We made it to North Conway for lunch at a bit after 1pm and after crawling along in slow traffic getting into town, we took the first parking spot on the street by the TD bank. Cris grabbed some cash and then we walked down to the Stairway Cafe (after checking out Horsefeathers since we weren't sure exactly where we'd eaten before, been a while since we'd been this way). Lots of tourists despite the light rain, I think the train had just come in. I had huevoes verde and fresh oj, loading up on calories for the hiking.
From there it was a short drive up 16 to the Pinkham Notch visitor center. We left the packs in the car and went in to sort out the over night permits. They had lots of space, so we were able to do 2 people for 2 nights ($15/each/night) and were given a receipt to give to the caretaker once we got upto Hermit Lake. A last running water stop in the bathroom and we got our packs and poles and rain gear sorted out. The rain had mostly stopped, but I wanted my rain pants on just in case (hardest to don quickly), and kept my jacket on as well. I was soon stripping off my jacket, it wasn't raining, just a light mist, but it was so humid I was soon sweating as we made our way up the Tuckerman Ravine trail. We quickly passed the pretty falls and the turn off for Boot Spur trail but kept going, making our way steadily up for 2.4 miles to Hermit lake. We started at around 3:30 and took lots of breaks, I was soon soaked through with sweat. We had a few groups pass us going down, I assumed they'd summited earlier in the day, but it was mostly quiet. The trail was mostly enclosed with trees, but we got some glimpses of the ridge on the other side of the ravine as we loosely followed the river up. The trail was wide and well trammelled, with lots of big rocks embedded in the dirt. I was tracking the trail intersections to get a sense of our progress, we passed one blank sign that I think was the turn off to the Harvard Cabin that was only open in the winter, and lots of unsigned ski trails.
After a bit under three hours I finally spotted the shelters tucked in the woods just off the trail. Cris made a start toward one of them when he saw people hanging out, but I drew him back to continue on to the caretaker cabin in a clearing a little further along. We had a choice of shelters, so dropped our packs on the cabin porch and set off to explore the two areas with lodging. The path past the toilets (flush! and separate winter toilets) led to four 4-sided shelters (we'll be back in the winter), and the last one at the end was free but a bit cramped, and also a bit far back down the slope. We doubled back to the cabin and set off on the loop around Hermit Lake to check out the 3-sided shelters. We marked off number 4 as an isolated possibility after going past one right off of the trail, but continued on, saying hi to the big group (beyond a tricky rock scramble), the solo hiker, and the pair of guys who'd claimed others. We skipped the tent platforms since we'd left our tents in the car with the expectation of getting space in a shelter (they slept 10). Back at the cabin, we grabbed our packs and took them back to shelter 4, at around 6:30pm. We unpacked, and I did a skin out change. It was a lovely dry shelter not like the leaky one we had in Camden, though the picnic table was still damp. Cris set up his stove and I dug out the tandoori fish pasta dish I'd made for us. Bathroom up trail after A group of teens crashed by and took over the next shelter, next to the path, luckily ours faced away from theirs, the solo hiker said that their voices echoed across the lake. Another trio came through looking for campers, we directed them along the loop. It was quite misty as the sun started to go down, Cris pointed out the moon sliver behind the ridge, but it was gone when I came back with my phone to take a snapshot. We settled in for night at around 8:30 (sunset was around 7:40), and I found that I need a new candle for my lantern, the wick gets buried in wax and goes out. A flying bug was super attracted to my head lamp while I was reading, so I gave up and settled in to try and sleep after panicked batting at it. Thankfully it left me alone without the draw of the light.
We left the summit area just after noon, making our way down Crawford Path (oldest hiking trail in N.E.) and could see a line of hikers coming up from Lakes of the Clouds. We bucked the trend and went from Washington to Lakes so that Cris could check it out and I could grab more food to try and keep my body temperature up. I had a big bowl of gingery pumpkin soup, it really hit the spot. There were a few groups of hikers enjoying a late lunch and the composting toilets, but it was a lot quieter there than on Washington. We headed out at around 2pm to make our way over to Boot Spur to head back down to camp.
We made it back to camp at 5:30pm and I immediately headed out with two handfuls of our water bottles to fill them up at the pump. Going alone was inefficient, when I'd stop pumping to swap out bottles the water level would fall again and I'd have to do the 15 pumps to get it flowing again and hope that I'd put the bottle at the right spot to get the flow. I got them filled up eventually, and despite being told that it was potable without treatement, Cris and I agreed that we should use the Steripen just in case. Cris boiled up our servings of cowboy pasta and we ate to the irate sounds of a chipmunk angered at our intrustion into his home. :-) We still had a bit of time before sunset and I was hoping to catch the show from the deck at the caretaker's cabin, so I brought my book up there to read for a while. A father and son duo were debating if they could make it back to the trail head before the sun went down, or if they should try to get a space in one of the shelters. I think they decided to go for it, hiking after sunset to get out that night. I don't think I lasted quite to sunset, though I got a lot of gentle stretching in, I was tired out and headed back to the shelter just before 7pm to bed down. A jet flew by above us, so low that I was convinced it was going to crash right into our shelter. I made my peace with dying, the summit of Washington ticked off from my to-do list, but breathed a sigh of relief when the plane passed on. :-)
I didn't feel like I was starving, but I enjoyed our stop at the Stairway
Cafe again. I devoured my blueberry pig in a blanket (blueberry pancakes
wrapped around turkey sausages), grapefruit juice, and lots of tea. Guess
I was hungry after all. We also stopped in at Boootleggers for Cris to
finally get new sandals, and at the Army Barracks for me. I had no luck
finding pouches for my Furiosa cosplay, ah well, always fun to poke around
(though the new pink camo and girly fit stuff is disheartening to see). I
was really thristy however and asked for a stop at Hannaford for some
Vitamin Water that disappeared in a flash, and a splurge on a bottle of
Voss water. We walked across the parking lot to the Irving for tea and to
use the bathroom there, dodging trucks and SUVs in the parking lot/race
course. We made one last stop at the NH liqor store, but they didn't have
any Maraschino liquer for me. Heavy rain (so glad it didn't hit while we
were in the mountains!) and traffic slowed us down a lot, I got home at
5:30. I just threw my pack down and jumped right in the shower.