If you’re reading this now, you might be wondering where Andrea and I disappeared to… No, we didn’t fall off the trail. We were not eaten by bears or kidnapped by Vermont hippies. In reality, I experienced technological difficulties and couldn’t post to the blog! Bummer! Well, here’s the rest of the LT story, just a little later!
So much has happened in the past 4 days it seems…left Killington, some rain, some cold, some sun. Split off from the AT. It’s just the LT from here in north. Met lots of LTers and other hikers. Survived crazy winds and near hypothermic conditions, met hippies having a rainbow festival, spent a night in lil Hancock, ate fresh eggs, hitched many rides, met my parents (Nancy and Charlie), and ran into Erin and Kevin from the seacoast…
Sat June 27
Serious procrastination. Threat of rain makes us want to stay in Killington forever. Andrea and I eat full breakfast involving eggs, french toast, and real coffee. We finally muster the energy to leave our cozy nook at the Inn at Long Trail somewhere around 10 am.
We hitch the 1 mile back down to the real trail (there’s a shortcut we could have taken to and from the Inn, but at Andrea’s purist prompting, we hike the actual trail). Quickly we arrive at the Maine Junction – the point where the LT and AT split! East to the AT which will lead through New Hampshire and Maine, and north to the LT which will lead us to Canada.
We’re sad to leave our AT friends and the company of the more well traveled trail. Immediately the LT feels less well traveled. It’s carpeted by more leaves and there’s much less erosion. Past Tucker Johnson former shelter site (it burned down and hasn’t yet been rebuilt), and past Rolston Rest.
It seems like ages before we see another person. But finally… a group of hikers that tell us of other northbound LT hikers! Allegedly “Flute” and Emily are ahead of us. We should catch them soon.
We hike along the side of a mountain, the least exciting stretch of trail so far. We’re annoyed. Well, Andrea is really annoyed, I’m kind of annoyed. Past Chittendon Reservoir and down into Telephone Gap. Where we catch up to our first LT northbounder – Emily! She’s hiking with a pal. And she’s super unfriendly. I approach with giddy excitement to have a new friend but am totally shut down. We think maybe she’s having a bad day? but eagerly anticipate beating her as to Canada, where we will obviously win the unspoken race. Can’t wait!
Fear of rain makes us quit hiking early. It’s 7 miles between shelters so we pull off at the New Boston Trail and after a short walk are at the David Logan Shelter, where we meet our other new LT friend – Mary! aka, “Flute”. She’s about 60-ish and hilarious, filled with stories about previous hikes and her life in rural Idaho. The shelter is nice with a picnic table in the middle and a fence around the front. After some time a couple and their dog Tukka join us. We chat over dinner. Rain starts at night…
Sun June 28
Wake at 7. Lots of wind. Not tons of rain, but enough. A mouse ravenously ate a can of nuts in the middle of the night and Andrea battled it with her headlamp. I slept through all of it.
Oatmeal with maple syrup (yes, I found packets of real VT maple syrup!) and coffee. Procrastination. The couple and their dog leave, donned in head to toe raingear. Mary yells at the rain. She hates the rain and leaves in a huff. She hollers to me and Andrea, “If I’m going out, you’re going out!”. Can’t argue with that. Besides, the rain shows now signs of slowing, so we may as well get it over with.
Ugh fine. Hiking in the rain. The poncho holds up well. There’s some rain, but mostly there’s wind and it’s loud. I’m a bit afraid of toppling trees (we heard several crack down while waiting in the safety of the shelter). Through Wetmore Gap and Bloodroot Gap where we have a windy encounter with a mama grouse and her chicks. In typical grouse fashion, upon being startled the mama fakes an injury to get our attention while her chicks scatter to the wind. Well, in the wind they really did – flying and gusting in all directions. We feel terrible and hope they find their way back to mama grouse.
Through Bloodroot Gap to Sunrise Shelter. Here we find Mary and another hiker – a guy in his 30’s maybe, very quiet, with an eerie stare – we dub him “Crazy Eyes”. Mary is exhaused by the rain and calling it quits for the day. She may take the day off tomorrow in town and we hope she does. We warm up at the shelter – refuel with snacks and warm drinks of tea, nuun, and hot chocolate. Then back on the trail!
On to Brandon Gap where the road goes through. Very windy. Up Mt Horrid. Man, is it ever horrid. Seriously. VERY windy. Like hurricane windy. No joke. We’re pelted by rain. The right sides of our body are soaked. Up Gillespie Peak. We don’t speak of it, but each of us look on solemnly in horror as strong gusts of wind push the trees over and the root systems lift entire sections of earth and trail. Fingers crossed! Well we survive and make it down to Sucker Brook shelter. Downhill to Middlebury Gap from here, right? Wrong! Up another mountain! Um, no. Not doing it. Our options are: stay here, soaked and cold and miserable or hike out the 1 mile Sucker Brook spur trail where we’ll either hitch a ride or (more likely) hike 4 miles parallel to the LT until we reach the Main Road. Yes, hike out and get a warm bed, shower, and dry out in Hitchcock!
We hike out. When the trail meets the road, we see a big blue tarp lean-to, a pickup truck, and a small bonfire. Huh? We round the tarp and an older guy in his 60’s with waist-long dreads and a Grateful Dead tie-dye t-shirt jumps a little, “Oh, I didn’t recognize you” he says. He was expecting someone else apparently.He tells us we just missed a ride. Damn. He’s setting up for a Rainbow Festival and invites us to hang out. He’s holding a bag full of prescription pill bottles.
Andrea: “What’s a Rainbow Festival?”
Hippy: “Oh well we’re just bunch of hippies. We get together for 7 days and hang out and talk. We love the earth. And you – you’re hiking, right? – well you obviously love the earth, too. We talk about the earth and ideas. We share our ideas. You should stay. Or come back. Have dinner. We’ll talk. You’ll share your ideas and we’ll share ours.”
Andrea: “We’re going to town to get out of the rain.”
And we were off. Four miles of flat on USFS 67. A 17.7 mile day in the rain. Not bad. We reach the road at last. Few cars. After 5 or 10 minutes an SUV stops in the middle of the road for us. We catch up and are trying to take off our drenched gear as another car approaches. “Just get in!” the Asian girl in her 20’s says. She’s a student at the Breadloaf School, which is part of the Middlebury College campus where summer classes are held for 5 or 6 weeks, after a few years the students earn their masters in English.
She drops us off at the Gathering Inn in Hancock – hostel-like in an old farmhouse where a handful of other Breadloaf students are staying. Cathleen runs the place. She has a bunch of cats and shows us the kitchen and fresh eggs (from the chickens in the backyard) that we can use to make breakfast. We pay our $35 each, leaving $8 in cash between the two of us. We try to get dinner from the Hancock Hotel, the one restaurant in town. But we can’t, they’re cash only and we don’t have enough! No worries, we cook our trail food – beans and cheese and rice, and add fresh eggs. We dry our things and sleep well in beds, warm and out of the rain.
Mon June 29
We hiked 5.2 miles today!
We eat fresh eggs for breakfast and hitch a ride with another Breadloaf student (they’re everywhere!) to where the LT crosses at Middlebury Gap. We hike up Burnt Hill, Kirby Peak, Mt Boyce, to Skyline Lodge. No rain. But the trees are soaked with rain. And overgrown. The trail is narrow. And it’s cold outside. We’re moving slowly over the technical terrain – wet rocks and roots.
We get to Skyline Lodge – a, get ready, 4 sided shelter! Yes, 4 sides! We’re soaked and freezing. We change into dry clothes. Still cold. Eat food. Still cold. Drink hot nuun and hot cocoa. Still cold. Climb into our sleeping bags. Still cold. Okay, we should stay a while and warm up…
Another hiker, Maggie a young section-hiker from New York shows up and goes through the same warm-up motions that we’ve already endured. Then another hiker approaches…who is it? None other than icy Emily! Will we be friends or foes?
So turns out Emily is cool. Race truce. Emily warms up too. We’re all cozy here. We can’t imagine leaving now just so we can put on wet, cold clothes and socks and shoes and push through drenched trees to the next shelter…so we stay. We’ll just hike more miles tomorrow. It might clear tomorrow, too. And warmer. Mac and cheese for dinner. Asleep at 8:30.
Tues June 30
We wake at 5:30 to clear skies and sun! Amazing! Beautiful sunrisey views of Skylight Pond. We pack up and hike out around 7.
From Skyline Lodge to Emily Proctor Shelter, over Mt Roosevelt, Mt Cleveland, Mt Grant, to Sunset Ledge and Lincoln Gap. We run into a middle-aged man, Dean Scutter, hiking his annual 5 day hike on the LT. We chat.
About 10 miles in, a mile or so from the road, the skies begin to darken. We meet my parents, Nancy and Charlie, on the trail at Sunset Ledge. We hike down to the car together and hop in. Just as the skies open up and the rain begins. Great timing.
We have a great in-town stop in Waitsfield then Waterbury then Warren VT. We take the rest of the day off. First laundry, then the Ben and Jerry’s factory for ice cream, Prohibition Pig for a burger and salad and beer where we run into Erin and Kevin from NH – unexpected and great to see them.
N&C drop us off at the Hostel Tevere in Warren (an unexpectedly amazing hostel). So great to see N&C! We’re also stocked with our new goods that they were so generous to pick up for us – a real inflatable sleeping pad for Andrea, and new (waterproof!) shoes for me. We walk to Mac’s Convenience Store for the essentials: cheese, maple syrup, and shampoo. We yogi a ride back (talk a guy into giving us a ride) and in doing so avert a huge downpour. Time for a shower and beer.