Long Trail

Strong Women on the Long Trail

In keeping with the theme of REAL strong women in the backcountry, I'd like you to meet Nikki Kimball.  Nikki is a Vermont native who holds the women's speed record (FKT) for ultra running the Long Trail.  For Nikki though, just being the fastest woman to do the entire 273-mile Long Trail isn't enough.  Check out her interview with Vermont Public Radio about her FKT attempt next summer, where she will attempt to run the entire trail in only 4.5 days and find out the reason she's doing this: 

http://digital.vpr.net/post/native-vermonter-sets-sights-breaking-long-trail-running-record#stream/0

Day 21 - Long Trail

We finally arrived at our last four miles on the Long Trail!  Since we only had 4.4 miles to hike to the Canadian border this morning we slept in and got a late start, 8:30!  We began the day like every other day in Vermont mostly, by walking up a rock slab to a mud pit,  this one being directly behind Shooting Star shelter.  We had half a mile to walk up Burnt Mountain, which wasn't named very recently we had decided since it was lush, green, and VERY muddy and wet!  There was a small view to the west, but we had our eyes on the prize and were ready to get finished with the trail.  We practically ran downhill to North Jay Pass and our final road crossing. 

After stumbling around on the road for a few minutes looking for the trail, which is ALWAYS better marked for SoBo's for whatever reason, we found our trail and began a short climb up our final hill - Carleton Mountain.  The trail was pretty easy at this point, only getting steep in that special Vermont way once or twice.  I let out a huge victory yell at the top and even danced the Carlton, just because.  On our way back downhill, we ran back into Neo and started hiking with him.  It was clear at this point Vermont wasn't going to get us go without a fight - lots of mud pits with only a few branches haphazardly thrown in for our attempts to cross them.  We had been walking with Neo for about half an hour when we came around a bend and Neo just exclaimed "Oh my God, FINALLY!"   We had reached the wooden sign proclaiming the northern terminus of the Long Trail!  We took photos of each other and then headed up the trail a few more feet to the obelisk at the Canadian border.  We took a long time here until a group of SoBo's showed up.  Now is when the real adventure began!

 Another thru hike in the books! 

Another thru hike in the books! 

Before getting back to the main road, we had to first walk a half mile downhill to Journey's End shelter, where the entire valley smelled like a rotting animal corpse - including the water!  Once passing the camp, the trail turned into an old road bed and we walked 3/4 of a mile to the parking area.  There were only three cars here, none of them with people, and we knew we would be road walking.  We walked with Neo for the 1.2 miles of Journey's End Road, passing occasional homes or winter cabins.  When we were getting close to the intersection of Journey's End and North Jay Road I heard a car approaching.  I ran as fast as I could with my thumb up to the intersection and reached it just as the truck was passing.  He stopped and told NoKey and me he could take us to Jay.  Neo was headed the other direction, to North Troy, and would have to continue to walk.  

 I'm here! 

I'm here! 

We rode to Jay and the man took us all the way to Route 100, which is where we decided to go so we could get to our car back in Killington.  We were picked up by another man from Tennessee who was on his way to Maine.  He turned around to pick us up and took us down to Troy.  We got another ride from Troy down to Westfield.  It took about 40 minutes in Westfield to get another ride, this time from Ryan from NYC with his young daughter.  He laughed that his wife had no idea what he was out doing today and that if she knew he was picking up hitchhikers she'd be pretty upset!  He dropped us off at the crossroad for Lowell, which is the road you take to get to Hazen's Notch.  Brittany picked us up next.  She was going to drop us off further down on Route 100, but thought we'd have an easier time getting picked up on Route 7, which is where Rutland is.  She took us all the way to downtown Burlington. 

 The Journey's End! 

The Journey's End! 

From Burlington we had planned on taking the bus to Rutland.  We stopped for tacos and then walked around downtown, as it was Saturday afternoon and there was a lot going on.  We were pretty dirty and carrying backpacks, so we elicited a few stares!  We got to the bus station and were informed there is no bus to Rutland and the woman couldn't even tell us how to get to Route 7, so we googled and walked our way there.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of urban sprawl in Burlington and that's bad news for hitchhiking.  NoKey went into a gas station to make us a sign that said "hikers heading south" and the sign worked like a charm.  We were picked up by a couple who took us to the outskirts of the sprawl and then picked up by a guy who was heading back into New York.  When he dropped us off, we were back on country roads again. 

 The end of a long and rewarding trip. 

The end of a long and rewarding trip. 

From here, we were picked up by Walker, a young guy who recently put the new roof on the Inn at Long Trail and was headed to a music festival in Middlebury.  He took us all the way to the outer edges of Middlebury where we were picked up pretty quick by a guy headed to Rutland.  After talking with him for a few minutes about wild mushrooms, IPA's, and even dogs, he decided to give us a ride all the way to our car in Wallingford.  We reached our car at 6:30 after hitchhiking for 7 hours.  We headed up to the Inn at Long Trail to camp on the lawn for the night.  We were hoping for a shower also, but no such luck.  Thankfully, we had brought a bag from home with clean clothes and even some deodorant!  We headed inside to have celebratory beers and dinner with some other hikers and live music.  We fell asleep to the sounds of traffic on Route 4 at Sherburne Pass.  A fitting end to a hell of a journey!

Day 20- Long Trail

We woke up to heavy rains at around 4 am and the rains stayed heavy most of the morning.  The young guys headed south at about 6:30 while NoKey, Southpaw, and myself stayed in bed until around 7:15.  We got up and cooked hot breakfasts and sat around talking until about 9 am, when the rain had slowed and we finally headed out.  We had several climbs this morning over three small peaks before finally getting to Domey's Dome. It was around 11 and we were both out of energy and decided to stop for an early lunch break.  Afterward we continued downhill steeply, slipping and sliding down wet rocks and roots only to land in mud puddles.  Whatever dried out the past few days definitely was wet again thanks to the downpour last night and this morning.  On our descent down into Jay Pass the sun and blue skies finally made an appearance we we thought we might actually get a view on Jay Peak after all!

 So close! 

So close! 

When we got to the pass and then began climbing up Jay we weren't sure what to expect.  We knew it would be a 2000-foot climb up to the top but we also knew this was a pretty popular mountain, so we were hoping for trail maintenance!  The footing on this trail turned out to be pretty good.  The grade wasn't nearly as steep as the shorter peaks we climbed this morning and there was good drainage built in to the trail.  We headed up to a ski slope and hiked parallel to it for about a quarter mile before being deposited out onto a platform to cross the slope.  We could have just taken the slope up, but instead our trail went up and over some steep rocks.  I was motivated by hunger and ran up quickly, making it to the top by 1:30.  We stopped and had lunch and talked to a few people before deciding to look for some water.  It turns out there is a restaurant and bathrooms up there too for the people who ride up on the sky tram, so we went inside and charged our phones, had beer and ice cream, and filled our water.

 NoKey hiking down Jay Peak. 

NoKey hiking down Jay Peak. 

 

We walked down a ski slope for a while before heading back Into the woods and being deposited back out onto the same ski slope.  This time we saw a shirtless, shoeless man pulling a stroller behind him up the ski slope.  With a French accent he asked us how much further to the top.  He had apparently pulled the baby all the way up from the bottom!  It was very strange.  We then went back into the woods and headed to Laura Woodward shelter.  We talked to the people there for a quick minute before heading up and over Doll Peak to Shooting Star shelter. 

 Directional signage on Jay Peak

Directional signage on Jay Peak

The 4.3 miles to this shelter went quickly, although the terrain was pretty nasty.  The mud was so stagnant and thick over here that it was growing mold and moss.  Some mud pits were so thick your trekking pole would sink nearly to the handle. Staying upright was pretty important!  We reached our shelter only to find the water here was a stagnant puddle in a leaf pit.  It was kind of a bummer for our final night on the trail.  It was only NoKey, me, and a guy named Neo at the shelter and we all hit the bed by 8 pm.  A pretty lame last night on trail.  Tomorrow is only 4.4 miles to the border!

Day 19 - Long Trail

We woke up to gray skies this morning, but we had heard the rain was supposed to hold off until much later tonight, so we got an early start to get in our 14.5 miles.  We began by hiking down to Devil's Gulch, which was the inspiration for the Mahoosic Notch on the AT.  Fortunately enough for us, this was only about 500 yards of boulder jumbles  instead of a mile!  We only had a short uphill section before reaching the road at Eden Crossing. Now our day was about to get tougher!

 Hiking through Devil's Gulch! Yes, this is the trail  

Hiking through Devil's Gulch! Yes, this is the trail  

 

From the road we had a 2000-foot climb up to the peak of Belvedere, which began gentle enough on old mining roads - there was an asbestos mine here in the early 20th century.  About 20 minutes in the climb gradually got steeper before coming out on the peak, where there was a fire tower.  We didn't head up the tower as we were still thinking it might rain, so we kept going north toward Lockwood Pond and the Tillotson shelter.  We had lunch before we began climbing and descending a series of small peaks in the afternoon.

 Lockwood Pond

Lockwood Pond

 

After the Tillotson shelter, the trail changed dramatically.  We are now in the dreaded section 12 of the Long Trail, which doesn't really get a lot of love or maintenance.  The trail, even though the rain has been gone for a few days now, was deep with mud and brush.  There was a surprising amount of undergrowth for a forest this far north in the U.S.  Our pace slowed quite a bit and by the time we reached the top of Haystack Mountain, we were thoroughly exhausted.  We had an incredibly steep decent to Hazen's Notch on wet rocks where we actually climbed down backwards to avoid falling.  When we got to the bottom, a very kind person left bottles of water with the sign "Thirsty?? help yourself!" so we happily did!

 
 Trail magic! 

Trail magic! 

We only had a mile and a half left of our day to the Hazen's Notch Camp and we made it before 4:30. There were three other thru hikers here, southbounders.  As the evening wore on, a family of five showed up and another NoBo hiker as well. We hungrily ate two dinners by a campfire until the rain set in.  It is supposed to rain all night and until about noon tomorrow, so we might be calling it a short day.  We are only 17.2 miles from Canada, so we are getting pretty excited!

Day 18- Long Trail

We left town early thanks to Dave from Nye's B&B.  We had an epic breakfast of blueberry pancakes, sausage, eggs, juice, and real coffee! Powered on town food we began our first ascent to Prospect Rock and, just before hitting the top, we saw a blog follower - Ingrid.  We talked trail for a few minutes before heading back up the trail to Roundtop shelter.  Even though it was earlier than 10 am we had already been sweating buckets!  We began our descent to Post Road before beginning our next climb to Laraway Mountain.

 Heaven on earth! 

Heaven on earth! 

 

The footing was good and the trail was in great shape, so getting up and over this mountain went pretty quick.  We got to the Corliss Camp very early in the day and decided we should at least attempt to push on toward Spruce Ledge to get an early start on the rain predicted for tomorrow. 

On our way up Butternut Mountain we ran into a few small groups of college students and chatted with them before finally making it up.  We had three false summits, but the climb was pretty easy:  the fact that the mud is starting to dry up due to the hot temperatures definitely helped also.  We crossed some great snowmobile trails and had more good footing all the way to Bowen Mountain, actually following old roads and nice trails most of the way.  We made it to the Spruce Ledge shelter and camped for the night with another group of college students and two older guys doing a section hike.  

 Crossing the Lamomille River! 

Crossing the Lamomille River! 

The college students played some word games and offered us hot chocolate before bed, which was a very nice gesture.  We all crashed before 8:30, falling asleep to the sounds of loons on the pond below us.

Day 17 - Long Trail

We only had 7.5 miles to town, but we had no idea how long those 7.5 miles would take.  Vermont miles seem to be longer than regular miles sometimes!  We left camp at about 7:30, promising to see Redwood and Slowpoke in Johnson.  We immediately began the 0.4-mile ascent of Whiteface in the hot and humid morning sun.  I actually got spiderwebs all over me, and even a spider in my mouth at one point... So to see the top of the mountain couldn't come soon enough!  Drenched in sweat before 8 am, we reached the top and began an immediate and steep descent back down the other side. 

 This blaze looks like it is falling off the other blaze... Which is how we get down off the mountains. 

This blaze looks like it is falling off the other blaze... Which is how we get down off the mountains. 

When we had gone about 2 miles, the terrain eased up on us a little and became more gentle.  By the time we reached Bear Hollow shelter, we had begun following old roadbeds.  The GMC should take note of how nice these trails were.  Water bars and proper drainage and footing made for fast and easy miles for us this morning.  These trails are obviously snowmobile or cross country ski trails.  There is no way The LT would make a trail this nice!  We crossed some large bridges and an active log staging area before being deposited on an actual roadbed.  From here it was a mere 1.5 miles to town! 

We got to Vermont 15 at only 10:15 and threw our thumbs up to get into Johnson.  Within 10 minutes we had a ride and went to the store for a resupply.  We stocked up on food and grabbed some Chinese food for lunch.  We also had noticed there was an outdoors store just outside town, so I ran in and bought the only two pairs of PhD Smartwool socks they had in stock- in my size and the style I normally hike with!  It was such good luck they had socks for me.  Wearing a pair of NoKey's was going to be tough for the next few days to be sure. 

We got picked up by the kind people at Nye's B&B.  They did our laundry and we took cold showers to escape the humid and hot 90-degree day.  We ate junk food and checked our messages before heading out for dinner.  I had a huge Thanksgiving Dinner plate and NoKey had a London Broil.  We also got to see Redwood and Slowpoke in town! 

 The lovely 215-year-old farm we are staying at tonight. 

The lovely 215-year-old farm we are staying at tonight. 

Our gear and bodies are cleaned up for the final stretch of the trail!  Based on trail conditions I am thinking it will take 3.5 days of hiking to finish the trail.  The shelters are spaced apart just a little too far for a feasible hiking day and there is rain in the forecast soon.  We are hoping for cooler temps soon! 

 A few more of the farm buildings at Nye Valley Farm. 

A few more of the farm buildings at Nye Valley Farm. 

Day 16 - Long Trail

We got to sleep in this morning since we were planning a shorter day, only 9 miles, to help us recover from the last two killer days we hiked.  We packed up and got moving at 8 a.m. instead of our usual 7-7:30 start time.  We could have stayed at Taft Lodge a whole day if it had rocking chairs, but it was time to move on.  

 Taft Lodge with The Chin of Mount Mansfield in the background. Slowpoke and Redwood are in the photo here. 

Taft Lodge with The Chin of Mount Mansfield in the background. Slowpoke and Redwood are in the photo here. 

We began with our descent down to Smuggler's Notch with a surprising number of day hikers heading up Mansfield.  It was already incredibly humid and the air was hot and stagnant.  We hiked/climbed down 1.7 miles and were pouring sweat all the way to the bottom.  After initially getting lost and then finding the trail again, we headed up our biggest climb of the day, Elephant's Head.   

 Climbing up more stairs and ladders this morning!  

Climbing up more stairs and ladders this morning!  

We finally reached what we assumed to be the top because our profile map showed a nice level walk to Sterling Pond.  We still had a lot more climbing to do, however, before being deposited out onto yet another ski run before we reached Sterling Pond.  We had planned on an afternoon siesta at this lovely, secluded alpine pond, but when we arrived at 11 am on a Monday it was packed.  There were easily 40 people on the tiny beach.  We thankfully found a caretaker and asked if there was someplace more secluded we could go and he pointed us in the direction of a more private beach.  We walked to the private area and took a swim and did our laundry.  We had lunch and shortly Redwood and Slowpoke joined us for our private thruhiker party.  

 Ahhh, the peace and serenity of rural northern Vermont! Haha

Ahhh, the peace and serenity of rural northern Vermont! Haha

We decided to head up the trail around 2:15, having thoroughly dried our gear and clothes.  We had a really tough climb up to Madonna Peak, which to our surprise was yet another ski mountain!  We took a break in the shade of the chair lift before doing a steep descent down yet another ski trail (a triple black diamond route... I didn't even know that was a thing!)  this is where NoKey took an incredibly nasty fall.  NoKey falls a few times every day, but this one really made him into a bloody mess.  Our trail here is riddled with wet rocks as switchbacks aren't a thing here.  In the northeast, Putting your trail on rocks is the preferred method to making it "durable" for who knows what reason.  We took a break to clean him up and then headed back up a smaller peak to the WhIteface shelter.

 The view of Madonna Peak and the Nose of Mansfield from the Whiteface shelter. 

The view of Madonna Peak and the Nose of Mansfield from the Whiteface shelter. 

We met a SoBo named Professor Stromboli and Slowpoke and Redwood joined us in the shelter for the night.  We had one of my favorite nights in camp on any trail I've ever hiked.  Good conversation and beautiful views made for a wonderful night.  The stars came out bright and beautiful with a view of the Milky Way becoming the crown jewel of the evening.  

Day 15 - Long Trail

This morning started out on a bad note, being that I discovered I didn't have any other socks.  Somehow I left my two clean pair back at the motel in Waitsfield a few days back.  NoKey gave me his clean pair and off we went. First though, we had to climb up and out of the Buchanan shelter the 0.3 we climbed down last night.  Our first climb on the trail for the day was up Bolton Mountain and it was tough and muddy.  We had about 4 miles to the Puffer shelter and we made it in about 3 hours.  The climb down the notch into Puffer was the hardest part with many of the rocks being wet and mossy.  The Puffer shelter is perched on the side of a cliff face and must have a stunning view of the valley, but we were mostly in the clouds.  

 Oh, this is Vermont? 

Oh, this is Vermont? 

 

From here we did some more climbing  down before we had to begin going back up and over Mt. Mayo and Mt. Clark, passing a pond and climbing down a ladder before stopping at Taylor Lodge for lunch.  We also met a couple here we stayed with last night and had been trying to catch because we found one of their shirts laying in the mud up on Bolton.  

 

 The weather is starting to clear! 

The weather is starting to clear! 

 

After lunch the trail turned surprisingly nice and easily walkable for a while, about 1.5 miles, until we reached the Twin Brooks campsite.  It was a short 1.3 miles to Butler Lodge from here, but it became much steeper and wet again as we got a little closer.  We finally reached the trail junction and sat down for a long and needed break.  We also met the new caretaker for the lodge who was pretty excited to be there.

 

Now is when the fun starts- going up and over Mt. Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont.  We were already tired, but we were determined to have a good view so we went up!  The first 0.9 miles were extremely tough.  We climbed through the Needle Eye and then began climbing up The Forehead.  We first climbed down ladder, then began bouldering up before crossing a plank across a ravine.  Then, four more ladders and some more bouldering.  There were blueberries growing all along the trail for snacking along the way.  We finally reached the summit of The Forehead and had awesome views of the Nose and The Chin! 

 

 This is how climbing the forehead looked for 0.8 miles

This is how climbing the forehead looked for 0.8 miles

 

We passed the visitor's center near The Nose summit and the caretakers gave us some peppermint patties!  They told us the climb isn't too bad and we headed up the 1.7 miles to the view top at The Chin.  It was a lot like being up on Katahdin above tree line, so the climb wasn't as strenuous.  We reached the top and took off our socks and shoes to dry on the warm rocks in the sun.  We sat up there for nearly 2 hours taking photos and talking to people.  A nice woman even gave us some delicious raw milk cheese to snack on!  After drying out and deciding we were hungry, we climbed down the half mile to the Taft Lodge.

This shelter is legit!  It's entirely indoors with windows.  We are staying with Slowpoke and Redwood, an older man, and a young couple, all of us LT thru hikers.  The caretaker also handed out cheese crackers with dinner.  It's been an amazing night and we are exhausted.  It was the longest 14.4 mile day I've ever hiked!

 The Nose of Mansfield

The Nose of Mansfield

 Climbing down actually means CLIMBING! 

Climbing down actually means CLIMBING! 

 The stunning view from The Chin, the highest peak in Vermont

The stunning view from The Chin, the highest peak in Vermont

Day 14 - Long Trail

 

We woke up to a dry morning with threat of thunderstorms all day long.  We are a quick breakfast and left with Dave, Simba, and Bernard to head up and over Camel's Hump.  It was only 1.9 miles to the summit from our campsite, but it was by no means easy!  The caretaker from the shelter passed us a little way in, making the boulder hop look easy.  We all reached the bad weather bypass about the same time.  NoKey, Simba, and I opted for that trail while Bernard and Dave went for the regular summit.  It was thundering the entire time and we were socked in by fog.  The bad weather bypass, however, was by no means any easier or safer.  We had to butt-slide down moss covered rocks and through mud, and even across exposed rock face.  When we came back around to the regular Long Trail we took a short break with Dave.  This was when we realized NoKey lost his pack cover, which is a pretty important piece of gear in the Vermont rain!

 This trail wasn't any easier! 

This trail wasn't any easier! 

 

We hiked for about another hour across exposed rock and through bogs and mud and swamp.  We thankfully only had to climb down one ladder on this downhill!  We passed the Bamforth shelter and then the trail finally chilled out a little.  We had a view down to the Winooski River and across to Stimpson Mountain.  We made it down to the parking lot and got some of the best trail magic I can imagine.  We met Rich while he was riding his bike.  We threw up our thumbs to hitchhike and asked if he was going to Waterbury, which got a laugh.  He came back by a few minutes later and asked why we were going.  We explained NoKey's pack cover situation and he said he would come back in about half an hour with his car and take us to get a new one.  He took us to CC Outdoors where we get a new cover, to the store for a soda, and back to the Long Trail!  We couldn't have met a better person; he helped us out tremendously!

 Looking back at the Hump

Looking back at the Hump

 

From here, we began walking the new portion of the LT, across the Winooski and up a road before heading up Stimpson Mountain.  The climb was long and we were very tired, but eventually we made it to the junction of the trail and Buchanan Shelter.  Unfortunately for us the shelter was 0.3 miles DOWNHILL from the trail.  It was a steep, eroded, muddy mess but the shelter itself is amazing. We are camping with two other LT thru hikers and a couple from Norwich doing a section hike.  Thankfully the weather is looking good for Mansfield tomorrow, the highest peak in Vermont.

 Hanging at the fancy new trailhead! 

Hanging at the fancy new trailhead! 

Day 13 - Long Trail

We headed out of Waitsfield at 9 am on the shuttle with Simba, a hiker who recently finished the Colorado Trail, and with Messy and Lost Boy.  The first climb of the morning up Baby Stark Mountain and then Molly Stark's Balcony were pretty tough, the rock climbing beginning almost immediately with tough downhills (read rockslides) to follow.  We did actually get some pretty views though and got some photos before moving down to Birch Glen shelter.  We took a quick break here and said hello to Bernard, who was just heading out, and for some water.  The walking from here to Cowles Camp shelter wasn't too bad, not steep or too muddy, and we made it there for lunch.

 A typical day on the Long Trail. 

A typical day on the Long Trail. 

 

We were eating with Dave and Simba and Bernard showed up shortly after.  We noticed a sign on the wall stating that the next five miles can be expected to take us four to five hours and were pretty surprised being that the profile didn't show that kind of elevation.  We began our climb up to Burnt Rock Mountain and understood why the hike would take so long.  Much like the White Mountains, the GMC has decided that instead of walking upright you would much rather climb up and over large rock features, especially when they're wet.  The climb up was 1.5 miles and took an hour.  I slipped off one of the ropes that you use to rappel (yes, rappel) down the side of a rock and got a nasty rope burn on my left hand. From this point, we entered Ladder Ravine, named so because you have to pull yourself up a wet rock on a rope to a wet metal ladder and climb down it, only to climb back up some more wet rocks.

 Ladder Ravine

Ladder Ravine

 

After Ladder Ravine we had our first Moose sighting, but not the large animal... Our friend Moose was hiking southbound!  We stopped and chatted with him a while and he let us know the trail ahead.  After taking the break the trail mellowed out a bit, only becoming steep a few times and was mostly wet and muddy.  We climbed Ethan Allen Mountain and were treated to some more hazy views as it had been drizzling off and on this afternoon.  

 
 The view from Ethan Allen with clouds looming! 

The view from Ethan Allen with clouds looming! 

 

We had a mile downhill to the shelter at this point and made it there pretty uneventfully.  The shelter is very nice, but there was a family headed over the mountain with a pretty obnoxious and loud kid staying in the shelter so we tented.  It started raining right as we cooked our dinner, a short thunderstorm, but thankfully our tent was already set up.  A caretaker showed up to collect our fee (surprise, the guidebook didn't list this one) and we called it an early night after a tough 10.6 miles.

Tomorrow they are calling for rain all day and we have to do at least 15 miles or only about 6.  We may end up taking a side trail as these brutal and masochistic miles today will not bode well in the rain! 

Day 12 - Long Trail

We got up at 6:15 after a chilly night of sleeping in our rain gear.  We heard rain for a few minutes, but thankfully it didn't stick around.  We planned on a short 13.8 mile day just in case it turned out to be as tough as yesterday.  We began by climbing up Mt. Grant and doing some short ups and downs to the Sunset Ledge.  The trail was very wet, muddy, and overgrown this morning with lots of slick rocks.  We were walking in fog up to the ledge and got a small view down toward South Lincoln before heading down to Lincoln Gap.  

 A reminder that alpine vegetation is fragile. 

A reminder that alpine vegetation is fragile. 

 

At the gap we began climbing our first official 4000-foot peak - Mt. Abraham.  There were quite a few day hikers heading up to the peak and the first 1.7 miles of the hike went quickly.  We reached the Battell shelter and then things changed.  We had crazy slick rock slabs for 0.9 miles all the way to the top.  We were climbing in the fog and the cold breeze before finally reaching the alpine summit.  It was too chilly to stay for long, so we climbed back down into the trees before having lunch.

 No views on Abraham! 

No views on Abraham! 

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the clouds, climbing and descending Lincoln Peak, Nancy Hanks Peak, Cutts Peak, and Mt. Ellen all in the fog and all crossing ski slopes without any blazes in sight.  When we finally made our way toward Orvis Overlook we had our first view of the day toward Lake Champlain.  We then began climbing up General Stark Mountain and were treated to beautiful views of the Whites and Camel's Hump from the top at Stark's Nest, an indoor shelter on the LT that is a ski warming hut during the winters at Mad River Glen.

 The gorgeous view from Stark's Nest! 

The gorgeous view from Stark's Nest! 

It was only 2:30 when we got here and we only had 3.4 miles down to the road... No problem, right?! We could get to the post office before 5 pm and pick up our box!  Once again, the Long Trail had other plans for us!  After descending steeply down a ski slope and some rock stairs, we ran into a kink... Metal rungs in the side of the rock.  This Moosilauke-like hiking continued, wooden ladders and metal rungs kept appearing before we finally hit the Theron Dean shelter.  We thought from here it would be a bit easier to get down to the gap, but we were wrong again!  More steep rocks and metal rungs kept showing up, alternating with mud and swamps.  We kept seeing the road and hearing the traffic only to turn away from it!  Eventually we even began walking uphill!  At 4:25 we hit the gap and were horrified to find there was no place to hitch a ride in the direction we were trying to go.

We did, however, get some amazing trail magic here... Rich, the hiker we met from Wisconsin the day we left Inn at Long Trail, had just made it back to his car at the gap and graciously offered us a ride into town.  We picked up our box at the post office with 20 minutes to spare!  We did some grocery shopping and got some super glue for NoKey's shoes before getting a shuttle to the Hyde Away Inn.  We had huge dinners and took showers while getting our laundry done!  Tomorrow we also get a free breakfast and a ride back to the trail!   Camel's Hump and a 16-mile day await us... With a full resupply and a 9 am start that won't be easy.

Day 11 - Long Trail

We had a huge breakfast of duck and chicken eggs, homemade bread, and coffee before hitching a ride out of town and back up the mountain.  We were picked up by man driving from Maine to New York and dropped off at the trailhead at 9 am.  We began by climbing steeply up the hill toward Silent Cliffs. We reached the side trail quickly and began climbing Burnt Hill soon after.  It sprinkled a little, but we stayed relatively dry.  We quickly arrived at the Boyce Shelter, which has been closed due to the footings holding up the shelter completely collapsing out from underneath.  We were already up pretty high and made the next few miles past Skyline Lodge toward Emily Proctor shelter pretty quickly.  The trail had started to get pretty soggy and muddy, so we decided to take a lunch break at Emily Proctor Shelter.

 

 NoKey at Emily Proctor shelter

NoKey at Emily Proctor shelter

The sun still hadn't made an appearance and we had to put on our rain jackets to eat.  The damp air with the cloudy skies made it pretty chilly!  We began climbing again up to Mt. Roosevelt where the clouds parted a little and we had a beautiful view toward Killington and the surrounding mountains.  We climbed Mt. Wilson and Mt. Cleveland and we were feeling pretty beat from attempting to dodge the mud and stay upright on the wet rocks.  The rain started and stopped two more times, never getting heavier than a sprinkle though.  We finally started to think we had missed our camp at Cooley Glen when we finally got there at 4 pm.

 

We camped with K1, the writer of the book Three Hundred Zeroes, and Bernard.  We also camped with a father and three teenage boys.  It was a chilly night and we ate huge dinners and crashed early as we were pretty worn out and wet from hiking today.

Day 10 - Long Trail

We woke up at 6 am and it hasn't rained yet so we were pretty excited and ready to hike.  About 6:30, however, the rain began to fall.  The three hikers were going into town for a resupply and the father and son were getting picked up on Thursday so they were hiking on.  We were undecided and started off down trail at 7:45.  As we walked up another ski slope the rain got heavier and soaked us quickly.  It wasn't even a question after checking the radar and seeing rain forecasted all day that we would try to hitch into town! 

We stood at Middlebury Gap for 40 minutes trying to hitch - it was about 55 degrees and pouring rain the entire time!  We had decided to take a ride in either direction and eventually a woman stopped and offered to take us down to Middlebury, 13 miles away.  She dropped us at a food co-op and we had coffee and bagels before trying to find some place to stay.  Unfortunately, Middlebury is quite an expensive place with even cheap rooms running $99 a night and up.  We found a place on the other side of the gap with rooms much cheaper and decided to head back up and over the mountain.

A hiker in the Long Trail Facebook group helped us out by giving us a ride over the mountain.  It would have been incredibly tough to hitch in the pouring rain. He brought us to The Gather Inn, run by Kathleen, and we have been very happy to be clean and dry!  We watched her feed her chickens and ducks, met her sweet cats, and went to a local hotel for dinner.  Hancock is a small and quiet little town on route 100 and we are so happy it's here!

We will head back out to the trail in the morning.  The temperatures are supposed to warm back up and we are hoping for clearer skies!

 The Gathering Inn

The Gathering Inn

 Chickens! 

Chickens! 

 The best meatloaf dinner I've ever had was at this old hotel! 

The best meatloaf dinner I've ever had was at this old hotel! 

Day 9 - Long Trail

 

We got up and moving before 7:30 this morning, an early start for our first full day in the more difficult terrain of northern Vermont.  We immediately began climbing Bloodroot Mountain and down into Wetmore Gap (aptly named due to the dew covering everything!) and then began a gentle climb of Farr Peak.  It was then an easy and wide road-like walk down to Sunrise Shelter, our first stop of the morning.  From here, we had a really great view of our first big rocky peak, Mt. Horrid, and the Great Cliffs.  

 NoKey on the Great Cliffs

NoKey on the Great Cliffs

 

The climb up Mt. Horrid evoked imagery of dragons guarding castles with princesses locked away in towers, but it wasn't that exciting!  We had a tough climb up, but the trail has been maintained very well and we flew up it to the side trail to the cliffs.  The extra 0.2 miles we added to our day were totally worth it for this amazing view!  

 

From here, we still had to finish climbing Mt. Horrid, which we decided was named this because of the three false summits, and then made the climb up to Cape Lookout Peak.  We had a beautiful view of the valley below before heading down and then quickly up Romance Mountain before coming down to the Sucker Brook shelter.  

Since it was only 1:30 it was too early to stop, but we couldn't make it to the next shelter 8 miles away.  We looked at our map and decided on a point called Lake Pleiad and hoped it wasn't a bog.  First though, we had to climb Worth Mountain, which had a few false summits of its own, and then come down into the Middlebury Snow Bowl, a ski area just outside the wilderness we had been hiking through most of our day.  The ski slopes afforded us beautiful views of our hiking tomorrow through the Vermont Presidential range and we saw the first hikers coming southbound we had seen all day.  They let us know that Lake Pleiad was beautiful for camping AND swimming, which sounded great to us because we had been sweating most of the day.

 The view from a ski slope

The view from a ski slope

 

We got to the camping area and are spending the night with 2014 AT thru hikers Lost Boy and Messy, Messy's cousin, and a father and son from Pennsylvania. We all took a dip in the lake and ate huge dinners before calling it a night.  We are all prepping for rain in the morning since they're calling for a 100% chance all day... Yikes!

Day 8 - Long Trail

 

After having an amazing and huge breakfast at the Inn at Long Trail, with real coffee might I add, we had to pack our bags and head up the mountain.  Since we were hiking the original Long Trail we headed up Sherburne Pass to the Deer Leap Overlook before heading down to the split of the AT and LT.  This is the giant rock that hovers over the Inn at Long Trail and the view was phenomenal!  We took the AT back to Maine Junction, seeing some of the AT NoBo's we had been camping with for a few days during our time in Vermont.  We reached the split and headed north.  We reached the former site of the Tucker Johnson shelter quickly and met a couple hiking for the week with their hyper and happy dog, Rosebud.  We continued along to the Rolston Rest shelter five miles in and stopped for lunch with Rich from Wisconsin and our friend Dirt Nap.

 

 Killington from Deer Leap Overlook. 

Killington from Deer Leap Overlook. 

 

After lunch our day became a little tougher with bigger and steeper climbs than we were used to on the AT section of Vermont.  We also walked through a part of the forest being actively logged, so that was a big change also.  The trail today definitely reminded us a lot of being back on the BMT again!  After crossing paths with a snowmobile trail a few times, we came to an overlook with an obscured view of the mountains to the east.  We took a break to prep for the final part of our day, climbing Mt. Carmel to the David Logan shelter.

 Branching off from the AT to northern Vermont! 

Branching off from the AT to northern Vermont! 

 

We got to the shelter and met a couple we had hiked with a few days ago and Dirt Nap.  Bernard came in a little later and some younger guys showed up near dark who had hiked all the way from Pico Camp!  We had a large campfire and NoKey and I had some IPAs he had packed out of town before calling it a night.

Day 7 - Long Trail

We slept in this morning since we thought we had no chance of making it to Killington before 11 am.  We began hiking at 8 am and immediately began our climb of Killington (the mountain, not the town!)  The climb started out gradual, but became much steeper as the miles went by!  We stopped at a beautiful spring about 2/3 of the way up to refill our water and then continued on up the hill, now getting views to the east.

 

 Looking east- I could count five ridge lines when I was looking out that way! 

Looking east- I could count five ridge lines when I was looking out that way! 

We reached what is considered the top on the Long Trail at Cooper Lodge Shelter, but the peak of Killington is actually 0.2 miles higher.  We climbed up to get the view and reached the top at 10:30.  We couldn't believe how quickly we hiked 7 miles this morning!  From the top, thru hikers can take a free gondola ride to the resort down the hill.  We did this to kill time since we were planning a short day.  We found out the post office was actually open until noon and a free bus was coming in less than 5 minutes that drove right by!  We hopped on and rode to the post office and the Inn at Long Trail to get a room for the night. We might not have found the Secret Shelter, but our luck today was incredible!  

 The amazing view from the very top of Killington! 

The amazing view from the very top of Killington! 

From here, we have an easy day hike of the trail, the Sherburne Pass Trail, up to Pico Peak.  Pico is where we were planning to stay tonight, but since we got to town in time we no longer have to camp!  We chose to take the blue blazed Sherburne Pass Trail because it is the original and historic Long Trail.  It was rerouted in 1999 to the present location down the hill.  Since we took the white blaze back in 2012, we decided to blue blaze this time for a change of scenery!  

 

 The Inn at Long Trail!   

The Inn at Long Trail!   

Tonight we will get laundry done and have a beer in the Irish Pub while listening to live Irish music. We have an easy day planned out of town tomorrow to help us adjust to the tougher part of the Long Trail.  We say goodbye to the AT in the morning... North to Canada we go!