Wetfoot and Arry, Vol. 22, Days 49-51: I Walked 500 Miles

Day 49: 0.0

After a hot shower I started to feel more like a human. Next on the list was dinner at the pub.  I walked into the restaurant alone, and walked out surrounded by friends.

I sat by the bar nursing a delicious Guinness and happened to begin chatting with Jonathon and Charlie, who were hiking the Vermont Long Trail. Charlie had slipped earlier that morning on the mud and had a few stitches on his face. I told him he should take the trail name ScarFace. They were taking a zero day as well to replan their upcoming itinerary.

Guinness time! At McGrath’s Irish Pub at the Inn at the Long Trail.

The LT was created before the AT, 272 miles from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border. The southern 105 of those easier, les- muddy miles are now shared with the AT.

After filling my belly with delicious cheesecake I curled up with Arry on our lush couch in our spacious suite and watched a Friends marathon until my eyes grew dreary.

I contemplated sleeping on the couch. But I had two beds in the bedroom, so I figured I might as well use as much of the space I was paying for as possible.

The next morning I woke with plans to do as little as possible. Most zero days in the past I walked miles around town, running errands, going to restaurants, etc.  While those miles were flat and without extra weight I was excited to have a day when I legitimately only had to walk from my room to the restaurant/pub and back two times. Maybe a total of about 400 meters, a quarter mile. A true zero in my book!

Arry enjoying her comfy couch.

Breakfast was delicious and came with the room. The awesome part about the Inn at the Long Trail, besides the filling, scrumptious food, was the hiker culture. Nowhere else had I walked into somewhere completely by myself, and been invited to sit at a table with fellow hikers.

There weren’t any other AT hikers I met. The NOBOs were farther north, and the SOBOs were mostly farther south, but LT season was just beginning!

After coffee, eggs, pancakes (and some sausage for Arry!), I was content to snuggle with Arry and watch the storm from the safe confines of my suite.

I left the room to fill my water bottles from the spigot out back, as I couldn’t fit them under the faucet in my bathroom, but that was the only time I left before dinner.

The inn is rich in culture and history.

About 2 p.m. I grew disheartened. I was looking to make tea, and unable to find a microwave to heat water. At dinner when I told Jonathon and Charlie the great struggles of my day they asked why I didn’t simply use my Jetboil. Oops.

Today’s rest did Arry and me both some good. New Hampshire took a toll on us both, and I feel physically and mentally refreshed.

Day 50: 12.5 miles

We are almost to 500 miles! We’re camped at 499.6 tonight! So close!

After a much-needed full day of doing absolutely nothing, I was ready to hit the trail this morning. Well, after another delicious breakfast!

This morning I headed into the main lodge a few minutes early to grab a pre-breakfast coffee. As I sipped I skimmed a book about the history of the LT. It is interesting how the hiker culture has changed and adapted over the years. When hiking first became popular they built lodges and shelters complete with wood stoves inside. Hikers would hike out, usually with canned food they would heat directly on the stove, and have a nice warm place for the night.

After the Second World War, the number of hikers increased and it became evident the toll this pattern of camping had on the environment. Wood once abundant was now scarce around shelter sites, alpine growth had turned to mud from constantly being trampled, food scraps and trash were littered everywhere, and water could no longer always be assumed clean.

Back on the beautiful Vermont trail.

The hiking community began encouraging hikers to carry portable stoves, eventually removing the wood stoves completely, which probably helped decrease the number of shelters that burned down. They dug up and removed trash pits and began the practice of carrying out all trash. Additionally, the beds used to be lined with fir boughs; now hikers were required to bring their own sleeping mats. Food changed too as cans were deemed too heavy and not worth carrying anymore.

I think one of the big enablers for this culture shift has been technology helping create lighter versions one person could now carry easily. Now, trails are regrowing, and we can enjoy the scenery while continuing to preserve it.

OK, end of the morning history lesson.

After breakfast I met up with Yellow Bear and met Ice. Ice is a biomedical engineer who took a few days off after completing the White Mountains. She had hiked with Yellow Bear previously, and we were both excited to finally hike with another female.

We climbed back up Shelburne Pass and back onto the AT! We crossed busy RT4 and a few streams, eventually taking a break at Churchill Scott Shelter.

The terrain in Vermont so far is what one typically envisions hiking conditions to be. The trail is mostly smooth, with gradual elevation changes.

Cooper Lodge, near Killington peak.

I have begun to notice more leaves were starting to change and fall, as they begin to line the trail.

While the elevation profile in my guidebook looks steep, it seemed like we came upon Cooper Lodge before very long at all! This shelter, while rundown, looked unique. It was a four-sided stone cabin-thing, with what looked like four, two-man bunks.

Killington looks much different without snow!

Arry and I scrambled .2 miles up the side trail to the summit of Killington. It was a beautiful view. And hard to imagine covered with snow in the winter! The last time I stood here on Killington’s summit I had arrived there by gondola, the ground was covered in snow, and skis were attached to my feet! I’ll be back someday in those conditions again I promised myself.

As we descended Killington, there was a small section full of rocks and roots that reminded me of the 100-Mile Wilderness! But after about a half mile the trail returned to the “normal” nice Vermont trail I have been getting used to.

Yellow Bear and Arry playing stick as we took a break.

The Governor Clement Shelter is the second-oldest shelter on the AT in Vermont! It is a three-sided stone lean-to, and still has a fireplace! Very cool.

I like keeping Arry in a four-sided enclosure at night, especially with the plethora of signs warning of abundant populations of porcupines in the area. I’m sure she wouldn’t leave my side, but we’re sleeping close to Sargent Brook, to be lulled to sleep by the sweet gurgle of moving water.

Sargent Brook.

As I set the tent up,  I realized it has been a few nights since we’ve slept in here. But tonight we are home sweet home!

Day 51: 14.9 miles

Five hundred miles complete! What a huge milestone for the little doggo and me!

Arry and I walked 500 miles!

We passed the stick marker very early in the morning. The more permanent one was a bit farther on. I can only guess it was placed there and then the trail was rerouted longer.

Today was filled with many road crossings, some gnarlier terrain, and trail magic!

We sped through that nice-Vermont terrain until I started getting lost on a rock scramble. It was one of those sections where many hikers previously had made their own paths, so you had to constantly be observing where you were stepping to stay on trail.  There was a small view as a reward from the top.

Not long after, we reached the gorge. There we picked our way down steep rocks; despite the challenge it was still easier than many of the descents in the Whites, I thought.

Arry enjoying the view.

We crossed a suspension bridge and had a beautiful view of the gorge! There was even a cooler full of cookies and sodas for hikers! Yummmmm!

Years ago I drank soda; in fact my girlfriends and I used to drink way too much Mountain Dew at every sleepover. As we grew older we became more health conscious and I haven’t really drank soda in years. Now that I’m hiking all day, the cold, excessive sugar is delicious. While I’m not going to get back in the habit, it is a delicious treat!

We stopped for lunch at the Minerva Hinchey Shelter. She was the recording secretary for the Green Mountain Club for 22 years!

The shelters along the long trail are so unique! I really enjoy visiting these shelters because they have so much personality. This one had a table inside.

From there we climbed Bear Mountain. At one point I saw a blue blaze for “Domed Ledge Vista .1 mile.” I almost went down the trail but I refrained. The guidebook says there is no longer a view. I saved myself some steps!

Crossing the suspension bridge.

As we passed a parking lot and began the final ascent to Greenwall Shelter, where we planned to spend the night, Ice, Yellow Bear, and I debated whether we should press onward to Little Rock Pond Shelter. We had heard great things about it from some NOBOs. We decided to hike to the cutoff trail and make a decision there; go with the flow, and listen to our bodies.

As Greenwall didn’t have a water source, to be prepared we stopped and topped off on water at a spring .8 miles away and climbed the rest of the way to the shelter, weighed down with the extra weight. At the cutoff trail the consensus was to stay.

The entire time I weighed pressing on or ending early (it was barely 3 p.m.). Arry looked like she was starting to get tired and I didn’t want to, I couldn’t, ask her to overexert herself. Besides, even if Rock Pond was a nice shelter we would all tent anyway. We would enjoy it more taking a break there tomorrow morning.

Arry enjoying the view of the gorge. Sometimes I think she thinks there’s something in the water when it keeps making noises.

And so we called it a night.  A chilly night.

Arry curled up immediately and took a nap. After a quick power nap she then dashed around the campsite making sure it was safe and then looked for chipmunks.

When you hike with a dog, the hike isn’t yours. At the cutoff I could have continued, but that would not have been fair to Arry. I knew from the beginning I would have to accept putting her needs ahead of my own. Her nap solidified in my mind that I had made the right decision to stay. I’m glad she had the energy and drive to enjoy our campsite tonight too; it makes me happy she is having fun on this trip.

Break time at Minerva Hinchey Shelter.

You know, having a trail family is nice. Arry and I hiked with Yellow Bear and Ice basically all day. It is nice to have companionship and people to talk to. Sometimes I felt rushed as I adjusted to hiking with others and their consistent paces.

I’ve noticed that Arry and I hike fast, but not consistently.  Often we will stop for Arry to smell something, or for me to take a picture. We usually start in front and end up falling behind, then catch up, then fall behind again. Although I’ve noticed that later in the day Ice and Yellow Bear are content to use Arry’s sniff breaks as an excuse to also take a break.

I’ve also noticed I’m more content to take more long breaks when hiking with them. Perhaps part of the reason is Arry enjoys hiking with a pack, and now that we are more pack-like it is easier for her to accept the pack is taking a break than when it was only me, keeping her from smelling the upcoming scents.

Here’s to a chilly night and my tent warmer!

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