I contacted Brian to see wuzzup for the weekend, and Camel's Hump was mentioned as a possibility. This confused me terribly, as I knew of no Camel's Hump in New Hampshire. I was reprimanded for my lack of knowledge of non-NH peaks (despite that I was convinced there were NO peaks outside of New Hampshire), and thought checking out this foreign state of Vermont might be interesting. That and the possibility of great views was hard to pass on. We met on Duxbury Rd. in Waterbury where the LT pops out, spotted and car and headed up to the Monroe parking lot. On trail around 8:45, things went quite pleasantly, although humidly. We did some catching up on the past few weeks, endured a black fly or two, and came quickly to the Dean Trail, where we promptly left behind everyone else we had met so far. A shame, as this trail's a gem. We got to a small beaver pond, where I got my first views of the Hump. Oh my! That's quite dramatic. Me likey! Me likey hikey! It's rocky, it's steep, much love from me. We could also see the ledges we would soon be on, a bonus treat.
Coming to the LT junction, we rose fairly quickly to the ledges where we got our first views. Hazy, but do-able. Hell of a lot better than yesterday. Onward, view after view, more and more mountains showing themselves, looking on a distant landscape that I had zero landmarks for. Brian was clearly winning Name That Peak today. Finally, we came to the fun stuff, the steep climb. Not the steepest I've ever seen, but pretty good. Onward we went, still jovial, laughing, enjoying that this was such a great day. What could go wrong? If you've read enough of our TR's (or at least the title), you know what's coming.
Alas, I foreshadow too heftily, for there is still much joviality to be had. We emerged from the scrub to the alpine plantful ledges, the kind of stuff I love best. The peak, which had earlier looked so far above us and at such a horribly vertical angle, was now just a simple distance away. The summit gave out good views today. I got a new appreciation for how big Champlain is. Being an aviation buff, looking almost straight down the runway at Burlington was pretty cool. Tons of mountains, very few names. Getting hot out now, the breeze didn't suck either. We sat amongst the small crowd, watching menacing clouds come right at us, but no hint of thunder nor rain.
Finally, we briefly discussed our options, and without hesitation went ahead with the full trip we had planned. We headed back down the LT southward to the Alpine Trail. Yum! Alpine, that's gotta be good, right? We dropped down further and further, and we were both thinking we might have missed the junction after a good long while. A mighty long ˝ mile. Just when we had decided we must of missed it and were content with a shortened day, it, of course, came right into view. Ah! Excellent, right? Onward past the Monroe Trail, but we were starting to question the name of this trail. Alpine wasn't it. A Small Patch of Scrub Trail would have been much more appropriate. Or perhaps, Did Someone Lose a B-24 Wing Trail. Worse, it was a complete PITA PUD-fest. And it was getting hot. We came to a stream, and splashed ourselves with gusto. Boy, did that feel good. I still had a liter of water, so I was thinking no problem for me, and I had let Brian know I had iodine if we ever ran low, as he left his filter behind. Problem was I can't remember if it was before or after that stream that I mentioned iodine. More PUDs, more PUDs, and wait, let me think... yep, lots more ******* PUDs. We grew to hate this trail. We hated the misnomer, we hated the PUDs, we hated how it seemed a lot longer than the signs and maps said. “Maps lie” was the motto of the day.
Ah, but then we came to the Long Trail, the glorious LT. Surely all will be right now, right? We knew there were 3 bumps we had to go over before we came off the ridge. Oh, sorry. I should have said “the map showed 3 bumps.” Ha ha haaaaa! This trail was no better than the Alpine Trail, and the multuple PUDs were killing us. Brian had gone through his water, and I offered him half of what I had left. At the rock ledge switchbacks, I saw a building. Brian said there's a shelter down there. No, I'm sure I saw a building, and pretty close. I remember a sign further down saying something Cabin now open, but thought it was about something much further on, and never saw a turn off to any building. Jeez, was I seeing things? Maybe just a ledge that looked buildingish? Dunno, can't seem to find anything on a cabin in that area. The ridge was pretty exposed to the sun, which was now brutal. Water, of course, was non-existent unless you like stagnant pools. Brian was having a rough time on every bump now, and I offered up the last of my water, he clearly needed it more than I. After a slight refusal, he accepted it. I have known for a long time heat is not Brian's friend, and had no problem doing anything I could for him. I was still doing ok, but anxious to get out of the sun. Eventually, that beat on me too, and I was getting parched and a little dizzy. The possibility of heat stroke for one or both of us crept into my thoughts and wouldn't go away. How the hell could I have been so stupid. We finally came off the second big bump, and it was noticeably cooler and shadier. I felt better, but a thick paste was the best I could muster in my mouth. I could see Brian was doing a little better too being off those damned ledges.
On and on. PUD after PUD after PUD. We had been quiet for a long time, except for the groan upon the sight of YAPUD (yet another PUD). Endless, tedious, disheartening. Repeat. After eons we came to the shelter spur. I grabbed all the water bottles, and went as quickly as I could down to find water. Which was down a hill a really nice ways. When I say nice, I don't mean nice. I have left out so many expletives from this TR, it would fill another TR. What greeted me was shallow pools of water with bugs on top, and barely anything trickling into it. I was hoping for a spring, as I would have said to hell with the iodine at that point and taken the risk. I got 4 liters of the cleanest water I could get, despite a number of floaties, and cursed the uphill I now had to climb. We popped in tablets and now at least I had 30 minutes to take my mind off getting water to looking forward to that first swig.
Brian had the watch, which means I was freed from looking at it every 3 minutes. More false promises of a constant downhill. Finally, the 30 minutes elapsed and in went the neutralizers. Only 3 more minutes. So, after 1.5 minutes, I couldn't take it anymore. Half a liter went down without a breath. Brian's classic comment: “That is the WORST water I've ever tasted, and the SWEETEST water I've ever tasted.” The psychological effects were immediate. We would be OK. Late, but OK. We carried on, waiting to bail off the ridge where surely the PUDs would disappear. We did, they didn't. Maps lie. If you make contour intervals big enough, everything is easy. It just wouldn't stop until few tenths of a mile from the trailhead. The sight of glinting metal never looked so good. We dumped our gear quick as could be and blasted the A/C. One thing about my car that I love, it has killer A/C and it felt damned good right now. Back at the other TH, I bade a quick fare thee well, as I was low on gas, and was hoping to get to Waterbury before the station closed (no problem there). A nice quiet Sunday drive home, free of the crowds of I-93, and tales of horror for my wife.
I've been cumulatively hiking for years now, and I'm very careful to be safe. I always carry long johns and a heavy wool sweater for all times of the year, plus a bundle of other gear just in case. Gear doesn't mean crap if you don't use your brain. I was stupid to not fill my bottle at that stream on the Alpine. For just in case. And despite holding out on a water filter for years, I can now see its value. Those stagnant pools looked pretty good, but not with only iodine. I don't want to sound overly dramatic, as I've seen some TR's that make this trip look easy (the 1 AM losing the trail Weeks traverse in a snowstorm on VFFT a couple years ago is one that still haunts me as far as “how would I have handled that”). I worry I've gotten too confident as time goes by. I hope it helps someone out there avoid a similar situation.
Final note: This section of the LT is the most PUD-ridden mess I've ever seen, putting anything in the Whites I've been on to shame. I have a healthy dose of respect (and a few other choice words) for the Green Mountains now, and Mansfield really caught my eye. I didn't care much for the 67 list, but now can see making a go at it for the variety the Greens and Maine makes. Just maybe not taking the long way around.