DF: We planned a shorter day today, to recover a bit from two long days. As a result, we fell behind the thruhikers we’ve been with, since they pushed on to Killington. We did not have a four-mile climb in us this afternoon, so here we are.
After a quick three miles this morning, we had a short road walk to Qu’s Whistlestop Cafe for breakfast. Eight of us enjoyed the hiker special and some good company. The restaurant reopened this winter under a new owner, and she’s working hard to do right by hikers. We charged phones, threw away trash, dried out socks, and had great food on the deck. The building is a tiny old train station, with a deck connecting it to an old red train car. Very cute.
Our pre-breakfast walk started out on a narrow, high ridgeline, with occasional views in both directions. It ended with a steep descent into Clarendon Gorge and a scary high swinging suspension bridge over the Mill River. After breakfast we climbed out of the gorge, in part up a steep rock chute that required hands as well as feet to climb.
The rest of the day had a lot of ups and downs–down to a big stream, then up steeply and down the other side to the next stream. This area has a lot of damage from 2011’s Hurricane Irene. Lots of roads and bridges washed out, and there are still lots of downed trees. There was one half-mile section of trail that was closed due to a bridge washed out at the end. The detour was a 1.7 mile road walk. We met Plans Too Much, a local trail maintainer and shuttle provider along his section. He assured us that we could use the closed section, but we’d have to ford the stream at the end (where the bridge had been). So we did. I felt a little guilty not following the rules, but got over it when I thought about the long road walk in the hot sun. The bridge abutment had broken and bent rebar sticking out–the power of the water unleashed by the hurricane is amazing.
As we did yesterday, we continued to see old rock walls along the trail, often in remote areas. Jeanne, the Stratton Mountain caretaker told us that a hundred years ago, Vermont was 80% farms, and now it’s 80% forest, as the farmers moved to the mid-West for better land. It’s remarkable to realize how much work went into digging up all of those rocks, year after year, while trying to make a living farming here.
We arrived at this shelter at 4 PM (after 9.6 miles), and we’ve enjoyed the down time. Only one other hiker has gotten here so far, so it looks like a quiet evening–completely different from the big crowds the last few nights, and probably a lot more like what we can expect in the next few days when the Long Trail parts ways with the Appalachian Trail.
We do have company nearby–there’s a work crew of high school students from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps camped along the creek. They’re in the middle of a seven-week stint of trail work.
We’re hoping for an early start tomorrow and are looking forward to the top of Killington Peak.
BC: We hiked a steep down into Clarendon Gorge and crossed the swinging bridge. It was only slightly terrifying. Then we hit Rt 103 and walked the flat half mile west to Qu’s Whistlestop Cafe for breakfast. We were joined by most of the AT thru-hikers with whom we had spent the previous evening. The Whistlestop was great – they made an excellent Hiker’s Special breakfast with pancakes, eggs, bacon, potatoes, and an English muffin for about $10, plus they had charging stations, drying racks, and outdoor seating for all the stinky hikers (plus indoor plumbing!)
The climb out of the gorge was very, very steep – almost straight up in places, made all the worse by the large breakfast. But it was totally worth the stop. The trail had a road walk detour that added more than a mile in the hot sun, but on the advice of a local we skipped it and walked the original trail through an amazing path of destruction from Hurricane Irene in 2011. There was one large creek that we needed to ford, otherwise it was straightforward. We took this short day on purpose, to save the climb of Killington for the morning and avoid the weekend crowds at the top of the mountain.
Met a group of teenage trail maintainers out for seven weeks as part of a Vermont youth program. The Gov. Clement shelter was very cool, made of stone and it had a huge fireplace. We found a great tent site out in front of the shelter.