50 SHADES OF BROWN

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50 SHADES OF BROWN

An ode to the Long Swamp Trail

1. Mud

2. Trees

3. Roots

4. Rocks

5. Moose poop

6. Moose

7. Squirrels

8. Chipmonks

9. Bears

10. Dirt

11. Swamps

12. People poop

13. Coffee

14. Chocolate

15. Oatmeal

16. Maple syrup

17. Our shoes

18. Our socks

19. Our legs

20. Spiders

21. Ants

22. Beavers

23. Beaver dams

24. Sand

25. Dehydrated sausage crumbles

26. Birds

27. Shelters

28. Sludge

29. Mudpuddles

30. Beer

31. Cheese covered in dirt

32. Andrea after she slid down Butternut Mountain

33. The trail

34. My hair

35. Acorns

36. Branches

37. Sticks

38. Wood

39. Bark

40. Pine cones

41. Soil

42. Stumps

43. Nutella

44. Hot chocolate

45. Peanut butter

46. Sugar houses

47. Trail signs

48. Vermud

49. Vermountains

50. Vermont

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Day 21 LT – Johnson to Journey’s End!

THE END OF THE LONG TRAIL! WE’VE DONE IT! WE FINISHED! SO LONG, LONG SWAMP!

Hiking out of Johnson
Hiking out of Johnson

Tuesday, July 7 – Day 18

We wake for breakfast at 7:30 and gorge ourselves on the most delicious homemade food: strawberry pancakes with butter and maple syrup, ham and cheese omelet, and coffee. So. Full. We chat with a couple from Arlington MA over breakfast – she’s an artist with landscapes on display at the Brian Gallery in Burlington.

Skylights at Round Top Shelter
Skylights at Round Top Shelter

Marsha gives us a ride to the post office, where we pick up our resupply and a care package from Jared filled with chocolate, tanka bars, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Yum. We send TWO boxes BACK to Exeter. A rude man in the post office gives us shit for having our resupply stuff spread out, and I give it right back to him. Marsha brings us back to the trailhead, and away we go!

Corliss Camp
Corliss Camp

On trail a bit after 10. It’s sooo hot and sooo humid. Yuck. We run into two men hiking immediately. They’re in front of us but going the exact same pace on the uphill, but slower on the downhills. I ask to pass – we do – and then they work hard to keep up with us (enough to kind of sketch me out until I realize they don’t want to beat by girls. Ha too bad suckas.)

Thanks for the maple bacon chocolate bar, Tara!
Thanks for the maple bacon chocolate bar, Tara!

We push up to Prospect Rock – a big, hot, humid climb. My legs are burning already. One of the men who was on our tails on the way up pauses at Prospect Rock but the other guy we meet back on the trail – he’d taken a detour around the view somehow. Strange. Another mile or two later we ask him where he’s going…Prospect Rock…well he missed it! Oopsies. Maybe he should think twice before trying to race Andrea and Jean!

Thanks for the meat, Mike!
Thanks for the meat, Mike!

We hike uphill to Roundtop Shelter. It has skylights – so cush! Snacktime. Downhill to Plot Road, up and down a small hill, and down to adorable Codding Hollow. Barking labs. Then up, up, up Mt Laraway. A few sprinkles after the summit. Fast hiking to avoid rains. We pass a man with 3 kids who we think are the family of the woman who gave us a ride from Mansfield to Stowe – nice!

Rudy
Rudy

We make it to our end point at Corliss Camp around 4 pm – early for us. We settle in and change out of our ridiculously sweaty hiking clothes. I managed to drench my shirt in sweat completely. After a little bit two women, sisters section hiking the trail over 14 years, with their dog join us at the shelter. Porcini risotto for dinner. Yum. We chat and chat swapping LT tales. Eventually sleep.

Andrea's mudslide!
Andrea’s mudslide!

Wednesday, July 8 – Day 19

It rains overnight but we stay dry in our 4 sided shelter. We hike a moderate distance from Corliss Camp to Tillotson Camp in good weather. We get on trail around 9:45 am and say our farewells to sisters Missy and Diane and dog Rudy. I’m overcaffienated and scatterbrained.

From Mt Belvidere
From Mt Belvidere

Climbing up Butternut Mountain I immediately shed my wind pants and poncho. Andrea falls in the mud and slides downhill. Amazing. We meander the 6.7 miles from Butternut to Bowen Mountain – somehow the longest unbroken stretch – and eventually make it to Spruce Ledge Lodge. The lodge has nice skylights and it overlooks the Devils Perch Outlook to Belvidere Mountain – our next destination.

Sweet beaver dam before Tillotson Camp
Sweet beaver dam before Tillotson Camp

We hike down into Devils Gulch, which is pretty cool: flowing water, mossy rocks. Near Ritterbush Pond, up and over a knoll, across Route 118, then up up up Belvidere Mountain. Seemingly neverending. We take the 0.2 mile spur to Belvidere. I climb the windy firetower. I talk to Nancy on the phone, then to Jared. I’ve had such little service so far!

Hiking up Jay
Hiking up Jay

Then up the trail comes a young, tall guy wearing running shorts and Brooks Cascadias. Classic thruhiker. We hadn’t seen him before, so I ask him if he’s southbounding. Nope, northbounding. Something clicks in his head, then he asks, “Wait, are you Lady Luck??!!”. He’d seen our notes in the trail journals along the way and was trying to catch us for days! Awesome. His name is Sporkless. We’ll meet up at camp tonight. For now – back on the trail.

45th latitude! who knew?
45th latitude! who knew?

We hike quickly along the swamp trail, at one point having to crawl on hands and knees under a downed tree. We joke about being on Vermonts longest swamp. I’m starting to wonder if it IS really just a long swamp – so much much and roots!

We make it to Tillotson Camp at 7:30 and stay in the shelter with Sporkless – a nice kid! I drink Starbucks hot chocolate and eat my Thanksgiving-on-the-trail dinner. Good chat time, lots of laughter. A good way to end our 14.1 mile day. Sleep.

Thursday, July 9 – Day 20

Second to last day on the LT! We’re so ready to finish tomorrow! Today is long and emotionally tough (that last tough push before I can coast to the finish).

Buddy blaze!
Buddy blaze!

We share hot water with Sporkless who has been stoveless – eating his Idahoans and oatmeal packets with cold water. Yuck. He’s off to finish today!

On the trail just after 8 am, we hike 14.3 miles – up Haystack Mountain, down to Hazen’s Notch, up past a sign for Hazen’s Notch Camp. We see a sign that says 17 miles to Canada – awesome! It seems real now. Up Buchanan Mountain. I led the climb then immediately started falling behind. I’m tired, ready to be done, annoyed be the constant thwacking of overgrown tree branches and mud pits to navigate. Over Domey’s Dome, over Gilpin Mountain, then down to Jay Pass/Route 242.

The LT terminus - we did it!
The LT terminus – we did it!

We sit on the pavement for a few minutes before climbing Jay. We heard it was tough. I’m out of water, but the thought of getting more fuels me on and we race up the mountain in 45 minutes! So easy! The well maintained trail without swamps or branches to the face make the hike a breeze. People take the chair lift to the top and it’s a popular tourist destination, so there’s a cafe at the summit.

The cafe is closed, but we get to go inside, warm up, fill water, get TP, and use real toilets before the building closes at 5:15pm. I buy a gingerale from the soda machine and it pushes off the hanger for a while.

There's the border swath and Canada!
There’s the border swath and Canada!

Downhill less than an hour more to camp at Laura Woodward Shelter. Our last shelter of the trip – it’s just us! Our only night that we didn’t meet another person at a shelter! I wash my feet. Eat dinner. I’m tired. Sleep…

Thanks for the Gardetto's, Jared!
Thanks for the Gardetto’s, Jared!

Friday, July 10 – Day 21

LAST DAY!! We wake at Laura Woodward shelter – it had rained overnight. So much humidity means everything is soaked with sweat and never dried, as per usual. I eat granola, drink coffee, and finish the last of my coveted maple syrup. We start hiking around 7 am.

Up Doll Peak – so much fog! Eventually it starts to burn off and there’s sunshine. We shoot past Shooting Star Shelter, up little Burnt Mountain, then down to North Jay Pass where there’s road construction. It’s the last road crossing and we’re in the home stretch! I know I can make it, but I stop for a snack of nut butter and a probar to ensure I’m not hangry – I like to finish a trail on a full stomach so I’m happy. Andrea is a few steps ahead. I pass a trail runner who says “You’re almost there!” – yessss!

Northern terminus
Northern terminus

Up our last little peak – Carleton Mountain – then downhill! I take as many pictures of blazes (good ol’ Buddy Blaze) as I can. We cross the 45th latitude. Sweet. Then a sign…the end! Hooray! Yay! We did it!

Pics, monument, border swath, Canada! Snacks.

Thank you for the amazing note, Sporkless!
Thank you for the amazing note, Sporkless!

Then we hike the 1.3 miles out. Halfway there we stop at Journey’s End Shelter. The walls of the shelter are covered with quotes that hikers have written on their way out. I scrawl a few more. We find a note from Sporkless in the trail journal – so awesome! We hike on out. Just before the end of the trail, we meet N&C! We all hike on down the trail together, then pile in the car. Success.

On the way back to Glencliff, we stop at the Kingdom Taproom for real food and Hill Farmstead beer – a great find. Now it really feels complete.

Day 17 LT – Stowe to Johnson

(belated post)

Stowe to Johnson today! Hotel to B&B! It’s a cush life… Our last town stop before we’re DONE WITH THE LONG TRAIL! Yippee!

Monday, July 6 – Day 17

Hiking down dirt roads past sugar maples and sugar lines
Hiking down dirt roads past sugar maples and sugar lines

We eat our free breakfast and check out of the motel. We hitch a ride from a woman named Gail who owns one of the sports stores downtown and knows someone who used to work at Phillips Exeter Academy (where Andrea works) – small world.

We’re on the trail around 9:15am and we begin with a steep ascent up to Elephant’s Head (a worthy view of Smuggler’s Notch) and to Sterling Pond. A sweet spot! We say hello to the caretaker next to the shelter. He enthusiastically feeds us cookies – so excited to have spotted some LT thruhikers. Then up Madonna Peak where I sing Borderline, across ski trails, and to a Smuggler’s Notch ski lift. Up Morse Mountain, snack at Whiteface Lodge. I had my second epic fall of the trek – I slipped on a rock and my feet literally slipped out and up into the air before seemed to levitate in the air and fall smack onto my ass and pack. I’ll have a nice bruise.

Hay field!
Hay field!

Down to Bear Hollow. We call Nye’s B&B from there – we plan to stay there tonight and are calling for a ride. Down the fast trail from there, mostly on roads, past sugarlines, taps, log yards, and homes. Down a rail trail, across a hayfield, and by a cemetery. At last at Route 15! I call Nye’s and Marsha picks us up in her white convertible and drives us back to her most adorable and hospitable B&B.

At Nye’s they do our laundry, stuff dryer sheets into our stinky shoes, drive us into the tiny town of Jefferson where we get burgers and beer at the Village Tavern, and pick us up. I manage to thwack myself in the face with the car seat. Awesome. Shower. Sleep.

Day 11 LT – Killington to Lincoln Gap

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…

Lots of rain in the forecast. We dread and procrastinate
Lots of rain in the forecast. We dread and procrastinate

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.

Maine Junction - The LT and AT part ways here
Maine Junction – The LT and AT part ways here

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.

Sweet hiker poem at the Maine Junction
Sweet hiker poem at the Maine Junction

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

View of the rain from our safe perch inside David Logan shelter. Also, that log looks like an alligator
View of the rain from our safe perch inside David Logan shelter. Also, that log looks like an alligator

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.

The Gathering Inn! So welcoming, warm, and dry
The Gathering Inn! So welcoming, warm, and dry

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.

The clouds parted...views of Skylight Pond from Skyline Lodge. So happy to see sun
The clouds parted…views of Skylight Pond from Skyline Lodge. So happy to see sun

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.

Views of the valley from Mt Cleveland. Look, there's sky and sunlight!
Views of the valley from Mt Cleveland. Look, there’s sky and sunlight!

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.

From Sunset Ledge. The skies are getting dark already
From Sunset Ledge. The skies are getting dark already
Charlie, Nancy, Kevin, me, Erin, Andrea - at the Prohibition Pig
Charlie, Nancy, Kevin, me, Erin, Andrea – at the Prohibition Pig

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.

Day 7 LT – Manchester Center to Killington

(Pics in another post)

This past section flew by – 50 miles in 2 1/2 days. Mostly sun, only rain at night, boyscouts stealing shelter space, a porcupine sighting, nearly getting lost in the woods, summiting Killington…

Wednesday June 24 Day 5

Andrea’s aunt Sandy and Uncle Jim meet us at our hotel and we have amazing breakfasts at Up For Breakfast – hungry hiker specials. Sandy and Jim are awesome and shuttle us to the post office and trail head too.

We’re on the trail around 10:45, fueled by high powered caffeine. What did they put in our coffee?? The miles fly by. Beautiful sunny, not humid weather.

Hike over Bromley – love the chair lift at the top. Over Styles Peak and Peru Peak. We see the same trio of older women that we met at Harmon Hill – the “Grandmudders”! We pass the magical Peru Peak shelter and go through the enchanting Griffith Lake area, complete with Lilly pads, swimming newts, and wild orchids.

Over the exposed ledge of Baker Peak. Past Lost Pind Shelter. We get to our destination – the Big Branch Shelter- only to find it dominated by BoyScouts. They’re teeming in the river, roving the trail, and the leader tells us he plans to put 7 boys in the shelter. No thanks. We hike on.

We stealth camp in the Big Branch picnic area, 0.5 miles of trail, bringing our mileage to 17.7 on LT plus 0.5 bonus. Beat our tentative 2 mile goal for the day!

We don’t see the aurora that Jared told us about. We hurry to set up Andreas (well, Joanne’s) tarp tent for the two of us. Ramen dinner. Sleep.

Thursday June 25 Day 6

We left the picnic area and ran into a porcupine waddling up the road! We stomp and clap and it stands up on its little hind legs before waddle/running off.

We bump into The Dude and his wife who is supporting him in their Eurovan as he slack packs his way up the upper AT. Past little rock pond shelter – also a magical place. Through rocky terrain. Past these amazing rock cairns. We each build one of course. We meet Buiscuit, an AT through hiker. It’s sad to leave our new semi hiking companions at Killington when the AT veers east while the LT continues north.

Across Route 140. Up chipmunk ridden Bear mountain. Down Patch Hollow with 6 foot tall yarrow. Drinking from the spring at Minerva Hinchey shelter. Past airport lookout, Clarendon Gorge, over Route 103. We weave our way through what seems like between property parcels and across small dirt VT roads – over barbed wire fence stairways, UP to Clarendon Shelter, Beacon Hill, across Lottery Road, Keifer Rd, Cold River Rd, Upper Cold River Road, and Gov Clement Shelter Road.

Hey – bright idea – let’s follow the road that looks like it will dump us out at the shelter! Save time with a road walk. Lesson learned the hard way…. Don’t trust a trail map with road directions! We hike what seems like too far up a dirt road. We seem skeptical when we turn right at a junction. We go uphill. It must be here though, right? We reach a junction with a gate and private property. Hmm. The Guthook app shows us off track but it’s about 2000 feet east through the woods. Bushwhack? Ok, let’s try it… Andrea says this is how people die in the woods. Hmm lets hope not… Using my compass and our app we push our way into the woods. It gets darker and darker and more overgrown and now it’s going downhill. The app doesn’t seem to show us getting closer. Or maybe it does? We can’t tell. Uneasy feelings. After what feels like a long time Andrea abruptly says “this is stupid. We should turn around”. I say “yep! Let’s turn around” overcome with relief and skeptical feelings about our return journey through the woods at the same time. “Just follow bearings west” I say to myself as the little sky light gradually wanes. We push our way through branches and over stumps. At last we recognize things. And eventually we find the dirt road again. We run the 0.75 miles of road. We find the familiar and comforting white blazes, hurry down the trail, find the shelter with Biscuit and Scout and her dog Salomon. Relief. Unroll our sleeping bags, quick dinner, bed at 10. Lesson learned-stay on trail.

20.9 LT miles plus ~2 mile bonus

Friday June 26 Day 7

It rains all night and we’re happy to have the shelter. It’s a bit dark inside and we don’t wake until 7:30. Breakfast, pack up, farewell to Scout and Salomon who are the first southbounders we’ve met – they’re ahead of the pack. Scout is taking Salomon to a vet tomorrow, his doggy pack is rubbing his sides raw.

The trail is muddy again from rain but the sky is clear. Our first 4 miles are up hill, toward Killington, the second highest VT peak. Not a bad climb. The 0.2 mile spur trail is straight up. Great views from the peak.

Back down, past weekenders, along the ridge toward Pico, down the 3 miles to VT 4, 1 mile hitch to the Inn at Long Trail where we meet Andreas mom, Jackie.

Jackie is great! She brings us to the Killington post office to get our resupply and then the 10 miles to the Long Trail Brewery. We eat great food, drink great beer, tell stories, and laugh. To the market for Cabot cheese, PB, and packets of VT maple syrup which I’m very excited to add to my trail oatmeal. Goodbye Jackie, thanks so much!

Shower, laundry, sleep in real beds. Tomorrow we’ll see if we can make the 19 miles to Sunrise before the rain comes! Next stop – Waitsfield

Day 4 LT – MA/VT Border to Manchester Center VT

(Pictures coming soon)

Saturday June 20 – Day 1

Mark drives Andrea and I to the Pine Cobble trail where we start on our 272 mile journey northward. The Long Trail in Vermont is the nations oldest footpath. We leave at noon. We hike uphill in good sunny weather. After 3.3 miles we reach the VT/MA border and we really really become LT hikers.

We hike 10 LT miles plus a 3.3 bonus, making day 1 a solid 13.3. A few chats with fellow LT hiker Mr Iceland along the way.

Cogdon shelter is full when we get there. Set up tents, try to eat the most of our beans and rice. Andrea into her tarp tent and I into my tarp poncho. Immediately the rains begin. True tarp test.

The tarp holds up well to rain! Less well to slugs. I wake in the middle of the night to Andreas light shining in her tarp tent. I grab my bug net and feel something wet. Slug. Gross! I throw it and squeal. Andrea hears that I’m awake and asks if I’m ok. “Slugs!” I reply. During the course of the night I find a slug crawling on the roof of my tarp, and one on my pillow. Yes, my pillow.

I dream of my tarp shredding and water pouring in on me. It holds up.

Sunday June 21 – Day 2

I wake restlessly to the occasional raindrop backsplash. Mostly dry = success.

A slow going on our first morning, to be expected. Much rain. We eat and pack up in the shelter. Chat with AT through hikers Blood Blister and Beat. Trail by 10.

We survive the drizzly morning with umbrella cover. Over Harmon Hill and chat with a trio of inspiring middle aged menopausal hikers. Down the hill, across Route 9, over the bridge and climb up to Glastonbury Mtn. Views at Porcupine lookout. AT hiker Warewolf passes us.

40 minutes before we reach Goddard shelter the sky opens up. Rain, rain, thunder, heavy rain. The umbrella is all but useless. The trail turns into a river. We’re drenched. At last the shelter! A solid 15 mile day. Andreas lips are blue but we’re fine.

We eat and make our beds on the cozy shelter platform, lined up next to Blood Blister, Warewolf, Smasher, me, Andrea, and Beat. Sleep. Andrea wakes me about possible animal stirrings. Back to sleep.

Monday June 22 – Day 3

The seven of us sharing the shelter stir simultaneously and wake at the same time like a cute little hiker family.

Hiked from Goddard shelter to Stratton Pond Shelter. A bigger day – 18.5 miles.

Up Glastonbury, past the fire tower in the clouds, past Kid Gore Shelter, Story Spring Shelter, the occasional mud pit, across the stratham-Arlington road, so many aggressive deer flies, and up Stratton mountain.

Good chats about climate change. Up the seven story fire tower! Lots of laughs on the way down Stratton. Andrea falls while laughing and can’t get up because she’s laughing too hard.

We reach the shelter at 6 pm, toss our stuff in the shelter loft, and hike the 0.3 down to the pond where we encounter the fountain of youth and life in the form of an enthusiastic young man-boy at a crossroads in his life and small trout practically jumping into our hands. Beautiful sunset.

Trek back to the dark shelter in the shady woods where 6/7 hikers are asleep. Dinner. Sleep. Rain sounds loud at night on a tin shelter roof.

Tuesday June 23 – Day 4

Up and at ’em by 8:30. Just 10 miles till our first town stop in Manchester Center.

Some rain but it mostly hits the tops of trees as we pass underneath. Epic mud pits. A nice fast 0.9 mile road walk. Cloudy views from Prospect Rock.

Rain abates. Past Spruce Peak shelter. We see Blood Blister and Beat. To the road. Hitch! Into town. EMS stop. Find a hotel – the Palmer House Resort Motel – with a nice hiker rate.

Shower, laundry, beer, burger!