We had another 4:30 wake up this morning after a pretty restless night of sleep last night. It didn’t get below 85 degrees until around 9:30, so going to bed before then was not really an option. Around midnight, I woke up to the sound of something rummaging around in our pavilion. I figured it was Evan getting something from his bags so I rolled over and closed my eyes again. A few minutes later, I woke up to a loud banging noise. I got out of my tent and saw Evan stomping his feet on the wooden floor. He told me that a skunk had wandered into the pavilion and was searching through the trash can. We both stomped our feet to scare it away and threw the trash can away from our tents. In the morning, while we were packing up in the dark, the skunk tried come back into the pavilion and we had to chase it away again.
For how little sleep we got last night, Evan and I both felt pretty fresh riding out of Orford. There’s a certain feeling of clarity that comes with waking up before dawn. We rode North for 20 miles along the East shore of the Connecticut River. We watched the sun rise up over a towering ridge to our right. On the opposite side of the river, we watched the morning sunshine spread across the hills of Vermont.
We were planning to fill up our water bottles in North Haverhill before beginning our first of the day’s two big climbs, but it was still so early in the morning that nowhere was open. We had no choice but to start up the pass. The next town after North Haverhill was more than twenty miles away, and I was already starting to sweat and had drank half of my water. Luckily, I soon passed by a house with a man outside tending to the garden. He was nice enough to let me fill my bottles and I continued on up the pass, now with a heavier bike, but feeling much better.
It was a 1500 ft ascent and our first taste of the White Mountains. Compared the lush, smooth, Green Mountains, the Whites are rugged and craggy, but surprisingly, their roads have gentler grades. Aside from the heat and humidity, the pass was pretty enjoyable. At one point, a dog ran out onto the road and followed me uphill for at least a mile.
We descended into Lincoln for a quick brunch and to fill water once more. We didn’t want to waste too much time and let the temperatures rise before beginning our second climb: Kancamagus Pass. This one was more than 2000 ft of climbing over 11 miles, most of which at an agreeable 8% grade. The top was at an altitude of 2,855 ft, but it felt like we were much higher. There were bare, rocky cliffs all along the ridge and we could see for miles down the valley. The White Mountains are notorious for having extreme winds and bad weather, so I was pretty nervous about some menacing clouds that rolled in as we neared the top. Luckily, they brought with them only cooler temperatures and no rain or lighting. We descended quickly (to avoid the storm and because we had a 12% grade!) and cruised the last 20 miles into Conway.
Our plan to beat the heat worked well today. We arrived around 12:30, right as the weather changed from very uncomfortable to unbearable. Once in Conway, we called around to several local campsites, the fire department, and the police department, but had no luck finding a place to pitch our tents. As a last resort, we called up the St Margaret Anglican Church to see if they had a spare patch of grass for us. They said they did and so we went over and met the pastor and some of his friends and family. They were some of the most kind and genuine people we’ve met and loved hearing about our trip.
To cool off, I went for a swim in the Saco River, then laid down in the shade with my feet up to drain the lactic acid from my legs. The forecast is showing cooler temperatures over the next few days, which we’re really excited about. After two early mornings and long days, we’re tuckered out and ready for a break from the heat.