Sunday August 22nd, 2021, 0630-1615
Bully Brook to Bromley Mountain Ski Hut, SOBO AT mm 536.1
5804 gain, 3937 loss
So it was to be the second tropical system in less than a week. I was tempted to blame Vermont but it’s not this state’s fault that human-induced climate change is causing such extreme weather. Things would be deteriorating throughout the day and I had 22 miles to go to get to the ski hut atop Bromley mountain. I’d filed this place away in my mind last year as a spot I’d like to spend the night. Never did I think I’d be doing it in a hurricane. Let’s tangle Henri.
It started drizzling as soon as I got packed, so I expected another full day of rain. To my relief, it actually cleared up for most of the time and was very pleasant. Still I hammered, with a premonition that it was best to get to the hut as early as possible. Who knows, I could find it full or locked. Or the weather could really start to suck. The hurricane was hitting Connecticut and Massachusetts in the afternoon, then coming my way as a tropical storm or depression overnight.
The trail was quite different in this stretch from last year. Record rainfall over the summer had turned it into a continuous mud pit. I even considered skipping this section, just to maintain my positive memories of the trail. But I’m making new memories instead. It was interesting how little I recalled of the rocks, roots and bog bridges in this section. Under perfect, dry conditions, the trail had seemed so easy. Today, the wet surfaces conspired to try to bring me down with every step. Walking in the rain all day is mind over matter, but there’s still no thinking away treacherous footing. Every one of the R’s was slick and required concentration. Take for example about a half-mile stretch of puncheon along Long Pond. Easy-peasy when it was dry but today it was like ice under my feet. It finally got the better of me going over Styles Peak. I took a small hop over a puddle, landing on the puncheon and WHAM, both feet just slid out from underneath me. I went down HARD on my butt and back, though my pack cushioned some of the fall. I was only slightly shaken but there was a major casualty…I broke a trekking pole. There’s a first time for everything and the AT seems to be trying hard to be the one to set all the records. These poles did have thousands of miles on them, so probably some of the stress was cumulative. I’m hoping I can fix the broken one somehow but hated to go down to just one pole at a time when I need them the most.
I still saw quite a few people out and about before the storm…at least 40. There was even a whole boy scout troop along with several day hikers. I stopped for lunch at Peru shelter, where I chatted with some ladies that were hiking the Long Trail as day sections. One was short on water so I was happy to filter some for her. In exchange, she gave me a lemon Luna bar. This was greatly appreciated because I was pretty short of food, for once. I’d had so much left over coming into Rutland that I didn’t even bother to go to the store in town. I grabbed a few items from the hiker box at the Yellow Deli and decided to call it good. I was missing some key items, but since it was for only 2 days, I figured I could get by. I certainly enjoyed my lightweight food bag! The ladies also informed me that there were already 4 thru-hikers in the hut that were staying a second night. They didn’t want to hike today because they were certain it was going to be a washout. The lady day hikers, not me, commented on how feeble they seemed, especially since they had tried to convince them to turn around. They had insisted that the rain was coming by 9 am and they were going to get wet! The ladies wondered how thru-hikers that had come all the way from Georgia, presumably through lots of inclement weather, could be so afraid of some rain. I tended to agree but well, it was no bother to me, as long as there was still room in the hut. But it did concern me that even more hikers might show up and it wouldn’t be long before the hut was full. Thus, I hurried on.
At the hut, I was pleased to find that it was still just the 4 (2 sets of couples). The rain and wind started just as I arrived and they asked if I’d had a rough time getting there. Knowing their shelter-rat situation, I may have rubbed it in a little, saying that it had been a beautiful day up until the last 5 minutes…this was the truth after all. They tried to counter by surmising that the mountain summits had bad weather, I was just lucky to have been low most of the time. Uh no, I went over 3 peaks and even had views on top Baker Peak. It’s funny how everyone tries so hard to justify their actions and positions all the time, especially when it involves the NOBO/SOBO rivalry. I got my 22 miles in and still wound up with a roof over my head, so I was very content with my efforts for the day, no need to justify myself. There was even a semi-private alcove in the hut, perfect for one person, which I immediately claimed as my own. After all, the other 4 had commandeered the main room and hadn’t said or done anything to make room when I arrived. I mentioned that 1 more person was coming, Mud Lantern, and that it would be nice if we made some room for him. They all looked at me with dull faces, not saying anything, and continued to make no effort whatsoever. So I retreated to the alcove, put on my headphones, and made dinner as I played on my phone.
Mud Lantern did arrive about an hour later and I was so happy to see him. He’s such a friendly guy, his presence went a long way in smoothing over some of the tensions. But the 4 still made no effort to make room for him, even though there was plenty of space for another to have set-up on top the cabinets that lined the walls. He ended up on the floor near the sink, adjacent to the alcove. It was perfect since I could still talk to him but didn’t have to see the others. The wind and rain really started nailing the hut around dusk, so I was very happy to be inside. Even a 3-sided shelter could have been pretty miserable on this night. And so Henri passed, while I stayed dry and got a great night’s sleep on top a mountain in Vermont.