Big Branch Shelter to Bromley Shelter
October 16, 2007
LT Miles – 14.1
Total LT Miles – 215.9
Extra Miles – 0
The first thing to grab my attention is a fluttering of down feathers near the foot of my sleeping bag.
It’s immediately evident that a mouse decided to chew some holes into one of my most costly pieces of equipment. Wonderful. It’s a brand new 15-degree sleeping bag that I bought for this hike.
I patch the holes with duct tape and try to forget about it.
I cross Big Branch to begin the day’s travels – starting with a steady, four mile ascent to Baker Peak.
Lost Pond Shelter recently fell victim to arson. This is all that remains.
I meet a lone northbound backpacker – an older gentleman wearing blaze orange.
In passing conversation, I remark that I’ve had plenty of solitude on the LT.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he says.
Hikers will often leave paperback books behind in the shelters, as a donation for anyone to pick up (Hopefully before the maintainer has to pack it out as trash). Yesterday at Little Rock Pond I picked up a copy of Alice in Wonderland, which I had never read.
Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit suddenly makes a whole lot more sense.
The tune gets stuck in my head for miles surrounding Griffith Lake.
This is easily one of the most-photographed trail signs in Vermont.
I take a midday break at a picnic table in the sun here at Peru Peak Shelter. A spry white-haired man soon joins me, pulling a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of his day pack. He’s a GMC volunteer and shelter adopter. I also discover through conversation that he’s the inventor of the moldering privy – this is a big deal to me!
All the shelters on the Long Trail (And most AT shelters) are equipped with a privy(outhouse) on site. For years these consisted of a simple hole in the ground which would be covered with dirt when full, and then a new hole would be dug elsewhere. New techniques have been developed in recent years, including the composting privy and moldering privy. The moldering privy is my favorite!
I’m packed and ready to go when the maintainer begins shoveling ashes out of the fire pit. It occurs to me that I ought to offer to do the work myself, but I selfishly push on, concerned about reaching Bromley Mountain in time for sunset. I immediately regret doing so, and consequently spend the afternoon reflecting on the notions of a life’s work – productivity and volunteering – and how they could be in my future.
self portrait at Styles Peak
I descend to Mad Tom Notch, located between Styles Peak and Bromley Mountain. I’d hoped to use the well pump here to fill up my water – in order to sleep on the summit of Bromley – but the pump seems to be out of use for the season.
I don’t see any good water sources on the ascent, so it looks as though I won’t be spending the night on top of the mountain.
During the week after 9/11, Bromley Mountain was the place where I decided to quit my 2001 Appalachian Trail thru-hike.
For a day and a night I weighed the decision under a jet-trail-less sky.
I also slept here on the first night of my return to finish the AT, in 2002.
I wait for sunset on the cold summit for at least half an hour.
….plenty of time to shovel out a fire pit.
I believe Killington is the highest point seen here, in the distance to the left.
I watch the treetops sway in the wind.
It looks as though the entire forest is moving… a la the awakening of Fanghorn.
In the cold, gathering dusk I descend a ski trail and turn in to the woods.
At Bromley Shelter I meet Eric, a northbound section hiker from Williamstown, Massachusetts. He had the shelter all to himself before I arrived after sunset, and I can’t help but relay a hint of apology for it.
He warns that the side trail for water is a long way down, and he’s absolutely right. The path even consists of switchbacks, and it’s tricky to negotiate in the dark under fallen leaves.
From here it’s less than two miles downhill to a road that leads to town, and I dream of tomorrow’s hot breakfast.