June 29 – It was hard to leave toms place this morning after such a welcoming stay. He bought us all bagels for breakfast and then dropped me back at the road where I had started from yesterday. I immediately got soaked due to a combination of mud and wet overgrowth but I was excited to make it up to the top of Mt. Graylock, the tallest point in MA at 3400 feet or so. It was a fairly gradual climb over 5 miles but the mud made for slow going. As I got higher in elevation the pine trees thickened. Near the top was a pond with a cabin on the edge but I passed by in hopes of a view at the top. When I reached the summit, cold rain began to fall from the sky and the clouds began to surround me. I got some overpriced food at the cafe inside the lodge on top while waiting it out. The descent was steep and reminded me of the fact that rocks are slippery when wet! Once at the bottom the trail headed straight back up a steep mountainside covered in rocks. It was Massachusetts’ last test before I reached the Vermont border. This state is known as Vermud by thru hikers and it instantly held up to that reputation. 3 miles of 5+ inches of mud and I made it to the shelter by 7, pretty late for me. Pretty tired even though I just had a Nero day, hoping for a good sleep tonight.
June 30 – My first day in Vermont turned out to be one of my worst days of this whole hike. I woke up feeling completely unrested but the blue sky pushed me to get ready anyways. As soon as I got a couple tenths of a mile down the trail, dark clouds began to cover the sky. I was exhausted, stumbling on every rock and root I came across. The trail was nothing but a big mud pit, it was completely ridiculous. This was the most poorly maintained trail in all of the 1600 miles I’ve walked. The mud was at least a foot deep at near all times which made for extremely slow going. The understory was thick and overgrown, brushing wet leaves against me with every step. The forest was lush an beautiful, but the horrible conditions made it impossible to enjoy any of it for me. After trudging through the muck for a good four hours I made it to a shelter just as it began to rain. I made lunch and took a nap, hoping to let the weather pass before continuing on. It soon stopped and I got hiking, but after about five minutes it began to come down even harder than before. Now it was muddy and raining. I was headed up a steep grade to the top of Glastenbury Mtn completely soaked and going a little crazy. By the time I made it to the Goddard Shelter up top all I wanted to do was pass out but when I arrived the place was packed with section hikers, completely unsympathetic about my long 23 mile slog. Tomorrow is looking stormy all day, and I may be taking a zero here because of it.
July 1 – 6 – Well I took a zero day but not because of the rain. I woke up completely drained and completely out of it every time I stood up. My immediate concern was Lymes disease, then dehydration as I tried to ease my mind pick the better of the two sicknesses. Truth is I didn’t know what was wrong, all I knew was that I was tired of getting sick, tired of the rain that was still coming down, and for the first time tired of being in the woods. For the first time I genuinely was ready for my hike to be over. I attempted to sleep all day as all the people who I’ve gotten ahead of passed by the shelter, most likely never to be seen again. The next day I felt much the same, but this choice I had no choice but to hike because I was being picked up by my uncle to take a zero at his place in Lake George, NY. It was apparent that it would now be more than one zero day. It was thirty miles north to Manchester Center and ten miles south to Bennington. Looks like I would be hiking south. I was in no condition to hike, light headed and barely able to move in a straight line. After making it to Bennington I got an overpriced hotel room and didn’t get off the bed until my uncle picked me up the next day. My time in Lake George was fun but strange. For the first time in a while I was far away from the trail, wearing everyday clothes in a place where nobody even knew what the Appalachian Trail was, walking around aimlessly browsing the gift shops just like the many other tourists there. I watched fireworks on the fourth from a crowd of bodies packed into the park area, wishing I was seeing them from a mountaintop instead. My prior feelings immediately changed upon the realization that I’m not ready at all to be back in society. The trail began as an escape, but has now become a way of life more than anything. It’s hard to imagine a life back in such a populated area where the world is never quiet. The people I see on a daily basis and the scenery that surrounds me have become my entire world, and it’s always surreal when I go into town and realize there’s a whole other world still going on in my absence. It’s not hard to choose which I prefer.
Once I was feeling better, I was more than ready to get back on the trail. I had lost much time during this mishap and was far behind schedule on where I had planned to be. Still I went back to the woods with a new resolve. This resolve is to stop rushing, stop pushing my body past its limits, and mainly to take the time to enjoy the beauty of New England before this is all said and done. My bubble was again far ahead of me, and I would be returning to the trail a lone wolf once again. The meaning of my hike suddenly seemed to change dramatically from that of a mission to more of a spiritual journey if you will. These last few months will be spent at one with myself and the world around me. Katahdin is inevitable now, all that’s left to do is walk.
July 7 – Four months on the trail. I get dropped back off at the trail around nine and was immediately faced with a tough climb up Stratton Mountain. It was long and steep until I made it to the fire tower on top at 3900 feet. My surroundings were completely encased by a cloud. This was the view where Benton Mackaye was inspired to propose the creation of the Appalachian trail, and I didn’t get to see even a speck of it.
After descending I came to Stratton Pond, where the sun began to shine and I took a break by the water, glad to be in such a beautiful place. I decided not to go very much further, still feeling a bit worn down from being sick. Periods of rain came and went as I hiked on but I got my first view of Vermont from prospect rock. Every other vista has been covered by clouds for me in this state, so it was nice to get a good view of the mountains surrounding the town of Manchester Center. I stuck around here for a while in no rush to make the shelter now that the sky was blue. When I arrived, I had my first human contact since leaving my uncle this morning. A thru hiker named LIPO was here and soon Time and Union Jack showed up. Three more new people I’ve met on this adventure. Feels good to be laying in my hammock again, I’m pretty beat even though it was a short 14 mile day.
July 8 – The rain started as I was packing up this morning so I waited it out in the shelter with Time and Lipo. It was a downpour at times and didn’t seem to be going away until the sun broke through at ten and the sky became filled with nothing but blue. It was my first sunny day since entering Vermont and I intended to enjoy it. Two miles after the shelter I hitched a ride into Manchester Center for lunch at McDonalds. On my way back to the trail I was sitting in the back of a pickup truck. The wind blew my hat off my head and into the street. When we got to the trailhead, the man who was driving me said to stay put and he’d be back with my hat. Sure enough, 5 minutes later he pulled up waving it in the air. I thanked him and he was on his way. It was only after he had pulled off that I realized my trekking poles were in the bed of his truck.
The climb up Bromley Mountain was long, and made more difficult due to not having my poles. My legs felt like they were doing double the work they normally do but I pushed myself on to make it to the top without stopping. It was a beautiful day and I couldn’t wait to finally have a view in Vermont. At around 3000 feet the forest turned to pine as it always does since entering New England. It would stay this way for the rest of the day. The top of Bromley was a ski slope complete with a gondola and warming cabin. The near 360 degree views were some of the finest that I’ve seen in a long time and they were much enjoyed as I ate spoonfuls of Nutella.
Styles Peak was up next, but the view was nowhere near as impressive. The wooded summit of Peru Peak was a young but dense forest of pine, and soon after I was at the Peru Peak Shelter. It was a 12 mile day, but I started late, went into town, and enjoyed an awesome view. I’m still getting over being sick and I’m enjoying taking it easy instead of pushing out 20+ miles a day.
July 9 – My day started out with a three mile hike up to Bakers Peak, where I sat and enjoyed the morning for nearly an hour. Every view has been expansive lately, much like they were in the south. The trail then led me through a thick stand of Christmas trees until opening up at Little Rock Pond. I found a quiet spot on the shore to sit for lunch and again enjoyed another near hour break. I had four miles left for the day but they were a mixture of rock and mud, my two favorite things on the trail. It began to sprinkle when I reached Greenwall Shelter, solidifying my plans to stay even though it was only four o clock. Quite a few others eventually rolled in, including someone I hadn’t seen since Erwin, TN. Early night tonight to hopefully push out a big day tomorrow.
July 10 – I’m frustrated with the weather immediately upon waking up. Four days of sunshine were in the forecast yet rain was clearly falling onto the shelter roof. My early start turned into a waiting game that luckily didn’t last long as the sky cleared up around 7 and it became one of the most beautiful days in a long time. The day starts with a steep climb up yet another Bear Mountain. Vermont is difficult. The climbs are longer and much steeper. With rocks and mud added in, it makes for a bit of a mess. Despite this, since the beginning of my hike I’ve kept the phrase “the harder you work, the better the reward” in mind. This holds quite true in Vermont. The forest is thick and green at lower elevations, resembling a jungle much of the time. Above 3000 feet, evergreens of all varieties take over. It used to be that rhododendron was a common sight, now it’s all pine. I haven’t seen rhododendron in hundreds of miles. The views in this state are outstanding, and I’m soon given a great one of the Rutland Airport as I descend into Clarendon Gorge. Many swimming holes and cascades called to me, but I had more important priorities. Qu’s whistle stop, a popular restaurant among thru hikers, was only half a mile away. When I got there I ordered none other than “the hungry hiker”, a breakfast platter of chocolate chip pancakes, two eggs, two pieces of toast, sausage, and home fries. I finally got to try some real Vermont maple syrup and I’m not sure there’s a difference but for the extra 75 cents I told myself there was.
After Qu’s it was ten more miles uphill to Killington Peak, where I planned to camp for the night. I told Firestarter of my plans and he decided to join me. Killington lies at 4100 feet, meaning it would be our first time above 4000 feet since southern Virginia. The hike up was tiring. The trail rarely seemed to get level until the top where it seemed to take the longest route possible to where the view actually was. A shelter lies at the summit with the peak being .2 miles on a side trail. With fully loaded packs and extra water, this side trail was a bit difficult, giving me a small scale idea of what the white mountains in New Hampshire will be like. The top of Killington Peak was breathtaking to say the least. A perfect campsite was hidden away at the top and me and Firestarter got our hammocks hung before cooking dinner and bringing it up top to watch the sunset, which was absolutely gorgeous. We talked of the miles past and how far we’ve come, as well as how little we have left to go. At the base of this mountain, we had passed a sign informing us that Katahdin was only five miles away. As I stared off into the mountain range before us, I thought of Springer Mountain which laid far off in the distance, so far you couldn’t even see it with a telescope. The mountains I’ve walked over were spread out before me, and behind me was a new range that was still left to conquer. The sun gave off its last Ray for the day and was gone in the blink of an eye, sunken below the peaks that surrounded us. It’s troubling to think that nights like this will soon be over, but that only makes me want to enjoy them more while they last.
July 11 – I wake up to the sunrise painting the sky right before me, not having to mace an inch to enjoy it. I climb the roof of a shack on top of the mountain for breakfast and enjoy the side of the mountain were were facing away from last night. It’s tempting to stay longer, but I need to get into town to do a small reapply seeing as all I have left are four Ramens.
Getting down from Killington Peak is more difficult then getting up. Once back at the shelter, I take a wrong turn and end up going almost half a mile in the wrong direction. Back on the trail, it’s a gradual and easy enough six mile descent to a road leading to the town of Rutland, where I plan to resupply. I try for forty five minutes and have no luck, leaving me no choice but to head on. There’s a side trail leading to the town of Killington that I’ll take to the store. On the way there, I pass Maine Junction, the point where the long trail breaks off and heads to Canada while the Appalachian trail veers off towards New Hampshire. The forest is beautiful and it’s an extremely enjoyable hike, made even better by the trail magic waiting for me at Gifford State Park. It’s the first magic in quite some time and very appreciated especially because I’m out of food at this point. Soon after I’m in Killington and decide on smores for dinner. I’ve thought about them this whole hike but never actually made any. I get my supplies and head back to the trail, where I find a pristine campsite on the shore of a lake and proceed to enjoy my messy but delicious meal. It’s hot and the water feels amazing. Life is absolutely perfect and nothing at all matters but how great this moment is, eating smores and swimming in a lake surrounded by nothing but mountains, no responsibilities and no obligations weighing on my mind. I feel I’m finally one with the world around me and am completely submerged in the trail life I’ve been living. There’s not enough miles left to walk.
July 12 – I opened my eyes at 5 this morning and it was so warm outside I had no trouble getting out of my sleeping bag and packing up. I always love hiking in the early morning light on the rare occasions I am out of camp this early. The sun rises through the trees as I walk along, illuminating the morning fog that hangs in the air. The terrain is another series of steep and pointless ups and downs. I hold a steady pace and limit my breaks, allowing me to have done 13 miles by noon. A short side trail leads a tenth of a mile off trail to a cabin and lookout tower, where I spend over an hour eating lunch and enjoying the views. Six miles later, I make it to the road which will lead me into Woodstock, VT tomorrow where my cousin has arranged a stay for me at a resort/spa. Excited for a shower and a decent re supply.