I admit it. The trail beat me today. Today was a drowno.
I had planned to be on the 7:15 bus out to the Rt. 4 trailhead, and be hiking by 7:45, but I overslept. 😦 Using an alarm in a room full of bunked, sleeping hikers is – well, you don’t do that. I caught the 8:15 bus instead, leaving me about 12 hours to do 17 miles.
I probably could have still pulled it off, but the “occasional showers” the weatherman promised almost immediately morphed into “someone opened the foundations of the deep”. Morning Song will remember that one time in New York where it deluged us atop a mountain, and the path became one big puddle. Well, it being Vermont, water here is much more energetic and doesn’t passively lie around. The path became many fast-flowing streams instead. My waterproof boots were unequal to keeping out THAT much water, and the rain jacket quickly was overwhelmed as well. I was grateful to be carrying just a borrowed daypack, I don’t know how well my backpack rain cover could have protected everything.
While I was working to get up the mountain, I started running into people along the path; the first two women asked me if there were any big puddles along the path behind me. Puzzled by their utter enthusiasm for the wet day, I replied in the affirmative. The next woman said nothing to me… But was carrying two pickaxes, one over each shoulder. I was really beginning to wonder just what the heck was going on!
Then, a small group of pickaxe-carrying men and women, and the mystery was explained – trail maintainers, looking for the spots where water collects on the trail, so they can dig side-channels to make it run off. And, of course, they can only find these spots under extremely wet conditions. I salute and thank them for their efforts!
They were enthusiastic; I was not. In fact, I was pretty wet and miserable, and then I started getting cold. Not a good combination. The trail conditions were slowing me down; there was no chance of making 17 miles before dark, and there were two extremely steep rock scrambles downwards toward the end that would have been downright dangerous under wet conditions. I needed to get off the trail and warm up.
I asked the next group of trail maintainers if there were any closer road crossings. A gravel road or two, about 10 miles away, was the only option for that, then one of them told me that if I took the blueblazed Sherburne Pass trail, it would be a 3 mile walk to the Inn at the Long Trail on Rt. 4, where I could catch the bus back. The trail junction was only a mile and a half further; it seemed the best option.
Actually, this blueblazed trail used to be the official AT, until the trail was rerouted, and it still had a shelter on it. I stopped there for about 15 minutes to have a drink and eat a snack, but I should have kept moving instead – I got even colder very quickly, though this shelter was an actual building, with 4 walls and a door. I got mad at myself, and hurried on. Rocks, roots, rain, rivulets. All very wet and slippery. My boots were squirting water.
I covered the last 2.7 miles as fast as was safely possible, and stumbled into the Inn as a half-drowned Ziptie. They are well used to hikers,and very hospitable!
Plus, they have an Irish pub on site. Heaven. Irish coffee first. Then, yes, I will try a cup of the Guinness beef stew. Ooooh, that was so good, please get me a bowl of it! And a Guinness on tap, please… I could have stayed there eating and drinking until the money ran out, it was just the kind of fare someone hovering at the edge of hypothermia needed! (Well, the stew anyway.)
The bus back to Rutland came by at 20 minutes after the hour, no trouble catching it, and it deposits you right behind the hiker hostel. Literally. 10 minutes later, I was savoring an extremely hot shower, it felt so good.
Okay, so now I have completely messed up the flow of the hike. North from VT 103 to Rt. 4 is 17 miles of official AT; today I hiked the 4 miles closest to Rt. 4, which leaves a 13 mile gap in between. When I return from Meg’s, I will just hike the whole section, including the part I have already done, just to get back on track. It’s the simplest solution.
Tonight, though… Well, tonight my toes are very wrinkled. Trying to get everything to dry, the insoles are out of the boots and spread out. I am very grateful to be indoors. There is a hot Monopoly game going on in the lounge among other hikers who had better sense than I had!
You can say that I wimped out, or that I was sensible. I think a case could be made for either angle. I know I’ll spend a lot of time fruitlessly second-guessing myself. But then, I always do. 🙂
Tomorrow I intermission.