Day mileage: 23
AT total mileage: 1,670.2
Time: 7.5 hours
I woke up early again, and after a quick debate in my head as to whether or not to sleep a bit longer, got out of my sleeping bag and began my day. I did my best to stay quiet, giving the four others a chance to sleep in a bit more. After eating breakfast and beginning to pack up, I woke each of them and encouraged them to start packing up. Two days earlier, our contently pathetic 9 mile day, Santa had decided to hike on to get a few more miles in than we were doing. Since then he has been ahead, but we got a text last night when we arrived at the shelter encouraging us to hike one mile further uphill to a ski patrol lodge at the summit of Bromley Mountain where we could stay for the night. The mountain owners apparently leave the building open for A.T. thru-hikers to stay in during the summer months. Having already unpacked everything and cooked dinner we decided against hiking up to him Friday night, but we had a chance to catch him this morning if we left early enough. After a somewhat leisurely morning packing up at the shelter we began the one mile climb up to Bromley's peak around 7:30. Some 20 minutes later we emerged out onto a wide and somewhat groomed ski trail which we hiked on for a few tenths of a mile before summiting and being confronted with panoramic views of the valley, framed with unused ski lifts in the foreground. Legs later in the afternoon described the ski lifts as 'abandoned' which I jokingly mocked her for, but she wasn't far off. Ski lifts in summer look horribly out of place, like a long since forgotten item left out in the elements to deteriorate and be forever unused. We ended up hanging out on the summit for an hour or so, taking group photos on the ski lift chairs and endlessly commenting on the beauty of the mountains surrounding us.
Turning north from the peak, we followed the trail down a steep incline that would bring us down to a road crossing and parking area for the national forest where many day and weekend hikers had left their cars. Our next climb would be to the summit of Styles Peak, a 3,300' wooded summit with no views to speak of. By this point we had split up into a few small sections of our group, everyone hiking at their own pace. Santa, Legs, and I kept a steady 3 mph pace up and over the mountain, arriving at the Peru Peak shelter around noon for a quick snack before pressing on another 4 miles to reach a separate shelter where we would ultimately eat lunch. After descending Styles Peak the terrain was relatively easy, meandering through the woods and doing our best to fight off the humidity of early afternoon. After making a steep climb to the rocky top of Baker Peak, we began a long descent back into the forest below. We arrived at the lunch shelter around 1345hrs, and would end up staying there for nearly two hours. After eating lunch we each sort of sank into a comfortable spot and closed our eyes for a little, savoring the warmth of the sun and the slight breeze the afternoon provided through the woods. Rocket Girl hiked on around 1500hrs, while the rest of us waited another 40 or so minutes before departing from the shelter. With only 10 miles left to hike, there was no reason to rush anything. The four of us remaining departed, staying in our simple formation as we hiked on, passing a few day hikers and eventually emerging out to another state park forest road where a dozen cars were parked by weekenders. Hiking a gradual incline for three miles, jumping and bush whacking around flooded and muddy sections of trail, we came upon a clearing overlooking Little Rock Pond.
More of a lake than a pond, Little Rock is nestled between mountains in a gorgeous area of Vermont trails. We decided to stop for a break, as Rocket Girl was there waiting for us, and we talked with a group of recent college grads who were hanging out on a tent platform next to the lake. Out on the water was a couple in a canoe, and we each debated swimming. A few minutes later the couple (part of the college grad group) arrived at the shore and offered us the canoe. Obviously having to take them up on the opportunity, Santa, Legs, Dorothy, Naila puppy, and myself piled into the boat and pushed out for a trip across the lake. I'd love to tell you the canoe was of the utmost construction quality, but it really was just a canoe-like shaped piece of styrofoam with metal bracing keeping it together. We far exceeded its weight capacity, as made evident by the two inches of sidewall visible above water. Regardless, we paddled off into the lake. Halfway out, Legs and I recreated the iconic scene from Titanic on the bow of the boat, standing with our arms out like Leonardo de Caprio and Kate Winslet. This worked well until I nearly fell overboard, so we sat back down. Arriving at the other side of the lake, Dorothy and Santa wanted to explore a rock cliff to see if they could jump off into the water. Legs, Naila, and I stayed in the canoe, and I paddled us out and around in the water as we watched Santa assess the situation on shore. He decided he was ready to jump, but first wanted to toss down some things he had in his pockets. I parked the boat by the rock cliff some 20' under him, and he tossed two items down. Realizing that one of them would completely miss the canoe, I reached out to grab it, missing it, and extended myself far enough out that I ended up falling into the lake in an attempt to rescue this unknown object. Resurfacing after my unintentional swim, I was greeted by hysterical laughter from all dry persons around me, as I then continued the unintentionally comedic act by trying to get back in the styrofoam vessel without dumping Legs out of it. Once situated, I learned that I'd in fact jumped in the water to save a rock that Santa had been carrying. A rock. I dove in the water to rescue a rock. How's that for friendship?? Anyways, Santa and Dorothy decided to jump off the rock face and swim back across the lake, as Legs and I took the canoe back alongside them. I pulled it up on shore and we talked for a while with the grads as Santa and Dorothy finished their cross-lake swim. The weekend group offered us food, which we gladly took them up on, and one guy who lives up by Hanover, NH offered to bring us to resupply later next week when the trail crosses by his town, which we'll absolutely take him up on. As the saying goes, the Trail provides.
We said our goodbyes and headed on the remaining 5 miles, having quickly debated spending the night next to the lake. We'd climb up a bit more before the shelter, but arrived there as a group in less than 2 hours time. Due to the proximity to road crossings and the popularity of the Green Mountain National Forest, the shelter and campsites are rather full of weekend hikers. They were happy to make room for us with half the shelter, and we easily fit our group of 5 into space for 4. Cooking dinner and passing around a water bottle of cinnamon whiskey that the grads had also given us, we talked for an hour or so before each of us got into our sleeping bags.
Tomorrow will be another 23+ mile day, perhaps even crossing the 4,200' summit of Killington. All planning has been left to Rocket Girl and Legs, I'm simply along for the ride. The temperatures are supposed to hold steady around the low 80s with a decent bit of humidity, but hopefully early starts and afternoon breaks will alleviate some of the stress that comes from humid and hot days. With only 70 more miles to the New Hampshire border, and a mere 513 miles until the summit of Katahdin, this hike is cruising along. And after days like today, on ski lifts, napping in shelters, and falling out of canoes in the middle of gorgeous lakes nestled into the mountains of Vermont, I'm quite glad I decided to be a part of this group. These are most certainly opportunities I'd have hiked right past.
Take an extra moment to appreciate the present, and have a great weekend.