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Peru Peak Wilderness, Griffith Lake, and Big Branch Wilderness

  • Start: Bromley Mountain Peak
  • End: Little Rock Pond Shelter
  • Approx Miles: 18

Holy cow what I day! Strap-On is up and at ’em early, leaving while I’m still bleary-eyed in my sleeping bag. I wake up to a still-foggy Bromley. Boooo. I faff around for an hour hoping for it to clear up for a view, but eventually give up and leave around 8am.

My goal for today is to make it to Little Rock Pond Shelter, 18 miles from here. I hadn’t been planning such an ambitious day, but Strap-On told me to push for it because it’s such a beautiful spot, and both times he’s hiked this trail he’s passed by it in the middle of the day and wished it made sense for him to stay overnight. I told him I didn’t think I could do 18 miles and he said “Nah you got it, it’s all downhill!”

With this lofty goal in mind, I set out hiking and the fog blows off about 30 minutes later. Should have waited a bit longer for the mountain view. Oh well. The hiking is amazing out the gate, and all downhill like Strap-On promised.

Entering Peru Peak Wilderness.
Finally sunny again.
My new shoes: Hoka Speedgoats. They live up their name!

I felt so fast in my new shoes I was almost running1 at points! I’m a total convert to trail runners, the difference is incredible. I feel so much faster and lighter. I pass by Peru Peak Shelter, stopping to get water at a stream, and carry on to Griffith Lake for lunch. Beautiful spot. There’s a nice tenting area there with a bunch of platforms and a GMC caretaker2. Although there’s no sign of them, or anyone else, around. A little side trail leads to a campfire ring by the lake shore where I sit for a while to eat and watch the water.

My lunchtime view
Someone lost a shoe.
Big frog.

I hike another mile, feeling great about my chances of making it to Little Rock Pond. I’ve already come eight miles and it’s not even noon! Suddenly I notice—I’m missing my trekking pole. My heart sinks. I don’t need it (my tent has it’s own poles3), but it really helps going down steep climbs, and I don’t want to have to buy another one. I figure I must have left it at Griffith Lake when I stopped for lunch. I hem and haw for a few minutes and decide to go back for it.

I drop my pack by the side of the trail so I don’t have to carry it an extra two miles, and run most of the way back because I’m nervous about a bear getting into my food while I’m away4. I get back to Griffith Lake and…it’s not there ☹️. I look all around—the firepit, the tenting area. No sign of it. I almost give up, but decide to go back a little further to Peru Peak Shelter. Maybe I left it when I stopped for water. Lo and behold, there it is! Another 1.5 mile half-run half-walk and I’m reunited with my pack, exhausted but happy.

I set off towards Baker Peak, figuring the energy wasted on this little misadventure has killed my chances of making it to Little Rock Pond. This part of the trail has lots of comments on FarOut about how many bogboards there are. “Unending bogboards” says one. They’re not kidding:

Time lapse of bogboards near Griffith Lake.

I make it up Baker and sit for a while to rest and take stock. It’s beautiful up here.

Some day hikers kindly took this photo of me.

I met an older hiker up there named Heard the Call, traveling SOBO on the AT. She hikes three seasons a year and then finds a seasonal job in the winter. Sounds pretty amazing. Her kids are all grown and they encourage her so why the hell not. “I truly embrace YOLO” she says. She seems really confident that I can make it to Little Rock Pond tonight. She also encourages me to hike the AT someday. I feel pretty tempted after today; it just sounds amazing from everyone I’ve met out here who’s done it. I also take advantage of the cell service up here to text Alicia and Rob, my old neighbors and friends from New York. They’re planning to join me for a day near Killington.

I set off north off Baker with a spring in my step. My mind wanders on the way, bouncing all over the place. I’m hiking fast, the weather’s beautiful, I didn’t lose my pole. I’m in a great mood. I’m thinking about life after the trail, and a big part of me is finding this whole experience so amazing that I just want to become hiker trash for a while and spend a lot of next year on-trail. It would be a big sacrifice though. The money, the time away from my friends back home. My therapist would probably say I’m thinking in black and white and it doesn’t need to be as all-or-nothing as I’m making it out to be…that’s probably right. In any case, it’s an empowering thought. Makes me feel like I have more options in life.

I pass by Big Branch Shelter and stop to get more water. Almost there.

Getting water from the Big Branch.
"Keep Going"
Rock friends at the shelter.

I cross paths with two women about my age heading SOBO. They started at the north end of the LT a few weeks ago and are from out west (Utah and Oregon). We chat for a bit, they have some questions about the buses at the southern terminus. Apparently they booked their flights when they were in the more difficult northern part of the trail and projected when they’d finished based on the mileage they were doing up there. But they’ve been making way better time than they expected in the south, so they’ll have some time to kill when they get to Massachusetts.

I reflect a bit on the social experience of the trail so far. It’s been nice, but I feel I haven’t met anyone I really clicked with. Most people have been substantially older or younger than me. I know it’s petty, but I’m also kind of sad everyone seems to have a trail name already except me. Patience I guess, you can’t rush these things.

I cruise through the last few miles. I haven’t listened to music on this hike yet, but I get out my headphones and put on New Jeans to power me through the end of the day. K-Pop sounds completely mind blowing after a week of being in the woods and hearing no music at all. The contrast between the shiny, futuristic sound and the natural textures of light, leaves, and bark around me is really cool.

Almost there!
Crossing a road.

Finally I make it, tired, but not even completely spent! The Pond was beautiful as promised.

I jump in the water quickly, but it’s pretty cold. Pond jumping season may be over for the year. I head up to the shelter and it’s amazing too. Big, pretty newly constructed, and with interesting architecture (for a shelter). Peaked roof and a porch. I don’t have any pictures of it sadly. There I meet Pyro and Anansi. Two old women from North Carolina; they must be in their 70s. Lifelong friends, they’ve been section-hiking the AT NOBO together since ‘96! “Hopefully we get to Katahdin before we die!” says Pyro. They’re great company. Wise in the way only old women can be; sassy and self-deprecating. Amazing that they’re still out here, truly the kind of people you get on the trail to meet. I help them with their crossword while I make dinner (peanut butter soy ramen, so good!)

What an amazing day. I love hiking. I love the trail ❤️.

  1. I kind of understand the appeal of trail running after this. It felt almost like playing a rhythm game, figuring out where to put my feet on the fly with every step. ↩︎

  2. The GMC employs caretakers to live on-site in many of the high-traffic shelters and tenting areas all along the trail. Caretakers keep the site clean, educate campers about wilderness ethics and leave no trace, and perhaps most importantly, keep the privy in order. ↩︎

  3. Lots of thru-hikers use trekking pole tents, which don’t come with their own poles, but rather use your trekking poles as structual support, in order to save weight. ↩︎

  4. I know this sounds ridiculous, but Particle told me that on a hike in Killington earlier this summer, she walked away from her pack for 20 minutes to chat with someone, and came back to find the pack destroyed by a bear. So I was on high alert. ↩︎