After a few days of hanging out around Monadnock and the Boston area, the next part of my hiking extravaganza was to head up to the Mahoosucs for a day of dayhiking, then a week of backpacking. It was going to be great. The Mahoosucs are where I started backpacking while I was in high school, and they will always be my favorite place to hike. The trails there- the Appalachian Trail on the NH/ME border, and the Grafton Loop trail- are insanely rugged, with some of the best views in New England.
But New England is an evil mistress sometimes. When I arrived in Bethel on the 14th, I was right behind a storm system that was forecast to sit on top of the Northeast for over a week. That’s okay, though, I thought. It won’t be so bad.
I set out on the morning of the 15th from the small town of Shelburne with a plan to laugh in the face of this nasty New England weather. I would stick to hikes in lower elevations, with no need for a distant view. Take that, weather!
I climbed the Austin Brook trail to Gentian Pond, realizing early on that this would be no walk in the park. It was raining constantly from the get go, and stream crossings that were probably quite easy on normal days were ankle-deep fords. Parts of the trail were running like rivers, and muddy patches had turned into little ponds. I pushed on through, getting up to Gentian Pond and then turning down toward Dryad Fall and Dream Lake. The trails continued to be muddy messes.
From Dream Lake I took the Peabody Brook trail back to the road, then the Middle Mountain and Mt Crag trails back to my car. I was drenched, a bit chilled, and had no motivation to hike any more that day. Time to change plans, I thought. Instead of continuing over to the Wright Trail to hike up Goose Eye, I called my friends and asked if I could bring my soaked and aching body back to their place for the night.
The next day, I got up early and drove to the trailhead for the Wright Trail, way out past Sunday River Ski Area and up in the deep woods along old logging roads. Just the drive out to the trailhead is adventurous enough. Despite a few wrong turns, I made it to the trailhead by 8:30. The plan was to hike up the Wright Trail, cross Goose Eye Mountain, then go down the Carlo Trail and back up Goose Eye via the Goose Eye Trail, returning to my car after a sixteen-plus mile day. Big plans. Plans never work out right, though.
I made it to the Appalachian Trail intersection, a little over four miles up the Wright Trail, postholing through rotten snow and sinking into icy puddles for the last half mile or so. Up top, there was more snow, more wetness, and not much to recommend continuing the hike. I looked around, took a few steps onward, then stopped. “What the hell am I doing?” I thought. I had been in a cloud all day, so the glorious views atop Goose Eye were nowhere to be had. The trail, where it wasn’t snow and blowdowns, was a steady river. Goose Eye Brook, which the Wright Trail follows for much of its length, was raging so hard that the few easy rock hops across had turned into shin-deep fords in icy water. Everything was drenched, so the picture at the top of this post is all I got all day. I turned around at the AT crossing and decided to revise my plans, yet again.
Now I’m killing time rather than hiking for a few days. I was going to hike the Grafton Loop Trail Tuesday through Friday this week, but instead I’ll head back that way on Saturday, when this storm system that’s been hanging over New England since last Saturday may finally break. Backpacking in the rain isn’t something I’m terribly afraid of, but I certainly don’t enjoy it any more than the next guy. And that’s the nice thing about section-hiking for a while– I don’t need to be out there, so why bother if I know it’s going to be miserable for several days? I could get used to this.