Spruce Ledge to Hazen’s Notch Camp shelters
This morning the footpath on the trail looks as if a shredder/chipper was dragged through the woods to eat up all the green leaves in the area and throw them down in a thick, shredded,compacted carpet under my feet.
Here is a minute and a half video walking the reader through continuous blowdowns right out of Spruce Ledge shelter, which itself was surrounded by a half dozen downed large hardwood trees.
If there were hikers staying here during the hurricane, it would have been horrifying to hear these giants breaking up and crashing to the ground outside the shelter that itself could have sustained a direct hit.
We took the advice of Gray jay and avoided taking on drinking water as we passed over Mt. Belvedere and Tillotson peaks, where in the 1960’s, an average of 3500 tons of ore were mined daily, primarily to extract chrysotile asbestos used in brake linings, roofing, shingles and pipe lining. Asbestos related health issues and stringent environmental laws depressed the asbestos market and resulted in the mine closing in 1993. We saw the giant pile of tailings that is presently leaching toxins into the area.
I was out early and made it the eight miles to Tillotson Camp for a lunch break just before noon, walking over relatively dry trail under the welcome sun. The area called Devil’s Gulch reminded me of a mini- Mahoosook Notch ( Maine) section. It was also a long, steady, uphill slog getting over the 2,000 foot elevation gain to Belvedere (3360’). The mud appeared more prevalent and deeper than we’ve experienced yet. One time, my foot slipped and went into the stinking diarrhea colored mud right up to the top of my boot. Combine that event with the humid hot hiking here in my saturated shirt and it was continual icky discomfort from top now to the bottom of my feet.
Ran into just one southbound hiker today who told us that the walking was very slow on the 6 mile ridge from Belvedere to Tillotson mountains where he was only able to manage a 1 MPH pace. That wasn’t my experience, as I motored over that section with no real problems- nothing there that we hadn’t yet seen every day out here. His perception was that of a person who was just starting the trail. He’s in for much worse as he moves south.
After my lunch break it was just 7 more miles to Hazen’s Notch shelter, but what a day of ascending! I calculated 4,300 feet of vertical today, and even worse- close to 7 miles of descending . We were told by south bounders that the trail gets easier right at the end, but not yet.
I had been carrying a salvation package of a small bottle of 5 Hour Energy with me for days just like this one, and downed the bad tasting stuff at lunchtime. It worked. Despite the rigorous morning, and the long mileage day today I had good leg power this afternoon.
In terms of food, I take the approach of keeping my best food and snacks at the bottom of the food bag. Last night at Spruce Ledge I was not able to stomach the last of those Lipton pasta cheese with broccoli sides with a foil packet of tuna. I ate about a cup of it and went into a visceral retreat, where I went back into the woods, dug a hole and buried the rest.
My gear continues to break or wear out. I hike with two pairs of socks- both have sprouted holes on the heels, underneath, and near the toes. I twist them around to try and put fabric on the more tender parts of my feet, but so far, no blisters, and I want to keep it that way.
It took me 9 hours to hike my 15 miles today. It may get easier, but this Long Trail better hurry up showing me that side, as there are just 17 miles to Canada. Lee says he can smell the border.