July 22: Day 19. Smuggler’s Notch (VT 108) to Whiteface Shelter, 7.2 miles

Bringing a fresh lunch out of town is always a treat.

DF: We both got a good night’s sleep last night, plus we got to sleep in a bit. We enjoyed a really nice breakfast on the deck at the Inn, and then we packed up to go. Ken’s LT friend, Brad, picked us up at nine and drove us up to Smuggler’s Notch. It’s a crazy, narrow, winding road at the top–it’s closed in the winter and people go cross-country skiing on it.

The trail started at the state park’s picnic area, crossed a creek, and then–surprise!–started to climb steeply. I continue to be amazed at the level of erosion on this trail. It is badly washed out in places, and this causes trees along the trail to fall over because the soil erodes out from under them. At one point today, we were scrambling up an avalanche chute–this after seeing a sign at the trailhead warning us about unstable rocks and the possibility of avalanche at any time.

I’m also amazed at how populated and developed the area is–we both had the impression before we started that this would be fairly wild country with few people around. Practically every day we’ve seen dayhikers on the trail. Today there were at least a dozen people at Sterling Pond–it’s a well-known swimming hole. The trail also seems to pass through every ski resort in the state. We’re constantly popping out of the woods onto ski runs, and we often pass chairlifts and snow-making equipment. We also often see (cross or share the trail with) snowmobile trails and cross-country ski and snowshoe trails.

We ate lunch at the Sterling Pond Shelter, just past the pond. Because we had a fridge in our room (first time!) we bought hummus, feta, and a cucumber for today’s lunch. It was wonderful!

After lunch we hiked 3 ½ more miles, up and over two mountains. We also discovered the nastiest, most slippery trail surface ever. It looked like regular rock, with a nice irregular surface (for traction). As soon as I stepped on it, however, it was like ice–my feet slid out from under me and I fell hard. Ken tried to come to my rescue and also fell, smacking his elbow. We’re ok, but there was a lot of cussing, Ken has a new bandage on his elbow, and I have a new purple-black bruise on my butt. A few minutes later we met a southbounder. She said that every northbounder in the shelter the night before had fallen at that same spot. Hey, GMC, a little warning would be nice–someone could get seriously hurt there.

The shelter is old and small, made of huge logs. It’s one of the brightest ones we’ve seen. It faces west, with a nice view of Madonna Peak (which we climbed today–it’s another ski mountain), and Mt. Mansfield in the background. It’s 8 PM, and we’re the only ones here. First time that’s happened. It’s been a really nice, quiet, peaceful evening.

BC: Tough 2000 foot climb out of Smuggler’s Notch, much of it straight up. We discovered a new kind of rock, super slippery even in dry weather, like ice. Luckily the Green Mountain Club put a large slab of it sloping downward right in the middle of the trail, otherwise we might have missed this particular geology lesson. On a related note, I left a large smear of blood on the trail so the evil minions might feed for a few days. At this point, with about 100 miles left, we’re just hiking to finish in spite of the GMC and this trail.

Breakfast at the Old Stagecoach Inn was lovely, and meeting Brad was fun. He and I exchanged numerous emails prior to our hike, and his advice was invaluable for the whole experience.

Our large room at the Old Stagecoach Inn.
DF climbing a pyramid shaped wooden staircase.
A selfie at the top of Madonna Peak, where we took a break at the ski patrol hut.
Butterfly on some flowers in an open ski run.
The Faculty Rest Room at Whiteface Shelter.
DF hanging out at Whiteface Shelter late in the evening.