I woke up at 530 this morning. Then again at 6 and again at 630 when I gave up and started packing my gear. I was basically ready to go by 7, but breakfast didn’t start until 8, so I laid back in bed and downloaded a bird app and a plant identifying app. Been meaning to do that for about 3 town stops now. Let the nerdiness continue. As I lay in bed, I heard the trill of loons calling from the pond. Such a chortle of a sound. Then I heard halfway from his room say “loons!” He texted me around 730 to say breakfast was open early. I ate my granola breakfast and deli banana with the yogurt from the kitchen. Strawberry. Bleh. But it did the trick. I packed out an English muffin and a hard boiled egg for later in the day.
I was back on trail around 815. The air was thick with moisture and mosquitoes, which kept biting me on my shoulders through my damn tshirt. The trail was soggy, but not passable, and I made good time to thundering falls. They definitely earned their name, as I could hear the crash of water from the road crossing a quarter mile away. After the falls came a neverending climb. Sweat dripped off my nose as I looked down at my phone texting with a music friend making plans for a little post-band camp extended social time. By the time I reached the top of the climb, I was drenched. I heard thunder in the distance and hoped it would roll on by. I came to the power lines and tripped on a rock, which sent a dog into a barking fit. Which dog? Disco! He ran towards me through the tall grass.
I found moss hanging out on a good rock checking out his map. He whined about the climb, which I appreciated. We had a brief discussion about where we were headed for the day. I’m hoping to get to a place called the lookout, which is a privately owned unfurnished cabin that hikers are allowed to sleep in on Lookout Farm. The beauty of it is that there is a rooftop 360 degree view, which means: SUNRISE.
The rain began as soon as I left moss and disco. It quickly went from a light drizzle to a downpour. My brain kept saying rush! Get under a roof! But there was no point in rushing because the nearest roof was about 3 miles away, and I was already soaked. About 30 minutes into the rain, I heard a noise behind me and turned around to find halfway and a woman named smiley on my ass. We were basically nose to nose when I looked behind me. This made me cranky, as did watching halfway nearly sprint down the trail. I plodded along, thinking to myself that I couldn’t possibly rush or else I would fall. What happened in that exact moment? I totally ate in on a muddy, flat rock and went down in a semi-controlled fall. I wrenched my left thumb and got a muddy right butt cheek, but no permanent damage done. Trail slapped again.
I got to the closest shelter about an hour later. Moss, smiley and halfway sat at the edge of the platform looking bedraggled and a soggy disco lay in the back of the shelter. I unloaded my sopping pack, hung up my rain coat on a nail, and immediately stripped off my socks with thoughts of trench foot in my head. I plopped down next to halfway and made myself an open faced peanut butter frito honey English muffin. I have to say, it’s better in wrap form. I couldn’t handle disco’s begging face so I gave him a small bite of peanut butter muffin. I started to get cold and the rain had finally let up, so I left before everyone else.
I expected halfway to catch me at any moment, but I didn’t see him again for many hours. Hours which were spent in rain that ranged from steady to torrential downpour accompanied by thunderstorms. The first hour after the shelter actually wasn’t bad. There was no hope of dry feet because of puddles, but it wasn’t actively raining. The trail wound around and did the usual rollercoaster of middle ground where we aren’t climbing mountains, but it’s not flat pasture land either. I kept seeing moose poop, simultaneously hoping to see a moose while being scared shitless that one would be standing in the trail ahead of me. My vigilant scanning ahead slowed down my pace, but still no halfway.
Then came the rain. Again. And it didn’t stop until well after I reached my destination 5 miles down the trail. At some point in the middle of afternoon, I heard a large rustle and flapping noise about 4 feet to my left. A tan speckled bird about the size of a chicken went half running, half flying away from me making an awful mournful screeching noise. I heard what I think was the sound of baby birds and realized that I must have disturbed their nest with my noisy walking. I’m pretty sure the bird was some sort of grouse. It put up a huge fuss and I was worried it would fly at me, but I needed to get around it, so I kept walking. It finally flew off, screeching at me a little more for good measure. How do birds like that survive snakes? I hoped it would go back to its nest as soon as possible.
During the height of one thunderstorm, I happened to be climbing towards the top of a ridge. As the tree cover thinned, the rain pelted me. By this point, I was walking in several inches of water and leaves. I couldn’t decide what to do. If the highest point of the ridge was exposed, it would be foolish to head there in a thunderstorm. But standing still would just make me colder (no chance of being wetter: I was soaked to the skin and hadn’t bothered to put on my raincoat because it couldn’t stand up to that kind of rain anyway). I huddled near the edge of a low pine tree, which afforded me a tiny break in rainfall, but not enough to warrant sticking around. I figured I would be better off to just keep moving.
The slopes turned into rivers. Puddles grew to wading pools in the middle of the path. My feet sloshed around in my shoes, and I worried about the abilities of my theoretically waterproof bag.* I keep my sleeping bag, pad and clothes in a trash compactor bag to cover just such situations. I felt a buzzing in my hip pocket where I’d relocated my phone. Flash flood alert for the area until 630p. It just gets better!
The rain let up a fraction as I made my way closer to the Lookout. I had about a mile to go when I heard more rumbling off in the distance. I picked up the pace as best I could, but at least one step out of 10 ended with my heel sliding three or four inches through leaf strewn mud. The rain intensified, and I gave up on rushing.
The turn off for the shelter led me to a steep rocky drive, at the end of which stood the lookout cabin. I tried to take pictures of the inside, but it’s hard to make sense of the space. It’s a one room cabin with a sleeping loft, a theoretically working fireplace, and enough floor space to fit a dozen hikers. The owners of lookout farm allow us to sleep here, and I really hope it stays that way for a long time because the view is incredible. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I opened the door to find flip phone reading in his hammock and a guy named ketchup reading upstairs. They’d been here since noon. Ketchup actually beat most of the rain, but flip phone got soaked. His clothes hung on a bear line slash clothes line across the room. I picked a spot by a non leaking window and put my pack down. Then I stood on the porch and changed into dry clothes, hoping I would be able to hear someone coming and warn them to wait because I was basically half naked at any given moment. I wrung out my clothes and hung them on the line even though there’s little chance of them drying overnight. Then I set up my sleeping pad, laid my sleeping bag on it and proceeded to lay there like a zombie for a few minutes.
A couple of hikers dropped their bags on the porch and climbed up to the viewing deck. Then they came inside and said something about testing out their new tent. We all balked at the idea and I said, “wait, are you from Vermont??” Thinking only someone who grew up in this environment would be willing to set up a tent right now. I was close: they’re from New Hampshire. They were good sports about the ribbing and did indeed set up their tent. Crazy fools.
A soaked and ragged halfway appeared about 20 minutes later. He looked wrecked, and it took him awhile to settle in. Then came moss, disco, smiley, and eventually a woman they’re hiking with named picnic (who I had lunch with on top of bromley mountain). They decided to stay here instead of continuing on 2 miles to the an official shelter up the trail. 7 people and 2 clotheslines and it feels barely half full.
The sun decided to peek out while we all made our dinners. I abandoned my food and went up to the deck to this view:
During the second half of dinner, moss fried cured ham that he got from a friend and has been trying to figure out when to cook for nearly a month. He just kept sending it to himself farther up the trail.
He shared pieces of it with all of us. I don’t normally eat or care about ham, but it was so salty and so good. Sorry pig, I won’t eat you again for a long time. A new thunderstorm rolled in while we ate. Lightning flashes brightened the windows for a second at a time. halfway and I looked at the weather.gov sight and found ourselves in the middle of a red and yellow blob on the radar. A giant clap of thunder made us all exclaim like children witnessing their first storm.
We all settled into our respective areas and I began to write. I happened to look out the window a few minutes later see that the sun had come back out, casting a bright glow on the fog rolling through the mountains. I couldn’t resist, so I put on my soggy shoes and climbed back up the ladder to watch the sky (top picture for today is the western view). The eastern view had periodic rainbows, which are sadly hard to see in the picture, and giant cloud mountains:
Moss and his hiking buddies stood on the deck with flip phone and enjoyed a green nightcap. I stood on the roof wishing I could sit down and hoping the sun would stick around long enough to see it set. Sadly a wall of fog consumed the view, so I went back down to my sleeping bag. Standing still makes my legs stiffen more than I’ve ever experienced before. Moss came inside and began giving disco a mini leg massage that broke my heart with cuteness and made me miss my dog.
Later on, he patted disco’s little dog bed, motioning for him to lay down and disco promptly laid in between moss’s legs on top of his sleeping bag. I’m finishing this to the waning light and the rustle of hikers shifting in their bags. I’m about to be one of those noisy shifters because these long johns are way too hot to sleep in.
Mile 1704.8 to mile 1718.1 (13.3)
Total miles: 715.1
Creature feature: In the middle of one of the storms, heard a noise like a horse chuffing off to my left that freaked me out, but I never saw the source of it. Caught sight of a black and white warbler during one of the 2 hours that it wasn’t raining. that silly disco dog. And whatever kind of bird it was that I scared. Likely a grouse.
*i did some searching on the zpacks website this morning. as it turns out, my pack is made from dyneema, which is highly water resistant, but not waterproof. I forgot that I chose it over cuben fiber (waterproof) because of the durability. Not the best choice for the soggy green tunnel. Oh well.