Chipmunks and The Lookout (6/23, 6/24, 6/25)

Day 118, 6/23: Lost Pond shelter -> Rutland, VT (17.6 miles)

I woke up to Durable and other hikers packing up around 5:30am, then to Rash and Piñata eating breakfast around the fire pit with Train Wreck around 7:00am. Train Wreck was talkative while we ate breakfast, and we left camp around 8:30am. Today was town day, and we were excited.

Butterfly licking the salt off my trekking poles

I passed a parking area with a privy, and stopped to talk to a big group of hikers getting ready to start their hike. The trail went alongside Little Rock Pond, a sizable lake. I stopped for a break on a rock, watching the dark adult water versions of the orange salamanders swim in the shallows.

Little Rock Pond

I passed 2 rock gardens in the middle of the evergreen forest. The first was smaller, and the second was massive. I enjoyed the hike today. The forests were fragrant with pine needles, and the trail was soft underfoot. The evergreens rose up impressively with their dead lower limbs giving the forest an eerie feel. Besides the mud and the bugs, hiking in Vermont has been pleasant so far.

Rock garden

Pine needle trail

The three of us met up before the road to hitch into town. Right before the road, we walked across a swinging bridge that was hung high above a beautiful rocky canyon below with a river flowing through. Some hikers taking a swim waved at us from below.

Swinging bridge

It was raining lightly, then harder as we got to the road. We got a hitch despite the rain, got to the hotel, and walked across the street to the shopping center. We stopped by Taco Bell where Piñata and I got a crunch wrap supreme, and then we resupplied at the grocery store. we spend the rest of the evening vegging and watching TV.

Hitching to the hotel

Taco Bell selfie

Day 119, 6/24: Rutland, VT -> Churchill Scott shelter (15.8 miles)

We got a late start from the hotel. Checkout wasn’t until 11:00, and we didn’t leave until the last second, soaking up our time in a real bed. We walked across the street and got a surprisingly easy hitch with a man who was going fishing near the trailhead. I was worried about finding a hitch because the trailhead was out of the way from the main road. He had a pickup, and we threw our packs in the bed which had the tailgate down to fit his kayak. The whole drive I was nervously watching our packs in the back, waiting for them to slide off and get obliterated by another car. Our entire lives are in those packs, and thankfully they made it safely.

As usual, we had a steep climb out of town, but these 2 climbs back to back were horrendous. It was hot, I was sweating, and hating hiking as I sweated up the mountain. I took a break halfway up the first climb, and watched 2 chipmunks chattering back and forth. One chipmunk sat on a log 10 feet from me and chattered to his friend. Chipmunks are usually skittish, so it was a treat to see one sitting still.

Chipmunk digging through the leaves

I finally finished the 2 steep climbs, and took a break to text Louis from the Garmin since I didn’t have service. I wasn’t in the mood to hike today. My pack felt like it weighed 100 lbs, I was hot and tired, and I missed Louis. I put on my new audiobook, the first Outlander book, and that was enough of a distraction to keep me going.

I met a 67 year old named Old Growth. I slowed down a bit to hike with him for a few minutes, and we had a nice conversation. I met Rash and Piñata waiting at the 500 miles to Katahdin sign! It feels like last week we were in Grayson Highlands celebrating hiking to the 500 mile mark.

500 to go!

The climb to Mt Killington wasn’t terribly steep, but it was 4 miles and seemed never ending. I took lots of breaks, but at the speed I was going, I was in danger of getting to the shelter after dark, so I picked up the pace. I was still in a bad mood and didn’t want to be hiking. At the top of the mountain, there weren’t even any views as a reward, which bummed me out further. There was one partial view coming down the mountain, but it was partially obstructed by trees. I got to the shelter and hung my hammock next to Rash and Piñata. For dinner I had my new boxed stuffing, gravy mix, and pouched chicken. It tasted amazing.

View coming down Mt Killington

Day 120, 6/25: Churchill Scott shelter -> The Lookout (19.3 miles)

I slept horribly last night. I woke up every few hours to leaves crunching or the wind blowing the trees holding my hammock and thought there was a bear in camp. At 4:00am, we were all woken by a piercingly loud thud coming from the shelter 50 feet away. Instead of a bear, which is what I thought it was initially, it was a girl’s hammock falling on top of another girl.

In the morning, I found out Rash and Piñata didn’t sleep well either. The whole bear experience really shook us up. We were on trail by 9 with the intention of going 19 miles to an enclosed shelter called The Lookout. The morning hiking went slowly but without incident.

Climbing down a ladder leaned against the side of the mountain

Taking a break, I got a text from Rash that they were eating trail magic. I hurried down the trail and found a man with natural casing hot dogs. I ate 2 and we hung out for a bit with a hiker named Chef Boyardee.

Trail magic with The Bear

I struggled with the hiking in the afternoon. There were several steep climbs throughout the day, and I was having a hard time. The mosquitoes were everywhere, it was hot and humid, and my knees and toes were hurting. My new shoes, even though they’re the same size as my old shoes, have a more constricting toe box. On the downhills, my toes smush painfully forward. 1.6 miles from the shelter, I had to stop and tape my left pinky toe instead of pushing through the pain to the shelter and risk a blister.

I trudged up the steep 0.1 side trail to the shelter. The shelter is a small enclosed cabin on private property, but the owners let hikers camp there. There is a steep ladder to a platform on top of the roof. On the platform, the White Mountains are visible. The sunset was breathtaking, and I FaceTimed Louis, who was playing Pandemic with Greg, Joyce, and Mike, to show him the sunset.

Beautiful sunset (picture by Kris Mast)

Rash, Piñata, and I hung our hammocks in the shelter, and we all ate dinner. It was nice that it wasn’t crowded. It was bitterly cold outside, and the wind was howling angrily, whipping against the sides of the cabin. I’ve never been happier to be in an enclosed space on the trail. After the sun completely set, we went outside and looked at the stars. The sky was filled to the brim with stars, and we could clearly see the Milky Way. Without much light pollution on the mountain, the view was incredible.

Stars and Milky Way (incredible picture by Kris Mast)

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