Day 15: Birch Glen Camp
Monday, July 31, 2017 6:11 pm
Location: Birch Glen Camp (165.5 miles)

I awoke with a start, shortly before sunrise. I was about to roll over and go back to sleep — it was way too early to get up on a short day into town, but in 2200 miles on the Appalachian Trail, I had never seen the sunrise, and today would remedy that.

Groggily, I grabbed my phone and made my way outside. The skies were mostly clear, and a warm breeze blew in from the east. Right on schedule, though slightly obscured by trees, the sun rose up from behind the White Mountains. I'll have to try again some other day, when I have a less obstructed view to the horizon, but I have my sunrise. I took some pictures, and went back to sleep.

My ankle gave me fits last night, and I never really slept well last, finally rolling out of my sleeping bag for real sometime after 7 am. I took my time getting ready to go, not leaving camp until after 8:30. After all, if I'm just doing a short day into town, why rush?

In retrospect, leaving earlier might have helped. It was a bit of a rough hike from Glen Ellen Lodge to Appalachian Gap and VT 17. Steep, rocky, and with rebar ladders, it took longer to hike the three miles or so to the road than I anticipated. A bit low on energy, I blamed yesterday's sun exposure and dehydration for my lethargy, but I made it to the road around 11. Along the way, the trail passed by the Mad River ski slopes. From the Theron Dean Shelter, a view north showed Camel's Hump growing ever closer.

Camel's Hump from Theron Dean Shelter
Camel's Hump from Theron Dean Shelter

From the parking lot at the trailhead on VT 17, I hitched a ride into Waitsfield. The first car I tried to thumb was perhaps a bit too nice of a car to try hailing; the driver slowed down, then must have seen my pack, said something, and screeched off around the mountain. A motorcyclist I had chatted with briefly and who was just leaving looked at me, and we both shrugged.

It wasn't too long, though, before I got a lift, from an older man returning to Maine after visiting his friend in New York. He lived relatively near the Appalachian Trail, so I guess he was familiar with seeing hikers hitch into town. I sat in the back, next to his dog, who just sat there and pretended that head rubs were no big deal.

I got dropped off at the major crossroad in Waitsfield, and walked to Waitsfield Inn, which had a "No Vacancy" sign up. I sighed, noting that I really should have called last night to reserve a room (they had vacancy when I called from Sunset Ledge), and went in anyway, hoping that maybe the sign wasn't accurate. Unfortunately, they didn't have any rooms, and also seemed to be in a bit of a linen crisis: a delivery was late, so they couldn't make any of the beds!

I walked to the nearby food store, and called the other lodging I had considered, but like yesterday, it went to voicemail. The whole situation was slightly absurd, and I decided not to continue calling, so as to avoid a repeat of last year's debacle when I tried to get a room in Greenwood Lake, NY, on short notice.

Going on the advice that there were rock scrambles going up Camel's Hump (and also the steep uphill and downhill elevation profiles), I only got two days of food, which I expected would take me through to US 2 and Richmond, VT. I didn't really want to resupply so quickly (I would have preferred to go another two days to Johnson), but if I could catch up with Goldfish and Fresh Pot, that would potentially make the logistics easier.

As I sat on a grassy hill next to the food store, a local recognized me as a hiker, and struck up a conversation. Bob, who was with his dog Summit, was picking up his wife Michelle at the shopping area near the food store, and offered me a ride back to the trail. (His house is halfway between the trailhead and the store.) I accepted, and, abandoning my plan to get something to eat at a restaurant on my way out of town, I ran back into the food store to pick up a soda and something quick to eat (which turned out to be trail mix and pineapple chunks).

Bob, retired, is an avid skier and hiker, having gone skiing over 150 days last year. (He still calls it "work", and invites anyone who disagrees to come out to the slopes with him from 8 to 4 and see if they still disagree.)

Getting back on the trail around 12:30, I decided to push on to where Goldfish and Fresh Pot were planning on finishing, the Montclair Glen Shelter, which would make today a 14 mile day, with about a ten mile day tomorrow over Camel's Hump and in to Johnson. There were also two shelters in between that I could also stop at if necessary. (The next shelter, Birch Glen Camp, was originally my fallback if I didn't stay in town.)

As with the south side of Appalachian Gap, the north side started off with a steep, rocky uphill, before switching to a steep, rocky downhill. My last view of the day was to the north, with Camel's Hump looming ever closer.

The trail became gradually nicer towards Birch Glen Camp, and because I was still tired, I wasn't as careful as I should have been. I rolled my ankle again. (At this rate, how is it I still have ankles?) After sitting on the trail for a bit (and eating one of the plastic cups of pineapple slices, which I then immediately regretted because with pain and food, some slight nausea set in), the pain subsided enough for me to hobble to the shelter.

I sat down for a bit, and then rolled out my bed roll and laid down for a bit, to give my foot a rest. When the sky darkened a bit, I remembered the weather forecast was calling for a short bit of rain sometime in the afternoon, so I went and got water. I wound up going further downstream than I'd have liked so that I could find a cascade deep enough that I could fill my water bag. When I returned, Zippy was sitting in front of the shelter.

It turned out, after sitting at Mt. Abraham for perhaps a little too long, she got tired out, and stayed in a ski warming hut between Mt. Abraham and Glen Ellen Lodge. Her timing had coincidentally let her run into Goldfish and Fresh Pot as all three of them arrived at the trailhead, probably half an hour or so before I made my way back to the trailhead.

Around 4, thunder rang out, and it started pouring. We both retreated into the shelter, to be joined in short order by a local out on an afternoon hike. While the rain only lasted for about 10 or 15 minutes, the thunder continued to rumble for a good while afterwards.

Zippy, still wanting to catch up with her friends, left after the rain ended, having heard from the local that while the next shelter (Cowles Cove Shelter) is not very nice, the trail between Birch Glen Camp and there was.

With the shelter to myself again, I set up to cook dinner, only to realize I was too tired to cook. I decided that a nap was in order, and laid down, elevating my leg using my clothes sack. During my relatively short slumber, I got woken up twice by something that sounded like a girl saying "hello?", even though there was no one there.

After that, it was time for dinner, though on account of a short hike today, I opted to not cook today's ramen.

Tomorrow: I can't stay here, so I'm definitely hiking somewhere, carefully. Hopefully, it's to Montclair Glen Shelter, which would put me behind today's revised plan, though not all that far behind where I had previously planned to be tomorrow. Worst case, if my ankle doesn't approve of hiking, there are three side trails that lead to roads (one here, at Birch Glen; one shortly past Cowles Cove; and one at Montclair Glen). But, with less than half the trail left to go, I'd rather not use that option unless absolutely necessary.

The Long Trail is Paradise?
The Long Trail is Paradise?My ankle respectfully disagrees.