Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hiking into Rutland, Vermont

This morning we first had to climb up Mt. Killington, and it was a gnarly climb.  And I mean gnarly, as in really gnarly roots growing all over the trail.  It was slow going, but we finally made it.  This was followed by the slowest, longest downhill EVER.  Maybe it was because we were heading into town, and we always enjoy getting there for lunch, but we felt like we'd NEVER get down the mountain.
We finally did though, and caught a quick hitch into town, and were delivered to the Walgreen's parking lot, which was near Burger King.  We went over and ate, and then found out the local bus system would deliver us to our motel, so we caught the bus.  We ended up doing our grocery shopping, and having a nice meal that evening. 
Rutland just happens to have the Norman Rockwell Museum, and is the birthplace of John Deere.  It has lots of beautiful stone churches, and looks very Norman Rockwellish, if you ask me. Once again, I wish we had time to explore the town. The ski resorts of Pico and Killington are just 10 miles away, so the Green Mountains surround us here. Really beautiful!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hurricane Irene Moves the Trail

This morning I started hiking a little before the boys, and unfortunately, never saw where the AT departed and went off into the woods.  Instead, I continued down this nice, easy downhill, and before you knew it, I was at the bottom of the mountain, and noticed a blue blaze on a tree.  Not good.  I hiked back up the mountain, most frustrated, and found the white blaze going off to the right.  Keith soon caught me, and I told him how I had messed up.  I had also managed to fall again, this time on a slippery rock, but once again, landed on my pack, no harm done.
Soon, we reached a beautiful river, and stopped and ate lunch and swam (with a bar of soap).  There was a nice gorge there, and suspension bridge.  The trail today was really beautiful, following lovely mountain streams for quite a ways.  At one point, the trail disappeared due to storm damage from Hurricane Irene last year.  It took a while for us to locate where the trail picked up again, but we did finally find it, and hiked on to a shelter that backed up to another beautiful stream.  That was one of the prettiest campsites we have had yet, and we got to listen to the background music of the stream all night long.

We passed the point on the trail today where it was 500 miles to Katahdin! Whoo hoo!!!

(Camped at Governor Clement Shelter, mile 1685.3)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Shelter from the Rain

Today we lucked out, because everytime it rained, we were able to duck into a shelter to pass the time.
First, we hiked out of the area around Griffith Lake, and climbed Baker Peak. We met a young guy hiking the Long Trail and he was just taking the first picture of his hike. I told him I had taken over 2000.

We soon hiked to a beautiful pond called Little Rock Pond.  It started to rain.  We ducked into a really nice, new shelter with a big covered deck, and were soon joined by a dozen little boys at summer camp and their counselors.  One of them asked if we lived there.
We hiked on and started climbing into one of those beautiful fir forests with green moss on all of the rocks.  It looked just like a Christmas tree farm.  We reached one point where hikers had built so many cairns, it resembled some sort of art exhibit.  We enjoyed looking at it, and adding to it as well.
We ended up camping at a shelter that had no level land around it.  It was hard to find a tent spot.  It started raining right as we ate supper, and we ate inside the shelter and enjoyed the rain on the trees.  A couple of sobos showed up, and we enjoyed hearing about their adventures to the north.  One of them was named Smoky, because he smoked too much.  He was out of cigarettes, and 2 days from town.  We encouraged him to give them up.  I think he thought we were kidding.  We were not.

(Camped at Greenwall Shelter, mile 1670.7)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Getting a (Free) Lift Up the Mountain

First, a report on our hostel experience!  I'm happy to say, it was nothing like the "hostel" movie experience, a horror flick that came out a few years back.  This was just like staying at a good friend's very nice 2-story home, where they thought of everything to make you feel like it was your own home.  And of course, this being Vermont, this is Ben & Jerry country, so the freezer was stocked, and you got a pint upon check-in.  The lower floor of the home was kitchen, dining, living (TV) and computer rooms, and all of the bedrooms were upstairs. 

Only one of the bedrooms was a private room (which Keith and I had reserved ahead of time), and the other two bedrooms slept four each, one with two sets of bunk beds, and one room with four twin beds in it.  There was a washer and dryer that we had access to, free of charge, and opposite the washer and dryer was extra clothes that you could wear while you did your own laundry, that way you could wash EVERYTHING in your backpack!  By the "laundry clothes" were extra toothbrushes, nail clippers, disposable razors, and just about any toiletry you might need. 
That night there was a full hostel, so we had a total of twelve hikers staying there.  Jeff, the owner, actually lived in the building right next door.  He had come and picked us up from McDonalds in town after we had finished our shopping.  He was very kind and upbeat, and you could tell he genuinely enjoyed hosting hikers.
We had a brief orientation meeting, at which time we all signed up for what time we wanted to go to the trail in the morning.  We had a good mix of southbounders hiking the AT (Drifter, War Wagon), northbounders hiking the AT (us, Comanche, and Manfred and Rhino), a section hiker (Christine), and two Long Trail hikers (Muriel and Ben).  We all enjoyed sharing information.  The sobos and nobos really had a lot to learn from each other.  We also enjoyed watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

We had a sad reminder at one point, of the dangers on the trail, and Jeff told us about it at our meeting.  A 20-year old thru-hiker had gone swimming in one of the ponds in Vermont back in June, after hiking 20 miles that day.  He was swimming across the pond, when he cramped up, and drowned.  His friends could not get him out in time.  His mom had contacted the hostels up and down the trail, wanting to make sure that all hikers were aware of this danger, so they would not do the same thing.  Very sad.
We really enjoyed our stay at the Green Mountain Hostel, and slept really well.  The next morning, we enjoyed actually getting to cook breakfast in the kitchen, and then Jeff took us to the trail, and sent us off, saying,  "It's only 3 miles to the top of the mountain!"  Ugh.  Not the words you want to hear first thing in the morning!  We started hiking, and it was a pretty challenging climb.  When we reached the top, I couldn't believe my eyes, but the first thing I saw resembled a spaceship!  I was expecting nothing but wilderness, but it turned out that there was a ski run on the opposite side of the mountain, and we had hiked up to the ski lift.  Swamprat went over and visited with the operator, and he said we could ride for free if we wanted.  We were ready for a break, and so that's how we spent it, riding up and down the mountain, and getting quite a gorgeous view from Mount Bromley of the entire valley. 

After our free ride, we hiked on, and it wasn't too long before it began raining.  At first, we were not getting too wet, but soon the canopy got saturated, and we started getting saturated too!  Not wanting to get too drenched, we decided to throw up the tents, get inside, and wait out the storm.  This took about 3 hours.  Once again, I did not mind the extra rest at all, because we had stayed up much too late at the hostel the night before, and I was sort of dragging.  Once the rain lightened up, we hiked on, and soon came upon these board walks that went on for hundreds of yards.  It probably seemed like a good idea when the trail crews first put them down, but now they were wet and covered with green algae and mildew, and were like walking on ice.  It wasn't long before my feet flew up in the air, and I landed on my backpack like a turtle on a road.  Luckily, the backpack acted like a huge pillow, and I never really felt a thing.  I hiked on, and we all hiked very cautiously from then on.  We finally reached some really great tent platforms at Griffith Lake Tenting Area, and camped there for the night.  It rained some that night as well.

(Camped at mile 1656.7)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rain Finally Finds Us

Well, it finally happened. We finally got REALLY rained on. At least it was overnight. It started raining about 7:30 yesterday evening, and it rained all night. At one point, it was so dark in the tent, we could not see our hands in front of our faces. There was a group of Boy Scouts staying in the shelter along with some other Long Trail section hikers, and one Sobo AT hiker. We slept really well, and it continued to rain during the morning, so we were not up and on the trail by 6:30. We got to sleep in! I think I was the only one that saw this as a positive side to the rainstorm. I got lots of sleep. The boys seemed to be constantly checking their radars and texting each other, anxious to hike Swamprat was camped pretty far from us, so texting was a must.

Finally, the radar showed a break in the storm, so we packed up and moved into the shelter, and then as it lightened up, we headed out. We originally were going to camp on some really cool tent platforms down by Stratton Pond, but when we arrived at the shelter, were informed that the pesky beavers had managed to flood the trail leading there, and that the other trail was much longer, and we would have to hike around the other side of the pond. Also, the weather forecast was possibly severe, so tenting near the shelter was just the smart thing to do last night.

The pond was very pretty, even in the foggy mist. We were told the 11 mile hike to town was pretty easy, so we were in "hiking to town" speed, which is pretty brisk. It began raining again at one point, but once again, we got more damp than drenched. Not too bad. The greatest thing about the woods today is all of the streams are full and flowing. Beautiful, crystal clear springs and brooks flowing in all directions. Thing have been so dry for so long, it looks really great to see this again.

We made record time and hitched an easy ride into Manchester Center, New Hampshire. I am guarding the packs (as If anyone would care to touch the wet, muddy, smelly things!) at McDonalds while the boys grocery shop. Somehow I got the better end of this deal this time. My job comes with a Coke and fries!

We are staying at a hostel tonight - the Green Mountain Hostel. It comes highly recommended by everyone. When you stay there, the stay includes a free pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream! We also know some hikers who stayed there last night are staying another night due to the rain. We will look forward to hanging out with them.

I'll report on the hostel later.

Wildlife shots for today: the smallest newt yet, and a bird on its nest directly over the trail (that's it's tail sticking out).

- Steady and F100

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stratton Mt. Without the View

This was sunrise from our tent site -

We had a light rain during the night, but it had stopped by the time we got up, so we were able to pack up fairly dry. Our weather apps showed rain approaching, so we threw on pack covers and started hiking, hoping to cover some miles before it got too heavy.

Within minutes, it was lightly raining, and that continued for a couple of hours. It was never heavy enough to soak us or get our socks wet, just keep us damp. The temperature was right around 70, so we were comfortable hiking, but when we had a break, it felt good to get moving again, because we'd get a little cool. This is a refreshing problem!
We had a break in the rain, but the threat was there all day, keeping it overcast, foggy, and cool. We had one major climb today, the highest point in Vermont, Mt. Stratton, but with the overcast skies it didn't look like we'd get a view from the fire tower on top. It was about a 3.6 mile climb up, and when we summited, we were in a cloud. The only view I got from the tower was mist as it blew over the fir trees below, which was still pretty, but not ideal.

We hiked on down the mountain to the shelter at Stratton Pond. Actually, the pond is still a half-mile away. We will see it in the morning. We set up camp early, and rain is moving in once again. If it gets nasty, at least we have a shelter close by that we can move into.

The woods today were gorgeous. As we climbed, it changed from a beautiful birch forest, to spruce, and then firs on top. The smell was divine - just like Christmas potpourri.

The green of the forest just seemed to glow today from all of the rain, and the spruce forest always has the bright green moss on the rocks and logs along the trail, highlighting it's beauty even more. Today's trail was just really special. We passed numerous beaver ponds, some built just a level above others. We never saw a moose, but are on the look out for them, and porcupine as well.

This did not turn out in focus, but he was a Sobo named Huck, and his dog is Finn. Finn was a large black shepherd, so shiny, you just couldn't resist petting him. He loved hiking so much (carries his dog food in his own backpack), that he would whine to keep moving because we were talking too much, delaying them. He finally sighed loudly and plopped down under the trees til we finished talking.

- Steady and F100