One Week (and One Toenail) Down: Long Trail Update
After my first entire week hiking North on the Long Trail, I’ve still got 90 percent of my toenails and it feels like a lifestyle. It’s weird how quickly I’ve gotten used to getting up, putting in miles, and just plain surviving. My body hates me, but I haven’t come this far to only come this far.
Day 6: Peru Peak Shelter to Greenwall Shelter (about 15 miles)
Saving the big climbs for the morning has been a bold strategy of ours (let’s see if it pays off). In true form, we climbed Baker Peak first thing in the morning. It was a rocky scramble—the first time on the Long Trail I’ve had to put away my trekking poles and use my hands—with a spectacular payoff. The view was incredible! At the top, we met two ladies going SOBO who told us that we would be coming up to their favorite lunch spot on the whole trail: Little Rock Pond.
We still had a few hours until lunch time, so we decided to wait until we found this legendary lunch spot. Along the way, we were gifted some of the easiest trail we’d seen thus far. It was flat, covered in pine needles (easy on the feet) and relatively root- and rock-free. We crossed Big Branch Stream soon after and were impressed by how clear and beautiful the water looked. We filled up our bottles here with cold, crisp mountain water, but we still filtered it just in case.
By the time we made it to Little Rock Pond, I was feeling a bit hangry—it took longer than anticipated and we ate around 2. But the pond was indeed gorgeous, and the tiny island in the middle looked so inviting. Salamanders swam near the shore and I loved watching them while I ate my cheese and pepperoni tortilla roll-up and Pop Tarts (a killer combo).
The highlight of the day wasn’t the pond, though. My favorite thing I’ve seen so far on the trail was the spruce-fir forest near White Rocks Junction. It felt like I was walking though a Christmas tree farm! Little spruces and firs lined the trail as if waiting for someone to decorate them with ornaments. It smelled like a Yankee Candle and even the sound was deadened, like we’d somehow been transported into another dimension.
To make it even more ethereal, a few rock gardens had been constructed with hundreds of cairns, making for a strange but not unwelcome sight. As the Guthook comments said, the gnomes and fairies have definitely been busy. We took a few photos and carried on to Greenwall Shelter, where I hung a pretty good bear bag if I do say so myself.
Day 7: Greenwall Shelter to Clarendon Shelter (about 9 and a half miles)
Bartman needed to pick up a mail drop in Wallingford today and I followed, which makes us official hiking partners I guess? Our plans have sort of molded to fit that of the other: I’m on a fast track to finish because I have a hard stop on October 11, where Bartman doesn’t have a time limit. But, since he’s been hiking with me, he says he’s been moving quicker than he expected and isn’t mad about it. We both want to hike together the whole way, if possible.
So, instead of waiting until Rutland for a second resupply like I’d originally planned, I grabbed 7 days of food at the Family Dollar, which should last me until Waitsfield. Again, our hitch hiking experience was pretty easy. This time we waited a bit longer, but no more than 15 minutes until a group of section hikers pulled into the parking lot where we were waiting. They were dropping off a car and driving up to Killington, hiking South, so they brought us into town on their way.
While in town, we ate a fantastic brunch at a cafe that let us charge our phones and battery packs at the bar while we ate. Eggs Benedict for me and corned beef hash for Bartman had us feeling full and happy before hitching back to the trail. Luckily, another pair of section hikers were heading up to our very same parking lot to start their hike, so they gave us a ride.
Since it was almost noon by the time we got back on trail, we planned to stay at Clarendon Shelter, which was 7.8 miles away. Most of the afternoon passed without incident; a few climbs and a nice view of the Rutland Airport, which was a little strange to see but surrounded by beautiful foliage nonetheless. The climb up to the shelter was brutal (and I was definitely sweating hollandaise sauce) but shorter mileage led to an early arrival to camp and the weather was perfect.
I still had a few hours of sunlight left, which meant I could do a little camp laundry. I washed my hiking outfit (my socks had gone completely stiff) and even washed my hair, which was badly in need of it after sweating for 7 days. I soaked my feet in the cool stream and it felt like sweet relief. I’m definitely leaving a few more toenails out on the Long Trail before I’m done…
Feeling cleaner than I’ve felt since I left about a week ago now, I think I’m ready for the trail to get more difficult. The big climbs are all ahead of us, but the trail legs are kicking in and I’m determined. Come at me, Long Trail.
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