Twig Adventures

LT Day 2: Humbling

Thu Sept 24th, 2020, 0700-1630
Hazen’s Notch Camp to Spruce Ledge Camp, SOBO LT mile 30.6
14.0 miles
4600 gain, 5100 loss

I didn’t set my alarm and slept until 6 am. Usually I started packing by 5 or 5:30 am, but clearly I needed the rest. I was very sore when I started moving and almost 30 minutes delayed by the time I hit the trail. I already felt pretty demoralized but shouldn’t have been so hard on myself. This was the problem with having other thru-hikes under my belt: I set too high of expectations. My experiences allowed me to hit the ground running but I couldn’t expect to pick up exactly where I left off.
The going was tough early on. A very steep and rocky trail led up Haystack Mountain, gaining about 1600′ in 1.5 miles. The trail continued to be very technical, boggy, and up and down after that. I stopped only once to get some water near Tillotson shelter. I felt bad that I was going so slow, holding things up.
One of many beaver ponds I’d encounter along the trail. Pretty impressive dams!
I took another break at a fire tower on top Mt Belvidere, 3333′. It was partially cloudy and hazy but I could see north to Jay Peak, encased in clouds, just like the day before. I also saw more big mountains to the south…most of which I’d be climbing, no doubt.
A view north to Jay Peak, covered in clouds, and the many bumps along the way. At least the fall colors were really starting to pop!
I’d only gone 8.5 miles by 1 pm. This trail was kicking my butt. There was no way I’d get over 20 miles this day, maybe not even 15. There also didn’t seem to be much water or tenting after the next shelter, so I decided to just aim for that. I felt like such a slacker but hey, it was only the 2nd day. We had a big first day and the terrain was super hard. Thru-hiking is sometimes learning to accept things the way they are.
It had been a herpy day at least. I found 2 toads, a newt, and a creek full of frogs. I noticed how slow they were all moving, just like me. Especially the toads…their ineffective hops were comical, causing me to laugh out loud. We were all on the same page.
I went into auto mode on a long descent, crossing a road, and suddenly the trail was super cruisey for a mile or so. I felt much better. I made it to a lookout over Ritterbush Pond by 2:30 pm and I was inspired to go for dunk. I felt gross after all the sweating & humping over mountains. I didn’t expect it to be so warm this late in the season and certainly didn’t envision jumping into lakes and streams along the way. I checked the map to see a short side trail to the pond. I’d already walked an extra half mile up to the fire tower, what was another side trip? The miles weren’t coming this day, so might as well have some fun.
The fall colors surrounding the pond were brilliant. I found a cabin and boardwalk at the edge, perfect for some lounging. I was so glad I detoured. The water was cold but not bone-chilling. I did a quick rinse with most of my clothes on, laying on the dock to dry afterwards. The sun played games behind some clouds then mostly went away. Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining.
I continued towards the shelter, reaching a place called Devil’s Gulch just before. It stretched about 400 yards, over and under some big boulders. It wasn’t too hard and actually kind of fun. I was feeling very rejuvenated after the pond, so I didn’t mind this extra challenge. If I’d still been trying to make 20 miles, I probably would’ve been in a less gracious mood. I collected my final water for the night at a very small trickle just before camp.
On this day, I passed about 20 people and there were perhaps 10 at the shelter. I found a nice tentsite and went about my business, away from the crowd. The picnic table was full, so I had an excuse to be antisocial…social distancing and all. Besides, there was a bench overlooking my swimhole that made for a most awesome dinner spot. I retreating into my tent at dusk, just as it started to sprinkle. I was grateful for an easier day and glad to get to sleep early.

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