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  • Writer's pictureParker DePond

Dark Hiking Trance to Carter Notch Hut

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

I sit by the fire watching my coworkers convince a toddler that her daddy, who went to talk to his manager, will be back soon. My ears ring with the tunes of 40 hz binaural beats. I think back on my weekend sitting in its last day.

When I got off work on Monday at 14:00, I hiked to Carter Notch Hut. I actually hit the trail at 14:30 with the confidence that I could make the 5-mile (8km) hike over the steepest part of the whole Appalachian trail before sunset at 16:30. This 2,000ft ascent is sometimes steeper than 1/1 meaning that for every 1 foot traveled the trail increases more than 1 foot in height. This caused me to continually do one-legged body squats over 90° with my pack. This was not the worst part. I would gladly have taken the physical exertion over something I can't control: the ice. At those higher exposed elevations, the winds of the Whites freezes water cold and clear.

The exposed granite oozes icicles and turns the trail into a crystal cascade. Causing significantly more problems going down than coming up and my knee was already shot due to a dam beaver. I was happily hiking along a pond when he slapped his tail at me, causing me to look for a kid throwing rocks at me, causing me to slam the part between my knee and my lower leg into a boulder causing me to curse.

Anyway, after sliding down the trail the sky turned on the dark, exposing shadows that looked like exposed rocks on a fresh white blanket. My eyes eventually adjusted once my first headlamp died, and I turned on my red one. I saw an infinite number of stars above, all lighting my path even stranger than before. When I looked up again to check my progress against the horizon, it vanished. A cloud now rested behind the mountain, making the ridge line invisible. I was now walking through space with no reference of direction. The only thing I could see or focus on was my next step.

Some people call it Highway Hypnosis, professional athletes call it The Zone, but whatever it is, it transported me to the front door of Carter Notch Hut. Knocking and waiting for a response. Nothing. I knock again, still nothing, the lights are on. I go inside the boot room and knock on the inner door. “You can come in” Emily, the caretaker at the hut this week answers the door. She goes “Hello; wait do I know you”

I answer with my radio call “I’m 1-9 Parker” “Okay so I do know you!”

We put the kettle on and shoot the breeze for hours. I was the first person she had seen in 72hrs and after one or two too many virgin hot chocolates I ask if there was any tea with the different hut crews from this summer? She goes, “OMG Yes!” and skip runs back to her room to grab a piece of cardboard that has an intricate web of names and lines. No murder was being solved, but OMG was there some steaming Tea! Lets just say there were a few names with shattered glass lines coming off of them.

Shortly after the wood stove died, we hunkered down into our sleeping bags. My plan was to meet some other folks at the trailhead for a sunrise hike but in order to do that I would have had to get up at midnight, so no. I got up at a respectable time, 7:00, cracked some eggs, and hit the trail, ascending a crystal cascade that I had slid down hours before. However, I did not go down the way I came up; instead, I cut through a ski resort, walking 2,000 feet down a much more gentle grade. I successfully avoided being spotted by any liftys and even found a functioning pair of AirPods on the ground. Once down, I wasn't back, walking along hwy-16 for a mile, I found an old Sony camcorder that records directly to tiny DVDs.

Looking more homeless than ever with my wind-whipped hair and a broken camcorder, I walked into the dining hall. I walked in the door at 1:30, the exact minute they stopped serving lunch, but Andrew saw me in time and I got a warm meal. After a very long 24hrs. I then proceeded to win a bowling game later that night, but I'm not bragging. I might be bragging. I'm bragging.

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