Sunday, July 15, 2012

Long Trail

     I returned to the trail the next morning and my father hiked with me until the terrain got too steep, which was almost immediately.  The trail wound its way up to a high ridge where a few miles in I came to a sign.  I just crossed into Vermont.  The Appalachian Trail is now also called the Long Trail for one hundred or so miles.  I snapped my obligatory picture and kept on hiking.  It wasn't long until I came to a shelter so I stopped and took a quick break.  There was a young guy there with a fresh face and a big pack.  I asked him how far he was going.  He said the whole thing.  Up until now that had meant he was attempting to thru hike the AT, but now that I was at the start of the Long Trail it meant this was day 1 for people on an over two hundred mile endeavor.  He reminded me of myself way back in Georgia, excited, apprehensive, overwhelmed and under prepared.  I gave him any advice he asked for and wished him good luck, he was gonna need it.


     The weather had noticeably changed, there was a coolness to the air that hadn't been there before.  It was still hot, but behind it was something that hinted of change, almost like the way autumn feels.  As the day rolled on I kept running into people.  Lots of Long Trail hikers just starting out and also I was now starting to meet south bounders, that is what we call the thru hikers who start in Maine and walk to Georgia.  It was so exciting to see people who have walked from the destination that I am heading towards.  It makes the end almost seem reachable.


     Late in the day I ran into "The Noodleheads", they were taking a break by a river and said they were going to camp a few miles away and offered me to join them.  They are always great company so I agreed.  We set up camp off the trail just as the last of the daylight was giving way to dark.

     I got up the next morning shortly after sunrise.  "The Noodleheads" had already gone so I packed up and headed out.  I went by beaver ponds and through forests of balsam fir that smelled so strong like Christmas that I had to get some video, unfortunately the smell doesn't come through.


     After the fir trees the trail turned uphill and I slowly and steadily made my way to the peak of Stratton Mountain.  There, another fire tower sat perched upon it's peak, I think I love fire towers. It is almost a requirement to climb them and they offer views that you can't normally get from normal boring old rock ledges.  Yup, gotta love fire towers.  Stratton Mountain is also where the idea of the AT was conceived, so I felt like I should appreciate the view a little more than normal.  I was also told that you can see Mount Washington and Mount Greylock from the top.


     The trail went down the other side of Stratton Mountain and to Stratton pond.  It was an ideal place to take a dip, but it was still really early in the morning and I wasn't really feeling like it.  I chugged through the day seeing new faces on occasion, but not seeing any north bound thru hikers.  Every now and then I seem to be in a spot where groups of north bounders are either a day or so ahead or behind me and I'm floating in the middle.  That is just kind of how is goes when you are solo.  I sometimes hang with a group for a little, but then pace or taking days off put me alone again.  I really can't complain, I hike best when I am by myself.  I can be lazy when I want to be lazy and then I feel guilty for being lazy, hike real fast and make great time.  I can take breaks when I want and naps when I want and eat when I want.  I can daydream uninterrupted for hours, at least until I stub my foot on some unseen rock or root.  I really do enjoy doing this alone.

     Late in the day I came to the town of Manchester Center, Vermont.  I still can't believe I am in VERMONT!  I got a hitch, in no time at all, to the stores where I got myself some pizza.  I was going to try to stay at a hostel "The Noddlehead's"  recommended, but they were completely booked.  Feeling slightly sad about not getting to stay there, I drowned my sorrows in a pint.  A pint of Ben and Jerry's that is.  I love Vermont!  I got a ride out of town and back to the trail where I hiked a few more miles to Bromley shelter.  Again, no thru hikers, just Long Trailers.  They were all very chatty with each other and clumsily going about their nightly routines of setting up there sleeping bags and cooking dinner and spilling some of that dinner on the ground and then eating their dinners and realizing they cooked too much so they were offering left overs.  Really great to watch because it was a glimpse of how accustomed and proficient I have become at this whole hiking thing.

     I rose in the early morning light before the sun had yet broken the horizon.  I packed my gear up and quietly made my way out of the shelter as the others still slept.  I climbed for a few miles until I reached the top of Bromley Mountain where I sat and had my breakfast with the sunrise.


     The rest of the morning I hiked over roots and rock and mountains and streams.  By afternoon I made it to the road crossing where I was meeting my girlfriend Susie.  She only got slightly lost, but we managed to rendezvous without much problem.  We spent the next few days visiting small little towns and eating at local restaurants.  She hiked a short distance with me and then I slack packed twenty miles up to Killington, VT.  During that section I passed this sign that indicated the mileage left for me.  I also manged to rip my short, cut my leg and tear my shoes.  She picked me up in Killington at dusk.  I was exhausted.  I spent one more night with her and some more the following day, but now I am getting ready to head out back onto the trail.  I love Vermont.


~Frenchy

10 comments:

  1. Susie isn't joining you for the rest of the trip? :) I'm just impressed you got a picture of her that she let you post! That's great she got to visit...now back to the grind!

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    1. Yeah, the picture had to be approved first. She hiked a short little part with me, but the bugs have been real bad lately and it can be really tiresome dealing with them. It was a really nice visit, we went to some cool little towns and even bought some 9 year old cheese.

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  2. Im confused with this long hiker stuff. I have never heard of this. Now I must waste a good part of my lunch break reading up on it. Great update as always frenchy. Hard to believe you have been hiking in the woods since march.

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    1. Ha ha, The Long Trail. It runs from the southern end of Vermont all the way to the northern border with Canada. I believe that it was around before the AT and quite possibly the inspiration behind it. I saw people struggling with the same issues all of us struggled with in Georgia, pain, pack weight, fatigue, the unknown. I think you got a good glimpse on your recent adventure of what it can feel like in the beginning, but know this, it gets easier.

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    2. Oh thank god it's gets easier and your body actually figures out how to communicate with the brain. I only hiked 37 miles in 4 days and it killed me. My knee was so messed up on that 4th day i could barely get down the hills. My back, I had a knot on one shoulder area about the size of a baseball. It really tested me to the edge, I wasnt having much fun after the 2nd day. I hear it takes about 2 weeks for your body to get use to walking with a pack up and down hills for 8-14 miles a day. I hope to do a thru hike in a couple of years the same as you're doing now Frenchy. I feel as though I have hiked it with you reading these journal updates every 3-5 days since you started back in early march. Take care.

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  3. Just found your blog a couple of hours ago while perusing the interwebz about the A.T. I'm a Marine currently in Afghanistan and I love reading about your trip... excellent blog. I plan on doing a NOBO thru hike whenever I get out of the Corps. Keep up the good posts!

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    1. Stay safe in Afghanistan, I really appreciate the kind words. If you need any tips or tricks when the time comes let me know I be glad to help.

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  4. Awwww! Yay Susie! Nice to see you guys together. Loving your journey and can't wait to see you and chat in person! Ollie says hi!

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  5. This whole hiking thing/having a girlfriend thing are like the worst ideas ever made

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    1. as they say in kentucky, bless your heart!

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