Notes from 1937, Long Trail Division VI
Sunday June 20, 1937 – 6.1 miles
Left car at 8:30 am. The paper bag broke after about ten minutes and we had to carry the bread and bacon. The first mile was through open woods but the trail was blocked by fallen trees. Took an hour for dinner. The pedometer doesn’t work right. Reached Noye’s Pond Camp at two o’clock. There are trout jumping all over the pond. We fished a little but couldn’t catch any. Caught some frogs and had frog legs for supper. Went to bed a little after 9.
Monday June 21, 1937 – 7.2 miles
Breakfast at 6. A mouse bothered us during the night. Ate a corner off the cheese boxes. Left camp 7:10. Rain and fog all morning. Passed Salena Den about 8:30. Didn’t take time to climb Mt. Carmel. Arrived at Carmel Camp 12:10. A nice camp. Built fire to dry our clothes. Ate dinner and slept most of the afternoon. Supper & early to bed.
Tuesday June 22, 1937 – 5.4 miles
Up early. A mouse chewed one of Lorrie’s moccasins during the night. Rained all night and still going strong. Didn’t leave camp until 9:40. We were soaked after 1st ten minutes. Plenty of water on the trail. Climbed to a ridge on Bloodroot Mountain and struck an old logging road. Made better time, over 2 miles an hour. Seen a partridge and some young ones. Missed it with the gun. Arrived at Sunrise camps. Decided to use the lean-to because the hut was pretty well settled by porkies. Think I’ve got rheumatism as my legs are sore just above the knee. My clothes and boots are hanging over the fire trying to dry and I’m wrapped in my blankets trying to keep warm. I may phone or send a card tomorrow, as we cross the Brandon Rochester Pass. I am going down to Forest Dale a small town 5 or 6 miles from the trail.
Note: when using the word “dinner”, my father was referring to lunch. It was common usage in those days.
Sunday, July 2, 2023 – 5.5 miles
I started out on the trail in early afternoon. It felt great to be back on the LT again! The trail was wet, but I was moving well. My pack felt light. Light enough that I was worried that I had forgotten something. With five full days of food, it weighed almost 30 pounds. Maybe a little heavy by today’s standards, but certainly not as heavy as the 60-pound pack my father started out with. I stopped in the rain and confirmed everything was there.
My destination was the Rolston Rest Shelter. On the map it seemed pretty close to Noyes Pond Camp, which is no longer on the LT. That would be one of the challenges of comparing our journeys. The trail has been rerouted in some spots and the shelter locations are sometimes different. But enough of the trail remains the same as in the 1930’s, a testament to the Green Mountain Club’s commitment to honoring the heritage of the trail.
I quickly reached the first trail junction. A short dogleg on the southbound AT would bring me to Maine Junction and the LT North. I was delayed a bit getting to the shelter after spontaneously turning down the Deer Leap Trail to check out the overlook. Yes, it was foggy and rainy and probably not much of a view, but I felt great and wanted to burn off some excess energy. Instead, it turned into a blue-blaze misadventure, causing me to backtrack and add a 3-mile loop to my day.
That’s what I get for not following a map or my GPS! I rolled into the shelter and was surprised to find a number of hikers already there. I didn’t expect so many hikers north of Maine Junction where the LT and AT split. But most were dispersed in tents nearby, so there was room in the shelter.
I rushed to set up my sleeping pad and bag and stepped out to the cooking area to fix dinner as it was getting late. My father ate frog legs his first night on the trail. Even though the current trail didn’t go to the pond where he camped, the path was so wet and full of deep puddles, I probably could have found some frogs along the way! I ate freeze-dried chicken pad thai instead.
Many of the hikers at the shelter were part of a group that knew each other from summer camp or college. They gathered at the fire ring in front of the shelter as I was eating my dinner. They sang a few songs softly and it set a nice mood for the evening. Then one of them announced their “enrichment activity” for the day. It was water bottle show-and-tell. The idea was to introduce yourself and say something about the stickers on your water bottle. Turns out it was their first night on trail together and not everyone knew each other well. It was a great campfire icebreaker. As they went around the circle, they asked me if I wanted to join in. I grinned, held up my water bottle covered in stickers, and said yes!
Monday, July 3, 2023 – 7.9 miles
It rained again overnight so the trail was very slippery with wet rocks, roots, and mud. Yes, I finally encountered the infamous “Vermud”. I hadn’t really faced any last year when covering the first 100 miles of the trail. So I believed it was an overblown myth (similar to “Rocksylvania”). Boy was I in for an awakening! It was impossible to avoid the endless mud and it made it difficult to develop a good walking rhythm. My original plan was to cover 14 miles today, which was right on my average in last year’s AT & LT hikes.
But the conditions slowed me down. I stopped for a break at David Logan Shelter. Something about the setting and the shelter really appealed to me. I looked at my watch. The plan had been to stay at Sunrise Shelter today, but it looked like it would take me until almost 8:00 pm to get there at this pace. I really wanted to stay at Sunrise because it was the site of my father’s first major encounter with porkies. But it was only my second day on trail and my feet were already bothering me from being soaked. I decided to stay put and end my day early. The reality hit me that 14 miles in these conditions might be too much for me right now.
The group I ran into last night rolled in a little later and pitched their tents near the shelter. Once they were set up and finished dinner, they gathered in a central area and sang a few songs again. It sounded great and I was hoping they’d sing longer. But they were clearly trying to be respectful to others camped there.
It was a full house at the shelter: 3 Nobos, 2 Sobos, a section hiker, plus over a dozen hikers scattered about in tents. The front of the shelter had a railing and gate covered with a heavy wire mesh. Several hikers wondered what it might be for. Without any hesitation I suggested, “Porkies” and then explained some of the history of the shelters being damaged by porcupines back in the days when the trail was overrun with them.
As I sat looking over the maps and figuring out a new plan for the next couple of days, I realized that my two-day mileage total closely matched my father’s. This was a relatively open and well-worn site for a campsite and likely was the exact same location as Carmel Camps, where he stayed. That made me feel a little better about my decision to stay here.
Tuesday, July 4, 2023 – 13.2 miles
Independence Day! I started walking at 7:00 am. Alone with my thoughts, I consciously tried to transition from a healing or training mentality, to more of a thru-hiking mindset. It helped my pace, and I made better progress. Even so, I think I need to “right-size” my mileage expectations. Twelve miles (or maybe even ten) seems much more realistic than the fourteen miles that used to be my sweet spot.
On the way to Sunrise, I could hear construction noises. So, I bushwacked up a hill to the site where the new Sunrise Shelter was being built. I startled the workers there when I said, “Hello and Happy Fourth of July!” They looked at me a little funny when I asked if they were incorporating any porcupine mitigation measures in the construction of the shelter. Evidently not.
I pushed on and got to the old Sunrise Shelter a little after 11:00. Sadly, there weren’t any signs of porkies there either. After lunch I was caught in a heavy downpour right before the Brandon Rochester Pass, and the climb of Mt. Horrid. Horrid seemed an appropriate name. It was a tough climb out of the gap and my pace slowed again. This time it was because of some unexpected chafing from being thoroughly drenched with sweat and rain. It was uncomfortable and getting worse with every step. There was no choice but to suck it up and keep moving.
For the second day in a row, I leapfrogged some of the section hikers that stayed near the shelters the past couple of nights. I enjoyed getting to know them a little and asked if they had a group name. It sounded like there had been some debate about it, but the leading candidate was “Trail Devils”. When one of them started using it in the trail logs, it stuck!
At one point on the next climb, I asked the Devils how they were doing, and the answer was “Bedraggled”. We decided that should be the word of the day. I managed to get 13 miles in which made me feel a little better about my progress… even if I was more than a bit bedraggled. With the slippery conditions, I fell four different times and felt pretty beat up by the end of the day. My surgically repaired shoulder was sore, and that’s something to monitor going forward. Given the challenges to this point, I began to question whether returning to the LT this soon was a good idea.
I’m truly thrilled at being back on the LT, but it’s kicking my ass. Normally I’m able to just roll with adversity on the trail. It’s part of the deal. But the falls are frustrating, and they force me to go slower than I’d like. Hopefully the weather, and trail conditions improve soon, so I can regain a little confidence in my footing, and just hike.
Whenever backpacking solo, I make sure to check in with at least two people daily when there’s a good cell signal. Each day, I texted both Emily and Cheryl with my location and an “all safe” message. When I mentioned that the trail was really tough, Cheryl’s immediate reply was, “But you’re tougher!”. That simple vote of confidence did wonders for my attitude.
Then and Now
After using maps and my father’s notes to figure out several old shelter sites, I later found a great historical resource and was later able to confirm the location of some of the decommissioned shelters where he stayed.
At this point, I was about a half day, and one shelter, ahead of my father’s pace. The three relatively short days at the start of his hike are understandable considering the weight of their packs. Their food included bread, bacon, flour, sugar, cocoa, and canned goods. They also carried an axe, rifles, and fishing gear. But they didn’t carry a tent, relying solely on the shelters and camps. I usually prefer to use my tent on backpacking trips, but hope to use the shelters as much as possible on this stretch to soak up the heritage and shelter culture of the Long Trail.
Some of the parallels in our respective journeys so far have been surprising to me. It was only when transcribing my own daily journal notes that I noticed the similarities. It seems as if we both experienced adversity, physical discomfort, and plenty of rain in the early days of our hike. I feel I’m in good company. Without that adversity, I’m not sure I’d truly appreciate his experience, and maybe that’s the whole point of this journey.