Vermont

September 6 — 23.3 Miles today, 1615.7 miles from Springer, 558.9 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: +750 feet. 
Climbs: 2,4,3,4, Wx: 50s-60, F, 0%, Shelter: 4, Dinner: 5, Overall: 5.

Often, a shelter will make it seem like it is raining outside when, in fact, it is not. This was one of those days. Granted, the weather outside was not splendid, but it was cloudy and foggy. And wet. Still, the water falling off the trees hitting the shelter roof made it seem like it was still raining at a pretty good clip. Outside, however, it was rather nice.

The trail, for some reason, does not cross Route 9 at the height-of-land (near Prospect Mountain) but rather descends to 1300 feet, steeply, to cross. I used the privy there, and picked up yesterday’s Times which someone had left. Interestingly enough, it was the Chicago edition. Someone must have come from the Windy City and left the paper there. I left with Rama and a day hiker, who runs a coffee shop in New York State, just across the border, and, since she works from 5:30 to 7:30 takes long lunch breaks on the Trail. She set a good pace for Rama and me for the first couple miles, where she turned back.

I then led Rama over eight not-too-muddy miles to a very nice, new shelter near the summit of Glastenbury Mountain where we took a short break before pushing on to the fire tower on the summit which had decent view amidst the passing clouds. It is very isolated, ten miles from the nearest road, and the only sign of civilization are the windmills along a ridge to the southeast and the snowmobile trails to the summit.

We made four fast miles to the next shelter, where there was a hiker from Chicago (solving the mystery of the newspaper) and we pushed on, a bit more slowly, to the next shelter beyond, which had just enough room for us to squeeze in, and out of the fog. The shelter had an impressively large and cold spring, which I probably didn’t have to treat, but I did anyway.

September 7 — 23.1 Miles today, 1638.8 miles from Springer, 535.8 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -250 feet. 
Climbs: 2,2, Wx: 50s-70s, 80%, F, Shelter: +, Dinner: 4, Overall: 5.

It was chilly overnight, down in to the 40s, and even in the full shelter the temperature dropped to near 50, according to Rama’s thermomewatch. Thus, I was one of the only ones moving much after sunrise — everyone else wanted to sit in their sleeping bags. It was a pretty easy hike down to the Kelly Stand Road, passing another NOBO along the way, and then, just as I remembered, a rather easy hike up to the great view off of Stratton. Just before the summit, I heard a rustling in the brush, looked up and, “MOOSE!” I fumbled for my camera, and instead of snapping away, started messing with the lighting. Damn. Two moose (meese?) twenty feet away and I have no pictures to show for it. I had a rather easy, flat section and crossed through my first official wilderness (National Forest style) since Virginia.

The foliage was getting better, and I stopped for some pictures of waterfalls and pretty leaves, and made it to the Bromley shelter just before dark (and Wingfoot was totally wrong about its location even though it has been in its location since 2003). The shelter was nice, except for being occupied by “pee-guy” a vagrant who seemed to live there (which is not legal) and will probably get kicked out once reported, and he smelled like pee to boot. It wasn’t full, so I got to sleep on the upper level, away from Pee Guy.

September 8 — 27.7 Miles (MARATHON), 1666.5 miles from Springer, 508.1 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -955 feet. 
Climbs: 3,4,3,4, Wx: 50s-70s, 100%, Shelter: 5, Dinner: 5, Overall: 5.

I didn’t hear my watch alarm and didn’t get up until 8:00, at which point I jumped up and was eaten, privied, packed and ready to go at 8:45. The Princenton folk camping nearby were just stirring (They are up here, for some reason, instead of on the Trail in Jersey or Pennsylvania — I wonder why.) and I sauntered right by. I was soon on the warm summit of Bromley, and then down the other side to a pump with gross, rusty water.

I got better water later at a shelter where I met two Long Trail end-to-enders (and talk about a small world, one of them was from Williamstown and had a sister at Colby who knew both Macalester and Colby people, ate, took pictures of myself at a bridge and sauntered on. A bit later, I saw a guy coming around a bend hiking with his shirt off. It was a warm day, so no worries. Then I saw a second later that he wasn’t wearing any bottom, either. Naked hiker. I looked at the sky, said a quick “howyadoin'” and didn’t look back. Why is it always the old men who feel the need to hike naked?

I was moving quickly to meet cousin Nathan later in the day, and briefly met two more NOBOs, Spoon and Commando, who I passed, and then saw once more as I fetched water. I made three miles per hour all afternoon through splendid lakes and more color. I thought my timing was way off until I realized that Wingfoot was wrong — again — and I made it to the road crossing before dark.

Nate had brought me sandwiches, and we ate quickly, and went in to the woods. Despite making sure he was set at the car, he had forgotten his headlamp, so we hiked slowly once darkness fell, me with the light, him in front. (I asked why and he said “do you think my grandfather would have let me go in to the woods with no light? Touche.) With a resupply planned for the next day with my dad, we had light packs, so we didn’t get in too long after dark.

September 9 — 20.1 Miles today, 1686.6 miles from Springer, 488 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: +295 feet. 
Climbs: 3,1, Wx: 50-80, 50%, TRF, Shelter: -, Dinner: 3, Overall: 4.

It was a warm night, and no one slept well. We left by 7:45 and arrived, a bit more than an hour later, at Clarendon Gorge. The Gorge has a suspension bridge fifty feet above the river, and some swimming holes below, although none where one could jump from the bridge. It was, however, quite warm, and we went down to the river to fetch water and decide if we wanted to, maybe, go swimming.

I dipped my hand in. “It’s cold. But not that cold.” After some hemming and hawing, we both swam across to a rock, jumped in, and then quickly swam out. It was cold. That cold. By 10:30 we were on our way again.

The plan was to meet my dad around 3:00 at the Governor Clement Shelter at the foot of Killington, which would give Nate and I (or, maybe just me) ample time to climb up and over Killington and down to Route 4, where we would meet my dad and hike to a nearby campground. Nate and I hiked across several roads, including a dirt road 0.8 trail miles from the shelter, and then crossed the same road, which was quite a bit rougher, when we got to the shelter, where we waited. A thunderstorm passed, and we were glad to be under cover, but there was no sign of my dad, and no cell signal.

I walked down the road to the previous trail crossing to see if my dad was waiting there, and ascertained that he could drive to within a couple hundred yards of the shelter. So we waited. Finally, around 5:00, and with not really enough food for another evening, we set out up the mountain.

Once I got cell signal, Nate went ahead, and I made a call to my dad. It turned out he had driven up the road to near the shelter, but decided not to walk up the rest of the way (even though the maps showed him close) and was now near Rutland. He asked if he wanted him to have some food for us when we came down. I mentioned that he’d be there until midnight or later, and he ought to hike up and meet us with new lights. I was kind of pissed that he hadn’t come and found us, and we wasted two hours waiting for him not to come. But, to his credit, he agreed to hike up and meet us. In sandals (good in the rain, actually).

I caught up with Nate and we actually made the summit before dark. I used the privy, and we started down, slowly, because we still only had one light. We knew my dad was coming along, but had no idea where, and realized that he was just going to appear out of the blacker blackness of the forest. We pushed on. All of the sudden, I said to Nate, “look, a light!” And we started yelling “David! David! David!” but there was no response. All of the sudden, with the dark forest, drizzly, foggy night, it seemed like a psychopath coming to kill us. We kept yelling until the light was almost on top of us to no avail.

Alas, it was my dad. He had his iPod on, and asked us to wait for the Italian Symphony (Mendelssohn, and it is good music for hiking through a dark forest — Night on a Bald Mountain would have been apropos as well) to finish before we went. The reason he didn’t respond was that there was music blasting through his ears. No matter, he had another head lamp and the flashlight from the car, new batteries (which were much appreciated) and he took one of my jackets to throw on over his fleece to stay warm. From there, it was a plod down the mountain, but with company and proper lighting, it went faster than it would have otherwise, and we arrived at the car a bit after 11:00, in time to find out that the Long Trail Inn nearby was full. So we drove down to Rutland, and, finding only the McDonald’s drive-thru open (I hate drive thrus, but the “restaurant” was closed. I heard a statistic that 70% of sales were through the drive-thru window. Wow. This nation is not programmed for walking.) and all ordered, well, something. Hey, after a dark, miserable, cold, wet 20 miles, even Mickey Dees is palatable. We ate, and went to a really crummy motel. (Note to the Rutland Department of Public Safety: the Travel Inn has cut off the grounding pins of their air conditioners in order to fit them in to old, two-prong plugs, which my dad said is a major fire hazard.) But we all slept well.

My Father’s perspective on the Killington Debacle:

The plan was simple enough. Ari’s cousin Nate Mazonson had joined him the previous afternoon, and they were about to hike over Killington Peak. I was going to meet them at the last road crossing before Killington, take their packs, let them do the mountain without packs, and meet them on the other side. We’d have dinner, they’d proceed to the next shelter, I’d drop Ari’s next resupply at Dartmouth (where Nate goes), and drive home. The next day I was going to leave at noon for New York (actually Lawng Oiland) for the wedding of our friend Meir Dashevsky.

Not so fast, smarty. When I got to the road that was supposed to take me to Governor Clement Shelter, it was impassible for a normal car. I was already a half hour late, and after another half hour or so of searching I gave up, drove back to better roads, and headed for the nearby town of Rutland to buy food on Ari’s list. Then I drove around the mountain to where the AT crosses US Route 4 and waited to see if I’d hear from Ari and Nate. (Ari will have some sharper words here about how I was 1/4 mile away and chickened out on finding them.)

About an hour later, around 6:00, they finally got mobile phone signal and called me. They were just starting downhill, and it was clear that they wouldn’t get far before dark. They had only one headlamp between them and it was weakening. I had batteries, the flashlight from my car, and a new headlamp as well. So, they asked, could I hike uphill and meet them? Sure, but it was drizzling, and I was wearing only a T-shirt, shorts and sandals (it was 20 degrees warmer when I left home in the morning). Being a good father, off I went.

Actually, it isn’t hard to hike in Teva sandals, which fasten quite securely. In mud and water (the trail was quite wet) the wetness just runs out. Fortunately, I had a fleece vest of Ari’s, so I kept warm. After one scare when I lost the trail (blazes are a lot harder to see in the dark and mist), I finally met Ari and Nate nearly 5 miles up the trail. We started down, and after a mile found a marker that indicated 3.2 miles to Route 4. It was actually for an alternate trail to another trailhead, and we really had almost 4 miles to go. In the dark, having to watch every step, it was endless. Ari and I jabbered all the way, and Nate plodded along, either impressed with his cousin’s achievement or wondering about Ari’s (and my) sanity. I had started up at 6:30; we didn’t get to the car until 11:30.

We hustled back to Rutland to find that the only food was the drive-thru lane at McD’s. Oh, well, Ari is a shareholder, so we were only supporting his investment. I can stand McD’s about once every three years — if I haven’t had a proper meal since early morning. We then found a cheap (and I mean CHEAP) motel and crashed.

Next morning, I dropped Ari and Nate at the trail, dropped the resupply at Dartmouth, and gave up on driving home in time to go to the wedding. Instead, I headed straight south on I-91 to meet Nancy at the Stamford, CT, Marriott, where we would stay overnight after the wedding. She brought my fancy clothes, and we made it to the wedding with time to spare.

September 10 — 10 Miles today, 1696.6 miles from Springer, 478 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: +100 feet. 
Climbs: 4,2, Wx: 50s-60, 100%, Shelter: 5, Dinner: 5, Overall: 4.

It was just a glorious fall day today, albeit a cool one. We had a late, bagel-related start (bagels are much better than cold oatmeal) and left my dad for the drive south to Connecticut, via Dartmouth, so we were only carrying food for the two day hike there. We moved slowly, thoroughly enjoying the splendid weather, called my sister to wish her a happy birthday, and were more than happy to get to the shelter around 6:00, where we made dinner and got ready for what was shaping up to be a cold, cold night.

September 11 — 19.4 Miles today, 1715.8 miles from Springer, 458.8 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -610 feet. 
Climbs: 4,4,4,4, Wx: 30s-50s, 100%, Shelter: -, Dinner: 5, Overall: 5.

When Nate and I awoke, one of our sheltermates had a mini-thermometer. It read 38, my coldest day ever. Okay. Not ever. I once walked to class at Macalester when it was -24. But my coldest day on the trail. It was damn near my sleeping bag’s rating of 35, and I felt it. I should have taken my dad up on the 0 degree bag the day before, but I foolishly said “I don’t want to worry about all that extra weight!” As I told the Israelis at the shelter, the temperature was “shalosh.” Celsius. It was chilly. I was slow in rising and Nate was faster, owing to his warmer sleeping bag (I should have zipped in to the bivy sack, alas, a lesson learned ). After some minor toe surgery, I caught up with Nate about five miles in to the day. It will sure be interesting to see what happens when I go to the doctor after the trail with an ingrown toenail. I may even mention it’s been pretty much the same for 1500 (or then, 2000) miles. Silly doctors might tell me not to hike any more.

The hike, like yesterday, was lovely. Very nice trail, very (very) nice weather, and leaves which, as Nate put it, are “thinking about changing.” We made it, albeit somwehat slowly, to a farm stand, where we bought some corn and apple pie, after having eaten some wild apples along the trail. The main problem was that we were not going to make it to the shelter in time to cook it, or in time to get there at all. Once it was dark, we had a night time dinner and plodded up some very nice night walking terrain. At one point, I was almost clotheslined by some weird rubber rope, or tube, across the trail. Then I realized what it was. Vermont! Sugar lines! After a bit of walking, we set to sleep on a somewhat level patch of ground (I kept sliding down the pad) but it was a bit warmer than last night. Which is not saying much.

And, frankly, I am darned glad not to have to deal with the September 11 hooplah. God bless America’s woods, and the forward-thinking politicians who protected them. Hopefully we can protect this great nation and its vast and varied beauty from those who seek to destroy it. And frankly, it’s not the “terrists and evildoers.”

September 12 — 16.9 Miles today, 1732.7 miles from Springer, 441.9 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -965 feet. 
Climbs: 2, Wx: 40s-60, 100%, Shelter: -, Dinner: 5, Overall: 5.

I slept pretty well for sliding down a hill all night. We woke up late, but left pretty quickly, and made for Hanover. After a few more miles of carrying the corn, I said “the hell with it” and ate it raw. Nate did too. And it was darned good. Still, cooked corn would be nice, especially over coals in its husk.

As we walked on the bridge through West Hartford, a guy across the street offered us water. We had just filled at a stream, and didn’t need any. Not content with not helping hikers, he then offered us fruit: bananas and apples. Could we resist? No. I mentioned his tomatoes (comin’ in well) and he offered me them, too, with maple syrup on top. I resisted. I didn’t want to impose. Vermonters are really so nice. Too bad I’ll soon be in New Hampshire, where it is not quite the same. Maine will be nicer, until they find out that I am from Massachusetts.

In any case, after pressing up a hill, Nate decided to take a break, with me needing to press on to town to get fuel by 6. I ran down the hill, hit the roads in Norwich, and ran in to the center of town, down some steep pavement. Vermont had their primaries today, and there were lots of Bernie signs. Gotta lover Vermont. An independent Senator (almost definitely) who has the “I” next to his name because “S” for “Socialist” is frowned upon these days. Plus, Vermont has classy license plates. Simple green, with a white box. Kind of like the old Massachusetts plates. Walking across the Connecticut, which is quite nice, I saw a lot of Subaru with those plates. And every time made the somewhat sarcastic comment “wow, a Subaru with Vermont plates. What are the chances?”

Hanover is a cutesy little college town, with, of course, a lot of useless stores. I made it in to town, bought fuel and long underwear (so now it will likely be in the 80s all week) and got food. Then I met Nate and some of his friends, and we got more food (pizza). Once it was dark, I bummed a room off of friends of Nate’s (Nate is going with his grandfather to Manchester, then to visit a friend in Maine) and will get a proper night’s sleep. Nate’s friends are Ari and Jeff, who is a Red Sox fan. So I feel like I am staying with two people, the sum of whom is me. The forecast low tonight is 36. Last night it froze, hard, from the Whites on north. Which means there will be few, if any, bugs in the next few weeks. Although frankly, the bugs haven’t been bad at all. Just before bed, I caught Back in Black on the Daily Show, too! Tomorrow, I hit the grocery (closed at 8, so I really couldn’t have gotten out of town today). Time to go to bed, warm, and then hit the trail again tomorrow. Only 430 miles to go!