We inched out as far as we dared
Cohos Trail, Day Nine: Baldhead Shelter to Panorama Shelter
Diesel and Summit said it was a tough 13.7 miles to Panorama, and it was.
The trail was really wet the first half of the day, our feet soaked through to the skin. Mud pits slurp-sucked at my shoes, threatening to pull them off again.
We had left Nash Stream Forest behind and entered the mixed-use land in the far north, where we were just as or even more likely to share the road with ATVs as with other hikers. We climbed up to some pretty decent views on a wide, gravel track, under the wind turbines spinning atop Dixville Peak. (I believe the road was put in or at least widened to make way for the turbines.)
We were so close we could hear the mechanical whoosh of the blades.
After the wet trail that morning, it was almost a relief to have firm, dry ground under our feet, for a bit at least. The quiet of the day was broken only by distant and not-so-distant motor sounds.
One ATV rider slowed down and asked if we were hiking the Cohos Trail, said he had done most of it himself, and told us to enjoy ourselves. So there is at least some overlap between hikers and riders.
For miles and miles, we could look back at the wind turbines to see how far we had walked.
We entered the grounds of The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, a historic ski resort that closed in 2011 after being sold for $2.3 million. The new owners are reportedly seeking financing for redevelopment and expansion. Meanwhile, relics of the old resort are evident throughout the surrounding area.
We began the long descent into Dixville Notch, finally popping out on an exposed ledge with precipitous drops on either side called Table Rock. From there, we could see the old resort, nestled in the notch.
Below us Route 26 snaked through the narrow passage.
It was a gusty day, and E and I have healthy survival instincts, so neither of us went all the way out to the point, but we inched out as far as we dared.
Then we began a very long climb down, because our destination was up a mountain on the other side of the road.
We made our way down to a long series of waterfalls called the Huntington Cascades and ate lunch at the edge of a cliff.
It was starting to feel like another long day. We crossed Route 26, passed another waterfall, and climbed out of the notch on the far side. The trail was punctuated by a series of cliffside lookouts.
We summited Sanguinary, and were treated to a few dramatic views on the descent. Wet trail, again.
Then, finally, on to Panorama Shelter. It had been another long day but not nearly as long as the day before. The shelter had been named for the view, but the trees have grown in and there’s just a sliver of view from one direction.
I collected water from a rust-colored seep and we ate two dinners: A Knorr pasta side with potato, followed by ramen and peanut butter. We ate standing up, looking out at our view.
Finally: a shelter to ourselves. We hung our damp clothes from a clothesline and settled in close to the wall, out of the wind. I took stock of my feet: My left big toe was swollen and bleeding under the nail again, just like last year. To think I had sworn not to do another long hike with these shoes, and yet here I was.
The new nail had only just finished growing back in, too.