Long Trail – Day 17
June 30, 2016
Butler Lodge to Johnson, VT
Last night and this morning there were two distinct things on my mind: 1) I really want to see my family that are staying in Johnson while I hike the LT and 2) the Forehead.
The Forehead is part of Mount Mansfield and the toughest section to hike. Butler Lodge is located just below the start of it. I asked the caretaker of the lodge about the climb and she said: “if you have a fear of heights, take the bypass.” Everyone else agreed, take the bypass. The tales grew as the night progressed, “if you trip, you’ll fall off the mountain” or “it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.” I get scared on planes and bridges. When I was younger and went to the top of the Empire State Building, I froze up and could barely walk from my legs shaking. I have a true fear of heights.
As I stood the the juncture of the Forehead and the bypass, I didn’t move. I wanted to take the LT, I wanted to do it. I watched as a family came back down saying that it was too tough to do. As soon as they were coming down the Two Jews came up from the Lodge. Gregarious and fast moving, they saw me waiting. “Come on Paperback, do the Forehead, you’ll regret it if you don’t.” And they were right, I wanted to do it. Jew 1 looked at me and said he would guide me up. Jew 1 and Rabbi’s Little Helper are 15 years old mind you. I said yes.
In reality, when you have someone talking you through it, it is easy. Fears really are mental, and assistance was the best remedy. I started slow, with Jew 1 in front and RLP behind me. There were several ladders attached to the boulders that were not difficult. The hard part was a rock crevice you have to slide up and you can’t wear your pack. If solo, you have to take off your pack and push it up. If you slip to the left, you fall off the mountain. We set up a conveyor line where we all took off our packs and Jew 1 and I went up, RLP handed us the packs and finally he came up. Several minutes later I was on the Forehead. Such accomplishment I have not experienced. It was not only hard hiking and summiting, it was overcoming a fear.
The trail continues on a virtual ridge line for several miles until you summit the chin. 360 degree views of the entire area, Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks, Vermont for miles. Beautiful.
The descent from Mansfield is tough. I developed a method of either throwing my poles down and crab walking down to lower my center of gravity or slowly picking my way down to avoid sliding or falling. Again it was slow. We descended to Smuggler’s Notch, and I thought the hard part was over. Oh no. It got tougher. We summited Sterling Mountain, which was steep and came to Sterling Pond. The 2 Jews went for a swim and Magic Mike and I headed up Madonna Peak and White Face Mountain. It was hard: climbing up slick stones by holding trees and roots, going down the mountain trying to not slip.
I was thankful for the generosity of the Two Jews and Magic Mike for helping me all day, giving me food (I was low) and just being great companions on the trail.
At 7:00 I arrived at Bear Hallow Shelter, where the boys were staying for the night. It was only 4.3 miles to Johnson. An hour and a half later I accomplished my first goal: running into the arms of my family.
Total mileage is 20 miles.