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Album: journal:day23

Taft Lodge to Bear Hollow Shelter
20 Oct 2005
Day 23
12.6 miles, 226 cumulative miles

Well it wasn't raining this morning, but there was a fairly big downpour last night. The clouds did not look promising either. There was a dark ceiling less than 1000 feet above. I found it hard to take off dry socks and put on wet liners, wet socks, and wet boots. The freezing tempurature did not help either. Outside was a dusting of snow.

My feet were painfully cold as the pounding downhill into Smugglers Notch began. It is named so due to its alleged use during the War of 1812 by smugglers. We visited this just days earlier. Stowe is a short drive down 108. It was an hour down to the road. My early start meant I crossed Vt 108 before 09:00.

The morning work started with scooting along a fallen tree across a swollen stream then ascending Spruce Peak. The trail almost summits after around 1500 feet of vertical gain over 2.3 miles. let the fun begin. The whole way is heavily forested although most of the leaves were carpeting the ground. Combined with the water runoff it was a pretty hike during which the sun made longer and longer appearances. It was still cold, but occasional bursts of sunlight hit my black hat, gloves, and jacket and I tried to soak every ray up. Across the notch I could see Mansfield's upper reaches in fast moving, thick clouds. I did the right thing yesterday.

Before long I find myself at pretty Sterling Pond where I can see the trees of Madonna Peak glazed in ice. The clouds continued lifting until I could just see the summit. With the map I could tell approximately where the trail went, and I was able to glean possible trail conditions. Madonna Peak was not that much higher and before I knew it, I was in a postcard wonderland of frosted trees. A little more snow and it could have been Narnia. I took a bunch of pictures from both sides of the summit. Smugglers Notch ski area also kept its warming hut open for us cold weather hikers. Thanks Smuggs.

Silent and serene sat Whiteface Mountain looming over smaller Morse. Directly north the LT traverses both. On Morse it skirts just below the summit and looking back near the top is a good profile of Mansfield. By then only the very summit was in the clouds. I was lucky yesterday. All around I can see sunlit lowlands but not sunlit mountains. Whiteface was true to its name today. The trees on the upper slopes wore white.

I took a quick break at the old Whiteface Shelter before beginning my final ascent and almost gave in to the temptation of a sunny vista and spending the night. It was 16:01 and I put on my headlamp in preparation for finishing up with some time in the dark. I still had 2-2.5 hours of decent light but now I wouldn't have to break pace on the shadowed side of the mountain to pull out my light. From the shelter it is short and steep to the evergreen summit - 715 feet in a half mile. That is pretty steep and I wasn't sure how long it would take after having ascended three mountains already. Thankfully I knocked it out in a half hour which gave me time to photograph the summit views and descend to the next shelter at dusk. I did have one almost knee crushing slip that I somehow survived unscathed except for a big hole in my pantleg (not nearly as big as the hole on my right hip).

Bear Hollow Shelter is nice. I love this design. There are two levels of bunks on either side and a table between. It is open front but deep in the woods tonight there is no wind. My last packet of Ramen, a little reading, and off to bed.

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