NEW HAMPSHIRE: THE PRE-WHITES

Vermont/New Hampshire stateline to NH 25A (North side of Mt. Cube)
Miles 1,746-1,780
 

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Looking north toward Smarts Mountain.

Walking into town after dark is not the most ideal situation, and I would’ve certainly arrived earlier had I not hiked thirty miles that day, while striving for thirty the next. This pace, however, wouldn’t last because I realized that, although there are two more long-distance trails to hike this year, hiking, or death-marching, is not the way I wanted to spend the last few hundred miles. Having crossed the Vermont/New Hampshire stateline, I wanted to enjoy the remaining 450 miles. For me, the mountainous terrain of New Hampshire and Maine is the cherry on top for a northbound thru-hiker, it’s what we’ve all been looking forward to. So what’s the rush? Plus its hard terrain! Seeing that Colorado, and the trail along the Continental Divide in Colorado is buried beneath snow right now, I can take a little extra time here to enjoy this cherry.

But before I’d embrace this realization, I was, by all means, reeling Maine in, and fast. In a normal setting, I could push big mile days through these states. It would take long, hard-working days. Starting in the dark, ending in the dark. And that’s how I hiked from Hanover, NH to the north side of Mt. Cube, which I’d later nickname Mount Ice Cube. And that’s all I needed to realize that nope, a death-march would not be in my future.

I have to say, I am so grateful to the timing of this all, because you will soon read in the next post, that had I not made it into the heart of the White Mountains exactly when I did, had I not hiked most of Vermont at a very fast pace, I wouldn’t have arrived in the Whites, and specifically the Presidential Range, when the weather was crystal-clear blue and in the high 60’s. I wouldn’t have experienced this section of trail that can be described as noting short of extraordinary.

I have my own drive to thank for that, but also Legend’s, whose younger, male-ego drive was contagious. Sadly, he has been on a death-march since the beginning of the Whites, and after crossing paths with him at the bottom of Mount Ice Cube, I’m sure that I won’t see him again until crossing paths on the Continental Divide Trail. I will miss his company, no doubt. (Legend is hiking the Calendar Triple Crown too, and has chosen to hike the PCT next. I like the idea, and the storyline, of hiking east to west and therefore will hike the CDT next, despite another big snow year).

So, after a long day out of Hanover, I was driven to reach a particular road crossing, at which point I’d have a reunion with an ol’ hiking friend I met back on the PCT in 2007. Apple Pie would have to wait until the morning, as would all the glutinous food she’d spoil me with, as I had two sturdy climbs ahead. Smarts Mountain, 3,230 feet, and Mt. Cube, Mount Ice Cube, 2,911 feet. And both were topped with a sneak peak of what was to come: ice.

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Yes, those are rock steps leading to a rebar ladder that leads, well, straight into ice.

As I descended down from Mount Ice Cube in the dark, I used branches and roots to aid me down, swinging like Tarzan at times. I wore a pair of Vargo Titanium Pocket Cleats and realized that these were completely insufficient for the terrain that I was up against. Fortunately, Apple Pie would have a set of Black Diamond climbing crampons waiting for me at the base of the mountain. Her idea, which I am very, very grateful for.

Once below the ice-line, I cowgirl camped a shy distance from the road. It was nearly midnight and I looked forward to a good night’s sleep. I dreamed of all the tasty treats Apple Pie would have, and that night, a cold night, I dreamed and drooled about those hot, desert days that are only a few weeks ahead.

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