Over the Hump!
Zero Number One!
Following an almost 16-mile day to the base of Camel’s Hump, Michele and I decided to take our first zero day of the trail. My family was still in town and rented us a room at the Comfort Suites in South Burlington where we lounged, iced joints, and ate town food. (For the purpose of continuity, I will be writing a separate post covering towns, lodging, and restaurants along the trail.)
We emerged from town after a day off the trail, fully rested and slightly less sore, with three days of resupply and the last difficult section of the trail left to conquer. My family was headed back to Indiana, so we said our goodbyes and got a photo before Michele and I headed back into the wilderness.
A quick glance at Guthook revealed that we were in for a long, slow climb up from approximately 350 feet to over 4,000 feet during the six-mile ascent. The elevation gain per mile was not intimidating, but the length of the climb did not look enjoyable.
Thankfully, water was plentiful, the climb was broken up by ledges with pristine views, and we were in good spirits from a nice day off!
Camel’s Hump Mounted
Four hours after leaving the parking lot (which included several breaks for snacks and hydration), we arrived at our second 4,000-footer on the Long Trail SOBO, and our last hard section of trail was coming to an end!
Michele and I ate lunch on top of Camel’s Hump and admired the views that bald summits have to offer. Tortillas, tuna, and Cheezits were on the menu, while swatting away the continuous cloud of flies and gnats that continued to chase us south.
With seven miles left to our destination for the night, we packed up and enjoyed a fun descent down toward Montclair Glen Lodge.
Montclair Lodge Shelter Tomfoolery
The descent off Camel’s hump complete, we arrived at another GMC pay-for-stay shelter. Several other hikers were there filtering water and getting ready to cook dinner. Since it was almost 6 p.m., Michele and I debated staying the night and having a bigger day tomorrow. One of the NOBO LT hikers suggested we consider staying the night or at least cutting our day a few miles short since the most technical section she had experienced yet was coming up (the caretaker echoed her warning and said it would be treacherous at night). We asked the caretaker if we could set up the hammock instead of staying in the shelter (we would still pay the fee, of course), but he said the only time they allow it is if the shelter is full. We promised to behave and hang with care (as we always do), but the caretaker, who seemed less sure of the rules now, checked some signage on the door and said something about damaging trees, so we packed up and moved on.
After a quick 2.6 miles over Mount Ethan Allan, we found a nice little spot to set up the hammock near Shepard Brook and decided to tackle the “most technical section of trail” at first light.
Tricked Again We Were!
After a glorious night’s sleep in the hammock, we made breakfast and prepared for an entertaining morning full of technical climbing with ladders and ropes. The Guthook description and the one comment on the “Ladder Ravine” section seemed to confirm it would be a difficult ravine to climb into and out of.
We made jokes the entire way to the section, but similar to the SOBO climb out of Taylor Lodge over Bolton Mountain, we were disappointed at the significant over exaggeration. The section included one ladder that was attached firmly to the rock, and one steeper climb up the side of the hill (which even included a rope to hold if you’re coming north.)
Appalachian Gap to our home for the night… in a thunderstorm, of course
We bounded the rest of the way down to Appalachian Gap, where we were met with torrential downpours complete with lighting and ground-shaking thunder. To be fair, we had checked the weather reports and even discussed the incoming front with some section hikers at Birch Glen Lodge, but we arrived at the road crossing just in time for the deluge to begin.
Since we were in relative safety (the bottom of the mountain, on the opposite side the storm was moving and under significant tree cover), we waited out the worst of it with pack covers and rain jackets donned. We knew there was a break between bands of storms and that we would likely have enough time to make the two-mile climb out of Appalachian Gap to the Theron Dean Shelter, so once the lightning passed, we flew up the mountain.
We arrived at the shelter just as the second band of storms crashed in and the skies opened up once again. This rain was to our benefit, as the shelter we intended to stay at relied on rainwater collection for the water supply, and we heard from several people that it was dry the day before. We waited until the second band passed before heading up to Stark’s Nest for the night.
The rest of the climb was a mix of fun rebar climbs, soggy root-entangled steps, and ski slope views. We got to Stark’s Nest before nightfall and had the place to ourselves all night. A warming hut in the winter, Stark’s Nest is kept open by the Mad River Glen ski area for hikers to use during the summer months. We greatly appreciated the secure shelter as several additional storms rolled through overnight, which shook the walls of the large building.
We made dinner, hung clothes to dry, watched a few episodes of Stranger Things on my phone (Michele is still on season one), and settled in for the night.
As the night drew to a close, we had some awesome hiking days, a warm and dry shelter for the night, and a picturesque view of Camel’s Hump framed by the Stark’s Nest foliage.
Next up: we summit another mountain in a storm, investigate a new hostel in Warren, and plan for some off-the-trail surprises!
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