Hazen’s Notch Camp to Shooting Star shelters
Today, the actual backpacking was more difficult than both the topographic map and the elevation profile would indicate. No new news here.
Up and over Buchanan ( 2940’), Domey’s Dome (2880’), Gilin ( 2940’), Jay Peak ( 3558’), Doll Peak (3409’), and the side of North Jay Peak ( 3438’) today. Seven of these guys- none was characterized as easy walking, plenty of areas of blow downs and washed away trails.There are mini-ponds on the trail where frogs have moved in and the dash away from under my feet when I squish along.
“The place smells like the bottom of an old terrarium,” quipped The Weatherman.
Coming down from Jay peak I encountered a new form of outcropped rock underfoot I hadn’t seen before, which looked like a crumbling schist that had some grip to it. But, as soon as I put my right foot down to it, my legs flew out from under me. I was able to drive both Leki poles straight down in the hopes of cushioning my fall, but a loud crack like a gunshot accompanied a clean break of my right pole, in the middle section of all places. I’ve broken lower sections on this set of poles 6 times, each time falling onto the pole in a heap, but it’s been a while since I experienced a break. The poles held up well for the whole 2,600+ miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, and now the Long Trail crunched up and spit out a middle section!
My Arc’Teryx Altra 65 backpack took a big hit as I slid onto the jagged rock. The only thing that saved it from serious tears was a heavy rubberized section of fabric on the base.
Eventually General Lee, The Weatherman, and I landed at the Laura Woodward shelter. We were all beat up enough by the trail today that we were about to call it a day. Then we came to our senses. It was only 2 PM, with the Canada border just 10 miles North. We decided to lump out another 4.3 miles to the next shelter, which would cut our last day down to 6 miles or so.
Lee shot right up the remaining trail, but The Weatherman held no sway with the rain gods. After just a half-hour of walking, a hard cold rain fell for the next 45 minutes. I took no chances and immediately slipped on the new pack cover, but chose to hike in my shorts and already soaked shirt.
Then I experienced a new dimension of discomfort that I’ve never encountered before. The rain proceeded to wash over me, moving from top to bottom. I had been having problems with the fabric of the hiking shirt abrading my nipples, to the point that my right one had been rubbed to the bleeding point. THAT has ever happened before. My nipples felt as if they were on fire ( approaching a Katy Perry video repeat). I believe that the water that washed down from my hat, hair, and now my upper shirt concentrated all the salt from my skin on the lower edge of the wave of water flowing over me. It wasn’t over yet, as the chafed sections of my crotch were the next victims of excruciating burning that lasted for the rest of the day’s hike. This enriched water/acrid bath eventually made its way into my boots resulting in severe burning of my toes and forefeet.
At 5:30 PM I finally made it to the Shooting Star Shelter , coming in right behind The Weatherman.
The water source here was the most treacherous we’ve encountered yet. The shelter itself is on a huge domey rock, and the meager water source was over a series of smooth, slickrock, steep and now rain saturated. I survived by holding onto the tips of trees that were at the edges of the cleared areas. I had just two quarts that could be filled, and knew right then and there that the two quarts would have to suffice for tonight’s dinner and breakfast. It was so sketchy I can’t imagine that any normal person could have survived the descent without falling.
At the shelter we met Gary and Paul, two retired engineers from MA that were about to conclude their own Long Trail hike. They had been sectioning it off and on for the past 40 years. Gary’s trail name should have been “Old School”, because he was fully satisfied with and proud of his vintage 1970 gear- Kelty external frame pack, SVEA 123 white gas stove (“It’s the original- without the self cleaning nozzle!”), antique Zippo lighter, waxed leather boots, and even a Sierra cup ( titanium version). The list goes on and on. These guys usually tented, Paul did so tonight , and Gary told us that this would be the first time in those 40 years that he had shared a night in a Long Trail shelter with other hikers than his sidekick Paul.
I wonder if tomorrow -our last day– will be easy?
Hazen’s Notch Camp to Shooting Star shelters