Vermont: There’s No Place Like Home

Home For Two Weeks

I had planned to take a break from the trail in mid September. The couple who stayed in my house while I was away  left it sparkling clean. What a pleasure to sleep in my bed and have a wardrobe full of clothes!

I live in Montpelier in a house which is above the flood plain. It was not damaged during the July 10 flood. However, downtown Montpelier may not recover for a long time.

The Federal Building, which housed the post office, sustained significant damage in its basement. Although mail is being delivered, the post office has moved to a temporary location in a parking lot, with very limited services available. It will re-open in a different location, currently unknown.

The basement of the Kellogg Hubbard Library was flooded. Not only were books lost, but the electric, phone, and computer systems were damaged.  Two pharmacies closed. Many other businesses have not yet re-opened.  Hopefully, the city will recover soon.

I returned home to observe  the Jewish high holidays. In addition, I visited with friends, went on easy walks, received a session of structural foot reflexology, attended  the first session of the season of  dryland cross-country ski training, and spent a weekend on  Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire as a  Volunteer Alpine Steward. I also organized and mailed out 4 more resupply boxes. It was a busy, but also restful, time.

If you read my last blog, you may remember that I recently lost a filling. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a dental appointment while I was home. Thankfully,  I don’t have tooth pain.  I hope to complete the trail in time to attend a previously scheduled dental cleaning appointment in early November. I assume that my lost filling will replaced then.

Back On The Trail

My time off trail quickly came to an end. Charlene, a hiking buddy and former colleague, drove me to Upper Cold River Road, south of Rutland, where I had left the trail. Charlene hiked about a mile with me before she returned to her car and I continued southbound.

It has been difficult adjusting to the waning daylight in the afternoon and the later sunrise in the morning.  I was accustomed to hiking until 6 p.m. or later. Now I  want to be at a campsite well before 6 p.m., which gives me just enough time to set up camp and cook dinner before dusk approaches.

In order to maximize use of  the daylight hours, I have to start hiking around 7 or 7:30 a.m. That means I get up in the dark, when it is often still cold. I start hiking wearing  extra layers of clothes, which I take off within a few hours.

On the positive side, the fall foliage has been lovely, although not as spectacular as some years. The moon has been very bright. For several nights I noticed that its light creates shadows of leaf silhouettes on my tent roof. In the middle of the night, I have been mesmerized by the shadows. I also often hear “who cooks for you,” the call of the barred owl and sometimes the yipping  of coyotes.

Hiking in the Vermont woods is familiar and comfortable. The trails sometimes pass stone walls, stone foundations, metal artifacts, and other signs that the woods were once inhabited.

Where the trail follows an old woods road, one can “cruise,” although my cruise speed is pretty slow.

The trail also passes natural ponds and beaver ponds, which I find serene and soothing. Below is a photo of Griffith Pond, where I took a lunch break.

There have been fewer hikers on the trail than a few weeks ago, so encounters with people are a treat. As I was ascending Bromley Mountain, Lucinda recognized me. We had met recently at Zealand Falls Hut in NH, where we discovered that we were both from Vermont, and talked about the Green Mountain Club (GMC). When I saw Lucinda on the trail to Bromley Mountain, she was repainting white blazes on trees. Thank you Lucinda!

I stopped at the ski patrol hut on top of Bromley Mountain, which is open to hikers. There I met Moving On, a section hiker whom I first met on McAfee Knob and then at a hostel a few days later. Moving On was going to spend the night in the ski patrol hut, which has electricity and heat. Since it is on an open summit, the stars would be amazing. I was tempted to spend the night, but it was too early in the afternoon for me to stop. I continued on until I found a suitable stealth site.

The next day, I had planned to hike to Kelly Stand Road and spend the night at a new hostel called the Wicked Waystation. However, steady rain and temperatures below 50 degrees chilled me so much that I had to stop hiking at 1 p.m. when I arrived at the Stratton Pond Shelter.

The shelter is new and spacious, with a picnic table under a covered porch. I met Chris, the GMC caretaker. In the past, the GMC has charged a small fee at shelters with caretakers. Now no payment is required although donations are accepted.

After changing into dry clothes, I snuggled under my quilt for the afternoon. Five other hikers later arrived, including Animal, who  is also a flip flopper, and Rob, a SOBO whom I met the week before descending from the Franconia ridgeline. He is moving fast!

That night it continued to rain intermittently. It made no sense to set up my tent. For the second time on this entire trip, I spent the night in a shelter. There was one snorer, but thankfully no mice.

The next day, it rained lightly in the morning. When  I climbed up the fire tower on Stratton Mountain, there was no view due to mist and fog. The GMC caretakers at the mountain top, a couple serving for perhaps 40 years, were not there. They may have already gone home for the season.

When I arrived at Kelly Stand Road, Thais was waiting to shuttle me to her hostel. I spent a relaxing afternoon and evening at the Wicked Waystation. The hostel is new, clean, and well maintained. It has a comfortable and well-designed bunk room, private rooms, laundry room, kitchen, dining room, and living room. I was the only guest and enjoyed having the beautiful house all to myself. There was free food, locally-prepared  frozen food for sale, and a nearby, small grocery store, which carried hiker supplies. Good work Thais!

Entering Massachusetts

Two days later, I entered Massachusetts.

I trad that stealth camping is prohibited. It was too early to stop at the Sherman Brook Campsite, but  I wouldn’t be able to reach Wilbur Clearing Shelter before dusk. I decided to spend the night at the Willows Motel in Williamstown. The motel is next door to a Greek restaurant, which serves delicious food, and a Cumberland Farms. It offers free shuttles to and from the trail and provides an extensive continental breakfast, including fresh fruit. After eating a delicious breakfast, I returned to the trail.

On the way to Mt. Greylock, I enjoyed a morning snack with dayhikers Carl and Barry. Mt. Greylock has ski trails dating back to the 1930’s, when skiers would hike up. There are still no ski lifts, but there is a beautiful ski shelter, which today is for day use only.

On the summit, the War Memorial Tower provides a magnificent, 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. It’s circular stairwell reminded me of the Statue of Liberty.

Although the summit was busy with hikers, hang gliders, and visitors who arrived by car, Bascom Lodge was closed due to a staffing shortage. Not only was the cafe closed; there were also no bathrooms! What a disappointment.

I continued on to Cheshire, a town famous for producing  cheese as early as 1802.

There I stayed at the Father Tom Campsite, which provides potable water, a privy, electric outlets, and picnic tables.

Barry and Carl, the day hikers whom I met earlier, were tenting there. In addition to two NOBO section hikers, Third Wheel and OJ were also there. I had met Third Wheel, a flop flopper, at The Cabin in Andover, ME. I had met OJ, a SOBO, just south of Baxter State Park. It was so wonderful to meet up again with hikers traveling south!

The next day, I took a break when I arrived at  a beaver  pond and wetland.

I took another break when I met Carl day hiking northbound. We discussed his plans to hike the following day to Vermont.

Then I stopped in Dalton to pick up a mail resupply box. I learned that my new Topo trail runners were at the post office in Pittsfield.  I planned to zero in Pittsfield due to forecasted rain and was able to get the package held there.

As I left Dalton, I got water at Tom Levardi’s home. Tom offers free camping in his backyard and often shuttles hikers. Thank you Tom!

With all the leaves on the trail, the footpath has often become obscured. When there are old woods roads or logging roads, following the trail becomes quite confusing. I had difficulty staying on the trail out of  Dalton. That night, when Third Wheel, OJ, and I met up at the Kay Wood Shelter,  I was relieved to learn that they, too, were having difficulty following the trail.

We discussed the forecasted rain event. Third Wheel had made plans to stay in a building on the property of the Cookie Lady 2.0, on Washington Mountain Road. I am not sure if OJ planned to stay there as well. I had made a reservation at the Berkshire Inn in Pittsfield, a town not too far from the trail,  where a friend lives.

I slept well in my tent and started hiking before Third Wheel and OJ. I met a weekend hiker named V-man, sporting a Norwich University cap. His son had attended NU in VT and he was familiar with Montpelier.

Then Goldilocks and her dog River caught up to me. I followed them to Washington Mountain Road. Goldilocks, who hiked 900 miles on the AT last year, hopes to finish it this fall. Together we walked to the home of the Cookie Lady, where I waited for my friend Joan to pick me up. Before I left, Third Wheel arrived.

I am glad to be in town and being a part of Joan’s community on this rainy day.Tomorrow I will be back on the trail.

Vermud: Is The Disparaging Name Warranted?

When AT hikers learn that I am from Vermont, most complain about  muddy trails and lack of trail maintenance. I beg to differ.

After weeks of trudging through the mud and mire  of  Maine and New Hampshire, I found the trails in Vermont to be relatively dry. Of course, that changed with the steady rain last Friday, which created muddy conditions for several days. Nonetheless, the mud was never as bad as what I experienced further north. And there has been plenty of mud in Massachusetts!

In addition, unlike Maine and New Hampshire, Vermont streams and brooks have bridges across them.  Some are simple log bridges, or more sturdy wooden or metal bridges.

A few are  substantial suspension bridges.

In Vermont, I only got my feet wet once when I stepped on a wobbly rock on a tributary of Stony Brook.

In Maine, I saw piles of lumber, presumably for trail maintenance; I don’t think I ever saw a trail crew working in Maine or New Hampshire. On the other hand, in Vermont, I passed trail crews building stone steps three times—north of Cooper Lodge, north  of Clarendon Shelter, and south of Route 9.

I expect muddy conditions when I return to the trail tomorrow. Ugh.


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Comments 2

  • Dottie Rust : Oct 8th

    GMG, I was hiking this past July (helping a friend with here AT sections). We got caught in flash flooding near Big Branch shelter. Quite scary but we made it out (unlike the hiker Steady Eddie who got swept away).

    VT trails & towns sustained such damage, I renewed my GMC membership. I live in MD & have hiked lots in VT. I know the good folks in. t work hard to maintain all the trails.

    Good luck with your hiking.

  • Michele j Clark : Oct 10th

    As I’ve said before, I love hiking along with you by reading your blog. I admire your stamina and resilience…wow! What does NOBO and other acronyms mean?


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