Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"SWAMP CRACKERS"

During the late summer of 1971 I went on a week long hike on the Appalachian trail in the Green Mountains of Vermont with my Simsbury High School friends Bill DeMallie,Mike Paine, and Larry Van der Jaght. This trip commenced right after a hurricane swept through the Connecticut,Massachusetts and Vermont areas.

Each of us had a fifty to 60 pound pack which included freeze dried food,"gorp" (a trail mix),clothes, sleeping bag,among other items need for our journey through the woods. We stayed each night in the open rustic trail shelters along our route.

Bill was very organized and he had with him a topographic map of our trip which showed the contours and elevation of the land along the trail. During one part of our hike Bill noted that the trail diverged with one path going over the mountains on the main part of the trail with another trail called "the Old Job Trail" following the roaring streams which were swollen from the recent rainfall of the hurricane. Both trails lead to a shelter by a lake about five miles away.

We decided it would be fun to split up into two groups of two people each and hike both trails to see who could reach the lakeside shelter first. Bill and I went on the Old Job Trail while Larry and Mike took the main mountain trail. So, the competition was on.

Bill and I were determined to try to win this challenge so we were hiking along at a fast clip along the roaring waters. We are hiking along for some time when Bill pulled out his topographic map and said "Hmm, we should be coming up to a small bridge soon to cross this stream. " The stream was about thirty feet wide. We didn't want to have to cross that stream without a bridge. We kept on hiking and after a while the trail ended and we started to "bushwhack" through some heavy brush. Even with a map we weren't exactly sure where we were as Bill looked at the map again as said "As far as I can tell we are in this area marked as swamp land."

Bill thought that were better stop where we were instead of traveling deeper into swamp territory. He then said,"The universal signal for help S.O.S is a multiple of three. I have some firecrackers in my pack; we should set them off in multiples of three and then yell out "Hello" and maybe someone will hear us." So, that's what we did. Bill and I are in the middle of the nowhere swamp lighting firecrackers and yelling "Helllloooo anybody there?" There was no answer except for a few crows squawking. I wasn't too worried as we were carrying most everything we would need in our packs. We decided after a while after setting off the firecrackers that we would have to head toward the roaring waters and ford the streams as we couldn't find the bridge and head in the general direction of the lake to meet up with Mike and Larry.

Instead of having to ford one stream we ended up having to wade through three streams of cold and rapid flowing water. We found out later that the bridge we were looking for had washed away from the rising waters after the hurricane. We finally found the continuation of the trail on the other side of the streams. Instead of meeting Mike and Larry around lunch time we arrived at the lakeside shelter around 5:00 pm over five hours later than we had planned so we decided to spend the night there and make up the miles on the trail the next day.

Mike and Larry said they had a leisurely hike through the mountain tops with many breaks. They didn't get to set off "swamp crackers" though.