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Hikers In A Storm

By Mike Boisvert.

The rain did not deter the eleven faithful GayOutdoors hikers to hike up to Madison Springs Hut at 4,800 feet for an overnight. We were to use the hut as a base to hike up Mt. Madison on Saturday and Mt. Adams on Sunday. While the forecast predicted 100 per cent rain, we had already paid the $87 to spend the night at the Hut and we were hoping for better weather on Sunday. After most of us spent a pleasant night at the Mad River Lodge Friday night we drove to the Appalachia Parking Lot in New Hampshire and arrived at 10:00AM.

There were not many cars in the small parking lot. Each of us learned something about our gear this weekend and our raincoats became saturated in water. A southwest breeze moved the course of the precipitation.

We started on Valley Way and the sounds of Snyder Brook to our left were roaring. Today was a day of no views – but the waterfalls were amazing. I really enjoyed seeing Lower and Upper Salroc Falls – and Tama Falls. The trail slowly began getting steeper as it ascended with excellent footing. As we tramped through the wet woods we saw ferns, trilliums and evergreens wetted down by the rain. Everyone felt pretty good physically and we were making good time going up the trail. We saw many hikers pass us who were also spending the night at Madison Springs Hut. The bad weather did not stop them either.

None of us complained about the lack of views. By now the weather had become adverse and dour. Our desire to reach Madison Springs Hut to get dry pushed us forward. The trail we were on became a brook. We were becoming cold. Our boots were waterlogged and clothes wet.

While climbing to Madison Spring Hut I was reminded about what makes hiking unique! We may do the peaks for countless reasons and it's not about getting from start to finish, but what happens in between. "It’s the journey, not the destination." However this was becoming quite a journey and I couldn’t wait to reach the destination!

With these unpleasant conditions of heavier rains and becoming uncomfortable, we at last we reached the "Stop People Have Died Above Treeline" sign, and within minutes we saw Madison Springs Hut up ahead. It was obvious we were not going to climb Mt. Madison today. We assured ourselves that the mountain would still be there tomorrow.

The Madison Hut seemed vacant from the outside. Inside the Hut we dropped our packs and found our bunks. As we changed into dry clothes the floor beneath us was turning into a puddle. We could see moisture evaporate from our wet clothing. It felt so good to get into some dry clothes. We sat around one of the tables in the dining room sipping hot chocolate and being happy to be in a dry place. About a half-hour later the rest of our group arrived.

Unfortunately Colin and Andrew did not have pack covers to keep their gear dry and their sleeping bags were soaked. Thankfully the hut provides warm wool blankets as alternatives to sleeping bags.

The bottles of wine were popped open, the cheese and crackers were eaten and the folks inside the hut warmed up the place. Wow!

Our servers for tonight were dressed in formal tuxes. Nathaniel particularly got our attention with the feathered boa wrapped around his neck. For dinner we were fed black bean soup, garden salad, honey glazed ham, mashed potatoes, string beans and for dessert, a cake glazed with butterscotch. Everything was delicious. After dinner, the crew traditionally introduces themselves, and our radar went off with Nathaniel. He mentioned that the tuxes that both he and Taylor were wearing were given to him by his 51-year old male biology teacher – hmmm. When he said  that he enjoyed working in the huts because he could not wear his feathered boa in the valley, we were ready to hug him and call him our own. Nathaniel, you are among family!

One group of 16 had hiked up with a couple cases of beer so by now they were getting quite loud. They were actually quite funny and around 9PM broke into song. We heard awful versions of "Puff the Magic Dragon," (with weed replacing dragon in some cases), "Country Road," and a lengthy version of "Copacabana." The crew then told them they could sing one more song and somewhere in between I fell asleep.

Everybody had a good night’s sleep and enjoyed the cream of wheat, eggs and homemade bread for breakfast. The hut crew’s skit afterward was a spin-off of Cinderella, with Nathaniel playing the role of – the fairy Godmother! Now didn’t I tell you earlier on he was family.

The skies had not cleared from the night before and it was drizzling outside. There would be no peaks to hike today and we decided to head back down the way we came.

Our drive to return to the comfort of a warm car and dry clothes pushed us forward. I took some pictures of alpine flowers and further down, the waterfalls.

It was a bit past 12PM when we came out of the woods.

Yes we got drenched, but then again we didn't see a single member of the insect air force all weekend. We had adapted our mindset to the weather, and attitude proved to be more valuable than gear. I was pleased to share the experience of hiking with John, Beth, Tom and Mark but especially with our Canadian friends Andrew, Colin, Jerome, Alain, Stephane, and Roger. With the common sense and rainy hiking experience we gained this weekend, I’m sure we are better prepared for the sunny hiking days that lie ahead!

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