Twig Adventures

AT Day 29: Henri

Sunday August 22nd, 2021, 0630-1615
Bully Brook to Bromley Mountain Ski Hut, SOBO AT mm 536.1
22.3 miles
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 a state’s fault that 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. Henri was set to hit Connecticut and Massachusetts in the afternoon, then come my way as a tropical storm or depression overnight. 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 day 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 deteriorate early.

The trail was quite different in this stretch from last year. Record summer rainfall had turned it into a mud pit in a lot of places. I even considered skipping the rest of the section, just to maintain my positive memories of the trail. But I figured it was best to make some new memories, instead. It was interesting how little I recalled of the rocks, roots and bog bridges. Under perfect, dry conditions, the trail had seemed pretty 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 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… it was like ice under my feet.

The trail 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 slightly shaken but there was one 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. My poles already had thousands of miles on them, so no doubt they were weakened long before this. I’m hoping I can fix the broken one but hated to be down to just one pole at a time when I need them most.

I still saw quite a few people out and about before the storm…at least 40. There was 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 in day sections. One was a little 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 a bit short on food, for once. I’d had so much left over coming into Rutland that I didn’t even bother to go to the store. Instead, I’d grabbed a few things from the hiker box, but was still missing some key items. I figured I could get by for just 2 more days. I certainly enjoyed my lightweight food bag!

The ladies informed me that there were already 4 thru-hikers in the Bromley hut, staying a second night. They’d thought it best to stay put there, repeating several times that the rain was coming by 9 am and the ladies were going to get wet! Their own decisions aside, the ladies commented on how silly it was that the thru-hikers had tried to convince them to turn around. This made them wonder, having come all the way from Georgia, how could they be so afraid of rain? I shrugged. Couldn’t disagree. I certainly held my own negative perspectives, recalling the times I’d persevered in the rain all day only to find indoor spaces already filled by those unwilling to venture out. What made it worse is that it had ended up being a perfectly good day for hiking. The ladies were certainly glad they’d continued on, and so was I.

At the hut, I was pleased to find that it was still only the 4 (2 sets of couples) inside. The rain and wind started just as I arrived and they asked if I’d had a rough time getting there. I may have rubbed it in a little, describing the beautiful day up until the last 5 minutes…which was the truth, after all. They countered by surmising that the mountain summits had the bad weather, I was just lucky to have been low most of the day. Well no, I went over 3 peaks and even had views on top Baker Peak. It’s funny how everyone tries to justify their actions and positions all the time, especially when it involves the NOBO/SOBO rivalry.

I got 22 miles done and still wound up dry with a roof over my head, so I was very content with my efforts for the day. There was even a semi-private alcove in the hut, perfect for one person. The other 4 had commandeered the main room by spreading all their effects throughout, then not lifting a finger to clear space 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 still not moving. So I retreated to the alcove, put on my headphones, and made dinner as I played on my phone. For 2 nights in a row it had by my luck to end up with such territorial and inconsiderate hikers….maybe this was all just a result of the NOBOs always competing with each other.

Mud Lantern arrived 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 inside the hut. But the 4 still made no effort to clear a space for him, even though there was plenty of room for another to have set-up a bunk on top the cabinets lining the walls. He ended up on the floor near the sink, adjacent to the alcove. This pleased me since I could talk to him but didn’t have to look at 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 the worst of Henri passed, while I stayed dry and got a great night’s sleep on top a mountain in Vermont.

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