Lightning Crashes (Days 132 to 136, Rutland to Hanover)
Start: US Route 4 / Rutland, VT
Finish: Bushcamp a half mile shy of Winturri Shelter
AT Miles Hiked Today: 19.4
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,720.2
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 468.9
Sleeping in a real bed is always such a treat. Reindeer and I had the entire basement to ourselves last night, as we were staying with my friend Justin’s family at their house near Killington. What a pleasure it was to stay with them, I’m so lucky to have a support network near the trail in the Northeast!
We woke up around 6:30 and ate eggs, sausage and toast prepared by Justin’s dad. His mom sent us back to the trail with leftover pizza. We have so much food for what will probably be a 2.5 day section of trail into Hanover. I’m so excited to get to Hanover on Sunday, we are being picked up by my little sister and driven to take two days off trail to relax with my family!
As we were eating breakfast we had on the Weather channel, which was telling us how much rain we were going to get over the next 3 days. They predicted flash floods, heavy thunderstorms, and that all hikers would be miserable for the next 72 hours. (Ok, I may have inferred that last conclusion.) Nothing we can do but get back to hiking, rain or shine! Justin’s dad drove us back out to the trail and we got hiking around 9am.
Immediately were back to hiking in the same dense vegetation we have been finding at lower elevations in Vermont. Such a diverse ecosystem in this state. Hiking above 3,000 feet was awesome because we had mossy conifer forest, and down here we have views like this. It’s pretty hard to lose the trail, but I hope don’t have to urgently poop while hiking through here.
It wasn’t raining yet, and the walking was pretty easy for the first 3 miles. We had a water break and leftover pizza break to try to kill some of our pack weight before the big ascent of the day.
It got pretty hot as we were hiking at the lower elevations, definitely above 80 degrees, and disgustingly humid. We were pouring sweat as we ascended about 1,400 feet straight up a mountain. Fortunately the terrain was smooth. Honestly after the first two days in Vermont, which were very rocky, the terrain has been really, really nice! Vermont is definitely my favorite state I’ve hiked through.
Walking along the ridgeline the trail suddenly went directly over a rock face. Is this a taste of the whites?
Morning turned into afternoon, and still we had no rain. Up on the ridgeline we got some service so we checked the radar, and amazingly everything just north and south of us was getting pounded all day. But our little sliver of Vermont was staying dry. Awesome!
Reindeer took a bad fall this afternoon. I heard a crash and a snap and I honestly thought his leg had broken. He was bleeding a bit, and his knee swole up pretty bad, but I think he will survive.
We ended up doing bigger miles than we planned just because the weather cooperated, so we pushed over 19 miles and bushcamped right along the trail. It’s a dry camp tonight with 6 miles to our first water but it’s mostly downhill which will make the water situation less dire.
We dodged rain all day today, we are so lucky. Reindeer gets service up here and it looks like we won’t be so lucky tomorrow. 17 miles gets us to the small, basically empty town of West Hartford, where we may be able to sleep in a bunkhouse. If the weather looks bad I think that’ll be our play!
Start: Bushcamp a half mile shy of Winturri Shelter
Finish: West Hartford, VT
AT Miles Hiked Today: 17.1
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,737.3
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 451.8
It didn’t rain at all last night, and as we packed up and hit the trail, the sky looked clear. We hiked fast, hoping the rain would hold off but knowing that it wouldn’t. We got service and checked the radar and it looked like a huge storm was raging just North of us.
We made it 6 miles in 2 hours, refilled on water, and checked the radar. Looks like a big cell was coming our way. Red on the radar is bad, right?
As we were going through a small field, it started to rain. By the time we made it to the treeline about 100 yards later, it was an absolute downpour. Thunder came quickly. As we climbed, mudslides started coming down the trail became a swamp. My shoes were completely filled with water within a minute.
Thunder was crashing on all sides. A particularly huge crash convinced me I didn’t want to be holding metal trekking poles, so I tossed them to a tree and ran to a log to sit down in the deluge. Reindeer and I were yelling back and forth over the huge thunder crashes. Neither of us knew what the hell to do in this situation.
As we yelled back and forth, a massive crash and bright flash directly on top of us, and we both yelled WOAH as electricity pulsed through us. My right foot jumped off the ground from the voltage. Shit, a tree right next to us just got hit by lightning! Reindeer and I both looked at each other in amazement, and fear.
The storm quickly raced East and within a minute we were able to grab out poles and keep hiking. The adrenaline kept pumping. Holy shit, that was a close one!
As we rolled into town, we were struggling. Our knees and ankles hurt from the long days we’ve been pulling in VT. My feet were prunes in my shoes. We were wet and tired. As we crossed over the White River, a guy flagged us down and told us about a local trail angel who has a bunkhouse that hikers can stay in. Reindeer and I went up and were gloriously happy to have a roof over our heads. And they have a VCR with tons of old movies!
Lots of hikers here tonight escaping the rain. Hopefully we have an easy (and dry?) 10 miles into Hanover tomorrow. New Hampshire here we come!
Start: West Hartford, VT
Finish: Hanover, NH
AT Miles Hiked Today: 9.6
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,746.9
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 442.2
All the hikers were up around 5:30am, and we were hiking at 6:30, faced with one large-ish climb, then a nice downhill / flat section into Hanover.
We made our way out of town with a half mile road walk, and up the mountain. It clearly rained a bunch last night. As we left we checked the radar and it looked like we were in the clear. What a relief. After the lightning strike yesterday we weren’t in the mood to be on top of mountains when storms rolled in. All the hikers rolled out of the bunkhouse in a wave up the mountain.
Vermont continued to be an awesome state to hike through, as the trail was soft and the terrain was gentle. We made awesome time off the mountain. To my surprise the road walking started about 2 miles before Hanover! We made our way down into the wealthy town of Norwich.
About a mile later, we crossed the Connecticut River and entered my home state of New Hampshire! Ah, it feels good to be home!
Reindeer and I went to a local shop for breakfast, and I texted my little sister to tell her where we were. A half hour later Reindeer and I found ourselves in an air conditioned car heading to a double zero in Lempster, NH!
Days 135 + 136
Start: Hanover, NH / Zero days in Lempster, NH
Finish: Hanover, NH / Zero days in Lempster, NH
AT Miles Hiked Today: 0!
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,746.9
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 442.2
It felt amazing to hop off trail for a few days. My parents and my little sister were up from North Carolina, and we stayed at our camp in the mountains that my dad helped build 30 years ago.
My parents went all out to spoil us. They bought several hundred dollars worth of groceries and fed us nonstop. They bought wine and beer and tea. They got lobster for the first night!
Lots of family friends rolled through to see my parents and check out the stinky hikers. We had parties and danced the nights away, and during the day we went out on the pontoon boat to swim and drink and enjoy the views on Long Pond. So much fun.
Reindeer and I took the plunge off the Big Rock into the lake! That was the most physical activity we did either day, as we spent a lot of time eating and relaxing with the family.
Since it’s my birthday next week, my mom got me the gift of a massage at a nearby spa! And she got one for Reindeer as well! We went and got all the soreness worked out of our muscles. It was extremely relaxing. I think I nodded off towards the end of the massage. It was my first ever massage and now I see why people love them so much!
I’m lucky to have had the chance to get off trail the last few days, we’re fully recharged and ready to tackle NH. Up next are the White Mountains. I’m a little worried for the first time in a while, because so much can go wrong in the Whites. My Uncle Frank has been hiking the Whites for years and regaled us with stories over the past few days with what we can expect. I got my cold weather gear (10 degree sleeping bag, gloves, hat, pants) so I’m ready for anything.
Until next time, happy trails!
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