October 22, 2011: Mount Field

The situation was grim I thought to myself as I approached the beginning of the trail.  There were clouds everywhere in the sky and I could tell there was going to be a lot of mud in my future with perhaps a bit of frostbite towards the top.  I exchanged a weary eye with another couple starting right behind me and then plunged head first into the start of my hike.

The trail started off very easily although the ground was as soft as butter in some places but the colorful trees really helped ease my mind as I started to gather myself.  I reached the first river crossing which was a little high due to all the rain and which looked slightly dangerous where the trail met the water.  I could tell some sort of animal had ventured a little further up stream though so hoping that it was my fellow humans, I decided to investigate further and found a crossing that looked a little more appealing.

After fording the river, I continued up the trail and soon came to a fork in the trail.  According to my handy White Mountain Guide, the left side veered off to an ominously named Cascade Loop Trail which was supposed to be glorious in nice weather.  To the right was the Avalon Trail which just happened to be the main trail for a large portion of my chosen hike.  It was already pouring a little bit but I chose to take the Cascade Loop Trail much to the chagrin of my handy White Mountain Guide.

I slopped off to the left and saw absolutely nothing on this short loop but in total fairness to the cascades….I did have my head down most of the way as I waded through the mud.  I rejoined the Avalon Trail a little ways later and continued on.  A little further up I stopped at a little lookout to the left that had a nice view of a stream.  My weary eyed friends from before took this golden opportunity to blow past me as we exchanged pleasantries in the form of grunts.

I gave them a little wiggle room and then started up the trail behind them and soon came to the second and last river crossing on the way up.  I chose this time to whip out my umbrella so that I wisely had something in my hand as I tried to balance my way across some slippery rocks.  I eventually made it over with a delirious chuckle as the rain went from a light pouring to an obnoxious pouring.  I slammed my pack down and took out my ski jacket which also doubles as my rain jacket and continued on my journey.

The good news was that my bag lost about half its weight after taking out my ski jacket, the bad news was that I was now wearing this extra weight as it quickly gained some extra pounds from the rain.  Nevertheless, I shook my fist at the sky and moved forward where I eventually met up with another fork in the trail and a small group of hikers panicking trying to decide which way to go.  I smiled to myself as I heroically pulled out my handy White Mountain Guide and flipped to the answer to this riddle, but when I looked up to share my expertise the other hikers had already figured it out and moved on.  I pretended not to notice to save my pride some grief and moved off to the left hand side which was my friend the Avalon trail continuing her ascent into the storm clouds.

The trail really started to pick up steam after this and so did my head as things steadily got more vertical.  I settled into my normal routine of baby stepping my way up the mountain and scrambling over some pretty big boulders.  I’m not sure how long this went on for but I eventually found myself at the third fork of the day……the left hand side would take me up to Avalon while the right  side continued on to Mount Field.  The book recommended taking the Mount Avalon side since it has nicer views and also continues on to Mount Field.  Even though visibility was about 10 feet, I decided to follow the books advice which ended up being a poor decision.  I made it up to Avalon but my brain must have been water logged because I circled the summit three times but couldn’t find where the trail continued on.  Instead, I retraced my steps and took the right hand side of the fork which pointed on to Field.

The trail remained pretty steep and after sleep walking for a little bit I came back to reality and realized I hadn’t noticed a trail marker for about an hour.  I started to hyper ventilate a little bit as I imagined myself lost out in the wilderness with a bunch of hungry bears getting ready to hibernate.  I did the only thing I could though and just kept pushing on since it seemed likely I was on “a” trail even if it wasn’t the right one.  I finally broke out into a clearing with a small cairn that at least suggested people had one day walked this trail.

I kept moving on thinking I had to be approaching Canada soon when I finally heard the sweet sound of some fellow hikers talking a little ways ahead.  I found the two hikers that had started with me before who confirmed I was indeed still on the right trail and that I was only 100 yards from the summit!  I thanked them for the good news and moved for the high ground where I found another group of hikers and some wild birds circling above the summit like vultures.

I was warned by the other hikers that if I didn’t feed the birds then I would be seen as stingy so I held up my offering of trail mix to these wild avians who were not shy about eating off my hand.  After eating all my food and making me trim their feathers, I was finally allowed to leave the summit and start my calf burning descent back to the valley.

About 4 muddy wipe outs, 3 snow squalls, 2 hours, and 1 false alarm with hypothermia later I got back into the semi level playing field of the lower trail where things got dicey for a bit.  I turned a corner in the trail and saw the frightening sight of a black bear in the distance.  I knew he had seen me and to turn my back on him would be to invite him for dinner, so I slowly crept towards him hoping to scare him off with my audacity.  As I got closer I began to realize that things were not as they had seemed as my black bear morphed into a gigantic log. I don’t think that log will ever know how close it got to tasting some delicious bear spray…..

I limped my way down the rest of the trail and emerged victorious in my battle with Mount Field.  3 down, 45 to go!


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