Hazen’s Notch Camp to Spruce Ledge Camp
September 29, 2007
LT Miles – 14.5
Total LT Miles – 32.7
Extra Miles – 1
I wake and I remember where I am.
Aged wooden boards are inches from my nose.
The sounds that stirred me awake continue – rustles of sleeping bags, nylon, zippers, the light clink of an aluminum pot… muffled footsteps upon weary lumber, the hiss of air escaping from an inflatable mattress, and the roar of a camping stove in action.
I roll over to see two pairs of white LED lights bobbing this way and that.
A faint, blueish light in the air is my cue to rise and join the party.
I pack somewhat hastily. The activity helps me keep warm against the early chill, but doesn’t affect numbing fingers as I tie my shoelaces. I say my goodbyes to Upload, Stitches, and The Professor.
“Have a good one,” I say.
It’s what I always say.
It’s a truly misty morning in the woods. The overnight rain seems to have stopped.
I drift through some enchanted forest near Hazen’s Notch – a gap in the mountains named after General Moses Hazen. He built a military road through here during the Revolutionary War, likely under direct order of General Washington.
The enchanted forest…
I cross the road through the notch and rest on a log to enjoy a bagel.
A lone middle-aged woman ambles by me, going north.
“Breakfast?” she muses.
Her bulky, rain-covered, external-frame pack disappears down the trail.
The mist clears for a brief, single view.
It returns for eerie walk over Haystack Mountain – fogged in and dominated by stark red spruce. It’s so quiet up here, and the resulting aura is magnificent.
Here I meet two northbound gentlemen.
“Isn’t it great up here?” I inquire, but they don’t agree. They’re wet and their shoes are muddy.
“Southbound?” one asks me.
“All the way?”
“That a boy.”
This is the Haystack Summit – another sweeping vista…
I descend Haystack and meet a man sitting alongside the trail. He appears to be in his thirties or forties and doesn’t give a trail name. I instantly forget his real name. He says he’s going south for about a week to the Mount Mansfield area, so we hike together for a short way.
He did the Appalachian Trail back in ’88, so we talk Trail. He asks:
“Does Wingfoot hike anymore?”
“Is Baltimore Jack still out there every year?”
And more chit-chat:
“Southbounders are like a different breed – everything is backwards… The southern section of the LT is quite suburban compared to this, isn’t it?”
And so on.
The wet, rugged path through the area demands well placed footsteps, hand holds, and controlled slides. When presented with the frequently steep, 10-20 yard downhill sections, one has to pause and assess the best possible way to slide down the rocks and roots.
“If you didn’t have a trail name, I’d call you Crash Test Dummy,” he says (I’m leading the way).
He eventually pauses for a break, and I continue south on the trail.
I reach Tillotson Camp for a rest. It’s currently being rebuilt by the GMC, so the structure is technically “closed.”
A man and a woman are there – day hikers who, judging by their accents, are likely from Quebec. They ask me “How far does the trail go?” and seem surprised when I tell them it goes to Massachusetts, and how from there it connects to the Appalachian Trail all the way to Georgia.
The sun comes out at last, shining on a nearby stream.
Lockwood Pond – the first of many beaver ponds I’ll encounter on The Long Trail.
Blue sky at last.
The emerging sun casts light upon everything. It’s so novel to see my own shadow that I take a picture.
Looking north toward Jay Peak.
This is the base of the fire tower on Belvidere Mountain, where I meet a young couple out for a day hike. The man approaches me and asks about my trip. He did The Long Trail just a few years ago.
“Do you have a trail name?” he asks.
“Farm Boy,” he replies, with a thumb pointed at his chest.
“Farm Boy! I chuckle, that’s a good one!”
“Yeah, I’m a dairy farmer now,” he says, “This is actually my first hike since I did the trail, and my girlfriend’s first ever.”
They observe the views from below as I ascend the rickety, windblown fire tower.
Again, Jay Peak is visible to the north. I was there yesterday.
I’ve been taking selfies since before they were called “selfies,” by the way.
Upon review of the map, I discover that the last five miles will include Devil’s Gulch – a rocky, narrow ravine that’s often compared to The Mahoosuc Notch in Maine. I know it will be slow-going through there.
There’s limited daylight remaining to cover all this ground. I intentionally don’t have a watch and am unaware of the time – to fully immerse myself in the rhythms of nature. I can’t be sure how much sun remains.
I hustle down Belvidere Mountain to the road at Eden Crossing.
Eden Crossing, and VT route 118. There’s a trailhead parking area here, where I catch up with Farm Boy. He offers me a ride to town, but I decline. I still have a full two days’ worth of rations.
From the road I climb to a lookout over Ritterbush Pond, and then descend steeply into Devil’s Gulch.
It’s nearly dark as I scramble over, under, and around jumbled boulders in the gulch.
Looking up from the bottom of the ravine.
I have to use my headlamp a short distance to Spruce Ledge Camp.
There are several groups of weekend hikers camped in the area, three of which own dogs. Most are quite settled in for the night as I arrive in the cold darkness. The lower level of the shelter is full but the upper level is empty, save for a young man reading a book by headlamp – a lone northbound LT hiker. He tells me in what direction to find the spring in the darkness.
And now at the end of a long day I realize that my water filter – the pump I use to purify my drinking water – is no longer in my pack. I used it this morning, and must have left it behind… some fifteen miles away. I go through all my belongings in the dark, again and again, but to no avail.
I cook a full pot of macaroni and cheese, and eat in silence by the light of my headlamp.
The clearing weather should make for a chilly night.