My highly ambitious plan for the day was to hike over 20 miles. The only wrinkle in that plan was that the hike included a 3,000-foot climb up Killington Peak, the second highest peak in Vermont and my biggest climb since Virginia. To my advantage, I was feeling well and had nearly 15 hours of daylight available in which to execute my plan.
By 6:30 am, I was headed down the trail which led up and over a 200-foot warmup bump before heading downhill towards Clarendon Gorge. Along the way, the woods changed to a beautiful coniferous forest which continued down to the suspension bridge over the dramatic Clarendon Gorge. The suspension bridge was awesomely engineered but I failed to take a picture of it. However, I did make a video of the bridge crossing that you will probably see later.
In about a half mile, I arrived at the trailhead parking on VT 103. Nearly all the hikers I know got off the trail here and took the free bus into Rutland, VT, to stay at the Hikers Hostel at the Yellow Deli. The hostel is donation based and both the hostel and deli are operated by the Twelve Tribes spiritual community. I had fears that the Twelve Tribes would use the hostel as an opportunity to hard sell their cause, but everyone that I have spoken to who stayed there reported a welcoming environment. My plan was to hike another 18 miles to US 4 where I could also catch a bus to Rutland and possibly stay at the Yellow Deli.
After crossing VT 103, I hiked over some pretty bogs before returning to the woods, where I almost immediately faced a rock scramble. Although the climb was often steep, I was distracted by the beauty of this tiny canyon with its sheer rock sides. To my eye, none of the pictures that I took of this spot do justice to what was around me at the time. At the top of the climb, I was treated to the Clarendon Lookout (I think that everything within a 25-mile radius was named Clarendon something) which offered a nice view of the town of Clarendon and the Rutland Airport.
One of the things that has recently changed in the trail community around me is the arrival of the SOBO thru-hikers. These thru-hikers started on Mt Katahdin around July 1st and are hiking SOuth BOund to Springer Mountain in Georgia. It is fun to have the opportunity to meet these folks as we pass on the trail because they are so exuberant having hiked less than 500 miles at this point. Around lunchtime, I stopped at the Governor Clement Shelter to eat and found several other hikers with the same idea. One of the hikers was a SOBO from Texas named Gringo and his “thing” was to wear a huge sombrero on the trail. He was a hoot! One of the hikers asked him if his sombrero provided any benefits in the rain and he replied that it was more fashion than function.
As I was sitting at the shelter, a familiar face hiked up. It was Cheese! And he was soon joined by his brother Einstein and Cousin Eddie! I knew that they were getting close to me and I’m so happy that I didn’t miss them as they went by. I hadn’t seen any of them in several weeks and we spent some time catching up and swapping stories. I believe that they were already staying in Rutland and were doing a slack pack between the two roads. A lot of folks took advantage of that opportunity here. Cheese told me that the last bus to Rutland leaves the trailhead parking lot at 6:00 pm, so we all had deadlines to make.
While the climb up Killington Peak requires a sustained amount of time, it isn’t particularly difficult because it is stretched out over seven miles. Along the way, I passed a sign that indicated 500 miles to Katahdin. While the location of the sign was probably inaccurate, it was still exciting to think that I was getting close enough to the end to be able to mentally comprehend the number of miles remaining. Eventually, the climb took me into the clouds where everything started to get damp and the trail got increasingly muddy.
The A.T. tops out at around 3,900 feet and to go up a few more hundred feet to the summit of Killington Peak requires a 0.2-mile side trail hike described in the guide as very steep. I decided to skip the summit due to the lack of a view and because of time constraints. I found out later that burgers and beer were available at a summit restaurant, but that would not have changed my decision to press on. At this juncture in the trail sits the Cooper Lodge Shelter which appears to have seen better days. While I’m checking out the shelter, a guy arrives that I recognize because he leaves his card in the shelter logs. Actually, I recognize him because he is hiking with a full-sized Airedale Terrier named Maxx that the owner describes as “the largest one in captivity.”
I left Killington Peak at 3:30 pm leaving just 2.5 hours to hike 6.3 miles and catch a bus to Rutland. The trail trended largely downhill and the going was pretty good until the intersection of the Sherburne Pass Trail (old A.T.) and the new A.T. reroute. I know nothing about the politics or circumstances surrounding this change in the direction of the trail, but it felt to me like we left a nice trail and started hiking through some marshy bottomland that was slowing me down. At 6:00 pm, I was close enough to US 4 to hear the traffic and I kept listening to hear if I could identify the sound of a bus. At 6:10 pm I walked into the trailhead parking lot, having given up on the bus ride and exhausted from a 12 hour day, and decided to go with Plan B which was to get a room at the Inn at Long Trail located a couple of miles down the road.
There was a wide gravel shoulder next to the trailhead parking lot so, since my dogs were barking at me not to try walking, I stuck out my thumbs to see if I could appeal to some kind soul to give me a ride. The second vehicle to get near me was a pickup truck and the driver pulled over, let me toss my stuff in the back, and drove me to the Inn. Had I tried to walk to the Inn I would have discovered that it was uphill all the way, and I would probably have died when I found out that it was not visible after the first bend in the road. I apologized to my Trail Angel for the way I smelled and thanked him profusely for the ride.
The Inn at Long Trail, which dates back to 1938, is decorated like a rustic cabin and offers a special “Thru-Hiker Rate” for walk-ins only. For less than $70, you get a room with breakfast included and access to a coin operated washer and dryer. The room is very basic with a private shower, a fan, and some furniture, but nothing like a TV or air conditioner. The Inn at Long Trail, which mainly caters to the winter skiing crowd, was directly on the A.T. (and Long Trail) before the trail was rerouted. I really enjoyed the homey feel of this place.
After showering and starting a load of clothes, I noted that the attached restaurant was closed so I went to the attached McGrath’s Irish Pub to see what they had for pub fare. I was so hungry that I had eaten 85% of my Caesar’s Salad before I realized that they had neglected to put any Caesar’s Salad Dressing on it. The burger and beer, however, were fine!
While I was enjoying my dinner at the bar, a guy walks in and sits down next to me. I don’t remember his name, but I remember it was something distinctly Irish (like O’Shaughnessy) in keeping with the nature of the pub. He turned out to be a long-time professional hiker shuttle driver who knew everything and everybody along the trail. He congratulated me for making it this far but told me, “When you leave Glencliff, NH, the entire nature of your hike will change.” I guess we will see.
Date: July 20, 2017
Starting Location: Minerva Hinchey Shelter
Ending Location: US 4, Rutland, VT
AT Miles Today: 20.4
AT Miles To Date: 1,700.8