End of Vermont + Trail Legends
I was dropped off back on the trailhead very pleased with my stay at the Catamount Motel. The owner runs a great deal for hikers. At $60 for a room, if I was hiking with a trail family, I would have paid less than $30. Room was very clean and spacious. I also really liked the town of Bennington.
I wasn’t sure how many miles I wanted to do. I had quite a few big climbs on the docket, and I started at 9:00. I started the day with the Glastenbury climb. I found it to be a very gradual climb. Looking on farout makes climbs like these look very intimidating. It was smoother than I expected and the forests that lined the trail was very pleasant to walk through.
I made it to Story Spring Shelter around 5:00 because I sensed a rainstorm was imminent. My hunch was correct as it started to dump rain the minute I settled inside the shelter. The water source at this shelter was one of the best on the trail. Just 100 yards north on the AT was ice cold water with small waterfall that I was able to get my sawyer bag under. Five other hikers made their way to the shelter, all ready to make this shelter home for the night as the rain continued to pour. This was what I expected of Vermont. This is supposed to be the muddiest state after all. I waited for an hour until the rain stopped. I had already done 20 miles for the day, and I felt like that just wasn’t enough. I felt like I could make it over Stratton Mountain and camp at Stratton Pond Shelter. That’s just another 10 miles for the day. So at 6:00 I left the shelter and made my way to the base of Stratton Mountain. The rain had stopped (or at least I thought), and I only had a muddy trail to deal with. Unfortunately as I started the climb up to Stratton, a thunderstorm started out of nowhere (or maybe it was there, and I didn’t catch onto the obvious signs). I trudged up the mountain at a faster pace than usual. Thunder does a nice job at accelerating one’s pace. When I made it to the top of Stratton, water was gushing down from the clouds. I tried to set up camp at an obvious stealth site at the top, but it was just too wet. Furthermore, water was rushing down the branches and leaves of trees like water flowing down a gutter from a roof. I briefly considered sleeping up in the fire tower, but with the threat of lighting and thunder, I realized that was a stupid idea. I realized I had to keep on hiking and make it to the shelter. Soaked, tired, and low in confidence, I hiked on.
The rain and thunder stopped while I was descending, and the sky opened up to illuminate the summer sun setting into the abyss. The wet trail proved to be difficult for me with shoes that I’ve worn since Harpers Ferry. I slipped and fell on my bottom twice while descending. Mud was tattooed on my pants and shirt. Darkness soon overtook the trail and the last three miles I hiked with my headlamp. My feet were already so soaked that I didn’t even bother to walk around puddles that developed on the flatter parts of the trail. Eventually I made it to Stratton Pond Shelter. It was 9:00, and the caretaker of the shelter was either absent or asleep because no one asked me to pay. I took off all of my clothes and changed into my dry, soon to be wet, sleep clothes. Ate with my red light on as people snored in the shelter. I settled into the shelter and tried to sleep at around 11:00.
Stratton Pond Shelter
I woke up to my gear still very wet. It is interesting waking up in a shelter when you arrived late because I finally got to see who I shared the shelter with. This first 100 miles in Vermont is shared with the Long Trail, so the shelter was filled with SOBO and NOBO AT and Long Trail Hikers. I didn’t start hiking until 8:00 because I wanted some extra time for my gear to dry.
The day was rather easy. The hike up to Bromley Mountain was one of the easiest climbs on this trail so far. For a big ski mountain I thought it was going to be a lot more challenging, but it was one of best graded, longer climbs I had done so far. Some kind trail angel even left a box of doughnuts at the base of the climb.
PUDS and climbs to peaks like Peru preceded after Bromley, but they weren’t that challenging. I made it to Little Rock Pond Shelter where I was still not greeted by a caretaker. The shelter was packed with Long Trail and AT hikers. I even ran into Wheels, a Trek Vlogger, who was hiking the Long Trail with her friend Nacho. This was probably my favorite shelter in Vermont. Aside from getting my water from the pond, the location was spectacular.
Little Rock Pond Shelter
The weather reports were predicting a thunder storm today. I didn’t like this as I wanted to get into Rutland that day as well as climb Killington. I called my two friends Kylie and Susanne who had both hiked the trail and inquired about whether or not Killington was safe to hike in a thunder storm. They both said I should be fine. I hiked on.
The climb to Killington is very misleading. From the elevation map it looks like a 3-4 thousand foot gain. But in reality, there are two “short” climbs that are really steep that set you up for the final summit to Killington. Both are less than 1 mile but I think they’re both close to 1000 feet in elevation gain. After finishing these tough climbs, I approached the “base” of Killington. The sky showed no signs of a thunder storm but I was still uneasy. After a few close calls with lightning, I didn’t want to repeat any close calls on one of the highest points in Vermont. My friends told me I’d be fine, so I figured I’d listen to them. The bonus of getting over Killington also would be that I’d be able to get into Rutland.
The climb up Killington ended up being one of my favorite climbs. The first half is pretty steep, and I found myself stopping a few times to eat some food. But once I got close to the alpine trees it changed. Lots of roots to negotiate, but nothing extraordinarily difficult. I got to the junction where the summit was 0.1 miles on a blue blaze. This was one of the only blue blaze views I would take. For 0.1 miles it felt long. It was quite steep, but the view was rewarding. I stood on top of Vermont and had a view of the Green Mountains from above. I looked South and saw a storm cloud that looked like was going to miss my general area. The storm missed me. I thought I’d celebrate by buying lunch at the concession stand and riding the chairlift.
After of an hour relaxation, I made my way down the mountain to US Route 4 where a shuttle driver picked me up to get into Rutland. I was staying at the Yellow Deli! I knew I was in for a nice clean bunk with good food near. I was hungry so i actually had 1st dinner at an Indian Restaurant nearby and then came back to the Yellow Deli for 2nd dinner. 12 tribes did not disappoint. Another fantastic sandwich and stay with them.
I got a shuttle back to the trail. The plan wasn’t to do anything crazy today. I was still 40 miles away from Hanover, and I planned on neroing there before I hit the scary state of New Hampshire. This day was full of PUDS. Going up and down hills was the theme for most of the day. No real good views that I can recall. Just a lot of traversing the green mountains in its endless ups and downs. I was more tired than I had ever been. I decided I wanted to stay at a hostel and fully recuperate. I had gotten to the Yellow Deli rather late and had less than two hours to myself before I decided to sleep. Also I wasn’t able to wash my clothes in Rutland because the washing machine broke. It was 3:00 and maybe today I’d get some much needed rest. Fortunately for me a new hostel had opened in Woodstock, Vermont. It is rather a Bed and Breakfast, but one of the owners had thru hiked the AT a few years back and was friendly towards hikers. Place was called Wise Pines. Owner picked me up and took me to this extravagant tree house. I slept on one of the most comfortable beds that night. I LOVE WISE PINES. Important note: The owner was able to tip me off to a really good Kombucha brand based in Vermont called Aquavitea. Probably my favorite kombucha brand on the east coast now.
Wise Pines dropped me off back at the trailhead, and I still had another 24 hard miles to get into Hanover. The day was full of more PUDS. It seems that all the major mountains in Vermont had been hiked or were on the Long Trail. I ran into a SOBO who went by the name Rerun. Apparently he had done the trail years before. He wished me luck and told me I had some hard miles ahead. I was assuming he was referring to New Hampshire and Maine.
I descended from a small hill when I saw a white van parked along the side of an old dirt road. I wasn’t sure if the trail was straight or I had to take a left. There was a man inside the van who pointed for me to turn left and said “the trail is that way.” I thanked him and continued down. Three miles later I got to another road crossing. This time, that man who was in the van three miles back was sitting on the ground reading a newspaper. He asked me if I had seen two lady runners behind me in which I said I didn’t. He then asked about how far and how fast I was going in which I responded that it was day 70, and I was trying to finish this trail in under 90 days. I proceeded to tell him about my plan for New Hampshire and how I wanted to camp at the base of Moosilauke and climb it in the morning. He seemed to approve of my plan and even offered me some advice of his own. He talked about Stringbean and Scott Jurek running this trail and difficulties they faced in the upcoming section. He even relayed the news that Captain Morgan, the man attempting the NOBO FKT, had finished his hike and missed the record by two days. He said that he just got off the phone with Captain Morgan. At this point I was very confused. Who was this man? How does he have such an in depth knowledge of the trail? And he knows Captain Morgan? I was very confused.
I thanked him for his time, and I continued on down the trail. But I was alerted by the sound of a hiker behind me. It was a female hiker. A runner more so. She had a trail running pack opposed to a pack like mine. She caught up with me and introduced herself as Meg. She was one of the female runners the man I had met was crewing. They were running the AT in sections because they had full time jobs that they couldn’t just take time off of. Her other partner Celia was just behind. I had to ask the question: “Who is the man crewing you guys?”
“That’s Warren Doyle.” Anyone unfamiliar with him can do a quick google search.
Meg, Celia, and I hiked together for the remainder of the day. I got a boost of energy when I realized I was in the presence of hiker royalty. The two ladies were kind enough to let me hike with them and they even convinced me to hike further than Hanover. In fact, I did an extra 8 miles with them when I got to Hanover. I did a quick stop to a local market for dinner that night and then we all hit the trail again. Warren met us at multiple road crossings to provide water and food for the ladies, and Andrew Thompson, another trail legend, met us at one of the crossings to provide some trail magic. We finished the day at the base of Moose Mountain. The two ladies camped in Warren’s van while I camped near a creek 1/4 mile ahead of them. We planned on starting early in the morning together to do one final statement day.
Base of Moose Mountain
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