AT Days 103-105
Cooper Lodge to Stealth Site (1,719), 20.2 miles
I was up and hiking early in an attempt to get a head start on the rain that was predicted for the afternoon. A long, gradual descent off Killington Peak down to US Route 4 wasn’t too kind on my knees, followed by a steeper climb up to the Maine Junction- where the AT splits off from the Long Trail and heads east towards New Hampshire and Maine while the Long Trail continues north to Canada.
The trail leads hikers through Gifford Woods State Park Campground, followed by a very tough and steep climb up Quimby Mountain; hands down the toughest climb in Vermont thus far. It was one of those climbs where right when you think you’ve reached the top, another steep section is waiting for you. The terrain and forest scenery becomes much different the instant the AT leaves the Long Trail, filled with much steeper and intense climbs. The rest of the day consisted of climbing and descending steep, unnamed hills that zapped the energy right out of me.
I arrived to a stream crossing 20 miles into my day, with stealth sites in the woods just above the stream. I was hoping to push to the lookout shelter, but I didn’t have one more steep climb in me for the day. I set up camp, soaked my feet in the stream and was fast asleep no later than 7:30.
Stealth Site (1,719) to West Hartford, VT, 22.7 miles
I had zero energy when I naturally woke up at 6 AM, lethargically broke down camp and began my day with another steep climb up an unnamed hill with no view. It was a 75 degree and sunny day, no doubt the nicest day I’ve had during my time in Vermont. I descended down to VT Route 12 where some much needed trail magic was waiting for me. At the trail magic, I ran into a couple Southbound hikers who had started from Katahdin on June 1st- the first ones I had the chance to speak with. We picked each others brains about upcoming terrain before headed our separate ways.
The rest of the day consisted of several more very steep climbs and descents up and over unnamed hills, none providing much views, other than the occasional open field walk. Much of the hiking was through oak and pine forests, still looking much different than the forests of the Long Trail. It’s not that I was hating the terrain and scenery for the day, but I certainly wasn’t loving it either. Much of the time I found myself day-dreaming of finally crossing into New Hampshire.
I descended down to the very small town of West Hartford, where the trail runs directly through. Right off trail is the popular “Blue AT Barn” where trail angels Randy and his wife allow hikers to sleep in the beds in the barn. I chatted and swapped stories with Randy while I read through the hiker log book, recognizing many of the names in the book who stayed here as well.
West Hartford, VT to Hanover, NH, 10.4 miles
I slept well in the barn for my last night in Vermont and woke up stoked to cross the Connecticut River into New Hampshire. One climb up and out of town was followed by flat and cruisy miles through scenic pine forests. The miles ticked by and I soon left the woods 7 miles in where a 4 mile road walk followed. I walked through the small town of Norwich, VT to resupply before crossing the CT River on NH Route 10A.
Reaching the VT/NH border sign had me absolutely pumped; arriving to New Hampshire truly felt like I was on the final leg of this journey, although a lot more work remains. In a couple short days I would soon be entering the White Mountain National Forest, which every thru hiker has been speaking highly of throughout my entire hike. The saying goes that when you enter New Hampshire you have hiked 80% of the trail, but have only done 20% of the effort.
The trail runs directly through the busy town of Hanover, home to prestigious Dartmouth College. I felt slightly out of place walking through town, looking super rugged and dirty after a long stretch in the woods. I enjoyed a lunch at popular Molly’s Restaurants with a couple other hikers who were already there, before I headed to Hanover Adventure Tours Hostel. I was the only Northbound hiker there, along with three other Southbound hikers. We swapped stories of our hikes thus far before I called it an early night as I began planning out and studying the trail through the Whites on Guthook.
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