Shortly after hiker midnight (9 pm) last night, some heavy rain, thunder, and lightning rolled in, and it was quite the show. The storm must have been quite close, since many of the thunderclaps managed to noticeably shake the shelter. So, it was a very interesting first night out on the Long Trail. (I imagine the hikers who tented had an even more interesting night than I did.)
The thunder and lightning made a brief resurgence around 2 am, and then all was quiet until morning, when some heavy rain blew through for about half an hour sometime between 6 and 7 am. The weather forecast is apparently for a cooler day than yesterday, though it certainly seems that it will be quite humid, and also, quite muddy.
I left shortly after the morning's rain finished. The early part of today's hike was not terrible, though it was a slog through mud and fog. As the trail reached near VT 9, the trail became a series of steep rock stairs. Since I did this section southbound last year, climbing the stairs instead of descending them, I misremembered this particular part of the trail, and was expecting to have to climb something of equal difficulty on the north side of VT 9. Being just under five miles from the shelter to the road crossing, I took a break in one of the camping areas just on the other side of a river.
As expected from the elevation profile, the climb up the next mountain was somewhat steep, though fortunately, not the second set of rock stairs I was expecting. However, it was still incredibly humid, and besides being drenched with sweat and condensation from the air, the humidity sapped my strength. The 1.4 mile climb up the mountain should not have been as difficult as it seemed, and somewhat tired, and almost certainly much lower on water than I would have preferred, I stopped at the Melville Nauheim shelter for a water break.
This break bore unexpected fruit: Tom, another hiker, had a chicken sandwich from Subway that he had picked up in Bennington, and he gave me half. This proved essential for providing enough energy for the rest of the day's hike, as the next nine miles to Goddard Shelter was almost entirely uphill.
Also at Melville Nauheim were a group of Green Mountain Club caretakers, who were picking up trash around the shelter and digging a hole for a new privy. They told us that the two shelters after Goddard, Kid Gore and Story Spring, had just had bear boxes installed over the weekend, owing to an overly aggressive bear that (apparently) was dragging packs out of shelters in search of food, even with hikers in the shelters yelling at it. (Fortunately, I have no plans to stay at either of those shelters.)
Continuing on from the shelter, it was, as I expected, a mostly uphill slog climb the rest of the day. The sun finally came out shortly after I left Melville Nauheim, and it helped to burn away a little bit of the humidity, but the rest of the day was still humid and unpleasant.
By all rights, this should not have been a terribly difficult hike. From Melville Nauheim to Goddard is a climb of about 1500 - 2000 ft over almost nine miles, which is not terribly strenuous. However, between the humidity, and the fact that I'm no longer in trail shape, today was brutal, and it easily felt like one of the most strenuous I've been on in a long time.
Late in the day, with about three miles to go to Goddard, I managed to roll one of my ankles fairly badly, mostly because I was getting sloppy due to being overdue for a snack break. (The half turkey sandwich was good, but was also six miles earlier.) This brought my speed for the rest of the day to a relative crawl, and I didn't get to Goddard Shelter until almost 6 pm.
There also wasn't much in the way of views; the trail was largely under tree cover the whole day, and the few views there were — including what should have been an excellent view from Goddard, were all obscured by trees that have grown up since the views were first noted.
Exhausted, and in pain — my feet hurt, and my shoulders hurt — I just sat down like a zombie for probably ten minutes, massaging my feet and summoning the energy to get water and cook dinner. This is not an easy task when what you really want to do is go to sleep.
Ultimately, I'm pushing myself like I were still and AT thru-hiker, and the fact is, I'm not. I stopped being in trail shape long ago. It's almost worse, even, because I know what I'm capable of, and I can't do it. (At least, not right now.)
Fortunately, tomorrow is mostly downhill, what should be an easy 12.3 miles to a campsite at the next major (dirt) road crossing. Unfortunately, Thursday's plan is 17.5 to get to Manchester Center, so, terrain and ankle willing, I may try to push a little further tomorrow to make Thursday easier.