No time to lose.
By reaching Hale Brook, I caught up to where I originally planned to camp on my first night, it just took me a day and a half to get there. Retreating on the first day due to dwindling daylight, enduring a nighttime bed-wetting accident and ascending Jay Mountain in less than ideal conditions were just a few of the difficulties impeding my progress on this trip so far. Now with just a few afternoon hours left, getting to Lot 8 before running out of daylight seems increasingly unlikely.
However, unlikely does not necessarily mean impossible.
After finishing with the water filtering, I quickly embark on my new bearing, not wanting to waste a single minute. As Hale Brook fades away in the distance behind me, the forest’s coniferous element slowly decreases, leaving paper birches as the dominate trees species once again, with its cousin yellow birches intermingled for good measure. Although the terrain continues to slope off to the north, it is barely noticeable now, especially with me crossing contours as I continue east toward my new destination, Bald Peak.
With my first stream crossing, about a half mile east of Hale Brook, the forest takes on a different appearance entirely. The paper birch dominance decreases, allowing sugar maple to take on a major role, while the occasional yellow birch remains. A red eft crawls along the leaf litter of the forest floor here, picking up the pace in an attempt to vacate the area when my comparatively giant boots approach. I do not blame it, as I would do the same.
Date: June 18, 2014
Length: 2.6 miles (7.7 total daily miles; 12.8 total trip miles)
Spending little time marveling at the small eft, I continue on, as the time for admiring every aspect of nature takes a backseat to getting to my ultimate destination for the day. I am gunning for you, Lot 8!
Another quarter mile under my belt (or more appropriately, hiking boots) and another small stream crosses my path. The eroded bank indicates the stream may be somewhat ephemeral, surging during the spring time, only to disappear by the dog days of summer. The forest has become entirely hardwood now, not a conifer in sight, with the occasional yellow or paper birch sharing the mature canopy with sugar and red maples.
In about another half mile, a ridge appears ahead of me, with rocky cliffs jutting out of the forest floor in places. This must be the ridgeline that forms off the shoulder of MacDonough Mountain (Slip Mountain on older USGS maps), which ends with Bald Peak. My GPS confirms this, so I turn to the northeast, following along the ridgeline but keeping a safe distance so as not to climb onto it. If it was not nearly five-thirty in the afternoon, I might be inclined to do a little exploring, as I had originally planned.
Paralleling the ridge, the descent becomes steadier now, especially compared to the almost flatland since Hale Brook. I try to hug the ridgeline as much as possible, fearful that I may miss the col between Bald Peak and Seventy Mountain, my inevitable route to Lot 8. This is no time to make a mistake that may cost me hours or even minutes, as I might just be making camp in the dark.
My fear is misplaced however, as the col is hard to miss. As I descend, the other side of the col is apparent, complete with some rocky cliffs, all I need to do is turn east again to continue descending instead of starting up Seventy Mountain. The forest has become mostly maple now, with a few ashes and yellow birch thrown in for good measure.
As I clear Bald Peak to the south, I begin changing my bearing to the south gradually, not wanting to delay my arrival to Lot 8 by even a second. For the first time in the day, I actually think I might make it to the property that functions as my main goal for the entire trip. Regardless, my anxiety level is peaking, as it is way past my traditional stopping time of five in the afternoon.
Now I start questioning every little thing I observe as evidence that I crossed over onto the infamous property. I keep thinking to myself, “Is this it?” or “How about now?” with ever little sign that I might have walked over Lot 8’s boundary. Thankfully, an unambiguous sign appears that removes all doubt, an orange-flagged border complete with enough minor cutting in the understory to ensure it is impossible to miss.
Lot 8, I have arrived. Now the fun begins.
Daylight is getting scarce at half-past six, so I start looking for places to immediately set-up my campsite. It takes me about a half-hour to make my decision as I wander farther into the property, only stopping when I see a nice idyllic stream winding its way through the forest down to the east. There are plenty of level areas along the stream, even with the entire property seemingly sloping slightly to the east.
In my wanderings, I notice a plethora of flagging on the property. Red and pink-flagged lines appear to crisscross the property like a matrix, while at other times they all seem randomly placed. If I know my human beings, and I think I do, there has to be some rhyme or reason to the flagging configuration, but damn if I can figure it out, especially with all my campsite prep waiting to be done.
Filtering more water, setting up the tarp and hanging the food bag rope get all my initial attention. By the time dinner preparation begins, it is after eight in the evening, so I fail to note the dark cloud cover that is moving overhead.
As luck will have at times like this, it begins to rain in the middle of my dinner, forcing me to move all my gear, my food and myself underneath the tarp. Luckily, my meal was already cooked, as moving a hot and flaming alcohol stove would not be fun. Soon after hurriedly moving everything to the safety underneath my tarp, the rain stops.
Sometimes, things just do not go your way, but at least I made it to Lot 8. Tomorrow my day on Lot 8 begins.
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links within this blog post may send you to a retailer’s website. If you chose to purchase any product on that site, this author may receive a small commission at no extra cost you. These commissions provide compensation for the author’s time and effort necessary to provide the content at the Bushwhacking Fool.