Camel's Hump, 2014

Cris and Forest and I wanted to do one last summer/fall camping trip and we settled on Camel's Hump in Vermont. I'd proposed a chained down cabin in NH, but they wanted to try backpacking in Vermont since we hadn't done it yet. It was a longer drive but the area seemed interesting, right off the Long Trail so I agreed to that plan. Unfortunately this was the trip where my hiking luck finally ran out and I injured my knee badly enough to be off my bike for a month and in PT.

Saturday October 18, 2014

I'd had an event the night before, so we did our usual thing of starting off early on Saturday morning for a one night trip. They picked me up at just past 6am for the drive north. I think it took just under 3 hours to get up to the trail head, where we skirted the long trail in and parked in the lot that wouldn't be closed up at dusk. One last port-a-potty break and then we got our gear together for the hike in to the camp site. It had been raining on and off on the drive up, there was a break in the rain now, but I still put the cover on my pack and my rain pants on me. It did start raining on the hike into the camp ground, 1.5 wet miles to the Hump Creek tent site, up Monroe to Dean. We quickly got our tents up in the drizzle, though I was having some orientation troubles. Foe came over to help me after his tent was up, and I finally figured out that I had the footprint flipped. I lifted up the tent and he switched it for me, but I think in the struggle to get the poles situated and the fly on, one of the tent pole segments got bent. :-( This ended up being an expensive trip, I also lost my good sunglasses, and shelled out a lot for knee PT. But even with all that, worth it. :-) There was no sign of the caretaker at the cabin, so we didn't end up paying an over night usage fee (the web site stated that it was only collected 'in season' anyway). I wanted some food to warm up from the rain and fuel an afternoon hike, so I warmed up my lentil soup and ate near the firepit while the guys stayed dry in their tents. We put our food in a bear bucket and at around noon took off up the trail in the continuing rain to try and make the summit.

We went up Dean to Wind Gap, over 0.2 steep miles to check out the tiny cabin that had been our alternate overnight option (should have taken it). Two guys were coming out as we arrived, they'd taken a brief break out of the rain, and we replaced them, sitting to eat some trail mix at the basic table inside. There were two levels of bunks that could probably sleep 4 across cozily. From there we back tracked the 0.2 miles and went along Long Trail. It was fairly flat until the end. Once we passed the connector, Burrows?, we were doing some straight up rock climbing, edging through narrow gaps, inching across a ledge traverse, boulder climbing (awesome!) and making our way over the bald face's slippery rock at the summit. It was foggy and raining, we didn't get any views out over the valley until we hit one ledge near the top where we saw a bit of sun. It was very windy at the top and that's where we found the bulk of people - I think most everyone had hiked in from the further parking lot rather than trying to stay overnight. They all back tracked to their trail head, we were on our own again as soon as we dropped off the summit on the trail back toward the campsite.

We back tracked safely until we hit the steep connector trail that we were going to use to complete our loop, taking Alpine heading back to Monroe. I slipped on a wet root and went down badly (downhill, with my day pack adding weight) on my left knee, landing on a rock square on my knee cap. I think I screamed but at least yelled, and was hyperventilating, queasy and light headed as I tried to balance on one foot with my hands down on the trail. I had to take my pack off, lay down and drink some water. I had been leading the group, Forest was right behind me and helped me to juggle my pack, my head was just level with his knees. Cris was up above him, it really was steep and narrow, they couldn't really get down to where I was. We were still two miles from camp, so when Cris asked me if I was going to be okay to hike out, I answered that I had to be. I stook shakily with the help of my hiking pole, took a few moments to breath there and determined that I couldn't bend it well, but it could support weight. I had to do all the lowering on my right leg as we hiked back down the mountain to camp, and I slowed us down considerably. It started to get dark, and when I was slipping a bit more I stopped to dig out my headlamp. I remember putting my sunglasses in the waist belt pocket of my pack and zippering them in. Every uprooted tree made me think it was a bear, and my head lamp wasn't as bright as Cris's, so his light behind me was throwing the shadow of my body down the trail and making it a bit hard to see (they let me set the pace). The rain got stupid heavy at this point as well, I just had to laugh, soaked through to the skin, limping and getting colder.

Luckily the Monroe trail got flat near the intersection with Dean and it wasn't long after full dark that we hit Dean and then got back to camp. I made dinner for all of us from my dehydrated cowboy pasta, tested in Grand Teton, but brought my food into my tent and set it aside until after I'd changed from the skin out. My new camp towel, a microfibre one, didn't work all that well to dry me off. But my food was was still nice and hot once I was done, I think I ate mine right out of the pot so I had the cover to keep the heat from escaping too quickly. I had to grab some things from my pack that was sitting against a tree next to the tent platform, it was bundled up in the waterproof cover, so I made a detailed mental plan before ducking out to grab things. I needed my hoodie for sleeping (I'd brought it along on the hike as my extra warm layer) and a bandaid from my first aid kit. I think I grabbed my sunglasses then thinking that I shouldn't leave them in the waist pocket since they might get stepped on, but my memory is a bit hazy. The cut on my knee was larger than one bandaid. :-( It wasn't black and blue yet, the skin was just gouged out over a good area. I went over to the outhouse for a pre-bed toilet trip and took the bear bucket along to place it away from camp since the guys had finished up their dinners as well. Back in my tent, I was cozy and warm in my sleeping bag + overbag combo, down jacket, and lined winter pants. My toes took a while to fully warm up though, my boots had given up the ghost and were soaked through. I wish we'd been able to rig up a tarp + clothes line to hang things up over night, I thought after the fact that the outhouse wasn't smelly at all and could have worked as a place to at least dry some stuff. I had tucked my small tarp under the foot of the fly to block the screen there in an attempt to keep the rain and the wind out. I woke at one point to what seemed like a pervasive flashing white light throughout the camp, but couldn't figure out what it was before drifting back off to sleep. None of us showed signs of an alien abduction and return at least. :-)

Sunday October 19, 2014

I woke up near false dawn when I heard the rain turn to snow on my tent. There was a brief break but I spent it dithering and warm in my tent and ended up getting up after the rain started up again, but at least it was light. The guys didn't have any dry clothes left due to pack leaks yesterday, and Forest polled us all asking if we could just pack up and leave, not even waiting to make breakfast. I agreed as long as I could get a snack out while walking. I couldn't find my sunglasses and had the guys look around and under my bare tent platform, but no luck. I was cold and sore and hungry and my knee had blossomed into a huge red bruise over night, so I assumed that they were somewhere in my pack and said we could head out. My knee was super stiff, I wasn't bending it at all that day either. We left camp at around 9:45am or so, and had a quick hike out the 1.5 miles or so up Dean and out on Monroe (it was pretty flat). We hit the car before 10:30 in any case. The car heater felt very very good. :-) We ran into a few hikers coming up the trail to summit as a day hike, one senior lady plodding along, looking determined to make it to the top.

We drove into Waterbury to grab lunch, quickly deciding on Arvad's. I had a delicious jalapeno, broccoli and tomato mac & cheese, along with tea, and split pea soup (gimme all the warm things!). The waitress was continually aghast at Foe not having heard of the local microbrewery beers she kept mentioning. :-) She did direct us to the craft beer store around the corner so the guys could get educated, we walked in the door there at just after noon when they opened. I found an honeycrisp ice cider that I couldn't resist bringing home, and drank the maple infused lemonade in the car. I wasn't happy about the stairs up to the door, but at least I was fine sitting in the front seat of Cris's car with my leg out straight. He'd given me some ibuprofen and I'd taken some more from my stash that morning, but it did feel like keeping it moving helped the most. We hit the road back toward Boston, taking a bathroom, gas and tea break in White River Junction. We also stopped at the NH liquor store, I grabbed a bottle of St Elder since it was a good price and I was running low. They dropped me off at just after 4pm and I carefully hauled myself and my pack up the stairs to my apartment.

I managed to walk to the library as well as do laundry that night (in the basement), the latter mostly because it was required to get my soaking dirty clothes from yesterday cleaned up. My apartment sported many pieces of camping gear spread out to dry as well, we hadn't waiting for the frost to melt and dry off of our tents before packing up to leave. I ended up going to the doctor about my knee and spending a week in a knee immobilising brace, then getting PT sessions to try and get it back into fighting trim. I lucked out and found a pair of replacement sunglasses on double sale and used a birthday gift certificate to lower the price even more.


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