Day 5 (August 7th) One noticeable difference between the Long Trail and other long trails I’ve hiked is the abundance of latrines along the way. Every shelter or camping area has one. The quality of these varies quite a bit and the one at Bromley Mountain was, relatively speaking, fit for a king. Like many, it was a composting toilet and, unlike some, was clean, roomy and odor free. After your “transaction,” tossing a handful of the provided wood chips in with your “deposit” keeps things that way. Significantly more pleasant that digging a cat hole.
Once I was moving, there were some tough climbs in the morning. Up to Bromley Peak then Styles Peak. Both were short and steep climbs, with a few handholds needed. The views were tremendous and worth the effort.
Lunch was on Styles Peak where I ate with Beth. Singing Tom, an AT thru-hiker also joined us. He started in Georgia on April 9 and that night at his first stop, the shelter was full and he counted 50 other tents. Much of the crowd had thinned by Neels Gap, thirty miles in. His favorite place was Grayson Highlands (I really need to see them). Said Vermont has better views than most of the rest of the AT, but had been relatively crowded with SOBOs and LT hikers adding to the numbers in the area. His equipment was holding up well. Interestingly, the one issue he had was with his Sawyer Squeeze water filter (same type that Beth had broken the bottle). His problem was a bit different though. At one point, it had suddenly clogged and all he could squeeze through was a bit of what looked like slime. After repeated attempts to back flush the filter, eventually a slug squirted out. I’ll be keeping my filter in a ziplock bag whenever it’s not being used.
The highlight of the day had to be Baker peak. It was not a difficult at all until near the summit when the trail became just blazes painted up a granite outcrop. Too steep for the trekking poles, I just grabbed rock with my hands as I climbed the last 200 feet or so. There’s a bad weather (or strong sense of survival) bypass. View was worth the effort though.
By the end of the day I was running out of gas, probably somewhat from yesterday’s 16 miles in 7 hours. The last 2 miles was a slog along a creek to gorgeous Little Rock pond. This one has a $5 fee for shelter or tent. Weather still looking good so I opted to tent. Shelter had 3 guys my age/older in it and I suspected the snoring/farting might get loud. Went from 7:30 to 5 to cover just under 18 miles. Was definitely looking forward to a break from convenience store food with a resupply from home and a room at the Inn on the Long Trail Sunday night. Tried to make a reservation, but couldn’t get a cell signal.
Day 6 (7:00-6:30) started out like last few, sunny and around 50. Highs have been high 70s. Another rough climb to start the day and passed through couple of unusual cairn villages. There have been very few cairns along the trail, but these spots had hundreds. A bit spooky, like a Stephen King novel, Children of the Cairns.
After some great views, there was a long, steep drop. At this point, my attitude changed in a minute. On the downslope, I had my head down, watching the trail. Could hear a stream and people below me, but that faded away. When trail began to level out I looked up and “what the…” I was looking at a blue blaze, rather than the white blazes of the LT. Talk about taking the wind out of your sails. I was close to a parking lot, so went on down for an early lunch and to figure out what I did wrong. After a quick study of the map, I decided my location was the White Rocks picnic area. I had missed a turn .4 mile back up the hill which was actually marked pretty well. I hate walking the wrong way.
After getting back on track, the trail cut through a parking area at the base of Bear Mountain. The Green Mountain Club was there with 5 volunteers for “trail magic day.” They had just finished laying out a spread including watermelon, cookies, lemonade, hot dogs and some doughnuts. If I hadn’t missed that turn, I may have missed an unexpected feast. Eating and visiting with those fine folks put me even farther behind my daily goal, but it was well worth it. That meal would help make my convenience store resupply last and the extra calories helped power me over Bear Mountain, which, though not overly tall, was indeed a bear.
From the peak of the mountain, the trail travels mostly downhill for over four miles; till the bottom of Clarendon Gorge. After crossing the Mill River on a suspension bridge there are two brutal climbs out of the Gorge. First was a rock scramble climbing around 600 feet in a half mile. The second was just a straight up dirt trail. Things moderated after that and I was able to pick up the pace.
I was very happy to see Governor Clement shelter and end of the day’s 19 ½ mile walk. It was a long one. Spent a little time talking with Peter the caretaker and his parents and siblings who were camping there to visit. The shelter was old stone one, built in 1929 and fairly gloomy. Since there were already several folks inside, I once again set up my tent nearby at one of several nice spots. Water was handy with a beautiful stream nearby.