the woods and enters a big boulder section. The weather today is awesome. A bit chilly but sunny. This makes me so happy. I stash my poles and enjoy the boulder challenge. The first part isn’t marked very well. Some of the painted blazes have worn of a bit and the cairns don’t start til a bit further up. I just go in the direction of least resistance and find the pale blazes. Just below me I see a hiker with a dog who either can’t find the trail or decides the dog can’t do it because I don’t see him come up any further. The views from the boulder field are pretty good, I can see the Carters are still covered in fog and I’m glad I’m no longer there.

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More scrambling brings me to Madison where the wind makes it pretty chilly, it’s time to put some layers back on. Monkey Miles is having a tough time when he sees some of the cairns with rime ice. This is bringing back memories from the time he got stuck on Eisenhower in the winter and had to wait for rescue. In the meantime his left cheek got covered in rime ice. The poor fella.

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I can definitely tell that it’s a weekend and I’m in a popular area. There are lots of hiker here today. I stop in at the hut to get some water and when I exit I stupidly follow the sign that says Mt. Adams. I don’t remember this pretty lake from the last time I climbed Adams but my memory isn’t always the best so I continue on a bit. Somehow this trail doesn’t look as well travelled as I’m expecting it to be and when I look up I see this super steep trail which looks very unfamiliar. I finally pull out the map and realize I took the wrong trail. I now have the choice to continue on this trail or backtrack to the trail I wanted which I think would be easier. It feels like a waste of time but I decide to backtrack the 1/2 mile (or however far I got). I ask another hiker and he says the Star lake trail I’m currently on is pretty rough, he agrees that backtracking may be the better option. Grumble grumble. Well, at least I got a pretty picture out of it.

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I eventually get on the Gulfside trail and take the .6 mile rocky trail to the summit. I run into the hiker who took my photo at Madison and he went up the Star Lake trail and he tells me that the last part of that trail was almost technical bouldering. He makes me feel much better about abandoning that route. I move along quickly in the direction of Jefferson. This rocky terrain is slow enough as it is I can’t really linger. I can’t believe my husband enjoys doing double trans prezzi traverses. Going over this crap twice in one day? Why? ; )

Well, maybe because the views can be spectacular!

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I do linger a bit on Jefferson, I have to take some time to eat after all, and the views are simply amazing. I feel like I’m on top of Mt. Everest with the sea of clouds below me. Wow!

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I’m a little apprehensive about still being above tree line when it gets dark so I’m trying to move along but the sunset with the clouds is just so amazing I’m having trouble tearing myself away from it. Just one more picture…

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This is another trail I haven’t hiked before and it’s definitely a bit of a challenge to follow when the clouds rise up at the same time as it’s getting darker. I’m following cairns but when it gets completely dark and I’m in the fog I have to go back and forth a few times to find the marked route. At this point the ‘trail’ is actually a rock scramble with some short but steep sections of solid rock wall. I’m sure that during the day with a small pack this can be fun. I change the batteries in my headlamp to have the best view possible. At some point I drop my pack to scout out the route and only see the yellow blaze when I go back up towards my pack. I retrieve the pack and go down until I find another tricky section. It looks like the rock is worn from people hiking on it and I think I need to get down from this ledge. Okay, here I go! I grab onto a rock and put my feet on a small ledge. And then the unthinkable happens. My hand slips and my pack pulls me off the ledge. I’m falling backwards… All I can think is ‘Oh nooooo!’.

Luckily the very thing that pulled me backwards also breaks my fall. I fell a few feet down but land on the pack. I have to take it off to be able to get up. I’m definitely shook up, that could have been so bad! I feel incredibly lucky and stupid at the same time. What the hell was I thinking? I could have been dead!

I just sit there for a moment and wonder what to do. There really is no place to camp here and I really want to be done with this hike tomorrow but I do think about staying put for a moment. Then I pull myself together and find the route again. From then on I buttslide everything rocky. My long johns are torn to shreds by the end of it but I don’t care. I just want to get down safely.

I’m so relieved when I finally make it below tree line but I’m very tired. All the plans I had about road walking several miles tonight are gone. I just want to lay down. I make it to the trailhead and crawl under some trees. Enough for today.

Day 10: September 13, 2014

Start (approx.): 7 am             Camp (approx.): 12:30 am

4000 footers climbed: Wildcat D (10:30 am), Wildcat, Carter Dome (3 pm), South Carter, Middle Carter, Moriah (9 pm)

Miles hiked: 17.5 ?

Today is gloomy and uneventful but I have the company of my husband Rich (aka Greenleaf) which is always entertaining. The day starts out okay and we see one of the flags being raised on Wildcat which is pretty cool. After Carter Notch it turns into peasoup however so there are no views to be had on the ridge. It’s too bad because I rather enjoyed this hike in June. That is with the exception of the stupid rock slabs going down North Carter. They seem even worse this time around since they’re all wet. We’re both annoyed. It’s tempting to just stop at Imp shelter because it’s getting chilly too but I’m determined to summit Moriah and get off the ridge today. The weather and trail are less than ideal to be hiking in the dark but so be it. I want to be done with it! The 1.4 miles to Moriah seem to take forever and when we finally summit we get blasted off the peak, soooo cold! I manage to eat a snack at the summit junction but have to keep moving to keep myself from shivering.

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Going back down the exposed trail to turn onto the Stony Brook trail is challenging. The fog and darkness make us hunt for cairns and turns while at the same time we’re aware of being on a rock ledge with sheer drop offs. I’m definitely not enjoying this.

The Stony Brook trail is an unknown trail for both of us but it turns out to be pretty good. We manage to set up our two one person tents in a more or less flat area next to a stream crossing. They’re set up so we can wave at each other from our sleeping bags. : )

To make up for this dreary entry, here’s an example of what I make and sell to support my hiking addiction:

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Day 9: September 12, 2014

Start (approx.): 7:08 am            Camp (approx.): 1:21 am

4000 footers climbed: Jackson, Pierce, Eisenhower (11:20 am), Monroe, Washington (3:30 pm?), Isolation (8 pm)

Miles hiked: 22.7

It’s always harder to get up when the weather isn’t that great but I manage to get out of camp and go up Jackson. This part of the ridge is still in the clouds and it’s very gloomy. When the trail gets more exposed it gets down right cold. I have a turtle fur balaclava for a hat (last minute packing decision since my fleece buff had missed the last laundry cycle) and I’m so happy I have it! I even put my regular buff over it for extra warmth. My little mitts are invaluable as well. My camera doesn’t fare so well with the cold and dies when I’m trying to get my peasoup summit shot. The stormy weather is kind of cool but I’m ready for some sunshine after yesterday’s dreary weather and the forecast had said that it would be a beautiful day and sometimes it’s all about expectations.

Back at the camp site I pack up the wet tent and go in to the hut for water. I meet the same work for stay thru hiker I met yesterday at Zealand. He’s living the luxury life! : )

On I go over Pierce (pea soup) and on to Eisenhower. On Eisenhower it finally starts to clear a little bit. Hurray! I can see Washington! And an awesome undercast! On the descent I pass two hikers who recognize the Monkeys from the 4000 footer face book page and we chat for a bit. It was nice to talk to them because clouds had rolled back in and the weather was starting to get me down a bit. A little bit later the sun finally comes out for a bit and I decide to take advantage of it and dry my tent out while soaking up the view. I take some pictures with my phone and notice I have reception so I call Rich. He informs me that the family member, who said he wanted to hike with me and who I was planning on meeting at Lake of the Clouds, hiked to Monroe but then turned back. At this point the sleep deprivation gets the best of me and while I’m talking I’m starting to break down a little bit. I didn’t even look forward to hiking with this person that much but I have been hiking by myself for 8 days now and I’m tired and the weather has been a bit crappy. Sniffle.

Rich immediately goes in to Pie rescue mode (my trailname is Apple Pie) even when I tell him it’s not that big of a deal and I just needed a moment to work through it. I’ll be fine. His initial plan was to hike another double trans prezi tomorrow but he likes the weather forecast to be ideal and it’s not so instead he resolves to meet me and hike with me tomorrow. And eventhough I honestly would have been fine I won’t argue with my husband wanting to hike with me. As long as he doesn’t bring all kinds of good foods and eats them in front of my face. ; )

The tent is nice and dry now and I continue on to Monroe which is not that bad of a climb. Right before the top some hikers are coming down and ask me about the trail. They couldn’t find the trail continuing down the other side so were going back down the way they came. I tell them there is indeed a trail going down the other side and I’m planning on taking it. They need to end up at the hut so I offer to guide them there. It’s foggy again so it is a little bit harder to see but the trail is pretty obvious to me. They tag along and once I’m sure they won’t get lost I continue on while they take pictures of the occasional view. The hut lives up to its’ name and is in the clouds. I go inside and empty out my pack to repack it, the dry sleeping bag can go back into its’ regular spot in the bottom of the pack and I survey my food and take the time to eat a bagel with cheese. There are quite a few hikers here and I enjoy talking with them.

The croo is okay with me leaving the pack inside while I go tag Washington. It’s a glorious climb. I break through the clouds and it’s all sun, wonderful sun! On one side I look down on a sea of clouds and the other is clear. When I go up to tag the sign I hear some lady say that she can take a picture and email it later. That’s music to my ears. I ask her if she can do that for me too and sure enough she takes the picture and emails it right then and there. : ) I didn’t even bring my phone up because it kept dying because of the cold air but not having a picture of Washington would have been a bummer.

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After a bathroom break and a sip of water I go back outside and find another 4000 footer enthousiastically greeting me. He had read about the direttissima attempt and we’d met briefly before. So fun! He’s continuing on to Isolation as well but I have to go back to the hut to pick up my pack.

I fly down the trail, pick up the pack and continue on the Camel trail. I love this trail, it’s above tree line with good views and it’s usually pretty quiet. I pass a hiker with a big metal pole sticking out of his pack, he’s part of the crew that will raise flags tomorrow on all the 48 peaks to commemorate 9/11.

I stash the pack again at the junction of the Glen Boulder and Davis Path and go down the steep trail. Whenever I go down steeply like that on an out and back I can’t help but think about the way back up, that’s going to be tough! Climbing Isolation is easy and I’m soon on my up to the Glen Boulder trail again. I almost fall asleep on the way down to the trailhead but I make it.

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Day 8: September 11, 2014

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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

diretissima 028 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!

Day 7: September 10, 2014

Start (approx.): 6:18 am      Camp (approx.): 11:24 pm

4000 footers climbed: Whiteface (7:05 am), Passaconaway (9:15 am), Carrigain (8:45 pm)

Miles hiked: 24.8

In the morning it’s an easy hike up to Whiteface, I’m regretting not pushing on last night. This section is not confusing at all. On the way to Passsaconaway I have some peek a boo views of a glorious undercast and am trying to get some pictures but the sun glare is making it difficult. I scoop up some water near the first summit trail junction and continue on to the next. It’s .7 of  up and I’m cursing my leg once again. I’m excited to get to the first view point however and while I’m stretching I’m enjoying the awesome view. I have the Monkey’s in my dress again and the camera on my wrist and continue on to the actual summit. A sweet doggie walks up to me and the owner soon follows. I blab excitedly about the view on the other side and when I go back down I stop and admire it again. The other hiker doesn’t catch up and I wonder if she’s thinking I’m a crazy person who has to be avoided. ; )

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The hike down the Passaconaway cut off and Oliverian Brook trail goes smoothly. At the trailhead I take advantage of the sun and dry out my slightly damp sleeping bag. I also allow myself a good lunch break.

A quarter mile of road walking gets me to the easy Sawyer Pond trail. I take my shoes off for the ford near the trailhead since they’re nice and dry and I want to keep them that way. It’s a little chilly fording barefoot but it’s totally worth it. A small group of older backpackers is getting ready to cross back to the other side. They have crocs for fording. Nice! I point them towards the safest spot to ford and off they go. It’s knee deep but very slow moving better than the spot they were looking at earlier.

It’s getting a big muggy and I find a radio station to listen to and keep me going. I’m happy to find a small stream to wet my face and arms. At least that cools me off for a little bit. I’m dragging and it’s such easy trail. Ugh!

At Sawyer pond I enjoy the vista and there is a cool bird sunning it’s wings. The mile and a half to the road is super easy and then it’s off to Carrigain. I’m trying to find FR 85 to make a shortcut to meet up with the ridge trail but the only FR 85 I see seems to go in the wrong direction and is overgrown, I just continue on the Sawyer river road instead until I get to the trailhead. It’s an easy stretch of road and the Signal Ridge trail is very good trail. I’m flying up the mile and a half but when I hit the steeper section it seems to go on forever. It doesn’t help that’s it’s getting dark and foggy.

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I’m relieved to finally pop out on the exposed ridge, there are no views to be had and the foggy darkness is a little freaky, but at least I know I’m close to the top. When I finally get to the top the moon is so bright it is illuminating the undercast. I’ve never seen anything like it, so cool!

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I know the down hill on the other side is going to be tricky so I prepare myself to go slowly. It’s rocky and steep and after it  smoothes out a bit it’s still pretty darn steep. I didn’t remember that part. There aren’t a whole lot of places to camp along the way but I find a tiny spot wedged between the sign post and a small tree at Stillwater junction.

Day 6: September 9, 2014

Start (approx.): 6:34 am            Camp (approx.): 10:00 pm

4000 footers climbed: Tecumseh (9:45 am), North Tripyramid, Middle Tripyramid (4:45 pm?)

Miles hiked: 17.3

I road walk about a mile on Tripoli road to the mount Tecumseh trail. I understand now why most people climb Tecumseh from the other side, this side has a false summit which you have to descend before climbing up to the actual summit of Tecumseh. The views on Tecumseh are pretty good but I don’t linger and descend to the ski area. At a stream crossing I randomly meet Bob who manages the 4000 footer face book page. It’s fun to talk to someone who understands what I’m trying to do.

Once on the road I wonder if the ski trail I see going off to the left would be a shortcut to my trailhead but I’m not sure so I continue on the road. After turning left back onto Tripoli road I notice the ski trail again so yes, I could have saved myself 1/2 mile perhaps. Yesterday at the Greeley pond trailhead I saw notices about the Livermore trail being closed during the week for maintenance. I vaguely remember reading something about that but it’s too late now. I need that trail to get up to the Tripyramids. I’m hoping that after three months they’re mostly done with the work and will let me pass by. I feel a little apprehensive bypassing all the closed signs but plan on asking the first person I see what the situation is. It turns out this Livermore trail is just a gravel road and I never see anyone on it. Nonetheless I am very relieved when I get to the junction with the Scaur Ridge trail. I walk a little bit further and reward myself with an actual lunch break and cook pasta. The Scaur Ridge trail is a good trail and before I know it I reach the junction with the Pine Bend Brook trail and I’m on the ridge to the Tripyramids. There is some slabby crap trail there but nothing as bad as the slide on the way to the Kate Sleeper trail. Thank goodness it only lasts for a very short time. I’m not a fan of slides with a full pack on. After an initial rocky start the Sleeper trail is very nice an easy. I make good time until I go down the Downes Brook trail because I didn’t see the junction in the dark. I was focusing on staying on trail (it was a rocky section) and was so glad I was on a trail that I didn’t question if I was on the right trail. This is one of the few trails I haven’t hiked yet and I wish I had because I wouldn’t have wasted so much time and energy going down hill and finally figuring out that it didn’t line up with the route on the map. Back up I go and now I do see the junction sign. I vaguely remember Rich saying something about a tricky section coming up and not wanting to get lost I decide to find a place to camp here. Rich has told me there are nice campsites here. I can’t find them in the dark. Needless to say, I’m quite frustrated.

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