Lacking my usual distance-and-elevation calculator, I mapped out what looked to be a not impossible 24-mile loop, starting and ending at the JBL and covering Lower & Upper WolfJaw, Armstrong, Colvin & Blake. There just happened to be the Ausable Valley in between them.
Staring down the sheer south side of Redfield, thick with what is nearly impassibly thick trees and debris, and over to Allen Mountain jutting steeply from the surrounding flats, a vulture launched beside me a circled the thermals over my head. I understood the symbolism, took some pictures and headed back.
I had recently hiked the three Santanoni mountains in June, at the time remarking on how wet it was. Earlier this month, the drought had dried up even the wettest of trails; the thunderstorms that preceded this hike brought them back to their soaked and muddy glory. The lead-in trail to Bradley Pond was, unimaginably, even wetter than in June.