Friday, December 11, 2015

Day 115: It was the best of days, it was the worst of days....

June 30: Dawn broke clear and sunny! An absolutely beautiful day, and everyone at the shelter was very excited about that. =)

The weather forecast, however, didn't have good things in store later that afternoon so I got a relatively start on the trail to get a head start on any bad weather blowing in.

I got delayed a bit when I reached the Stratton-Arlington Road/Kelly Stand Road where a couple of trail angels sucked me in with trail magic. They were the parents of a thru-hiker on the trail and slackpacking her. She was somewhere behind me, but I hadn't seen her and couldn't tell them where she was. But they caused me to stop for a half hour or so eating cookies and cherries and chat before I continued onward.

The trail then climbed to the top of Stratton Mountain--the proverbial birthplace of the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail. James Taylor, while on the peak in 1909, was inspired to create the Long Trail spanning the length of Vermont--at the time, the longest hiking trail in the country (thus, the name "Long" Trail--which by today's standards isn't really very long!)

While on the summit of Stratton Mountain, working to build the Long Trail, Benton McKaye was inspired to think even bigger and create a trail that spanned the entire Appalachian Range. So this summit is a big deal to both trails, historically speaking.

The caretaker at the top gave me an apple, and the views were generally nice but it was obvious that dark and menacing clouds were blowing in fast. I continued down the mountain onward to Stratton Pond and the Stratton Pond Shelter.

While at the shelter, the rain started. Heavy buckets of rain.

But I was dry. Safe, dry and warm, in the comfort of a shelter. =)

Except... I'd only hiked a mere 10 miles and it wasn't even noon yet. I really didn't want to stop hiking this early in the day. But I also didn't want to go out in that heavy, drenching downpour. Decisions! Decisions! If only there was some way I could keep hiking but without the rain!

But that wasn't an option. I lingered at the shelter for over an hour hoping that maybe the rain might let up, but it didn't. Not really.

And finally, going stir crazy, I decided to hell with it, I'll hike in the rain. I just didn't want to sit around that shelter ALL afternoon. I'd go crazy if I did.

The rain was utterly miserable. It was a very cold rain, and an absolute downpour. It sapped enthusiasm right out of me.

About five minutes after leaving the shelter, I stepped on a rock and felt a sharp stab of pain in the middle of my left foot. I almost fell over with the sudden, unexpected stab of pain. WTF?! I took a couple of small, tentative steps and it felt normal again. I kept hiking, but then I'd feel another sharp stab of pain again. Not with every step. I swear it felt like a tack was in my shoe, right in the middle of the arch of my foot, and the pain was proportional to how much weight was in the middle of that foot.

I looked at the bottom of my shoe wondering if I had stepped on something sharp but saw nothing suspicious. Despite the rain, I decided to sit down and take off the shoe and figure out what was going on, but surprisingly, I still found nothing. I felt the inside of my shoe and found nothing sharp. Didn't find anything in my sock or on my foot. Was I imagining the pain? No, I definitely wasn't imagining the pain--that was real enough. But what the heck was causing it?

I figured maybe there had been some sort of sticker or thorn there that got dislodged and fell off when I took off my shoe and reassembled myself and continued hiking.

Five minutes later, the pain struck again. WTF?!

After a half hour of this, once again I sat down and took off my shoe to figure out what the heck was going on, and once again I couldn't find anything that was causing it.

And once again, I put my shoe back on, started walking, and the pain returned. It was really starting piss me off! But I did notice that it hurt most whenever I stepped on a root or rock and most of the pressure of my foot was applied to the exact middle of my foot. I rarely felt any pain if I set my foot on a flat, even surface or walked on the ball or heel of my foot. So I started making sure I put my foot on flat areas or would take a step starting with my heel hitting the ground, then kind of rounding around the edge of my foot to lift off with my toes. It was an awkward way to walk and slowed me down some. It didn't completely eliminate the pain, but at least it was tolerable.

The next shelter on the trail was the William B Douglas Shelter, and I thought about stopping there.  It was a half-mile off the trail, though, and the next shelter was a mere three miles away. I was already soaked to the bone. I didn't much care for the rain, but the "damage" was already done.

So far, I'd taken photos of almost every single shelter on the entire trail. To date, I'd skipped four of them. This would be number 5 if I skipped it, and I hated the idea of skipping one. But then I thought, why not?! I already took a photo of this shelter during my Long Trail thru-hike two years earlier! If I really wanted a photo of the shelter, I already had it! Why walk a half mile off trail if I didn't have to?

I skipped the shelter and marched onward. Or at least hobbled onward with that still mysterious, strange pain at the bottom of my foot.

As I approached the Spruce Peak Shelter, the rain started tapering off a little bit. It didn't stop completely, but it wasn't coming down in buckets anymore much to my relief. I was in a pretty foul mood at this point, soaked to the bone with a sharp pain in my left foot.

When I arrived, the only person at the shelter was a young man who introduced himself as Kid Gore--named, apparently, after the shelter with the same name. It was the first time I'd met someone named after a shelter! =)

I was glad the shelter was largely empty, but it was a dark and kind of depressing shelter. It was fully enclosed that allowed little light in through the meager window. It's designed, I think, for winter use--to trap in the heat. The shelter even included a stove to warm the place, but for now, the design left it dark and depressing. Starting a fire in the stove seemed ridiculous since all of the wood outside was very wet. I joked to Kid Gore that I was disappointed that he didn't have a fire already going for my benefit. =)

I settled in and changed out of my wet clothes into my dry camp clothes which put me in a much better mood. I went out on the patio where the light was better to take a better look at my foot and shoe to see if I could glean any insights to what was causing the pain but once again saw nothing suspicious. I did see a small, red spot on my foot where it hurt, as if it had been pricked by a pin. At least I knew I wasn't imagining the pain. There was something that had been poking at me, but it was frustrating not being able to figure out what the hell it was.

The rain started coming down in buckets again--heavier than at any other time during this miserable afternoon. An absolute sheet of water falling from the sky. I was glad I was in the shelter. I was definitely done for the day!

A short while later, more thru-hikers arrived: Unhinged, Gigs, Gruffalo and Everyready--in that order. I had had no idea that they were behind me! Given the miserable weather, I didn't think anyone else would show up. Surely they would have quit at an earlier shelter. The only two people I suspected might have showed up would have been Olive--she had been talking about going to this shelter for the night. When I didn't see her there, I assumed she had decided to stop at the previous shelter. (Turns out--I wouldn't find this out until a few days later--she actually hiked all the way to the road and hitched a ride into Manchester Center. She out-hiked me! And had a nice hotel room in town. I'd have been envious if I knew it at the time.)

Jiggs and Carlos said they were planning to go into Manchester Center so I hadn't expected to see them. And I didn't!

I was a little disappointed when four other people showed up, though. I'm not a big fan of large groups. Individually, I like them all well enough, but as a whole, they're kind of loud and meant that I couldn't spread out all of my gear as much as I wanted to. I would have preferred a quieter, smaller setting. It didn't help that Everready was pretty ticked off at Unhinged. Unhinged had walked out to the shelter a half-mile off trail and created an arrow made of sticks in the trail to lead the read of her group there. She'd mixed up the shelters or something, however, and meant to meet them at THIS shelter, and after realizing her error, hiked back to the trail and to this shelter. But apparently, she forgot about the arrow and Everready followed it the half-mile off trail to discover she'd arrived at the wrong shelter and had to backtrack back to the trail and to this shelter. So she was still upset and grumbling about the extra mile of walking through this miserable rain, and blamed Unhinged for the fiasco. I can't say I blame her for being upset, but it didn't really generate feelings of happiness or joy in the shelter either.

The day started off gorgeous, but it really ended badly....

Stratton Mountain lookout tower

View from the Stratton Mountain lookout tower

I liked how they labeled different areas on the horizon. So I know that that's Somerset Reservoir out on the horizon, and the little dot of water in front of it is Grout Pond. =)

Moose poop! Because we're in moose-country now!

Stratton Pond--you can see the "dimpled" surface of the water--that's the rain that had started.

I had to laugh.... It felt like I'd been walking through a lot of trail that was underwater, but they never closed those sections of trail. It must be really bad here! (This is not actually on the AT--it was pointing off trail around the lake so the closure didn't affect me.)

Wet, muddy, and why the #U*@ is the bottom of my left foot hurting so much?! Everything that's wrong with today can be summed up with this photo! Actually, I think I took this photo because the trail was under an inch or two of water here and I cleared the water drain where it had gotten clogged and watched the water drain right out. It's freshly exposed trail that's no longer underwater!

Spruce Peak Shelter, home for the night!


Unknown said...

I'm pretty sure the pain in your foot is "plantar fasciitis", which is the inflammation of the tendon on the bottom of the foot. I have suffered from this for decades and I feel your pain (literally) !!!!!!!!

Karolina said...

Wow, I never knew moose poop looks like enlarged sheep poop!

Ryan said...

Moose are just like giant sheep! =)