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.