I left Friday and drove up to VT hoping to miss the holiday weekend traffic (so did everybody else). It rained all the way up but, just as I crossed the state line the rain stopped.
We got up early and had breakfast on Saturday morning and started walking. We only encountered 2 other hikers all the way in to Stratton Pond (this is supposed to be the busiest weekend). Weather was nice all day but on the cool side. While we were walking the temperature felt fine, whenever we stopped the wind just cut right through us.
We set up our base camp on the north shore of the pond and hiked down the length of our section. We shot pictures all the way out thinking that the opportunity was there so we weren't going to miss it. On the way back to the pond we encountered a guy calling himself "Goundhog".
Groundhog started off by asking us if he was on the AT and was he heading north. We assured him that he was both. Then he started to tell us that he was the guy that taxied Howard Hughes around the desert when Howard was hitchhiking some years back. Goundhog let us know how instrumental he had been in HH's decision to purchase casinos and, lucky for Howard, assisted in hiring the people to run them. Groundhog was pretty much full blown nuts.
Got back to our camp tired and hungry and decided to get chow together. Andy went down to the pond to filter some water. I had agreed to leave my very reliable water filter at the car and let Andy use his brand new MSR water filter on this trip. This was my first mistake. He was gone for over an hour. When he got back he told me his filter wasn't moving any water through it. I figured it was just him and proceeded with boiling the water he brought back. Later that evening I saw it was the filter. It took over 30 minutes to pump 6oz of water. We ended up getting water the next morning from a spring that I somewhat trusted.
We got out our dinner from our food sacks and I realized that since I had also agreed to allow Andy to bring his cookware (mistake number 2) that my spoons were back at my car in my cookware stuff sack. I asked Andy if he had an extra spoon or fork. He looked. He forgot his utensils. We had no spoons, no forks, and we had boiling hot noodles to eat. That was easy. The oatmeal the next morning presented the real challenge.
It got very cold Saturday night. Dropped down into the mid 30's. We both slept warm in our tents. Fortunately we know enough to bring duofold whenever we go to VT. I have gotten up to frost on my tent in mid August.
Sunday was a calm, beautiful day and we discussed our plans over a very messy bowl of oatmeal and some decent coffee. We could not have had a better day for photographing. By the time we got to the summit of Stratton Mt all the clouds had blown off and we had one of the most clear days I can remember in all the times I've hiked this section. We could see Mt Washington very well from the firetower.
Met a couple of young guys doing an end to end on the Long Trail on top. We got talking to these guys about the little weird-o we had encountered the day before and they shouted in unison, "Groundhog?" They had met him 2 days earlier. Seems he was a psychic for their meeting.
We had lunch on top and chatted with the older couple that are always there (the caretakers of the summit). At around 2pm the crowds started to gather at the top so we decided to head out.
We managed to make the day with 2 liters of water each. Not really enough for the amount of walking we did. My left leg was starting to cramp a little while we walked but fortunately that was when we were about 1 mile from the trail head.
We came out of the woods and headed for the nearest general store to buy orange juice and guzzle it.
So lesson learned: Whenever my brother says something to the effect of, "Hey how about I carry my new [whatever piece of hiking junk he's recently purchased] and you leave yours at the car." I need to say, "Sure, that sounds good." and then make sure I bring my old tried and true equipment along as a back-up.
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