Tag Archives: Long Trail

Where’s my Stuff?

After first leaving Kid Gore Shelter, the trail made a tough 500 foot climb and I’m moving slowly. The trail surface however had improved, getting smoother and once the climb was over I was able to make some good time. Nearing the base of Stratton Mountain, I met a thru-hiker, Sunshine, and we walked into some great trail magic. Roy was helping his wife, Jersey Girl hike the AT, but also providing trail magic for other hikers as well. He’d set up in a parking lot with a stove and was making sausage and egg sandwiches. Also on the menu were OJ, milk, doughnuts and Kit Kat bars. Very nice guy. Looks like time for a second breakfast.

I don’t typically provide unsolicited trail advice, but I did tell Sunshine she might want to set her pace to match Jersey Girl. That way she might not have to pack near as much food if she could keep running into Roy.

The climb up Stratton Mountain was steep to start, then leveled out giving the false hope that you had topped out. Then got steep again. On the way, had a nice chat with Jersey Girl. The fire tower on top provided clear views, but the wind was howling. Could see the resort where my resupply was. Though standing underneath a Cell tower, I could not make a connection. After getting part way down a ski run, was able to get through and they said to just keep walking. Had my first fall of the trip on the slick grass of a black diamond slope. Made it to the resort by 3:30.

View from the top of Stratton Mountain, where the idea of the Appalachian Trail was first conceived
View from the top of Stratton Mountain, where the idea of the Appalachian Trail was first conceived

Got a very nice room for $84 but the desk staff could not find my food package. Per the Post Office tracking number, it had been delivered three days before, but was nowhere to be found. They sent out an email throughout the resort and also suggested I call the Post Office in the morning in case they somehow took it back.

In a worst case scenario, there is a convenience store on the property where I can resupply in the morning and the ski patrol stated they would haul me back up the mountain to continue my journey. Being able to do laundry and a shower make a heck of a difference, though my feet were sore from all the rock walking. Being the off season, the resort somewhat deserted, but one bar was open and it was $2 taco night. Started with two, got two more, then three more, then a salad for dessert. Being warm, clean, full stomach and a couple cold beers just makes the world a better place.

In the morning, the Post Office said they had indeed delivered the package, and mentioned this wasn’t the first time the resort had lost a box. Checked with several personnel and they were unable to find it. With no better option, I dropped $72 at the convenience store. Will see how good microwave mac n cheese is when there’s no microwave.

My ride back up Stratton Mountain
My ride back up Stratton Mountain

Once the new quickie mart resupply was packed up I met with Charlie of the ski patrol and he hauled me back up the mountain on an ATV. Charlie was a very nice guy, asked about my stay. Told him everything was great except of course the package issue. Got back to LT at 11 AM. A late start to be sure, but there was a lot of downhill and I was making good time. Went one 3.6 mile stretch in an hour. The plan was to make it to Bromley Mountain.  There were some great spots to camp near Stratton Pond, but I forced myself to press on.

Stratton Pond. The largest body of water on the trail.
Stratton Pond. The largest body of water on the trail.

The trail was a bit mucky in spots, though work had been done to alleviate that issue.

Work to keep a low spot from getting too muddy.
Work to keep a low spot from getting too muddy.

By 6 PM I’d finished 16 miles and strolled into Bromley Shelter. It wasn’t completely full, but wooden tent pads were also available. With nice weather, took the last one of four pads.

Tent platform on Bromley Mountain
Tent platform on Bromley Mountain

While setting up I checked my phone and noticed a voicemail from Stratton stating they had my resupply package ready to be picked up. It had been at the ski patrol the whole time. As I wasn’t about to walk 16 miles the wrong way, asked them to just mark it return to sender and give to Post Office. Dinner was microwave Mac n Cheese. Just added hot water and treated it like a freeze-dried dinner. That was a mistake. Ate some hard macaroni swimming in cheese drink. Next time I’ll cook it for a while.

The water supply was a small spring about a quarter mile downhill from the shelter. There I once again ran into with Beth from Connecticut. (I had lent her a water bottle back at Kid Gore Shelter (Night 2) so she could filter water.) Since then, she had been given another bottle by another hiker. Her hike was ending the next day, but was thrilled with the experience.  “I love it that the trail is so social. Even though I’m hiking alone, I never felt like I was ever really alone.”

Had been feeling pretty good about my time that day until I got in the tent and my bedtime reading was the book about Jennifer Pharr Davis’s record setting hike of the AT. Over the entire trail she averaged close to the pace of my best downhill mile. Temperature dropped to 45 degrees overnight. The fifty degree bag and liner seems to be enough. It’s a good thing as the extra clothes in my resupply box were not going to be helpful.

Starting the Long Trail

With about a month before my planned departure for the John Muir Trail, I finished arrangements to hike the Long Trail and headed for Vermont. After a drive of just under 12 hours, I pulled into the Villager Motel in Williamstown, MA. It was a clean, older place that was only $60 a night. The real bonus was the owner let me leave the truck there for the duration of the hike, though I’m not sure he realized how long I’d be gone. Williamstown sports a take out pizza joint and the local spirit shop had a sale on Natural Light 24 ounce cans for a buck each. My evening was set.

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The Long Trail is accessed from The Pine Cobble Trail that begins about 3 miles from the hotel. Since I didn’t drive 12 hours to road walk, I made arrangements for a cab to pick me up at 7:30 the next morning and tried to get some natural (Light) sleep.

First view! Pine Cobble Trail
First view! Pine Cobble Trail

The first climb is a good indicator if you are in shape for the hike. Pine Cobble climbs around 1,500 feet in the first mile and a half then takes you through a rock garden before meeting up with the Appalachian Trail (AT). It was a sunny warm day and I was dripping with sweat by the time I finished getting through Pine Cobble and to the AT. Despite warmth there was no humidity. Sections in the shade or in a breeze were very comfortable despite a forecast for Williamstown for a high of 90.

Once past rocky first climb, the trail is very reminiscent of AT, which isn’t surprising as it is the AT. Several people were on the trail including Dave and Paul, two guys in their twenties from the Detroit area. They were also doing the Long Trail, but shooting to finish a few days quicker than I was. That seemed doable as their hiking pace was quicker than mine. An early lunch was at the Vermont border, about 3 ½ miles in and the official start of the LT.

Vermont Border and official start of the Long Trail
Vermont Border and official start of the Long Trail
Reaching the trail calls for a break.
Reaching the actual Long Trail calls for a break.

I arrived at the Congdon Shelter (10 miles into the LT) about 3:30, right before significant thunderstorm hit. The shelter contained two double bunks separated by a table. I was the 9th person to show up at the (8 person) shelter.

This portion of the Long Trail is a lot more social than I’m used to. Besides myself, Dave and Paul, there were a couple of AT southbound thru-hikers (SOBOs) and four northbound thru-hikers (NOBOs). As the rainy evening progressed, more kept coming, setting up tents and looking for spots in the shelter to hang wet clothes and equipment. We ended up with about 8 tents nearby while it rained on and off from 5 pm till 5 am.  In addition, a couple more people crammed into the shelter, laying their bags out on the damp floor.

I set up on the table, which actually seemed roomy compared to sharing a bunk with someone I’d just met. I’d mentioned in the last post about Joshua, laying on the floor, providing the evening’s entertainment.

Things seemed pretty crowded to me though it could certainly be worse. One NOBO told me that the first night he started in Georgia, not only was the shelter overly full, there were 40 tents set up in the area. That many people has to result in conflicts and there was actually one on that first night in Vermont. One guy showed up late (9:30, after “Hiker Midnight”) in the rain, and inserted himself as the 12th person in the shelter. His headlamp appeared like a light show as he settled in and made himself some dinner. Eventually one of the SOBOs told him to knock it off. The newest shelter mate replied by thanking him for being so welcoming in the spirit of AT. That’s when the name calling began. No blows were exchanged, but it was not pleasant. Despite that, I did sleep well on the shelter’s picnic table, thanks in large part to earplugs. On the plus side, no mosquitos.

In the morning, despite a few self-serving apologies, the shelter atmosphere was still tense. I packed up quickly, hitting the trail at 7 am. Both the trail and vegetation were wet from the rain but not too sloppy. The rain got a few skeeters moving but not enough to be a problem. Sun and breeze soon took care of that and the weather promised another good day. Passed early by Paul and Dave.

The 1,000 foot drop into the road crossing at RT 9 was still a bit wet and extremely steep. It’s obvious there has been a tremendous amount of work to arrange boulders into quasi steps but the stretch is still very slow going. Thankfully the north side had more switchbacks and less of a rock climb.

Wet, yet slick
Wet, yet slick

After that, the trail smoothed out and I started making good time. Caught up to Dave and Paul at a water stop, but they pulled on ahead. Felt good when I got to Goddard Shelter at 3:30 and decided to press on to Kid Gore shelter for an 18.5 mile day. It was pushing 6 pm when I arrived. Dave and Paul were there, the shelter was already full, but they said I could sleep on the table again. The table had a 10% or so lean to it, so I passed. It was a nice evening so I opted to tent. There’s a tremendous view from both the shelter and my tent site and sunrise promised to be a good one. In addition, the group seemed much friendlier and upbeat than the crew the night before.

Kid Gore Shelter
Kid Gore Shelter

Most of the folks in the shelter were section hikers, including Beth from Connecticut. She was about 20 and on her first solo camping trip. She had a Sawyer Squeeze water filter, like mine, and her squeeze bottle had broken. Her duct tape repair wasn’t cutting it, so I lent her mine. Despite her equipment problems she was having a great time.

View from Kid Gore Shelter
View from Kid Gore Shelter

With my long day, it was only about ten miles to Stratton Mountain ski resort. There should a resupply box, room, and a restaurant waiting for me there.