The long and the short of it
Since entering Vermont, we have been on an even older trail called the Long Trail. This trail runs the length of Vermont through the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border and is 270 miles long. The AT follows this path for about 100 miles of it and we are now almost off the Long Trail and into New Hampshire.
NOBOs, SOBOs, and everything in between
So far on the AT, Diatom and I have met mostly other NOBOs (North Bound hikers on the AT) and section hikers. Since being on the Long Trail (LT), we have been meeting all sorts of hikers. There are day hikers, people thru hiking the LT from the south or north, flip floppers (people starting the AT at a different spot than Maine or Georgia and then finishing it later), and we are meeting more and more SOBOs that started the AT at Katahdin, Maine and are headed south. The SOBOs typically have a later start date than us, so it is only natural that we haven’t seen many until now and it is apparent that we will be seeing more and more of them as we end our trip. It is interesting meeting a SOBO- we have so many shared experiences with our long term hikes, yet have been through different climates and scenery. We try to give each other advice for what is to come and everyone offers a different perspective to share. Meeting a SOBO is fleeting since you only meet them once and then never again since you are moving in opposite directions.
On the flipside, there is a weird animosity between SOBOs and NOBOs and I am not quite sure why. Perhaps we have a natural inclination to bond against others? We once saw a quote etched into a shelter that read, “For every SOBO sacrificed, the AT gods will provide a week of good weather.” Although it is humorous to think of when the weather is bad and we are looking for a reprieve, it does represent the common stance on the NOBO vs SOBO approach to one another. Personally, I am still a little dis-enamored by the SOBOs since they told me the mud in Vermont was nonexistent, which was utterly false.
Either way, shelters have become even more interesting as we meet new people from all these various groups. It is interesting to hear everyone’s goals and reasons for being out in the wild and there is always a respect for being there. The AT thru hikers seem to stand out more (either by their stench or mannerisms, I am unsure), and we are asked a lot of questions by the section hikers looking to up their hiking game. It is nice to be able to share our experiences and expertise to help others, but the funny thing is that I don’t feel like an expert. Even after four months on the trail, I am still unsure of which shoes are best or how I would survive if I ever got lost in the true wild beyond the trail. Still, it is nice to share some of the lessons we have learned along the way.
If I had the money, I would pay to dump all of the rocks in PA into VT. The mud has been too much, especially for my poor, dilapidated shoes without any traction. One day I think I fell at least four times. Luckily, no injuries have occurred, but it does give me a scare each time! I try to take a hippie bath in the streams each night in order to wash the mud off a bit, but I never feel completely clean until we stay in town.
In addition to the muddy terrain, there has been a insurgence of flies and pests. I thought I was going to go crazy as I tried rock hopping while also batting at the flies that buzzed around my head. I try swatting them with my hands, but it seems to only agitate them more once hit and they start dive bombing onto my face. Some days I let go of my pride and wear a bright pink hat I found in a hiker box along with a bug net. I feel like a bee keeper and I know I look ridiculous, but it does an amazing job of keeping me sane.
The beauty in between
Besides the mud and bugs, there has been a lot of beauty in Vermont. Thanks be to God’s amazing handicraft, the views have been spectacular. The flat, rocky, and leafy terrain has warped into this amazing series of pine forests with delicious smells and soft beds of pine needles to sleep. On the mountaintops, we have a reprieve from the hot, humid days and have a gust of cool and refreshing air with vistas of surrounding peaks and valleys. The hard terrain is soon forgotten with the rewarding views we share at the top of these mountains.
One of the first views we had in Vermont was on top of Stratton Mountain. I was a little down with the weather and bugs, but on the mountaintop they were both nonexistent. Instead, I had views of the bright blue sky and surrounding pine forest. There was a firetower to climb and as my tired hiking body slowly made its way to the top, I almost shrieked with delight at the views below. Slowly, I climbed above the dwarfed trees on the mountaintop. A few more floors and I could see for miles around. By the time I reached the top, felt like I was soaring high in the sky with the 360 views that I had obtained. It was such a feeling of success and an inner child happiness to witness such an amazing sight. The AT definitely has its mix of ups and downs, but the ups definitely make all the downs worthwhile.
Since then, we have climbed the mountains of two ski resorts in Vermont- Bromley and Killington. It is a weird feeling to be at a ski resort in the summer, the feeling that something just isn’t right. However, it is fun to explore these areas without the crowds and in a different light of season. Instead of snow, the slopes are dotted with bright wildflowers and tall grass. The ski lifts seem to be lost in time as they stand motionless without the roar of motors and ever-changing passengers. As in winter, the views are still spectacular and I enjoy being on my feet rather than skis to enjoy them. I am much obliged to Bromley since they even have a “ski patrol cabin” that they leave open for hikers to rest or sleep during the summer. Shortly after we had summit the mountain, a thunderstorm brewed and Diatom and I were thankful to be in the cabin to witness the destruction occurring outside. A few hikers appeared in the midst of the storm, soaking wet and miserable, and it was hard not to be thankful not to be in their poor, wet shoes.
Lastly, town days are the best days
The AT is unbelievable. I love sleeping outside and spending time in nature. However, I learned that too much of a good thing can be too much. It has been two weeks since Diatom and I have slept inside on comfy beds with running showers and laundry and I think that I might have reached my limit. I have been in a funk the past few days, but the funk seemed to slowly disappear after staying at the wonderful hostel in Rutland, VT run by the Twelve Tribe community. I felt refreshed and recharged after a good night’s rest and having clean hair, body, and clothes. Diatom and I even went to a movie and treated ourselves to ice cream afterwards. It was delicious feeling like a townie and doing something outside our normal routine. I think we all have different limits on to how much time we can spend consecutively on the trail, but mine definitely peters out after about 10 days. Knowing this, I am planning a few more stops in the next few weeks!
Current milemarker: 1700.8 (Rutland, VT) -less than 500 miles to go!
Current weight: ?
Most treasured item in pack: new trail outfit that I picked up at TJ Maxx across the road- I am a whole new person!
Food cravings in town: sugar and more sugar (gluten free brownies and ice cream)
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Can’t wait til you are back with us and sharing your stories in person. Miss you and take care.
To the Sobos who hiked Maine in June, the VT mud probably seems like solid ground by comparison. It will probably be a little drier when you get there. Hike on!
SOBOs downplay Vermont’s mud because it’s nothing compared to what they went through in Maine. This is compounded by the fact that they were new and out of shape when they went through it.
As for things that are utterly false, just look to the NOBOs. Those PA rocks? Not even noteworthy. The Priest? Not a challenge. Barely noticed either.
My daughter Mouse thru-hiked Nobo last year and is doing a Sobo tthru-hike his year. She said she has a whole new respect for the southbound hikers now. Funny how the same trail is two different hikes.