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|09-14-2006, 01:34 PM||#1|
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Loop around Green Mountain
Probably my last trip report for this season, since I try to write only about hikes few others are likely to have done—and I don't do many of those.
The plan: Start on Rt. 9 following the North Trail to Giant Mt. to its intersection with the approach from Hopkins Mt. (6 miles). Bear R and climb another mile on the Hopkins Trail to a height of land at 3400ft. Turn NE through a shallow trough across the W shoulder of Green. After a mile the elevation should begin to fall off as one enters the Slide Brook drainage. Follow the water downhill (4 miles, 2000ft.?) to rejoin the North Trail at a bridge one mile from the trailhead.
The unplanned (weather): Any rain falling on Friday June 9 is supposed to be light and widely scattered. In fact it rains where I am continuously from 9:30AM til midnight, the afternoon seeing a steady, moderate but drenching downpour. Predictions of highs in the mid-60s are likewise mistaken. More like 50°.
The hike: Late start, 9:25, just before the rain begins as a fine mist. The first five miles are gorgeous because it is all open forest with long views under the canopy of mossy rock formations and little cliff faces; vivid lime plus brown, black and white all fading into grayscale. Owl Head Lookout is eerie from the SW—only one stark spine of rock and a couple of trees can be seen looming out of the fog. The visibility becomes so poor that the miles along the E and S slopes of Green, including High Bank, are like hiking on the edge of a great white void. Fantastic! About 11:40 I lunch in the Giant Mt. lean-to just to get out of the now steady rain, making an entry in the logbook under an elvish pseudonym.
Back on the trail shortly after noon; find height of land to start bushwhack by 12:30. The mile across the shoulder turns into more like two since dense thickets and blowdown make travel on any fixed heading impossible. Every bill in my wallet is soaked within 5 minutes. For the first half mile I am lured continually down and to the R toward the "armpit" (would it be a shoulder without one?), the only direction in which forward motion is easy. When I get firmly in the trough, motion in any direction becomes a struggle. After an hour I am encouraged to see glimpses through the canopy of what can only be some of the N facing slopes of Green off in the mist. I take this to mean I have crossed the watershed. At last, after about two hours(?), drenched and sapped of energy, I am relieved to see that the myriad rivulets of running water all around me (surreal!) have coalesced into a stream and that it and I are heading gently downhill and due NE. Out in front of me the quality of the light suggests an opening amphitheater, the Slide Brook drainage swathed in fog. The plan is working.
As I descend I am continually faced with a choice: Stay above and S of the brook, risking getting stranded by cliffs and nasty slopes as the water falls precipitously through cascades, or stay with the wild water in the brook bed? I do lots of both. At one point I descend some of the steepest and most impressive cascades by clinging to trees between the rushing water and the rock face holding them in check on the L bank. Cool! But all of the climbing into and away from the streambed in soggy clothing is exhausting, and by the time the rate of descent eases I find myself stumbling with fatigue through the brush and debris and growing increasingly chilled.
I know the last two miles on Slide Brook from other hikes and because I had scouted that part in reverse this January. The terrain now looks familiar in a general way, but I don't recognize any specific landmarks yet. I stop by the brook to rest and eat the last of my food, estimating that it is 3:00. Wrong: it's 4:15. Okay, get your cold, lazy ass up and push on. I slog away from the S bank and then on for a while, still not recognizing anything. Finally I reach the steep banks cut by Slide Brook's biggest tributary. This I recognize (Huzzah!), though the once familiar cascades are gushing triple the volume of water I remember. On the other side I find the deer path (Oh, wise and lazy deer!) that stays high above and S of the brook where the going is clear. I know that I now have a relatively easy two-mile trek to the bridge. Seems longer. The last leg on the trail is like a sleepwalk. Out around 6:00; close to nine hours without seeing another soul.
Looking back on this hike I have to acknowledge that it was a bit painful. But what makes it unforgetable is knowing that the conditions that day were so exceptional that even if I was crazy enough to do this route again, it would be entirely different. So the whole thing seems like nine solitary hours in a dreamworld made just for me that very day.
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