O2 got a bit of a drop on me getting out of camp, so when I finally got everything packed I started out alone on my 500-foot morning climb. My first stop was a place called “The Lookout” where I had hoped to have spent last night, before running out of daylight. The “Lookout” is a private cabin on the mountaintop that allows A.T. hikers and to camp provided you follow their rules. The best feature of the cabin is an observation deck with awesome views of the surrounding area. I wish I had been able to watch the sunset from here, but I happily settled for an early morning view of the mountains.
The next six miles of trail were smooth and excellent and followed a general downhill trend towards VT 12. My morning was spent hiking through lovely forests and wide-open pastures that provided nice views of the New England countryside. As I approached the trailhead at VT 12, I could see O2 talking to a couple of guys in the trailhead parking lot and realized that there was trail magic ahead. Two Sock and My Friend, a couple of 2016 thru-hikers, were paying it forward with an amazing spread of grilled hamburgers, homemade chili, chips, candy, cookies, soda, and beer. It was nice to take a break in the shade and enjoy the generosity of these two guys. Thank you Two Socks and My Friend! While I was eating, Naps and Blaze arrived to join in. If you recall, I met Naps way back at the Punchbowl Shelter in Virginia and, apparently, he and Blaze were now hiking together.
All good things must come to an end and soon I was tackling a very steep 600-foot climb from VT 12 to the top of Dana Hill. By now, the temperature and humidity were starting to get brutal and, along with my full stomach, it didn’t make the climb easy. On the way up, however, I did discover where old VW buses come to die. The rest of the afternoon was comprised of a series of ups and downs where you would climb a small hill through the woods or pastures and then descend to a road. In this section, the A.T. crosses five roads within five miles through a lovely pastoral setting. I even passed a loaded crabapple tree where I snagged a couple of the sour fruits to enjoy with dinner.
Apparently, this area of Vermont is the source of a large amount of maple syrup. Many of the maple trees are connected by a spider web labyrinth of plastic tubing that must help to automate the task of collecting the maple sap. The unattractive tubing is everywhere and is attached to the trees at a height of 4-5 feet (snow line?) with each tree having one or two blue tubes for attaching the tap. In my mind, all this tubing must terminate at a big kettle in the valley, but I’m sure that the actual process is quite different from that. I would love to see the sap collection and maple syrup production in person someday.
Prior to leaving on this journey, I networked online with several other thru-hikers. One of them was a gentleman named Tom “Red Beard” Abel who is a SOBO hiker from Lakeland, FL, and a blogger at TheTrek.com. I had been following his southbound progress on Facebook and confirmed via text message that we would have the opportunity to meet face-to-face at the Thistle Hill Shelter. When I arrived at the shelter, Red Beard was already there, and we had a fun time chatting and getting to know each other. You can follow his adventures here: https://thetrek.co/author/tom-abel/
At one time, the A.T. followed a different route through this section which included the Cloudland Shelter. That shelter is now on private property, but the Cloudland privy was so popular that it was moved and put into service at the Thistle Hill Shelter. This is the only privy I have seen that provides a 360-degree view.
Just after I set up camp, Cousin Eddie, Cheese, and Einstein walked in, having been delayed getting out of Rutland, VT. Every time that I see them, I believe it will be the last time, so it was a treat to see them again. As they were getting settled, I started the process of obtaining water and preparing dinner in anticipation of eating my crab apples for dessert. As it turned out, the apples needed a few more days on the tree so I was only able to choke down one.
Date: July 22, 2017
Starting Location: Stealth Camp, Mile 1715.7
Ending Location: Thistle Hill Shelter
AT Miles Today: 17.3
AT Miles To Date: 1,733.0