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Blessed to avoid trouble! (Part 1)

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I’ve had many good hikes on The Trail, and a few wretched ones. The latter, no surprise, were due to bad decisions on my part (including not getting enough good information), so I’m not going to get mad at anyone but myself.
Two of my worst A.T. experiences have taken place in New England (note that these sad tales are multi-page, so read them through for full effect):
This week’s hiking COULD have been a combination of these two nasty times, but the fact are
(1) over the years, I have learned how to hike in less than ideal conditions; (2) this time, I planned for a lot of slow hiking over difficult terrain; and (3) the weather (if not the trail) wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared it might have been.

There was a gap in my A.T. miles, in the Southern Whites, between Lonesome Lake and the trail junction on Mount Moosilauke. I noted that I could stay at the Notch Hostel
and use its shuttles
to do an overnight hike from Kinsman Notch to Liberty Springs Parking Area.
So I drove up from the Philadelphia area (nine hours), checked into the hostel (VERY glad I made a reservation, as the place was FULLY BOOKED!), drove to and parked at Liberty Springs, got the 6:45p shuttle back to the hostel, spent a good night’s sleep there, had my breakfast, and then got the 7am shuttle to Kinsman Notch.

As my hikes earlier this year had been problematic whenever I was going uphill, I feared for the worst as I began the 1600 foot climb to Wolf Mountain. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was having no major problems during this trek – perhaps because I was in better shape, perhaps because the dew point was WAY lower, perhaps because I was carrying less gear, perhaps anything. I only know I got to the Eliza Brook Shelter well before dark, tired but not exhausted.

My shoes, however, were filthy. The ground was quite muddy from a recent downpour (where do you suppose all the water in those high dew points went to?), so there was no speed advantage to hiking on level areas – I’d spend my time avoiding mud soup instead of looking for a way to get up the rocky areas. Couldn’t help but remember the ‟too muddy” part of my less-than-ideal Vermont hike.

After I yogied some hot water the next morning, I was on my way to Lonesome Lake. This day my shoes didn’t get as dirty – they simply got soaked. The trail around Harrington Pond had logs to keep the feet of hikers off the swampy parts nearby, but the tops of these logs were several inches under water! You either walked in ankle-deep water on logs or in the swamp. After realizing that I was going to get soaked shoes no matter what I did, I just stayed on the logs. It was sad, because the views were quite photogenic – I just didn’t want to end up in knee-deep water to get the photos.
I did get some good photos on Kinsman Peak
and felt genuinely jealous of a day hiker with a high-quality camera.

When I got to the Fishing Jimmy Trail, I naively thought I had an easy trek down to Lonesome Lake – wrong! This was one of the steepest parts of The Trail I’d ever done.
Yes, the steps and ladders helped a lot, but it was still STEEP.

When I got to Lonesome Lake just before 6pm – ie, with about two hours of good daylight left – I knew I had a choice. I could down the steep Lonesome Lake Trail to Lafayette Camp, then walk the easy bike path back to my car; OR I could walk down the fairly easy Cascade Brooks Trail, knowing I would have to cross a brook. Recalling that I done so in (literally) a matter of seconds the last time I had done this trail, and figuring my legs might have trouble with MORE steep, downhill walking, I chose the latter.
It was a good choice as far as ease of walking, BUT the stream crossing proved more problematic than that last time. Plain and simple, the water was higher. I thought I was making good progress across the brook UNTIL I found myself sitting on a rock, both feet in front of me, also on dry rocks. Problem was, there was no way for me to stand up and go forward. After a few seconds of trying to find a solution, I noted that I could easily stand up IF I simply put one foot in ankle-deep water and then pushed off. Seeing no other way forward, I did exactly that – and of course (again) had a soaking wet shoe.
Despite my fears that this would cause my feet more trouble, I found that my wet foot actually felt BETTER as I continued down the trail. ‟Maybe I should have gotten BOTH feet soaked,” I mused.
Got to another crossing that I figured shouldn’t be a problem. And it wasn’t – UNTIL my hiking pole slipped, causing me to tumble down in the middle of crossing. My going down was one of the rare times in the last few decades when I shouted a couple profanities. After a few seconds I realized I hadn’t (1) fallen into the water or (2) really injured myself, not even a scratch. So I just got up, grabbed my pole, continued on my way, and gave myself a ‟Ta Dahh!” as I reached the other side. I felt good when I got back to my car before dark – unlike ANOTHER time I had parked my car at Liberty Springs.