The Day I Hate Hiking: Long Trail, Day Eight
I wake up and leave Sterling Pond Shelter at 9 a.m. After barely an hour Sarah and John catch us. The trail descends into Smuggler’s Notch and follows a boardwalk. Sarah and Jon drive Sarah’s car into town so Jon can resupply, while I continue on.
Smuggler’s Notch is a popular destination, right on Route 108 outside of Stowe, VT. The leaves are alive with color and the boardwalk provides beautiful views and educational signs.
I hope to see Jon and Sarah again, but when you’re hiking on the trail you have to “hike your own hike.” While it would be sad if I did not meet up with them again this evening, I have to keep moving forward. This flexible, transient lifestyle on the trail is what makes meeting and reuniting with people so special; take nothing for granted on the trail.
The ascent up from Route 108 is steep, like five miles on a Stairmaster. But the Stairmaster is wet, covered in moss, and there are way too many people trying to use it at the same time as you.
Not only is today a Sunday (weekends always mean more crowded trails) but it is also the weekend of Canadian Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving occurs the second Monday of October. To say the trails are crowded is an understatement. I have to keep Dobby leashed and we are constantly stepping off the trail to accommodate hikers coming from the opposite direction. This is not only annoying but borderline overwhelming after seeing no more than five people a day for the last week and a half.
It is surprising how quickly I have become accustomed to silence and solitude, and I miss it.
Dobby and I take many breaks on our way up the north side of Mount Mansfield. Today, I do not like hiking. It’s not just the people I have to share the trail with. It’s not just the consistent climb. Today it is everything. After a day hiking with another person, having someone to talk to, today drags by. I probably stop after every mile on my way up, sometimes to eat a snack, sometimes for water, sometimes just to think about how much I hate hiking.
I reach Taft Lodge, the biggest shelter on the Long Trail, at 2:15 p.m. If the Green Mountain Club is to be believed, Taft Lodge is capable of housing 24 hikers all at once, plus the caretaker. If you ask a normal person who doesn’t like sleeping like a sardine in a can, the lodge can still probably accommodate more than 15 people comfortably. I’ve only hiked 5.5 miles today and it’s barely past lunchtime, but I am done with this day. My decision is easily swayed by the facts that Dobby is favoring his foot and if I continue on, I most likely won’t see Jon and Sarah again.
So I stop, set up my sleep system, meet the caretaker, Dylan, and make a hot lunch. Hot lunch never happens, so this is an improvement to my day.
After lunch, I cannot get warm, so I change into my sleep clothes and get into my sleeping bag. Dobby has beaten me to it, crawling under his Kelty blanket almost as soon as we arrived. I pull out my phone and use precious battery to read The Magicians on the Kindle app for the next four hours. I feel like I’m on vacation, lying here and reading for fun. Well, minus the fact that I’m so frozen I have to keep alternating which hand holds my phone outside the sleeping bag so the other can warm back up.
Jon and Sarah arrive just as the sun sets and once they’re settled we make dinner. Fresh from town, they have surprises. Skittles! Doritos! Beer! And whatever they brought for themselves. They also bring me another fuel canister, as on my last resupply I completely forgot to buy another and my current canister is dangerously low.
After dinner, Jon teaches us a card game to play with the resident deck of cards in the lodge. We play several rounds of Golf in the light of our headlamps before heading to bed.
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