Driving through Waterbury, the town I’d lived in while working for the Green Mountain Club, brought back another flood of old memories, but for now I was just taking my time on the way to the Monroe Trail on Camel’s Hump, one of my old haunts. It felt good to be back in familiar territory.
I got to the parking lot early in the evening, but the light rain darkened the sky and made it feel much later than it was. I sat in my car for a while and packed slowly, figuring I only had a few easy miles to hike to Montclair Glen lodge. When I finally got out of my car and started walking, I took a look back and saw that the passenger side rear tire was almost completely flat.
The luck of the trail was with me, though. A young couple was returning to their car just as I was leaving, and they had one of those car-battery powered tire pumps. I felt kind of stupid, but very grateful that they helped me out with that. We pumped up my tire, I thanked them profusely, then I headed out on the trail, hoping against hope that this was just a slow leak I hadn’t noticed for several days, rather than a fast leak that had just sprung up. It was a Sunday evening and I was several miles in on a dirt road, so if the tire was going to go flat, there wasn’t much I could do about it right now. Off I went to Montclair Glen, slightly flustered.
The hike up to Montclair Glen was as easy as I remembered, and again I had a night alone at the shelter. I love that lodge. I had a beautiful sunset from my dinner table, and I was able to listen to a few episodes of The Moth and Garrison Keillor monologues that I’d downloaded to my iPhone. Not a bad way to end the night.
The start for the day was to go down the Forest City Trail to the other parking lot for Camel’s Hump, then to go right back up to near the top of the mountain via the Burrows Trail. The cooler weather of the past several days finally came to an end, however, so my quick hike down the Forest City Trail turned into a long, sweaty slog up the Burrows Trail. Despite my training in the past few weeks, the Burrows Trail seemed to go on forever, getting steeper and steeper. Maybe it was the heat and humidity, or maybe I really had gotten soft on the easier grades of the Pacific Crest Trail and the relatively slow winter. Either way, I was thoroughly exhausted when I got to the Hut Clearing, where I sat down and practically wallowed in a pool of my own sweat.
From the Hut Clearing, most people would take the Long Trail south a quarter mile to the summit, but I had other plans. I went north to the junction with the Alpine Trail, then took that trail around to the backside of the summit. The Alpine Trail is a bad weather bypass, and has plenty of nice views on its own, but even in dry weather the rock ledges that it goes over are more slippery than any rocks I’ve ever walked on. Not a great choice for bad weather, I imagine. The south half of the trail, however, is just fine. When I finally reached the top of the Hump, I had a nice stiff wind and clear skies to welcome me. There was a good amount of haze blocking the views, but it was still a nice day. And there were only a handful of people to share the summit, which is always a plus. For a mountain that is often packed with day hikers, any sunny day with only a few people up top is a relief.
On my way down I passed dozens of people headed up, so I counted myself even luckier to have had so little company up top, but now my mind was on my car. I hurried down the trail, thinking of little other than that leaking tire. When I finally got to the parking lot, I tried to avoid even looking at the car until I was right next to it, afraid of what I might see. And the verdict…. Good! The tire was still inflated, so I wasted no time in jumping into the car and driving down to Waterbury to get that taken care of. At the service center, the mechanic was able to squeeze me in to his unusually busy schedule and found a nail in the tire. That’s the third time in three months, after years of never having any issue like that, which kind of annoys me, but it’s always nice to avert a really annoying problem with a very easy $15 fix. I left happy, got a sandwich in town, and then went on my way.
The rest of the day sent me to two other trails I’d spent a lot of time on while living in Waterbury, so it continued to be a trip down memory lane. I drove back toward Waitsfield to make a quick up-and-down trip on the Hedgehog Brook trail, then went back up toward Stowe for the Lake Mansfield Trail. On the way through Waterbury in the evening, it had gotten so hot that I couldn’t stomach the idea of cooking dinner, so I stopped at a pizza place I’d frequented in years past. I picked up an Italian sub that was as big as my head (seriously, this thing weighed at least eight pounds) and packed it in to Taylor Lodge, passing a few places where I’d done some small amount of trail work. Ah, more memories, more good times.
I got to Taylor Lodge, left my pack there, and ran the loop of the Long Trail and Clara Bow Trail, startling a porcupine near the trail in the process and nearly falling off a ledge on the Clara Bow Trail. Whoops. Running on a trail at the end of a long day really isn’t the best idea for someone clumsy like me. But it was a good way to end the day. The Clara Bow Trail is like a miniature Mahoosuc Notch, and is much more entertaining than the adjoining segment of the Long Trail.
I returned to the lodge, listened to some more Moth and Garrison Keillor (since it was just me and the porcupines again tonight), ate my giant sub, and tried to dry off in the humid evening air. It seemed the cool weather I’d had down by Killington was long gone by now.
Another big day. I was out of the shelter by 6:30 and back to my car in short order. The humidity had left a thick dew on everything, which actually felt pretty good to me. I knew it would be a hot one today, though. And there was a lot of hiking yet to be done.
Next up, lots of trails in the far north!