Day 8, Saturday, Rt. 11/30 to Griffith Lake Tenting Area, 10.3 miles
The sun was just starting to burn off the fog at the Green Mountain House hostel when we left around 7:00a. By the time we got to the trailhead on Rt. 11/30 just to the east of Manchester Center, the fog had completely burned off and we could actually see the hills and mountains of Vermont for the first time since arriving a week prior. Everyone in the vehicle was happy to see the sun and ready to get out and hike some more. We headed up the trail for our first destination and views of Vermont, Bromley Mt. This mountain also has a ski area, so we knew we’d see the lift and warming hut at the top. The views were incredible and helped to erase some of the mud and water we went through the previous week. We descended Bromley, and our next destination was Mad Tom Notch, for lunch at the forest road crossing. The afternoon was spent hiking up Styles and Peru Peak, with a nice ridge walk in between the two. The trails were starting to dry out, so there was less mud and no standing water. After lunch, we descended to Peru Peak Shelter, our destination for the day. As we arrived, we encountered a lot of bugs. We took the advice of a group of hikers and headed the extra half mile to Griffith Lake Tenting Area. The lake was pretty and cold, and we’d have the added bonus of using our tent to avoid the bugs all night. Cameron got to swim in the lake, while I soaked my feet, which was a pretty good ending to our first day back on the trail.
Day 9, Sunday, Griffith Lake Tenting Area to Little Rock Pond Shelter, 9.3 miles
Day 9 arrived and with the mosquitos still buzzing, we were glad to have had the tent. After a some quick photos at the lake, we packed up and headed out for Little Rock Pond. We knew this would be an easier day, elevation wise, with very little ups or downs. We hiked up ledgy Baker Peak and while at the summit, we found a geocache. Cameron likes to check out summit areas and in his wandering around, came across it. Following geocache protocol, we added an item, took an item and signed the register. We also saw a good sized snake on Baker Peak. As we continued our journey, we checked out several shelters along the way, reading the log books to keep up with our fellow hikers and their progress. As we got closer to Little Rock Pond, it became apparent that there had been some changes in the shelter/tenting set up over the years and we weren’t exactly sure what was there or what to expect. What we did know was that it looked like rain again, so getting there and getting set up for the night was important. After crossing several forest roads, we finally came to the last crossing and the last two miles to the Little Rock Pond. Since it was a weekend, we met several groups coming back from an afternoon at the pond. We arrived to find, much to our surprise, a newer shelter built in 2010, which was really nice. It had bunks, with space for two or three on each bunk, plus a large porch with benches and a table. We also got into the shelter right as it started to rain! Everything worked out perfectly and we were pleased with such a nice shelter to spend the night. We also met some new hikers, a few thru-hikers and a trio of section hikers which made the evening pass by quickly while making and eating dinner.
Day 10, Monday, Little Rock Pond Shelter to Minerva Hinchey Shelter, 9.4 miles
The sun was out in the morning on day 10, but we had gathered from other hikers that there might be thunderstorms in the afternoon. We were in sort of a cell phone dead zone, so we hadn’t had a weather report in two days. The only way to get the information was to talk to the day hikers and those who had just come onto the trail. We set off for White Rocks Mt., an area with many rock cairns and a side trail to the top of White Rocks Cliff. We came to one set of cairns, and then later came to the second set and the side trail. Since the weather was still good, we took the side trail to enjoy the view out to the valley. Just as we were eating lunch, we felt a few rains drops. With that, we took off for our next landmark, the crossing of Rt. 140. Just after we crossed Rt. 140 and got back into the woods, a thunderstorm rolled in over head. The thunder and lightening was right above us, but since we were in the tall trees, we just kept walking. We also knew that thunderstorms usually pass quickly, so on through the rain we went, and within 30 minutes the storm was over and the sun was starting to shine again. We crested one more hill, and knew the rest of the way was downhill to Minerva Hinchey Shelter. We had another nice evening meeting different hikers, all out for sections of the AT, and sharing stories. Our most interesting discovery at the Minerva Hinchey Shelter besides all the metal and wire mesh used to dissuade the porcupines from chewing up the shelter was what we dubbed “The Poodle Palace Privy”. I’m not sure where it came from, but the privy had a black toilet seat lid with a pink poodle painted on it. Certainly the most amusing and strangest thing we’d seen in a while.
Day 11, Tuesday, Minerva Hinchey Shelter to Governor Clement Shelter, 11.3 miles
Only two more days of hiking and we’d be done. We were starting to get a little sad about leaving the trail, as we were enjoying the trip. Instead of focusing on that, we packed up and headed out to Governor Clement shelter. The skies were cloudy, but we were able to enjoy the outlook down to a small regional airport and across to the Taconic Mountains where we could see the storms rolling in. Soon after that, we crossed another bridge, the Clarendon Gorge suspension bridge. This one was truly a suspension bridge that would bounce if you stepped too hard. The gorge itself was beautiful, but definitely a bridge was needed to cross it! We soon crossed the last major road crossing before the end of our trip, Rt. 103, and then it began to rain again. After this crossing, we had some new terrain to deal with – crossing through old pastures on a narrow single track trail through almost waist high wildflowers and grasses. The flowers were just starting to bloom, so it was a nice change from the forest we were used to hiking through. We then came to the part of the day which we were dreading a bit. There is still a road walk detour from Lower Cold River Road to just south of Governor Clement Shelter due to Irene damage. The trail crews are still actively working to fix this section, so the detour is still in effect. We knew about it, but hadn’t decided whether to take the detour or not. Considering the rain we received during the day, we decided that it was best not to try to ford some of the larger streams and take the detour, which would add almost a mile to our day. The detour was signed and easy to follow, but walking on the road and hard packed dirt hurt our feet more than we’d thought – we were used to dirt and mud! Once we were back on trail, we knew it would be less than a mile to the shelter. We arrived and set up for the night in the second oldest shelter, dating from 1929, on the AT still in use.
Day 12, Wednesday, Governor Clement Shelter to Rt. 4, Killington, 11 miles
Our last day on the trail for this section, and this was to be a big day! We were going over Killington, our first four thousand footer in Vermont. We also had sunshine, so we were really excited that we might get some nice views. We made reasonable time going up to Killington, and in about three hours we arrived at the Cooper Lodge. We could have hiked up to Cooper the previous day, but after checking it out, we decided that Governor Clement was a bit nicer of a place. We left our packs at the lodge and hiked up the .2 mile side trail to the summit, which was very steep and reminded us more of New Hampshire than Vermont. Up on top, we had 360 degree views! We enjoyed the summit for a while, and then it was back down to pick up the packs and head down to Rt. 4, where the car was waiting for us. Zippy and Michelle were kind enough to drop it off at the Inn at the Long Trail so that we wouldn’t have to go back into Rutland to pick it up. We ended our day with a well-earned bacon cheeseburger at the Inn at the Long Trail and then headed for home.
So far, we really enjoyed the long distance backpacking. Vermont is a beautiful state and we really had no idea what to expect. We survived the rain and mud, and had some wonderful days in the sun. We met some interesting people and were blessed with the right people at the right time when we needed them. We thank God for safety, good health and all the small blessings along the way. We are definitely ready to go back out at the end of July and hike toward Canada!