North to South…an epic journey of the Long Trail…Final Days
Day 21 ~ Saturday, September 3rd, 2016 ~ 16.4 m
Yellow Deli Hostel, Rutland, VT RT4 to Clarendon Shelter
Left the Hostel at 7:25am and walked to VT4 where I hitched to the LT/AT sobo trailhead. On trail at 8:25am. Slow & steady climb up to Cooper Lodge. Many AT nobo’s slack packing VT4 to VT 103 southbound today. Hung my pack at Cooper Lodge & climbed up 0.2 to the summit of Killington Peak. Came down & had lunch inside shelter. A Meetup Group of nine are hiking sobo where we will all end up at the Clarendon Shelter. First time I am tenting out under pine trees…no shelter for me tonight! My knees and feet hurt tonight. The group of nine rolled in late…I got here at 6:00pm. Did my chores, ate Pad Thai for dinner. I passed the AT 500 mile marker today. This area has been redone since the 2011 Hurricane Irene tore things up.
Day 22 ~ Sunday, September 4th, 2016 ~ 12.6m
Clarendon Shelter to Little Rock Pond Shelter
On trail at 7:00am. I remember the climb up to Clarendon when I did the AT…Yes, it is a climb down, rocky! Today I took my time. Took several breaks. Spent a lot of time thinking about trips & classes for business. Met a father & son slack packing early today. “Big Cypress” and his wife “Moonbeam” began their AT hike on Valentines Day. (Two Peas) She fell & broke her femur bone and the son is now hiking with dad “Big Cypress” to Katadhin. “Rowdy” I believe is writing about them on his blog. Also met William “Leapfrog” from Cincinnati who is nobo on the AT. He has received gear from Roads Rivers & Trails Outfitter Store in Milford, Ohio and will be giving a presentation of his hike…
Day 23 ~ Monday, September 5th, 2016 ~ 17.8m
Little Rock Pond Shelter to Bromley Shelter
On trail at 7:25am. Good Day!
Day 24 ~ Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 ~ 12.6m
Bromley Shelter ~ Re-supply in Manchester Center ~ Stratton Pond Shelter
Hiked 2m out to VT11. Hitched into Manchester Center to Price Chopper, ate lunch at a local cafe, washed up a little at McDonalds…hitched to trailhead & back on trail by 12:00 noon. Stratton Shelter is crazy busy and full…high school group of 20 plus college group of 18 plus mother/daughter, Coach and a couple of long distance AT hikers. We moved the picnic table off of the front porch so that the college students could sleep on the porch…several tenters in the area.
Day 25 ~ Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 ~ 15.3m
Stratton Pond Shelter to Kid Gore Shelter
On trail at 7:15am. Climbed Stratton Mountain & arrived at 8:50am. Cloudy and misty but I climbed the fire tower up a few flights even though no view. Between Story Spring Shelter and Kid Gore it was very muddy, rooty and rocky. Slow moving. Saw several day hikers. In shelter with a young man who is nobo on the LT…ran into 5 today headed nobo on the Long Trail.
Day 26 ~ Thursday, September 8th, 2016 ~ 14.2m
Kid Gore Shelter to Bennington. VT (Rt 9) Autumn Inn
Up before 5:00am. Kid Gore Shelter had a beautiful sunrise. The shelter faces east. Watched the sun peak out and over the mountains. As soon as it was up I hit the trail at 6:35am. It was a 3.3 mile hike up to the Glastonbury Mountain fire tower at 3,748′. I arrived around 8:30am and had the tower all to myself. I stayed on top of over a half hour before moving on. On top I reflected on my hike, God’s provision and protection…I lifted my arms to the heavens and gave praise to God! I didn’t want to come down from the tower!
Day 27 ~ Friday, September 9th, 2016 ~ 18.1 trail miles
VT9 Bennington, VT Autumn Inn to Mass2 Williamstown, MA Williamstown Inn
When I went to have the owner of the Autumn Inn shuttle me back to the trail…a mere 4.5m…he said $15.00 to shuttle! I explained how I had asked on the phone yesterday if a shuttle to and from the trail came with staying at the Inn and I was told “yes”. He asked if his son (who picked me up the day before at TH) charged me a $10.00 fee? “No” I said…anyway…I was not going to pay $15.00 for a ride back to the trailhead so I walked out to the street to hitch hike…it was raining…a Bennington police car pulled up and asked “where I was from…going, name, etc.”. He turned around and came back and said it was not against the law to hitch but he was concerned for my safety…single, woman, all alone. He strongly advised I call a taxi! “No” I am not calling for a taxi! So I went back to the Inn and said they had to fulfill what they told me…shuttles to & from for customers staying at the Inn.
My original plan after hiking the John Muir Trail this past July was to fly out to Connecticut and hike north on the New England National Scenic Trail towards Canada…but that didn’t happen! The earlier plan was t o finish the NET to Canada…shuttle over to Vermont and hike south on the Long Trail…I already had the Handbook and maps for the Long Trail and decided I just wasn’t finished this year with hiking. I flew out to Vermont to begin a southbound hike from Canada to the Vermont/Massachusetts border and into North Adams, Mass. to finish the approximately 280 mile trek!
I could not have been happier that I made the decision to hike the LT southward starting on the Canadian border. The tough rock scrambles, rocky terrain, slippery, muddy and wet trails were in the northern first half of this trail. Doing what I considered the harder section of the trail and getting it done first allowed me to increase my mileage, hike longer and to keep on schedule once I reached the MAINE Junction just south of Horrid Mountain and Mt Abraham. Those were the last two mountains which were more difficult than the southern end of the trail beyond that point.
The trail is easy to follow and it provides numerous vistas…summiting several of the highest peaks in Vermont. Rock scrambling, climbing ladders, gaining strength and hiking the trail was such a pleasant yet challenging (like all trails) experience for me. It seems the older I get the harder the trail gets! Why is that?
As far as tenting…this was the first time that I have ever hiked from shelter to shelter on a long distance hike. It was different for me and one I had to get comfortable with…since I usually don’t like shelters! Mice, trashed at times and having other hikers sharing the same space just isn’t my thing but I soon became accustomed to it and looked forward to a dry shelter after a long day on the trail. I only pitched my tent outdoors once and that was at the Clarendon Shelter site. Needless to say I did ship home my footprint and a couple of stakes along with my Thermarest Z-lite…which I didn’t use nor did I need to carry the extra weight.
During this hike I had previously planned on four different re-supply stops. I had only shipped one re-supply box out to myself from home. It was the first stop in Johnson to pick up additional Handbook pages and some food. Johnson…Waitsfield…Rutland and Manchester Center, VT were my planned stops. Hitching into Johnson, VT wasn’t until the morning of day seven. The day before I knew I had to hike those extra miles on the trail…it was Friday and Post Offices aren’t open on Sunday’s…I knew I had to get to town Saturday morning! The PO was right next door to the local grocery store which made it convenient to purchase the rest of the food which I would need till I hiked into Waitsfield. Vermont to me has a “hippie”, laid back atmosphere. All of which I like! People are very friendly…no need to ask for a ride! Locals offered more rides than I needed! Always willing to assist a hiker! Next stop was 57 miles down the trail…Waitsfield, VT. I usually don’t anticipate taking a zero day until the day before I take a zero day! When I reached the trailhead at the end of the day approaching Waitsfield, I Googled and called a local B&B to make reservations and a shuttle. I didn’t have to wait long in the parking lot before the owner came to get me. She dropped me off at the local outfitter store in town and left. I purchased what I needed and walked quite a distance into the main section of town. She had taken my pack with her so the walking was light. When you carry a pack all day for several days you don’t know how to act without it! I went to the grocery and bought way too much food as usual! I hitched to the B&B and she allowed me to use the kitchen to prepare my dinner. On zero days I need to clean ALL of my gear, prepare my food and of course…go shopping! I love thrift stores and antique shops and there are post offices nearby in case I want to ship anything home. Which I did!
From Waitsfield to Rutland it was a 60 mile jaunt. As I got closer to Rutland and now on the Appalachian Trail, word on the trail and advise was “do not stop and stay at the Yellow Deli…all of the nobo AT hikers are there and none of them are leaving…they are there to party, etc. etc. etc…” Well that wasn’t going to stop me from going to a favorite Hostel! I gallivanted on down the trail looking forward to staying at the Hostel that I had stayed at a few years back while hiking the AT. The Hostel was completely full but I was fortunate enough to get the last bunk on the women’s side…men and women have separate quarters. The two young ladies had all of their gear strewn out all over the floor, walls, bunks, dresser…something I did myself once I got everything out of my pack! It was late and I still needed to purchase groceries and do laundry. I found a laundromat some distance away from the Hostel and getting dark I was glad another male hiker was there. I asked if he would mind waiting for me so that we could walk back to the Hostel together. Dark, unfamiliar neighborhood…he was happy to wait.
Next stop! Manchester Center…another 50 trail miles to get there. No need to stay in town…I slept in the Bromley Shelter the night before so all I had to do was hike out the next morning, hitch into town, pick up some groceries for the remainder of the trip which was 58 miles, eat lunch at a local cafe, wash up at McDonalds, then hitch back and pick up the trail and hike to Stratton Pond Shelter. It was a good day!
Two unplanned stops were in Richmond, VT and then in Bennington, VT…don’t ask me why! Neither of those stops required that I pick up extra food items, although I did! I got off the trail just for something different…and well…just to get off the trail!
It wouldn’t be Vermont without…beautiful white marble glazing the sides of the trail, maple syrup tubes draping the maple trees as they twisted throughout the forest, the distant echo of the loons and their haunting cry…sticky, gooey, you don’t want to get stuck in mud, tantalizing beaver ponds where you anticipate seeing abundant wildlife and rocky mountain vistas where you can leisurely turn around for a 360deg view! From Lake Champlain to the west which boasts her 125 miles within the Lake Champaign Valley between the Green Mountains of Vermont to the Adirondack Mountains of New York…peering north you may get a glimpse of Camel’s Hump, once called “The Sleeping Lion”, or the rocky summit of Mt Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. Then there is Killington Peak or even Jay Peak further north. Mountains and valleys with every turn…and my favorite…the glorious White Mountains of New Hampshire to the east. Caretakers on top of Camel’s Hump pointed out Mt Lafayette and Franconia Ridge which the Appalachian Trail traverses. Each time I looked to the east from any summit I would try to pinpoint the Whites! Such amazing and spectacular views…well worth the climb.
Some of my favorites…reaching “The Chin” of Mt Mansfield! Yep…I actually enjoy hiking across the open and rocky summits. I celebrate and welcome each summit after a slippery rock, no hand hold, climb to the top! Mt Mansfield, Camel’s Hump, Whiteface Mountain, Killington Peak…each with their slow, rock grabbing, ladder assist, steep, sometimes treacherous decent. I savored it all even though it was difficult at times! Another favorite is always those whom I meet on and off of the trail! Trail Angels…hikers…numerous individuals who picked me up alongside the road for a ride in to or out of town. Then there was “Coach”…that is the name I gave him. We ran into each other often. He being a section hiker just out for a small stretch. His gear was old and worn. He hadn’t backpacked in many a year. He was just out to see if he could still hike those long distances. A retired football coach but now a ski coach (or something like that)…we always greeted each other with such enthusiasm! On one particular evening he was exhausted when he reached Stratton Pond at the end of his day. I was wading in the pond, filtering water and watching the sun slip behind the clouds when he approached. He asked if I would fill his 3 liter water bladder up for him. He being too tired to move! A man with a gentle and quiet spirit. A blessing to have around and talk to. I will miss the “Coach”.
I do regret two things in which I should have done differently. One was excruciatingly painful! I had gone back down to the Stratton Pond to filter water, etc. and back at the shelter I had my dinner preparing itself. I remembered this pond when I hiked the Appalachian Trail and had fond memories of it. Each time I would find myself bathing and washing up in its cool waters. On this hike I hurried to get back up to the shelter where dinner was waiting and did not even think about the sunset in which I missed! Several of the other hikers went down to the pond to watch the spectacular setting of the sun. I was kicking myself for not going back down (something I had anticipated doing) after viewing the pictures that the others had taken! Ugh! I missed it because I was more concerned about doing my nightly chores than remembering I wanted to see the sunset that night! Another regret was on a beautiful, sunny and warm day. Two hikers were approaching me when I noticed that the younger one had a small ukulele hanging off the back of his pack. As we passed, I mentioned how probably many a hiker last night had enjoyed his ukulele concert while relaxing around a toasty campfire. He remarked that “Yes”…”There was a performance.” We said this just in passing and a few feet beyond each other, he turned around and asked if I might want to hear some tunes…that he would give me a performance right there in the middle of the trail. He tried to talk me into it…but what do you think I did? I quickly looked at my watch and announced something about the time and that I had many a mile yet to hike that day! What! As we grew further and further apart I wanted to shout out. “Wait!” “I would love to have you play and sing for me!” But I didn’t and I missed the opportunity just because I might be late at getting to my campsite that evening!
The end of my hike was drawing near. Now normally I don’t cry much but on this trip I cried and shed tears at two different locations. The first was after I had reached the Appalachian Trail portion where the two trails coincide for about 100 miles together. When I reached the famous White Rocks I couldn’t help myself. I remembered what a magical and tender moment it was and how it once again captured my mind! I remembered this section of the AT! How beautiful it was to see all of the rock cairns lining the path on which I once again tread. I lingered, gathering rocks to build a memorial, a small rock cairn formation placed amongst the others to remember my father. I quietly cried and said a prayer of gratitude for my father. A few steps beyond, I again gathered smaller stones to build a small memorial in remembrance of my grandson, Levi Joshua. Thinking of how someday I would be reunited with them both in heaven.
The other event was at the southern terminus of the Long Trail. I had completed the trail and it was an emotional moment for me. The only other time I have ever cried at the end of a hike was on top of Mt Katahdin when I finished the AT. On both hikes I wanted it to be finished…but then I didn’t. I truly wasn’t ready to end the hike. I wanted it to go on, to continue on a path where life seems so simple, free and lively. To explore the unknown, hearing, seeing and breathing in the mountains, the forests and nature! Yet, home I must travel to…all while eagerly anticipating and planning yet another adventure and another trail that I will soon wander and journey upon.
Until then…with much gratitude for you!