Day 13 Continued... 8/19/15: Brandon Gap to Sucker Brook Shelter
Going down to US 73, we crossed the busy road and after a field, we began climbing rock stairs. It was .7 up to the Great Cliffs of Mt. Horrid. These were beautiful and offered 180* views of the valley below. I spent a little time out there just soaking in these final sights. The end was coming fast and while I was getting excited, I also wanted to put the brakes on.
We then continued back on the trail to Mt. Horrid. which had a nice vista to look out over as well. The breeze was welcoming so, we kept moving on down the trail a little and then up again to Cape Lookoff Mountain with another great view. The trails have been a mix of rocks and roots and starting to resemble The White Mountains I know so well. This also signals that we are getting close to the 4 remaining 4K peaks. After a few miles of ups and downs, some slips and falls, I arrived at Gillespie Peak. It's been a long day already and with 2 miles to go, Isis and I begin descending. My feet are so tired, I'm probably a little dehydrated too from the sun. We took it slow and navigated the rocks and stairs to finally arrive at Sucker Brook Shelter. Jonny Appleseed was already there and I was followed shortly by some of the kids, Mike T, and the family had also arrived. Some of the kids however were still out there. Slowly, I get camp set up away from everyone so that they have the bigger sites and I ate dinner as did Isis. Then we joined the crowd for a fire. I died my socks on the hot fire ring. I also propped my feet up so they got a good chance to dry out too. It was one of the best feelings in the world. My heart was full this night. I felt really good again. I felt whole for the first time in a long time.
Tomorrow, I could do 7.6 to Boyce which is closed but I can tent there or I can do 9.6 and stay at Skyline Lodge...
Day 14: 8/20/15: Sucker brook to Skyline Lodge
Here's what I've been thinking about this whole trip... Peak bagging, The Lists, The Grid, None of it really matters any more. Spend time out on a long distance hike with just yourself and maybe your dog if you are lucky and see what you learn and what suddenly matters and doesn't matter any more. Out here on the trail, it seems that just making it anywhere, be it one mile or 20 is what matters and if you got up and over a peak, that's fantastic. As long as you make it somewhere to share some time with someone (or maybe just a quiet night with yourself to think), you're ahead of the game. Numbers don't matter. Having the time of your life is what matters. Smiles not miles. Do you give up or do you keep going? What pushes you on when it rains and the only choice you have is to walk? I'm not really sure what it is for me. I just know that there was somethingI had to see through to the end. Something I needed to complete. I still have two days left and tomorrow and Saturday are low mileage days. I can take it easy finally. This has been an endurance test for me. The day in and day out walking has been a good experience. Not sure yet how I feel about going back to The Whites either. I guess we'll see.
Today was not a hard day but it certainly was not easy either. The high miles have done a number on my feet and they just hurt now. As I left Sucker Brook this morning, I took it slow. Footing was good so I was able to move at a decent pace for me. It was a pretty good climb up Worth Mountain too. Passing through the ski slopes, I stopped dat a lift where Jonny Appleseed was resting. A chair was in the perfect spot for a photo and I asked him to take my picture with Isis. After a rest, We continued to Middleburg Gap and the road. The descend was gradual. After this, we began climbing again up Burnt Hill which had some nice open spots to catch the sun. It also had a relatively flat walk once you got up to elevation. I did really enjoy this. descending down and then up to Kirby peak, I passed by Boyce Shelter which is not structurally sound and closed. A long ascent to Mt. Boyce followed by a rough 2.1 miles to skyline lodge where we would find our home for the night.
As it would turn out, there was rain moving in and even though I had set up my tent, I asked Jonny Appleseed if I could stay in the shelter with Isis and agreed to ask Mike T when he arrived too. Since it was originally going to be just the 3 of us, it was OK. As the night wore on, the 3 of us plus Isis turned into about 16 of us in a 14 person shelter. Everyone took shelter form the early rain. Sleep was hard this night. Still, I was happy because my gear was dry!
Day 15: 8/21/15: Skyline Lodge to Cooley Glen
Wow! Day 15 already and at the same time, I never thought I would get here. In a sense, I thought that I would have quit a long time ago. But here I am and this morning, I woke up too rain at Skyline Lodge. It was a slow morning with oatmeal and coffee to get me on my way. I put on the rain poncho m mother had given me (A free one from my cousins triathlon in London of all places!) and set out for Glen Cooley. I should arrive there around lunch time. Since it was cloudy and drizzly to start, I skipped the summit spur to Breadloaf and took a break at Emily Proctor Shelter. the rain had already lightened up so, I figured that it would b a nice day after all. Of course, the other hiker at the shelter seemed to report that Armageddon was happening... and he was not sure how he was going to make it to Skyline. We set out again for Glen Cooley undistorted up and over Mt. Wilson. The rocks were slick but the view was worth it.
A chill set in me and I went to my tent with Isis. I took some quiet time to think as well as try and sleep. Tomorrow, I am excited and sad to go home. Only a 4.7 mile day tomorrow.
Division Seven Completed!