We squeezed out our last day on the GLT by mid afternoon, and reached our vehicle just as the predicted rain started to fall. Truly, our trip was blessed by the best two day window of weather out of of the surrounding 10 day stretch.
I awoke before the two hammock hangers and probably rousted Rangoon with the smell of wood smoke emanating from my paint can wood stove.
Sure, it takes me longer to get my water boiled than a flame thrower Jet Boil or even an alcohol stove, but I like using dry fire wood, which was in abundance around our camp site. I keep learning how to improve the efficiency of working the little firebox, which seems to do best with the steady addition of pencil thin pieces of fuel, at the rate of a couple of sticks every two minutes or so. It does require close tending, an ancient ritual that is foreign to us in modern America, but which is no doubt the morning routine of millions of others of us today scattered throughout the globe.
I measured out three spoons of ground coffee into my MSR filter, placed it in my Orikaso folding mug, poured the boiling water in and soon, I was in breakfast land, sipping hot joe and munching down a couple of crumbled strawberry icing-glazed Pop Tarts. Yum.
We still had some work ahead of us today.
First, we had to work our way up some 600 vertical feet to the Town Corner campsite, then ascend another 600 vertical feet to the summit of Long Mountain at 3,021”. I was pulling myself along at the back of our little pack this morning, enjoying the heck out of the meandering trail, when at some point the trail designer must have tired of moving the angle of the path to and fro up the hillside and proclaimed, “Let’s get this over with!” We headed straight up.
I looked at the map again , and there it was. A perfectly drawn straight line that headed up the last half of the ascent to the top of Long Mountain. The trail was following the yellow paint parks that define the town line between Newry and Andover. I kept plodding on, slowly but surely, and made it up eventually, and appreciated that Tso and ‘Goon waited for me a couple of times on their own measured pull up the mountain.
It was then down, down, down, eventually down to a low point at some 1600’,
Here is 5 minute movie of Rangoon and Tso walking on the flats before we head up:
Then the last final challenge up to the top of Puzzle Mountain, at 3,080’. Can you say, “Dig deep?” I downed my final bottle of 5 Hour Energy and hoped like hell it could click in, soon. It’s not easy gaining 1400 feet of elevation in a mile.
We spent the bulk of the time from noon until about 2:30 PM, walking and eating up the rest of our food, knowing that we’d soon be in the car, and destinations known. Thankfully the last half mile of ascent had something resembling switchbacks laid down ahead of us to assist our throbbing calve muscles. The humidity was rising as we completed the day, and with it clouds of black flies then proceeded to fly into our mouths and eyeballs. I even slathered bug repellant that I got from Tso.
The last couple of miles were fairly easy a descent back to the lot on Rt. 26.
So, in the end, we did it. I apparently misread the Maine Sunday Telegram article written by Carey Kish about hiking the Grafton Loop Trail, where he says “ Two days is too fast.” We ended up doing the Loop in a 48 hour period , plus 5 hours. Only he was talking about half the Loop. No matter. It wasn’t so bad, no really, it was pretty good.
What can I say about hiking with these two men? I can’t say enough. It was a glorious return , occasionally humbling, but mostly deeply satisfying experience to be back in the woods with these two respected veterans of last years Long Haul hike. Rangoon, Tso, and I just work together well, and we enjoy each other’s company immensely. There does not seem to be much that we can’t do, day after day. We’re planning to keep doing it.