Here’s my next trail update, from Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts, north through Vermont. Enjoy!
Day 113 – Connecticut to Mt. Greylock to Wilbur Clearing Shelter
After our late night, and following our pattern, we slept in this morning. We had breakfast, prepared by Rikki Tikki’s wonderful wife, Colleen, and then packed up our gear. Even though Rikki Tikki seemed anxious to get going to the trail, we sat around for a while, knowing we only had three miles to hike today. Rikki Tikki and his friend, Anne Marie, joined us for today’s hike, planning to hike to the first shelter, spend the night, and then walk back out to the car tomorrow morning. It was a long drive to Mt. Greylock, especially after yesterday’s long drive. We walked around the summit of Mt. Greylock a little, took some pictures, filled water bottles, and got on trail by 4. It was very odd hiking in “new” terrain, and took Bookie and I most of the three miles to get used to the rocks and hills. There were warm temperatures today, with a slight breeze, but it felt like rain was in the air. We got to the shelter at 6, and filtered water for dinner. Bookie and I walked back to a road crossing to meet her friend Rachel, who wanted to bring us pizza and soda. Not a bad dinner for our first night in Massachusetts!
Day 114 – Wilbur Clearing Shelter to Congdon Shelter
Bookie and I woke up at 7, and packed fairly quickly, wanting to put in some good miles today. WE said our goodbyes to Rikki Tikki and Anne Marie, and got on trail by 8:30. The day started with a long uphill, and while it killed the legs some, we survived. It’s amazing how quickly you lose the endurance for hills when you’re walking through flatter terrain like Maryland and Pennsylvania (not that ANY of the trail is truly flat, but the hills are less severe in those sections… in my opinion…) We crossed into Vermont, and decided to eat lunch at the state line. It was a warm day, with a nice breeze, and really nice to be out of the heat and humidity of that is hitting Pennsylvania right now. After lunch, I stepped on a slippery rock and fell, landing on a small rock and giving myself a Charlie horse in my butt. I also tweaked my right knee a little, but thankfully, I was able to walk off both. We took a short break at Seth Warner Shelter, and waited to see if the thunder overhead would turn into a storm, but nothing developed so we hiked on. It was a rough afternoon, but there were some beautiful views of ponds. They were the sort of ponds you just expected to see a moose or two wading in, eating the pond grasses. Unfortunately, no moose. We arrived at the shelter about 7, finding it extremely crowded, mostly with Long Trail hikers. Talk about culture shock – we were used to one or two other hikers, not an entire shelter full. We filtered water, both of us feeling dehydrated today, then cooked dinner. It was a good, long day, and I gladly went to bed early.
Day 115 – Congdon Shelter to Melville Nauheim Shelter
I didn’t sleep great last night. There were a lot of Long Trail “newbies” in the shelter, with lots of inconsiderate actions going on – a cell phone “pinging” its notification every so often, a big bottle of Advil being opened all night, and lots of food left in the shelter so the mice were active. We got a slow start, not getting on trail until 8:40, but once we did, it was a decent hike. I can’t get used to the mud and rocks and roots of Vermont. Or the steepness of the hills. We got to the road crossing for Bennington about 11, and got a ride into town with Fat Man Walking, a 2013 thru hiker who is following the bubble this summer with his RV and giving hikers rides whenever he can assist. We had lunch at the Blue Benn Diner, an old fashioned diner with decent food and bad service. After hitching to Walmart, we resupplied and walked back downtown to visit the farmers market going on. We took turns sitting inside a coffee house to charge batteries, and then got a ride back to the trail by Kathy, a nice older lady we met at the farmers market. Thankfully, we didn’t have far to hike from the road crossing. We got to the shelter, cooked dinner, and talked with some of the L.T. hikers there. Selfie, whom I had met before the Smokies, walked into camp later in the evening. It was nice to see him and catch up some, not that we spent a lot of time hiking together earlier. It turned into a late night, once everyone had settled into the shelter.
Day 116 – Melville Nauheim Shelter to Kid Gore Shelter
I didn’t sleep very good last night, with more noisy people in the shelter. We were on trail by 8, but at 8:30 Bookie said she needed some time alone, so I dropped my pack and stopped for half an hour, to give some separation. I’m not altogether surprised by this and am thinking our hiking days are limited. The forest seems very eerie today, with moss covered spruce trees and no birds or other normal forest sounds. I got to Goddard Shelter by noon, finding Bookie already there, and ate lunch in silence, not sure what her mood was. We hiked out together, but it was a very quiet afternoon. We arrived at Kid Gore Shelter at 4, and decided to call it a day. We relaxed, rehydrated, and had a lot of conversation with some SOBOs and a couple of L.T. hikers. It was a nice afternoon in camp, with a glorious view of the valley below the shelter. But the bugs were bad, and the shelter was very crowded by evening, with NOBOs, SOBOs, and LT’ers vying for space in the shelter and campsites. This was something I had not anticipated before we made our leapfrog, the different bubbles merging together like this.
Day 117 – Kid Gore Shelter to Stratton Pond Shelter
I didn’t sleep good again. This is getting old. Plus, we were all woken up at 0600 by a plastic bugle playing reveille. Interesting in the middle of the woods, but not welcome so early. But the sunrise was decent, and it was warm even before we left camp. The hike up Stratton Mountain was pretty tough. This mountain is where Benton MacKaye was inspired to propose the AT, so we were all looking forward to the “history” of it, but Murphy’s Law kicked in, and it started raining as we were hiking up the mountain. About an hour before we reached the summit, it got real cold, too, and a thick fog started to blow in, cancelled my plans to eat lunch on the summit. Instead, I ate a quick snack and then raced down as quick as I could to get warm. Bookie was having shin pain all day, and my knee hurt a little on big steps, but the cold was much worse. We got to the shelter at 4, with a few others already there trying to dry off. The shelter was a really nice structure, with a lot of space, numerous individual bunks, and a covered picnic table area. It’s normally a “fee to stay” shelter, but the caretaker was on his day off, so we were able to stay for free. As we filtered water and ate dinner, the weather gradually cleared, revealing a very nice sunset across the pond. I had a nice conversation with an LT section hiker named Luke, who was out for three days. The best part of the day was listening to a loon yodel across the pond as I climbed into my bunk.
Day 118 – Stratton Pond Shelter to VT-11/Manchester Center
We were all awake by 6. There wasn’t any one loud person but with almost 20 people in the shelter, it all adds up to a loud morning. And it was a cool morning, as far as the temperatures go, as well. We stopped at the pond on the way out of camp to filter some water and take a few pictures, moving on about 8. It wasn’t a real tough hike this morning, and we got to the road crossing at VT-11 a little after 1. Bookie’s dad arrived about ten minutes later, bringing chocolate brownies for us. He took us into Manchester Center to get Bookie’s resupply box from the post office, then treated us to lunch at a Thai restaurant in town. We picked up some snacks for the hotel room and headed to what turned out to be a resort. We all showered and relaxed, taking naps and catching up on journaling. Her dad made late reservations at Solo, a farm-to-table restaurant nearby, and treated us grubby thru hikers to what equated to a black-tie dinner. It was amazing. But it was a very late night, not getting back to the hotel until almost 11:30. After making a phone call and sending some text messages, it was after 2am when I finally went to sleep.
Day 119 – VT-11/Manchester Center to Bromley Shelter
I slept in until 8. Bookie and her dad had gotten up early and were chatting on the back porch, and I just gave them their space. I wrote some post cards and packed up my gear. We didn’t leave the resort until 12, so I wasn’t able to get back to the post office to mail some items home. Not a big deal, I had the outfitter in town mail my post cards for me, and I can carry the few items I had to mail for a while longer. It rained hard on our way back to town, but had stopped by the time we got there. Bookie’s dad treated us to breakfast at “Up for Breakfast”, a nice breakfast-only restaurant in town. After we ate, we walked through a few antique shops, and soaked up the atmosphere of this quaint little town. We stopped at the grocery store on the way to the trail, for resupply. We were back on trail by 4, and made it up the hill and to the shelter by 4:45. It was an early, easy day, but that’s how it works out sometimes, I guess. We chatted with Momma Bear and Dream Catcher, a mother and daughter team from Quebec who are thru hiking the Long Trail. We had some good conversation with the two of them while we all cooked dinner. About 8:15, two section hikers, Walks with Whiskey and Bear Claw, came into the shelter and offered us beer, and to take any trash we had. They were only out for one night, as they tested some gear for their PCT hike next summer, so were happy to provide some trail magic and take our trash back to town. I love it when the trail provides unexpectedly. It was a cool evening, but a good evening.
Day 120 – Bromley Shelter to Lost Pond Shelter
We woke to a very cool morning. It seems the colder it is, the slower we are getting on trail, too, which is never good for my mood. We hiked up to Bromley Ski Mountain and spent about half an hour taking pictures and arguing about how slow our mornings are. We hiked off the mountain in general silence, and I let my mind get lost in thought, mostly about money, work, where to live after the trail and such. I am beginning to realize this trip is not so much about the trail itself, but that the trail is a vehicle to bring a variety of people together… and the trip is about those relationships. The hike up Styles Peak nearly killed me! There were lots of stone steps and roots and my knees were aching by the time we got to the top. We had lunch at Peru Peak Shelter, then walked to Griffith Lake, which was breathtaking! We had planned for Little Rock Pond Shelter, with a shorter day tomorrow, but Bookie’s knee was hurting so we stopped at Lost Pond Shelter at 4:15, and will make up the miles tomorrow. She was dealing with some emotions and needed some time alone, so she ducked into her tent to be alone while I chatted with some LTers and AT thru hiker Cruise Control. It was a good evening, relaxing around the campfire ring sans campfire.
Day 121 – Lost Pond Shelter to Minerva Hinchey Shelter
I slept ok last night, but woke at 6 with a headache after having a weird dream. We got on trail before 8, with slightly warmer temperatures and a slight wind. The trail today was an obstacle course. Trees to climb over or duck under, rocks to swerve around, roots trying to trip your every step. It was a mentally and physically exhausting day. We walked along a small stream for a long while, though, so the scenery was nice. We spent two hours swimming and eating lunch at Little Rock Pond, along with some other hikers. Bookie also began to make arrangements for our weekend in Hanover, which I can tell isn’t going to be relaxing at all. For once, I just want a zero day that is relaxing, but I am sure this will be stressful, like every other town day. Hiking along, we saw a cairn field, and walked out to White Rocks Cliff for a decent view and a short break with Slow Poke (LTer), Cruise Control (AT), and Pace Car(AT). We had a nice chat at the view, but could see clouds rolling our way, so we hightailed it out of there. It started raining and thundering at 4:30, just as I started up Bear Mountain. What a good motivator thunder is! I practically ran up the hill, but still got a little wet. I hit the summit and ran down the other side, and of course, the rain stopped as I approached the shelter. Oh well. Bookie walked into camp about 15 minutes later, wet and laughing. We set up camp, got water, cooked dinner and chatted with the large group of hikers at the shelter. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were horrible so as soon as dinner was over, I headed for my tent.
Day 122 – Minerva Hinchey Shelter to Cooper Lodge Shelter
It rained all night, which normally would be a good thing, but with a leaky tent, I wasn’t sure if I should sleep or not. Thankfully, the poly tarp I grabbed from my apartment helped to protect the tent a little. I am not sure why everyone recommends this tent for a thru hike, as I have found it nothing but a pain. The mosquitoes were still vicious this morning, making packing a quick affair. It was a mostly downhill hike to begin with, which makes it hard to slow down when everything is wet. I slipped once, and while I didn’t exactly fall, I am pretty sure I tweaked my left knee. It ache all day, so we’ll see how it feels as the hike progresses. We hiked the nearly half mile off trail to the Whistlestop Diner for an amazing breakfast. We ate with two Long Trail hikers we had met a few days ago, Thunder Chunk and Juicy Pooper. Today is their last day on trail with us, as the LT separates from the AT just past here, and these two were “good people” that I hope had a safe and enjoyable trek as they finished the LT. Today was almost all uphill, and some of it was steep as all hell. WE took a short lunch at Governor Clement Shelter, then hiked the 4.3 miles up Killington Peak. And it should be named Killerton Peak! It was tough. But we made it. I noticed my legs felt tired but not sore, so that’s an improvement. It was cool and windy on the mountain. We set up camp quickly and rushed to the actual summit to watch the sunset with a large group of people. We could see for miles in all directions, and it was spectacular to be up there. But as soon as the sun was under the horizon, we started back down, not wanting to get caught on the mountain in the dark. We got back to camp, ate dinner in the dark and went to bed. It was a cold, windy night, and my sleeping bag was wonderfully warm.
Day 123 – Cooper Lodge Shelter to Gifford Woods State Park
It was a very cold night last night. The NOBOs in the shelter with their summer gear were cold all night, but I was decently warm in my tent. We slept in until 6:45, and when I exited my tent, I found a fog and mist rolling through the trees. We were slow moving because of the cold, getting on trail about 8:45 after saying goodbye to a few other LT hikers. We passed Maine Junction, the official separation point of the two trails, and had a break there. While chatting, Momma Bear and Dream Catcher walked up, so we were able to say goodbye to them and wish them well. Bookie and I hiked on to Gifford Woods State Park, arriving at 4, just before the ranger station closed. We secured a tent site reserved for thru hikers, set up our tents, and then walked the half mile to resupply. We walked to a convenience store/deli/gas station/liquor store, and I wasn’t expecting much… but the resupply was adequate, although missing some key ingredients, the liquor store was fully stocked if I were staying long, and the deli – oh, my, the deli – was amazing! Salads and sandwiches and soups galore, making for an amazing lunch, with leftovers for dinner. As we finished eating lunch outside, a gentleman came out with a 6-pack of Long Trail Brewing Co Summer Ales for the small group of us. It turns out his name is Creeper and he hiked the AT in 1999. He offered Bookie and I a ride back to the state park, too. Amazing what the trail provides, even when you don’t ask for it. We got back to camp, sorted our resupply, and took turns showering so that Star wasn’t alone. The state park is a little buggy, but I’m starting to think that’s all of Vermont. It was a later night than normal. My last thought of the day, as I climbed into my tent: how smart was it to take a shower with Apple essence shampoo (free from the park rangers) just before bed while sleeping in bear country? Hmmm…
Day 124 – Gifford Woods State Park to The Lookout
We were up early this morning, but Bookie was slightly distracted by her cell phone – apparently, her mom learned how to text! We had an ok start to the day, walking around Kent Pond and looking at Thundering Falls, but then Quimby Mountain tried to kill us by sheer steepness. We had lunch and got water at Stony Brook Shelter, then hiked on. Our day ended a little early at the Lookout, a privately owned rustic cabin open to hikers. The best part about the cabin is that it has a roof-top viewing platform with a great 360-degree view. Plus, the enclosed cabin was a welcome warm spot for the night. When we walked up, Bookie was practically tackled by Moonlight! The Moons were here! We hadn’t seen them since Waynesboro, Virginia, so it was great to see them and catch up all afternoon. There were a few people there, but a SOBO named Slug Bait was notable, as he shared all sorts of trail info for the Whites with us. We all watched the sunset from the platform, but it was a bit too cloudy to be a great view. Once it got dark, we all ducked back into the cabin to stay warm, and was it ever warm! We had to open a few windows at one point because it was so warm, although Bookie was right under the window she opened and shivered most of the night.
Day 125 – The Lookout to Cloudland Shelter
The sun woke us at 5:30 with a less-than-spectacular sunrise, but with the perch on the roof, it was worth getting up and seeing the light spread across the valley. Everyone was slow to get moving. The Moons left by 7, going to meet Moonlight’s dad at an upcoming road crossing. For some reason, I felt very isolated this morning, and was glad to get on trail. We stopped at the Wintturi Shelter for water, then hiked to VT-12, where we stopped at On the Edge Farm Stand for lunch. The baked goods were worth the 0.2 mile walk! (Even if the worker was rude and obnoxious to us…) The hike out of there kicked our butt, though. We continued on very sluggishly, both feeling very fatigued lately. Our upcoming zero will be a nice break. We walked another 0.2 mile off trail to Cloudland Market. It wasn’t nearly as stocked as the previous one, but the Vermont Sweetwater bottles they had were a welcome treat. We met a group of SOBOs there who are staying at our intended shelter, and ended up following them down the road to the shelter. We got to the shelter at 6, set up camp and cooked dinner. It was fun talking with this group, who have obviously been together on trail for a long time. Too bad this group is headed in the opposite direction as us – it would be fun to hike with them for a little while.
Day 126 – Cloudland Shelter to Happy Hill Shelter
We slept in a little, and got a slow start, talking to the SOBOs some more this morning. We eventually got on trail at 9. Bookie was walking slow because of her leg, so I walked ahead. I’ve started to enjoy walking alone lately, as it gives me time to set my own pace and let my mind wander. I stopped for half an hour at the top of a mountain with a bench and enjoyed some wild crab apples while waiting for Bookie. We hiked together from there, down to Linda Heart’s house in West Hartford, where we stopped for over two hours for lunch. Linda is an amazing trail angel that provides pop, pancakes and good conversation to any thru hiker passing her house – which is ALL of them, as her house is right on the road the trail goes down. We met SOBOs Yogi, Professor Buddha, and Kermit, and enjoyed some good conversation and a few bridge jumps with them. No, I did not jump – I am too close to Katahdin to risk an injury. We hiked out and got to camp at 5:30. I set up camp and waited for Bookie, who was a bit behind me. She carried water, but I took my chances with the unreliable water source, and had to walk a little to get it, but it was enough. We cooked dinner, relaxing with some weekend hikers and a Triple Crowner named Wildcat who turned out to be a raging drunk. We ate dinner and wandered back to our little campsite to avoid the drunk.
Day 127 – Happy Hill Shelter to Hanover, NH
We woke up at 7 and got a slow start to the day, knowing we only had a few miles to walk into town. We were on trail by 8:20, and walked into Norwich by 10. We couldn’t check into our hotel that early, so we walked to Hanover (still official mileage, as the trail walks the road between the two towns…) We had lunch at Boloco Burritos, and then I headed to the library to download pictures and take care of some financial matters. I’m not sure what Bookie did, as she didn’t tell me and I didn’t ask. We met back up a few hours later and called a trail angel to shuttle us back to the Norwich Inn. Once checked into our amazing room, we got cleaned up and then went to the onsite Norwich Brewery for dinner. The food was decent, but overpriced and with horrible service. I have not been impressed with the service in Vermont. After dinner, we went back to the room and got lost in tv and relaxing. It felt amazing to just sit and not do anything!
Stay tuned for my next blog post, coming soon! And remember to always Spin the Compass!
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