Thursday, November 02, 2006

Our Annual Treading of the Path Less Taken

It started off just as most of our annual backpacking trips start. We ranged from fifteen minutes to two hours late in leaving, the trail head was not were it was supposed to be, the town where we were all going to meet was pitched into darkness by sixty mile an hour winds and driving rains. After a fiftful night of sleep in the cars, we headed off into the mountains among the now swirling snow.

In spite of all that (or, more likely because of all that), we had a great trip -- one of the best we've had in the ten years we've done this. At the risk of sounding like a gear snob, having the right goretex outside and breathable fabrics inside made all the difference. To start, we climbed up Styles Peak in southern Vermont, across the ridge to Peru Peak, and then down to Griffith Lake for lunch. After lunch we pressed on to Baker Peak and then down to the Big Branch shelter for the night. The next day's hike was a realitively easy (and infinitely more pleasant without the heavy winds and snow) trek across to Lost Pond and then up White Rocks before descending to the Greenwall shelter. We spent the night there before hiking out the next morning.

The thing that made this such an amazing trip was the variety. We had everything from snow and forty mile an hour winds to warm sunshine. We hiked through evergreen forests, birch forests, scrub pines, along rushing rivers, across small brooks, and around still mountain lakes. We scrambled up granite peaks and strode along wide forest paths. Sometimes we ran into a number of people (mostly through-hikers), and other times we felt we were completely alone in the wilderness. Every turn brought some new thing for us to experience. Most memorable was descending from White Rocks towards Greenwall and coming across a place in the woods where someone (or many people) carefully balanced rocks in mini sculptures around the trail. The bright white rock formations against the cool evergreen forest was truly surreal.

However, it's difficult to explain all this to people when we get back. They hear snow and cold winds and think it must have been miserable. And it does sound miserable. But when we were out there, being anywhere else seemed like a poor substitute for being in the woods.