August 3: Reflection

Sign at the northern terminus of the Long Trail.

DF: And we’re home. In some ways, it seems as if the whole trip never happened. We had dinner at my brother and sister-in-law’s house the day after we got back, just like we did the night before we left. It seemed like just a few days had gone by, rather than more than four weeks. The whole experience seems to be fading away as we return to the daily routines: groceries, to-do lists, plans for returning to work…

As difficult as the trail was on most days, in many ways it was a lot simpler than life in town. There were a lot fewer things to deal with each day, and those things were very concrete–eat, sleep, get water, hike. I found myself overwhelmed on the Metro platform at Union Station because there were so many people and it was so noisy and busy, even at 11 PM.

I’m trying hard to keep the lessons of the trail in mind, especially the lessons we had to relearn almost every day: to be conscious and mindful of the now, to pay attention to what you’re doing, rather than trying to predict the future–when we’ll get to the next shelter, how long it will take to go the next few miles. Those kinds of things almost never worked out. We just needed to deal with what’s in front of us–roots, rocks, water, mud–and keep on going. When we remembered that, things did work out just fine, but usually not in the ways we had predicted or anticipated. If I can keep that in mind, I can keep the trail experience alive.

BC: What does it say that I hated the trail while I was hiking it, but have fond memories only a few days later? We’d never been to Vermont before this hike, and I liked everything about that beautiful state — in July, anyway. The Vermonters we met were open, friendly, and helpful, from the hipsters bartenders to the ski bums, the taciturn old Yankee farmers, and the hippies we met almost everywhere. The summer season in Vermont, like many northern states, is lovely. Cool nights, not too hot during the day, and all the locals are outside taking advantage of the weather all summer long. The little villages are beautiful, the craft beer is amazing, and there was a strong farm-to-table movement everywhere we went.

But the trail itself was a different story. I understand the desire to keep it a physically challenging trail, but this was taken to a ridiculous extreme, with much of the trail massively eroded after a century of non-maintenance. I remember a sign on the trailhead signboard at Hazen’s Notch which read “This section is maintained by the So-and-So trail club” and someone had hand written at the bottom, “Well, maybe they should start maintaining it, then.” That pretty much sums up my feelings about the Long Trail itself.

The experience of hiking a longer trail was worthwhile in other respects. This was the first truly long hike I did with my partner of more than thirty years – our longest hikes in the past had been 8 or 9 days, but mostly we’ve done weekend section hikes in the South. We quickly fell into an easygoing routine both in camp and on the trail. Even after a month of 24/7 togetherness, we were ready to keep going pretty much indefinitely. While a longer thru-hike will have to wait until retirement, we’re already planning a Camino de Santiago walk some time in the next few years.

I’m glad that I hiked the trail, and I’m already making plans for a return trip to Vermont to knock out that last 20 miles and enjoy more of the hospitality that we experienced during our month on the trail. Many thanks to all the Vermonters that we met along the way.

Happy hikers.

July 30: Travel Day: Re-entry

The Vermonter, an Amtrak train running from St. Albans, VT, to Washington, DC.

DF: Instead of spending the day walking, climbing, slogging, trudging…we’re spending it sitting. First on a commuter bus from Richford to St. Alban’s for about 45 minutes, then in a coffee shop for about an hour, and for the next thirteen hours on a train. I’ve decided that I much prefer being outside and moving to being inside and sitting.

We’ve mostly spent our time reading. And fidgeting. Usually there’s not much to see out the windows–lots of trees and the occasional river. It’s kind of interesting when we go through a town, but generally the railroad tracks don’t run through the nice parts of town.

The train was delayed, in part because someone put a grocery cart on the tracks somewhere in Connecticut. By the time we arrived at the Vienna Metro, it was after 11:30 PM.

DF at the little coffee shop in St. Albans. The barista let us inside early and made sure we had plenty of good coffee.
BC at the Amtrak station in St. Albans, VT.

July 29: Day 26. Shooting Star Shelter to Northern Terminus (Journey’s End), 7.2 miles


DF: The rain stopped around midnight. The wind picked up, and it was quite chilly (50 degrees or so). The morning was foggy, and still cold and windy. We packed up everything, then put on our cold, wet hiking clothes and began our run for the border.

It was a fairly short hike: two miles up and over Burnt Mountain (2600 ft) to a road crossing at North Jay Pass, then 2.6 miles up and over Carleton Mountain (2670 ft) to the border. But then we had to turn around and go back the 2.6 miles to the road to hitch into town. That’s 7.2 miles, if you’re keeping track.

The weather was chilly, windy, and foggy for most of the trip. Just before we got to the border, the sun started peeking through. It was pretty cool to get to the sign announcing that we were at the northern terminus. We stepped out of the woods into the border clearing and took more pictures at the border marker. There’s a 100-foot swath of land along the border that’s been cleared of trees, kind of like a power line cut.

As we were getting ready to leave, a man hiked down the trail from the parking lot–a southbound section hiker just beginning his journey. We talked for a few minutes, then set off together.

He quickly pulled ahead and we finished our journey alone. The trip back to the road was more pleasant, since the sun had mostly come out and our clothes were beginning to dry (so we weren’t as cold).

We caught a ride fairly quickly from Dan. He said he was traveling for work, but he’s a hiker and he likes to help hikers when he can. He dropped us off in downtown Richford.

Richford is an interesting place. It reminded me of all the little former steel towns near Pittsburgh–lots of boarded up storefronts downtown and lots of older people, but not many younger ones. There used to be industry here, including a furniture manufacturer and a paper mill, but it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot here anymore.

Our home for the night is a restaurant/banquet hall/motel. We had a great hot roast beef sandwich in the pub for lunch, and a fancy, if old-fashioned, steak dinner. In between, we walked downtown to make sure we knew where to catch the bus to St. Alban’s in the morning. We also packed our packs for bus and train travel–completely different than backcountry travel.

BC: Canada! Easy two miles to the road, then a slightly tougher 2.6 to the border. The sun finally came out at the border and we got some photos, then headed back south to Rt 105 for an easy hitch into Richford.

The monument at the US/Canada border.
Taking a selfie at the border monument.
In front of the sign at the northern terminus. It was still kind of cold.


DF waiting for cars to pass so we can hitch a ride.
The Crossing in Richford, VT, a nice little pub and restaurant that has a few inexpensive rooms to rent.

July 28: Day 25. Hazen’s Notch Camp to Shooting Star Shelter, 14 miles

Shooting Star shelter on a rainy evening after a long day on the trail.

DF: Another fourteen mile day. Once we knew we were stopping at Hazen’s yesterday, we began to make plans. The Jay Peak ski resort has a new restaurant at the top of the mountain. We’d met the food and beverage manager (Chris) at the Hyde Away in Waitsfield, and he’d told us how great it was. The forecast was for more rain, so we called to make sure they’d be open, even in bad weather. We were assured they’d be open rain or shine, so we started looking forward to lunch at the top. Three NOBO guys rolled into the shelter after 6 PM–they’d also called Jay and were excited about sandwiches and maybe even beer at the top.

We were off by 6:45, and we had a few hours before it started raining. I started to say we had dry hiking, but that really wasn’t true. The trail is so overgrown in many places that I was soaking wet from fighting my way through it all. The rain started around 10 AM, and it hasn’t stopped yet.

We were on top of our third peak of the morning (Domeys Dome) when it started raining. We had one more climb, a drop down to the road, and then the assault on Jay Peak–a steep climb to almost 4000 feet and a beautiful alpine summit with views into Canada, New Hampshire, etc.

So. The peak was totally socked in with fog. No views. And, much worse, the restaurant was closed. The guys had passed us just before the summit, so all five of us crowded into a tiny vestibule to try to stay warm and eat some lunch. Remember that it was below sixty degrees, with a strong wind, pouring rain, and we were all completely soaked. Dripping. Wet. And angry and disappointed. We’d been there for a little while when we saw the gondola moving, and soon a bunch of kids from the resort summer camp arrived with a couple of counselors. They let us inside to use the restroom and fill up water bottles. We were also able to dump our trash (it’s the little things that make hikers happy).

We headed out into the rain and a really strong, cold wind to begin our descent. It was very slow going–steep, rocky, and very slick, with torrents of water running down the trail in places. We arrived at our intended destination, Laura Woodward Camp at around 2 PM. We expected a four-sided building, with a door (that’s what a Long Trail “camp” is), but it was an old, small, sad-looking three-sided shelter. Even though we were cold and wet and eager to get out of the rain, we really didn’t like the idea of spending the rest of the afternoon there. The next shelter, Shooting Star, was only 4.3 miles further, so we pressed on, figuring we’d be that much closer to done in the morning.

So here we are. Still raining at 7:30 PM, and getting colder. We changed into dry clothes, made hot tea and noodles, and we’ll be fine for the night. One of the guys from last night (Emmett) is here–the others called for rides at Jay Peak and made a run for the border to finish tonight. There’s also a guy just starting his SOBO hike.

Short hiking day tomorrow. Looking forward to reaching Journey’s End, then getting into town for hot showers and a real bed.

BC: Another long day for the northern Long Trail. The problem with hiking all day in the rain is that once you stop, you immediately need to change into dry clothing to avoid getting cold and possibly hypothermic. So when we got to Laura Woodward camp so early in the afternoon, it seemed very reasonable to continue hiking. It wasn’t until we were well past the shelter that I realized that decision put us on track for a 14 mile day. But we made it, got to Shooting Star by dinner time, put on dry clothing and made some hot drinks and food. All’s well that ends well.

Nice creek, maybe there’s a trail nearby….


The sun was trying to come out several times during the day, with no success.

July 27: Day 24. Tillotson Camp to Hazen’s Notch Camp, 6.1 miles

Getting close to the border!

DF: Today we lost a battle with the trail demons (most of the time we talk about trail gods, but not on the Long Trail). We are still going to finish this damn trail, just not as quickly as we’d hoped. It started raining at 4 AM, and it rained hard until after 6. Because of that, and because it was so dark inside, we slept in until 6:30, and didn’t get on the trail until 8.

We began with a short but very steep climb up Tillotson Peak. It started raining again just as we started down. Next up was Haystack Mountain. By this time it was raining hard, and thundering. The trail was a mess–steep, rooty, and rocky, as usual–but now it was also extremely wet, muddy, and slippery. Our pace slowed to a crawl. It took us four hours to go about 4 ½ miles. By the time we got to the road at Hazen’s Notch, we knew we wouldn’t make the 12 miles to Jay Camp today.

So we pulled in at Hazen’s Notch Camp a little after 1 PM and called it a day. We put on dry clothes, made a hot lunch, and regrouped. Of course, the sun came out. But that let us hang out our clothes to start drying, and just relax a bit. We expended a lot of energy this morning–not only navigating the awful trail, but also going through the stages of grief about not finishing tomorrow and having to change our plans again.

Looking east at dawn from Tillotson Camp at wind turbines on the next ridge line.
Drying out gear at our home for the night at Hazen’s Notch Camp.
Dragonfly knitting a pair of socks in camp.


July 26: Day 23. Corliss Camp to Tillotson Camp, 15 miles

A large fringed orchis alongside the trail.

DF: We ended up hanging out at the picnic table last night with Steady and two local SOBO section hikers, Kevin and Eric. After much conversation, we decided to try to finish in three more days instead of four. In order to do that, we had to do more than fifteen miles today. So we did.

For the most part, the trail today was much more straightforward than usual. We did a lot more walking and a lot less scrambling and climbing, which helped us to be able to do the miles. Our trade-off for good trail, however, was deer flies. They were relentless, attacking our heads and biting, especially when we were trying to navigate a tricky section of trail.

I’ve noticed a change in wildflowers during the time we’ve been out. The milkweed (with the round clusters of lavender flowers) is done blooming, and goldenrod and tall phlox are beginning to bloom. I saw another plant with a tall spike of purple flowers. At first I thought it was phlox, but then I noticed that the leaves were different. Upon closer inspection, I think it’s an orchid. I’ll look it up when we get home.

The end of the day featured a huge climb up Belvidere Mountain, then three more miles down to the shelter. Those last three miles were rough, and it really was a long day. We left camp at 6:45 this morning, and got here at 6:45 this evening.

The camp has bunks for eight. We’re here with Steady and another NOBO named Mike. He’s retired and says hiking helps stretch his pension. The building has a door and a big window–Mike insisted we close them, so it’s a bit cave-like in here now. We’ll see how things go overnight.

There’s a good chance of rain tomorrow. We’ll see how things look in the morning.

BC: Long day on typical Long Trail tread. We had a steep 1800 foot climb after lunch to the top of Belvidere, with another 0.2 miles straight up to the fire tower, but the views were well worth it. Tillotson Camp is a nice little 4-sided shelter and there are only four of us staying here tonight.

A view from the summit of Belvidere.
Looking south from the top of the fire tower on Belvidere.
DF on the summit of Belvidere, looking a bit wiped out.
We found this lovely little pond near the end of the day.
BC in the doorway at Tillotson Camp.

July 25: Day 22. VT 15 to Corliss Camp, 11.5 miles

Our packs sitting by the side of the trail during a break.

DF: Raspberry pancakes and real maple syrup. May be my all-time favorite breakfast. And Dave delivered it to our door. Pretty cool. After breakfast we packed everything up and Dave drove us to the trail. In the convertible. We got started at 7:45.

The trail started this morning meandering through the Lamoille River bottom. We crossed the river on a suspension bridge, then started climbing. Our first vista was Prospect Rock, where we could look back down the river valley and see the B&B. We climbed a couple of small hills then began the big climb up Laraway Mtn.–1500 feet in less than two miles. Nice view from the top. Then down to the shelter. We got here by 4:00, which was early for us, but too late to go on to the next one. This one is full with a camp group–we were lucky to find a tent site nearby.

BC: Another great breakfast from Marsha, this time delivered to the cabin by Dave. Got an early start for a town morning. Easy trail most of the day, makes a nice change from previous sections. Unfortunately I just could not get up to speed this morning to take advantage of it – I felt like I was dragging all day.

Crossing the Lamoille River.
The suspension bridge over the Lamoille River.
A view from Prospect Rock back into the Lamoille River valley.
A little snake that was in the trail; this one stopped for a photo.
DF looking up at some huge rocks on the way up.
Corliss Camp, where we tented for the night.

July 24: Day 21. Nye’s Green Valley Farm (Jeffersonville), 0 miles

A large flowerbed at Nye’s Green Valley Farm.

DF: It was a gorgeous morning after yesterday’s storms–cooler, no humidity, sunny, and breezy. I got up before Ken, made a cup of coffee, and sat on the deck watching the morning sun on the mountains. It was peaceful and beautiful. A bit later, we walked across the street to the main house for breakfast. A most excellent breakfast of pancakes with homegrown raspberries.

As we were finishing, another couple arrived for breakfast. Both are retired lawyers from Boston. We sat and talked with them for over an hour.

Back in our room, we organized gear for a bit and then just sat and read for a while. Lovely. Dave drove us in to Johnson around noon. We walked up and down the two or three blocks of downtown, visiting the Johnson Woolen Mill store and a very small country store that’s also a sugaring supply store. We had fantastic sandwiches for lunch at Lovin’ Cup Cafe, a small cafe in an old house. Our last stop was the grocery store for our last resupply, then back home to organize it all.

We also bought fixings for sandwiches for dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow. That means we’re in for the night–we’ll do another load of laundry later, then pack everything up and be ready for the final leg of our journey.

Our cabin was built inside an old barn.
The main house at Nye’s.
Riding into town in the convertible.
Resupply at Johnson Sterling Market.
The perennial garden at Nye’s Green Valley Farm.

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.

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.

July 21: Day 18. Montclair Glen Lodge to Duxbury Rd. (Waterbury), 8 miles

A panoramic view from the summit of Camel’s Hump.

DF: We both slept very poorly last night. Since there was a large summer camp group on the tent platforms, we had to stay inside the lodge. We chose a bad space and ended up in the loft, where the roof sloped down to a few inches above our faces. I couldn’t get comfortable on my sleeping pad. And it was too warm inside–we should’ve opened some windows.

So we started the day tired and not really on top of our game. And we began with a two mile scramble to the top of Camel’s Hump with over 1400 feet of elevation gain. It took us two hours.

Once we got there, the view was spectacular–it’s another alpine summit, above tree line. We took some pictures and just hung out for a while, taking it all in.

We spent the next four and a half hours (plus an hour for a lunch break) steeply descending over 3600 feet in six miles. It was brutal. By the time we got to the bottom, we were completely wiped out.

While we were eating lunch, Ken called The Old Stagecoach Inn in Waterbury to see if they had a room (they were in the Long Trail guidebook). We spent more than thirty minutes trying to hitch a ride on a very not-busy road. We were finally picked up by a guy who works for the Green Mountain Club.

The Inn is adorable. The sign says it dates to 1826. We’re looking forward to breakfast on the deck, which is full of overflowing pots of petunias.

We showered, washed out socks, and headed out for groceries. We decided we needed a snack first, so we stopped at The Prohibition Pig, which specializes in craft beer and…eastern NC-style barbecue. We had pretzels and a couple of half-pours of VT beer. This state has some fantastic craft beers–and the best ones never leave the state, so it’s great to be here to taste them!

We found a great little market, bought groceries, brought them back to the room, and headed out to dinner. Our driver had recommended The Reservoir for beer and burgers–it was a perfect choice, with 25 taps of mostly VT beers (we had flights, so we could try a bunch of them).

The weather forecast calls for strong winds and thunderstorms the two days we were scheduled to climb and cross Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont. It has long expanses of bare rock, and would be fairly dangerous in bad weather. We’ve decided to skip that section, and get back on the trail at Smuggler’s Notch tomorrow. Ken texted one if his Long Trail contacts to see if he knew of any shuttle providers. He called right away, offering to take us himself. So he’ll be here after breakfast to get us back on the trail.

BC: Very tough and steep two mile rock scramble to the summit of Camel’s Hump – I was totally wiped from the day before and dragged myself to the top. Great views at the summit made up for it. Camel’s Hump is the only undeveloped 4000 foot summit in Vermont.

Then we started down Bamforth Ridge, 4000 feet straight down rocks to the Winooski River. I think my curses are still echoing.

After many conversations with Vermonters about the inadvisability of hiking over Mansfield in a storm, we made the difficult decision to skip a 20 mile section and start the next morning at Smuggler’s Notch. We spent a lovely afternoon and evening in Waterbury, resupplying at the excellent Village Market and enjoying local craft beers at Prohibition Pig and The Reservoir restaurants. Then Brad, one of the Long Trail mentors who helped us prepare for this trip, volunteered to drive us to Smugs the next morning. He was able to tell us all about his hike on the Southern AT in Georgia and North Carolina, which was great since that’s our home hiking area. Thanks again, Brad!

BC on the way up Camel’s Hump.
DF on the way up Camel’s Hump.
A view from near the summit of Camel’s Hump looking south.
A cairn on the way up the open rock scramble at the summit of Camel’s Hump.
A view from the alpine area of Camel’s Hump; note the white blaze on the rock.
The Old Stagecoach Inn in Waterbury – highly recommended!
BC at Prohibition Pig in Waterbury for a late afternoon snack before hitting the grocery store.
A flight of local Vermont craft beers at The Reservoir. These are all from Hill Farmstead.

July 20: Day 17. Appalachian Gap to Montclair Glen Lodge, 10.6 miles

BC descends into Ladder Ravine.

DF: We got a late start today, since we waited for breakfast at the Inn. It was frustrating to wait, since we were up early, hungry, and anxious to get on the trail. Breakfast was good, though–coffee, blueberry pancakes, bacon, and maple syrup.

When we arrived at the inn last night, we found Ultimate, Eleven, and Brad staying across the hall from us. Brad was kind enough to give us a ride to the trail this morning.

We were on the trail by 9:15, with a long day ahead of us. It began with a quick climb up Baby Stark and Molly Stark Mountains. We stopped for a great view at Molly Stark’s Balcony and met up with two hikers (Steady and her friend) whom we leapfrogged the rest of the day. Steady seems to be a full time long distance hiker–she just got back from hiking the Scottish National Trail.

We stopped in at Birch Glen Camp, then made good time to Huntington Gap. That section of trail was the easiest we’ve seen on this hike–great surface, gentle grade, pretty woods. Things got a bit more typical–roots, rocks, etc.–on the way to Cowles Cove Shelter where we stopped for lunch.

And then the fun really began. All the way up Burnt Rock Mountain we had hands and feet scrambles. The top of the mountain was bare rock, sloping steeply away to nothing. The traverse to the next peak was a scramble, too. At one point we climbed down an aluminum ladder into a ravine. It really was a lot of fun, but it was also really difficult. Fortunately, once we started the climb to Mt. Ira Allen the trail returned to normal. We climbed over Ira and Ethan Allen, then down to the shelter.

It’s an enclosed lodge, our first one on this trip. The tent platforms are full with a summer camp group. We’re sharing the shelter with Steady and friend, a mom and daughter on a SOBO section, and a kid named Joe from eastern Tennessee out for four days.

BC: Stiff climb up Baby Stark and Molly Stark mountains to “balcony” view, then an incredible rock scramble over Burnt Rock Mountain and climbs of Ira and Ethan Allen mountains. The shelter is enclosed, with two sleeping platforms. We made the mistake of choosing the upper bunk, so I hit my head on a roof beam every time I rolled over.

The Hyde Away Inn in Waitsfield.
One of many toads we saw along the trail.
A nice view from the summit of Burnt Rock Mountain.


DF climbs steep, narrow trail.
At Montclair Glen Camp with some other hikers.

July 15: Day 12. Inn at Long Trail to David Logan Shelter, 13+ miles

Hanging gear to dry at David Logan shelter.

(Editors note: Not sure why this page is out of order, and WordPress doesn’t give me the tools to fix it. Sorry.)

DF: It was hard to leave the Inn at Long Trail this morning–what a wonderful spot! We stayed for breakfast and were on the trail at 8:30, which is a pretty late start for us. As usual, the day started with a steep climb…

For our first day after the Long Trail separated from the AT, we expected the traffic to be much lighter. In fact, we didn’t see any other hikers all day. We crossed lots of logging roads at the beginning, and saw heavy truck tracks and heard chainsaws in the distance, so we’d didn’t feel like we were in the wilderness.

It was our least pleasant day yet on the trail. The weather started out very warm and humid, which made for uncomfortable hiking, plus the bugs were out in force. One gnat spent most of the morning two inches in front of my eye. Very distracting. And there were flies.

The trail was a green tunnel–lots of vegetation in the trail. The worst thing was the terrain. The trail went steeply up and down constantly, and there were no views or anything interesting. And then it started to rain.

We’re in the shelter with three former AT thruhikers. They all said that this day was a rough one–slow going for everyone. We’re staying in the shelter because more rain is expected overnight.

It’s an old, small, dark shelter. There are four double bunks and a table on the middle. It’s pretty cramped with five people and all of our wet gear hanging everywhere.

We did more than thirteen miles, and arrived in camp at 5:10. That’s about 7 ½ hours of hiking, plus an hour for lunch. It’s the longest mileage we’ve scheduled on this section. I hope that with an earlier start, we have a better day tomorrow.

BC: A crappy 13 mile connector trail, with tons of very short, very steep sections that don’t show up on an elevation profile. Not a fun way to spend the day, especially in the rain. Ugh. It didn’t help that we packed for six days of food, but we’ll probably only need five, so our packs are way too heavy this morning.

Met Black Foot, Punkin Pie, and Freight Train at the shelter, all former AT thru-hikers.

At Maine Junction, where the AT heads east to New Hampshire, and the Long Trail continues north to Canada.
At Maine Junction, where the AT heads east and the LT continues north. 
The David Logan Shelter, with five hikers and a ton of wet gear.

July 19: Day 16. Battell Shelter to Appalachian Gap (VT 17), 10 miles

BC on the trail somewhere along the Lincoln ridge line.

DF: Today started and ended really well. In between, not so much. We were on the trail by 6:45, scrambling up Mt. Abraham. It was truly a scramble–we needed hands and feet to get up the rocks. The view from the top was magnificent, 360 degrees. Stunning. The summit is over 4000 feet and above tree line, so there was nothing to impede the view. We could see the mountains we’d hiked during the last few days to the south. We could see the Adirondacks and the lake to the west. We saw where we’re headed to the north. And we saw all the way to the White Mountains in New Hampshire to the east.

We headed north, as usual, along a wooded ridgeline, as usual, hiking up and down over six more peaks ranging in height from over 3600 feet to over 4000 feet. All were conifers–none had the open vistas like Mt. Abraham.

We passed several ski areas–first both sections of Sugarbush and then Mad River Glen. We stopped for lunch at Stark’s Nest, our last peak of the day, with a warming hut and chairlift belonging to Mad River Glen. It’s a historic single chair lift–very cool.

While we were there, we started calling places in Waitsfield to find a place to stay tonight. The first place said they had no rooms, and there were no rooms available in town due to several weddings in town. The second place also had no vacancies, and everyone else had an answering machine. We tried not to panic and started making plans to hitch to Waitsfield, get groceries, then hitch back to the trail and hike two or three miles to the first shelter.

The hike down to the road was wild–ladders and iron rungs in the rocks in several places. The nastiest trail we’ve seen so far.

We got to the road and started looking for a ride. A local couple out for a motorcycle ride came over to ask about the trail up to the view–we dissuaded them from attempting the climb…

We got a ride from Deb (driving a red VW). She dropped us off at a shopping center with a grocery store and The Mad Taco. She recommended the taco place, and urged us to try anything on draft from Lawson’s, a local brewery. We were happy to oblige, so we stopped in for a taco and a beer before grocery shopping.

We also tried again to call one of the local inns, The Hyde Away, and spoke to Margaret, the owner. They did have a room for the night, so we returned to our original plan of clean clothes and showers. This place is lovely. There are inn rooms, a restaurant, and a bar. The taps are all Vermont beers, and the food is locally sourced. We’ve had a lovely rest after five tough days.

BC: [Expletive], what a day. Great climb and rock scramble to the top of Mt. Abraham, our first open alpine summit with 360 degree views. Then it was all downhill from there, figuratively and literally. In particular, the very steep, rocky descent off Mt. Ellen was bad, and the climb down to the road at Appalachian Gap over ladders and rock chutes and cliffs was very tiring.

Stopped at Stark’s Nest for lunch, with great views and a nice table for two inside the warming hut. Had an easy hitch into Waitsfield with a local, then got a room at a small country inn and got an easy hitch there after a good resupply at Shaw’s Market. The Hyde Away is really nice – decent room and a great farm-to-table restaurant and bar.

A panoramic image from the top of Mt. Abraham.
DF on the rock scramble up Mt. Abraham.


DF on the top of Mt. Abraham.
BC on the top of Mt. Abraham.
DF on one of the open ski runs of Sugarbush.


DF at the top of yet another rock scramble.
Looking south from the summit of Mt. Abraham.
BC enjoying lunch at Stark’s Nest.
The Stark’s Nest warming hut at the summit of Mad River Glen ski area.
Ladders made from rebar on the descent to Appalachian Gap.
BC descending a ladder on the way down.


Local Vermont craft beer at The Mad Taco (highly recommended.)


July 18: Day 15. Emily Proctor Shelter to Battell Shelter, 12 miles


DF: I found out today that our two shelter companions, Gappy and Bill Huber, are both 72. Wow. I hope I’m still able to be out here in twenty years. Bill is a local retired guy out for a few days. Gappy is from Montreal—he’s doing a southbound section.

Today was the sunniest day we’ve had. I feel like I haven’t really seen the sky for the last two weeks, because we’ve been in the woods. Last night’s shelter had a bit of a sunset view, and I even saw a few stars during the night. We were out in the open more today and in thinner woods, so it was unusually bright.

The trail was the usual. We had five peaks today, plus we’re most of the way up Mt. Abraham. We’ll do the last 0.8 miles, including hands and feet scrambles, first thing in the morning. The climbs, and the descents, are getting easier for both of us.

Near the end of the day, we had some great views. First, a section of rock outcrops with a view of Mt. Grant, which we’d just descended. A little further along were Sunset Ledges, with a spectacular view westward of the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain, and a scary view of our next target, Mt. Abraham.

We’re tenting way up high tonight, in a conifer forest, near the Battell Shelter. There’s a caretaker here for the summer, and it’s remarkably quiet for a Friday night. There’s one other guy tenting and one family in the shelter. Ultimate and her son, Eleven, started their hike the day before we did. Their husband/dad, Brad, drove up to meet them for the weekend. They’re going to be done this weekend, since Eleven has to go to summer camp.

 BC: Four peaks before lunch, then two long climbs after. 10 hours on the trail for twelve miles total. The climb from Lincoln Gap to Battell shelter was steep but turned out to be pretty easy. We had a great lunch stop at Cooley Glen Shelter, and got great views from Mt. Roosevelt and Mt. Grant.

Met Ultimate and her son, Eleven, at Battell – been following them for days and finally caught them. We’re camped in a tiny tent site behind the shelter.









July 17: Day 14. Sucker Brook Shelter to Emily Proctor Shelter, 11.6 miles


DF: We climbed six mountains today. We also went through another ski area–the Middlebury College Snow Bowl. The mountain tops were, as usual, narrow ridgelines with lots of conifers, rocks, and moss. Lots of steep climbs and steep descents. It’s beginning to be routine.

Near the top of the first mountain, Worth Mountain, we encountered a pileated woodpecker defending its nest. It flew around us, squawking loudly as we walked through the area. Several other hikers reported being strafed and almost hit in the head. We also saw large piles of bear scat (and the usual moose scat) up there, but no new large mammal sightings so far.

We’ve had some gorgeous views today, including our first view of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. We took a side trail to Skyline Lodge overlooking Skylight Pond. The pond was full of yellow bullhead lilies, plus a few loud bullfrogs and a mama duck (Black Duck?) with one duckling.

Our shelter companions tonight are two older men, one out for an overnight and the other on a southbound section. We didn’t find the tenting area–apparently it’s some distance further up the trail northbound. The weather looked threatening this afternoon, and we even had a few stray showers, but it looks like it’s going to be a clear night.

BC: Lots of climbs again today, but it seems to be getting easier. We took a lot of side trails to views, and one to Skyline Lodge and Skylight Pond, easily one of the prettiest spots on the trail so far. Crossing Middlebury mountain there was a pileated woodpecker defending a nest – it didn’t attack us, luckily, but other hikers were not so fortunate. Steep climb out of Middlebury gap, of course. Met Spark Plug heading south, then Bill and Gappy in the shelter. Both of them are twenty years older than we are – I am impressed and amazed, and hope I can still be hiking in twenty years.









July 16: Day 13. David Logan Shelter to Sucker Brook Shelter, 12.6 miles


DF: Twelve tough miles today. The day started badly for me–rough trail, wet clothes, and black flies. I was not having fun and was completely ready to go home.

By late morning, both the trail and the weather eased up. We had a gorgeous cool, sunny, breezy afternoon, and about two hours of perfect trail–wide, dry, and well-graded. Now my clothes are dry and my shoes are mostly dry. The little things make all the difference.

The Long Trail is turning out as promised–lots of climbing and descending, often very steeply on rock steps. We move very slowly on trail like that, especially when it’s wet and slippery. It’s taking us longer to do ten miles on this trail than to do fifteen on the AT.

This afternoon we climbed up and down four big mountains. I’ve noticed that the forest changes from beeches and birches to conifers at about 3000 ft. It also gets very rocky, with narrow ridgelines at the tops. On the very tops of those mountains we saw piles and piles of fairly fresh moose scat. Also areas where they bed down, and where they’ve recently been browsing on vegetation. I kept expecting to round a corner and come face to face with a very large moose, but so far so good.

For most of the day our travels have been accompanied by the glorious song of the Hermit Thrush, Vermont’s state bird. Our other companion is the Red Eyed Vireo. It’s fast-paced song seems to be cheering us on during challenging sections.

At the shelter tonight are two women out for a week and two of our companions from last night–Punkin Pie and Freight Train. Both are doing the whole LT, and both have thru-hiked the AT. We were able to give a day or so of food to Freight Train–she had underestimated and we had overpacked, so it worked out perfectly. I expect that both of them will go farther than we will tomorrow, so we may not see them again.

BC: Hard start to the day, then an easy five miles to Brandon Gap, followed by a steep climb up Mt. Horrid (yes, that’s its real name.) The climbs are getting easier, though the straight-up-the-mountain thing still isn’t any fun. Had a great view from Cape Lookoff Mountain.

Everyone tells you to expect ten miles per day on the LT north of Rutland, and I can see why. We’re trying to do 12+ and it’s exhausting and takes all day. If we put this amount of time and effort into hiking in North Carolina, we’d be getting 16-18 miles per day easily.

Saw a lot of moose scat, and there were juncos and red eyed vireos everywhere.

An eft on the trail. 
Saw tons of moose scat on the trail today, all at very high elevations.

July 14: Day 11. Rutland, VT, 0 miles


DF: We took a zero day to get errands done and let Ken’s knees rest. The Inn at Long Trail includes breakfast with the room, so we started the day with blueberry pancakes and coffee. Calamity joined us for breakfast before she headed out on the AT. She started north in Harpers Ferry and will head south from Harpers Ferry after she reaches Katahdin. We exchanged contact info in hopes that we can meet up with her when she heads through our part of the world this fall.

Next, we took the local bus into Rutland for groceries. Our driver, Gary, was really funny and helped us figure out how to get around in town. Rutland is a small blue collar city, not the stereotype picturesque Vermont village. The nearby Pico ski resort is not fancy. Winters are obviously hard around here.

Back at the Inn, we organized our food supplies, then headed down to the pub for lunch (soup and salad). While we were eating, we planned out the next section and looked at the rest of the trail. As everyone keeps telling us, things are going to get interesting ahead.

BC: Took the bus down to Rutland for resupply. Gary, the driver, was great, and the locals on the bus helped us figure out where to go in town. Ended up at Tops after a quick stop at Rite Aid. Rutland is very commercial and spread out, not a cute little Vermont village. Resupply was fine, though we ended up with way too much food.

In the afternoon I realized we were mostly out of stove fuel, so I decided to head down the hill to Killington to a small outfitter there. I had just missed the hourly bus, so I walked the mile and a half steeply downhill. Ugh. Road walks suck, and this was no exception. The outfitter specialized in skiing, of course, so they had a limited selection of hiking gear – but they had butane canisters, so that worked. I also made a major score with an Icebreaker merino wool short sleeve top for DF, on a 30% off sale. She’d been wishing she’d brought her wool top, so I was able to fix that, and it’s a nice looking shirt, too.

When I got back, Owen gave me a bag of ice for my knee.

The Inn at Long Trail. 
Breakfast at the Inn at Long Trail was fabulous.
In McGrath’s Irish Pub. 


July 13: Day 10. Governor Clement Shelter to The Inn at Long Trail, 10.6 miles

BC on the trail near Killington.

DF: We had our first bear sighting this morning. We were on the trail by 6:15, anticipating a long climb up Killington Peak (and, again, potentially bad weather). Just past the shelter, the trail followed a woods road up the creek. A yearling bear stepped into the trail about 50 yards in front of us. He heard us, stopped and looked at us, then continued across the trail and into the woods towards the creek.

So we climbed Killington. Two thousand feet of elevation in 4 ½ miles. It took us three hours. The trail on the mountain went through a magical, primeval forest. Tall spruces and firs, with ferns, mosses, and conifer needles covering the ground and the rocks. We were walking through the clouds, too. I would not have been surprised to see hobbits or elves appear out of the mist. The trail itself was one of the roughest we’ve seen so far. It was narrow, hugging the side of the mountain, steep, full of roots and rocks, and wet. Very slow going at times.

When we reached the peak and Cooper Lodge it was still socked in with clouds, so we passed on the steep side trail to the summit overlook, and headed back down the other side.

The next four miles or so were fairly straightforward. We took the Sherburne Pass Trail down to the road, so we’re officially done with the Appalachian Trail. We stopped at Pico Lodge for lunch. It’s an enclosed structure, with windows and a door. We opened the windows and sat inside for a pleasant lunch.

Just below Pico Lodge, the trail opened onto a Pico ski run, followed it downhill for a short while, then turned back into the woods. The signs at those junctions were quite hilarious–warning skiers to stay away from dangerous areas.

On our way down we met a family walking up to the peak. They were amazed that we’d been hiking for days–apparently they’d never heard of long distance backpacking. Seriously. The man and his son took a picture with us.

The last mile or so of trail was steep and very washed out. We were very happy to see the road and the Inn at Long Trail. They treat hikers like royalty. They even gave us clean clothes to wear while doing laundry. And we could sit in the Irish pub (McGrath’s) drinking Guinness and watching the World Cup final while we waited on our laundry. Life is good.

BC: Great morning on the trail. The 3000 foot climb of Killington was reasonably well graded for a change, and we got a very early 6:15am start. Near the summit we got our first taste of the very rocky, rooty trail that we would see a lot of in coming weeks — large rocks and trees requiring 10 or 20 foot steep ascents and descents, making a 100 yard section of trail take several minutes to complete. It really slows us down to a mile an hour or less. Had a nice lunch at Pico Camp, a 4-sided shelter in the woods at Pico Peak.

Got to the Inn at Long Trail at 1:15pm, got checked in, quick shower, and started doing laundry. By this I mean we sat in McGrath’s Irish Pub and had a Guiness draft and watched the final game of the World Cup while our clothes were in the washing machine. Totally awesome. The Inn is great, with all the things a hiker needs. We have a corner room with two windows for cross ventilation. The folks here are friendly and outgoing, especially the bartender Owen, who took care of us (and knew our names the second time we went in the bar.)

Our campsite at Gov. Clement Shelter.
BC enjoying lunch at Pico Camp.
A lovely hiker’s lunch at Pico Camp.
A sign on one of the Pico ski runs, warning people away from the Long Trail.
A warning sign next to a blaze at Killington.
An interesting fallen tree.
DF enjoys a cold beverage while our laundry runs through the cycle in McGrath’s Irish Pub.
The best thing at McGrath’s.
Our corner room at the Inn.


July 12: Day 9. Minerva Hinchey Shelter to Governor Clement Shelter, 9.6 miles


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.

Breakfast at the Whistle Stop. 


Crossing the swinging bridge at Clarendon Gorge.





DF in camp. 

July 11: Day 8. Lost Pond Shelter to Minerva Hinchey Shelter, 14.9 miles

Cairns on the top of White Rocks Mountain.

DF: Another fifteen mile day. We were up early and on the trail by 7 AM. We arrived in camp just before 6 PM.

Our first real stop was at Little Rock Pond. We took our shoes off and waded out into the lake. The water was really clear and shallow with lots of salamanders floating near shore.

Next was a long climb up towards White Rocks Mtn. As we walked along the ridgeline, we found a field of cairns in the forest. Since it was Megan’s birthday, we made her a cairn.

It was a long, steep descent to the next road, then a lovely climb up Bear Mountain. The first part of the climb went through old fields lined with rock walls. As we climbed higher, there were switchbacks–the first ones we’ve seen in Vermont.

We’re in camp with a lot of the same people we’ve seen for the last few days, plus a bunch more, sitting around a fire and talking. It’s nice.

BC: Nice hike to Little Rock Pond, where we took a long break at this beautiful spot to soak our feet and take photos. Lunch at the top of White Rocks Mountain among the cairns – it looks like faeries have been here, and I expect to see them dancing through the woods. We made a small cairn in honor of our daughter’s birthday and sent her a photo.

The last few miles to the shelter were flat and easy, when I was expecting a steep climb – nice surprise. Found a decent small tentsite in the woods, and spent a couple of hours hanging out with other hikers around a campfire. We heard a veery singing all evening.

Little Rock Pond.
Old rock walls built by farmers a hundred years ago or more.
BC soaking his feet at Little Rock Pond.
An iPhone panoramic of Little Rock Pond.
A panoramic view of the cairns on White Rocks Mountain.
The cairn we made for our daughter.
Little Rock Pond. We were invited to use the canoe, though the caretake noted that it leaks.
Another gorgeous day on the trail, reflected in Little Rock Pond.
Hanging out at the campfire for dinner and conversation.

July 10: Day 7. Manchester Center to Lost Pond Shelter, 14.8 miles

Ski lifts at Bromley summit.

DF: We ended our town stay last night with pizza and Greek salad at Christo’s Pizza. While we were waiting to place our order, in walked Jeanne, the Stratton Mountain caretaker, with her husband (Hugh) and two other people! We had a nice talk with them over dinner, then headed back to our room to pack up.

We headed out this morning at 6:45, and walked to The Works for a breakfast bagel. And ran into Jeanne and Hugh again! We’ve decided that it’s inevitable that we’ll run into them again somewhere up the trail.

Our breakfast was great, plus we got a bagel for snack and a sandwich for lunch. We walked down towards the donut shop and laundromat to try to catch a ride. The first person we saw walking out of the donut shop offered us a ride.

As we were getting out of the car, another car pulled up with Calamity and A-Train, two hikers we met at the Stratton Pond Shelter. We all headed out at 8 AM, but they immediately pulled away.

We started with a fairly easy climb up Bromley Mountain. Things got interesting when we broke out into the open and realized that we were on a ski slope. After a nice climb to the top we realized that we’d been on an “easier” run. The top of the mountain was really cool–the ski patrol hut, the lift station, and the site of the once and future Bromley Tower. It was taken down a few years ago and the GMC is raising money to build a new one.

Next, we descended to Mad Tom Notch and a Forest Service road. We stopped to enjoy our sandwiches from town–they were wonderful! As we were packing up, an old pickup passed us, waved, then stopped and backed up. In it were two older local guys who wanted to talk to us about hiking. While we were talking to them, three other hikers we’d met at Stratton walked up: Pilot and Navigator, and Phys Ed. Once again, they took off and left us in the dust.

We climbed up to Styles Peak, where we met Pilot, Navigator, and Phys Ed enjoying lunch with a view. As we continued across the ridgeline to Peru Peak, we walked through conifer forest with lots of moss on the rocks.

We arrived at the Peru Peak shelter around 3:30, and decided to push on another 4 ½ miles to the next shelter. On the way, we passed another lake, then climbed Baker Peak, which ended in a very steep rock scramble and a 360 degree view.

We arrived at the shelter to find most of the folks I’ve mentioned already tented, along with a group of middle school boys from summer camp. They were full of energy, but settled down quickly when it got dark.

It’s a small, fairly new shelter facing a pretty creek. With all the recent rain, there’s lots of water flowing. It’s a steep climb down to the creek, but it was worth it to get cleaned up after more than 14 miles today.

BC: Had a great breakfast at The Works (formerly the Bagel Works.) Got a big sandwich to go for our trail lunch (should have gotten two.) Easy hitch back to the trail this morning, then a fairly well graded climb up Bromley. Awesome view from the open ski area at the top – we could see in all directions and the weather was stunning. Long day on the trail with some steep climbs and good views. Lots of hikers at this shelter, including a bunch of middle school kids from a summer camp who were a lot of fun.


Wildflowers on the ski run at Bromley.
A delicious breakfast at The Works.
Jeanne and Hugh, caretakers at Stratton Mountain, whom we met once again at breakfast.
Bromley ski area summit.
My afternoon trailside Starbucks stop. It’s just like the real thing 🙂
A view looking south from the Baker Peak rock scramble.

July 9: Day 6. Manchester Center, 0 miles


DF: Today was a zero day in town. We got up a little later than usual, and started the day with a fantastic meal at Up for Breakfast. I had blackberry walnut pancakes with local maple syrup; Ken had eggs with spinach and smoked Gouda, plus bratwurst and cornbread.

After breakfast, we headed to Price Chopper for groceries. We also visited Eastern Mountain Sports and New Morning, a local natural foods store. Back at the room we organized our food, then headed to the local outfitter to try to solve my blister problem. We eventually settled on thinner wool socks and new insoles. I really hope this works.

We had a wonderful lunch at Thai Basil (Pad Thai and green curry rice noodles), visited a great bookstore (Northshire), and made a second trip to Rite Aid for things like powder and hand sanitizer.

Now we’re hanging out on the porch for the rest of the afternoon.

 BC: Zero day. Man, was that expensive. Food resupply wasn’t so bad, but the trip to the Mountain Goat outfitter cost a new Neoair pad ($160), new insoles for DF’s shoes ($50), and a bunch of little things. Then there’s eating out in town for two days plus the cost of the room – we are definitely helping improve the local economy. But this is a great little town with lots of good restaurants and friendly people. Breakfast at Up for Breakfast was fantastic, and the Thai place was very good for lunch.

Spent the afternoon hanging out and repacking gear. Enjoyed chatting with Frank Sutton, and several other hikers at the house.

Frank Sutton in front of his lodging house.
The two of us in front of the house. 

July 8: Day 5. Stratton Pond Shelter to VT 11, 10.6 miles

Sutton’s Place in Manchester Center.

DF: Ten and a half miles today, then our first town stop. We’re in Manchester Center, VT, at Sutton’s Place guest house. It’s an old Victorian house, run by Frank Sutton.

Last night at Stratton Pond Shelter, thirteen souls sheltered from a night of ferocious thunderstorms. We were fortunate enough to arrive and get settled in before the worst of the storms. Most of the hikers rolled in during the mess. All but one bunk was taken, and there were two in the loft. Most were AT thru hikers who’d been together for the last 1600 miles. They were making plans to stay in town today, too. It was quite an interesting bunch, including one kilted and bearded young man who bragged that he hadn’t done laundry in 500 miles.

The first hiker hit the trail at 5:15 this morning, and others starting moving around soon after. We headed out at 6:45, then stopped at the pond to take pictures and get more water. We were on our way by 7. The trail followed the lakeshore vey closely for about half a mile. After all the rain, we were sometimes walking in the lake.

The rest of the day was typical for this hike: roots, rocks, and mud. Lots of mud. We’re getting stronger and a bit quicker, but the thru hikers are still blowing by us like we’re standing still.

We had lunch at Spruce Peak Shelter, built in 1984 out of logs. It’s the first shelter I’ve seen with windows, a door, and a wood stove. I think it’s used in the winter by cross-country skiers.

We made it to the road by 1:15, and got a ride into town fifteen minutes later. We got showers, then walked into town to the laundromat. We went next door to Mrs. Murphy’s Donut Shop while our clothes were washing.

After our laundry was done, we visited the local outfitter–we’ll go back tomorrow to buy some things–and then went looking for dinner. We had a great burrito at Cilantro, then went across the street to Gringo Jack’s for a local beer (and the Red Sox pregame on the bar TV).

We’re back at the guest house, enjoying a beautiful evening on the porch. On the agenda for tomorrow: resupply, repairs, and recovery.

BC: Easy trail today – not much up and down but plenty of mud after very heavy rain overnight. Snug and dry in the shelter with 11 other long distance hikers. Controlled chaos in the morning – I’m always amazed at how a crowded shelter can empty out so efficiently, though the design of this shelter helps a lot, with the covered front porch and eating area. We were on the trail by 7:00am and at Rt 11 by 1:15pm. This is a large, fast road, and it took 20 minutes to hitch into town with Jack, who dropped us at Sutton’s Place, the rooming house downtown.

We got showers, laid out our gear to dry, and headed down to the laundromat. Given how little stuff we have with us, I’m still surprised at how much space everything takes when it explodes out of our packs.

Good dinner at Cilantro, a very local Chipotle-style semi-fast food joint, then a couple of beers at Gringo Jack’s, then home for an early bed time.

Morning at Stratton Pond Shelter.
Dragonfly checking over the map at our lunch stop.
Semi-organized gear in our room at Sutton’s.
A panoramic from Prospect Rock.
A Long Trail sign painted onto some old machinery.
Crossing a small stream in the woods.



July 7: Day 4. Story Spring Shelter to Stratton Pond Shelter, 10.4 miles

Stratton Pond. 

DF: Today we conquered Stratton Mountain! I’d been worried about it based on the elevation profile, but it wasn’t as bad as we’d feared. We pushed yesterday so we’d have a shorter day today and be off the mountain before the predicted afternoon thunderstorms.

At the top of the mountain we met Jeanne. She and her husband, Hugh, live there as caretakers during the summer in a tiny little white cabin just below the top of the mountain (they’ve been the summer caretakers at Stratton for more than thirty years!). There’s also a tower, much like one on Glastenbury, but this one has windows. I managed a little more than halfway, then I just needed to come back down. Ken went all the way to the top. It was chilly and very windy, but there was a gorgeous view.

A thunderstorm hit when we were about halfway down the mountain. It lasted less than half an hour, but it was long enough to get soaked.

We arrived at the Stratton Pond Shelter mid afternoon just as the rain let up. We were the first people here, but more are rolling in. It’s a big shelter, but it’ll be pretty busy tonight. Looking forward to a relaxed evening drying things out.

The shelter is about a quarter mile from Stratton Pond, which is gorgeous. There are tent sites nearby, but with more rain expected tonight, we’re staying under a roof.

BC: Five hours to the top of Stratton was pretty good time. We met the caretaker, Jeanne, and had lunch. She spends May 15-Oct 15 living in a small cabin on top of the mountain. Climbed the fire tower for some great views and photos. Got heavy rain and t-storms halfway down the descent, and arrived at Stratton Pond Shelter by 3pm. It’s a large shelter that sleeps 16, and it’s really nice. Got a double bottom bunk in the back, and hung out with all the AT thru-hikers as they came in over the course of the evening. Met Calamity, Mobius, Pilot and Navigator, and many others. Thirteen hikers in the shelter overnight.

Saw a redstart and a chestnut sided warbler at our rest stop before the climb, and heard a barred owl overnight.

BC climbing down the fire tower.

BC climbing the tower. 
The Stratton caretaker and her cabin.
DF and the caretaker.
Looking down the stairs from the top of the tower.
A view of the caretaker’s cabin on the summit from the top of the tower.
DF at an overlook on the way up Stratton.
Something is a little off center at this privy.
Crossing a large stream in the woods.
We had a terrific campsite behind the Story Spring shelter.

July 6: Day 3. Melville Nauheim Shelter to Story Spring Shelter, 17.4 miles


DF: Seventeen miles. Steep climbs up rock steps to a fire tower (Glastenbury Mountain). Boardwalks through bogs. Beaver ponds. Long mountain vistas.

This was our most challenging day yet, and it may end up being the longest of the trip. We were trying to catch up a bit from our late start on Friday. More important, we were trying to make a shorter day tomorrow, since we’ll make the huge climb over Stratton Mountain first thing.

The shelter isn’t anything special, but its spring and tent sites are gorgeous. This is our first tent site that’s level and doesn’t have lots of roots and rocks to work around. It’s also not crowded. Our only company is two thru hikers, Lunch and Long Haul Trucker. Both are really nice guys. We’ve enjoyed talking with them.

BC: Long day, slow and tiring, with a long climb up Glastonbury Mountain, but the Goddard shelter is lovely and has a great view – nice spot for lunch. Climbed the tower about half way until the high winds hit me. Kid Gore shelter had nice views and a great tent site, but we had to settle for a short break there and head to Story Spring for the night. Arrived after 7pm, which is late for us, but got a terrific tent site behind the shelter and the spring is beautiful.

Saw a Blackburnian warbler. Met two very cool AT thru-hikers, Long Haul Trucker and Lunch.

DF in camp as we pack up in the morning.
A quick photo at a powerline cut on the way uphill.
Stopping for a photo at a lovely little pond near the end of a long day on the trail.

July 5: Day 2. Seth Warner Shelter to Melville Nauheim Shelter, 13.1 miles


DF: Long day. Sunny, gorgeous weather. Trail was very rocky, still quite muddy in spots.

We passed several small ponds and bogs, and one larger pond with a huge beaver dam. The trail passed below the dam–several feet below the water level, right along the dam, on boardwalk over the bog. It was a bit disconcerting to be walking along with a big pond beside me at waist level!

We did more than thirteen miles– the last three were rough. We descended steeply to Vermont Route 9 on hundreds (thousands?) of rock stairs, crossed the road and the river, and climbed back up, also steeply. The elevation change was about 600 feet.

There were a lot of people in the shelter, including at least four very young ones who seemed to be hanging out for the weekend. A lot of people were also camped nearby. We had a hard time finding a site–the one we found was rooty and rocky.

While we were making and eating dinner, we talked to Pintsize (a thru hiker) and Sarah (a section hiker). We had seen both of them a little earlier on the Rte. 9 climb.

We’re both very tired. Early start tomorrow and another long day.

BC: Slow start to the day – it took us 5 hours to hike the 7 miles to Congdon Shelter for lunch. Afternoon was better, until a massive descent on giant rocks down to Rt 9 – very steep and slow, then of course a very steep climb out of the gap. We tented near the shelter.

Waking up to sunny weather and trying to dry out some clothing at Seth Warner Shelter.


July 4: Day 1. North Adams, MA, to Seth Warner Shelter, 7.2 miles

Big Cranky at the Vermont border and the southern terminus of the Long Trail.

DF: Today’s word of the day: rain. All day. Steady. Sometimes lighter, sometimes very heavy, never stopping. And rain on the trail means mud. Trail-wide, ankle-deep puddles, with mud that can pull the shoes off of your feet.

The forecast was for rain in the morning, ending early afternoon, so we decided that a late start would be a good idea. We slept in and had breakfast at the hotel. (We had hoped to go to a local coffee shop, but they were closed for the holiday.) Ken asked at the front desk about getting a ride to the trail, and the hotel maintenance guy took us to the trail on his way to the hardware store. Gotta love serendipity.

The trail started along the sidewalk, then we crossed the road at a light and arrived at a footbridge over the Hoosic River. Once over the bridge, we turned down another residential street, then up someone’s driveway and into the woods. And uphill. Steeply. Did I mention that it was raining?

The trail is beautiful–lots of beech and maple trees, with some birch and some conifers, and a carpet of ferns below. Other than the mud, the trail surface is about the same as we’ve found in other areas on the Appalachian Trail. One notable exception was a scramble up the face of a rockfall. That was fun. We hit two small summits, but they were both socked in with clouds, so we had no views.

All in all, we walked just over seven miles in four and a half hours today, including short breaks. We didn’t stop for long because…it was raining, and we got cold quickly when we stopped moving. We set up our tent near the shelter–there were several long distance hikers holed up in the shelter, so we decided we needed our own space. We’re heading up there shortly, to try to make dinner under a roof.

We’re fine with a short day starting out. We’re here for the long haul, so it’s good to take it easy at the beginning. It’s supposed to clear up tomorrow (but the forecast hasn’t been real accurate do far). I do hope it dries out tomorrow, though, since pretty much everything is soaking wet.

BC: Raining all night so we got a late start and did a short day. Rained heavily all morning, and everything is pretty well soaked. Steep climb to the state line (about 1700 feet.) Set up our tent behind the shelter after the rain ended.

BC at the big mud puddle in front of the terminus sign.
DF and BC at the start of the hike in North Adams, MA.


Dragonfly on the trail on Day 1.

July 3: Travel Day #2. Amtrak Rocks

Big Cranky and Dragonfly's Long Trail hike, Thursday, July 3, 2014.
New York City through the window of the Amtrak train.

DF: Long day today, mostly spent on a train. Ken was up before the alarm went off at five AM. We showered, got dressed, threw the packs in Mom’s van, and headed to the Vienna Metro station. It was really quick to buy fare cards, and there was a train waiting on the platform. A commuter saw us looking at the map on the train, and helped us confirm details for our transfer at Metro Center to another line. We navigated that successfully, and a train pulled up just as we stepped onto the platform. Smooth sailing to Union Station. We arrived with plenty of time for breakfast before boarding our train.

Once we were on board, Ken found seats together and we settled in. We found Amtrak much quicker and easier than driving–we got to Trenton very quickly, and Megan got off to meet her granddad. By the time she texted that she’d met him, we were past Princeton Junction and well on our way to New York City. Amtrak for the win!

It was a pretty boring ride. We both read for a long time, and frequently checked GPS to figure out where we were. Even better–Amtrak has wifi, which really helped, since I had no cell service. T-Mobile has the worst coverage EVER. We will be switching carriers as soon as possible when we get home.

Our train was running a bit late to Amherst, so Ken tried to text our shuttle driver. He kept getting the error message that the number was not in service. Minor worries, but all was well when they were there to meet us and drive us to North Adams.

Wow. We took the scenic route…every dirt road between Amherst and North Adams, plus a detour where the road had washed out. By the time we got to the hotel, I was completely ready for dinner (and maybe a beer).

The fun was just beginning, however, as it took another half hour to sort out the credit card and check in. We headed out for dinner just as the rains began–I forgot to mention that there’s a hurricane off Cape Hatteras and it’s heading up the coast.

We enjoyed a light dinner and some lovely beers at Public. We sat at the bar and so talked with the bartender and at least two turns of people on each side of us.

Now we’re in for the night, keeping an eye on the weather, and looking at maps to see how things might shake out for the first section, depending on when we get started in the morning. Forecast is for clearing late morning, so we may just take a slow morning and wait out the weather.

BC: I liked the train – it was faster than driving, lower stress, cost about the same for two people, and we didn’t have to leave our car parked in some random place for a month.

North Adams is an old mill town trying to reinvent itself. They have what is by all accounts a terrific art museum, which we didn’t have time to visit, and there are some nice little restaurants and other spots downtown, but it’s not all that lively. I think most of the hikers on the nearby AT head into Williamstown for resupply and a night off.

July 2: Travel Day #1. Winston-Salem, NC to Vienna, VA

DF: We were planning to get up early, enjoy breakfast, and take our time packing to leave. Then Ken checked his phone and found an email from the VISA fraud alert folks, alerting us to a suspicious transaction. We spent the next two hours sorting that out–talking to VISA about not canceling the card right before the trip, but still keeping our account secure; and then fixing all of the things that autopay from the account.

We managed to hit the road only 30 minutes behind schedule. First stop was a friend’s house near Greensboro, where we left the car (for Megan to drive home after her trip). Since we were already close, we found our way to US 29. The drive was pretty, a bit slow, but mostly uneventful. We stopped for lunch in Lynchburg, and got to Mom’s house by 4:45 (after a quick stop at Norm’s for some local beer).

We spent a little more time online sorting out the financial mess, then headed to my brother’s house for dinner. We had a wonderful, relaxing evening with them and returned home to try to get some sleep.

BC:  Nasty surprise this morning — we need the credit card for travel but with fradulent activity the bank wants to close that card and send us a new one. But where to send it? We’ll be traveling for a month, and by the way we need the card to do that! Ugh. We finally settled on a “delayed closure” — the bank puts a hold on the card, and we can call when we need to use it to have the hold lifted for a few minutes until the charge goes through. (Note that this sounds much easier than it actually turns out to be in practice.)