Hello Vermont! This was a state I was most looking forward and thought it would go on my list of favorites, but while it was beautiful it did not make a favorite list. Mostly because I think I thought there would be more views, but it was just so green! Ok, that’s not bad, but I wanted some views! Plus, while we’d been told Mass was a mosquito and fly heaven, it turned out that Vermont was really the horse fly haven. Vermont also goes by the moniker Vermud, but with the exception of a few places we did not run into much mud, mostly because it was a dry year. I can’t imagine it on a wet year because it truly would have been a mess.
Ok, to express just how bad the flies are, here is a photo of Merf on a fire tower. The best way to deal with flies is to let them land and then smack the crap out of them until they fall down on the ground dead. We also dealt with some small gnats that would just hover in front of your eyes, sometimes winding up in your eyes, or perhaps inhaled up your nose or mouth. If someone stopped and hacked for awhile it was usually because of gnats.
We entered Vermont and we had a series of small PUDs, low ups and downs. Our destination for the night was the Congdon Shelter. The trail got very busy in this section because of the popularity of the Long Trail. We passed several people hiking the LT or doing small sections of the AT. Somewhere right before the shelter we came across a pond and the trail went just to the east of the pond on plywood planks. When we looked out across the pond we realized we were several feet below the pond. The beavers had built a nice dam up and the trail was subsequently eye level the top of the dam. We stopped for a few minutes to see if we could spot a beaver and sure enough we spotted one! Our first beaver on the trail!
Once at the Congdon shelter we nabbed a spot to set up our tent as fast as possible because there were so many people around. We chatted for awhile with various people who were doing small sections of the LT and got some advice. We met one guy from NYC who just randomly decided to come out and backpack the southern section of the trail with minimal experience. We’d gotten in our tent and had been drifting off to sleep when I heard screaming, someone yelling “help”. It was the guy from NYC. The screaming got progressively worse with him stating his finger was stuck in the knot of the rope with his food bag hung over the tree and pulling on his finger, his hand in the air. He was screaming for a knife to cut it free and I struggled to wake Chris up when we finally heard that someone came to help him out. In the morning we found out that Merf had gotten up to help him and realized she had a height disadvantage and finally another lady came out to help him out. It was pretty black and blue and cut up a bit, but luckily no lasting damage.
The next morning we left out just me, Chris and Merf. Her friend Jim had taken off earlier because he knew we’d pass him at some point and Little Brown left out hoping to make bigger miles to get a zero in at Manchester Center. Somewhere near Harmon Hill we scared off our very last bear on the trail. Not much further later we ran into one of the AMC NY chicks that we had met back at the NY/NJ border. She was doing a short section with her friend for the weekend. Small world!
We had a steep descent down into Vermont 9 where Bennington, VT is located and then climbed up out of the gap and headed for the Melville Nauheim Shelter for a small break. We ended up meeting Jim there and then shortly after passed the 1600 mile mark.
Merf stayed behind to walk with Jim for awhile while we kept going taking a lunch in the middle of the trail somewhere near the non-existent Glastenbury Lookout. I’m sure it is there but it isn’t labeled. Jim and Merf showed up as we were lounging and took off with us. At the Goddard Shelter we stopped for a quick snack and potty break. On the entire trail I did not once drink untreated water, but Chris, Merf and Jim took their chances and sipped out of the spring at Goddard. Apparently it was coming straight out of the ground and looked perfectly fine, but I was liking my no-stomachaches-for-1600-miles bit. They didn’t come down with giardia or anything, but I was still leery.
Merf said she saw some fireworks from the shelter but we were tucked in our tent for the night. There was an amazing sunrise, though. We were planning 20 miles that day and were hoping that Jim could keep up with us. We were going to climb to nearly 4,000 feet on Stratton Mountain and weren’t sure how tough it would be. The morning went pretty quickly with a short stop at the Story Spring Shelter and a trail magic soda cooler near the Stratton-Arlington Rd. Ahhh, refreshing! Then we started our climb up Stratton. It didn’t seem too bad, just kept plugging away until we met some people coming down from the top. I was a bit disturbed by some dogs that appeared out of nowhere and weren’t too friendly and then their owner, a woman, came around the corner. I don’t mind people hiking without their dogs on a leash if they know the dogs are friendly to others or aren’t scared of people, but if they are I don’t understand why they let them off their leashes!
Only swimming and floating on NeoAir’s. I didn’t get in, yes I’m a cold water wuss, but I did sun myself, wash my legs off and relax. After filling our water up at the spring nearby we set off down the trail again.
Half a mile off the trail on a relatively flat and easy trail, though I slipped on one of the plywood planks over a wet area, it was pretty easy going and not much more than a blink of a half a mile. The William B. Douglas Shelter was empty and we were the only folks inside for the night. The register was full of complaints about the trail conditions nearby; other trails branching from the LT/AT were in the area and apparently beaver dams and overgrown brush was making it impenetrable.
I have no idea which place this was taken at, but you can see our water treatment drops and our water bag. We loved having the water bladder to fill our water up instead of using only our Camelbaks. I definitely recommend getting one of these to carry water to and from camp.
We had a mere six miles to get to Manchester Center for our resupply and hostel stay. The Green Mountain Hostel had emailed me while we were in CT and recommended we stop in so we did! I am glad we did because this place was amazing! More on that in a minute….we had a relatively uneventful hike into town and we had to hitch to town which was one of our fastest hitches thus far. We got a ride in the back of a truck and headed into town. We’d told Jim and Merf we’d meet them at the donut shop; splitting up for hitches is ideal. Trying to get four people into one car can be tough and most people aren’t going to stop for a big group. The donut shop was delightful and Merf and Jim weren’t too far behind us. After breakfast I decided to make my way for the post office which was on the outskirts of town because I had a birthday card waiting for me as well as something else that was important that I can’t even think of now. The rest of the gang waited for me at the donut shop. It had to be at least nearly a mile outside of town that I winded through the cement jungle to get to.
Manchester Center is packed with nicely appointed outlet stores, so I felt a little grungy walking next to the likes of Abercrombie and Fitch. In town we decided we’d hit up the Eastern Mountain Sports for new gear, boots for me and a belt to keep my pants from falling off (that’s always a nice thing, right? Pants too loose!) and then make our way to the Mexican food place for lunch. The restaurant turned out to be more southwest-Mex, but it was still good. We sent my old boots back home, and then off to the grocery store we went. With food for dinner and then our resupply we were ready to call the Green Mountain Hostel to come pick us up. The hostel is a bit outside of town so it was better to do all of our chores before heading there.
In the winter the house serves as a place for the owners son and his friends to come and stay while skiing. Most of the year the owner lives somewhere in the mid-west. This place was lushly appointed in hiker standards. Since we’d called in before he’d already reserved a bunk room for us and it was quite cozy. For $15 we did our laundry, got a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, free internet, a big screened tv with all sorts of movies, showers, and a wonderful little house to relax in.
Snack break at Bromley. On our way up Bromley we met a girl in a sportsbra named Whoopie Pie who seemed slightly odd. We later learned from other southbounders that she was a yellow blazer. That means, taking a road (by car) to skip ahead on the trail. At Mad Tom Notch we ran into a tattooed guy with a very ultra light pack. I initially thought he was a day hiker taking a break or perhaps someone giving trail magic. We had been hiking around Mr. Fusion who we had met for the second time at the hostel in Manchester Center (the first time in McAfee Knob in VA) and he was at the notch with this tattooed guy who turned out to be Lint. After actually seeing his tattoos which were symbols of all the long distance trails he’d hiked, we found out he was working on his double Triple Crown. I think he also said he was the first person to thru-hike the Ice Age Trail. We quickly realized he was fast when he told us he’d started in very late April and had been passing people left and right for 1600 miles. Through more conversation we talked about Sea Otter and Nuthatch and that they’d hiked the PCT the previous year, well it turned out he knew them and was trying to catch them but they were about two weeks ahead of us. We did find out from Nuthatch that he did catch them—on Katahdin! That means Lint hiked the trail in about three months!
We stopped at a few more shelters for short breaks and to fill up on water and then stopped at Griffith Lake for lunch and a long relaxing few hours of respite from the heat. We found Little Brown there; he’d left earlier from the hostel than we did. Time went faster than I thought because before long it was time to mosey town the trail. We were planning on hitting the Little Rock Pond tenting area for the night and it was another 9 miles. We’d also heard about a trail re-route right before the Big Branch shelter, a large stream had lost its bridge but thankfully because the water was low enough we could rock hop. If there’d been recent rains we’d of had to of done the 3 mile reroute.
Little Rock Pond is one of the LT pay sites but we lucked out in not having to pay because the caretaker was gone. It was a beautiful little site and we were later joined by Snickers and Prophet who’d been hiking with the Traveling Circus but they’d gone on ahead of them. Merf and Jim stayed a few tenths of a mile south at at the Lula Tye shelter for the night.
The next morning was a bit overcast as we left the tenting area. We passed this crazy rock cairn area near Whit Rocks Cliff and I set up a small one in memory of Asheligh (I did that a few times along the trail wherever there were rock cairns). Near the junction of the Greenwall Shelter trail Merf and Jim caught up to us and took we took a short snack break. Jim was having some trouble after hiking all of these big mile days with us. We went on ahead down the road and there was talk that Jim might head back to the hostel to rest a bit and then get back on.
We had lunch at Clarendon Gorge and I finally got in the water for awhile. It was warmer water and much more enjoyable. Merf showed up without Jim. She was visibly upset. Jim had gotten off the trail for good and was feeling a bit bad about it.
Right after Vermont 103 we passed a cow field and a southbounder who told us about what we were going to be getting into a few minutes later. Apparently it was a fun rock scramble! Oh boy! But before that we managed to find a cooler of sodas to drink just as the rain started coming down. We found the rock scramble and it wasn’t too fun in the rain. The Clarendon shelter was very close and we ducked inside there with Mr. Fusion and shortly after Merf and Little Brown arrived. It rained for a good while as we laid on the hard bunks of the shelter, flipping through old National Geographic’s and a Long Trail companion book. Eventually the rain let up and we were able to carry on for the next 5.5 miles to the Governor Clement shelter.
The trail to the shelter was pretty easy. We passed some trail maintainers, missed out on trail magic that was empty, and went over some very dumb parts of trail, up a little hill, then back down to practically where we’d just been. What? *doh* In the guide book the Governor Clement shelter is warned against to stay at due to raucous locals. We’d found out from Fusion about some sort of secret shelter located on private property nearby and were supposed to look for clues, but we found none. It didn’t matter because the forest roads near the shelter had been blocked off awhile back to prevent the raucousness from happening and we found the shelter very old, but very quiet. We set up our tent down near the stream and had a wonderful little night camping there.
The following day we had planned to go into Rutland for a resupply but first we had to get over Killington Peak. The trail does not go to the top but a side trail does access it. If we’d not been pushed to go to town we probably would have stopped to go up, but we didn’t. Instead we climbed the mountain which was pretty easy considering what I’d worked it out to be in my head, a few little areas to pull yourself up, but nothing major. It was a beautiful mountain full of wonderful conifers and the smell was awesome. We stopped for a few minutes at the Cooper Lodge shelter, a run down stone shelter, before moving onward. Little Brown wasn’t going into town but he’d tasked Merf to bring back a bag of M&Ms when we met up with him later on. We listened to the birds on our way down, learning new calls from Merf.
At U.S. 4 we found a fairly busy road and thought we’d have a quick hitch. I took a bit of time to get a hitch since there were three of us, but luckily a kind guy who’d done some hitching in other places around the world gave us a ride into Rutland. We had him drop us off downtown near the Back Home Again Cafe and hostel. Jim had gone there and we were hoping to see him before he left but it turns out we’d missed him. The hostel let us stow our packs in their hall upstairs while we ate downstairs and went for our resupply. The hostel and restaurant is run by the Twelve Tribes, a Christian based cult. They were super friendly, would definitely try to talk to you about religion, but it was in a different non-threatening kind of way. Anyway, it was good food, nice people and looked to be a nice hostel. We resupplied, did some internet and then caught the city transit back to the trail.
How cool is that to be dropped off at the trail by a city bus? It worked out wonderfully and as soon as we got off the trail we saw the Traveling Circus had caught up. They were heading into town to stay the night. It was the last time we saw them for the rest of the trail.
Five seconds back onto the trail I walked over a plank to avoid some mud and then promptly slipped and gashed my knee. I let out a bunch of expletives and said how much I hated the trail and then carried on. The trail does that too you. Really pisses you off sometimes. We finally made it to Maine Junction where we ditched the Long Trail where it headed for Quebec and we turned and headed for Maine. Our destination for the night was the Gifford Woods State Park and we were racing the thunderstorms that were supposed to be coming. Once inside the campground we encountered a group of people hanging at a drive in spot with several pit bulls. Now, I am a pit bull lover but I was actually a bit scared of these. For one they weren’t running in the usual, “Hey, new people! They will pet me!” kind of run, it was a very defensive kind of run and I was not thrilled about them. The owners got them and we get on walking and found the park headquarters where we found out where we could stay for a few bucks a person. It was a quiet campsite right behind the headquarters. We found out Little Brown had gotten tired of waiting for us and went to the next shelter instead. Too bad, we had his M&Ms! We got showers at the campground, filled up on some ice cream and sodas that they park sold and then tucked in for the night.
The next morning it was raining. Just like I was whining about in the post listed at the top about rain. We rolled over when the alarm went off, kept rolling over until about 9am when we decided it was just drizzling and we could take everything down and went under the awning at the headquarters. We thought Merf would have been gone but she was under the awning drying out and eating breakfast. We ate too and then set off for a 17 miler.
The morning started off fairly fast as we passed Kent Pond and went by Thunder Falls. Then we went up Quimby Mountain for what seemed like ever, up and around switchbacks. It was never ending. At the Stony Brook shelter we stopped for a late-ish lunch were we met Blue Rooster for the first time. The afternoon seemed to drag a little too, lots of PUDs in this area of the trail.
The shelter we found packed, but it held a few people we knew including Speaker, Little Brown and later Snack Attack. Speaker had sneaked passed us when we went to Rutland. Everyone had had a slow day because of the rain, not doing many miles.
At one of the road crossings we met a park ranger for a nearby historical park that was supposed to meet people to do a short hike. She ended up hiking out with us but as we went on, talking, one of us asked her a question and then turned and realized she was gone. We’d smoked her. Oh well.
We arrived at Cloudland Road hoping to get ice cream or something good at a farm/farmers market a few tenths of the way down the road but they were closed up. Instead we used their picnic table and hammock for lunch to relax. A few workers were around but said nothing as we hiker bums hung out.
At the Thistle Hill shelter we stopped for a privy break and found this trail masterpiece. We weren’t there too long when two hikers came in, southbounders. One came in in a fairly decent mood and the other came in throwing his poles into the woods and appearing to freak out a bit. He calmed down and then apologized and just stated that things were tough at the time. We got some dish about the Whites and learned they weren’t fond of the AMC. I haven’t met a thru-hiker who was. We left them to figure things out and carried on.
We lingered for awhile before heading four more miles to the Happy Hill shelter. It was a quick walk, not too terrible. One tent was set up already and we figured it to be COB. We found out in the register that it had been him and he’d caught some bug and was trying to take it easy.
Morning dawned nice and we were planning a leisurely five miles into New Hampshire. We did quite a bit of road walking in this area. In a quiet neighborhood we received two trail magics, one was watermelon and something else and another house down the street had maple cookies. We’d been told to stop at Dan and Whits to get day-old sandwiches and bagels that they give out to hikers. We did stop but I think Merf ended up with an upset stomach from the sandwiches. We packed some out thinking we’d eat them later in the day but I am pretty sure we threw them out. The town of Norwich was pretty hoity-toity, almost like Kent, Connecticut.
Road walking the last bit of Vermont. Before we crossed the Connecticut River we met two more southbounders who gave us some extra goodies from a mail drop they’d had in Hanover and got more words of advice on the Whites.
*Thanks to Merf for letting me use some of her photos to illustrate my blog! I wish we’d taken more photos*