Conditions begin to degrade

Day 9. It was sprinkling in the morning but I got moving early and was the first out of the shelter at 7 am. That was a mistake. Rain and wind picked up as I climbed the aptly named Mount Horrid.

Despite the elevation, there was no view from Mt. Horrid
Despite the elevation, there was no view from Mt. Horrid

From there I dropped into Romance Gap, though it felt more like Nasty Break Up Gap that day. Dirt on trail turned to the famous “Vermud.” Rocks and roots got slick and going was slow. Did make Sucker Brook Shelter by 11. Took a long lunch while watching the rain and trying to decide what to do. The next shelter was nearly ten miles. By noon, it’s obvious the rain isn’t quitting. The only thing worse than hiking in the storm would have been sitting in the dark, leaky shelter watching the storm. So, I headed back out into it.

Salamander settling in on the trail which has become a creek
Salamander settling in on the trail which has become a creek
Frog settled in on the trail which has become a pond
Frog settled in on the trail which has become a pond

The miles went by slow as the trail transformed into a creek and occasionally a pond. Very tough climb out of Middlebury Gap, but the rain finally slowed to a drizzle and fog. By late afternoon the rain had stopped. Ended my day at Skyline Lodge after about 16 miles. Because lodges have four walls instead of the shelter’s usual three, I’m dry and warm, but my shoes and hiking clothes were soaked. There is no need to work to dry them out as more rain was predicted.

I had arrived at the lodge at about 6:30. A couple was already there section hiking. It’s easy to tell the thru-hikers from the shorter haul hikers based on the food brought along. They had beer, pizza and created a 7 step homemade soup. I had a Freeze Dried Mexican fiesta. Steam rolled in about 7:30. He had a tough day. I know that because he said “tough day.”  That was all he said as he ate dinner and immediately went to sleep. He hadn’t moved when I left at 7:00 the next morning.

It had poured overnight with a drizzle continuing through the morning. Fell once on slick rock, mud was a quagmire. Got to one spot with side trail. Started down what I figured was main trail, but there were no blazes. Started getting worried as the trail continued with no blazes and steep downhills. Finally remembered Guthook, which which was a Long Trail GPS map app I had downloaded to my phone a while back. Guthook had me located on the trail, which was a big relief.

After two days of rain...watch out for frogs.
Trail after two days of rain…watch out for frogs.

By afternoon it had cleared off and everything improved. Rocks were drying up and getting stickier, mud was still there, but it only took token efforts to miss the worst of it. Did fall on way downhill to Lincoln Gap. The slick rock slabs are tough to navigate.

Crossed the road and started up a steep hill of Mt Abraham. After another 16 mile day I stopped at Battell Shelter area which ended up crowded with 6 in shelter and another 8 or so in tents. One hiker, White Flower, spent quite a bit of time complaining about the lack of blazes on one section of the trail. I think I know where she meant. Steam rolled in around 7 and I had the same conversation again.

It was a very nice group though. Jen walked in late planning to just hike up Mt Abe in the morning and then back down. Her dinner consisted of a big deli sandwich and a bottle of bourbon. She generously offered me some of the adult beverage as “nobody should have to camp without bourbon.”

There was also a family tenting as a family getaway before their daughter moved to Denver. We talked a bit about the Colorado Trail and they offered me some extra jerky they had. I gratefully ate it as I was losing weight and low on food. The tough trail and weather conditions had me burning through massive amounts of calories. We had an interesting conversation about the daughter’s plans for the future and even a little “meaning of life” type stuff.

Of course not everyone uses the trail for deep thinking. I asked Steam during dinner what he was going to do once this was over. He said he was going to wash his bowl and go to bed. I said I meant bigger picture. He said he hadn’t thought beyond getting his bowl clean and going to sleep.

It turned out to be a cool and breezy night, testing the temperature limit of my bag. I was starting to see just how difficult this trail could be.