Day 2 of awesome included breakfast (breakfast burritos today), wished Clara luck on the last 300 miles of her hike, and around 8:45am we got a ride back to Pinkham Notch but this time to continue our hike Southbound. We knew it was going to be a big day – 15 miles, a 3000ft continuous climb up to Mt Maddison, and our end goal of Mt Washington at 6300ft – the second tallest peak in the Appalachian Mountains. It was sunny and cloudy, definitely a sweaty climb up to Mt Madison. The alpine hiking was a lot of sharp gnarly rock so some of it was pretty slow going. We made good time between Mt Maddison and Mt Washington, which consisted of climbing up and down (of course, that is the AT way) some side ridges and passes up in the Alpine, and got there before 5pm. I think we saw more people today than we have on the entire trail put together so far (it’s Saturday and everyone is out hiking, apparently!). Most of them were going the other way because there is an option to take a cog train to the top – so a lot of people opt to do that then to hike back down. The top itself has a bunch of information a structure – towers, the train cog/railway, and a big summit hut with food, viewing balconies, gift shop, bathrooms – the works. It was an absolute zoo up there and we only stopped in to use the bathrooms and drop off our days garbage.
There are also “huts” up top that you can stay at for $125/night and include dinner and breakfast, so many non-thru-hikers were also doing this option. $125/night/person isn’t in our hiking plan and budget, but there is an option at most of these huts for a very limited number of thru-hikers to “work for stay”. The idea is that you get to eat leftovers for dinner (and possibly breakfast), and can sleep on the dining room floor once the guests have gone to bed in exchange for doing some after dinner and/or morning chores. It is also hugely appealing because there are very limited camping options in The Whites – sometimes to get off trail and out of the alpine (where camping is prohibited) and down to somewhere flat you have to go off-trail and drop way down 1000 or so feet – and no guarantees you’ll actually find a good place to camp.
We decided to give the first Hut – 1.5 miles down the other sides of Mt Washington – a try and if nothing else add “work for stay” to our experience bank. Lucky for us there weren’t and thru-hikers ahead of us so they took us in and we got to hang out in the swanky hut out of the way while they served the guests dinner. It’s a bit painful to wait while you’re very hungry, but eventually we had a delicious dinner of Moroccan soup, pork chops, salad!, and as much carrot cake as we could eat. Then once the guests went to sleep, we got access to the floor and were asleep within minutes.