The wiki article on the notch states:
The boulders on this mile-long section of trail present obstacles that must be climbed over and sometimes under, creating a unique hiking experience. There are occasional 10-foot (3.0 m) drops, and places where packs must be removed to squeeze beneath a boulder.
Many hikers call this stretch one of the slowest on the 2,179-mile (3,507 km) trail. This so-called "killer mile" or the "Toughest Mile" is a very tough section that can cause even the most experienced hikers to slow down. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahoosuc_Notch)
The space it took up in my brain as we approached it was much greater than the length of mile. I had heard stories of boulder fields and chaos, of injuries and of accomplishments. I met hikers who loved it and in truth did it more than once just because they loved it and others who dreaded it and tried to figure out ways to slack pack it. I was warned to not even attempt it on a wet day and definitely not alone so when our morning dawned clear at the shelter I was glad. And we set off.
The is nothing like anticipation to make the approach trail from the shelter seem even longer. And green tunnels of rocks and trees do not let you get a glimpse of what is coming which is 'fine' because your brain is filling in details for you. In a way no matter what is said it became the "here be dragons" part of my virtual map of the trail.
Greyhound had hiked it 20 years ago but she just remembered climbing down and up and trying to figure out paths where there seemed no clear markers. We weren't putting much pressure on ourselves in one way, we had decided getting through was the only aim for the day and if that meant we just got to the stream at the other end before dark that would be fine. From Full Goose Shelter to the start of the Notch was only a mile and half so we waited a little longer than usual not heading out until about 8:30 in hopes that the rocks would be dry from yesterday's rain by the time we got there.
It took us under 4 hours to transverse this 1 1/4 mile. (And though how long it takes was never the point of my hike some how it made me happy to discover others had been slower as well as many who had been much faster. Few do that mile in under a mile unless they know the trek well since some of the time is spent not only climbing but wondering where the next blaze is.) We did find a mossy boulder to stop and have lunch and congratulate each other on not dying yet at about the midway point. And at the end of the Notch we thought we could keep going.
Well, that was until we took off our packs to climb down to the stream for water. We sat for a moment and then discovered our legs had hit 'enough' point for the day. We set up camp. (We were thinking we would avoid the Harvard kids (since there wasn't enough space in the stealth camping area for a group of 16 (and there wasn't until they knocked down trees and trampled areas) ) & the heavy snorers of the shelter the night before (instead they both arrived and set up camp right next door 4 hours later). Oh well, we had made it and we tried to sleep with the Notch safely behind us.
It didn't actually stay behind me. I had managed to scraped skin off patch of localized scleroderma on my right leg. If it hadn't been my other leg it would have bruised but that doesn't happen on my lower right leg. Over the last four months ( almost to the day since it happened) I have been on oral antibiotics, topical and numerous painkillers as somehow the nerves became inflamed in the healing process. Slowly the skin is healing and it will, if I can find the patience to wait. The only hard deadline for its healing is August 25th, 2016 when I plan to be back on the trail heading south.
It certainly isn't the only physical marker I have from the Trail but it is the first one I think about each morning as I change the bandage on it.
Are there any points on the Trail/Life that had/have "There be Dragons" concerns for you?