Week 10 – Killington to Bennington, VT
We are getting closer to completing another state! The temperatures are starting to drop and fall is really starting to pop. We are picking up the pace and will hit our 1/4 mark soon! Here we go! Let’s continue the journey!
Day 64 (2:39pm – 6:05pm, 6.5 miles)
We woke this morning from the bed Todd so graciously provided us, and began to get ourselves ready for the day. After running some errands, saying goodbye to Rocky and Cleo, and packing our gear, Todd drove us to the trail head. He will be joining us today, for a few miles at least! As we pulled into the parking area, close to the trail head, the fog dropped in, waiting for our arrival.
We unloaded our gear, and were ready to start up the trail, SOBOs once more. As we climbed and climbed, we chatted and reminisced with Todd. He held pace with us fairly well as we arrived at the first lean-to. This is where he was going to have to turn back to return to his working life. So we introduced him to the shelter life, had a quick snack, then bid our farewells, hoping to stay in touch a little more often. It was such a joy and pleasure to catch up with him again! It has been far to long!
Free Bird and I continued hiking, pressing on to the Cooper Lodge Shelter. Many travelers along the way have warned us to avoid this shelter, but it is the only option we have for the night. We have also learned that everyone has a different perspective out here on the trail. Maybe this shelter won’t be so bad!
As night grew close, and the fog grew thicker, we arrived at our shelter. It was actually quite interesting! This is the first shelter we will be staying in that is enclosed all the way around! How neat!
We picked our bunk, opting to share one in case more people arrive, cooked our dinner, and settled in for the evening. Tonight, we will be joined by another SOBO, Kizimet. She arrived sometime after nightfall and snuggled into one of the top bunks. Goodnight for tonight!
Day 65 (8:25am – 4:30pm, 14.3 miles)
We woke, this morning, once more in the clouds. Looks as though views are not in our forecast for now. But it’s ok! Today we cross the 500 mile mark! Not quite 1/4 of the way done with the trail yet, but we are getting close! Only a few more days to go!
With blue skies above us, and soft ground below us, we will be able to cover a great deal of ground. We walked and chatted as the miles swept by. During out hiking adventures in Vermont, we’ve noticed each shelter is a little different, each one with its own charm. We took a short break at this shelter, one of the first we have seen with an actual fire place it in!
After spending some time at this gorgeous shelter, taking a small snack break, we hiked on through the woods. Suddenly, I nearly stepped upon a stone message in the trail! We are officially crossing the 500 mile mark! 50 more miles to go and we will cross our 1/4 mile mark! Exciting!
We took a short celebration at these markers, then continued on our way. The hike was gorgeous today and the trail has treated us well. We crossed railroad tracks, fields, a huge suspension bridge over a gorge; the variation goes on and on.
With only a few more miles to go, we took a short break at yet another shelter we would be passing by that day; the Clarendon Shelter . There, we met Craig, another SOBO, who we chatted with for a while as we rummaged through our snack bags. I learned that Craig had experienced a small set back with a slight injury, so I offered to take a peek. After a short review, and some suggestions and my thoughts, he had some tools to help the recovery process, and off we were again to the trail. I hope he finds some relief and recovery soon!
After a few miles, we began to smell the familiar scent of a wood fire in the distance. Could it be? Someone has a fire going at the Minerva Shelter, our resting place for the night! Perhaps we won’t be alone tonight! As we got closer, sure enough, an older man was working hard, with a great fire burning in the fire ring. As the temperatures have been dropping recently, this fire was perfect! His name was Dan, and his daughter, Becky was inside the shelter cooking dinner. We got to know them, and learned they were both thru-hiking the Long Trail as NOBOs! The Long Trail (LT) is a 275 mile trail that runs the length of Vermont! How exciting! We talked about gear, our travels, the trail, and life in general while enjoying the wonderful fire that Dan had created. After a long day of chatting, oh and hiking of course, we circled around the fire until our eyelids dropped. Then we turned in for the evening, snuggled warmly in our sleeping bags, ready for the cold night.
Day 66 (8:30am – 4:30pm, 15.1 miles)
Everyone began to stir this morning around the same time, our internal clocks synced due to our numerous mornings spent being woken by the sun. Dan rose from his sleeping bag, and after getting himself somewhat set for the morning, he got right to making a small fire. Boy are we spoiled! A fire last night and tonight! FANTASTIC!
As Free Bird and myself got ready to leave, Becky’s boyfriend suddenly waltzed up to the shelter! What a wonderful surprise! Becky and her father were going to meet him at the trailhead and have breakfasts together, but he had a better idea! He woke super early, got to the trail early, and hiked in to meet her. Very cool!
After spending some time by the fire, we needed to start on our way. So we wished them luck on their adventures on the LT and then parted ways. Little did we know, today we would enter one of the strangest areas I’ve seen yet on the trail!
The beginning of our day was easy. Nice flat terrain for a little while, before up we went. But this up was ok. Not too steep. Nice and graded. So up we went until we arrived at the White Rocks. What an odd little area!
After taking it all in, and allowing my little critters a well deserved photo opp, we continued on our way.
We spent a great deal of time walking through the woods today, something we are recognizing is normal for Vermont, and played hopscotch with Rabbit all day. It’s great to see him again! As we grew close to a road, we came upon some old items, what looked like old farming equipment, neatly stacked on a rock wall.
After waking through the green tunnel for miles, we came to a gorgeous opening onto a small lake! It is amazing how much these views are appreciated when there aren’t as many of them!
We took in all the beauty we could, then started to walk down one of the longest planked areas on the trail I’ve ever seen! It went all the way around the lake! Eventually, we parted ways from the lake and traversed across a gorgeous suspension bridge. I guess Vermont is big on those as well!
By early afternoon, we finally arrived at the shelter we planned on staying at that night, the Lost Pond Shelter. Rabbit decided to push a littler farther. I’m sure we’ll see him again!
We are joined tonight by Marshmallow (a flipflopper ending in NY), and Amy (an AWESOME bicyclist/hiker/hockey player/roller derby chick that was in the middle of her own long adventure). Tonight is going to be another COLD night, so, after being inspired by Dan’s fantastic fires from the previous night, I began to start my own. After a while of playing around and getting some embers going, Marshmallow rummaged around the campsite for larger sticks and logs, and together we got a nice fire going. Marshmallow wanted to rename me Pyro, but I think Dori is more fitting.
We all gathered around the fire, Marshmallow and I poking at it every once in a while to keep it going, then turned into our sleeping bags in the shelter to stay warm for the night. A good fire shared with great people ends another wonderful day on the AT!
Day 67 (8:08am – 4:30pm, 14.9 miles)
We made it through the cold night last night! I woke this morning to find nothing had frozen overnight. That’s good! As a precaution, I did sleep with my water filter and phone. I may have to sleep with my water bottles in the future as well. We’ll see.
Marshmallow was the first to hit the trail this morning. Free Bird, Amy and I followed shortly after. The three of us trotted through the woods, chatting the whole way. We caught up the Marshmallow and ran into Rabbit again just as we were coming to a beautiful view.
Everyone stopped at this location to take in the beautiful scenery. Then one by one, we were on our way. On and on we hiked, me, Free Bird and Amy making quite the happy trio. Eventually, we stopped for lunch at another great viewpoint, where we met Gary and his dog, Arrow. They were out doing a few days together, and Arrow really looked like he was loving it! We ate lunch and chatted with our new friends, were joined by Rabbit once more, then went on our way.
At the bottom of the mountain, Amy had to go. She was in the middle of doing a bike tour and had to continue on towards Massachusetts. She had started her adventure in Maine and would be finishing soon! How exciting! She showed us her set up on the bike, which I must add was VERY impressive with her hiking day pack squashed onto her bike, we wished eachother luck on the adventures to come, and she bid us farwell. Off she biked, following the yellow lines, into the distance, as we turned and walked down our trail lined with white blazes. I look forward to staying in touch with her. She is truly an awesome person!
Tonight we planned on staying at the cabin on the top of Bromley Mountain, but we are feeling pretty good and have heard some amazing things about a hostel in Manchester Center, VT. So I think we are going to push to town instead! We summited a few mountains, none with a view or a sign so the critters remained hidden in the pack, and then arrived at the top of Bromley, where we met two other SOBOs, Bacon and Half Mile.
I explored around the mountain too and checked out the cabin we were thinking of staying in. It was neat but I think town was a MUCH better idea. After chatting with Bacon and Half Mile, as well as a NOBO on the LT, we started our trek down the mountain, heading for Manchester Center!
As we started down, a gentleman approached us. “Have you two met a man named Marshamllow?” He asked us.
“We have!” We cheered back at him, relaying our fond memories of Marshmallow and the fire building and great conversations. This gentleman was a friend of his. Apparently, Marshmallow had friends roaming all over the mountain looking for him! They had come from all over to say hi and were waiting to give him a ride to town and share a good meal with him. So they figured they’d come up the mountain and find him, then hike back down with him!
“We last saw him on the last mountain,” we informed the kind gentleman. “He should be around soon.”
We wished him luck and continued on our way. A few minutes later, another gentleman approached us. “I’m sure you were just asked this, but did you meet a man named Marshmallow?”
We laughed and informed him we had and that he was most likely not far behind us. We wished him luck as well and, once more, continued on our way.
As we reached the bottom, walking through the parking lot, getting ready to try to hitch to town, another man got out of a pick up truck. “Excuse me ladies, but do you know. . .”
By this point we knew Marshmallow had friends all over the mountain, so we laughed, interrupting the poor man and said, “Yes, we know Marshmallow! He shouldn’t be far behind us and I think your other friends will find him soon.”
The man introduced himself as Joe and his wife, Suzanne was with him. All four of us laughed and shared stories of Marshmallow. After a while, we started to say goodbye, knowing we would have to try to hitch to town before the outfitters in town closed. We had to stop there to pick up our resupply packages, I needed to purchase a new headlamp as mine had finally quit on me, we were dying for some dinner, and we wanted to catch a ride to this amazing hostel we heard of, the Green Mountain Hostel.
“Well hang on. Let me see if the guys found Marshmallow yet. They’ll be a while so we can give you a ride to town if you like.”
Wow! We had just met them and they already seemed like old friends! We graciously accepted their offer, loaded our gear in their truck, and were off. They dropped us off at the outfitters,with plenty of time to spare, and wished us luck on our adventure. We thanked them for being our trail angels for the night and told them to say hello to Marshmallow for us.
After picked up our MANY packages, we were now on the hunt for dinner. We were informed of a wonderful Italian restaurant, which sounded perfect to me, so we lugged our packs and boxes across the street to the tiny restaurant. We walked in and grabbed a booth, plopping our packages into the empty seats next to us, as if they were our dinner dates for the evening, the ordered our meals. The looks we got in that restaurant! Haha!
After our bellies were full, we contacted the nice gentleman, Jeff, that ran the Green Mountain Hostel. He came and picked us up, bringing us back to the hostel for the night. What an amazing place!
It was crystal clean inside! The entire house was ours, he lived in another home on the property! We got a free pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, a free soda, and all the breakfast supplies needed (free) to make pancakes and coffee the next morning! Shower and laundry was free as well! This is definitely one of my favorite hostels so far! Jeff really understands hikers and is charging a more than reasonable price to stay, making sure all your needs are met out of the kindness of his heart! Trail angel! If we had the time, we would have stayed an extra night! But alas, we are on a tight schedule; Jess is going to be joining us soon and we need to get to Bennington, MA in 4 days! So for tonight, we sleep well in beds! We are showered, fed, our ice cream needs are more than met, and we are drifting off to dreamland. Goodnight!
Day 68 (9:45am – 3:30pm, 11 miles)
After a very comfortable rest in a real bed, Free Bird and I woke this morning, packed our now clean gear, and got ready to make a good breakfast with the supplies Jeff had for us. I made the coffee as Free Bird started cooking some pancakes for us. Free Bird loves cooking, and food, so I leave that to her. It’s quite a nice treat! We ate a wonderful breakfast, as Jeff chatted with us, then, fed and happy, off we went back to the trail head. Jeff dropped us off, and we started on our way.
It has come to our attention that after leaving towns, with our packs at their heaviest after a resupply, we’ve gotten in the habit of starting our adventures, somehow, miraculously, going up hill! So up we went! Up, up and away! But the terrain is considerably better, so it’s not nearly as difficult as it used to be! As we traversed up the mountain side, we ran into Bacon and Half Mile! We chatted with them briefly and learned that they would be ending their trip this year somewhere towards the end of Vermont! Bacon had been struggling with some injuries and, listening to his body, was making the wise decision to delay the remainder of his adventure. Not sure if we would see them again, we bid them farewell and continued on our way.
A short while later, right around our lunch time, we came upon the Spruce Peak Shelter. It wasn’t far off trail, so we decided that would be a perfect place to have our lunch! I should add, even though we hike 10-20 miles a day, anything more than 0.2 miles off the trail is TOO FAR for us to go! This shelter was within our limits! And what a shelter it was!
Not only was this shelter COMPLETLY closed in, but it had a stove inside as well! What luxury! The front door was a sliding wooden door! AMAZING! We happily ate our lunch, after checking out the entire shelter, secretly wishing this was our ending place for the night, as Bacon and Half Mile came waltzing up to the lean to! They, too, had the idea of making this their lunch spot! So we chatted some more, getting to know them a little better, then left on our way once more.
It is difficult to tell when you have summited a mountain out here. We are constantly in the “green tunnel” and the views are few and far between. But we were lucky enough to have one view today, somewhere at the top of a long ridge.
The remainder of our hike today was not too difficult, walking along the ridge with tiny ups and downs. Free Bird and I chatted and laughed our way through mile after mile, not realizing how far and fast we were traveling, as the minutes melted away. We were so busy having a good time and chatting, we didn’t even realize until later that evening that we had officially crossed the 1/4 mark of the entire AT! THAT is something we will have to celebrate when we get back into town!
Mid conversation, the woods began to get thinner, and we started to see blue through the trees. We had arrived at a large pond, leading to our destination for the night; the Stratton Pond Shelter. The trees parted ways and a gorgeous view of the entire pond presented itself. Sitting at this pond was another flipflopper, Odder. We chatted with him a little while, learning he, too, planned on staying at this shelter, then we made the short climb up the trail to the shelter itself.
The shelter was off trail a little ways, but it was worth it! It was large enough to hold 16 people and it had a loft you could sleep in, or you could sleep on the multitude of bunks that were inside. It also had a picnic bench under the loft; somewhere you could sit down to eat, covered from the elements. We picked our spots in the shelter, which was, at the time, nearly empty, and started getting ready for the night. I left to hang my bear bag, something that took me a solid 30 minutes to attempt to get the silly rock thrown through the tree, which eventually required the assistance of Free Bird, (we did eventually get it hung!), and we got changed for the night, bundling up a little for the chill that approached. As we were going through our nightly routine, another hiker showed up to stay with us that night. Wonderful! We chatted a little, until we were interrupted by another hiker arriving. Ok, more people! This is good. Then another, and another, until the ENTIRE SHELTER WAS PACKED! But it’s only a Tuesday! Where is everyone coming from!
Before we knew it, Odder came up with all his gear. Wait! All his gear! But I thought he had already picked a spot in the shelter! Oh no! He had no where to stay! Feeling terrible for not recognizing that his gear was not in the shelter, I tried to help him find somewhere to stay, but alas, he had to tent. A few more people showed up as well, and were left with the same dilemma.
Free Bird and I decided to avoid the crowd and cook our dinner down by the pond tonight. While down there, watching the sun drop and enjoying the colors changing in the trees, we realized there were lots of little salamanders swimming in the water, something I did not realize they did! We were joined by a few other hikers, not too many, and enjoyed a nice, quite dinner. Filled and getting sleepy, we made the short walk back up to the shelter and turned in for the evening. Tonight we stay dry and warm, surrounded by tons of fellow adventurists.
Day 69 (8:14am – 4:20pm, 15.2 miles)
Last night, we learned that most of the hikers at the shelter with us were heading in the opposite direction. While we enjoyed everyone’s company, it is good to know the trail will not be as packed as the shelter was last night! As I rolled out of my sleeping bag this morning, sniffly and stuffy, I quickly realized I had woken with a sinus infection. Well isn’t what just dandy! I had been feeling something come on for a few days, but had done everything in my power to try to avoid getting sick. Guess I failed at that one! Oh well, I will do what I can to stay healthy while on the trail. Today may prove to be a long and challenging day!
We took an early start, put our rain gear on, and hit the trail. Bacon, Half Mile, and Odder all beat us out this morning. I’m not sure we will see Odder again, but we may see Half Mile and Bacon once more.
As we started our walk along the trail, we passed a sign indicating we were on the AT and the LT. It turns out, we will be hiking a total of 105 miles of the LT. Many say the LT is a condensed version of the AT, with the northern sections significantly more difficult than the southern. Since we are hiking a significant section of the LT, both Free Bird and I are considering returning to complete the LT at some point. We shall see.
I trudged along, focusing on placing one foot in front of the other, sniffling and feeling achy with each step. When I finally felt that I could not continue on, and I needed a break, Free Bird and I found a nice spot to stop and have a lunch break. I dropped my two ton pack, and flopped onto my back on the ground, placing my feet up on a log to help reduce the ache in my feet. Laying on my back, feeling like garbage, Free Bird took the opportunity for a photo opp.
After taking a photo of her kill, and sharing s few laughs, I was revived and we ate our lunch. On we walked again, me slowly bringing up the rear. Eventually, the gap between us grew bigger and bigger and I was left alone. I was not concerned. I knew where we were heading. So I just kept going. I arrived at the Stratton Mountain lookout and climbed up the tower for a beautiful view. My critters needed an opportunity to breath the fresh air again anyways.
I sat on the top step of the tower, ready to start my decent down, and recognized that I needed to watch my head, making sure not to wail it into the floor as I descended. I took one step and tapped my head into the floor. Ok Jamie, I thought to myself, let’s not wail our head. So I carefully cleared that step and BAM! I wailed my head on the next step! UGH!!! You HAVE to be KIDDING ME! I couldn’t believe that even though I knew the floor was there, I still managed to bang my head HARD on that! UGH!
Sniffly, achy, and now having a dull headache with a bump on my head, I descended all the way down the tower and continued on my way. Eventually, I arrived at the Kid Gore Shelter, where Free Bird and Anicha (a SOBO on the LT) were setting up their gear in the shelter.
This shelter opened to a gorgeous view, but there was one downfall; the wind! It viciously blew straight into the shelter! There was nothing to stop it! We quickly realized the top bunks would be the best option, as the overhang of the roof slightly protected us from the wind. We quickly made our dinner, and got into our sleeping bags, doing our best to keep warm for the evening.
Just as we were about to fall asleep, the sun completely set and the stars shinning bright, in came two more SOBOs; Speedy and Whisper. Free Bird struck up a conversation with them, and I joined in (hidden in my sleeping bag, I may add. It was WAY too cold to come out!). After many laughs, and the two newcomers getting settled into their own sleeping bags, we all retired for the evening. Tonight will be cold, but we should be ok. Tomorrow, we will push to Bennington, Vermont. This cold is getting the best of me, and I need to get out of the elements, drink an entire gallon of orange juice, and take a night cap of Nyquil. Until then, I will keep plodding on.
Day 70 (8am – 3:30pm, 14.6 miles)
I woke feeling a little better this morning, but still not terrific. I know once I get into town, and get the medicine and vitamin C that I need, I will start to feel better. So let’s get this show on the road.
We started on our way, opting to cook our breakfast on the trail; the shelter was just too cold and windy! Anicha beat us out of the shelter this morning, and as we ate our breakfast on the trail, Speedy and Whisper went racing past us. For the rest of the day, we played hopscotch with Speedy and Whisper, until they turned on their boosters and were off into the distance. We did not get to see them again today, but we did catch Anicha.
Anicha has been averaging 10 miles a day and plans on hiking past the end of the LT, continuing on the AT until he reaches Massachusettes. He hiked with us the remainder of the day, and we bid him farewell at the shelter a few miles away from the trail head near Bennington. We hope we get to see Anicha, Speedy, and Whisper again!
As we neared the trail head, we were approached by a man with an amazing walking cane. “Are you two thru-hikers?” He asked.
“Excellent! I’m a Trail Angel!” He instantly spun on his heels and headed down the trail with us. His trail name was Onesimus. He travels in his RV along the trail, providing hikers with Trail Magic! We chatted for a while, talking about the different thru-hikers we both knew. He provided us with sodas, ice cream, and great conversation. The amazing walking stick he carried, he had whittled various critters for, and attached them around the entire stick. It was beautiful! He also showed us a bear in a kayak that he was working on. We felt blessed that he shared these treasures with us! As the time ticked by, we recognized we needed to catch a ride to town in time to get medicine and check into our hotel. So we thanked him for his hospitality, the trail magic, and his company, and headed for the road as he hiked back up the trail, in search of more thru-hikers. We stood on the road, attempting to hitch a ride, and after 15-20 minutes, we were finally able to catch a ride to town!
We checked into our hotel and got ourselves cleaned up and comfortable. We will be staying in this hotel tomorrow as well, waiting for my best friend, Jess, to arrive. Jess will be joining us to hike for a few days. We also waited for Dan, an old college buddy and former bandmate, to join us. He is our ride to Cheshire, MA, where we plan to begin our hike as NOBOs for a few days! The game plan, once they both arrive, is to get dropped of in Cheshire, MA, and hike north back to Bennington, VT. Then Jess will drive us back to Cheshire, where Free Bird and I will continue our journey as SOBOs once again (in case that isn’t confusing enough!).
Once we were dressed and ready to go, we ate dinner at a great restaurant (where we once again ran into Half Mile and Bacon!), then went to the local pharmacy for medicine, tissues, orange juice, and various other items. One our long walk back to the hotel, we crossed a bridge over a small brook. There, standing in the middle of the brook, was a heron! How beautiful! We stopped and watched it stalking some fish for a while.
For the remainder of tonight, we will just rest. Thank god! I need that!
We are almost done with Vermont and will be heading into Massachusetts in a few days! The states are starting to peel by. Our pace has increased and the miles are shedding off us, as well as the pounds. I hope you continue to enjoy following our journey as we work our way to Georgia!
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