Wetfoot and Arry, Vol. 24, Days 54-56: Stuck in the Mud

Day 54: 17.5 miles

Well, I thought we were only doing 15 miles today. Guess I can’t do simple subtraction in my head.

Good morning from the Green Mountain Hiker Hostel!

Arry and I woke up to someone taking care of the horses in the barn. I’m not sure what were doing but we heard footsteps and a horse neigh.

Arry ignored the horses. She has seen a few before. In North Carolina we ferried to Shackleford Island, or what I call the horse island, and saw some wild horses. I’m not sure if she’s simply been exposed to horses before or if, like the moose encounter we had earlier on the trail, it was so big she knew not to bother them.

First things first on a town morning. I grabbed a lovely cup of coffee. I savor the taste of black coffee in town, because I don’t make it when I camp.

Then, I made pancakes and eggs. This hostel offers make your own, unlimited pancakes, eggs and cereal!

This sign made me laugh. Helping hikers find all the tricky overlooks.

Jeff was extremely flexible and helpful. He drove me to the post office early to get my resupply box. The post office says they open at 830 a.m., but Jeff knew a trick. I guess you can pick up packages starting at 6:30 a.m.! Who knew?! By 7:10 a.m. I had my box.

Once back, I made more coffee and had a second breakfast of cereal.  Cinnamon toast crunch. I haven’t eaten cereal in forever. So much sugary goodness!

Finally my hiker hunger was abated and the trail pack and I headed out for a late start. It is always difficult to leave town.

The plan was to go about ten miles to the Stratton Pond Shelter, see how we felt, and then maybe climb Stratton.

As Jeff dropped us off at the trailhead he said Arry was the best behaved dog they’ve had all 2019 season! They are only open for one more week this year, so I think it’s alright to celebrate. She really is a great pup. I was in an extremely good mood all day because of it!

Prospect Rock and the valley overlook.

And so we set out on the magical Vermont terrain.

After a few miles we stopped for a view on Prospect Rock. The trail merged with a gravel road and as we walked we came to a gate. The gate had a most hilarious sign. It read, “If you are looking for Prospect Rock and the valley overlook, you missed it. Turn around and go 500 yards back. It will now be on your left.” And in tiny print on the bottom, because most hikers probably missed the rock and never read that far, “If you are headed to other trails, enjoy!” So sassy.

Parts of the trail were very muddy.  We’ve heard of the Vermud (Vermont mud) and I’ve reconned from NOBOs the mud is worst south of Manchester. I was getting prepared mentally for mud galore.

Vermud.

I stopped to take a picture of a good mud section, just to document. There honestly wasn’t much mud at all. Just small mud pits. Mud season is earlier in the year, more like May and June.

I heard a jump behind me as Arry performed a giant leap to stay out of the mud. She cracks me up as she must be one of few dogs that walks around puddles if she can to keep her paws clean and dry.

Yellow Bear trying to claim his shoe back from the mud.

Then I heard Yellow Bear yelp. He misstepped into the mud and his shoe sunk into the mud. When he pulled his foot out, the shoe stayed in the mud. I suppose it is a memorable mud pit I just so happened to take a picture of!

Soon we ran into Richard again! He left the hostel very early to slackpack over Stratton Mountain (he slackpacked NOBO) and was headed back to the hostel for one more night before heading down to the Massachusetts border.

Arry and me with Richard.

The ten miles to the shelter seemed to come and go extremely fast. I attribute a portion of that to the magic Vermont terrain. Before I knew it we were admiring the pond.  Some of the tree leaves had started changing, and in a few more days I can imagine this place is going to be gorgeous in fall colors.

This shelter was probably the most immaculate shelter I’ve ever seen. There were legitimate bunks, a loft, a covered patio, and a picnic table! One woman, hiking NOBO, had seen the lovely facility and decided to stay there for the rest of the day. We decided to push on three more miles up Stratton Mountain over the magic Vermont terrain. As we neared the summit the hardwood trees gave way to spruce and fir trees and it started to smell like Christmas!

View of the pond.

The view on the summit in the fire tower was amazing. You could see for miles! We saw Bromley, Greylock, and Moosilauke! The two caretakers are a couple who have been working here for 50 years! They said back in the day they used to actually stand watch in the tower for fires caused by campfires, lightning, or people burning trash.

Arry liked the older woman.

View from Stratton Mountain summit.

And then Arry saw a rabbit and that was all she cared about.

We had threeish more miles to get to our campsite off Kelly Road. Normally I don’t approve of camping near roads, but I feel safer with a group, and I think they feel safer with Arry.

The fire tower on Stratton Mountain.

It felt like we ran down the mountain’s gradual terrain, arriving camp before 6 p.m. It seems crazy to me, once we did the math, that we did 17.5 miles, with a late start and finished with plenty of daylight to make camp. I remember when it took all day to do ten or 12 miles in the White Mountains!

It is supposed to be a chilly night,  so I look forward to snuggles with Arry.

The leaves are starting to fall!

We completed over 550 miles on the trail as of today. That’s 1/4 of the AT. I’m pretty proud of the little doggo and me. When you stop and think about it, we’ve walked a long way.

Day 55: 12.5 miles

Last night Yellow Bear and Ice were concerned that by hiking only 12 miles today we would arrive at camp too early. We didn’t end up arriving at camp until after 4 p.m. It was a nice chillax day.

We started our morning routine deliberately later. Usually our go-time to start hiking is 7 a.m. But we decided to wait until 8 a.m. in anticipation of taking our time today.

Just before 10 a.m. we arrived at Story Spring Shelter. Here we planned to fill up on water, enjoy some snacks, and in general take a nice break.

Trail magic with Jen!

Story Spring Shelter is an average Vermont shelter, although it did have a nice picnic table next to the campfire pit. The spring was clear, cold and refreshing. When we arrived Jen was just starting a fire in the campfire pit. She is a doctor at an emergency room in Massachusetts. She loves hiking short hikes to close camp spots. But she enjoys relishing her time in the outdoors, fishing in lakes, making fish traps, and in general enjoying nature away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

This was her last day on vacation, she’d spent a few days in the White Mountains and various other camping locations in Vermont. Jen offered us her extra food, under the guise she didn’t want to have to carry it out. I mean, three miles is pretty far, so we did what we could to help her.

As Jen worked the fire, I told Arry to go collect sticks so we could use them to cook marshmallows.  She just looked at me. But when I left to go find a stick, she followed and then kept trying to steal mine. Eventually I found Arry her own stick so I didn’t have to use a dog-slobbered stick to cook over the fire.

I love watching Arry be a dog, whether it is chasing a stick or having the zoomies.  She loves being out in the woods. And despite the extra work and worry, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Once the fire was roaring we roasted s’mores! It was the most perfect trail magic. As I roasted my marshmallow Arry, still bent on using my stick instead of hers, kept trying to eat the stick I was using. She kept grabbing the end I was holding. I wanted to be firm with her that it was my stick, but I was laughing too hard. I had to find another suitable replacement stick.

Jen loved Arry. She shared her chicken sausage and lots of cheese with her. That dog has had some good farts tonight because of it, a small price to pay I think.

View from Kid Gore Shelter.

We spent more than an hour chatting and eating with Jen. Some people don’t realize how much the little things they do impact the people around them. Jen, your s’mores were amazing!!!

We definitely have been walking on more rough terrain recently. The mud pits have increased, as have the roots and rocks. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in the 100-Mile Wilderness and I have to remind myself I’m in Vermont. Eventually the rolling mountains I’ve grown accustomed to come back.

The miles seem to really fly as we walk and talk. This morning Ice and I chatted about the holidays, how the traditions are meaningful, and how we don’t want to miss sharing those with family.

We were soon arriving at Kid Gore Shelter! A couple we crossed paths with earlier on the trail recommended this shelter to us for  amazing sunrises. I bet it does! It appears you just have to wake up and look outside, you don’t even have to get out of your sleeping bag.

Admiring the view together.

This shelter has four double bunks, a picnic table outside, and a table inside the shelter! How cool!

The leaves are changing and from this view we could sees the reds and oranges and yellows beginning to show in the forest. It was a beautiful view.

I enjoyed sitting and just being. That has been the wonderful part about today. We knew we had plenty of time to slow down and enjoy what was around us.

This adventure has helped me learn my capabilities.  One of the things I’ve begun realizing is we can walk farther and faster than I usually plan for. And once I realized that we are capable of doing a 17-plus mile day, I realize I have more time than I thought.

Glastenbury fire tower.

So often I ran from chore to chore trying to complete everything before the end of the day. But I didn’t realize, or rather believe, I actually had time to accomplish it all. It’s very freeing to succumb to the realization that the more you know your true capabilities, the more you can be present.

When the skies began to darken and fill with clouds we left, headed toward Goddard Shelter.

Just as I have been continually impressed with Arry, more so I think Ice and Yellow Bear have been impressed. I know she will follow me until she physically cannot, and that’s why I carry her weight and make sure to always check in to see if she needs a rest, water, etc.

I haven’t had Arry wear her saddle bags since before Mahoosuc Notch, and I’m going to try my best to keep it that way. Some hikers we pass tell me to “load up that dog.” I disagree. I’d much rather be the limiting factor in how far Arry and I hike, even though it leads to Ice and Yellow Bear picking up my pack to inevitably exclaim how much heavier it is than theirs.

Foggy view on Glastenbury Mountain.

Soon we reached the summit of Glastenbury Mountain. We climbed the fire tower and had a great foggy view of the trees right in front of us. Oh well.

Our campsite for the night was only a quarter mile from the fire tower.  I was so full from all the extra  goodies from Jen that I didn’t make a full dinner tonight.

Beautiful foggy view.

It has been getting chilly once the sun sets so I made some tea while Ice, Yellow Bear, and I talked with a NOBO LT hiker. Arry snuggled on my comfy things and took a well-deserved nap.

The Massachusetts-Vermont border is on the page in my guidebook where we are camped for the night! I can’t believe we are so close! Just over 20 miles to go!

Day 56: 10.1 miles

Bennington, Vermont. Such a cute town. I can’t believe we are almost finished with this state!

Town days are way exciting. It seems like just yesterday we were in Manchester at the Green Mountain Hiker Hostel.

We woke for our normal early start. It was dark and foggy, but there was excitement and anticipation for town day. After my morning business I climbed back inside my tent just as it started to rain. Greaaat, I thought.

It cleared up about 30 minutes later but remained foggy and humid.

The Glastonbury Wilderness!

We cruised over this Vermont terrain, despite the slow accumulation of roots and rocks. We passed over Little Pond Mountain and opted to not take a .6 mile one-way detour to the summit. Besides, our guidebook said it was wooded, and we had a town to get to!

At Porcupine Ridge we stopped for a break. There was a campsite, with the fog I can only infer would have a great view.

Vermont trails.

I called Catamount Hotel, where we had reservations, at the Melville Manheim Shelter. We had just under two miles to go downhill and an hour to meet our shuttle!

We passed an older hiker. He has been sectioning for years, his goal is to summit Katahdin on his 75th birthday! Good luck! He cautioned us to watch out for the slippery rocks. And we said OK, but as I looked around I thought to myself, what rocks? I haven’t really seen rocks since we entered Vermont.

About .1 miles later we understood exactly what he meant. The climb down to RT9 was steep and full of tall rocks you had to clamber down that were made slick from the morning rain. The road was a tease. We could hear it over a mile away, and we could see it about a half mile away.

Crossing the footbridge over City Stream.

Even with a rocky descent, Vermont gave us rocky switchbacks. Although this seemed to make the road feel endlessly far away.

Eventually we picked our way down, taking our sweet time. We crossed a footbridge over City Stream and were at the road!

Three gentlemen were at the parking lot providing trail magic!

Trail magic!

While we waited for Paul, the motel owner and our shuttle driver, we chatted and eagerly consumed the snacks they had brought.

Most notably they had apple cider and apple cider doughnuts! I love fall, and everything that comes with it!

There was also a giant container of dog treats that the gentlemen were super excited to give to Arry. I took one cookie to go with us in the shuttle. One gentleman told me she was too good a dog, and brought me an entire baggie full of them for her.

Apple cider and apple cider doughnuts! It’s a fall miracle.

The motel had a small bunk room just for hikers. It had three bunks, a shower, a fridge, a coffee pot, and a TV. Everything a hiker could need.

After a hot shower I felt like a new person. As I dropped our laundry off, a flyer for Apple Barn caught my eye. Again, I love everything fall.

Paul and Grant said it was only about a half mile away, so Ice and I decided to check it out. All we had was our trusty foot express, but we were determined. As we walked who should drive by but Grant, who kindly offered us ride. When we arrived I felt overwhelmed.

Ice and me overwhelmed at the Apple Barn.

Apple Barn had syrups, cheeses, jams and jellies.  But best of all was their huge selection of fresh baked goods: whoopie pies, breads, pies, doughnuts, bundt cakes, brownies, and so much more all in maple, apple, and pumpkin flavors!

I bought enough goodies for two people! Apple Barn was amazing!

Later that night, finally full from even more food in town, I watched Parent Trap with the trail pack a little too late into the night.  Parent Trap, with Lindsay Lohan is a classic, and it being on TV was a sign.

So many delicious baked goods from the Apple Barn. And yes, I consumed them all.

Let’s just say, Vermont, you have been wonderful!

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