Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 20: Another Dreary Day

Dscn6445September 23: I woke up with high hopes. Rumor had it, the weather would clear up today and I had every expectation that I’d hoof over Mount Mansfield—the highest mountain in Vermont—with clear skies and killer views. Everyone I had passed on the trail had told me that was the forecast. My shelter-mates for the night carried a hand-cranked radio that could pick up weather forecasts and it too predicted clear skies ahead for the entire day.

 

So it was more than a little disappointing when I woke up in the morning to fog and rain. I could see, at best, a few hundred feet in any direction. What happened to all this wonderful weather I kept hearing about?! Maybe it would burn off later in the morning? I hoped it would burn off later in the morning.

 

So I crossed my fingers and headed out of the shelter by 8:00 despite the poor weather. I would have preferred to wait it out until the weather improved—which I still had high hopes for—but I had also heard that the trail around Mount Mansfield was particularly tough and if I wanted to go over the mountain today, I figured it was better to get an early start than a late one. I couldn’t be sure how long it would take me to get over the rugged terrain, so the extra time might be needed. I wanted a short day over Mount Mansfield, the tallest mountain in Vermont, but due to my short 4.2-mile day the previous afternoon, I was still quite a ways away from the peak. Yep, better to get an early start… just in case the mountain took longer to get over than expected.

 

The rain had largely stopped by the time I left the protection of the shelter, but a light drizzle started up again shortly after I started hiking and for the first time on the trail, I pulled out my umbrella.

 

The going was slow, and I made it to the next shelter, Taylor Shelter, a couple of hours later where I got out of the rain and ate some snacks. I stayed there for about a half hour, but due to the lack of physical exertion, I quickly grew cold. I had absolutely NO intention of unloaded my pack for warmer clothes or my sleeping bag, however. I’d only hiked 3.4 miles and under no circumstances did I intend to stop for the day that soon!

 

So I headed out and started rising to the highest peak in Vermont.

 

Dscn6456The light rain never really stopped. Technically, the rain did stop occasionally, but the tree snot would continue dropping down on me so my umbrella never took a rest. The trail wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be based on all of the horror stories I’d heard and I made much better time than expected until I finally reached Butler Lodge by 1:00 in the afternoon.

 

Butler Lodge was the last shelter on the trail before summiting Mount Mansfield, perched high on the mountain just below treeline. Unlike most shelters, it was completed enclosed with a door on the front. I went inside to get a break from the rain and dry out a bit.

 

By now, my hopes for a nice weather over Mount Mansfield were quickly fading, but I still held some hope that the weather might clear soon. After all, the weather forecasts at this point had predicted it would clear off over 24 hours ago now! It was surely due for a change soon! I realize that weather fronts often move faster or slower than forecasts expect, but it’s not often that they’re off by so much in such a short period of time.

 

I had enough food left in my pack to last me one more day. Rain or shine, I was going into town tomorrow, but I did have options for where to camp tonight. If I stayed at Butler Lodge, perhaps the weather would clear overnight and I’d get a nice day tomorrow to go over the summit and into town. Originally, I wanted to go into town today, but given my short day yesterday, that wasn’t going to happen anymore. So I could spend the night at Butler Lodge, but it would have been nice to get over the summit and stay at Taft Lodge just on the other side of the summit and that much closer to the road that would take me into town.

 

I wanted to push on and camp further up the trail. But I also wanted to go over Mansfield when the weather wasn’t so wicked. I was torn with indecision…

 

Finally, I set a time limit. I would try to wait out the weather. If the rain stopped and the skies started to clear by 4:00, I’d push on to Taylor Shelter. If the weather stayed miserable through 4:00, I’d stop right there at Butler Lodge. I had three hours to see if the weather would finally break.

 

I got the warm clothes out of my pack and put them on. I knew I’d get cold quickly now that I wasn’t exerting myself on the trail and I had three hours to kill before I decided whether to push on or not. I read my Kindle. I ate snacks. I read my Kindle some more. Then I ate some more snacks. Then I twiddled my thumbs a bit, then I read my Kindle some more.

 

Dscn6460This waiting and doing nothing was driving me crazy! I should be out there! Hiking! I twiddled my thumbs some more. Then I wrote in my journal a bit. Tick tock. Tick tock.

 

My clothes weren’t keeping me warm enough anymore, so I finally pulled out my sleeping bag and wrapped myself up like burrito, then went back to reading my Kindle.

 

And finally, 4:00 came and went. The weather was still miserable. Butler Lodge, it would be!

 

Near 5:00, there was an almost imperceptible break in the weather. The rain had stopped and the clouds had lifted a bit where I caught of glimpse of Lake Champlain reflecting in the sun far in the distance. I couldn’t even see the sun itself through the clouds—just the bright reflection of it in the lake. There must have been a hole in the clouds somewhere on the far side of the lake that the sun pierced through and reflected back up to my location. The views, on a clear day, must have been spectacular, but I was only catching the smallest glimpse of it.

 

It was too late to get to Taylor Lodge before dark at this point, but I hoped this meant that the weather was finally going to break overnight and I’d have a great day over Mansfield tomorrow. =)

 

As I started cooking dinner, two hikers finally arrived at the shelter. One was Stevie, the caretaker for the shelter, while the other was a southbound hiker I hadn’t met before. Not long after that, Purgy No More arrived along with his dad and a couple of other folks whose relationships I was never really clear on. Those four were clearly travelling as a group, but until then, I had only seen Purgy.

 

The caretaker, Stevie, told us that she had completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail just the month before, then immediately started her job as a caretaker on Mount Mansfield a few days later. Seeing the beauty of the area and the other Long Trail thru-hikers, though, she was thinking that she might have to do a Long Trail thru-hike now.

 

Dscn6467And, for the first time of the entire trail, I had to pay to stay in a shelter. Most shelters on the Long Trail are free, but some of the more popular shelters in sensitive habitats have caretakers assigned to them, and when you stay in one of those shelters when a caretaker is present, they charge $5. It’s a nominal fee that I didn’t mind paying. And, in fact, I’d gotten a little lucky I hadn’t had to pay $5 before then because some of the shelters I had stayed at were fee areas but for whatever reason, the caretaker was off the nights I stayed at them and so nobody was around to collect the fee.

 

But… I was also out here taking photos for http://www.walking4fun. This was a business trip for me, and therefore that $5 was a legitimate business expense! So I asked Stevie if it was possible to get a receipt for the expense. Purgy No More scoffed at me saying, “I can’t believe you’re really asking for that!”

 

“Of course I was going to ask—it’s a totally legitimate business expense!” =)

 

For all I knew, though, Stevie didn’t have anything to make out a receipt, and given that it was a mere $5, I wouldn’t have lost any sleep over it if she couldn’t provide one, but she did have some forms that she filled out by hand and gave to me as a receipt. Perfect! Ugh—more weight in my pack too. I hadn’t considered that downside…

 

We asked the caretaker about the weather—what was supposed to happen?

 

“It’s supposed to be clear and beautiful all day tomorrow, but then it was also supposed to be clear and beautiful all day today.”

 

Yeah, tell me about it. She also warned us that it was supposed to get cold overnight—into the 20s—and that there might even be ice to worry about tomorrow morning since the ground was already so wet from the rain.

 

Oh, yeah. That’ll be fun. Climbing over Vermont’s tallest peak, over some of the most strenuous section of the entire trail, all while it was covered in ice. Joy!

 

And I’d taken another extremely short day of hiking covering just 6.7 miles. In the last two days, I’d barely covered 10 miles of trail. Disgraceful! But I had gotten caught up on a lot of reading!

 

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The last photo of those bridges across the beaver pond…
They were just completed less than 2 week before. Until
then, these signs marked this point. I found these when
followed the wrong trail past the bridges. They had cut
trees down that they used to make the bridges then
skidded them down a hillside. I thought those skids
were the trail and followed them up to a dead end
where I found these “Bridge Broken” signs warning that hikers
would have to wade through 4-foot-deep waters. The
bridges aren’t broken anymore so the signs were discarded
in their work area, but I cleared off the leaves covering
them and took this photo. =)

 

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A lot of shelters have stoveboards—a small chunk of wood for
hikers to cook on. This one in Taylor Shelter included
directions that I found amusing:

Please use me when cooking inside!
(I’m easier to throw off the porch in flames than my friend, the table.)

 

Dscn6486
I didn’t see any moose today, but I did find fresh moose prints! =)

 

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Dscn6497
Butler Lodge

 

Dscn6501
Candles set the mood in Butler Lodge after darkness descended.

1 comment:

tiggermama said...

our family's tradition, when we lived in Stowe, was to hike up to Taylor Lodge for Thanksgiving "dinner" from the Trout Club, with it all in our packs. We did this for 4-5 years running, til we moved. Good times.