Massachusetts to Rutland
September 29, 2018
START: Williamstown @ 1025
FINISH: Melville Nauheim Shelter @ 1910
DISTANCE: 4 + 16 mi
CUMULATIVE: 20 mi
I stayed with my dear friend, Sadie, last night, and she gave me a ride to the trailhead this morning. Thank you again, Sadie! We hit a few road blocks en route, most notably a downed tree that required a thirty minute detour and a four mile approach I hadn't accounted for. (Oops.) I was stoked to finally start walking around 1030 even given an uncertain destination. I still hoped to reach the Melville Shelter, but I was unsure whether I would be able to get there. I crossed the state line into Vermont by noon and kept on cruising from there. I always love reaching landmarks, especially borders, and this was no different despite only having been on the trail for a few hours.
The AT was its characteristic green tunnel pretty much all day, though I hope the colors will start to pop as I work my way north over the coming weeks. Saw a few teasers at various ponds along today's walk, but nothing too exciting. The humid air held a crisp coolness beneath an overcast sky, and the weather was generally quite moderate and pleasant today. I expect more moisture and lower temps as I work my way north. I hope the trade-off will be more fall colors.
I arrived at the Melville Shelter after dark, unfortunately, but that was no surprise given my later start. Definitely feeling some aches tonight and the old knee pain cropped up again just like I knew it would, but overall it feels great to be back on the trail! It's funny how all of the anxiety and uncertainty just falls away with the first step. Now that I've started, all I have to do is keep going until I finish. There is no more debate about holding off for better weather, or pushing the trail to next fall to accommodate this thing or that. The planning is done, and all I have to do now is keep walking. Things get very simple very quickly out here.
I arrived at the shelter to find two other guys here. I greeted them, but we didn't say too much otherwise. I set up alone in the shelter while Brandon and Steve camped outside. I was happy to have the place to myself. Made dinner, filtered water, and went to bed. Simple.
September 30, 2018
START: Melville Nauheim Shelter @ 0805
FINISH: Story Spring Shelter @ 1700
DISTANCE: 17.5 mi
CUMULATIVE: 37.5 mi
More of the classic green tunnel today, but I noticed that the climbs don't tend to be as steep or as long as I remember on the Hundred Mile Wilderness last fall (at least so far). Feeling the solitude out here too- more so than last year, I think. Not too many folks out, and most of those I see are either section hiking or heading SOBO. The bubble is likely further north. I wonder how many other hikers I'll see once the LT splits from the AT in about eighty miles.
Caught my first big view today. Many of the summits out here are tree-covered and don't offer unobstructed views. Glastenbary Mountain is one such peak. The thing that made it awesome today was the fire tower at the top. The weather was nice enough, and I'd been making great time, so I climbed it. Gorgeous views in all diretions out across the surrounding mountains. I expect that I'll have many opportunities for similar views as I get further north. I'm so freakin' happy to be out here!
I arrived at camp tonight around 1700 to find an empty shelter. It's funny that a part of me wished that the hiker I'd seen heading south about a mile before the shelter had chosen to stay here. She said she was tired. Guess she was on a schedule. Really I'm just feeling lonely because I wish my girlfriend was out here with me. We had a great little road trip before I came up to Vermont for this gem. Now I'm missing her like crazy. On a whim, I turned my phone on. I was sure I wouldn't get service out here, but of course I did, so I gave her a call to check in. Really enjoyed the pleasant surprise of talking with her tonight. I hope to be able to do that frequently during my hike, but northern Vermont gets pretty remote, so I imagine service will get spotty as I cover more miles.
October 1, 2018
START: Story Spring Shelter @ 0745
FINISH: Spruce Peak Shelter @ 1645
DISTANCE: 18.5 mi
CUMULATIVE: 56 mi
I met just two folks before lunch today. The first was a SOBO AT hiker who had flipped up from Roanoke. He was raging pissed when I happened upon him while descending from Stratton Mountain. He was yelling profanities into the woods, and I caught myself wondering whether I was about to encounter a genuine psycho. When our paths finally crossed, he railed for a few minutes about how poorly maintained the trail is, then ultimately softened after I reflected and validated that he was having a rough go of it. I ultimately found him to be a nice fella. We chatted for a while before each going our separate ways. I met the second guy as I neared the split to Stratton Pond Shelter. Backtrack was pleasant and kind. He offered me some of his fig newtons, which I was tempted to accept but ultimately declined because I wanna lighten my own load. He's heading NOBO on the AT, so I may see him a few more times before our paths split.
I stopped in at Stratton Pond Shelter to have lunch while the rain fell steadily against the tin roof. It began raining about an hour after I left this morning, and it hasn't really stopped since. If it wasn't raining, it was a dense, cold fog that engulfed the trail. There are supposed to be scattered thunderstorms tomorrow, so I'm bracing myself for even worse weather. Crossing my fingers that they don't go all day. Part of the peril of trekking during the shoulder seasons, though. I'll just take it as it comes.
I covered another 8 miles after lunch in spite of the cold rain because I wanted to make the Spruce Peak Shelter, which is fully enclosed and has a wood-burning stove! I didn't know whether there was dry wood stock piled - in fact, I assumed that there wasn't - but that didn't stop me from hoping. I arrived to find an empty shelter devoid of anything dry. I collected small, damp wood and tried in vain to build a fire from newspaper and small twigs. Fortunately another NOBO LT hiker, Donuts, arrived and was carrying some fire starter, which did the trick. Backtrack joined us, and the three of us are tucked in warm and snug tonight. They're both heading to town tomorrow, and I'd be awfully tempted to join them if I didn't have a flight to Nepal that I need to catch in a couple weeks. Gotta keep cruisin', nasty weather be dammed. (But really, I might stop early if it really, really sucks.)
My knee pain was in full force today. I felt great otherwise, ready to tackle the trail, but that throbbing pain - the pain that inexplicably jumped from my right knee to my left knee today - really stunted my speed. It was annoying, but I tried to hold myself to a slower, more intentional pace. No sense getting hurt out here when I've got the trip of a lifetime on the docket. Set an early alarm for 0530 tomorrow. Planning to get an early start to give myself more time for the long 22.5 mile day. We'll see if I can will myself up and out that early. (I have my doubts.)
October 2, 2018
START: Spruce Peak Shelter @ 0610
FINISH: Little Rock Pond @ 1610
DISTANCE: 22.5 mi
CUMULATIVE: 78.5 mi
I woke up periodically in the night to the sound of rain falling against the roof. At 0500 the rain was heavy, and I considered turning off my alarm. But when I checked the weather on my phone (yay, service!), I discovered that it wasn't supposed to keep raining past 0530 and that the heavy rain is projected to start around 1600. Looked like the earlier the start, the better off I'd be, so I got up. As I packed up in the cold darkness, I kept thinking about how nice it was to stay in an enclosed hut with a heat source last night.
It's been raining nearly continuously for two days now. And when it's not actively raining, the wet just hangs in the humid air and drips from the tree canopies. If it weren't for the shelters, I'd be in a real bad mood. Right now, missed views are the most frustrating part. I was totally socked in atop the Baker Summit. I climbed the summit tower anyways, but all I could see was white. I was totally in the clouds, which was a neat experience in itself, though you can imagine that it gets old. The rain also causes a lot of anxiety for me. Discomfort is one thing, but my real concern is ruining my camera or some other expensive accessory. (Again.)
Happy to have company again tonight. Blueline and Flo were napping when I arrived. This place is awesome. It's typical in the sense that it has three walls, but it seems newer and better-kept. It's clean and has wood bunks built into the structure. It's not just a platform; it's a little home. I expected that there would be more hikers trickling in tonight, but no such shenanigans. I barely saw anyone today, just two SOBO thru hikers and the two section hikers I'm with tnoight. Blueline said they've seen quite a few NOBO LT walkers. I wonder if/when I'll start catching folks.
October 3, 2018
START: Little Rock Pond @ 0725
FINISH: Governor Clement Shelter @ 1725
DISTANCE: 19.5 mi
CUMULATIVE: 98 mi
There was definitely a period of torrential downpour last night. It was loud enough and persistent enough to wake me up, but I didn't bother to check the time. All I know is that it was still pitch black outside. My companions last night said that the weather was supposed to be clear this morning. Despite raining most of the night, it seemed to be tapering off by the time we crawled out of our sleeping bags at 0600. Ugh, I hate being out in the rain. But then Blueline offered up a cup of SOCO to kick off the day, and that took the sting out of the wet morning. It looked to be a third consecutive cold, wet day, and I was reluctant to leave the relative comfort of the shelter.
Having a lot of difficulty finding a rhythm out here with all of the rocks and roots, which partly explains my slower pace. (The other major factor is a lack of training and a lot of office time this past summer.) Even when I'm busting tail and flying down the trail, it only translates to about 2 mph. And more often than not, I'm moving slower than that. My head is constantly down scanning the trail for hazards. Today I slammed my head into a downed tree that I didn't see, because I was so focused on my ever-changing footing. Rocks, roots, and mud, oh my! Tough, treacherous miles out here, y'all.
I know there were periods where the rain subsided, but you almost wouldn't know it because the canopy continues to drizzle long after the rain stops actively falling. More than anything today, I walked through the fog, which was objectively less miserable than the alternative, but still no cause for joy.
Psyched to be nestled on the spacious platform at the shelter tonight. There are eight other trekkers, but four of them are camping outside in their tents. We could've all fit on the platform, but it would've been a tight squeeze. I certainly don't mind having the extra space. It's hard to believe that I'm sleeping at mile 98 already; I'm over one third of the way to Canada. Many of the SOBO hikers have told me that the Long Trail only gets more difficult as you continue further north. The first third is supposed to be pretty easy, and it has been. The second third gets a little tougher, and it looks to start with a 2,000+ foot climb up and over Mt. Killington first thing tmw morning. Then the third stretch is apparently pretty burley as you work your way straight up and straight down relentless peaks, including Mt. Mansfield, the highest in Vermont. The elevation profile for that last third is reminiscent of the Hundred Mile Wilderness, which totally kicked my butt. Should be fun(ish).
October 4, 2018
START: Governor Clement Shelter @ 0500
RESUPPLY: Rutland @ 0915
DISTANCE: 10.5 mi
CUMULATIVE: 108.5 mi
My alarm blared well before dawn this morning and likely woke all eight of the hikers sleeping nearby. Oopsies. I packed up as quietly as I could under guidance of my trusty red light. I'm sure my compatriots hated me, but I had places to be: TOWN! First, though, Killington. I covered the nearly 4.5 mile, 2,300 foot climb in two hours flat. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. Missed sunrise proper by just a few minutes. It was a brutally windy and absolutely gorgeous summit. Fitting of the second highest peak in Vermont.
I'd heard about a bus that would pick me up at US Route 4 and take me all the way into Rutland. I raced off of Killington hoping to make the highway in time to catch the 0915 bus. I had no idea whether the bus was real, or the times I'd heard were right, or anything about the general layout, but I was gonna give it my best shot anyways. I was crushing as hard as I could, so I wasn't surprised when my feet slipped right out from under me on a boardwalk. I ended up falling hard but landing surprisingly softly in the adjacent brush. I was in a big old hurry to catch the bus and could've easily gotten myself hurt. I slowed down some for the rest of the descent, but started running the flatter sections toward the bottom. I was surprised to reach the parking lot at 0915, but I didn't see a bus and couldn't tell where the stop was anyways, so I just started hitching. I was a little surprised when the second car picked me up. Before I knew it, I was in downtown Rutland.
I spent four hours in town resupplying, running errands, and grabbing lunch. I had hoped to shower, but with 13 miles still to hike and only three days until the next town, I decided to skip it. Hiker trash at its finest, right here.