Vermont’s Trail Magic, Tramilys, and Towers
The Appalachian Trail is in Vermont for 150 miles. The A.T. follows the Long Trail for the first 100 miles and then splits away for the remaining 50 miles.
The first 100 miles of Vermont
After arriving in North Adams, MA I met up with Nuggets. I had met her while on a section hike last year and she was setting out for her thru-hike of the Long Trail. We coordinated dates so that we could spend 100 miles hiking together. The next morning, Nuggets and I set out along with the rest of my tramily; Lady Bird, Nav, and Bucca (Lindsey had gone home for a week). After four miles of hiking, we reached the MA/VT state line! It felt so good to have only three states left and I knew they were going to fly by.
14 miles and one adorable porcupine sighting later, I arrived at the shelter for the night. It was extremely crowded, reminiscent of Shenandoah National Park. I found Lady Bird and Nav who were set up far away from everyone else and squeezed in my tent next to them.
The next morning as I was leaving the shelter, I said hi to someone that I didn’t recognize and he introduced himself as Derek. We started talking, and I told him about our plans to hike to a fire tower in order to see sunset and sunrise. I invited him to join us and he happily agreed. That evening, Nuggets and I camped with Derek and another Long Trail hiker named Peter, along with Nav and Lady Bird. We saw a stunning sunset, the best on-trail thus far.
At 5 am, I climbed up the fire tower for sunrise but sadly the clouds blocked the view. Nav and Lady Bird took off with plans to hike 30 miles into Manchester. I decided to split this up into a 20-mile day and a 10-mile day. Throughout the morning I leap-frogged with Nuggets, Peter, and Derek. We had all made plans to stay at Stratton Pond shelter and I ended up hiking with all of them throughout the day. A Long Trail tramily had formed!
The next day, we all hiked the 10 miles to the road together. We laughed and talked the whole way even though it was raining out. At the road, a trail angel named Bagel picked us up. Nuggets had met her a few days before and Bagel had told Nuggets to call her if we needed anything. Once the four of us piled into the car, Bagel offered that we spend the night at her house. Of course, we said yes and as soon as we got to her house, she made sure we were comfortable. We showered, did laundry, and Bagel made us a yummy lunch full of fresh fruits and veggies. Bagel drove us into town where we resupplied and met back up with Nav, Lady Bird, and Bucca for dinner.
In the morning Bagel made us an amazing pancake breakfast and drove us back to the trail. When I said bye to her, I almost started crying. The generosity she had shown us over the last twelve hours was more than I had ever expected. She showed me what it meant to truly want to help someone just to do something good. Bagel is the epitome of thoughtfulness and generosity, and I will never forget her amazing act of kindness.
The next couple of days flew by as I enjoyed the lush and green scenery as well as Killington, my first 4k mountain in over 1,000 miles. The morning before the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail split, I said a sad goodbye to my Long Trail Tramily. As I headed towards Katahdin and they headed towards Canada, I reflected on how fast and easy it was to make new friends when we all shared the same goal; to hike north.
The last 50 miles of Vermont
Although the first 100 miles of Vermont were some of my favorite on the trail, I found the last 50 miles to be some of the most mentally challenging so far on my thru-hike. In particular, the last 14 miles of Vermont challenged me in a way that I had never experienced before.
On the second to last day of Vermont, I awoke to my soft alarm at 4:45 am. I switched on the red of my headlamp and packed up quickly. I started hiking at 5:30 am with lots of excitement and anticipation. My tramily was camped eight miles ahead of me and I wanted to catch back up with them. I set my goal on 10 miles before 10 am in order to keep myself motivated. Five miles in, I stopped to fill up on water and to check my watch. As long as I continued at 2.7 miles an hour, I would make my goal. With half a mile left, I heard someone behind me shout out “Sping!” I quickly whirled around. My mind didn’t want to be distracted from my goal but curiosity overtook me. Lindsey ran up to me, soon followed by Lady Bird, Nav, and Bucca.
Although I was confused about how they were behind me, I quickly realized that if I wanted to make my intended goal, I needed to keep moving. I shouted back “I am trying to do 10 before 10” and took off. Half a mile later, I reached 10 miles at 10:03 am. “Close enough,” I thought to myself as the tramily caught back up. They explained to me that they hadn’t left the shelter until after 9 am so I had passed them without even knowing it.
Happily reunited with my tramily, we stopped at a farm for a quick lunch break and nap and then kept going. The afternoon was hot and humid and the climbs were steep. I had lost the motivation from the morning and the hiking felt way harder. 23 miles into my day, I finally arrived at the shelter, exhausted. It had been over 8,000ft of elevation gain throughout the day and my legs were not having it. I hobbled over to the water source and quickly sat back down to make my daily ramen bomb. I fell asleep at 8 pm, yearning for restful sleep.
My alarm once again went off at 4:45 am but this time my goal was different. Today’s goal was to beat the heat and get into Hanover, NH for lunch. Once packed up, I left the shelter, my legs stiff and my eyes still half-closed. I started hiking, hoping that I would wake up after a couple of miles. I kept reminding myself “it’s only 14 miles into Hanover.”
After three miles, I could feel the dread sinking in. The last thing I wanted to do at that moment was hike. I looked around and saw a flat stealth spot, hesitating. What if I just set up my tent right now? At the exact moment that I was about to sit down on the ground and start crying, Nav showed up behind me. I turned to him, tears flowing down my face. He opened up his arms and gave me the biggest bear hug ever (he’s about a foot and a half taller than me so basically the best hug ever).
We walked half a mile together in silence until we found a nice place to sit down in the shade. We debated my options and decided that hiking the 10 miles into Hanover was my best option. After that, I took a break almost every mile to complain to Nav about how much I didn’t want to hike anymore. When I saw an uphill ahead of me, I would start crying, turn around and look at Nav, he would give me a hug, and then we would continue on. It continued like this for 10 miles until finally, we reached the VT/NH line.
That day was the closest I ever got to quitting the trail. I kept saying out loud “Why am I doing this? Who thought this was a good idea?” Nav always let these questions hang in the air, leaving them unanswered. Deep down, I knew my reasons for hiking the trail even though at that moment, they were clouded by pain and uncertainty.
These 14 miles were the hardest mental miles of the trail. My body was exhausted, my brain was foggy, and I couldn’t find any enjoyment in what I was doing. I am so grateful to Nav for putting up with my whining and encouraging me to keep going. He could have just passed me and kept hiking but instead, he stuck with me and slowed down for me.
Once in Hanover, we met back up with Bucca, Lindsey, and Lady Bird at a restaurant. We decided to zero the next day at a nearby Airbnb in order to relax and rest before facing our next challenge; the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
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