Vermont Is a Little Piece of Paradise
I didn’t quit in Massachusetts. I’m glad I didn’t. Everything I’d been waiting for was to be found in Vermont.
Into the Green Mountain State
Climbing up toward the Vermont border, the air felt crisp and the bugs seemed to disappear. It has been a dry summer in New England. Despite Vermont’s reputation for mud, there was little to be had.
First of many notable features were the artistically created beaver dams. The dirt and log mounds holding back the ponds rivaled the work of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Forget Fontana; Vermont’s got beavers with engineering expertise.
Aside from the beaver ponds there are a number of pristine swimmable lakes. I passed by Stratton Pond but made a point to hike a short day to Little Rock Pond.
Clear, cool water set below a thickly wooded hill was as scenic as I hoped Vermont would be. I relaxed in the water while fish nibbled at my toes.
Long Trail and the AT
Another refreshing quality of Southern Vermont was the unique character of hikers. This character results from the intersection of the Long Trail and the AT.
Long Trail hikers heading north start in Massachusetts and share the trail tread for about 100 miles. LT hikers were fresh, enthusiastic, and hopeful. I was able to tap into their energy. It was crucial for me to encounter these hikers, shaking my own mental attitude for the better. Our exchanges help me realize how far I’ve come and how real the attainment of my goal has become.
My first trip into town was at Manchester Center. It was easy hitching in and out in an afternoon. I hung out in front of the supermarket, was given a bag of popcorn from the movie theater, and was later pulled into an art gallery in the strip mall. I relaxed looking at contemporary pieces while a string quartet played in the space. This, plus a stop at Ben & Jerry’s, was enough to lighten my spirits.
My second stop was into Rutland. I wasn’t originally planning on stopping but the legendary reputation of the Yellow Deli convinced me to check it out. After an easy hitch south of town, I spent a rainy afternoon in the hostel. It was a mix of AT NOBOs, Long Trail hikers, and a few SOBOs thrown in for good measure. The Yellow Deli is run by a 12 tribes religious community.
All negative rumor and legend aside, from what I could gather it was a group practicing 1st century Christianity with an aim to building a more loving, self-supporting community. Aside from their near obsession with Yerba Mate, I found my stay comfortable and welcome.
It would have been an easy slackpack over Killington Mountain, but I thought I’d be up and over the ski area within a day. Instead, I lingered on Killington for a good couple of hours, trying to track the mountain ridges to the east.
I ended up pitching a tent in a dogleg on a ski slope. When it came time to resupply at a convenience store and deli, I hopped on the local express bus and went back into Rutland for round two at Yellow Deli.
Beyond Maine Junction
The eastern cut from Vermont to New Hampshire is a constant up and down interrupted by road crossings and farm stands. Each hill I went up I knew I was closing in on completing my 12th state.
As I neared West Hartford, I heard about good bridge jumping and the opportunity to camp in a few lawns. That evening was spent launching off the bridge into the river 35 feet below.
I happened to run into another hiker I hadn’t seen since the first few days in Georgia. Her family lives in New England. She let us know that if we walked into Hanover, NH, together there would be much fun to be had by all. So what began as a trio quickly turned to five. After a quick celebratory lunch in Hanover, we were whisked north for some quality home cooking.
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Awesome!! The best is yet to come! NH is HARD, but Maine is MOST WONDERFUL!