Hiking through Vermont is absolutely gorgeous and also difficult at the same time. The views are amazing but the terrain is a mixed bag. Enjoy reading my latest journal entry as I backpack the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. If you missed it, here are my previous entries and videos from the trail.
Here’s the latest video from the trail featuring my hike through the state of Massachusetts!
Huge update for you. Sorry if it’s a bit long but a lot has been happening!
I got a late start at 8:30am. It was overcast with rain on the way. I passed several ponds that had been created by beaver dams. It was incredible to see how their construction could hold back huge amounts of water. Since I no longer practice civil engineering, it made me feel good knowing that the beavers are doing great on their own and don’t need my expertise.
Vermont was reminding me of northern Michigan. The foliage was a darker shade of green and there was moss covering the rocks and trees. I guess that’s why they call them the Green Mountains. Firs were more prevalent now and the smell of the forest was familiar.
It sprinkled for a bit but lasted only an hour. There was a mean descent down to a road crossing that really made my knees sore. I wonder if the days off in Boston softened up my trail legs or if 1,600 miles of hiking just takes its toll.
At the road crossing were two men, Jeff and Gary, who were offering trail magic. I indulged in some donuts and candy bars. Osprey G, whom I had met at Maria’s house (the 89-year old Italian woman), and Charlie Horse were there as well. I also filled up my water bottles in the nearby stream and brushed my teeth. I hadn’t done the latter since Boston (oops). The water from the stream tasted good. Sometimes the springs and streams have a minerally taste or lots of tannins or something, but not this time.
I had planned a long day and was behind schedule. While grateful for the trail magic, I needed to move. Boston set me back a few days from the finish date I have in my head (July 17th). While the date is arbitrary, I’m competitive with myself and am trying to make that date.
It was a steep hike back up into the Green Mountains and I was a bit winded. Maybe I needed to drink more water. I had planned to stop at the next shelter for lunch but since I got the trail magic in my stomach and was pressed for time, I continued on.
The day wore on. I didn’t know why I was feeling so sluggish. Maybe I had Lyme disease; it can creep up on you sometimes. I had been trying to stay off my phone but I was getting bored and needed a distraction. I had been alone to my thoughts enough that morning and so I continued listening to The Magician’s Land on audiobook.
With eight miles to go, a hiker named Database came up behind. He was 20 and started March 13th, two weeks after me. He was moving fast and set a good pace for me as we talked. I kept up and soon we were at a shelter. He decided to stay while I hiked on. It was four more miles to my planned shelter and evening was upon me.
A fire tower offered views at the top of a peak but the cloudy, hazy skies made me skip it. My feet and ankles were sore. I felt like my body was falling apart a bit. What happened to the hardened hiker from a week ago? I was somewhat worried for the future of my hike; I still had five weeks to go!
At last I reached the Kid Gore Shelter. It was packed with people and there were tents all over the place. It was those damn Long Trail hikers. The AT follows the Long Trail for 100 miles before splitting off. I like having the trail to myself.
A tenth of a mile farther was a campsite according to my guide. However, it was very small and a tent was already set up. I found a spot nearby and set up. I was exhausted and starving; I shouldn’t have skipped lunch. I had instant potatoes and snacks. I had planned on eating my lunch of pizza burritos with dinner but I was too tired to want to prepare them. However, I did have a chocolate bar that was 500 calories so I ate that instead. I went to bed as the lightning in the distance became a steady rain. My guide said this shelter area had a high bear prevalence but I was so tired and lazy I just shoved my food bag into my pack. Hopefully the rain would cover up any trace food smells.
Day’s Mileage: 24.5
Total Miles Hiked: 1,634.9
Remaining Miles: 564.8
My tent was slightly wet when I awoke but the sun was out. I was packing up when I realized the woman who tented near me had been Jenny, a hiker I had last seen at Neels Gap on day three! It was crazy to see her after all this time. Now she goes by Squeeze, but back then neither of us had trail names. She didn’t recognize me with my beard; I was clean shaven when we first met.
As I hiked, Database came upon me and I tried to keep up as we chatted. After maybe 15 minutes I slowed and the young one raced on. I knew my body couldn’t handle his pace.
The terrain was mostly flat and the scenery was great. More beaver dams and lots of greenery. I came across an orange salamander. I hadn’t seen one in some time. I love finding them because they’re so cute.
At the first shelter I stopped for lunch. I was going to eat more today and had pizza burritos. Farther on, the wind picked up in gusts and it was almost chilly.
I summited Stratton Mountain, the highest peak in southern Vermont, if you want to make up a status. The view was hazy from the mist. As I hiked down I realized how fatigued my body was getting. My feet were sore and I was slowing down by the 16th mile. Sometimes my knees would hurt but most of the time they were fine. I tried to stay hydrated and nourished.
By the days end I reached Spruce Peak Shelter. I met some Long Trail hikers and a NOBO named Trademark. Database was there as well. It started raining as I arrived; perfect timing. A hiker gave me some broken pita bread which I ate fiercely. Normally I don’t like to take food if it has been touched because it’s easy for illness to go around the hiker community; we don’t get to wash our hands often. For dinner I had one of the Mountain House dinners I had found in PA. It looked like maybe moisture had gotten inside. I wasn’t sure about it’s perishability but risked it anyway. I also had some instant potatoes.
This was the first time I’d slept inside a shelter with others in a long time. If it weren’t for the rain I probably would have stayed outside. I went to sleep as my stomach gurgled. I really hoped the pita bread and the dehydrated dinner didn’t give me food poisoning or something. On a lighter note, I have hiked 75% of the AT!
Day’s Mileage: 22.9
Total Miles Hiked: 1,657.8
Remaining Miles: 541.9
My stomach survived the night. Someone had started a fire in the shelter’s wood burning stove when I awoke. Most shelters don’t have a fireplace or even a door let alone a stove. This was more of a cabin than a shelter. It was raining so I slept in. Well, I slept in compared to the other hikers. When I got up, only one other person was in the shelter. I put my rain coat on and set off into the woods.
The rain had pretty much stopped by the time I set off. Soon enough, some uphill climbs were enough to make me shed my rain coat even though it was quite chilly. My big left toe started hurting. It had been hurting for a few days now. It wasn’t rubbing so I knew it wasn’t blister related. I thought it was an ingrown toenail but now I’m wondering if I’ll eventually lose another toenail. Who knows.
I climbed up the slopes of a ski hill. I was in a cloud and the mist was cold. There was a ski patrol cabin at the top that they left open for hikers. I stopped for lunch there and talked with a couple who was section hiking.
By mid-afternoon the sun was out and the temperature rose to the mid-60s. I climbed across a long rock edge to the top of Baker Peak. The view was gorgeous; Vermont is beautiful.
As I descended, I could tell my feet and knees were sore. My day was nearly over. I reached Big Branch Shelter and it was only 6pm. I could hike three more miles to the next shelter but I decided to take it easy and rest up. I didn’t want to sleep in the shelter and I had seen a secluded campsite down by the suspension bridge over the river before the shelter.
I set up camp and decided to go for a dip. I stripped down and forced myself into the cold water. The pools in the river weren’t deep so I had to lie back to submerge my body. I did my best to rinse off the dirt and sweat from the last five days. It was exhilarating and refreshing. It felt good to be out in nature in my natural form.
I threw on some shorts and stopped halfway across the suspension bridge. The sun was shining down so I sat on the railing and soaked it all in. I was glad I hadn’t pushed to the next shelter. I needed more moments like this on the trail. The weather was nice and the sun warm on my skin as the stream rushed beneath me. ‘Twas bliss.
Back at my campsite I decided to start a fire. I figured I could use toilet paper to get it started, only I couldn’t find mine. Did I leave it at a privy earlier today?! I’ve been so good not losing things on the trail. I looked through my whole pack but it was not there. I sighed and figured I at least had wet wipes for when I next need toilet paper as it was intended.
Not to worry, I was an Eagle Scout so I should still be able to start a fire. I gathered up wood and found some birch bark. With my lighter in hand, I lit the bark and with some poking and prodding, I had a fire. I was impressed with myself; it had been a long time since I started a fire without any man-made objects (sans the lighter). This was also the first fire I built on the AT.
I opened my food bag and lo and behold my toilet paper was inside. It seems the only thing I’ve lost on the trail is my sanity. For dinner I cooked up some noodles that were leftover food from Michael, back when he hiked with me in March! I figured it was time to get rid of them. I also added some instant potatoes and mixed them all together with some olive oil into a starchy, chewy mush. I called it gnocchi. Potatoes + noodles = gnocchi, right? I also boiled a bottle of honey that had crystallized and returned the honey to liquid form.
I played with the fire and watched the stream roar by until dark. It was a perfect evening.
Day’s Mileage: 19.3
Total Miles Hiked: 1,677.1
Remaining Miles: 522.6
It was nice weather, sunny with high 70s forecast. I began walking and soon found myself along a lake called Little Rock Pond. For some reason they call them ponds in Vermont. I stopped and noticed loads of salamanders swimming around in the water. Later I would find more on the trail as well as a snail and giant frog.
I’m starting to understand what people meant when they warned me of black fly season. Tiny gnat-like flies kept buzzing in my face. I think this is their infant stage before they get bigger and start biting.
I climbed up high and was in a forest of firs. It was beautiful. I stopped for lunch at an overlook that was 0.2 miles off the trail but not worth the extra mileage or climb down to it. My knees were starting to get sore.
When I had service, Transformer messaged me and was staying at a hostel in a nearby town. Since my body needed a break, I thought about it and decided a night indoors would be nice. I needed to charge my phone and buy more food anyway.
I arrived at a main road but thought I’d hike a bit farther to the next one before hitching to town. This proved to be a mistake. The next road was more residential and quiet. I tried to call a taxi but had no service. Irritated that my night off was not going to happen, I started to hike on. Then I thought, I didn’t even try to hitch, give it some time. So I returned to the road and waited for nearly a half hour and only saw three cars and no one stopped. I guess the beard isn’t as attractive as I thought. Maybe I should’ve shown some leg.
I hiked on and got service for a moment. I tried to call a Lyft but the service went out and I don’t think it would’ve found a driver in this remote area anyway.
My left big toe still hurt from the ingrown toenail. But now my right big toe hurt from hiking for the last three months nonstop! I was tired but pressed on. I arrived at an empty shelter but in four more miles there was a shelter with a view. I figured if I’m not in a hostel, at least I could have a view.
To get to the Cooper Lodge shelter I had to climb Mount Killington. This is the first 4000-foot peak in the northern part of the AT. The end of my planned 16-mile day has turned into 27 miles and it was brutal. I was climbing up the steep slopes covered with rocks and roots. It felt like when you ski the backcountry and get stuck and have to climb back up to the top. It was not easy. And ironically Mount Killington did have a ski resort on it. Near the top I thought my body was simply going to quit on me from sheer exhaustion. I was starving and it was past dinner time. Ain’t no rest for the wicked.
It was 9pm when I made it to the shelter. The sun had just set and the sky was aglow. Trademark was the only other hiker. He told me the summit trail was worth the view. It was 0.2 miles straight up a rocky peak. Somehow I mustered the energy and scrambled up the dicey trail to the top. It was worth it and I had a panoramic view of mountains all around, basking in the orange glow of twilight.
The climb back down in the dark was horrible for my body. The shelter was kind of dumpy. It had a door but open-air windows. It was empty as Trademark camped outside. The bunk platforms were falling apart. I made dinner in the dark. I had been so hungry but now my exhaustion had ruined my appetite. I ate a dehydrated dinner but had planned on eating potatoes, too. I just couldn’t, even though I needed the calories after 27 miles. I knew I’d be hungry once in bed.
Sure enough, I was hungry when I laid down. It had been a long, rough day. But I decided I would take a nero (nearly zero) day tomorrow and still stay at that hostel. As exhausting and trying as the day was, I saw a spectacular sunset and the stars were amazing. I hiked through some very pretty areas and even passed a sign indicating only 500 miles to Katahdin! Also, KitKats dipped in peanut butter are delicious. One of my worst days and also one of my best days all at the same time.
Day’s Mileage: 27.3
Total Miles Hiked: 1,704.4
Remaining Miles: 495.3
Daily Average: 15.6
For those of you wondering where I found the exit music to my videos, here is the actual song featuring the “Danny, Danny” lyrics (which they aren’t actually saying but it sounds like it to me). It’s by Galantis, one of my favorite artists that I listen to on the trail.
Last, I still am blogging for The Trek but am a few states behind. If you are interested, here is my post about making it halfway and what I’ve learned and I also posted about my time in Pennsylvania.