Wed Oct 7th, 2020, 0605-1430
Black Brook to Rt 9 / Bennington VT, SOBO LT mile 256.4
21.5 miles, then about 3 miles walking around town, 4500 gain, 5400 loss
The barred owl sounded the alarm clock at 5 am. It’s 2 single hoots were the very loud and forceful kind. I knew many of their varied calls, but they seemed to have different dialects around the country. About a week before, I heard a really weird noise that finished with a few familiar notes. I bet many of the crazy noises that hikers report are attributable to such owls.
We had some miles to make into town, preferably before it started to rain. A front was coming in. The day started off perfect. The sun was out and a crisp wind was blowing. The trail was really boggy for about a mile, with many mud pits. At least these were mostly covered by leaves, which either served to stabilize the mud or hide deep pits that would eat my shoes. It was hard to tell which, so I rock and root hopped to avoid them.
The trail climbed to a ridge, where it stayed for most of the day. Here it was intermittently rocky and rooty, which was hard on the feet and difficult to keep any sort of rhythm. One part involved a sidle along a mountain side, which seemed to do tight s-cures around every tree. Step over the tree roots, take about 3 crooked steps downwards (the trail was not banked), 3 more crooked steps up to the next tree, repeat for a mile. I think I had whiplash after this.
I felt like I was flying the day before, but this day I was just barely hanging on. My pace was definitely slower based on time and mileage…just when I thought I had this trail figured out. Relief came in the form of a fire tower atop Glastenbury Mountain. I met 3 southbound ladies there. For some reason, I had been seeing fewer women than men on the AT/LT, so I was glad to see this group.
I’d only gone about 14 miles by noon and could see the dark clouds gathering. The rain started just before 1 pm, as predicted. It was pretty light at first, then became heavy. If only I’d hiked faster or started even earlier, I could have avoided this. But really, there was no avoiding it. Besides, I was headed for town where I wouldn’t have to deal with the rain the rest of the day. It wasn’t even so bad that I had to put on rain clothes. I just popped my umbrella and kept walking.
We reached the road, where we were lucky to have a ride waiting. Tom had contacted a former coworker, who agreed to pick us up. Rich delivered us straight to a hotel in Bennington. Thanks Rich! We cleaned up, then went on the hunt for food. As soon as we stepped out the door, I noticed some very dark clouds and heard thunder. I remarked that it was about to get ugly and boy did it. In only a few blocks, all hell broke loose. The wind swirled from all directions, leaves flew, rain pelted, and bright flashes of lightening were everywhere. We sought shelter under a gas station awning, watching the chaos. Up the street where we’d been walking just seconds before, several trees and giant branches came down. Half the town was suddenly out of power. Thank goodness we weren’t on the trail!
Fortunately the brewery still had their power intact and we were shortly drinking beer and consuming tons of hot food. The return walk allowed us to survey all the damage from the storm. The local news station reported 60 mph winds and that the power was out all around New England…but thankfully not at our hotel. I promptly got into bed and stayed there the rest of the evening, snug in the warm covers, watching mindless tv.