Dare Mighty Things

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Long Trail: Day #2

"The mountains are calling and I must go." ~ John Muir

Long Trail, VERMONT -- I awoke on the morning of Day #2 to the familiar sound of an alarm.  In a moment of complete confusion I almost forgot where I was for it was not my bed that I lay nor my alarm that chimed.  At exactly 6:00 am our shelter-mates awoke to their pre-set watch alarm.  I immediately sat upright on my sleeping pad but neither Jay nor Karen seemed to notice the strangely misplaced sound.  Jay would later tell me that it wasn't the alarm that woke him but rather my stomach that began to churn and growl some 2-3 hours before.  It may have been earlier than I would have wanted to get up but I hadn't slept more than 90 minutes at a time and I almost felt relieved that the morning had finally arrived.  I think I saw every overnight hour on my watch.  Each time I felt a limb go numb I would roll to my back or side and look at my watch...12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00.  And apparently I make a lot of noise because both Karen and Jay commented that every time I changed positions they woke up as well. 

With one day of morning routine to draw from we were just as slow at getting to it.  I watched the end-to-enders once again move with curious coordination and precision as breaking down their sleeping set-ups seamlessly melded into getting breakfast cooked.  We wished them well a little before 8:00 am as they continued on their way south.  It took us another 30 minutes to finally set out for the last 11 miles of our trip. 

GoLite Comps in the mud.
Aided by a gradual descent for the first 0.9 miles to VT73 we moved swiftly only pausing to take a picture of the Great Cliffs of Mt. Horrid.  The cliffs are closed for much of the spring and summer as they are a protected breeding ground for the peregrine falcon that call these woods home.  In looking at the map, the second day would be defined by the ascents of Cape Lookoff Mountain (3216') and Worth Mountain(3234').  The plan was to hike to Sucker Brook shelter, take a break, and then finish the day with the big climb of Worth Mountain.  Thanks to the overnight rains and humidity that lingered above 75% for the second straight day everything on the trail was wet...including the plethora of roots and rocks that littered the steep descents from our climbs.  The combination of the elevation and the trail conditions made the travel much slower than the previous day.  We arrived at the Sucker Brook shelter trailhead but chose not to walk the additional 0.2 miles down the spur as we had already put enough miles on our legs and the toughest miles were still to come. 

Pushing off from our 15 minute break and heading up to Worth Mountain it began to rain very lightly.  Jay and I looked at each other and decided that we'd probably just keep walking unless it started to rain a little harder.  Not a minute later the skies opened up and it began to pour.  We ditched under an evergreen to put our rain gear on which gave Karen a chance to catch up.  Perhaps the first technical mistake of the trip was opting for the EMS stash jacket instead of the poncho.  Jay slipped his poncho on over his pack while I put my jacket (with long sleeves of course...and it's 80 degrees) under my pack.  My already heavy EMS 3000 absorbed the rain like a sponge adding what felt like another 5-10 pounds.  As we climbed the trail began to look like a river as the water rushed downhill from the higher elevations.  Any idea of keeping our feet reasonably "dry" was now out the window as we splashed and slogged uphill toward the summit.  Luckily the rain only lasted for 30-40 minutes of our nearly 70 minute climb.  From the summit of Worth Mountain to Middlebury Gap and our drop vehicle was mostly downhill and only 2.7 miles.  We would later learn (from a sign near the trailhead) that the wilderness from Worth Mountain to Middlebury Gap is, perhaps not surprisingly, owned by Middlebury College.  Buoyed by the idea that we were less than 2 hours from the end the last few miles went very quickly and by 2:30 pm we were finally at the LT parking area on VT125. 

As a result of our Long Trail Brewery kitchen experience from Friday we wasted no time in getting ourselves and our gear into Jay's car and heading south on VT100 toward our well earned reward...burgers and beers at the brewery.  Our two days on the Long Trail were a great learning experience and have given me an appreciation for the preparation it's going to take to complete the 272 mile trip.  I need to refine my gear as my pack is still way too heavy.  I also need to do more backpacking to improve my technique and efficiency on the trail.  While there is much to be done, I am incredibly excited about the adventure.  I couldn't have asked for two better trail mates than Karen and Jay.  They were both very consistent and very strong and simply great company.  With a little good fortune I'll get back out on the LT this fall to compare the conditions.  Until then, I'm thoroughly enjoying sleeping in my own bed.


Sunrise shelter to Middlebury Gap (VT125)
11 miles (1977' elevation gained) in 5:39 minutes (moving time).

1 comment:

  1. 272 miles!! are you nuts? I just did the Presidential Traverse which is only 20 miles and was dead at the end. You are one tough guy!!