We woke up to gray skies this morning, but we had heard the rain was supposed to hold off until much later tonight, so we got an early start to get in our 14.5 miles. We began by hiking down to Devil's Gulch, which was the inspiration for the Mahoosic Notch on the AT. Fortunately enough for us, this was only about 500 yards of boulder jumbles instead of a mile! We only had a short uphill section before reaching the road at Eden Crossing. Now our day was about to get tougher!
From the road we had a 2000-foot climb up to the peak of Belvedere, which began gentle enough on old mining roads - there was an asbestos mine here in the early 20th century. About 20 minutes in the climb gradually got steeper before coming out on the peak, where there was a fire tower. We didn't head up the tower as we were still thinking it might rain, so we kept going north toward Lockwood Pond and the Tillotson shelter. We had lunch before we began climbing and descending a series of small peaks in the afternoon.
After the Tillotson shelter, the trail changed dramatically. We are now in the dreaded section 12 of the Long Trail, which doesn't really get a lot of love or maintenance. The trail, even though the rain has been gone for a few days now, was deep with mud and brush. There was a surprising amount of undergrowth for a forest this far north in the U.S. Our pace slowed quite a bit and by the time we reached the top of Haystack Mountain, we were thoroughly exhausted. We had an incredibly steep decent to Hazen's Notch on wet rocks where we actually climbed down backwards to avoid falling. When we got to the bottom, a very kind person left bottles of water with the sign "Thirsty?? help yourself!" so we happily did!
We only had a mile and a half left of our day to the Hazen's Notch Camp and we made it before 4:30. There were three other thru hikers here, southbounders. As the evening wore on, a family of five showed up and another NoBo hiker as well. We hungrily ate two dinners by a campfire until the rain set in. It is supposed to rain all night and until about noon tomorrow, so we might be calling it a short day. We are only 17.2 miles from Canada, so we are getting pretty excited!