July 5.  Woke up in the dungeon of the Lakes of the Clouds Hut…it was nice and quiet until breakfast upstairs.  Everyone was moving the tables and benches and each hut staff does a skit during breakfast and that was pretty loud.  Someone ran down and let us know that the oatmeal was ready, time to head upstairs!  One of the other thru-hikers said “all the rich people upstairs are giving us trail magic!”  Everyone was so impressed with the program yesterday that they were dropping off food and snacks at our table.  I had two large bowls of oatmeal and then the pancakes were ready!  We swept the dining room when people cleared out and finished our breakfast.  Someone a few days ago advised me to be ready for lots of families and loud screaming kids at the Lakes of th Clouds Hut…and they were right!  There was a foosball table and lots of games and with the cold rain outside everyone seemed to be hanging out inside.  It was loud and much different than waking up in a shelter on the AT!  All of the guests were hiking out into the rain while us thru-hikers hung out in the hut.  You would think that is backwards…like we should be more hard core…but we were talking about hiding out from the rain and how an extra few hours here and there waiting for the weather to clear won’t change our finish date in two weeks…but a few hours for weekend hikers can make a huge difference!  Plus, I am just sick of hiking in the rain!  We finally left the Lakes of the Clouds Hut at 10 AM…in a cloud.  We hiked up the 1.5 miles to the summit of Mount Washington in the fog and as we hit the peak the clouds parted and we saw sunlight!  But that was shortlived, the fog came back.  As we hit the summit the first person we saw was a heavily overweight guy with a big camera…we were there!  Mount Washington was like Clingman’s Dome in the Smokies…the roads up make it easily accessable for everyone…not just hikers.  We checked out the visitors center and museum.  The museum was free for people who drove up in a car or took the cog train up, but people who hiked up had to pay $3…I made a thru-hiker decision and spent $2 on a soda instead!  Several other Northbounders arrived and we all hung out until noon…we had only gone 1.5 miles by noon and it was time to make progress!  We stopped by the summit sign and stood in line to get pictures with it.  The wind was cold at the top and as I stood in line freezing I told another hiker “Maybe I should have worn my underwear today for a thermal layer!”  I forgot we were in mixed company….hikers as well as “normal” people…a few ladies around us laughed and we all talked about our trek.  I made sure to get a picture with the “Bear Bell Chicken” at the top.  Rafiki and I were carrying a rubber chicken for a few days.  The rubber chicken is part of www.warriorhike.com, my friends Mark and Sean are hiking to raise money for wounded veterans.  They dropped the chicked at the first shelter in Georgia with dog tags that said take me to Maine!  Since then thru-hikers have been taking turns carrying the chicken north.  Rafiki and I would take the chicken over the ME state line and then pass it off.  After the pictures we shot off the peak and started down the AT.  We were still hiking in the clouds but making slow progress.  We passed a lot of people from the hut the night before and they all knew us from the thru-hiker presentation so we got more food and compliments as we went.  I passed one guy and he said “I can always tell a thru-hiker because you all look like Confederate Soldiers!”  I’m not sure how to take that…but I said thanks!

Random Trail Thought:  In responsed to a random thought I had a few months ago about Noah having only 2 flies on the Ark…I wish that Noah would have conveniently forgotten a few animals on the Ark…flies, gnats, mosquitos, mice, and snakes that can kill me…I could do without those.

Random Trail Thought:  If America had not won its independence from England I might be hiking in the “Royal Range” rather than the “Presidential Range”

We made it to the Madison Spring Hut around 4 PM and stopped in for a food and bathroom break.  This was probably my favorite hut on the AT, but we kept moving on.  Rafiki and I made the slow descent down the rocky ridge to Pinkham Notch.  Two other hikers, Plus 3 and Smiling Joe, caught us and the four of us hiked into the Pinkham Notch visitors center.  It was a very tough trail and we didn’t arrive until 9 PM.  It was getting dark but I still didn’t need to hike with my headlamp!  The visitors center was open until 10 PM for snacks and there was a hiker room downstairs with bathrooms, showers, and vending machines open 24 hours.  The only rule is no overnight sleeping…great.  It was night now and the 4 of us needed a place to camp.  We were near a lodge but that was $80 a night…stealth camping would probably be our best bet.  Rafiki and Plus 3 headed to the end of the parking lot and found spots a few feet in the woods.  We all ate dinner on the visitor’s center patio and watched a racoon run around under us picking up the scraps.  Smiling Joe and I packed it up around 10:15 and walked out back to a flat spot we had seen off the trail.  We set up our stealth camp and headed to bed.  I fell right asleep…I was exhausted from another tough day in the Whites.  We had hiked 15 miles for the day and camped at mile 1,864.8 with only 319 miles left!

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