Can you tell I’m excited? I’m actually not sure why. We still have over 1600 miles and 11 states to go. But we are in Bennington, our last stop in Vermont. In a couple of days we’ll be in Massachusetts, and we’ll be in Connecticut in a week. So we’re almost through New England, and that’s exciting in its own way. Maybe people will be less surprised to see an Atlanta Braves hat once we get to the mid-Atlantic, although it causes a bit of excitement when I do meet other Georgians up here. Today some hikers pulled over in their car as we were standing by the road just to yell at us that they were from Savannah. And I met a NOBO a couple of days ago who lives in Grant Park and got his master’s in industrial design at Tech. Cheers, Lightning! Best of luck and weather as you get to the Whites this next week.
You may notice that we hit Bennington kind of early compared to the scheduled I put in the last post – 3 days early, actually. Sorry that schedule was trash. I’m never quite sure whether we’ll be stopping in a town or just picking up a few things or moving on, and Dad isn’t either. We spent about 2 hours in Killington, still getting a good 16 or 17 miles that day; and we spent the morning in Rutland, just long enough to resupply for the next 70 miles, eat 2 meals, take a bath in the creek, and still get 8 miles in. But it’s been 136 miles since my post last week, which means, including the short days like today (only 6 or 7 miles), we’re still hitting just at or over 17 miles a day. On full days, more like 18 to 19. We really picked up the pace more than I expected since leaving New Hampshire. Dad said he wanted to get 15 miles a day at least, but there is also a kind of unspoken rule I think that we also don’t quit walking before 5 unless the weather is crud.
Judy, thanks for asking how long it takes to get those 17 miles. I’ll go ahead and take this chance to outline what a typical day looks like. We usually get up between 6 and 6:30 and boil a little water for some coffee, eat our breakfast, and break camp by 7:30 or 8. We’ll walk at least a couple of hours and then start looking for a good place to stop for a snack. This could be a shelter, a brook where Dad can wash his socks, a nice viewpoint, or a rock on the side of a giant hill when we get tired of a long climb. After a short snack we’ll walk a couple of hours more, usually looking to stop for lunch around 12:30. Dad really likes big, sunny rocks where he can dry out his socks while we eat, or else shelters which have good water sources and flat surfaces to sit and eat.
Lunch lasts about 30-45 minutes. A lot of times after breaks or lunch I will sit and write, whittle, or talk to other hikers while Dad heads off; then I’ll go catch him. I like to bask on the peaks a little bit. It’s also nice to be able to go at my own pace sometimes, and it’s a different experience when you’re on your own as opposed to being right behind someone, so I like to get some of both. Anyway, we walk until around 4, maybe stop for another break, fill up with camp water around 5:30 and start looking to find a campsite sometime after 5:30 or 6. Dad likes to walk about 8 hours a day aside from breaks. His pace I think varies between 2 to 2.5 miles an hour, which gives our recent average of around 17 to 18 miles a day.
All that to say, we spend about 10 or 11 hours out on the trail a day, walking 8 or 9 of them. If everything goes smoothly, we set up camp, cook, and get in our tents in less than an hour and a half. I’ll write for a bit, be asleep by 8:30 or 9, and do it all again the next day.
Vermont is way different than the other states. I learned some cool stuff about it the other day – for instance, it used to be 75% pasture, but now it is the opposite – 75% wooded. Early on, before reaching Killington, we very often came across old stone fences in the woods and would parallel them down old farm roads. In fact we cut through a number of farms in eastern Vermont, which was my favorite part of the state.
Once we joined the Long Trail and entered Green Mountain National Forest, it just started looking like woods again. But in the east, we were constantly walking through meadows, cow pastures, down roads, past old mills and houses from the 1800’s, and perhaps best of all, into raspberry patches. One day we spent our morning break picking raspberries for 20 minutes, which I later put on our PB sandwiches for a DELICIOUS lunch.
After passing the town of Killington, the AT joins the Long Trail, which runs the length of Vermont from Massachusetts to Quebec. The Long Trail was sort of the original AT, built in the early 1900’s by James Taylor (double take). Once we were on the LT, we started meeting a lot more section and day-hikers, much like in the Whites. But the terrain is incomparable. Vermont is much smoother, with the exception of some sticky mud here and there. We’ve climbed only a few bald mountains here – Killington, which was crowded with flip-flop-shod tourists fresh off the ski lift, and Bromley, where the trail follows a ski slope for a while. Vermont is much more relaxing though. I’d get anxious in New Hampshire from all the giant mountains and people everywhere, and I’d get anxious in Maine from all the giant mountains and being the only soul in the woods for mile and miles. I think this bench, which as under an apple tree on a mountain in West Hartford, sums up the trail here pretty well.
Best of all, we only got rained on once during our entire tenure in Vermont. Sadly, it was going over Stratton Mtn., on top of which Benton MacKaye is said to have been inspired with the idea of the Appalachian Trail.
I know I’m leaving so much out here, let’s see…. Rutland was a pretty town and home of one of the two Wal-Marts in Vermont, according to the woman who gave us a hitch. In fact, she didn’t even mention it when telling us where to shop because she was upset by its presence. We honored her by going to the local co-op and the Price Chopper instead. The only downside I found with Rutland is that the KFC is not as good as the ones down here, but then, what was I expecting? So we escaped the town without drinking the kool-aid/mate at the Yellow Deli and went for a swim in Clarendon Gorge – our first swim on the trail. Man, I could have swam there for hours.
Still hoping I get to see a full moose – we camped by some moose signs, if you will, last night. Once we get out of New England I’ll do a full wildlife report. Until then, the library is about to close, and as usual, I’m getting hungry. Thanks for all the prayers and comments! We’ll be passing through Cheshire, MA, Sunday or Monday. To those who have offered to send packages: many many thanks and I am so sorry that my scheduling has been terrible! The best thing to do would be to mail stuff to the Kent, Connecticut, or Pawling, NY post offices, c/o general delivery, and send me a comment or text message telling me to go pick it up so I know something is there. Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure!
Peace up, A-Town down.
(Shout out to Peace Dog, the first person on the trail to say this to me. Thank you for being culturally informed.)