Long Trail Day 25

9 miles up and down Mt. Mansfield today, but  2 miles on Long Trail

The hurricane was the real deal here in VT yesterday, with today an atmospheric clearing event.  It was mostly cloudy, often patched with blue sky day, where it was cold enough at 4,000 feet that I put on my Houdini jacket.

Last post here until the weekend- maybe Sunday.  I dropped my iPod Touch while taking a shot standing on a ledge at the summit that resulted in the screen shattering, rendering most of the keys inoperable, and cancelling the scrolling function.  It is impossible to write a post, let alone edit and send them.  So, in the meantime, I will be using paper and pencil for the next four days, when Lee, The Weatherman and I should reach the Canada border.

We are safe, and we hope to be able to reach the Trail tomorrow morning, although we know it may take some time to work back to the trail if there are road closures on the way up to Waterville. Walking over many streams coming up and down Mansfield today indicated that the waters are running strong, but no additional danger , other than the usual slippery lichen/mud/ and dead-leaf-covered dangerous boulders.

We hope to be out on Friday, with only 43 miles to go.  Until then, thanks for all your comments, those of you who took the time to write your comments here or on other sites with this journal.  I plan to use my paper and pencil skills and my English major lessons to give you  readers a glimpse into what it may be like to finally finish this most  challenging Trail.

Day 24 Long Trails

Rescued by Two Dinners from spending a second night at the Deer Run Inn

I experienced a unique Northeast Kingdom event last night within a PBR can’s throw from this below par (even for hikers) traveler’s nest. Enter Robbie’s Wildlife Refuge – where definitely lumbered some wild life- a place where one clearly needs just one visit to satisfy any future curiosity about those dark/shaky drinking establishments.
After we acquired our drinks ($2 beers, $4 mixed drinks) from the bartendress, we retreated to the back room, which was decorated in a tripartite motif of NASCAR, mounted hunting trophies, and football paraphernalia. Here we played several games of three person cutthroat pool, then darts. I had a view down the runway to the men’s room where I witnessed a 300 pound plus drunken female accosting the unsuspecting Weatherman. I also had to go to the men’s room, but chose to remain in discomfort until we left the place, rather than run the pawing/ bearhug gauntlet.

After I walked into Two Dinners’ condo I never left the place. If rained steadily all day, but not what I’d call a deluge. The wind was no worse than any other bad rain storm that I’ve been in.
It was a great day to zero, where I ate lots, slept, and watched 4 movies with the group here. Low aspirations are a relief sometimes.
It looks like the rain will stop at 2 AM, if you believe the National Weather Service. So, somehow, somewhere, we will be back to hiking tomorrow.
For today, it was so sweet to be safe, well fed, rested, and part of a happy, interested group of folks.

Day 23 Long Trail

Roundtop Shelter to Waterville,VT 4.5 miles.

Things on this day-before-Irene  worked out.
In the end, we wisely bypassed hiking 18 miles today over 6 mountains in hot ultra humid conditions.
Instead, we hiked 4 and 1/2 miles over a mile of actual downhill trail and then three plus miles on a gravel road all the way to the village store in Waterville. We three ( Lee, Weatherman, and I) agreed to get off the Long Trail for a couple of days to take our first zero day and wait for the rains and wind to pass through. The weather Monday and later looks clear and cool/ sunny so we then can take 4 days to finish.

No need to rush at the end. These thru-hikes don’t happen often, never for some, and I want to consciously enjoy each of the few days that I have left. I may never come through the end of this National Scenic Trail again, so I’ll savor the end of this difficult, all all-encompassing ride.

The store in Waterville was nothing special, and had none of the cooked products we craved- breakfast sandwiches, or even bakery items. So we craved something else, but had no idea or viable path to do so. There was no place to rent a room in this village, setting up a need to hitch either north or south on Route 109. But then I was sitting outside the store eating a cup of yogurt and container of pineapple when the boys and I struck up a conversation with a power company lineman who told us that dozens of crews were already driving into Vermont from several middle American states in anticipation of interrupted electrical service due to downed power lines.

We quickly shifted our plans and accepted a ride from the lineman, who put us in the back of his truck and drove us south to Jeffersonville, where he headed directly for the Deer Run Motel (“That ‘s where you guys will go.”), clearly the low budget alternative to upscale places like the Phineas Swann B& , where a high end bedroom lists for $499!
When a diminutive, very much aged woman shuffled out of the back room to the desk with the aid of a walker, we anticipated that a discounted deal would be forthcoming. No. Lillian was tough- quietly declining our request for a discount- “Dear, our prices are so low already.” She also imposed on us a unique pricing structure- “The price is $75 for one person $85 for two, and $95 for three, plus tax of course.” $110.50 and we’re in, but our host continued on, “I’ve also had a call from the Red Cross requesting we hold rooms for evacuation cases , so if you plan on staying, then I’d suggest you reserve right now for tomorrow night to guarantee a room!” Wisely, Lee advised us to think about it a bit.
Fortuitously,  we immediately received a text from our hiking pal ( now also elevated to high status of trail angel) Two Dinners, who offered to take us in back at his condominium again. He’s so nearby that we’ll rendezvous with him for some beverages later today.

We walked to town to buy some drinks and snacks to bring back to our room ( full- sized fridge, clearly bashed up but functional, and a microwave). Lots of folks about, but we survived and are now doing nothing but watching TV, taking baths, eating, sleeping, and zoning out.
A strange situation surrounds us where in real time it is sunny and hot outside, while the American TV machine is pumping nonstop looping images of destruction to fuel the anxiety as well as the morbid need to turn our eyes to look at what we most fear from Nature.


Day 22 Long Trail

Smuggler’s Notch to Roundtop Shelter 14.5 miles

I felt good today and we now have 46.4 miles left until we are done. It was so unusual for us to have received trail magic in the form of a less than 12 hour break from the trail. We were back hiking this morning at 7:00 AM after we were picked up at 7:10 last night. We fit so much into that time, with huge thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Two Dinners for making us better hikers through their hospitality, friendliness, and generosity.
But, it’s late now and I am beat.
All the buzz is about Hurricane Irene- that it will start raining tomorrow afternoon, that there will be 14″ of rain, that there will be massive flooding, and more such serious concerns.
We have to get off the Trail and get under cover for a couple of days. Everyone here at the shelter, which is now Lee/Weatherman/ Me, two other thru-hikers named Sunshine and Grey Jay, and now a sectioning couple are throwing out ideas on how to avoid the three of us from hiking 17.5 miles, possibly into the storm tomorrow.
I feel hopeful that these folks will work together to help come up with a plan I can go for.


Day 21 Long Trail

Puffer shelter to Smuggler’s Notch 12 miles.
Twelve wet miles. All efforts at crafting a strategy to avoid hiking in the rain failed today. We really had few choices. It was sit in a shelter all day or hike. Mostly we tried hiking like hell before the rain was supposed to hit at 10 AM. I was up at 5:30 and hiking by 6:10 AM. We had to go 3 miles before we hit a shelter, where we planned a quick stop/ eat/ water deal at which point we could stay if it was raining or we could go 3 more miles to Taft Lodge, clearly the best shelter out here on the Long Trail. In retrospect we should have stayed at the first shelter, Taylor Lodge, because the rain started up about a half hour after leaving the place.

Ascending Vermont’s higherst point and then going over an exposed two mile ridge was a challenge, due to the personal discomfort that goes along with hiking in the rain, the strong winds sweeping sheets of wet across the terrain, and the lubricating properties of water on these rocks and boulders, which are everywhere. I am stunned and thankful that I have not fallen yet today. The Weatherman took a bad fall onto his right hip. Lee is unscathed so far. We also had some unique traverses to deal with, the main one being a leap I had to make across a gap on the side of a cliff where you not only had to jump, but then quickly jump onto a safer landing spot to prevent falling a long way.
There were ladders, 6 in total, that were also used to get up on top.

There is nothing more despicable that I deal in hiking than a wet grimy t- shirt. Right now we are in the shelter,  wearing warm clothes, and huddled in our bags. Another trail magic deal is coming our way tonight. A section hiker we became friendly and hiked with for the first two weeks- Two Dinners- texted Weatherman with a deal to pick the three of us up in Smuggler’s Notch at 6:45 tonight and take care of us. He lives nearby.
When we get picked up tonight , we are going to be stinking wet, grimy, and muddy and every thing we touch is going to be gross.
A good day is predicted for tomorrow and then there’s this natural gal called Irene that is scheduled to cause us considerably more precipitation on Sunday. Aaugh!


Day 20 Long Trail

Route 2 to Puffer Shelter 11 miles
Today was kind to us. Lee and I met back up with The Weatherman, who was dropped off at Rt 2 at the same time that Tom drove us back from our stay in Burlington.
Four thousand, two hundred feet of elevation ascent, with full 4 nights’ resupply was a recipe for hurt, but something came together for me this morning. I am miIdly nursing my left thigh, and I believe the asphalt road walk yesterday and the gravel road today put my turned ankle over toward the side of serious monitoring. When my ankle gets weak I consciously lock it, hold it rigidly, and it appears to prevent further complications. But it takes away from consciousness of my surroundings.
I walked along all day today, until I caught Weatherman above Buchanan shelter, which none of us visited due to it being 400′ downhill and .3 a mile off the trail. I never saw Lee until I covered the full 11 miles.
My thoughts turned to another big climb from last year where Patburglar and I set out from Seiad Valley, CA and began our 5,000 foot ascent with full resupply packs and two quarts of water. That trail was broiled during the day due to steep southeastern exposure, so we went part way up after 6 PM until it was getting dark. Here there is ample shade, a strong breeze, and it may have only hit 70 degrees. The conditions were good for what today’s hike required.
There is only about 75 miles to go. But there 50% chance of train tomorrow and the day is to bring us up and over the formidable Mt. Mansfield, which will bring an above treeline open traverse of about 2 miles. If we encounter thunder there, it would be dangerous, but once committed we’d have to scurry.
On the positive side, Weatherman got a text from our hiking buddy Two Dinners, who ended his hike a few days ago. TD lives nearby and has offered to pick up Lee, Weatherman, and me at Smuggler’s Gap and bring us to his house for the night so that we can dry out, if need be.
This is the first night that I am sleeping in a full shelter, with overflow people camping outside in tents. I am not enjoying it so much. Too much energy, talking, posturing. I know Lee doesn’t like it either. He hasn’t said a thing in the past few hours , and is buried in reading Conrad’s Nostromo.


Day 19 Long Trail

Bamforth Ridge shelter to Jonesville post office On Rt. 2. 6 miles.

Up and at ’em to a beautiful day here in the north country. Were all out of food, but there’s a box full of it waiting for me at the Jonesville post office. I know because I gave it to Bad Influence’s wife Katie to mail for me back at the Long Trail Inn when she dropped him off.
Bittersweet day in that Bad Influence has completed his time hiking with MeGaTex for now. I will miss his dogged determined hiking style. He has the gift of remembering these difficult experiences in a favorable light. I’ve been often stunned by his ever present remark, “It wasn’t all that bad”, even after I watched him skid off the trail several times one day.
We’re on America’s oldest long distance hiking trail, fully supported by decent publicity, but we’ve only met a dozen thru-hikers hikers out here. Days go by seeing just a couple of day hikers.
Of course there is the inevitable bad advice coming at us every day- Here are some examples of erroneous information we have received, just in the past 24 hours:
1) The post office in Jonesville is closed.
2) There are stores in Jonesville.
3) There is no cell coverage on Camel’s Hump.
We walked 3 miles down the trail then had a three mile road walk to a bridge across the Winooski River, bringing us to the stark Spartan burg of Jonesville. I was disappointed that my food box did not arrive. We were there by 10:15 and were sitting outside on a railroad tie waiting for Katie to take BI home. A woman in a blue VW bug told us she had hiked the LT in the 1970’s and then asked if we needed a ride anywhere. She was happy to take us to Burlington, just 18 miles west, where she was going to work, so we hugged Bad Influence good bye and then were off for a day in the city.
I had finally reached my friends Tom and Ann, who were living in Burlington after trying out Portland, Maine. I had been trying for days to talk or get efficient email to him, but the connections this far north were spotty at best. They offered to house, feed us, let us wash clothes, and take showers at their home.
We called Tom from Henry’s Diner off Church St. And he was able to join Lee and I for lunch. Both he and Ann were working, so Lee and I went to the Gear Exchange where I bought a cool consignment hiking shirt for $7 and a new pack cover for $15. Both my shirt and pack cover are now tattered, and ripped. Then we went down to the park by Lake Champlain and hung out. I the meantime I received a call from the postmaster at Jonesville who informed me that Katie had dropped off my box there, and that I could pick it up tomorrow morning when Tom would give us a ride back to the Long Trail.
Before Lee resupplied at the co-op we stopped for a drink at the Vermont Pub, renown as ” one of the top 25 brew pubs in the USA”.
I’m writing this late in my bed after a dinner of grilled steaks, baked potatoes, salad, and a dessert of angel food cake, fresh raspberries, and ice cream, topped with lemoncello.
My friends helped me. I treasure that, and will return to the trail renewed, refreshed, and with much appreciation for this world.


Day 18 Long Trail.

“It’s destructive, It’s beating our bodies to hell!”, said Lee, from our big huge empty shelter tonight.
“The honeymoon with this Long Trail is over”, said Bad Influence.
I don’t have much to add except that I’m bloodied, bruised, beat, and out of food tonight. The cumulative effects of a 17, 13, and now a bit more than 10 miles are putting the hurt in me.
I will go on record that the 10 mile section today from Cowles Cove to Montclair Glen shelters ranks up there with the Mahoosic Arm/ notch situation in Maine. Thank god the rocks were dry today. Many of the grades today, if wet, could have been catastrophic.
You needed upper body strength today to hoist yourself up and sometimes lower yourself off some of the situations.
I had two potentially serious falls today. This morning I threw my poles over the edge of a steep boulder drop and then had a difficult time deciding just how I would get down. I went to the right side and started to use a spruce to guide my path, but then my hands slipped down the bare wet tree and I spun around, hit the boulder with my arm and smacked the point of my elbow. The pain was considerable, and for a moment I feared that I might have a broken arm. My terror turned to joy when I was able to move it, but it still hurt. I was actually happy that my arm was just bleeding profusely.
Later, I turned my left ankle sharply, yelled out loudly in pain, and had the same upsurge of thanks when I realized that I very narrowly avoided a severe sprain.
We are feeling the temps drop dramatically right now at 6:30 PM, the wind is blowing strongly and now it is pouring rain again.
We’ve got less than 10 days left.
By the way, the views from Camels Hump were stunning. We’ve dodged the rain again, and were treated to a warm clear experience on the summit.


Day 17 Long Trail.

to Cowles Cove shelter 13 miles.

“Who in their right mind would even be out in this!” exclaimed General Lee, as Bad Influence and I sat with full bellies at 6:00 PM while the rain thundered down upon the metal roof of this ancient, worn-out shelter. Of course there is lightening, god-awful thunderclaps, and wind gusts that are part of the total picture.
Lee has managed to kindle a fire in this wet world, and is dashing back and forth from the overhang of the shelter to a spot beneath some thick leaf cover in an effort to grill his supper, which consists mostly of a whole can of Bacon Spam (1,000+ calories).
We were motivated enough to make 10 miles by noon today. It was the 70% prediction of thunderstorms, with the potential of hail, driving wind, and heavy rain by 1 PM that did it.
At first we were going to be content with making the ten miles, but a closer look at the map indicated that the 4,000 Camel’s Hump was coming up tomorrow, and if we could make it just 2.9 miles this afternoon, we could do just 10 tomorrow and that would not only put us up and over three 1,000 foot (in elevation) climbs but also have us end at the Bamforth Ridge shelter for the night, and that would require a 2,000 foot descent.
We all slept out side on the deck of the warming hut last night. BI strung up his hammock out there and Lee slept cowboy style- sleeping on his mat. I started out sleeping inside, but picked up my pad,pillow, and sleeping bag around midnight after being assaulted by large black ants that I discovered were running tracing patterns on the indoor/ outdoor carpeting here. It’s a creepy feeling when you discover that ants are crawling in your hair, probably looking for something to eat.
At first, the sky was clear, with stars and planets glimmering along, but when I awoke later in the night the clouds had come in.
We saw few hikers today and it is just the three of us at the shelter tonight, as was the case at the warming hut the night before.
The Long Trail is now picking up character as we move less than 100 miles from the end. We’ve spent 15 days in a row backpacking, with part of two days used for time off. The trail is much more rugged, ancient trees living and dead frame the trail corridor, and today we even used metal bars pinned to steep sheer slopes and wooden ladders to descend this thing.

Day 16 Long Trail

Skyline Lodge to warming hut above Sugarbush Ski area 17.5 mile

Lee just had the nerve to ask BI and I if we wanted to take a walk with him to see the sunset over to the western side of this mountain. BI replied in uncharacteristic assertion, “No. We’ve been hiking hard all day and I’m done !” I had his back and agreed immediately.
The effort today was redoubled in that we went up and over 12 mountains, including 4,006′ Mt. Abraham. Originally we were set for 14 miles but Lee encouraged us to get up on the sky high ridge past Mt. Abraham where we might be able to find a descent shelter for the night. The ridgerunner on Mt. Abe turned out to be Spit’s brother, and he recognized Lee immediately from his sister’s description and then proceeded to tell us all the places we could camp up here legally. We dialed in the warming hut after another couple miles north on the LT. We even found a spring 0.2 miles up ahead of this structure.
We got in here at 7:30 tonight, and we are all bone weary and quite silent and subdued after the long miles hiked today.
I was going to read the guys Frost’s “The Road Less Traveled” but I’m too tired to read and they are too bushed to listen.