Epilogue to an "Adventure"
|David Horton said numerous times on our drive to the
start of the trail that I was starting my first real adventure. I'm not sure what the
official definition of adventure is, but I'm not sure if I liked it or not. Other terms to
describe this trek could be "a fun stroll through the woods", "a horrible
hike in the Himalayas", "3 fun days and 2 and 1/2 days not so fun". I
personally haven't even decided how I describe it myself. It is now less than 2 weeks
later and I am already planning to do it again next summer because I feel I should be able
to do this in close to 4.5 days. There are lots of if's in the equation. With the
exception of the thunder storm during the first night I had ideal weather so that was a
plus. The first three days I moved well and ran about as much as could be ran. Then for
whatever reason 1) I have wimpy feet (2) I didn't try to avoid the water (3) I should have
changed shoes and socks more or (4) God was testing me ----my feet became so blistered and
swollen that just walking became a struggle and the finish was this nightmare. Well, I'm
jumping all over the place here so let me back up and attempt to do this with some order.
Started at 5:11 on Thursday morning and had made it about 400 yards when my shoe was almost sucked off by the bog. That nifty sensation would continue for most of the first 3 1/2 days before I hit the dry part of the trail. The first 50 miles were fairly uneventful except I got to meet Warren Doyle whom I have heard Dr. Horton talk about on numerous occasions. After doing 50 miles I arrived at Rt.15 in the rain and I was somewhat cold and I had been out for about 14 hours and I knew I should do it, but there was Dr. Horton ENCOURAGING me to do another 12.4 miles in the dark, cold, stormy night. I think that was the first time I contemplated murder. So, I began the climb from 500 feet to 3715 feet in the cold, dark, stormy night (wait I mentioned that) I finally arrived at the top of some mountain at a clearing and couldn't figure out where to go. I found the trail, followed it for about 10-15 minutes and realized I was going in the same direction I had just come so I tried again and finally found the correct direction. Those two sentences don't begin to describe the fear or worry I was feeling then because it would be 8 miles backtracking to a deserted road if I couldn't find the trail. Then I happily arrived at another landmark, Madonna Peak chair lift. I wasn't happy long. There are no trees to blaze on a ski slope so you look for rock piles. When it is foggy, rainy, and dark you don't see the rock piles and you stand atop a mountain freezing and lost. I went up and down the slope looking for the trail. I finally gave up and decided to just walk down the mountain to whatever was there. Suddenly the white blazes were in front of me. I'm not really sure what happened but I know I was praying a lot before this happened. Finally I arrive at Vt. 108, after 62.7 miles the first day, and spend my first night in a Hostel. Nice spaghetti dinner at 1:30 am.
I start the second day at a more reasonable hour of 6:37. I get to run down a road a bit before I climb to Mt. Mansfield. This takes me from 1600 feet to 4393 feet. My first time above tree line. It was weird. It was foggy and I couldn't see much at all. It was just very quiet, deserted, no trees, somewhat spooky place at 7:30 or so in the morning. Then I got to climb down ladders to get off the mountain. If I was just playing around not trying to get somewhere in a hurry this would have been a really neat place This day was the climbing day. I got Mt. Mansfield (4393 feet), Mt. Clark (2800), Mt Mayo (3160), Bolton Mt. (3725), Camel's Hump (4083), Mt. Ethan Allen (3680), Mt. Ira Allen (3380), Molly Stark Mt (2960). These may not seem like very much but after each of these climbs the trail doesn't stay on a ridge but drops down a couple thousand feet to send you to the top of the next one, and the downs are not nice gradual downs. I only did about 46 miles today but it took about 18 hours.
Day three begins and I'm freezing but I go only about 50 yards before I am warm as I am once again climbing a mountain. This was a really neat section because it kind of stayed on a ridge for a while and I could see Lake Champ??lagne. The only problem this day is I miss my car at 11.9 miles and continue on for about 25 total miles before we are reunited. I finally arrive late in the day at VT. 73 and have only done about 39 miles and can't stop here and the next road is 20.3 miles away so I merrily go into the woods while my faithful sidekick hikes in some sleeping bags, food, and water in a side trail to meet me at Rolston Rest Shelter(53.7 miles for the day) at 1:56 am. The name of the shelter implies rest. I received none. Too numerous problems to mention but I spent the night whining while leaning against the wall of the shelter alternately sweating and then freezing. This was a fun night. I had now done about 162 miles in 3 days and was well on my way to my goal, but...............
Day 4 began slowly at 5:39 . I signed the log at Sherburne Pass and thought it was kind of neat that the person who signed right above me was Sam Swisher-McClure as he was hiking the AT. This is the point where the AT and the Long Trail join. With only about 110 miles left I was planning to finish the next day sometime, but somebody forgot to tell my feet. I climb to Killington Spur at 3870 and impress(or disgust) some campers as I borrow their knife to try to poke holes in all the blisters on my feet to let the lovely blood and pus escape to relieve some pressure. Didn't help much. This has now stopped being fun at all. I only did about 36-38 miles today at this ugly walk/run/hobble/whine kind of pace. We stopped early for the first time and I actually kind of had a meal at a fairly normal time.
Day 5 began at 6:22 am with only about 70 miles(that is easy to say now). I hobbled good for a while actually using some sticks I found to relieve some of the pressure from my feet. At 9:30 that night I have covered about 35 miles. Without calculating that is slow. But for some insane reason I now feel great and smell the finish line. With only 34 miles to go who needs to sleep now. Lets just go through the night and finish this thing. Sounded easy at the time. Little did I know I was about to enter 20 miles of &*^%&$^#&^. This 20 mile section had no road crossings or water that I would give to my worst enemy(but my faithful sidekick gave it to me) You had to use your teeth to strain the mud and grass and rocks and bugs. Mmm, Mmm, good. Without whining too much. This 20 miles took me about 14 hours. You kind of get the picture at the pace I was going. I contemplated quitting but at that time I was 2 miles from my car and I couldn't get there so I lay down on the trail and took a half hour rest. Not meaning to whine but I had now been going about 29 hours and I wasn't rested when I started. This section had hikers passing me for the first time. Its really depressing to be "running" and being passed by people walking leisurely with a 40 pound pack. I finally made it to Vt. 9 where I had ice dumped all over myself and revived a little. Then I had a hiker from MIT push me for about 4.3 miles where she stopped for lunch. Finally at around 6:30 pm I make it to the final road crossing. I have 3.1 miles left, so I really push it. I swear I was flying and doing 5 minute miles but somehow this 3 miles takes me about 90 minutes. I'm sure their mileage must be off. I finished. If I don't sound real excited I wasn't because I still had to hike 3.1 miles to get back to the car. That wasn't on my list of things to do at this point. I finished at 8:05:16 which was 5 days 14 hours and 55 minutes after I started.
My respect for Sam Swisher-McClure went up a lot during this "adventure". I don't know him at all, but based on his time for this trail and what he did on the AT this summer he is one tough hiker. It was during this 3.1 mile walk back to the car that my faithful sidekick became hopelessly lost in the woods. He didn't mention this much in his account but I will try to mention it quickly. His flashlight died and he tried to follow the trail by moonlight, lost the trail, couldn't find the trail, fell into, over and through trees. Was bloody and muddy when he began yelling for help. He followed his own echo for awhile, Then fortunately someone from a shelter rescued him and scaring him at first as he thought Deliverance was about to begin. We finally arrived back in my car around 11:00, about 41 hours after I started this last day. In closing this was a very weird week. My entire sense of time was messed up as well as my diet as I was eating at very strange times and sleeping very little. My feet and legs look like I have elephantiasis. I could not have survived this week without my father Kennan Campbell, and my faithful sidekick, Dr. David Horton. Without his CONSTANT advice, and "kind" suggestions I would not have done this. True at numerous times I did consider what it would be like to slip my hands around his neck and tighten as the blood supply is cut off to the brain(sorry, I got sidetracked there) In all sincerity his help as well as my fathers was immense. They gave up a week of their time. Dr. Horton ran/walked some of the sections with me and I truly thank them. They did get some vacation out of this as they went to Ben and Jerry's factory at some point while I was dying but the "adventure" is over for now. I really want to try again sometime. I think.