Monday, July 15 we surprisingly didn’t get up until 7:30. It was a very warm 70° evening and no one really fell asleep until after mid-night. Carl was concerned that we slept in because he wanted to get an early start. I assured him we would have plenty of time to make today’s destination.
Jonathan was only hiking and spending the first day/evening with us. He was driving back home today. Carl and I planned to slack pack from County Road to Route 9. Jonathan would drive to North Adams for coffee and hang around the area and then meet us at Route around 5 pm to load our gear back in to our packs.
Carl experienced his first Carnation Instant Chocolate breakfast and thought it was a pretty hearty chocolate shake. I had packed a few small banana’s and this seemed to be a good quick breakfast.
While Carl and Jonathan took the tent down, I ran back to the stream and topped off our water bladders. I filled them to the max. Normally, to keep weight down I would only add 2 liters. Because we were slack packing, I made sure we had the full 3 liters. We could handle this weight, plus it was expected to be 90°+ today. We need to stay hydrated.
It was a short hike back to the truck. Carl and I emptied our packs of sleeping bags, sleeping pads and clothes. We kept rain jackets, micro fleeces, food bag, toiletries and emergency kit. I’d say I was around 18 lbs and Carl was 10 lbs.
We put on our packs, checked our watches, and saw that it was 10 am. Jonathan stood at the trailhead and read to us “it is 11 miles to Route 9 — can you hike that leaving so late and be there by 5 pm?”. I hesitated and thought for a minute. I knew it’s a 1.8 mile hike up from Route 9 to Melville shelter. We were hiking light and based on the guides average hiking time of 8.75 hours, I was sure we could do it by 6 pm.
I said lets try it. If we get 4 miles in and it seems easier to just turn around then we’d hike back to county Road and Jonathan would pick us up there. To test this, Jonathan stayed parked at County Road for 30 minutes. I wanted to test cell phone coverage and would call him in 30 minutes. If I could not get a call to go through, we would turn around and hike back to Jonathan and not attempt to hike to Route 9.
With a nice confident spring in our step, Carl and I headed off. There was a gradual short climb with nice easy hiking. Even though it was going to get in to the 90° today, the air in the woods was comfortable. I wasn’t sweating as much as I did yesterday.
Thirty minutes in to our hike we met a Southbound AT hiker hiking with his uncle. They were heading to North Adams to meet his dad who was going to join them. I asked if they had slept in Congdon shelter. No, they had tented by a stream 2 miles north of the Shelter.
“About how far would you say you passed the pond?” I asked. He replied “We are hiking slow, I’d say less than one hour to the big beaver pond”.
I then asked him if he though we could make it to Route 9 by 5-6 pm. “Oh definitely, its an easy hike, you’ll have no problem.”
This boosted both our confidence. I turned on the cell phone, had full 3G bars and called Jonathan to let him know we would push on and meet him as planned.
Carl and I hiked about a mile and came to a large opening with large power lines. In the center of the clearing were large rocks that we set our packs on to take a break. The wide openness allowed for a great breeze that aired our backs of our pack sweat. Carl said “This is wonderful, can we stay here all day…the breeze feels so good!”
We pulled out the LT map to look for our next mileage point to shoot for. Consultation Peak looked to be maybe another mile away. We snacked and then headed off to look for the Peak.
Carl soon realized that hiking a mile on the LT takes a lot longer than you think. You’d think you could average 2 miles an hour. But that does not hold true on the LT. We had no real strenuous climbs and a few ankle twisting down hills until we reached Consultation Peak. Carl had a big grin as he read the sign with the elevation of 2,810’. Now it should be down hill to pass the beaver ponds.
It looked like the heavy rains early this month had made the beaver dams overflow and actually break in spots. The water levels were low. We passed a few nice campsites with fire rings that had sweet views overlooking the pond.
It was about mile 5.5 into our hike, in a slight mucky crossing that I began to trip. Then I heard this weird flapping sound as I picked up my right foot. It was hard to pull my right foot through for a correct stride. I lifted my right foot to see the sole of my boot hanging half off. Not good. We still had about 5.5 mile to reach Route 9. Carl was in the lead and I called ahead to have him stop.
His eyes were huge when I lifted my boot to show him something was wrong. “Mom, you just got those repaired by the cobbler!”. Yes indeed I had. These are my Merrell Wilderness hiking boots I wore 16 years ago on my LT thru hike. Believe it or not, they still fit and were my every day hikers for all these year. I had a cobbler reglue the soles just so this would not happen.
We walked ahead a bit, to get out of the mud were we and found a large log that I could sit and lean on.
Duck tape crossed my mind. But the thought of climbing down the 10,000 step staircase to Route 9 with slippery duck tape under my boot sole made me cringe. The only solution was to wear my Crocs. After switching to my Crocs I realized my gaitors actually fit to keep my socks clean.
I discovered we had cell service so I contacted Jonathan to see if he might hike toward us to help if my feet couldn’t handle the Crocks and pack. He didn’t answer so I left a detailed voice message on our location and that we planned a break once we reached the Condon shelter. Off I hiked — 5.5 mile in Crocks. Hiking in Crock offers an interesting feeling. Glad I wasn’t carrying my full pack weight!
Soon we walked on planks, directly below a beaver dam. Carl stopped and exclaimed “is it me or is that water above my head!”. It was! We realized we were walking 4 feet away, at eye level with water being held back by a beaver dam. Only a beaver dam was separating us from the leaking water that ran under our feet. We scooted quickly to get past this overloaded water supply.
Carl was in the lead and just as we got past this beaver dam I looked up and saw Carl speaking with a Southbound AT hiker. He had quickly learned how to use the trails communication network to learn what’s ahead. “Mom, he says it’s only about 20 minutes to the shelter, we can have lunch and give your feet a break.”
The hiker took a look at my boots on my pack and noted my Crocs on my feet. He confirmed that I’d have no problem making it the Route 9. He said it really is an easy hike and that I’m not the first to ever hike in Crocs. This mad me feel better and built my confidence back up.
Sure enough, we soon found Congdon shelter. We both let our feet air out and relaxed. It was now 3 pm. I made Carl his much needed lunch of tuna rolled in a flour tortilla. Umm…we had snacked all along the way but this was super good!
Our 30 minute break improved our hopes to make our Route 9 destination. About one mile from Harmon Hill we heard “Hi ho…are you the Musketeers!!” And there was my husband, Jonathan moving at a steady clip! He had come to rescue us. I was managing just fine and only dreaded those rock steps down into Route 9.
Jon took a look at my boot and said” Looks like you’ll be coming home with me tonight…” and yes I knew we sadly had to get off the trail. I needed either new boots or a quick repair.
I was able to navigate slowly down the long step stone staircase. The tips of my toes and pads of my feet were bruised. We were very happy to get to the truck at 6:45. Carl was very proud to have hiked 11 miles in eight hours and forty-five minutes. Not bad I thought, I hiked half of it in Crocs!
My toes were numb and tingly. On the way home I realized I might need a few days to heal my feet and was not looking forward to breaking in new boots. The original cobbler who repaired my boots is not the speediest, and I knew he might not offer the quick repair I would need.
Here’s a five minute video of our second day hike : http://youtu.be/iQCAREnGyOE