Grunt. Moan. Suck. The time had come. Anderson was a leftover from bailing after Lowell, despite being only about 200 feet below the summit. See the Lowell report, but I was horribly late with my wife sitting alone bored in a hotel room. I'll discuss that later...
Brian happily agreed to join me on this adventure. I had been studying the satellite photos on Google Earth over and over, and noticed a subtle but distinct difference in the woods near the wilderness boundary. To the north was the crap woods I had descended through, the tightest pencil woods I had ever been in. To the south, something else. Who knows what else, but it had to be better. We knew going up from anywhere around Norcross Pond was hell, so we had to try something different.
So, once again, up the Nancy Pond Trail at 8:00. I like this trail, or so I kept telling myself. The grades are easy, you get the cascades, the switchbacks don't last as long as you think, then a nice plateau with the ponds. Today, I just found it tedious to begin with. I always forget about those little dips in the trail that screw up my pace. The brook crossing was at least low, as there had been pretty much no rain in the past week, and low humidity to boot. Yup, finally there's the old junk next to the trail, yup, finally there's the brook crossing before the cascade, yup, there's the cascade. What the hell, take a shot. It was still nice to look at with even low water.
The switchbacks were indeed short, requiring one short rest. Oh yeah, I had forgot it's not flat-flat up here, with those dips and sharp rises here and there. It was just tedious all around. I told Brian I don't like this trail so much anymore. I need a long break from it.
It was warm and a bit humid, with the sun coming and going. At least the bugs were once again next to non-existant. I think I saw 5 mosquitoes all day. We got to the north end of Nancy Pond at 10:00, and started looking for a place to jump in, which came immediately at a well used campsite. We headed southwest, and had good going, except for little bands of thick stuff. Then we popped out into the open, and we were on the ridge at 3160' in 15 minutes, so I started patting myself on the back. Brian felt a jinx coming on, but I knew the ridge was good to 3300', where I ditched last time as it seemed to be closing in.
So of course, less than 5 minutes later, crap. A nasty blowdown field with lots of young fir and no visible way around. Curse me. I'm sure Brian did. Still, we were above 3200', and less than 0.2 miles from the good ridge. How bad could it be? Ha ha ha. We tried going back and forth across the ridge, trying to find good woods to no avail.
Now the cursing was coming out, but we were still laughing it up regardless. Forty-five long minutes later we were at 3300', but no good woods. What the heck?? We veered right, and then found ourselves paralleling the ridge in not so great woods. Damn. Now we were definitely below the good part of the ridge. Sigh, nothing to do but fight our way up. We emerged on the ridge 1.5 hours after leaving the pond at 3400'. Hallelujah.
Brian said the ridge was good the rest of the way, as we passed 3450' where I came onto the ridge before from the Anderson-Lowell col. We cranked through it, being wonderfully open indeed. The summit had a few thick patches, but we found the highpoint easily enough after searching a few bumps, covering the remaining half mile in 20 minutes after emerging from the crap.
A nice long break at the summit, and then Brian noticed a dark cloud to the west. Ugh. It didn't seem to be coming this way, so no cause for alarm, and we set off back down the open ridge. For whatever reason, a certain someone (I won't say who, but it wasn't me) slid off the ridge, and I noticed Lowell staring us in the face as we were hitting some steep crap woods. Ummm, Brian, I really don't want to go to Duck Pond today. To be fair, I've done more than my share of getting turned in the woods, including a wide semi-circle trying to get around the blowdowns earlier.
We fought back to the ridge, happily moving along again, and then we heard it. Thunder. Dammit, we've been through this already on Savage. And we got soaked to the bone. Fortunately, it was only one peal, but all the memories of hiking in rain obscured glasses with lighting all around us came back. We did also notice a dark cloud to the east now. Sigh. There was supposed to be no chance of rain today, so I dumbly left my rain gear behind.
And then it started. Little drops. I was hoping it'd stop quick before it starting soaking the trees, but no dice. It picked up, and it wasn't long before the trees were getting wet. Our only hope was to stay in open woods. We got down to 3300' and stopped to make a decision. Go through the pencil crap to Norcross, or go through the blowdown crap the way we came. We decided to try to find a better way back to Nancy.
We ended up making another one of those fun semi-circles, for reasons I don't even remember now. We ended up crossing to the south of the ridge, but the going was definitively not better. Every tree brush knocked off a bunch of rain, and I winced every time, and the woods were probably laughing at me. I was keeping my composure, no way I was going to let me emotions get the better of me like on Lowell. That was cold and wet (though I had flipping rain gear). The rain now was a bit chilling, but thankfully not cold. We realized we were paralleling the trail and made the turn in to Nancy. It sucked the entire way. It was alternating between nothing but thick pencil woods or blowdown fields. I couldn't see squat now with my glasses, made worse by the copious pitting in the crappy lenses I just got last year.
At least I got to the point where I could get no wetter, so the tree pee no longer bothered me. Two hours and and 1.2 miles later we popped out into the campsite and breathed a deep sigh of relief. Oh, did I mention I lost my cigarettes somewhere around the summit? I could've used a couple on the way down. Now, I didn't care, I just wanted dry clothes. I wrung out my socks which was about all I could do. The rain had stopped about 20 or 30 minutes earlier, and the sun was poking out, so putting on my fleece wouldn't do. Brian at least could take off his pant bottoms to be in shorts. I couldn't find mine the day earlier and sorely missed them now. The feel of soaking pants sticking to my legs was not a pleasant feeling.
Ah well, we're on the trail! So we cranked along, looking forward to dry clothes, and I again cursed any dip or any other small inconvenience at this point. Coming down the switchbacks, we ran into some hikers, one of which said, “you look familiar.” We introduced ourselves, and it turned out to be Mike LaRoss with two companions, also heading up Lowell and Anderson, camping out tonight. We told them what we knew, and they didn't look too enthused. Hey, low expectations means anything good you find is awesome. As we headed down, we started hearing more regular thunder to the east, and hoped we would be getting out in time to avoid a second drenching (again, similar to Savage).
We hit the car at 4:30. Did I want a cigarette first? Hell, no, get me dry clothes. Changing in the car next to the road always makes me nervous, but no way I was going into the wet woods. Quick as I could, I had a big smile on my face in some nice warm and dry clothing. Oh, this was a good feeling.
And so, back to my earlier bail decision. After hearing the guys got out a full 2 hours after me, I justified my decision to skip Anderson. Neesh would not have been happy at that one. Brian asked me on the way out though if I wished I had gone up and faced the potential effects of being so late. Without hesitation I said yes, I wished I had gone up to avoid having to do this mess all over again. I could've repaired the situation quicker than the full day spent having to do it over.
In reality, I wished once I got up to the ridge, I had looked around and said, to hell with it, let's try going up real quick, but given rotten woods all day, it was too much to expect. However, I would've only been a half hour later at most. Ah well, it's now done, and there's no reason for me to be on the Nancy Pond Trail until I want to be. I've come to the opinion that the area around Duck Pond is cursed, at least to me. The bad news is someday I will visit Duck Pond. I've got a baaaaad feeling about that...