Long Trail Section #2: VT Route 11/30 to Sherburne Pass, Inn at Long Trail

Day 6 – Saturday 9/4
Peru Peak Shelter

10.6 miles 28,664 steps. Got a lazy start from the Pinnacle Lodge this morning, but that’s ok. Dingle was smart and planned on it. We only had to hike 10.5 miles to the next shelter, and with heavy food bags from our resupply and a swollen left knee, I was happy to just mosey along through our first sunny Vermont day. Enjoyed the novelty of dappled sun beams lighting up the bright green moss. Also our first real vistas – wide open views from the top of Bromley ski resort, and more subtle glimpses from Styles Peak.  In case you were wondering, one sunny day does NOT dry out a trail full of mud. More firsts for day six: our first shelter on the banks of a babbling brook, and our first attempt at Thanksgiving-in-a-pot for dinner (pretty mushy)

Day 7: Sunday 9/5
Greenwall Shelter

14.7 miles, 38,114 steps.

Today’s firsts…
First trail magic! Lots of Labor Day weekend hikers out with too much food. One guy I met at the top of the Baker Peak rock ledges gave me three packets of instant coffee and a homemade spice mix (hmmm…. Now that I write this, taking a zip lock of indeterminate brown flecks from a stranger seems sketchier than it seemed in the moment) Another weekend couple gave Mike a packet of a spiced daal which we ate cold as an appetizer for dinner.

First fall on the trail…I took a bad step and twisted my right ankle. Thanks to my trusty Leki hiking poles, I didn’t land on it with my full weight and risk a sprain. Instead, I gracefully fell forward and landed with both knees in the soft Vermont mud. Took stock, determined I was ok, then figured out how the heck to stand back up from that position with a big pack on my back and…I was off again! Though with my confidence gone, I was slower and much more cautious for the next few miles.

Once again, Dingle made it to the shelter before the rain started, and I straggled in an hour or so later. Darn it!

Day 8 – Sept 6, Governor Clement Shelter

15.1 miles,  41,352 steps.

Apparently all the times I’ve hiked in the rain before today were only drizzles…today, I experienced my first Vermont deluge. I was feeling pretty good, making great time, and I felt a few rain drops as I crossed the road at beautiful Clarendon Gorge. At first I thought I wouldn’t even need my raincoat if the storm blew through. Plus, I only had a mile or so to go before I’d reach the shelter where Mike and I planned to meet for lunch. BUT THEN… as I climbed a rock fall to get up out of the gorge, the sky opened up and a torrent of rain poured down. I struggled to put on my rain fly and my rain jacket, as the trail turned into a river. The rocks turned slippery, and my shoes filled with mud. I felt something bopping me on the butt, and reached behind me to find that my rain fly was full of at least a liter of water, which I emptied down my back and into my socks. By the time I finally reached that shelter, I was soaked to the skin and freezing. Dingle was sitting in a chair (who brought a chair to the shelter?!?) and said “Hey Toe Jam! You finally made it” I replied, “Get out of my way – I’m so cold !!!” He stepped back while I stripped off all my hiking clothes and put on warm dry clothes. I THINK the other hiker in the corner of the shelter was napping. Finally I was dry and I attempted to eat myself warm. I was so happy to wait out the rain in the shelter, but when to rain finally stopped, putting all my soaking wet hiking clothes back on to hike an mother six miles was not great. Governor Clement Shelter is an ancient stone shelter with a fireplace inside! Yahoo! Mike and another hiker named TrailBlazer managed to find enough dry-ish wood to make a fire and dry ourselves out. Not a bad end of the day.

Day 9: US Route 4, the Inn at Long Trail

10.6 miles, 29,706 steps. I’ve been on the Long Trail for nine days, and I’ve hiked 100 miles, and I think that qualifies me to say, “Section hikers on their first day out are so cute!” We shared a shelter with a hiker last night who told us, “I gotta warn you – the ten mile section north of here is really muddy!” I was tempted to tell him that the ninety mile section south of here was ALSO very muddy… But I bit my lip.

I’m too tired to write much about 4,000 foot Killington Peak, but suffice it to say it was gorgeous! And the burger at the Inn at Long Trail afterwards was delicious!

Long trail section #1: Williamstown Massachusetts to VT Route 11/30

Last Sunday, our very good friend George Thompson drove us over three hours from his home in Underhill, VT to a Howard Johnson in Williamstown. I gotta tell you, it’s a very strange feeling to see that car drive away and be left in a strange town, wearing one set of inappropriatly casual clothes, with a small pile of “stuff” and to be left on our own!

Day 1- Mon 8/30 Williamstown to Seth Warner Shelter

2.8 miles (+6 extra miles) After breakfast at the Moonlight Diner, we walk two miles through Williamstown and North Adams to get to the Appalachian Trail (the At and the LT are the same trail for about 110 miles) Then we hike an uphill 6 miles to finally arrive at the Vermont line, and the official start of the Long Trail! I’ve got the First Day Blues (sore toe, bad knee, heavy pack, mud, slow going). It’s very humid today – clothes soaked through and sweat dropping. Rain started AFTER we arrived at shelter, Yay! Usually we’re not so lucky. Stayed in the shelter with a couple from St Pete doing AT, with trail names Shortcut and Adams.

Day 2  -Tuesday 8/31: Melville Shelter

13.3 miles, 19,600 steps. Better mentally than yesterday, but harder! Didn’t get started until 8:40 and hiked almost until 6pm. Nice view of Bennington, then steep, rocky downhill to Rt 9. Steep climb back up to the shelter. Last 3 miles were TOUGH. Shared a shelter with bunk beds with Backwoods

Day 3: Wednesday 9/1 -Kid Gore Shelter, 12.8 miles, 32838 steps

My Bad Big Toe Joe

I’ve named my broken/healing big left toe Joe. Joe the Toe. (My right big toe is quieter and much less needy. He doesn’t have a name)

Joe didn’t hurt quite as much today as he did the previous two days, and I’m not sure why…
– Maybe because today’s hike was a bit easier and my pack a little bit lighter?
– Maybe the Mobic medicine is finally kicking in?
– Maybe backpacking is actually good physical therapy – who knew?
– Maybe taking all these steps every day is deadening the nerves that carry pain messages from my toe to my brain?
Who cares, I’ll take it!

Joe is slowing me down though. I’ve noticed that with a bum toe, I don’t push off with my back foot and stretch out my stride as I hike. Instead, I just sort of prance along; up and down, up and down, and it’s not nearly as efficient. Also, I’m super careful where I place my foot with every step, especially on steep downs and rocky terrain. By no means do I want to risk landing Joe-first! So between the two effects, I’m literally the slowest north-bound Long Trail hiker this year. In three days, I haven’t passed a single hiker, and I’m always the last person to arrive at the shelter. Shame on you, Joe!

(Rained from 2pm to morning with the remnants of hurricane Ida. My hiking clothes blew off the line into the mud overnight, so I started the day soaking wet.

Day 4 Thursday 9/2 – Stratton Pond Shelter 15 miles

I have no problem stomping right through any clear, clean, running water. Streams, Creeks, Rivers… I’m in! But, color it black and call it mud? Suddenly I’m a delicate sugar plum fairy, dancing from root to rock, desperate to avoid falling in and hearing that dreaded SCHALURP

Day 5: Friday 9/3 Pinnacle Lodge near Manchester Center 11 miles

I suspect that I only like backpacking for the town stops. I don’t like being cold, dirty, and wet. But…I love the way a hot shower feels after five days of being cold, dirty, and wet!
One night in a hotel to clean ourselves up and get a good night’s sleep, now it’s back out to the trail!

A nice month for a walk in the woods …

Warning – for the next three weeks, this sailing blog will be pre-empted by the trail journal of my end-to-end hike of the Long Trail in Vermont.

Instead of The Grenadines, we’ll be walking 273 miles from Williamstown, MA to the border of Canada. Instead of the gin-blue waters of the Caribbean, you’ll see the emerald greens and deep earthy browns of the Green Mountains. Instead of Jenn and Capt. Mike, we will henceforth be known as Dingle and ToeJam.

Read on if you dare… You have been warned!