Appalachian Adventure 2002: Section 3
Manchester Vermont to Glencliff NH

June 4, 2002 - June 14, 2002

by Papa Bear

(Photo of cascade on Moosilauke)
A cascade coming down off Moosilauke,
beside the Beaver Brook Trail

Click here for a complete album of photos from this hike

Click here for an album of wild flowers seen along the trail

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Introduction

Western Vermont
June 4: Vermont Route 30 to Peru Peak Shelter
June 5: Peru Peak Shelter to Minerva Hinchley Shelter
June 6: Minerva Hinchley Shelter to Cooper Lodge (Killington)
June 7: Cooper Lodge to Stony Brook Shelter

Eastern Vermont
June 8: Stony Brook Shelter to Wintturi Shelter
June 9: Wintturi Shelter to Thistle Hill Shelter
June 10: Thistle Hill Shelter to Velvet Rocks Shelter

New Hampshire
June 11: Velvet Rocks Shelter to Trapper John Shelter
June 12: Trapper John Shelter to Hexacuba Shelter
June 13: Hexacuba Shelter to NH Route 25 (Glencliff)
June 14: NH Route 25 (Glencliff) to Kinsman Notch

An Evaluation of the Hike


Introduction

I

retired a little over a year ago and one of the things I had "always" wanted to do was hike the Appalachian Trail. Last year I spent considerable time training for a marathon, which I did last October in Dublin Ireland, so this year I decided to devote my time to hiking. I had hiked and backpacked a considerable amount in the 60s and 70s, but since then I had done very little. I did some research, got some new gear and got myself into shape. I decided a thru-hike was not for me, but I wanted an exhaustive, if not continuous experience. So I choose a 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off schedule. This would keep the momentum going, allow me to stay pretty fit between hikes, but allow me to participate a reasonable amount in "normal" life.

I found a hiking partner who was quite interested in following much the same schedule, so in April we did the first of our sections: from the Delaware Water Gap to Kent Connecticut. Part 2 followed in May where we made our way from Kent to Manchester Vermont, and this, the third section, took us to Kinsman Notch, New Hampshire. Ultimately we hope to reach Katahdin this September. We seem to get a little better each time: a little fitter, a better senses of what to bring (and what to leave home) and a more at-one-ness with the trail. It's working out rather well.

Folks ask me if I intend to do more next year and eventually hike the whole trail? The answer is "lets see how it goes". So far this has been lots of fun (except when it sucks) and I'll keep it that way, without (I hope) becoming obsessive. Although being a marathon runner, many people would say I'm already obsessive.


Western Vermont: The Long Trail

(Photo of rock ledge)
The Trail can be very wild
T

he trail as it travels it's first hundred miles or so of Vermont is almost straight north, along the route of Vermont's Long Trail. The Long Trail is the grandfather of long distance hiking trails and pre-dates the Appalachian Trail by a decade or so.

This section of the route is largely through the Green Mountain National Forest and is the most "wild". Yes it crosses Stratton, Bromley, Killington and Pico Peak, but those ski areas are mostly hidden from view. And yes, the forest is used for logging, but the trail itself avoids any active logging sites. Still it is wild in the sense that you seldom see a town or a farm unless you look carefully from the mountain tops into the valleys.

It is also very wet, especially at this time of year. The trail maintenance for this section must be a nightmare. In the early Spring the trail turns to mud and there is a constant battle to keep the treadway from eroding. Maintenance and trail building is among the best I have seen, and the local volunteers have done an admirable job in fighting the battle with mud and water. Of course the real battle is with us, the hikers. If we stayed off the trail in this season it would survive much better, but I guess we all insist on "loving it to death". But by June, things had dried out substantially, so it was the black flies and mosquitoes rather than the mud we had to battle.


Day 1: June 4, 2002
Vermont Route 30 (Manchester) to Peru Peak Shelter

Weather: temperature in the 60°s, humid.

T

he day actually started in New York City. I was to meet my partner Fresh Air at the bus terminal and we would take the 7:00 AM Greyhound to Manchester Vermont. There were two mini-SNAFUs which luckily did not portend any further problems. First I almost forgot my lunch and Fresh Air's trail guide pages which I had printed for him. Since these were not part of my gear, they were not on my comprehensive check list. I was actually in the cab, heading for the bus terminal when I remembered. Luckily my wife saw the bag of stuff and brought it down to the street so there was only a momentary delay. Then when I got to the terminal, I went straight to the gate since I had picked up my ticket the day before to save time. Unfortunately Fresh Air was waiting for me at the ticket counter and if it weren't for a cell phone conservation we would have both missed the bus. But we got going just at 7:00 AM and that was the last of the SNAFUs.

We arrived on time in Manchester Vermont a few minutes past noon and I asked the bus lady to call a taxi for us. Taxis up here are few and far between, but she managed to get Bill, who was actually on his way to Williamstown Massachusetts to redeem a lottery ticket, on his cell phone. We got a bite to eat and Bill showed up about 20 minutes later. He had an old wagon which was falling apart. The back door would only open from the outside, and the windows would not work at all. There were bits and pieces of assorted mechanical equipment on the floor, trunk, etc. Bill also matched the state of his car, but he was quite talkative and said he took hikers up to the trail all the time.

(Photo of Woodcock Chicks on trail)
Woodcock Chicks on the Trail
He got us there in about 15 minutes and after paying him his modest fee we were ready to start our hike for real. It was about 1:00 PM, just what we had hoped for.

Just as we started up the trail, I was startled by the sound of a bird taking off right at my feet. I saw the distinctive shape of a Woodcock fly off to the right. That was cool, since I don't see that species very often, but just as we were about to go on, I noticed 2 little spots on the trail, just where I was about to step. There were two Woodcock chicks, motionless and quiet right on the trail. The oversized beak was evident even in these miniature specimens.

(Photo of the trail on Bromley)
The Trail down off Bromley
The main job of the day was Mount Bromley. The climb was pretty easy until we got to where the trail actually follows a ski slope for about a half a mile. This was better than a road walk but esthetically it was not great. We soon arrived at the summit and looked over the buildings and the top of the ski lifts. Bromley was the most "intrusive" of all the ski mountains we went over where you can't avoid seeing and actually walking on the ski area. The bugs were starting to get annoying, so we moved on.

The views and esthetics improved as soon as we were off the summit and we started down to Mad Tom Road. A Forest service employee was painting a road sign there and we chatted with her for a few minutes. I tried out the big green water pump: a trickle came out but it was hard to use it the way they had laid out the pipes.

(Photo of trail with bog logs)
The Bog-logs are to protect the trail, not your feet. This shots shows the untouched green around the bog-logs.
(Photot ot trail without bog logs)
This shot is litterally next to the other. Without bog-logs there is massive mud and erosion.

We passed several bogs, with bog-logs and several steep climbs before arriving at Peru Peak. In spite of the short mileage today, I was rather tired when we got to the shelter. At the shelter we met Roland, an amiable fellow in his 60s who was from Bennington. He was taking it easy and said he was trying out an Esbit stove as something new to try. We got in relatively late (around 6:30 PM) so there was not a lot of time to read or anything. After we got off to bed, it rained, rather heavily at times. We hoped it would be over by morning.

(Photo of Peru Peak Shelter)
Peru Peak Shelter

Day 1 Trail Miles: 9.8


Day 2: June 5, 2002
Peru Peak Shelter to Minerva Hinchley Shelter

Weather: Temperature 60°, Cloudy and Misty.

T

oday was to be our longest day ever - 19.4 miles. We needed to get to the Minerva Hinchley Shelter so we would be in a position to get to the Cooper Lodge on Killington the next day. We wanted to bypass the Governor Clement Shelter which has a bad reputation of hikers being harassed by locals.

(Photo of Griffith lake)
Griffith Lake in the Morning Mist
We got up and out early by 6:47 AM, a record for us. The terrain started out pretty level with lots of bogs with bog-logs (and some without). Griffith Lake looked eerie in the morning mist.

Bakers Peak was a series of steep ridges. The trail guide describes it as the "final rocky scramble" to the top. Rocky scramble it was, but also rewarding. We then decided to go down and look at the Lost Pond Shelter, which had burned down last year. It was a complete wreck. I hope no one was caught in that fire. We took a break here and I explored the creek down below which was rather lovely.

(Photo of remains of Lost Pond Shelter)
The Remains of the Lost Pond Shelter
It continued to be pretty easy going and we soon came to the Big Branch River, with the suspension bridge and cascades. Beautiful. The Big Branch Shelter was right after the bridge. Five or six hikers were still getting going when we came by. It was already 10:00 AM and some of these folks were still in bed! Well, we chatted with a few of them. One guy with a dog had gone ahead as well as two Canadian women, and a young guy was getting going. That left 3 others in one group and a lone fellow named Lion Heart. He was thru-hiking the IAT and had started in Key West the previous November 21st. I asked him how it was going through the Smokeys in mid-winter, and he said not too bad. He knew the exact dates he had gone through them off the top of his head. Hell, I hardly know the date I went over Bromley (it was yesterday). He was taking a zero - he deserved the rest. He was the firest thru-hiker of any sort we had encountered.

(Photo of Big Branch Bridge)
The Bridge over Big Branch River
(Photo of big Branch Shelter)
Big Branch Shelter with the late rising gang

We moved on, since everyone seemed to be going to Minerva Shelter tonight (our destination) and we wanted to beat the crown to get a good spot on the floor.

(Photo of Little Rock Pond)
Little Rock Pond
We passed the lovely Little Rock Pond, but unfortunately couldn't dally due to the bugs. We then passed a group of about 10 high school kids moving very slowly. I asked them (apprehensively) where they were headed tonight (please, please don't say Minerva!) and was relieved to find they were headed for Greenwall Shelter, but a few miles further. In fact our long day today would encompass the 3 days the kids would be doing while they were out.

On the next climb we passed the two Canadian women we had been told had left Big Branch earlier, and just then the young guy caught up with us as well. But fast as he was he was more interested in hanging out with them then moving on, since he never did go ahead of us.

We passed over a recent relocation and then climbed a very tough slope with switchback after switchback up Bear Mountain. (No, not the New York Bear Mt, not the Connecticut Bear Mt, this was the Vermont Bear Mt.).

(Photo of Minerva Hinchley Shelter)
Minerva Hinchley Shelter
That's Sarah, Amber, Matt and Puddles
The long mileage of the day caught up with me and I truly struggled to get up this slope. Finally we passed Roaring Brook with some beautiful cascades, and made way over and down to Minerva. We were in fact the first to arrive. The guy with the dog had never stopped, but the young guy, then the two women (Amber and Sarah), then the 3 others (Puddles, Eric and Matt) trickled in and we had a full shelter for the night. The Shelter was a nice one with 2 levels (bunks) and anyway the Canadian women decided to tent out so there was plenty of room after all.

We were told there was a nice diner a few tenths of a mile on the road we would cross in the morning, so we looked forward to a real breakfast and enjoyed the rest of the day. It was the longest day but rewarding nevertheless.

Day 2 Trail Miles: 19.4
Aggregate Trail Miles: 29.2


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Day 3: June 6, 2002
Minerva Hinchley Shelter to Cooper Lodge (Killington)

Weather: 55°, Rain ending around mid day.

T

oday we were to climb Killington, our first 4000 footer. But first we were going to breakfast at that diner, so we got up, packed up without cooking breakfast and were off. The rain dampened our spirits, but ever the optimists, we hoped that it wouldn't last long. We got going around 7:30 while the rest of the crew at Minerva slept on.

(Photo of Wistletop Restaurant)
The Wistlestop Restaurant
It continued to rain on down to the road. We soon got to the awesome bridge over Clarendon Gorge. The gorge was high and the bridge was narrow and it kind of swayed when you walked over it, so it was a bit scary. At the far end we noticed a plaque dedicating the bridge to some one who ha been "lost" at this point some years ago. This hint of danger made things all the more scary, but we were across and we turned left and made our way to the diner. A short walk in the rain brought us to a refurbished classic railroad station. The building was right off the tracks (still in use) and an old sign said "West Clarendon". Around front we saw that the place was called the "Whistlestop Restaurant", and it was quite lovely inside. It was several cuts above your average diner. The waitress assured us the weather was supposed to clear later in the morning so we set down to a breakfast of steak and eggs with home fries and life was indeed good (but still a little wet).

(Photo of Gobernor Clement Shelter)
Sadie at Governor Clement
After breakfast we walked back to the trail. Although still misty, the actual rain had abated so we felt good. A tough climb of Beacon Hill was followed by a crossing of Gould Brook. The book labeled this as hazardous in high water, and seeing no way to cross by rock hopping, I switched to my camp shoes, hung my boots over my neck, and forded the stream. This was not bad, hardly hazardous, but I'm glad I didn't try to balance my way across on half submerged rocks. The forest was nice here, a sense of wildness prevailed with all the water rushing down of Killington.

We got to Governor Clement Shelter and finally met up with the guy with the dog. I don't know the guy's name, but the dog was Sadie and she was a sweet trail dog if ever there was one. They had stayed the night at this shelter (no locals problem: perhaps the rain helped) and they were just starting up Killington, heading for Pico Camp. We were aiming for Cooper Lodge, a few miles closer, so we said so long to them.

(Photo of blowdowns)
Blowdowns on Killington
We started up Killington and I mentioned to Fresh Air that I thought the trail was rather boring. He said wait a while, give it a chance. Just then we got to a much more interesting section, first moving along a ridge through dense Balsam, and later through an area where there had been a horrendous blowdown. Surely a hurricane or tornado had been through here. This section of the trail had been relocated (I think several times) in the last 5 or 10 years so the trail cut looked "new". We skirted around to the west of the peak and eventually got to the side trail to the summit and to Cooper Lodge. It had been a fairly easy day after all.

We saw some packs there - evidently some others had dropped their packs and gone to the summit. So we dropped our packs in the lodge and proceeded up. Immediately a large family (3 boys, a girl and the parents) came down off the summit trail as we proceeded up. Well, this was by far the steepest trail we had hit anywhere from New Jersey north, it was hand over foot climbing. At least 45 degrees. The climb was something like 500 ft. in .2 miles so you can figure that one.

(Photo of Killington Summit)
Killington Summit
The summit was just the ridge rocks. Over to one side were some maintenance buildings, but the ski trails and lifts were over on the east side so you had to climb slightly over the top to see them. They did not intrude on the trail (which after all was far below). I understand the old trail went along the east side of the mountain through the ski area, so it is now much improved in my opinion. This was our first 4000 footer so we were happy the weather had behaved, but soon turned around to get back down to the shelter.

When we got back down to the trail, we introduced ourselves to the family we had seen. They had hiked up from Route 4 and had plenty of good camping gear. The mother and daughter were dressed in long skirts and it turns out they were Mennonites from Lancaster Pennsylvania. Since Fresh Air came from a Mennonite background, it was a bit of a reunion. It seems all Mennonites know, or at least know the family names of, all other Mennonites.

The shelter appeared to be an old ski lodge of some sort. It was a stone building, rather dirty and the roof leaked. Luckily it rained the night before, but was not to rain tonight. Much of my stuff was damp, but it would be a cold night and not much would dry out.
(Photo of Cooper Lodge)
Cooper Lodge

Day 3 Trail Miles: 13.8, Extra miles: 1.4, Total: 15.2
Aggregate Trail Miles: 43.0, Aggregate Total: 44.4


Day 4: June 7, 2002
Cooper Lodge to Stony Brook Shelter

Weather: 42 degrees, thin clouds.

T

oday was a pivotal day. We would finish the part of the AT that follows the Long Trail and turn east towards New Hampshire and Maine. I expected that the number of fellow hikers I would see would drop since most of those we me lately had been LT thru- or section hikers. Furthermore, I would be on my own from here on. Fresh Air had got a call last night and would have to leave the trail at Route 4 to go home to attend a funeral of an elderly aunt. This year all of our hikes had been together, so it was a little bit funny to think of hiking alone. But soon the thought passed since the trail was the trail and when you're walking it, you are basically alone anyway, whoever else may be nearby.

(Photo of Pico Peak)
Pico Peak from Killington
The cold night had kept my damp things damp, so there was nothing to do but put on the damp Smartwool socks and damp fleece shirt and get going. I knew I would quickly warm up anyway so I didn't delay.

The trail down was a beautiful walk through dense Balsam along the ridge west of Pico Peak. It soon became a Spruce and then a Birch forest with a lovely understory of ferns. Hiking was easy for this descent. We soon met a day hiker who said his name was "Geezer Hiker". He was in his late 60s and we had seen him yesterday on the other side of the mountain. He said he was gradually day hiking the entire trail, up and back every peak. That way he pointed out he actually did everything twice - both up and down directions. When we talked yesterday we were a little skeptical, but upon seeing him again doing this side of Killington, we were convinced he really was serious about doing it his way.

(Photo of beautiful glade)
A Beautiful Green Glade
The sky had become completely blue and there was a cool breeze. Great hiking weather. We reached Route 4 and it was time to say goodbye to Fresh Air. He would hitch to Rutland where he could get a bus down to NYC. I stood off in the woods (not to scare away the drivers) and he soon got his ride. I changed to lighter clothes and soon I was off - alone this time.

I passed through a beautiful green glade and soon came to Maine Junction. A recent relocation had moved the AT about a mile east, so the trail I now entered was actually the old route before the relocation. Looking back to the south I could see the north side of Pico Peak with all the ski trails in evidence, a view that I did not get from the trail itself (which skirted this peak to the west). The tread on the trail showed the difference in usage. After moving away from the LT and the rest of the relocation the trail passed through a campground in a state park. The trail was hardly blazed at all here, but by simply staying on the road, I soon got to the next highway and was back in the woods.

(Photo of kent Pond)
The input Stream to Kent Pond
The trail skirted Kent Pond and went through a lovely Pine forest. Eventually I came out onto a dirt road which I followed for about a mile. This was hot and boring. The map showed the trail would be rerouted off of this road sometime soon - thank goodness. I passed over the Ottauquechee River, which I knew from the towns of Woodstock and Queechy. Here it was a languid stream through a large bog. I was told later that if I had gone down the slope off the road walk, I could have seen some nice cascades slightly upstream.

I crossed River Road and then climbed the toughest climb of the day. One of those steep switchbacked dirt hills that wear you down. Give me rocks anytime. I proceeded to climb no less than 3 unnamed 2600' hills. Where I come from, 2600 ft is a real mountain. Up here they don't even give them names! I crossed a dirt road and chatted briefly with a guy on a 4 wheeler ATV. He said the next 15 miles was easy going. Had he walked it or ridden over it? Well, I took his word for it anyway.

(Photo of Ottauquechee)
The Placid Ottauquechee
My right calf was bothering me. It was strained from the steep hill climbs and I knew I was tired from the 19 miler and the Killington climb of the last two days. I took it real easy and favored the leg. It seemed if I didn't flex my right ankle, it would be less sore.

I arrived at the shelter and met a group of 5 guys: Rod, Jim, Ed, Scott and Shawn. The first 3 were in their 50s and were doing one of their twice yearly long-weekend hikes. They were nice guys with lots of good food which you can take when you do short hikes. Their rituals included cigars for the campfire and a Gatorade bottle of very good scotch. I passed when offered to partake. They were tired and complained about the hills, their packs, all the usual stuff but you could see they enjoyed each other's company and getting out there.

I had had a good workout the last few days. I took some Vitamin I for my right calf and hit the sack early.

(Photo of Story Brook Shelter)
Story Brook Shelter with Ed, Rod, Jim and Scott

Day 4 Trail Miles: 16.0, Extra miles: 0.2, Total: 16.2
Aggregate Trail Miles: 59.0, Aggregate Total: 60.6


Eastern Vermont: past Maine Junction

W

hen the AT turns east at Maine Junction, leaving the Long Trail and wending it's way over towards New Hampshire, it's character changes quite noticeably. Whereas I would call the first section as "wild" I would say this section is "pastoral".

Another difference is that the trail maintenance is taken over by the Dartmouth Outing Club. The trail in Vermont along the Long Trail is maintained by the Green Mountain Club. The most noticeable difference is DOC's bright orange signage. I prefer GMC's natural wood signs with the letters carved into the wood. As for trail quality, I'd say GMC has a much harder section (more mountainous, wetter) and does a great job. DOC's job is good, but sections here and there could definitely use work.

(Photo of vermont upland meadow)
The "Pastoral" Trail in Eastern Vermont
The mountains are lower (although still steep here and there) and in place of the unbroken forests of the Green Mountains there are many farms and meadows. Some abandoned, and yes some still active. If you leaf through the pictures in the gallery for this hike you will see shot after shot of open meadows, pastures, farm houses etc. which were largely absent in the first part of the Vermont AT.

Another difference, and this is major, is that the trail is much dryer in this section. Perhaps it's the lower elevation, or the type of soil or underlying rocks (and of course it was a bit later into the Spring season), but the steep rock climbs to high elevation bogs with so much water and mud, were replaced by hill climbs over dry hill tops, often old pastureland. The one area where you would be likely get your boots wet were occasional boggy meadows.

I consider this the "picture-postcard" Vermont, and I love it's beauty. Alas, the day may come when these old farms and small towns are turned into new developments, and that will be a shame. But for now, this is the Vermont I have known and loved for years. So get up here, look around and enjoy the trail. The countryside is probably much as it was in the late 19th and early 20th century (actually there were likely more active farms then but the character was much the same).


Day 5: June 8, 2002
Stony Brook Shelter to Wintturi Shelter

Weather: 50°, sun.

I

saw the sunrise from the shelter. It was a nice morning. My leg wasn't hurting so I'm hoping my "favoring" of it and the Advil I took, had done the trick. I was dreading waking up to a stiff sore calf muscle. This was to be a short day - just under 10 miles, so that boded well for my rest and recovery.

(Photo of rocky knoll)
Over a Little Knoll
My shelter-mates were on the same schedule as I, but I was first to get off, around 7:30 AM. I started over a beautiful little knoll. I startled a Ruffed Grouse - perhaps the trail was near her nest. First she fanned her tail and hissed, then she limped away in another direction with a little cry, evidently trying to lead me away from her nest. My camera alas was not ready to get a shot of her.

I climbed a hill to a hemlock covered ridge. So far my right calf was acting OK, but the day was young. Jim caught up with me while I was taking a break and moved ahead for a while. He said he had to get a head start since his friends would eventually overtake him. His feet were bothering him yesterday, but he said they were better today. My own pack, which I had adjusted the other day, seemed to stay in better balance today.

(Photo of White Birch)
A Stand of White Birch
Scott and Shawn, the two younger guys from the group, also passed by. I would pass and be passed several times but these 3. It was nice hiking with lots of small ups and downs. After passing a road I entered a beautiful White Birch stand. White Birch was relatively unusual - Yellow Birch was much more common in these uplands.

I stopped briefly at the Lakota Lake Lookout, but it was too buggy to stay. So I pressed on and a couple of miles later I followed the short side trail to "The Lookout". This was great. An enclosed cabin with a lookout platform on the roof. And the sign "Hikers Welcome" on the door. I had a bit to eat and chatted with 3 college age girls who had 3 dogs. They said they had hiked up here in 15 minutes from somewhere. And to think I've been hiking over 400 miles to get to this place! I got a picture of myself with their puppy and eventually got back down to the trail.


Me and friends at "The Lookout"
There were numerous others moving the other way that I passed. One was a fellow who introduced himself as Dick Adams who said he was a SOBO thru-hiker, but he had to skip some of Maine and the Whites due to deep snow. Not sure when he started but I guess it was too early.

There were several more bumps and a long descent to the Shelter. I had time to rinse some of my clothes before the others trickled in and by 4:00 they had all arrived. Ed decided to tent out - in spite of the threat of rain. Then another couple, Ed and Shelly, showed up around 6:00 and they too intended to tent. They were new to backpacking and she had a 50 lb. pack and said his was heavier! Yikes! So there were 8 of us in or around the shelter and got a fire going which needed to be continually fed. I'm no big fan of fires, with the smoke and constant maintenance needed, but they have their good points on a cold night. As usual the guys had their scotch and cigars, and we all turned in.

(Photo of Wintturi Shelter)
The Wintturi Shelter

Day 5 Trail Miles: 9.6, Extra miles: 0.3, Total: 9.9
Aggregate Trail Miles: 68.6, Aggregate Total: 70.5


Day 6: June 9, 2002
Wintturi Shelter to Thistle Hill Shelter

Weather: 60°, sprinkles.

T

he guys were joking that it always had to rain on one of their camping trips, so on cue, we had some morning sprinkles. Luckily these did not last too long. I said goodbye to the gang (who would finish off today) and got an early start at 7:15.

The trail was pretty in this section, a few ups and downs, a vista and Hemlocks, Ferns, Pine and Maple to go through. It was sunny but a bit humid. My right leg was still OK, so I could almost consider that recovered.

(Photo of ferns umnder pinmes)
Ferns under Pines
After passing a road, the trail went through open meadows and pastures interspersed with stands of Hemlock. A couple of the ups were steep - I was breathless. The weather had turned cloudy with some sprinkles. I took a break at Route 12 and then up and over Dana Hill, which again had me breathless. I've said before and I'll say again, these steep dirt hills are worse than rock climbs up real mountains! Dana Hill had nice woods on top. The Fern under the Pine was unusually beautiful. It was quiet and I was alone. A nice contemplative place. The sun was out again. It was playing hide and seek with the sprinkles.

I took another break at Stage Road. There was a bridge over a stream here. It was funny, as I came out to this road I looked at my Trail Guide page, and a couple of men came across the road from the other direction. I said out loud, "I'm trying to figure out what road this is". They said "It's Stage Road, we just figured that out ourselves". So this was a bit of helpful information from the only souls I had seen all morning on the trail.

(Photo of upland meadow)
Open Meadows - Beautiful but Hot
I ate the apple Rod had given me (love those weekenders with their food!) and noticed the temperature was up in the upper 70s and it was humid. It was getting to be uncomfortable hiking, especially with all the open meadows and pastures I was passing through. I loved it when I would get back into the woods - especially Hemlock - a welcome coolness!

I met a woman moving south up from Rt. 38. She introduced herself as Mrs. Gorp. I said "I know who you are, you resupplied Flyin' Brian last year when Greyhound lost his pack". She said "Yes, that's me, in fact these are the trekking poles he used". She wanted to know if there was any water at "The Lookout" (no), and we chatted about various things. She had been hiking in the south this year but had to break it off and now she was just getting out there. It was nice to meet someone I only knew from reading stuff on the internet.

(Photo og Mrs. Gorp)
Mrs. Gorp
Photo by Chase, used with permision
Down through more lovely (but hot) fields, I crossed Pomfret Road and then started a long ascent. My right calf suddenly hurt again from the constant steep climbing. This would be big trouble if it kept up or got worse. I made a new concerted effort to go slow and to favor it and seemed to get by alright. I worked my way over an unnamed hill (I hate that! Especially when they are so steep!), past Cloudland Road and finally Thistle Hill. My leg was OK - sort of, so far. The sign indicated Cloudland Shelter, which was not in the Databook. I later heard this had been closed due to nearby logging but was now open again. I rested at this road (hopefully my last rest stop) and luckily there was a warm breeze which helped ameliorate the humid afternoon. I finally arrived at Thistle Hill Shelter at 3:15.

The water was a good ways distant. First you pass a dry stream and you think "Oh sh*t, there's no water", then you go another 50 yards or so and there is a wet stream which is OK. But it was buggy pumping the filter. It was pump - pump - smack. I'm sure I killed 45 mosquitoes while pumping 3 liters. My right calf was also not feeling too terrific, but it was not worse. I rinsed a few things and hung them out to dry and took a little time to relax. I also separated out some stuff I could send back when I got to Hanover tomorrow afternoon. The tent, some extra clothes, various other stuff. I wanted to make my load as light as possible for the last trek through New Hampshire. My right calf (and my back!) would be thankful.

(Photo of Turbo, Bruno and Sassafras)
Turbo, Bruno and Sassafras
At this point two women and a dog arrived. They introduced themselves as Sassafras (who was just out of high school) and Turbo (30 something) and her trail dog Bruno. Bruno was one of the sweetest, best behaved dogs I have encountered. They were thru-hikers who had started in early March from Georgia and were doing 20 miles a day. They were overflowing with conversation and were cursing the steep Vermont hills, much as I had been doing the last few days. Like myself, they agreed they would prefer rocks to these steep hills any day. They were the first thru-hikers to catch up with me. They had also talked to Mrs. Gorp earlier in the day. Sassafras had hiked with her a while in the south earlier this year. They would also get to Hanover tomorrow so our schedules would correspond for at least these two days.

It was a warm buggy night, I would put the bug net over my head, but the mosquitoes would still do their annoying buzz. Then I would put in my ear plugs so I wouldn't hear the buzz. Then it would be too hot and claustrophobic, so off would come the net and out would come the earplugs. So went the night. It was actually my worst bug night yet, and the girls said the same thing.

Day 6 Trail Miles: 11.5, Extra miles: 0.4, Total: 11.9
Aggregate Trail Miles: 80.1, Aggregate Total: 82.4


Day 7: June 10, 2002 Thistle Hill Shelter to Velvet Rocks Shelter

Weather: 55°, mixture of sun and clouds.


(Photo of old rock dam)
An old rock dam by the trail
B

oth myself and the 2 girls were headed to Hanover today. I hoped to find someplace cheap there to stay and they did also. I always look forward to a night off the trail with a real bed and dinner in a real restaurant. But the rumor was that there were no more active hiker hostels in town. The college wanted to avoid legal responsibility and the town had become too upscale. The Hanover Inn was reputed to be $240 per night.

The terrain was getting more rural, less forests and more open space as I approached the Connecticut Valley. The ups and downs were not bad and to be honest the meadows and pastures I went through were actually quite lovely. My leg was OK as I was favoring it strongly and really trying to relieve any excess stress on it.

I passed a small pond and looking closely, I realized it was an old farm pond with a rock dam (with no mortar) at the outlet. Both dam and pond (and farm) were obscured by many years of overgrowth.

I passed a Red Pine plantation and came out to a meadow with a view to the south-east of the Connecticut River, about 8 or 10 miles away. This was a great morale booster since crossing this river was my goal for today and it would be a milestone to cross into a new state.

(Photo of the red Pine Plantation)
Red Pine Plantation
(Photo of the Country Store in West Hartford)
The Country Store in West Hartford

It was still only mid-morning when I crossed the old iron bridge over the White River and through the lovely town of West Hartford. I stopped for coffee and a snack at the country store. The man said the two woman hikers had just left. That would be Turbo and Sassafras.

(Photo of Happy Hill Shelter)
Happy Hill Shelter
Some clouds appeared by 11:00, but I was making good time. I took the side trail to the Happy Hill Shelter for lunch. This was a beautiful little stone structure, but it was buggy there. I met two southbound section hikers (Plato and The Dutchman) as I was moving down the hills towards Norwich Vermont.

Unfortunately I didn't realize the extent of the road walks through this section. It seemed to be at least a mile in Norwich on the Vermont side and probably at least as much in Hanover on the New Hampshire side. And of course there was about a mile of road in West Hartford I had walked in the morning. Ironically, although the roads are esthetically unpleasant , and hard on your feet, you actually make better time moving along them.

(Photo of Bridge over Connecticut River)
The Bridge over the Connecticut into New Hampshire
So at last I crossed the bridge over the Connecticut and into Hanover at 2:15. New Hampshire! - this was my 6th state since my first section hike in New Jersey in April. I headed to the Dartmouth Outing Club in one of the college buildings. This proved to be a major disappointment. There was no information about any hiker services and the staff there was almost afraid to tell me anything. The college must have told its staff something like "Thou Shalt Help No Hikers!"

Bah!. At least the pizza place would know how to help me.

So I went to the Post Office, picked up my food for the next 4 days, mailed back my excess stuff and headed out to eat. I had a very nice couple of slices and a couple of pints in the Brick and Brew and then headed up to Velvet Rocks Shelter. Like it says in the Gospel "And in those towns where you are not welcome, shake the dust off your sandals and leave", or something like that.

I passed through the outskirts of Hanover and found the trail which climbed a steep but short trail to the shelter. It seemed to be graduation weekend (it was actually a Monday) and all sorts of young and old college types were hiking up the trail. There is a nice rocky ridge with good views near the shelter and I saw probably 8 or 10 hikers going by - first up and then back.

(Photo of Pb and Bruno at Velvet Rocks Shelter)
Me and Bruno at Velvet Rocks Shelter

I got to the shelter and there was Turbo and Sassafras (and of course Bruno). They had come to the same conclusion as I did and decided the trail and the shelter was a better place to spend the night. I cooked supper (didn't I just have pizza and beer and hour or two ago?) and got my stuff into the shelter. It was VERY small. It was supposed to sleep 4, but the 3 of us practically filled it to capacity.

Day 7 Trail Miles: 16.1, Extra miles: 2.0, Total: 18.1
Aggregate Trail Miles: 96.2, Aggregate Total: 100.6


New Hampshire: Approaching the Whites


(Photo of Franconia Ridge and the Presidentials)
Franconia Ridge and the Presidentials from Moosilauke
W

estern New Hampshire is quite similar to eastern Vermont but with important differences: the "pastoral" quality gives way to more of a forest quality, and there is the ever present sense of expectation of something big coming. Although one might on a clear day get a glimpse of the White Mountains from as far back as Stratton in Vermont, and certainly from Killington, now the views of these beautiful peaks become commonplace as you move nearer.

Finally you reach Mt. Moosilauke, the first of what I would call the real mountains, the first on the entire trail for a northbounder to rise above treeline, and incidentally the last place where the trail passes through a farm field (at least that's what the Companion has to say). From here on in you are in the mountains, no two ways about it.

Logistics get trickier as well. Bus service is hard to find in many places and one has to plan carefully to lay out a section hike and find access to both start and finish. Of course worse logistics are to come. There are some places in Maine (so I've heard) you just can't get to! (or from!)


Day 8: June 11, 2002
Velvet Rocks Shelter to Trapper John Shelter

Weather: 60°, sun giving way to clouds and rain.

I

t started out looking like another nice day. The two girls were going farther than I was (they were headed for the "Firewarden's Cabin" on Smart's Mountain, nearly 22 miles) and were up and out early. They had talked me into aiming for Glencliff, which had a hostel near the trail, rather than aiming for a shelter (Ore Hill or Jeffers Brook) on my third night. They planned to take a zero day in Glencliff, so although I would take 3 days to get there (vs. two for them) I would likely see them again when I got there. This also made my last day, hiking over Moosilauke, shorter and easier to plan. Moosilauke was on my mind both because I was worried about my right calf (which fortunately felt fine this morning) and just the fact that it was the most significant peak I would get to in all my hiking this season.

(Photo of trail in rain)
Trail in the morning rain
I worried about the weather, the terrain, etc. etc. But I had just unloaded about 6 lb. worth of stuff the day before in Hanover, so hiking would definitely be easier for the rest of this section.

I was shooting for Trapper John Shelter today, slightly over 15 miles, and got started at 6:50 AM. It's always nice when I manage to get going before 7:00. The bugs were already starting to be bothersome so it was good to get moving.

As it turned out, it got more cloudy as I went along, not less. It looked like prospects for a nice day would not happen. The forest was dark with the clouds and the trees. The Pine and Hemlock groves were almost forbidding - but in an intriguing, not a malevolent way. The silence and shadows made for a particularly introspective hike. The rain started by about 9:00 AM and continued on without really stopping till well into the afternoon.

I had to climb Moose Mountain, which has two peaks separated by a long relatively flat saddle between.

(Photo of Moose Mountain)
Moose Mountain, South Peak
The South Peak was an easy climb, and I decided to take the side trail (actually a muddy woods road) down to Moose Mountain Shelter for a break. I didn't put on my rain gear. It was warm and the rain was light - I figured I'd get wetter with it on, what with the high humidity and sweat. During lulls in the rain, it was a bit chilly when I stopped for a break.

The undergrowth was extremely thick on the flat saddle between the Moose Mountain peaks and I got wetter there than from the earlier rain. After passing by the north peak, I started down towards Goose Pond Road. I was concentrating on my footing, and suddenly my head slammed into an overhanging tree across the trail. Wham! I hit it so hard it knocked me down and bloodied my scalp! Boy, why don't they put warning signs down by your feet for hazards ahead? I got going again and got down to the road.

After crossing Goose Pond Road, the trail skirted a pretty bog area with some nice wild flowers. However, the mosquitoes were getting so bad I could hardly stop long enough to snap a picture before being bitten, so I moved along. Now came the climb up Holt's Ledge. The rain had stopped and it was very hot and humid. The temperature was in the high 70s.

(Photo of Holt's Ledge)
Holt's Ledge
Well, this climb was just about the worst I had done this hike. I was more tired and more drenched from sweat than I have remembered for quite a while. I suppose on a clear cool day, with a light pack, this would be a nice climb, but not today!

There was an area which was off bounds, where Peregrine Falcons were nesting, but I did nevertheless get a good view of the ledge and valley below. This is where the Dartmouth College has it's ski area, although I never did see any of that from the trail.

To add insult to injury, by the top of the ledge, my water had run out. Instead of pumping more, I figured I would just trudge on to the shelter which at this point was only a mile or so further.

I finally made it down to Trapper John Shelter, which was in a nice cool glen with a very good stream just yards away for water. There I met Maine Billy, who was taking a zero day here.

Billy was one of the more interesting chaps I met. He was from Maine, from a small costal town. He was about 18, and had quit high school a few years before to become a lobsterman. He made good money during the lobster season and intended to go back and enter college to study philosophy. He had read many of the great philosophers (from Aristotle all the way to Spinoza) and would wax eloquent on many topics, especially nature and the forest. He was marking time since he was going to meet his high school sweetheart in Glencliff over the next weekend. They planned to do some of the trail together heading north into Maine.

His stove had conked out a while back, so he cooked his meals on wood fires (and skipped breakfast). Even while gathering wood and cooking (he always lit his fires with just one match, no matter the rain) he would expound on the need to leave the dead twigs and wood for the forest. It was food for the forest life, as he would say. He hoped to get his stove fixed when he got to Glencliff.

(Photo of papa Bear at Trapper John)
Papa Bear at Trapper John Shelter

The rain started again in the afternoon, fortunately after I had made it to Trapper John. I had made a strategic error however by rinsing out most of my sweaty clothes. In this weather they would never dry. But I felt clean and happy to be here and my leg felt OK.

The rain continued off and on during the night. It's always hard to tell rain from water dripping from the trees, but it was wet in either case, that's for sure.

Day 8 Trail Miles: 15.2, Extra miles: 0.9, Total: 16.1
Aggregate Trail Miles: 111.4, Aggregate Total: 116.7


Day 9: June 12, 2002
Trapper John Shelter to Hexacuba Shelter

Weather: 55°, rain.

Smarts Mountain

T

he clothes I had rinsed yesterday afternoon were not-unexpectedly still quite damp. This fact underscored another strategic error I had made: I had sent a bunch of unnecessary stuff back home when I went through Hanover. Among these were a set of "night clothes" which consisted of a long sleeve coolmax shirt, long johns and a pair of coolmax socks. I also sent back my camp shoes - a pair of K-mart aqua-mocs. Now the long johns and shirt will not be missed, but with a chilly, rainy day in the offing, and no dry socks or camp shoes (just two damp pairs of Smartwools), I would have no warm dry feet when I got to camp. Not to cry over spilled milk, and in the knowledge that damp or even wet Smartwool socks can still be warm, I got my stuff together and got going.

(Photo of granite trail marker)
Granite Trail Marker
The target today was the Hexacuba Shelter, a mere 12 miles along over Smart's Mountain. The trek didn't look too bad. I started out with just my undershorts and my Frogg Toggs (rain gear) on top and bottom. I made sure my fleece shirt would stay dry as well as my long nylon pants and shirt so I'd have some dry camp clothes. I was finishing up breakfast trying to plan a wet day strategy with Billy still asleep.

The first section, down to the road was fine. Rain and Solitude ... rain drop noise on the forest cover. I passed that immensely incongruous granite trail marker. New Hampshire - the Granite State. Wouldn't you know. When you get there and see it you can give a chuckle.

Then up the Lambert Ridge, a series of steep rock ledges. This proved to be a bit exciting in the wind and rain. Almost dangerous where the strong wind on the exposed ledges buffeted you. The rain and wind was tiring and when I got to the Firewarden's cabin at the top of Smart's Mountain I needed a rest. The crew there of 5 lay-a-beds let me in and watched me from their sleeping bags, trying to get warm. Finally I scrounged some water and cooked a pot of oat meal and that did the trick. But for that, I was just shivering in wet socks and wet clothes in the chill air. I got going again and apparently inspired the others there to get moving a bit. Ed and Emily started getting dressed and got their packs together as I was leaving. They would pass me shortly going down the north side of Smart's Mountain. The 3 other girls (one of whom had given me water to make the oatmeal) would be moving soon as well.

(Photo of group at Firewarden's cabin)
The gang at the Firewarden's cabin
Either the mileage was mismarked or this was one of the fastest sections I hiked: 4.2 miles in 1 hour 35 minutes down to the road. The near chilling experience and just wanting to get moving had done the trick. While I was moving I was warm (though wet) and felt good. As I was moving along here, the rain was close to a downpour. I shouted out "It's F*cking Raining F*cking Cats and Dogs!". This didn't seem to help. Or then again maybe it did. Up and over the next ridge and there was the side trail to the Hexacuba Shelter. I soon got there and who should be there but "Who Cooks for You?" whom I had last seen in April in New Jersey on her first night on the trail. I had finally caught up with her almost 450 miles later. Ed and Emily were there and Maine Billy would show up as well as the other 3 girls I had seen at the Firewarden's Cabin.

"Hexacuba"? What kind of name is that? I thought maybe it was named after someone, or had something to do with Cube Mountain, where it is located. Well, when I saw it I knew: it was shaped like a hexagon!. Six sides with the front two sides open. This gives somewhat more protected wall space then the usual rectangular shelter. The only problem was deciding how to fit ourselves in. We debated doing it radially or circumferentially and eventually settled on the former. A visit to the privy made the geometric joke even better: it had 5 sides and was labeled the Penta Privy! You gotta see it!

(Photo of the hexacuba Shelter)
The Hexacuba Shelter ...
(Photo of the Penta Privy)
And the Penta Privy

Everyone who showed up had tons of clothes to hang up to dry ... not that we expected anything to actually dry. My main problem was my cold, wet feet. The simplest solution was to hang up the Smartwools, go bare foot, and stay on my thermarest for insulation. I made sure the wet stuff didn't get the dry stuff wet and once I got into the sleeping bag I was fine. It finally stopped raining and got colder. There was a pitter-patter all night - hopefully just the trees dripping.

Day 9 Trail Miles: 12.0, Extra miles: 0.6, Total: 12.6
Aggregate Trail Miles: 123.4, Aggregate Total: 129.3


Day 10: June 13, 2002
Hexacuba Shelter to NH Route 25 (Glencliff)

Weather: Low 50°s, dripping but not raining. Clearing later in the morning.

I

was up early today. I intended to get to Glencliff (just under 15 miles) and stay at the Hostel. Turbo and Sassafras had suggested this to me and it was a good plan. Alternatives would have been to stay at Ore Hill Shelter (too close) or Jeffers Brook Shelter (a little too far). The shower, washing machine and restaurant would make up for the town stop I missed in Hanover. Who Cooks for You? was also up early; the rest of the gang was sleeping late as I made breakfast and got ready to go.

(Photo of Mount Cube)
Mount Cube
I got off at 7:10, just ahead of Who Cooks for You?. The start of the day was a rock climb up Mount Cube. The trail was very quiet. No rain, no breeze, no birds to speak of. The climb was moderate, but I managed to slip on one of the many rock slabs and skin my knee. No bleeding, but this was my first "injury" of this entire section hike, of which I was justly proud. I still had scabs on both knees from the previous hike!

The peak was nice and the descent down was easy. I got rolling and soon reached the road (NH 25A). There I changed into lighter clothes and had a bite to eat. The sun was just breaking through so it was going to be a nice day - after 2 days of rain I deserved that!

After my little rest I crossed the road and discovered a large wetland to the left and the trail entered the woods a little to the right. But whoaa! There was no trail! The water from the marsh extended along the road and was about 10 feet wide and at least a foot deep! Either temporary flooding from 2 days of rain, or maybe that's just the way it was. There seemed no way around, so I either had to go through or end my hike prematurely right here. Off came gaiters, boots and socks and I trudged through barefoot. This was no big deal but it was time consuming to take off all my footwear, go through, and then dry my feet and put everything back on again. I'll have to work out a better system for when I get to Maine.

(Photo of pond near ore Hill)
A little pond near Ore Hill
The climb up Ore Hill was not bad. There were lots of bogs lower down and the trail here needs work (to say nothing of getting across that water hazard at Route 25A). I got to the Ore Hill Shelter and the sun was now bright and the day had actually gotten hot. I spread out some of my wet stuff (my second pair of Smartwools, my shoes, gaiters, etc.) and had a snack. Unfortunately there was no register here so I couldn't read who had gone through here lately. There were a few bugs but they didn't seem to be biting, so it was a good little rest stop.

The hike down to Route 25C and up the other side was easy. I took another break about 2:00 PM and suddenly noticed I had no gaiters on! Sh*t! I must have left them at the Ore Hill Shelter. I could only hope one of the gang from Hexacuba would stop there and pick them up for me. Perhaps I would get them back in Glencliff (where we were all heading). I could only hope.

The bugs discovered me, so I was off down the easy descent of Mount Mist to Glencliff. The trail was supposed to skirt Wachipauka Lake, according to the Trail Guide, but it didn't! Maybe there had been a recent relocation in this section. I got to the road and a very short (but hot and sunny) walk down the hill brought me to the Hikers Welcome Hostel.

(Photo of Hikers Welcome Hostel)
Hikers Welcome Hostel
There was no one in charge around, just a sign saying bunks upstairs, shower and washer in the back yard, food in the fridge; just keep track of what you take and make yourself at home! Cool place. I met a young Canadian woman and next her father (whom Turbo and Sassafras had mentioned: they called him Firestarter). Lo and behold, the man said "I know you. We met at Seth Warner Shelter a month ago. We were the ones who had set up the tent inside the shelter". I said yes indeed I remembered you. They had taken some time off the trail and so I was able to catch them even though I had been off the trail for about 10 days in late May.

I took my shower and washed my stuff (and found a tick on my foot. Where ever did I get that? Barefoot in Hexacuba in yesterday's rain?) Then lo and behold, Ed and Emily walked in and Ed said: "Papa Bear, are these your gaiters?" Yes, yes they were. Thanks. It seems that they and Who Cooks for You were all taking a break at Ore Hill Shelter and saw them drying on a log. Who Cooks thought they were mine ("They matched your tan clothes style" she said later. And I didn't even know I had a clothes style!).

We soon met Packrat (John) who ran the place. He gave us a ride to Warren, the next town (there was nothing in Glencliff but this Hostel, the post office and a few houses). We picked up the Canadian couple down the road hitching, and we got dropped off by the pizza place and grocery store. Packrat was off to pick up Turbo and Sassafras in Franconia Notch. It seems yes, they got here yesterday, but instead of taking a zero today, they decided to do a 26 mile slack! They wanted to take advantage of the nice weather, so they said. We had nice food and brew (I had a bacon cheese burger, medium rare, with French fries and two pints of local microbrew. Great!)

(Photo of Packrat)
Packrat
(Photo of Turbo)
Turbo
(Photo of Who Cooks for You? and Sassafras)
Who Cooks for You?
and Sassafras

When we got back, I met with Turbo and Sassafras, back from their slack, and Who Cooks for You? who had also arrived from her day's hike from Hexacuba Shelter. There were 3 or 4 others and it was quite an amiable crowd. Packrat offered to slack my pack to Kinsman Notch tomorrow and after burrowing a day pack I readily agreed. Doing a tough mountain like Moosilauke would be much easier with a light load. The weather forecast was for sun, with rain late in the day tomorrow, so I was hopeful tomorrow would be a great last day of hiking for me over Moosilauke.

Day 10 Trail Miles: 14.7, Extra miles: 0.8, Total: 15.5
Aggregate Trail Miles: 138.1, Aggregate Total: 144.8


Day 11: June 14, 2002
NH Route 25 (Glencliff) to Kinsman Notch

Weather: 60°. Sun, with thin clouds by afternoon.

Mount Moosilauke

M

oosilauke! For several reasons I was concerned about today's hike. First off was my right calf, which started bothering me way back on the Long Trail after crossing Killington. Luckily this had been "good" for the last few days, and the lighter pack I had carried since Hanover had helped. Second was the fact that it was the first peak to rise above treeline. I know it's just another mountain with no trees at the top, but I had an irrational fear - no, not fear - concern, that somehow when I got above treeline, the wind would start howling at 60 MPH and the snow and sleet would start coming down. In truth the day was sunny with temperatures going up the the 70s and likely to remain that way even at the summit. Third was the trail down the north side. Everyone had told me this was very steep and possibly dangerous - especially in the rain. So with rain forecast for late in the day I had visions of rain coming 4 hours too early and washing me down the north slope of the mountain. Such are our fears. Luckily reality generally is much more mundane, so I got a hold of my self and got going by 7:00 AM. Packrat agreed to drop by the Cascade Lodge in North Woodstock, where I would stay tonight, and get his day pack and bring my pack.

(Photo of last pasture)
The last pasture on the trail for northbounders
So off I went, up the road and into the woods at the trail head. STOP!! Here was a wide stream (10 yards) with no stepping stones to speak of. It was (to quote Yogi Berra) Deja Vu all over again. Off came the gaiters, boots, and socks. Across I went barefoot. Then dry the feet, put everything back on. Thus went the first 10 minutes of today's epic journey. Distance traveled - 10 yards. I shortly crossed several smaller streams on nicely constructed bridges. So why wasn't the larger stream at the road bridged? Beats me, perhaps to keep the tourists off the trail.

Surprisingly, the first mile or two of the trail was very un-wild. I crossed a road and walked about a quarter mile along it. Then I passed a cemetery. Finally I went off into a farm area and slowly got away from civilization. The Companion says the pasture land here is the last that the trail crosses for northbounders. No more meadows and pastures all the way to Katahdin!

(Photo of rocky trail)
The trail up gets very steep and rocky
The weather was good. Thin clouds - almost blue sky, with a slight breeze. The temperature seemed to get cooler as I climbed. The trail at first was wet and then gradually climbed, steeper and steeper. It was a tough trail by any measure but carrying only a day pack made a BIG difference. I passed a couple of day hikers and finally got to the trail junction where a side trail went off to the South Peak. The main trail got much easier and followed an old carriage road which used to bring tourists to the top in the last century (I guess that would be two centuries past).

After joining the old carriage road, the trail got easier, and I soon passed above treeline. This was gradual with the trees getting shorter and shorter and then disappearing altogether. The pattern was not neat and even, but rather spotty. It probably depended on wind direction, soil, etc. The trail was now marked by large cairns (8 to 10 ft. high) and had boulders on either side. Signs said to keep to the trail since the alpine environment was very fragile. The view to the summit was very clear, and several other hikers could be seen moving up. The vegetation seemed to be a combination of moss, lichen and some kind of grass.

(Photo of Mousilauke summit)
View of the Moosilauke summit
(Photo of tree line)
The trail rises above treeline

I reached the summit at 10:30. The weather was in the mid 60s, slightly overcast, with a nice breeze. The breeze was noticeably stronger at the top, but no, there was no hurricane and no blizzard. Chalk one up for unnecessary worry! A few other hikers arrived and I took the usual pictures, and one woman took one of me. I could see the Franconia Ridge and the Presidential Range beyond to the northeast. In all directions I could see miles and miles, but I'm afraid except for those I don't know exactly what all the land marks were. The trail down towards the north was laying before me, and wanting to get down to the road before any rain should come, I started down.

(Photo of Pb on Mousilauke summit)
Papa Bear at the summit

The terrain and vegetation followed the same pattern as on the way up. Once I hit treeline the trail became very steep and rocky. One thing I noticed here was that the trees above a certain height, around 6 - 8 ft. were dead. Killed, I think, by ice. Thus does Mother Nature enforce the laws determining the treeline on the mountain. Grow too tall and the ice gets you the next winter. The trail followed a precipitous ridge dropping off steeply towards the south. I took the side trail to Beaver Brook Shelter as this would be the last rest stop before the really steep part began.

Beaver Brook was a lovely shelter facing the Franconia Ridge on a steep slope and looked like a really picturesque place to stay (in good weather). I decided to fold up my trekking poles here and fasten them to my pack and go down the last section of trail with hands free. I thought this would give me a bit better balance and enable me to use any necessary handholds. The steep section coming up was my last worry. Everyone, and all the trail guides had made a point of it. At just 12:00 noon I was off for the last descent.

I crossed a stream (actually Beaver Brook) and this would follow the trail the rest of the way down. Or actually you could say the trail would follow the stream. Soon the stream bounded down a long cascade, then another. It was simply beautiful. The trail bounded down as well with a cleverly constructed trail. There were steps cut into the rock and there were wooden steps imbedded in the rock face. There were metal hand holds. The trail building here was astounding, yet it was always subdued and natural looking. It never overpowered the trail. The whole thing was Awesomissimo!

(Photo of steep trail)
The trail falls rapidly
Note the steps imbedded in the rock face

And the stream falls rapidly along side

What was all the talk about steepness and danger? They never told me the real secret: this was incredibly beautiful. This rivaled Sage's Ravine way back in Massachusetts for sheer natural beauty. And hiking hands free in this section was the right choice. There were very few places where a pole or staff would have helped and those were offset by the greater balance and flexibility I had.

(Photo of trailtale at Kinsman Notch)
End of the trail at Kinsman Notch
(with my hat and sun glasses)
Breathless from the experience, I finally arrived at the bottom. Ironically there were several streams that were bridged and the last one, right near the road had no bridge. Gotta keep those tourists out, I guess.

I walked down the road a short ways to a place called The Lost River. The sign said "Waterfalls, Boulder caves". I smugly thought "Dumb tourists, you'll never seen the real thing! For that you have to work!"

I hitched a ride and got picked up by the first vehicle going down (a pickup). Soon I would be in North Woodstock, amidst a huge motorcycle rally. I would meeet Packrat at the Cascade Lodge and retrieve my backpack, returning the borrowed day pack to him. My hike was indeed over. For now!

Day 11 Trail Miles: 9.5, Extra miles: 0.7, Total: 10.2
Aggregate Trail Miles: 147.6, Aggregate Total: 155.0



An Evaluation:

Boots (EMS Mirage II): two problems solved:
Blisters: two days of proactive duck tape, then I was blister free the rest of the time.
Slight numbing of my right instep: I put a little piece of foam under the sock and the numbness went away.
New problem: got wet in the rain. Gortex failed. Why is no one surprised?

Digital Camera (Nikon Coolpix 775): Discovered close-up mode. Took over 250 pictures including many close ups of flowers. Very happy with this camera. Look at the gallery , the shots speak for themselves. The battery lasted about 200 pictures, had an extra.

Pack (Kelty Flight 4500): Better. There was a balance problem which was made better by adjusting the frame somewhat. Not perfect yet but better. Now I have to call them about a strap that came loose.

Trekking poles: I decided to get a pair of those little rubber tip covers and see how they did. They were supposed to 1) make the poles quieter and 2) prevent damage to rocks. Conclusion: I am going to take them off. Why? 1) they weren't quieter, 2) they lost traction particularly going up steep packed dirt, 2) careful observation and even trying to do it intentionally (but discreetly) showed the tips do not scratch rocks. The only scratched rocks I saw were up steep rocky slopes in cold areas (New Hampshire) which showed signs of crampon damage, 4) The real trail damage, that of compaction (on the margins, off the treadway), was exacerbated by the tips. The tip is about an inch in diameter and it tends to pound the soil down. The metal tips actually poke small holes in the soil which would help alleviate compaction.

Stove (MSR Pocket Rocket): Great. My partner measured that you can get 30 meals out of an 8 oz. cannister. That's two weeks. Unbeatable in size, weight, quickness, cleanliness, etc. Others who saw our stoves wanted one! (No, not everyone. Some loved their dirty, slow, expensive-to-fuel Esbits! )

Water filter: I replaced my MSR with a PUR. It's lighter and pumps faster, albeit not as robust. (See I don't like everything I own with religious fervor, just the stove).


Click here for a complete album of photos from this hike

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