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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
 
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DAY 107:  SUNDAY, AUGUST 14
 
Start: Stratton- Arlington Rd.                               
End:  Mad Tom Notch/Manchester, VT
Today's Miles:                      23.0
Cumulative Miles:          1,642.6
Miles to go:                       532.3
   
 
"ONE DOLLAR FINE
for Driving Faster
Than a Walk on this Bridge"
 
- sign over covered bridge near Arlington, VT (photo below)
 


Covered bridge near Arlington, VT     8-14-05

Stratton Pond in the mist (more photos in text.)

This was another day I almost didn't get out of bed. I'm a tired puppy, and thought it was time for a break. I was trying to wait until this coming Thursday, when I have several appointments in Woodstock. But my body said, "I'm tired and I want to rest right now!"

Then I realized how difficult getting to the trail head would be from our next campsite, an el-cheapo north of Manchester that Jim found driving by (not in our campground books) and has already paid the grand sum of $10.00 for tonight - including electricity and water! (That's a major bargain, folks.)

So once again, I soldiered on. I got myself out of bed the second time (Jim, too, poor fella) and hit the trail while we were close to today's trail head.

Jim decided to climb up Mt. Stratton with me. He had a choice of returning to the truck the way he went up, for about eight miles total, or doing a loop up Stratton, down to Stratton Pond, and taking the Stratton Pond Trail back to Arlington Road, a total of about eleven miles. He chose the latter.

Jim reached the top of Stratton Mountain about fifteen minutes before me. We had a gain of 1,606 feet from the road (2,300 feet) to the summit (3,936 feet) over three miles but most of the gain was in the last two miles. As on Glastenbury Mountain, the environment changed to spruce-balsam around 3,200 feet and Jim could see what I meant about how beautiful the forest is at that elevation. It reminded him of his beloved mountains in Montana, where he lived for eighteen years.

By the time I reached the summit Jim had already climbed up the old fire tower and made the acquaintance of the retired couple who serve as caretakers on the mountain, Hugh and Jeanne. They spend six days a week in a teensy little hut from May to mid-October and are paid by the Green Mountain Club. They help protect the mountain and are a valuable source of information to hikers.

I climbed up the rickety fire tower and had a marvelous 360-degree view of the mountains and valleys above the varying shades of green pines and firs, but the fog prevented seeing as far as the White Mountains in New Hampshire. They would be visible on a clear day. The top of the fire tower is enclosed in glass. I took this photo of Jim part way down, but as you can see, it was still a ways up there!

While we were at the top two SOBO thru-hikers arrived and plunked themselves down at the base of the tower. They are young friends who go by "Beef" and "Stringbean." Jim talked with them about road access in Maine. Apparently they saw vehicles several places in the Hundred-Mile Wilderness area, giving us more hope we'll be able to gain access.

Jim went on ahead down the mountain toward Stratton Pond and I followed behind. We were both pleased to find some runnable trail in that three-plus miles. I was even happier to be able to run more after that, but the last half of the section was so full of rocks and roots that it was difficult to run much in the afternoon.

This is a photo taken about 1/4 mile before the VT 11/30 road crossing, showing the jungle-like moss and roots that are so prevalent at the lower elevations in Vermont:

Stratton Pond was pretty. The AT follows the shore for only about 400 feet (sharing a cross-country ski trail), but for those who have the time, there is a trail that surrounds the pond. A young child was wading in the clear water, his parents watching closely. He confirmed it was cold! I went a bit further to take photos and enjoy the serenity of the water, then headed northward.

UNHAPPY CAMPERS

The rest of the day is a blur of green in my mind. Until Bromley Mountain, there were no significant landmarks and I saw few hikers. I was tired and moving slowly, although I ran where I could. It was warm and very humid, with no cooling breezes except at the top of the two major mountains, Stratton and Bromley.

Around 1 PM it rained lightly for fifteen minutes, making the Trail that much more tedious through the slick roots, rocks, and bog bridges. I slid several times (off a wooden board once) and went all the way down once into soft leaves when one of my shoes came off. I've had many falls and near-falls that I haven't reported here. I've stopped counting!

The ascent to Bromley Mountain started right after VT 11/30, a tough road to cross. Traffic is heavy, fast, and visibility around curves both directions is minimal.

I soon passed about twelve teen-aged hikers, male and female, in little groups of two and three, strung out over the first half mile of the gradual climb. All were stopped, either standing or sitting. Several had their large packs off. One girl was crying, telling her younger companion she wanted to go home. None of the kids looked happy.

Half a mile up I came upon a smiling 20-something man, sitting on the side of the trail near a creek. I asked if he was with the group of kids. He said yes, he was waiting for them to catch up. I warned him he had a mutiny on his hands and he got up to go check on them.

If they were heading for the shelter another mile or two up the trail, it was going to be a very long afternoon for this gentleman!

Bromley Mountain held a surprise for me near the top. The climb up really was gradual (by AT standards) to its 3,260-foot summit. There were several relocations of the trail around the Bromley shelter that probably tamed the ascent.

The last 3/10ths mile was weird - a little squirrel path through waist-high weeds on a steep ski slope. There were no markers; I just followed the narrow, overgrown path to the top and fortunately it was the right way to go. I have no clue why the Trail doesn't just continue through the woods to the top; it'd be a lot more pleasant hike that way.

I didn't check out the tower, building, or ski lift at the top. It was really foggy and I couldn't see very far into the distance. I had the summit to myself. I tried to imagine how pretty it would be on a sunny winter day when the summit would be a beehive of activity with skiers.

I was on a mission to finish near the time I told Jim I'd meet him two-plus miles below, so I headed down the mountain.

Horton had written fourteen years ago that it was difficult to find the correct way off Bromley. The signage there is very clear now, but the Trail going down to Mad Tom Notch was a piece of work, especially near the top. It was very narrow and overgrown, full of slick slanted smooth rocks that were difficult to negotiate when wet.

The sky was dark, and so were the woods, and it wasn't even 5 PM yet. It felt like twilight under the dense leaves and pine trees.

BREAK-A-LEG

Jim called me when I was about ten minutes from Mad Tom Notch. He blew the horn, and I could hear it in the distance. About 1/4 mile from the little forest service road I saw something dark moving around the bend on the trail in front of me and I approached carefully. Is that another moose? (My eyesight in dim light is poor!)

No, it was "Break-a-Leg," a delightful young lady who I recognized immediately. I thought I'd seen her on the Trail previously, but it was her photo on her Trail Journals web page that I remembered. Her name is Jess Wilson and she lives near Boston.

Before I started my journey I read many past and current hikers' journals on this web site. Most were older folks like me, but I was so entranced with "Break's" writing that I read her prep pages and early trail entries (she began in March, I believe). But I haven't had the opportunity to read anyone else's journal while I've been on the Trail and didn't know if she was still out here.

She is, and she's doing fine. She seemed tired today and still had about five miles to go to the next shelter. While she took a break at the road she met Jim and the dogs. Jim gave her a cold soft drink, which she willingly drank on the spot. She declined more, as she'd just loaded up on a week's worth of food in Manchester and her pack was full.

I hope to see her on up the Trail again and maybe we can talk more. She's raising funds for her theatre group, RAW. You can find her lively journal at www.trailjournals.com/breakaleg. (Beware; what I read in the spring was not G-rated.)

Since we're now in a cheap campsite I'll be taking tomorrow off to rest and regroup before the next big push through Vermont. We haven't had internet access for a few days, so some of these entries will be uploaded late. I imagine that will happen more frequently now that we're into more wilderness areas in VT, NH, and ME.

Check out Day 108 for the Crew View - more cool photos Jim took during Moose Fest.

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil