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Appalachian Trail ~ White Mountains ~ Franconia Notch ~ Mount Washington 1995

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Published on Feb 7, 2010

Experience to date in the White Mountains, the 100 Mile Wilderness and North Maine Woods, nominally, has revealed that route and trail descriptions, specifically warnings, are not overstated. Much like the people who live there. For example there is a branch of Newsowadnehunk Stream which the MATC trail section map description notes with brevity; "ford stream." Do you know what this means, to "ford" a "stream" in Maine? Unless you live in Alaska or Canada, the likelihood you've ever seen a stream as torrential as Nesowadnehunk is as big as your chance to cross it dry. And this just a small branch of a stream that also happens to be so furious today in its quest for the Penobscot below that it might sweep you along and not notice you gone. Two feet of North Maine Woods ice water across a rod of ankle bending boulder slicks? So "ford stream" out here is not an overstatement but unless you're a Maineyak, it means more than break out the golashes. It actually in this case equates to extreme caution may not be safely passable and potentially fatal. The USF sign greeting the White Mountain traveler, which, if you are still with me, reads:

STOP The Area Ahead Has The Worst Weather In America. Many Have Died From Exposure Even In Summer. Turn Back Now If The Weather Is Bad.

This particular sign is similarly, not overstated. It is understated. If hiking up and down thousand foot high irregular boulder staircases with a 50 pound baby on your back - which rains turn into an endless splash thru waterfall - does not grind your bones and kill you, the chances the weather does are not insignificant. SO when it began raining we found ourselves above the weather needing to descend Mt Washington thru rain clouds, entering from the top - to downclimb a threeish thousand foot cliff wall called Tuckerman's Ravine. So please people, bundle up for safety and remember to exponentially exagerate those casual caution signs.

That was in 1995. In the 1939 Inferno, a fabled ski race starting at the summit of 6,288 feet and ending at the bottom, considered the birth of extreme skiing, Toni Matt schussed the headwall. He did this in 6 minutes and 20 odd seconds, cutting the 1931 record of 12 and change almost in half. Toni Matt's son Tracy graduated with us in 1979 and our outro took considerably longer. About 4 hours.

Thanks to the Appalachian Mountain Club, The US Forest Service and Holger, Petr, Dorothy and Era.

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