Day 117, Tom Leonard Shelter to Upper Goose Pond Cabin
Everybody's got a mountain to climb
Hike with Gravity
Yesterday was an unplanned nero (near-zero miles hiking day). I will need to pick up the pace and hike farther today if I want to catch up to Stick.
If you’re wondering why Stick didn’t wait for me, the answer is simple. In fact, there are two simple answers.
For one, Stick and I are hiking together because we have a good relationship, but we aren’t tied permanently together. We hike together because we have compatible hiking speeds and habits, but we also have our own goals for finishing.
The second reason Stick didn’t wait for me yesterday was more practical. His daughter is planning to join him on the trail for a few days, so he needs to make sure he reaches their planned meeting spot at the right time.
Light sprinkles, then gradually clearing; high temperature around 75
Mostly easy walking, despite a couple long climbs
I wanted to get an early start this morning, not so much to catch up with Stick, but for another reason. If I could push hard and get to Upper Goose Pond Cabin tonight, I’d be there in the morning. For you see, the cabin is maintained by a caretaker. Each morning he prepares pancakes for all of the campers. If I didn’t arrive tonight, I would miss the breakfast tomorrow.
My departure, though, was delayed a few minutes by a happy surprise. I discovered Rusty was at the shelter. I had not seen him in nearly three months. He introduced me to his girlfriend, Girl Hobo, who was now hiking with him.
I was back on the trail just before 7 a.m. About two tenths-of-a-mile later the trail went through a spot called Ice Gulch, a ravine so deep and shaded that ice can remain in the gulch long into the summer. I didn't see any ice, but the ravine was creepy, narrow and deep. It was thick with trees, and a misty rain made it more dark and creepy.
After walking for about an hour beyond the gulch I stopped to filter some water, but that brought on a moment of panic. I thought I had left my newly-filled prescription for antibiotics back at the last shelter.
Before I made the mistake of retracing the last hour of walking, though, I pulled everything out of my pack. I found at the bottom the Ziplock bag containing the pills.
A short time later the trail crossed a road. A large van was parked in a hiker parking lot, and inside were Matchmaker and Atlas, a couple who started out together hiking the trail northbound. When Matchmaker decided a thru-hike wasn’t right for her, they picked up their van and now Atlas is hiking southbound, with Matchmaker meeting him at road crossings.
They offered me a can of Yoo-Hoo. Under normal circumstances I would never drink something so sugary, but I gladly accepted it today.
After thanking Matchmaker and Atlas for the trail magic, I continued walking up the trail. And by up, I mean the trail began a steep but short climb.
About a mile later the trail leveled out for a short distance and passed Benedict Pond. Then it continued going up another couple hundred feet.
At the top was a spot called The Ledges. The trail followed along this ledge for a short distance, offering some limited views on this gray day.
From here I could look back and see Mt. Everett, which I had climbed three days ago.
Between a couple more ups and downs the trail flattened wide enough to hold another pond. This one was courtesy of some industrious beavers.
The day so far had been dreary, but at this pond I noticed the clouds were beginning to lift.
Through this section the elevation remained between 1,500 and just under 2,000 feet high. I realized here I was seeing more eastern hemlock trees than I had seen lately. Though that variety is common up and down the Appalachians, it prefers certain conditions and thrives when the elevation is high, but not too high.
Later, I came to a spot on the trail that made me stop and laugh. The footpath was dotted with white splotches of paint on the tops of roots that jutted from the ground. These markings were apparently warnings of trip hazards.
The paint had to have been put their by a well-meaning but over-zealous trail maintainer. From my perspective, pointing out trip hazards this way was absurd, considering how many unmarked trip hazards I have walked over — and sometimes tripped over — while walking the last 1,500-plus miles.
On this section I saw Sunny Hedgehog again. He’s from Germany and his English is just good enough to carry a short conversation. I didn’t try to speak German, which would be much worse than his English.
We discussed going to Upper Goose Pond Cabin tonight. He hadn’t known about the cabin caretaker and pancake breakfast for hikers. “Pancakes" was a word he understood, and he readily agreed extra effort to get there would be worth it.
Before long the trail descended to flatter ground. Just before reaching the bottom I met a group of four SOBO (southbound) thru-hikers. Their trail names were Fern, Gully, Mr. Whiskers, and Smeller.
No, I didn't ask Smeller how she got her name. I wasn't sure I wanted to know.
They told me the trail ahead would be easy, which I was glad to learn because I was beginning to wonder if I could make it to Upper Goose Pond Cabin before dark.
Where the trail crossed Jerusalem Road was a small, red shed. There were snacks inside and a note which said they were being sold on the honor system. They were provided by the children of a family who lived nearby.
The snack stand included a refrigerator stocked with soft drinks, so I bought a drink.
The time was now 3 p.m. and I still had more than 8.5 miles to go to reach Upper Goose Pond Cabin. Still, I had already walked 13 miles, so I decided to take advantage of the shaded picnic table here and enjoy my soft drink.
After leaving the snack stand, the trail went through a lovely pasture, crossed a stream, and then continued across another pasture.
The trail then began a climb that wasn’t as easy as claimed by the SOBO hikers. I’m sure it was much easier for them because they were descending.
The remaining part of the day wasn’t especially difficult, but I was slowing down. It took me longer to reach Upper Goose Pond than I expected.
The trail followed the shoreline of the pond for more than a half mile. A side trail to the cabin added another half mile, which wasn't included in the trail mileage. By the time I reached the cabin the time was about 8 p.m. and past sunset.
It was difficult for me to find a spot to pitch my tent because there were many campers here, some of whom were part of a group of beginning hikers on a section hike.
Nevertheless, it felt good to be here. Tomorrow: pancakes!
Everybody's got a mountain to climb,
Don't be discouraged when the sun don't shine,
Gotta keep on pulling, you gotta keep on tryin',
Everybody's got a mountain to climb.