We slept in today not leaving camp until 8 o'clock. Right out of the shelter we started a climb. Long stretches of stone steps wove in and out of soft dirt trail. As we neared the top the trees began to thin and became shorter. The wind could now make it through the branches and the leaves. A single bird song sang her tune at perfect pitch and so we followed her sweet melody as we broke through tree line. In the distance we could see Baldpate Mountain. It's exposed granite face framed in shadows of the morning sun.
Down below, we could see trail running along the saddle. The green do the trees and the blue of the sky framed the marble hue of the peak, flakes of white and black peppered throughout the rock.
A series of steep shuffles and ladders led us down to the saddle. Feet exhausted from the pressure of such an intense slope. We walked along half submerged boards through bogs. Milo enjoyed keeping his paws dry by walking on the boards but every now and then he steps off to trot through the mud.
We started our climb up Baldpate. Putting our trekking poles away in our packs we used hands to balance ourselves as we walked up the rock. We were solely trusting our shoes would keep us from sliding. The climb was simply amazing. Rock cairns led our way but for the most part our paths were free for us to choose. Milo ran around sniffing tuffs of grass and moss.
As we got closer to the top, the cairns became more complex and larger. A man in a blue rain jacket sat below the final cairn, marking the summit. Usually Milo growls at a stranger in sunglasses and a hood but this time he ran right up to him. The man introduced himself as Josh, or Baggin, a New Hampshire native who could be found bagging peaks when he wasn't following The Grateful Dead. We spoke to him for awhile, and throughout the conversation his stoke level increased. Once we part ways, we noticed how stoked we were! Baggin’s sheer excitement for everything had us practically running down Baldpate.
From Baldpate, we made our way down to the Frye Notch Shelter for a quick lunch. Then up we went again towards East B Hwy into Andover. We could tell we were getting lower in elevation based on the trail and the surrounding flora. Less rocks we have to step over and pine needles covered the trail. Garbelly stopped a few times to marvel at long pine trees shooting up through the paper birch canopy. We crossed over the west branch of the Ellis River, where we caught a glimpse of the narrow Canyon of Dunn Cascades dropping many, many feet below.
We arrived at the road and got our thumbs ready for hitching. A Budget truck flew by. Nothing. A Jeep went by. Nada. Garbelly closed his eyes and whisper out loud that he wished for a good hitch from the next car. A car came down the road pulling over to us... but they only wanted to apologize for not having room. Thirty more minutes went by, when two hikers climbed up to the road. We talked with them for a little bit, and then they offered us a ride into town.
Both women were so friendly and really excited to see Milo. They dropped us off in front of the Little Red Hen. Where we grabbed a table outside and two menus for lunch.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and night on the porch of the Little Red Hen. The lunch was amazing, and then they convinced us to come back with an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet. Around the side of the deck they had a whole area for thru hikers. Made completed with pegs to hang packs, a large electrical outlet, trash cans and benches. We took them up on their offer of $5 laundry and two $5 showers.
Then we set up camp in the back yard. We are so thankful for thru hiker friendly establishments like Little Red Hen and the amazingly nice and welcoming people who are usually behind them.
The mosquitoes ended up scaring us to our tent fairly early which was good because poor Milo was being a bit of a tired grump.