Almost from the beginning, the Trail in Vermont has been uber muddy. It’s impossible to keep my feet or hiking shoes dry.
Early on I came across this gigantic rock and wondered why it was there in total isolation of other rocks. There must be some geological explanation but it escapes me. To give you perspective, my trekking pole, which is is at the bottom of the rock, is about 3.7 feet long.
On Wednesday, the 24th, I completed 18.7 miles, my highest so far on the Trail. I was going to stop at about 15 miles but Fjord, a young thru-hiking gal, talked me into going further. “Old Guy, just continue! It’ll still be light when you get there. What else are you going to do?” Fjord is one of those hiking machines, and of course she got to the next shelter before I arrived. When she saw me at the shelter she said, “I knew you could do it, Old Guy.” I got a kick out of our interaction as it seemed like role-reversal. She explained that she was supposed to meet up with another hiker, but he had gone ahead. So Fjord put on her pack and proceeded another 5 miles. She hiked 28 miles the day before and at least 24 today! I am amazed at how many young women are thru-hiking alone.
I finally had a good day for pictures. These are taken from Glastonbury Mountain, elevation 3748 feet.
On Thursday the 25th, I completed 15 miles; the first 5 were dry, but the last 10 were in pouring rain.
I climbed Mt Stratton, elevation 3936, in howling winds blowing the rain sideways. The summit was very cold. As I ate pre-cooked sausage and a pop tart under a pine tree with the Beast on my back, I asked myself, “Are you having fun?”
The mud continued. Here is an example. You can actually hear the sound of the negative pressure as the suction attempts to remove your hiking shoe.
It rained again on Friday the 26th, all day. The Trail, whether going up or down, was essentially a flowing stream of water. When it was flat, pools of water formed covering both sides of the Trail by 1-2 feet. Water or mud was everywhere and, if mud, I could plan on sinking 3 to 5 inches with each step. At least 4 streams had to be forded. Rocks, frequently utilized for rock-hopping to cross, were now completely underwater. Currents, volume and water pressure were very high on larger streams. I didn’t get discouraged, however, as I had a prearranged stop-over in Manchester Center, VT, a very quaint town.
People are friendly here. A guy in the laundromat asked if I was a thru-hiker. Then he asked if I had been in the mountains when a lightning and thunder show occurred (I wrote about it several posts ago). He told me he had lived in the mountains for over 50 years and had never seen or heard anything like it. “It was like God was talking to us,” he said. Then he suggested, “We’ll come back when the clothes are finished; we are not doing anything here. Let’s go next door and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.” And so he did, at the adjacent 50’s style diner.
Saturday the 27th was a lazy day. I spoke to Diane, went to the market for resupply, walked around several parts of town and played 9 holes of golf. Diane thought I should have taken a picture of golf on the Trail. The course was surrounded by the mountains I had already and will continue to hike. There’s certainly a different perspective of the mountains from this point of view.
My 5th Zero was a very good one, and Manchester Center, VT is really a beautiful little town with a lot of pride and character.
For many years Diane and I have gone to the National Cemetery in Raleigh on Memorial Day to honor those who died in service to our country. It’s a small cemetery, but like most National Cemeteries, it is well kept. It is also the resting place of a Medal of Honor recipient. I missed going this year with Diane, but thought about our best and bravest throughout the day.
It rained all day Memorial Day as well as the next day. It doesn’t feel good to wake up and put on cold, wet hiking shoes. You wonder if the rain will ever stop. However, even during the rain, the Trail will give you pleasant experiences. The following picture shows a “rock garden.” These structures are created by hikers. There are many gardens, but this one near Wallingford was the biggest and busiest I’ve seen.
I took this picture on a swaying suspension footbridge at least a hundred feet above rocks and water. I was concerned with the sway, as well as worrying about dropping a trekking pole or my phone.
By the 31st I really needed to get dry and warm, so I got off the trail and stopped at a hiker friendly inn, The Inn at Long Trail in Killington, VT. This place is all Irish: music, menu, and decor. There was even a very old Notre Dame banner on the wall! The Inn claims to have the largest selection of Irish whiskeys in the state of Vermont. The owner, a very friendly chap, was born in County Mayo. A shower, coffee, Guinness stew and an ice cream sundae were just what I needed. According to the owner, today it was announced that this spring has been the coldest and rainiest in more than 50 years in Vermont. The sun did try to make a couple of appearances today and when it did I managed to get a few decent photos.
The next day, June 1, I was surprised to see a ski slope operational! The owner of the Inn assured me it was artificial snow and that the slope was open. He told me the Killington Ski Slope prides itself in being the first slope to open each year, and the last to close.
A local day hiker told me that the slope is open and free today, and then will close for the season. Apparently they are doing this so they can say they were open for skiing in June!
I started out the day with a good hiker breakfast at the Inn. At last the weather looks promising and this is first day in in a very long time that I can hike wearing shorts and shirt. Overall, a very good day.
This shelter is very unusual. It is on private land one tenth of a mile from the AT. It has nothing to do with the Trail or any hiking organization. Just as in the usual shelters, there are no utilities. However this one has a nice fireplace inside. It also has four walls rather than three, and a door, a big plus. The owners allow hikers to use this wonderful shelter; it is always open. Note how the owners also added a ladder that goes over the roof where there are benches to relax and enjoy the beautiful views. As I enjoyed my lunch and looked at the wonderful views, I wished I knew more about how this shelter came to be.
The Lookout views:
On Saturday, June 3rd, I came out of the forest and crossed a gravel road. The road was single lane, had two ruts where you drive and it is in the middle of nowhere. As a SUV approached you could almost hear the banjos playing. The driver’s window rolled down and a middle-aged woman smiled at me and said, “Would like some cookies?” We had an enjoyable conversation as I ate the cookies. Before driving on, she pointed to a house on a mountain and told me she lives there with her husband. They both love the mountains and their isolation. The cookies were delicious. Trail Magic!
Later I stopped at a farmer’s house on the way and bought a pint of ice cream. I sat on his front porch enjoying the treat and nice mountain views.
My only downer was fording another stream. I searched 50-75 yards both upstream and downstream and found no good options. There was a steel cable secured on both sides of the stream by trees about 8 feet above the water. I considered using it, but was unwilling to be upside down doing hand-over-hand pulling locked ankles with the Beast on my back. That night, after a wet crossing, I built a fire to dry my socks and hiking shoes.
On Sunday, June 4, I came off a mountain that led into the tiny town of West Hartford, VT, another economically depressed town along the Trail. Apparently, West Hartford had catastrophic damage from Hurricane Irene in 2011 and never recovered. A woman saw me and yelled, “Come on over!” I crossed the road and she asked me if I wanted coffee or soda. A few minutes later she brought out a root beer and an orange. She asked me to sign her ledger of hikers and I noted that I had met many of her previous visitors. She is a very pleasant lady with a big heart. You could tell by her house, yard and porch that she was probably living at or below the poverty level, but yet she is generous and kind to strangers. Another reminder that money is not everything.
As I approached Norwich, VT, another very friendly woman gave me some watermelon and nut bread. Then she offered me a stay at her house. I declined, as it would have delayed me further. One of the things I have enjoyed the most on this hike is this generous hospitality.
I crossed into NH that same day. After stopping at the Starbucks in Hanover for a cold brew, I went over to a nearby restaurant to enjoy a roast beef panini and live music. As you would expect, everything here is related to Dartmouth. A very nice-looking town. Goodbye to the Green Mountains … the Whites await.