It’s been a pretty hectic summer with lots of driving, constant activities, and some emotional upheaval.  So it makes sense that when I got back from my latest 8 hour drive on Monday night, I woke up sick on Tuesday morning.  I even stayed home from work half the week, which I don’t like to do.  But I was determined to get outside this weekend, not just for the beautiful weather but mainly for some quality time alone with nature.  Luckily, my cold stayed in my head and never moved to my chest, and I was able to take some decongestant and ibuprofen and get out there.

I planned a one night section of the Long Trail that I still needed for my section hike – Brandon Gap to Lincoln Gap.  Thanks to a friend offering to help me with a shuttle, I was able to go right to Brandon Gap and start hiking without worrying about getting my car back later.

It’s Green Mountain National Forest there and I entered the Joseph Battell Wilderness right away.  Wilderness areas have different rules than regular forest but a lot of it involves less maintenance – less trail brushing, less clearing of downed trees, etc.  When there is trail maintenance, motorized equipment can’t be used to help (i.e no chainsaws) so a lot of the work that happens there hasn’t changed much from the old days (i.e. crosscut saws).

There was a steep initial hike up to the Great Cliffs on Mount Horrid and I spent the whole time breathing heavily, blowing my nose, and wondering what the heck I was doing out there sick.  But once I got to the view, I was reminded.

As much as I wanted to stay for hours, I had a big day planned and I had to get moving.  I went over Mount Horrid (3216′), Cape Lookoff Mountain (3320′), and Gillespie Peak (3366′) before descending to Sucker Brook Shelter for lunch.  The temperature was in the high 50s that morning, just about perfect for hiking in the sun.

After climbing over Worth Mountain (3234′), I came upon a few Middlebury Snow Bowl ski trails and lifts.  There were great views there too so I took a longer break before descending to Middlebury Gap, stopping to check out Lake Pleiad on a side trail on the way.

Once across the gap, I entered the Breadloaf Wilderness.  The trail was so overgrown there, to the point that I had to duck for long stretches to get through tree branches crowding the trail.  It was beautiful though.

I hiked up to the ridge again, went over Burnt Hill (3040′), stopped at Boyce Shelter’s creek for water, then hiked over Mount Boyce (3323′) and Battell Mountain (3482′).  I got to Skyline Lodge on Skylight Pond right at 7:00 after 15.5 miles for the day.  There was one other hiker already there, and then Rebecca and her son arrived from a side trail to meet me for his first backpacking trip.  He was super excited and kept asking whose house we were staying in.  We all had a late dinner and then cleaned up and went to bed.

Everyone was up at 6:00 in the morning, way earlier than I like to be moving around, but I did get up after Rebecca and Pete headed out.  It felt chillier in the lodge than it did outside so I sat on the porch to enjoy breakfast.  It still took me a while to get started hiking.  I like to sit around in the morning.

I hiked over Breadloaf Mountain (3835′), stopped at Emily Proctor Shelter’s creek for more water, then had a long ridgeline walk.  First were Mount Wilson (3745′) and Mount Roosevelt (3528′), with their small, overgrown views.  Then I came upon a more open view on the downslope of Roosevelt that I had to sit at for a while.

It wasn’t quite lunch time so I only had a snack there, but after continuing over Little Hans Peak (3348′), I knew I wouldn’t make it to the next shelter for lunch so I stopped at a random point on the trail to eat.

I kept going, over Mount Cleveland (3482′), stopping at Cooley Glen Shelter for a snack, then over Mount Grant (3623′).  My legs were tired and I was moving more slowly than planned but I kept pushing because Corrie was hiking in to meet me and take me back to my car.  I didn’t know if she’d received my last text about running late but I ran into her and Carol on the way to Sunset Ledge.  I was supposed to already be at the ledge at that point, but they were happy to get more of a hike in.  We stopped at the ledge for a short break and then continued down to Lincoln Gap after 12.5 miles for the day.

We dropped Carol off at her car, picked my car up, then got some pizza in Waitsfield.  It was really nice to get out there and hike alone all day, but still meet up with friends at the end of each day.  Fresh air always makes me feel better too so hopefully this cold is on its way out.