After missing a fall 2009 backpacking trip I was itching to organize another for the spring. The trip I took a couple weekends ago with Chrystal, Ben, and Eric was great and I really wanted to get out again. After scouring my AT book and maps I was able to find a good section of the trail that I hadn’t done before and was suitable for the intended audience. This section would be a continuation of the first overnight AT trip I took back in 2007.
Joining me on the hike was Ben, Michelle, Kevin, Tim, Eric, Jon, Steve, Lucy and Barley. Given the wide range of abilities I planned to take us up Race Brook Falls trail to meet the AT. While this trail was steep it was relatively short. Only going 4 miles before getting to our shelter. One of the advantages of going in the spring was seeing the trail’s namesake. The perfect weather and the overly energetic Lucy and Barley kept us moving at a good pace. Though as we approached the summit of Mt. Everett we slowed. The trail here got very rocky and steep. Making the summit a little after noon put us well ahead of schedule.
I was hoping that we would get to either the Hemlocks Shelter or Glenn Brook Shelter before another party so we could keep it all for ourselves. I had also instructed everyone that tents wouldn’t be necessary because of the ample space between the two shelters. I didn’t want to have to be proven wrong and sleep on the ground. As luck would have it we arrived at Hemlocks with no company. Kevin and I scouted out the other shelter which was only a tenth of a mile down the trail. Glenn Brook’s shelter is the smallest I’ve seen. Nothing more than a shed, good for about 5 people. Hemlocks on the other hand was palatial. According to the book it sleeps 12 people. There are 4 bunks in the main area plus a loft that sleeps 6 comfortably. In reality I could see 16-18 people able to sleep there if weather was bad and campers wanted to squeeze. The bunk areas were about the size of a twin bed. Pretty spacious. Fortunately no one else showed up so we had the whole place to ourselves.
Going into the weekend we knew that our weather wouldn’t last. That might have been the reason we didn’t have company at the shelter. Sunday morning we awoke to the the sound of raindrops starting to fall. Despite the growing rain, Kevin and Crim were able to get the fire going again. This was a bit of a mixed blessing since the breeze blew all the smoke up into the loft. Effectively flushing Steve, Ben, and Eric from their sleeping bags.
Once we got started it was still relatively easy going. All our significant ascents were done on day 1. Sunday just strolled along the ridge top. While we didn’t get many views because of the rain and fog it was still pleasing. Once we reach Jug End however the rain started to pick up. Still not an all out downpour, still just a steady rain. This coupled with increasingly steep terrain slowed our progress. Parts of our decent were tricky in the rain. I think everyone except the dogs took some slips. Some notable ones were Tim slipping both feet out from underneath him and landing on his hands/butt. He took home the Most Injured Trophy for some scrapes on his palms. Eric also made a string of slips including one where the weight of his pack toppled him downhill for a few feet almost going end over end. We made it out relatively unscathed, save for a few scrapes.
One of the pleasing things about the hike out was the dozens of eastern newts we saw on the trail. These 2-3 inch long salamanders were out and about in the cold wet weather. What they were up to I’m not sure. Michelle said these were in the red eft stage. Eventually they will turn brown but keep their orange spots.
Our hike culminated in a great meal at the Barrington Brewery. They had a great maibock and stout made on the premises with solar power. We got some great bar grub at good prices and finished it off with some amazing deserts. We’re talking dark chocolate cake 7 inches tall!
It was a great trip for Crim, Eric and myself to use as a practice for our Norway trip in May. Crim definitely learned a little more about his gear and his physical fitness. While Parsons and I got to see what our ~40 lb packs will feel like. The trip turned out to be a great success. I’m looking forward to another trip. When that will be though, I’m not sure.