Friday, July 31, 2015

Day 120- Three Hour Rain Delay

Clarendon Gorge Stealthsite(1683.4) to Tucker-Johnson Campsite(1702.0) 18.6 Miles 

I think I've said this before, but I'll say it again, everyday can't be rainbows, puppies, and unicorns. It started out as a great day, but then, like the trail itself, was full of ups and downs. 

The days are getting shorter and I've been waking up a little later every day. I didn't leave camp until 7:45. I started the morning off with a nasty straight uphill climb. I gained 500' of elevation over .3 miles, up and over rocks. 
Fun, fun, fun

Then I went back down 300', only to go back up 300' of steep terrain. Luckily, the trail flattened out for a little while. I was actually enjoying a gradual downhill through a nice forest when I passed a SOBO hiker. She told me about some trail magic coming up. That greatly improved my mood. I hustled along, with thoughts of ice cold soda. Before I made it to the magic, I was greeted with my only view of the day.
Rutland Airport

The trail magic ended up being a bag of sodas left in a stream. They weren't very cold, but I was still thrilled to have a Mt. Dew. 

As I was sitting on a rock enjoying my soda and eating second breakfast, Stink Jacket and Pacman emerged from the woods. I hadn't seen them for a few days and it was nice to catch up. They had stayed at a hostel in Rutland the night before. It sounded like an interesting place, but I was glad I didn't stop there.  It was managed by some kind of cult. 

I decided to hike with the boys again. They really challenge me and I like that. After a few hours we came to a pretty significant milestone. We stopped briefly to take pictures and celebrate. 
500 Miles to go

I vividly remember where I was for the first 500 mile mark, Greyson Highlands. 
First 500 miles

After a short celebration, it was time to move on. We hiked up and down for a few more miles before stopping at the Governor Clement Shelter for lunch. We chatted with a father and adult daughter who were hiking the Long Trail. 
Governor Clement Shelter

While we were eating lunch a local out for an afternoon hike told us of an approaching thunderstorm. She said it would start really soon, so we decided to take our time with lunch. After 45 minutes there was no storm and the sky looked pretty clear. We decided to head out. We had a really difficult 4.5 mile climb ahead of us. Mt. Killington is the highest point on the AT in Vermont. From the elevation profile it looked really hard. As we left the shelter there was a sign warning dog owners of porcupines. I've never seen one and was disappointed I didn't see any on the way up. 

About a quarter of the way up, Mt Killington, the predicted storm began. The boys quickly turned on the afterburners and left me in the dust. The sky grew very, very dark and then the ice cold rain started. The summit of Killington is just over 4,000' of elevation. I haven't been up that high since the Priest in central Virginia. At that elevation a bad storm is no joke. I hiked as hard as I could, but by the time I reached the summit I was soaking wet. At least there was a shelter up there, it even had four walls. As I ran inside I was greeted by 12 other hikers taking refuge. I sat in there for three long, boring hours, soaking wet and shivering. I didn't want to get my dry clothes wet, but I at least put on my puffy, although it didn't do much good. When the rain let up a little I went out to get water from a nearby stream. On the way I crossed a big puddle of water. I stepped on what I thought was a rock to get over the puddle, but it was just an ankle deep mud hole. I was furious now. Much of the storm had passed, I was freezing cold, bored, and completely over sitting in a shelter. I told Stink Jacket and Pacman that I was hiking on. They quickly packed up and followed suit. 

I was disappointed not to get a view from Killington, but that is the way of the AT. Once we finally got moving again I warmed up quickly, dropping massive amounts of elevation helped too. On the way down the mountain we passed the 1,700 mile mark. Once again, I had to make the sign. 
1,700 miles down

We searched and searched for an appropriate campsite, but just couldn't find one. Everyone was tired, hungry, and short tempered. We hiked another 2 miles(felt like 10), until the AT broke away from the Long Trail. We found a sign for a campsite nearby, but it was .4 of a mile off of the Long Trail. So instead of following the AT east, we turned north and followed the LT towards Canada. 
My irritated, angry, hungry face (Hangry)

By now it was close to dark. I quickly set up camp, ate two snickers, and went to bed. I slept in until 7, and then started writing yesterday's blog. I'm in a much better mood today. I'm only 3 miles from town. I'll stop by a deli for breakfast, resupply, and then hike on out. 

"Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment."
-Dale Carnegie

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Day 119- Rock Gardens, Rock Ledges, And Rock Gorges

July 29, 2015
Danby, VT(1668.7) to Clarendon Gorge Stealth Site(1683.4) 14.7 Miles

Today didn't start off very well. Kevin and Tim decided to cook up a big breakfast, which was great, but meant a very late start for me. Tim made us cinnamon rolls, potatoes, and ginormous omelets. After breakfast I cleaned up the kitchen while we waited for our ride back to the trail. Our ride, Fat Man Walking, thru-hiked the AT two years ago. This year he follows the herd north, providing trail magic and shuttling services to hikers. He drives a little RV around with his adorable puppy, Frannie. 
Fat Man Walking
All the hikers he's met sign the door (Kevin holding it open so I could get a picture) 

I didn't start hiking until after 10:30. Breakfast was awesome, but definitely not worth such a late start. The first mile and a half was very relaxing. I followed a babbling brook the whole time. You would think that I could have gone very quickly over such flat terrain, but it was reminiscent of Pennsylvania with all of the rocks. 
My nemesis- slippery rocks

I managed not to fall on my face today, so I'll consider that a win. The brook ran into Little Rock Pond. If this spot had been closer to the end of my day, I would have camped there. The lake was beautiful. 
Little Rock Pond

Since it was way too early in the day to stop for more than a quick picture, I pushed on. A little farther down the trail I came across a wonderful, "Rock Garden". Rock gardens are spots were people build cairns. This was one of the largest I've seen so far. I couldn't quite capture it with a picture. 
Rock Garden
Cairn built into the tree
AT logo cairn

Just past the rock garden, was a blue blazed trail to, White Rocks Cliff. It was .2 miles off trail, but with the late start I knew I wasn't going to do a big mile day, so I decided to slow down and enjoy myself. I'm at the point where going .2 miles off the trail seems ridiculous. I'll be in the Whites next week and I'll have limitless views. I have to remind myself why I'm out here sometimes. It's not to walk 20 miles per day, but to see and experience cool things. 
White Rocks Cliff
Rutland Airport center and slightly to the right 

The side trail was very steep going down to the cliffs, which meant a very steep up on the way back. I ditched my pack behind a tree before I headed down. Best decision ever! 

The next few miles were all downhill, but it was very well graded. At the bottom of the mountain was a really nice stream. I had just drank the last of my water, so I took yet another break to filter more. I had a pretty steep climb ahead if me, so I cameled up at the water source. I drank a liter and filtered another 1.5L to carry with me. 
Bully Brook. Notice the cairns at the bottom by the pool of water?
Tree growing around a rock

I barely even remember the 1,000' climb up Bear Mountain. It was 1.7 miles, but I hardly noticed. Last night I downloaded a new audiobook, American Sniper, it is fantastic. My favorite audiobook of the trail! Audiobooks are such a great distraction. I can't remember why I stopped listening to them. I think I've listened to half of the book already. Anybody have suggestions on what I should get next? 

I had planned on camping at the next shelter I came to, but one mile short of the shelter I hit, Clarendon Gorge. The theme of today was doing things I normally skip, so I dropped my pack and went swimming. The gorge was really cool, there were several swimming holes along the river banks. Even though, technically, this is a no-camping zone there were several tents pitched when I arrived. 
Clarendon Gorge
A river full of rocks

After my swim/bath, I went about setting up camp. I'm set up right next to the waters edge. I love setting up next to running water, it's like having a white noise machine playing. Although people are camped all around this area, I am enjoying the solitude. I got all of my camp chores done quickly since I didn't have to chat with other hikers. I might actually get to bed early tonight. 

"Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” ― Dalai Lama

Day 118- Out of the Green Tunnel... Briefly

July 28, 2015
Manchester Center, VT(1651.1) to Danby, VT(1668.7) 17.6 Miles

One of the perks of staying at Green Mountain House last night was the breakfast options. Jeff provides eggs, milk, cereal, and pancake mix for hikers to make their own breakfast. I cooked in a proper kitchen for the first time in months. After breakfast a few hikers from yesterday tried to convince me to slack pack with them, but the purist in me turned them down. Jeff dropped me off at the trailhead around 8:00. I was happy to get started at a decent time. Usually when I stay in town it's after 9:00 before I get going. 

I began with a 1,400' climb up Bromley Mountain. The first part was a very gradual incline and I was thankful for the warmup. As I passed by the Bromley Shelter, I could hear someone playing a trumpet. The strange things I see and hear out here never cease to amaze me. Whoever it was playing sounded really good. A short distance later I came to a small rock outcropping. I paused to take in the view and could still hear the trumpet music, which was a snappy jazz number. Oddly enough this small thing goes down as one of the highlights of Vermont. 
View from the rock outcropping 

The climb up Bromley Mountain was three miles long. The last half mile was out of the forest and up a ski slope. It was pretty cool. I've been in the green tunnel for so long that I get super excited anytime the trail ventures out into the open. The summit of Bromley had a big gondola used during ski season and a warming hut for ski patrol. From the summit I had almost a 360 degree view. There were 3 different ski runs leading away from the ski lift area. It was one of the better views I've had in Vermont. 
The Easy Way slope 
Big mountain above was another ski mountain
Pushover Run
Great view 

I could have stayed up there all day. The ski patrol warming hut is used as a shelter in the off season. 
Ski patrol warning hut

Looking across the mountains a plan began to form in my mind. If I could catch up with the slack packers, Kevin and Tim, I could catch a ride back to the hostel and stay another night. With thoughts of grilling steak for dinner and a real bed to sleep in, I picked up the pace. On the way down Bromley mountain I stepped on wet log and fell down face first. Luckily, I wasn't hurt bad. Just bruised my knee and wrist. I dusted myself off and continued on. 

From the top of Styles Peak I got enough cell reception to call Jeff and see if he had room for me at the hostel. He was full for the night, but said he would figure it out and I could stay. As long as I could catch up with Kevin and Tim my plan would come together. 
Slight view from Styles Peak

The rest of the hike was lovely. I followed a ridgeline for miles so I was making great time. 
Beaver Pond, still no beaver sightings 

I was only three miles from the road that Kevin and Tim were being picked up at. The only problem was, I only had a little over an hour to get there before their ride picked them up. I was pushing as hard as I could when I came to a near vertical rock scramble. 
Granite wall

I stowed my trekking poles and scrambled up. It was fun, but slow going. 
Great view

The next three miles flew by. I was a hiking machine. A quarter of a mile from the road I finally caught up to the boys. Success!!! The reward was another round of laundry and a shower. We stopped at the grocery store on the way back to Green Mountain House. I bought .75 lbs of filet mignon. Thanks Kris and Ed for the steaks. 
Steak and potatoes

The hostel was very busy when we arrived and I was pleased to see a lot of familiar faces. Old Eagle Scout, McFly, Happy, Walking Home, and Walnut were all there. Old Eagle Scout did my laundry, Kevin and Tim took care of dinner. Life was good. Thanks Dan and Arlene, I used your bday gift to pay for the hostel. We watched a movie and are Ben and Jerey's ice cream. Tomorrow it's back to the wilderness!
Chunky Monkey

"When a thing beckons you to explore it without telling you why or how, this is not a red herring; it’s a map." -Gina Greenlee 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Day 117- Going To Town... Again

July 27, 2015
Winhall River Stealth Camp(1642.4) to Manchester Center, VT(1651.1) 8.7 Miles

I'm getting pretty used to stopping in town. I feel like that's all I've done for the last few weeks; and it's been glorious. Former AT thru-hiker and my idol, Wired, described Green Mountain House as the best hostel on the trail so I knew I would have to stay there. My primary objectives for this town stop were the post office, two different outfitters, lunch at Cilantro Burrito, shower, and laundry. 

Manchester Center, VT is an unlikely trail town. Most towns that are this hiker friendly the trail passes right through, but Manchester is 5.4 miles off of the trail. By hiker standards, that might as well be in Virginia. I'd heard that it was a really easy hitch into town so I wasn't too worried about getting there. 

I slept in a little this morning. I didn't plan on it, but after my day long sprint yesterday I guess I needed the rest. We packed up and were back on the trail by 7:45. The one good thing about hiking with the boys, was we made up for sleeping in by hiking 3 mph. 

After a few uneventful hours of hiking we came to Prospect Rock. It gave us a pretty nice view and we didn't even have to climb a mountain for it. 
Very hazy day due to the humidity

We hiked for another hour before we came to VT 30&11. At this point it was time to go our separate ways. Stink Jacket and Pacman headed east to go get burritos and then return to the trail. I was going west into town. Before I could even get my thumb out a nice older gentleman stopped for me. He was on his way to the lake to go fishing, but had gone the wrong way. He took me a few miles towards town, but was getting on the interstate instead of going into Manchester Center. He dropped me off a few miles short. As I stood on the side of the road looking at my phone trying to figure out where I was exactly, a car going the opposite direction slowed down. The woman asked if I needed a ride into town. When I said yes she turned around and scooped me up. Marianne was a crazy, cool older woman. She asked if I like music, I said yes. She got all excited and asked if I knew Tom Lehrer, I said I didn't. She played me a song of his, The Irish Ballad. She sang along and bopped around in her seat. It was like watching a 5 year old. The whole thing was very surreal. She took me to the post office and offered to wait for me, which was very nice. When I got back in the car the subject of my birthday came up. She sang me a wildly inappropriate birthday song and then played me another Tom Lehrer track. I was laughing the whole way to the outfitters. She very solemnly explained that she couldn't drive me around all day, to which I said she had done more than enough. Before I got out if the car she told me a raunchy, but hilarious joke, and wished me well on my journey. I asked if I could take her picture, but she declined. Even without a picture, I'll never forget the crazy, cool lady from Manchester Center who gave me a ride around town! 

I was thrilled with both outfitters in town. I got new super feet insoles for my shoes, I also got a pair of my darn tough socks replaced for free, and I got my hiking pole fixed! It was a great day for my gear. 

My next stop was Cilantro Burrito. It was like an upscale Chipotle and it was delicious. I was still hungry so I went to the local ice cream shop for dessert. I'm in Ben and Jerry's country, but it was too far away to go there. The locally made ice cream shop was amazing. I got a small coffe health bar ice cream that was huge. 
3 scoops in the small

I had sent myself a resupply box from Wiiliamstown, so I didn't need anything from the grocery store. I called Jeff, the owner of Green Mountain House Hostel, and he came to pick me up. The hostel is amazing. It's a proper house located in the outskirts of town. We have full run of the kitchen, laundry room, and living room. Jeff even provides free soda and a pint of Ben and Jerry ice cream. It was a great place to relax and take care of town chores. I knew a few of the other hikers staying there, Clarity, Papa Al, and Phil Co, were all there. They slack packed today, so they are actually 18 miles ahead of me. Clarity and I hung out most of the evening. It's really nice to connect so easily with another woman on the trail. It's a rare thing out here. 
Freezer full of Ben and Jerry's
Thanks Jeff for everything!
Green Mountain House
All of the states from the AT
I highly recommend

Once again I got behind on taking care of things tonight. I fell asleep while writing my blog, so I had to finish it up in the morning. 

"Whenever you should doubt your self-worth, remember the lotus flower. Even though it plunges to life from beneath the mud, it does not allow the dirt that surrounds it to affect its growth or beauty." - Suzy Kassem

Cell phone reception will be spotty for the next few days. I might not be able to publish my blog everyday, but I'll do my best. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Day 116- Vermud Is Very Vexing

July 26, 2015
Glastenbury Mountain Fire Tower(1621.4) to Winhall River Stealth Camp(1642.4)  21 Miles

The last few days I was hitting the brakes, but today was all about pushing the pedal to the metal. I am absolutely exhausted! I think today was the hardest I've hiked this entire trip. We covered 21 miles in nine hours. That includes a half hour lunch break and six 5-10 minute snack breaks. I figure we averaged 2.8 mph all day long. I usually average 2.25 mph. The trail was super muddy and we had a few difficult climbs. 

I was hoping to see the sunrise from on top of the fire tower this morning, but it was raining when I got up. I didn't even bother getting out of my hammock to see if I could get a view. I knew all I would see was a wall of white. I went back to bed and ended up sleeping until seven. By then the rain had stopped, so I began to pack my things. I chatted with Stink Jacket for a few minutes before heading out. 

I started out really slow. I desperately need new insoles for my shoes. My feet are in constant pain. I tried everything to take my mind off of the pain, but nothing worked. It didn't take long for, Pacman and Stink Jacket to catch up to me. They hike much faster than me, so I let them pass by. I thought it would be a good distraction to try and keep up with them for a little while so I picked up my pace. We crushed out the first four miles very quickly. We stopped briefly to filter water and catch our breath. I hoped I could keep up with them for the next four miles. I was trying to get my early morning miles done as quick as I could because I've been slowing down so much in the afternoon. 

We ended up hiking the first nine miles together in under four hours. We took a nice long lunch break at Story Spring Shelter. At that point I was pretty beat. I told them I couldn't keep up with them any longer and I'd meet up with them at the end of the day. Stink Jacket wasn't having it though. He said they usually slow down after lunch too. I decided to stick with them for a few more miles since we were having so much fun.
Just before lunch a break in the trees for a partial view
Beaver Pond

Their idea of slowing down differs immensely from mine. I think they actually picked up the pace. I'm a pretty fast hiker going uphill, but I struggle to keep the pace up over slick rocks and mud puddles. They fly right over those. Of the 21 miles hiked today, at least 10 miles was through the mud and over slick rocks. 
Muddy trail
Muddy trail
Muddy trail
Muddy trail
Get the point?

I somehow managed not to fall down today, but I had a lot of close calls. I planned on going my own way just before the big climb of the day, but once again Stink Jacket convinced me to stick with them. The climb up Stratton Mountain was a beast. We gained 1,800 feet of elevation by climbing uphill for 4 miles. I figured along the way they would leave me way behind, but somehow I managed to keep up. I had it in my head that it would take us 2.5 hours, but we did it in just under 1.5. I can't believe how hard we crushed it. 

Stratton Mountain is the reason why there is an Appalachian Trail. The creator of the trail, Benton Mackaye, was so inspired by the views on the summit that he decided to create a continuos footpath along the appalachian mountain range. Today, however, the summit is covered by huge balsam fir trees. You can only see the view from atop a fire tower. 
Balsam firs
Fire tower
Really hazy out so not much of a view :-(
Stratton pond is visable here

Sitting on top of the summit was a caretakers cabin. The caretaker, Jean, came out to say hello. Her and her husband have been there since 1967. They manned the fire tower as lookouts until a few years ago when VT switched to aerial reconnaissance. She was a wealth of knowledge and I enjoyed talking to her. 

We didn't hang around the summit for very long. I was soaking wet from my sprint up the mountain and the wind was blowing pretty hard. I was very chilled and needed to start hiking again to warm up. The next shelter was only three miles away, but we weren't staying there because they charge $5 to stay. I camp for free everywhere else on this trail and I'm not about to pay $5 now. I understand the logic behind imposing an overnight fee, but I think thru-hikers should be exempt. Supposedly they charge the fee because of over usage in a few areas in Vermont. It was a shame because the tenting area looked awesome. 
View of Stratton Pond from the tenting area

Since we refused to pay money to stay there we had to hike another two miles. By this point I was utterly exhausted and the final few miles felt like ten miles. I was so tired that I didn't even realize we had crossed a major milestone until later in the evening. We reached the 3/4 point of the trail. Just one quarter remains!!! I can't believe there wasn't a sign to mark the occasion. 

Tent spots are very limited here. Pacman, Stink Jacket, and I are setup super close to one another. It's what Cherokee, Airlock, and I used to call Camp Cozy(or snuggly). 

Tomorrow will be another town day. I'm hoping to get my hiking pole fixed, get new insoles, and a new pair of socks. It will be a very busy town stop. 

"Never blame anyone in your life.  
Good people give you happiness. Bad people give you experience. Worst people give you a lesson and the best people give you memories." 
- couldn't reliably contribute this quote to anybody so I have to do the dreaded "unknown"