Rhythm of the Trail

Trail Legs!

After miles of walking through the “green tunnel” over the course of a couple of days, I’m starting to get my trail legs back. Southern Vermont has been surprisingly rocky so far and reminiscent of the AT back home in Pennsylvania. The most notable landscape features in the first few miles were some beaver ponds.

Then came the steep and rocky descent to Route 9 near Bennington. The rocks were wet from a light rain and the footing was dicey. I took it very cautiously and slow, relying heavily on my trekking poles. A fall here could derail my plans to hike the entire trail. Better to be safe.

Yep, that’s the trail. There were several sections like this in Southern Vermont.

I did take a spill near the bottom when I relaxed just a little and stepped on some loose gravel. It shook me up a bit, but fortunately I was okay.

I was feeling a bit like a novice hiker after how slowly & gingerly I took this downhill stretch, as well as the rocky climb up the other side after crossing the road. I stopped questioning myself and my abilities after talking with several AT thru-hikers at the next two shelters. They were over 1600 miles into their journey, and they were all describing a similar experience coming down that slope, with at least one of them breaking a pole there.

Fire Towers

The character of the forest changed to spruce and hemlock when I got near the top of both Glastenbury and Stratton Mountains. There was a different smell and feel to the woods here and the footing was easier. I was only too happy to set my pack down after the long sweaty climb to the top.

I climbed the fire towers at each spot and had some amazing views. Knowing it would be windy and cooler at the top, I grabbed my rain jacket to ward off the chill! My legs felt funny climbing steps spaced a consistent distance apart after all the randomness to the trail.

There is a plaque at the Stratton tower describing the early history of both the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail. Stratton Mountain is where the idea of the Long Trail was conceived by James Taylor in 1909. And later, the AT was modeled after that.

I loved seeing the forest from both the ground level and then the aerial view provided by the towers. Walking the trail provides an intimate view of the woods, while looking down on it from the towers offers a perspective on the vastness of the landscape, and an idea of how far you’ve walked and how far you have yet to travel.

Sunrise from a Shelter

So far, I’ve been alternating between using my tent and sleeping in the shelters. I tend to sleep better in my tent, but sometimes the shelter is more convenient. This section of trail is busy with both AT and LT thru-hikers sharing a 105-mile corridor of trail. So, there is often competition for space in a shelter, especially if the weather isn’t great.

Surprisingly, I had the Kid Gore Shelter to myself on Wednesday night and awoke to a spectacular sunrise from the comfort of my sleeping bag. What a start to the day!

Snowman 96 and Texas Pete

The next stop was Stratton Pond where I got the chance to swim and hang out at a large shelter with several other hikers including a family of five, with three boys aged 11, 13, and 15. They were joined for a couple of nights by an old family friend who had thru-hiked the AT in 1996. His trail name is Snowman 96. When we ran into each other the following day we found out we have much in common and made plans to connect sometime after my hike.

The conversation at the shelter was diverse and interesting, as there were comparisons between old and new equipment and techniques. Texas Pete is the trail name of the 13-year-old, and he joined the conversation with the confidence of a seasoned hiker. It was fun to see the interaction of several generations of hikers.

I left the shelter the following morning and was almost a half mile down trail when I realized I had left my fanny pack hanging on a hook at the shelter. I had no sooner turned around to walk back and retrieve it when here comes Texas Pete running down the trail in his flip-flops to hand me my pack! The trail provides…

Trail Town!

At nearly 50 miles in, I came across Prospect Rock, the first natural rocky overlook I encountered on the LT. It offered an expansive view, and down in the valley you could see Manchester Center, my first resupply town. I was almost to the road when an AT thru-hiker named Trash came up behind me. We hitched into town together to resupply, get a burger, beer, and ice cream! I could have prearranged a shuttle but didn’t want to be tied to a specific time frame for pickup. I wanted the freedom to stop to enjoy a view or take photos. I was definitely relaxing and just letting the experience unfold on its own without overthinking things. I was beginning to feel the rhythm of the Trail. And riding into town with Trash was a much better experience!

It looks like both of us could use a wardrobe makeover. As luck would have it, the Brooks Brothers store was right between the burger joint and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream!

After several days of trail food, a fresh salad would’ve been a good idea. Maybe next time….

After refueling and resupplying it was an overnight stay at the Green Mountain House hostel in Manchester Center and back on the trail today.

The outdoor decor at Green Mountain House Hostel. I may be donating a pair to the collection soon. It looks like my Altras won’t make it through the whole trip!

I’m over fifty miles in and feeling good. Next stop Sherburne Pass, where my father’s 1937 journey began. At that point I’ll have 100 miles on my boots. Hopefully I’ll be able to find access to a computer to post another trail update before retracing his footsteps.

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