My plan was to climb three peaks to bring my total to thirteen. I thought I would finish in seven hours. Ten hours later I still had a few miles to go.
I started at the Garden trailhead and decided to take the Southside Trail ignoring the signs warning that it had been abandoned.
The trail is an old forest road that for the most part is in remarkably good shape.
But then it disappears, having been violently washed away and into the Johns Brook.
The trail steepens after crossing Wolf Jaw Brook and I reach the Wolf Jaw Notch just before ten o’clock. I decide to turn right and head first to Upper Wolf Jaw Mountain. I am hiking alone today and am cautious at every tricky part. Others are not. I am passed by a young man running his way to the summit and I meet other groups heading up and down the trail at paces much quicker than mine.
I carry two forms of emergency communication, an ACR personal locator beacon and a signaling mirror that is a hold over from my days as a Boy Scout. It is doubtful that the mirror will be of much use in an emergency given the dense tree cover over head but I like having it and knowing how to use it. The locater beacon communicates with satellites. Although it is surprisingly heavy I always bring it because it provides me with the reassurance I need to hike these trails alone.
In my earlier hikes I carried a day’s supply of water in a Camelback bladder. Now I bring two water bottles, a filter and a UV water purifier and drink water from the streams and brooks I pass along the way.
There are two peaks on Upper Wolf Jaw Mountain, I reach the highest one at 10:56. It takes me another hour to reach Armstrong Mountain. I stop for just a minute and turn back, recrossing Upper Wolf Jaw on my way back down to the notch. I am very tired when I start the climb up Lower Wolf Jaw Mountain. I reach its summit at just before two o’clock and stop to enjoy my last sandwich.
Peering across the valley I spot Big Slide Mountain and remember fondly my hike there with two friends last Labor Day weekend and how we sat eating lunch staring at the mountaintop where I am now.
During that hike we came upon a young deer just as we entered the trail. I think I may have met her again today.