July 23: Day 20. Whiteface Shelter to VT 15 (Johnson), 7.7 miles

Sugar maple trees with a modern tap system.

DF: We were all alone in the shelter last night, for the first time on this trip. As it got dark, we both felt a little irrational anxiety about that. Having one or two other people with us certainly doesn’t make it any safer, but I guess there’s something comforting about having other people around. We both settled in and got a fairly good night’s sleep.

It definitely was easier getting up in the morning without worrying about waking up other people. We ate breakfast and enjoyed watching the sun come up and light the mountains, then we hit the trail by 7:10.

We began with a 600 ft. climb in 0.4 miles to the top of Whiteface Mountain. Lots of almost vertical rock scrambles–Ken calculated that we had an average grade of 28%. Limited views from the top, but we found two names carved into a rock and what we think was a date of 1864.

The rest of the day was downhill for over seven miles, steeply at first, then a lot more “mellow,” as our friend Brad promised yesterday. The last three miles or so were on a woods road used for logging and access to a maple sugaring operation. We came upon a section of forest with blue tubing wrapped around and between some trees. When we realized that the trees were sugar maples, we figured out what was going on–maple syrup!

Because the trail was so easy, we made it down to the road before noon (our fastest pace on the trip, so far). Ken had called to reserve a room for the next two nights (yay zero day!) and Marsha Nye Lane from Nye’s Green Valley Farm B&B picked us up in her Chrysler convertible. We stopped at the gas station, where she bought gas and we bought beer, iced tea, and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

When we arrived at the B&B, Marsha told us that she had put us in their guest house, a converted barn with three bedrooms and a huge open living area. There’s a washer and dryer, and a big deck, where we had lunch watching the storm come over the mountains.

Now we’re sitting in the living room, while huge thunderstorms roll by, and we’re very happy to be indoors and not on a high mountain (out in the open like on Mansfield). Marsha said they’d take us into town to the grocery store and to get dinner. Breakfast is also included.

We’re planning a day of rest and recuperation. Ken hurt his knee yesterday, so he’s icing it. For the first half of this journey, we both felt like this was incredibly difficult, but we were getting stronger each day. Since around Mt. Abraham, however, we’ve been struggling a bit–like it’s getting harder, not easier each day. The guy from the GMC talked about that–at this point it’s a race to finish before the accumulated injuries catch up to you. That sums it up pretty well.

Our cabin at Nye’s Green Valley Farm.
Watching the storm front come through from the comfort and safety of our cabin. We would have been climbing over Mansfield at this time.
A wonderful sunset colors the sky west of our cabin.