Long Pond Stream Lean-to [mile 1117.8; SOBO 99.4]
Before I get to the day, I’ll jump directly to the most critical piece of business: Toads 2, Snakes 1. That last toad was big, too. He’s right here somewhere, right around where I pitched my tent. When I was scouting locations he jumped across the path. So here I am. How could I argue with a toad?
By all rights, today should have been terrible—but it wasn’t! It was magnificent. That’s been true of most of my SOBO days so far. When I look at the disparate events of the day, they should add up to bad. Yet somehow the days keep feeling wonderful. Flipping north was such a good decision. I feel like Springer to Harpers Ferry was my shakedown hike, and now I’m having the adventure.
Today should have been bad because it poured. All day, unrelenting… a cold rain that alternated between a steady soaking and a downpour. My first rainy day SOBO, and it was a doozy. More on that in a bit.
But first: the terrain. The terrain here is crazy wild. First of all, I’ve redefined my notion of steep. It used to be that steep meant… oh… a 45-degree ascent, something like that. I’d look up and think, Crap, that’s steep. Up here, steep is nearly vertical—and it’s the rule, not the exception. Up here, I look up to see how steep the hill is and it hurts my neck to tilt my head that far back. Usually I’m looking at a slightly sloped wall of rocks and roots with a tiny white blaze far, far above. And I think, How in hell am I going to get up there?
But you know what? Once the time element is removed, it’s fun as hell! It’s a jungle gym!
The roots here are enormous, like great brown tentacles thrusting over the rocks. The rocks are enormous—slabs of gray poking up between the roots. It’s as though the rocks and the roots are locked in some kind of death battle. But all of that makes the hiking fun. All that stuff to grab hold of!
Every step is like a big geometry puzzle. Can I grip that root? Will my foot fit in that crack? Is that rock slippery? And the climbs go up and up until the hillside reaches rocky cliffs, usually at or near freeline, then it’s a flat walk with magnificent views (not today, though).
I’m enjoying the hell out of it. It’s not fast work: today I managed 12 miles in 11 hours. But I’m fine with that now. I’m no racer; I never was.
Now, today’s issue was with the rain. I had my mojo this morning! I was up and on the trail in an hour, at 6:30 AM. I walked about two hours, I think, when it started to drizzle. I didn’t even put my rain jacket on. Even though the sky was overcast, I thought it’d be like the other rains I’ve seen in the HMW: light and brief, followed by sunshine.
No. The rain started pounding down, and it was a chill rain, too. By 10 I was in my rain jacket, and at noon I was soaked through and cold enough that I put on rain pants, too. The terrain was too technical to just walk a little faster to get warm.
Which brings me to today’s unholy combination of rain and the jungle gym. Today’s hiking required great care. The roots and rocks were slippery as ice. The trail filled with water. Sometimes it was six or eight inches deep, with a slick of red pine needles on top like a cranberry bog. Sometimes it felt like I was walking in a creek. But the surfaces were so slick that every step had to be planned and tested.
And it was fun! My feet were so icy that they had headaches. The only water I had was the frog-poop stuff from last night, and it grossed me out so much that I didn’t want to drink it. I couldn’t stop for lunch because it was pouring so hard. But somehow, I did 12 miles, and BOOM! it was suddenly 5 PM and I was at the lean-to I’d been aiming for.
I think it was the rain, truth be told. This was head-down walking.
I ended up playing ‘find the blaze’ for a good portion of the day.
And here I am in my tent, in dry clothes and my puffy and my quilt. I’m not warm yet (I miss my down pants!) but I’m getting there.
A great, great day. I saw moose bones, which was freaky, and in a place called Fourth Mountain Bog, pitcher plants! Pitcher plants in Maine; this trail is a strange and wondrous place.
I called Shaws to reserve a space for Thursday night. With the NOBO bubble coming through, I want to reserve ahead when I can. I think I can resupply at the convenience store in Monson without driving all the way to the next town.
And that’s that! I don’t know what tomorrow’s weather is supposed to do, but whatever’s coming from the sky, I imagine it will be falling on roots and rocks and mossy cliffs. 🙂