Journey’s End Camp to Laura Woodward Shelter
September 27, 2007
LT Miles – 8.7
Total LT Miles – 8.7
Extra Miles – 0.6
I wake in the dim light before dawn.
I don’t know what time it is – I’m not carrying a wristwatch on this trip.
From within my sleeping bag, the interior of Journey’s End Camp carries the scent of fresh-cut lumber. There’s also the musty, familiar shelter smell. Every Appalachian Trail hiker knows “shelter smell.”
I pack up fairly quickly, in anticipation of my first full day on The Long Trail.
The sky is a dull grey, but appears somewhat clear in patches. It’s hard to interpret the clouds before sunrise.
I walk a half mile uphill to the Canadian border – the Long Trail’s northern terminus. It’s revealed as a sudden clearing around a bend.
When I turn south, the paint blazes on the trees change from blue to white. My life will be focused on following these white blazes through the backcountry for the next 26 days.
It’s quite simple, really.
The following sign welcomes me to the official Long Trail – the GMC’s “new” address reveals the sign’s age.
Morning sun shines above the treetops.
I will observe these leaves in various shades of color all the way to Massachusetts.
These flowers bloom near my first road crossing.
I meet two middle aged women, going north on a day hike. One of them will complete the entire Long Trail today, having patched together numerous day hikes and section hikes. Congratulations are exchanged.
There’s already rough, steeply undulating terrain, and the path is riddled with roots.
The descent to Shooting Star Shelter affords a handsome view of Jay Peak. At 3,858 feet, it’s the northernmost mountain of significance on the LT. I hope to make it to a ski shelter on the summit before night falls, provided that the weather holds out.
This is Shooting Star Shelter, where I stop for a lunch break and browse the register.
Most every shelter contains a spiral notebook filled with entries from passing hikers. They’re often lending to humor and sometimes accompanied by rough drawings… just about anything that happens to be on one’s mind out here.
The book here is characterized by northbounder’s thoughts at the end of their journey.
This is in a low-lying area before a steep, nasty climb that requires some effort. It slows me down considerably.
When I think of the difficulty of the LT in years to come, the hour or so I spend going up this unnamed peak will be in the forefront of my experience.
It’s here that I meet a northbound backpacker who appears to be in his thirties. We exchange a terse hello and continue on our solitary ways.
A view to the west at the top of the climb.
Here the wind picks up considerably, carrying swiftly with it a moist, foggy cloud.
The weather changes dramatically as I watch from this height.
The experience is invigorating.
On the way down the mountain I meet a young backpacker with an eyebrow piercing, laboring uphill.
“How far to the shelter?” I ask.
“About a mile, mile and a half,” he says. “The top?”
“Oh, about a half mile, maybe less” I reply,
“But then it’s a long way down, and up again if you’re going to…”
I pause, trying to recall the name of the most recent shelter.
“Canada?” he interrupts, simultaneously grasping for a tree limb and vaulting himself up the mountain, with the bravado of a thru-hiker who can taste the end in sight.
This narrow gap in the ridge is at the bottom of the descent. A wet cloud blows westward through it, like a breach in a dam.
Particles of moisture float horizontally before my eyes. The light grows dim.
Jay Peak is shrouded in mist.
Laura Woodward Shelter is a welcome site as the weather rapidly deteriorates.
I quickly gather water and prepare a dinner of beef-flavored rice in the fading light. I’m alone for the evening, but snug against the moist chill that envelopes the area.
I wake several times during the night to the sound of a hard rain rattling against the metal roof.