Total Miles: 37.0
Hearing the patter of raindrops on the roof of the tent, it was hard to know whether last night’s storm had overstayed its welcome or if the winds that had swept it away were simply ushering downward the moisture that had collected on the canopy above us. By the time we realized it was the latter, it was on to a familiar routine.
Plunging steps into muddy trail that is now—if it is metaphysically possible—even wetter and muddier, there’s a split second delay between when my foot disappears and the sensation of being soaked reaches my skin. Slowly my socks wick away the moisture only for the process to repeat itself anew moments later.
The sidesteps around boulders and wet roots take on a dance-like quality to music that I hum inside my head. Just when you think you’ve made every conceivable permutation of moves to navigate various arrangements of obstacles, a novel one appears. Imperceptibly different from one another, it feels like Groundhog Day.
Walking within a cloud doesn’t help any. Everywhere you look, the scenery appears the same: innocuous greenery against a misty backdrop. The sameness combined with the misty atmosphere makes everything feel like walking through a dream—a wet, muddy, dream stuck on endless repeat.
We laughed at how much today resembled our home in the Pacific Northwest. Swap out this variety of fern for another and the hardwoods for old growth Douglas fir and sequoia, and it’s as if we were strolling through the Olympic peninsula.
As the skies gradually brightened and the first cautious rays of sunlight dappled the trail, the full vibrance of the greenery that enveloped us in all directions was revealed. In so doing, it brought to mind how this hike has already been an abject lesson in the climatic differences of hiking in the East versus hiking in the West.
Two weeks ago, in a talk I’d given about three different hiking trails in the West, I’d painted a picture of hiking in the West as an experience so often shaped by drought and fire. Here in the muddy, saturated Green Mountains, the contrast couldn’t be more stark. With more water than the soil can stomach any further, and impossibly green foliage everywhere you look, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d ambled into a temperate rainforest.
Last week had driven this contrast home even more clearly, while we climbed Whiteface Mt. as Ace wound down her pursuit of becoming an Adirondack 46er. Rising out of the sea of green forests and mud, and out onto the harsh granite above tree line, there was no view where there ought to have been one. Not due to a cloud, mind you, but due to the smoke that had arrived from western wildfires. Two climate realities colliding in one place.