Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Long Trail Day Two: Toads and Tranquility

We woke on Styles Peak to hear the dreaded "drip...drop...plick...pock..." on the sides of the tent. Fortunately, rain wasn't it the picture. It was just condensation on the pines overhead. We were in a cloud and dressed Parker accordingly in her rain jacket and rain pants, plus a hat because it was pretty chilly.

Parker scoots around the tiny campsite inspecting the tent.

She slept well in the tent. Probably better than me because I never sleep well in tents. It's just not that comfortable, and now we were putting three people in a two person tent. Crowded. Actually, Parker was pretty thrilled about all things involving the tent, especially at bed time. (We'd put her down in her sleep sack and she'd proceed to thrash around the tent, push on the screen sides, put her lamb into the pockets of the tent, flop onto the sleeping pads, etc. Never got old.) She scooted around the tiny campsite that morning, inspecting the tent as Chris performed the morning ritual of boiling water for coffee and oatmeal. We were packed up and on the trail 9 a.m.

An old fellow hiker heading southbound warned us of floating bog boards. He wasn't exaggerating. We managed to stay dry by jumping from the dry ends of the boards to the nearby shoreline.

Floating bog boards

A hot buggy lunch on a Baker's Peak rock

The floating boards were possibly the most noteworthy event of the day. Mild ups and downs, plenty of rocks and roots. Some frogs, toads and more efts. Lots of birds. I rejoiced when I heard that  wilderness call of the hermit thrush, which was familiar from our time on the PCT. It's a sound I could never replicate but would describe as sounding like a rusty swingset. Have a listen.

We decided to push it to a campsite 13 miles away from Styles Peak that promised a pond—Little Rock Pond shelter. As the day heated up, that proved a powerful incentive.

Frequent mini rests were needed as much for my legs rest as for letting Sparky stretch her legs. 
"Aw, Dad, why you putting leaves on my head?"

Look Sparky, a toad!

One of dozens of handsome butterflies at a Big Branch shelter, a short stop to replenish our water supplies.

As the afternoon stretched longer and the temperature oozed higher, I started getting a little cranky. But my sour attitude melted as Little Rock Pond appeared through the trees around 5 p.m. It was a lovely, woodsy pond with a steep mountain rising on the opposite shore. The water temperature was refreshing but hardly shocking. The woman thruhiker sleeping in the shelter said, "You guys must be from around here, the water's too cold for swimming." She was from Virginia.

Chris and I parked the napping baby, still in her Poco backpack on the waterfront tent platform (which surprisingly hadn't been claimed by the other two individuals camping at this area already) and I slipped into the water while Chris set up camp. My whole body relaxed as I cut a wake through the calm water, that festering cranky attitude fluttered to the bottom of the pond.

This is what it's all about.

We traded places and Chris got to swim, then Sleeping Beauty got to dabble her feet in the pond. 
Lots of newts and other critters to be seen swimming in the shallows.

It's evenings like these, at enchanted ponds in the wilds of Vermont, that make backpackers like me put up with bugs in the eyes, welts on the ankles and several days in the same sweaty pair of shorts. That blissful evening swim, the lush and leafy smell of fresh water, the not-quiet of a night in the woods — they completely recharge your memories for another year the city.

Chris brushes his teeth with a view of the pond.

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