With my son’s mission trip and summer camp was done, it was time for us to return to the Long Trail to finish what we had started during the first two weeks of June. We were going to finish the 168 miles from Rt. 4/Killington to the Canadian border. My father in-law graciously drove us over to Vermont, to pick up the Long Trail at the same place where we left off, on Rt. 4 between Rutland and Killington.
Tuesday, Day 13, Rt. 4 to David Logan Shelter, 12.9 miles
Here we were, back on the trail, back to the heavy packs. It was nice to hike a bit at home without the heavy pack, but soon enough we got used to the pack weight and before we knew it, we were at Maine Junction. To our right, the AT continued eastward to Hanover, NH and ultimately Mt. Katahdin in Maine. To our left, the LT continued northward to Canada. Since Canada was our objective, we took the fork to the left. Some day we will come back and take the fork to the right. We passed the former site of the now burned down Tucker Johnson Shelter, and kept on to Rolston Rest for some lunch. Since we were on the trail early enough, our goal was David Logan Shelter, a big day for the first day back on the trail, but a good goal since the trail through this section wasn’t too difficult or too steep. We did pretty well until mid-afternoon, and then the time and miles seemed to drag. It didn’t help that there was 5.5 miles between Rolston Rest and Telephone Gap with very few landmarks along the way. Upon finally arriving at Telephone Gap, we knew there was a little less than two miles to the shelter. This was both encouraging and discouraging; we didn’t have far to go, but we weren’t quite there yet. When we did arrive at the shelter we discovered that it was in an open birch forest with a nice piped spring. There was also a fence and gate along the front of the shelter and we guessed that the bold mice we had heard rumors of weren’t the only critter problems at the shelter. Thankfully, when we arrived there was a mother and daughter hiking the LT, along with their dog who were already settled in for the night. Later that evening another hiker and his dog arrived, so we had no mice worries since two dogs would be in the shelter. It was a really nice blessing not having to worry about our food supply, which at this point was still rather large!
Wednesday, Day 14, David Logan Shelter to Sunrise Shelter, 6.3 miles
Since we had had a longer first day on the trail and the shelters were a bit oddly spaced for the mileage we wanted to do, we decided to take a shorter day and take our time to the next shelter. This would also allow us to eat more of our food and continue on with our packs just a bit lighter. We also were setting ourselves up for the climb up Mt. Horrid the next morning when we were well rested, rather than tackling it in the afternoon. For all these reasons, we did hurry out of the shelter, but started rather late, around 9:00a. Between the two shelters, the trail continued the trend of nice footing and rolling hills and we arrived at Sunrise Shelter mid-afternoon. We hung out at the shelter, did the usual evening chores, collected some firewood and starter for the next shelter occupants, then ate dinner. Cameron soon realized that among all the food we brought, we had all the ingredients for s’mores: marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers. I hadn’t planned it that way, but it did seem like a good opportunity. We made some small marshmallow roasting sticks, built a small fire and made some tasty treats. A fun ending to a relaxed day!
Thursday, Day 15, Sunrise Shelter to Boyce Shelter, 14 miles
We didn’t start our day with the goal of hiking 14 miles, but it ended up that way. Our original intention was to stay at the Worth Lodge at the Middlebury Snowbowl. At one time, this warming hut was available for hikers to stay overnight and it sounded like a good choice, with a nice mileage of about 10 miles or so. As so often happens on the trail, things can change (quickly, too!) so the ability to be flexible and adaptable is important. We set off and hiked up the great cliffs of Mt. Horrid and took a break at the look out – breezy but a beautiful morning and nice that the cliffs were actually accessible. They are closed during part of the summer as the Peregrine falcons use the cliffs as a nesting site. Up and over Mt. Horrid we went, and then down to Sucker Brook Shelter for a lunch break. We could hear voices and found a USFS ranger and volunteer trail crew taking a break from trail maintenance at the shelter. After chatting with the ranger for a few minutes, it became apparent that Worth Lodge was only a memory, have been torn down a few years prior. That changed our plans dramatically, and we only had two choices: stop at noon or continue on to Boyce Shelter, which would mean hiking 14 miles. Needless to say, lunch was short as we got back on the trail to keep hiking. The skies weren’t exactly in our favor, either, because by the time we got to the Middlebury Gap, it was raining. We knew there was only three miles or so to the shelter, but with the rain and one more climb, it seemed longer than that. Finally the shelter came into view, and we could hear voices. Five people and a dog were already there, but since it was raining, everyone moved over and there was plenty of room for everyone out of the rain. It was nice to be inside the shelter and dry and not have to tent!
Friday, Day 16, Boyce Shelter to Cooley Glen Shelter, 9.5 miles
It was cloudy when we got up the next day, but we packed up and headed out for Cooley Glen Shelter, which was a reasonable, but not too far distance away at 9.5 miles. After 14 miles the previous day, I didn’t want to push Cameron with a day that was too long or a pace too quick because we needed to cover the miles. We stopped at Skyline Lodge, and enjoyed snack with views of the pond from the shelter, and then continued on. This was a beautiful shelter and area, but we couldn’t stay, maybe another time! Up and over Breadloaf, Wilson and Cleveland we went, leapfrogging and being leapfrogged by our shelter mates from the night before. We arrived at Cooley Glen, expecting to see them, but the only hikers staying were the mother, daughter and dog we met on our first night. We were happy to see them and got caught up on our adventures of the last two days. We settled into camp chores, including getting water from a really shallow source. A little difficult with 1 liter gatorade bottles, but not impossible. While going over the map and guidebook for the day, we were excited to discover that we had crossed onto a new map and were finally on the back side of the Long Trail map. Only three map sections left! We settled in for a quiet night and then five more hikers and one more dog showed up for the night. Needless to say, there were eight hikers and two dogs in the shelter, and one hiker tenting. It was full house, but no one minded too much when it started to rain.
Saturday, Day 17, Cooley Glen Shelter to Stark’s Nest Warming Hut, 14 miles
Today ended up be another big day for us, and again not exactly the miles we had planned on hiking. Our original goal was Glen Ellen Lodge, but as the day progressed our plans changed. After being on the trail, you learn that there are more factors that you can not control that occur throughout the day and decisions are made as things occur. Beside the high mileage it was a big day since we were going over Abraham and Ellen, walking along the Monroe Skyline. We would be able to add two more Vermont four thousand footers to our list and enjoy some beautiful views. First, we had to get there, so off we went through fresh mud pits heading toward Lincoln Gap. I wasn’t really feeling the hike that morning, but as soon as we started climbing Abraham and the terrain changed to steep and rough footing I felt much better and was excited to hike. This was more like what I was used to! I really enjoyed the climb up and soon we were having lunch at Battell Shelter, catching up with hikers we had stayed with at Boyce Shelter. It was then time for the last section up to Abraham – more ledgy scrambling, which was definitely more fun for me. We were just under the clouds and treated to great views from Abraham. After a picture taking session, we went across the ridge, enjoying the forest and views along the way. It was getting late in the day when we arrived at the spur for Glen Ellen. Time for a decision. Knowing that the shelter capacity was only for 8 and that we were in between two groups of 5, each with a dog, we needed to decide whether to stay at Glen Ellen or move on to Stark’s Nest, a warming hut that Mad River Glen Ski Area allows the hikers to use. We also had no idea of what other hikers were on the trail that might arrive at the shelter, so we decided to move on and hike the additional mile to Stark’s Nest. Along the way, we met and chatted with the volunteer trail maintainer who was working on her section. She was kind and encouraging, and even apologetic for the mud pits in her section. She also treated us to two dried apricots, which she happened to have left over from her snacks for the day. How perfect was that? There were two apricots and two of us, and she was willing to share! With renewed energy from her kindness and apricots we pushed on over the last bit of trail to Stark’s Nest. This proved to be a great choice, as it was large enough for twenty hikers, and we had plenty of space with only one group of 5 and the dog. In addition to the space, there were four walls, windows, a door and a great rain barrel for a water source. Beside such a nice place , we also were blessed with beautiful views of Lake Champlain turning golden in the evening sunlight, and views to the Adirondacks in the west and the Whites in the east. Once it got dark, we could see all the lights of Waitsfield twinkling in the valley below. Definitely a nicer accommodation and worth going the extra mile to get to.
Sunday, Day 18, Stark’s Nest Warming Hut to Rt. 17/Appalachian Gap, 2.1 miles
This was a really short day, as we were getting ready for our first town stop. After eating all our remaining food, except for a few snacks, we headed downhill toward Rt. 17. The weather was cloudy and would occassionally spit rain on us, but it was a steep and quick descent, with a side trip to check out Theron Dean shelter and the caves below it. Right before Rt. 17, I got changed out of my rain pants. What a mistake. We stepped onto the road and it started to pour rain. Not just a shower, but pouring rain. Our destination was four miles down the road, and with no cars coming by, we started to walk. Soon we were soaked and starting to get cold, and we knew at that point we had to keep walking and probably wouldn’t get a ride into town. Believe it or not, one nice man stopped and asked if we needed a ride. We certainly appreciated it, but were concerned about his vehicle because we were so wet. I opened the car door and for some reason, he even had a tarp already on his back seat! Another example of being sent the right trail angel at the right time! We arrived at the Hyde-away Inn, wet, but thankful for one man’s generosity.
Monday, Day 19, Waitsfield, VT, Zero Day
After a nice dry night indoors, our laundry done, gear drying, a good dinner and breakfast, we were ready to go to Waitsfield. The Inn owner gave us a ride to town and we walked the few miles back to the Inn, doing some shopping and eating along the way. We needed new shoes, but in a small town, the outfitters just didn’t have the right sizes we were looking for. We did pick up a few food supplies that weren’t in our resupply box, plus some other odds and ends that hikers need, like fuel for our alcohol stove and insoles for my hiking shoes. We also picked up some lunch and enjoyed it in a park. With the errands done, we walked back to the inn to relax until we could get some dinner. The nice thing about the Hyde-away Inn is that they also have a restaurant on the premises, so getting dinner was as easy as walking down the hallway and into the dining room. The food was really good and we felt ready to get back on the trail.
The first week back in Vermont was a good week, the weather was pretty cooperative, and the terrain was just starting to get a little more difficult, but not enough to be tedious. We met a lot of new hikers and were blessed by God with strength and trail angels along the way. We looked forward to the next week which would bring some of the most spectacular and challenging parts of the trail so far!