Part three of the Long Trail adventure! The Long Trail is a long distance hike that runs north-south through the state of Vermont in the USA. We completed a northbound end-to-end of the Trail in July 2018 as part of the Alphabet Challenge.
Check out the other blogs for the trail (we split into two groups occasionally so there is some cross over – with very different experiences – in the days before Stowe):
- Part one: Williamstown, MA, to Manchester, VT
- Part two: Manchester, VT, to Rutland, VT
- Part four: App Gap, VT, to Stowe, VT
- Part five: Stowe, VT, to Canada
- Sweet tips for hiking the trail
Our short stay in Rutland was super weird. We discovered the Air Bnb we had booked for Lynley and Shirley was a fairly small attic that had been converted into a small two bedroom apartment. It was in the middle of a heat wave and Rutland was absolutely steaming and there was only A/C in one room. It was hot up there.
We found the heat quite unbearable even though we were sharing the air conditioned room with Shirley. Meanwhile poor Lynley was sleeping in a small sweaty room with only a small fan to regulate her temperature. Rutland itself has ‘some issues’, lots of drug problems, which probably didn’t add value to the stay either. On top of this context, looking after a little toddler on your own is challenging enough! Lynley looked really exhausted.
During our short time in Rutland we did all our usual hiker trash chores, including a very hot and hellish resupply with Shirley’s assistance. We also had to figure out how Lynley and Shirley would get to Stowe, which was their/our next stop.
It was complicated in little quiet Vermont. We looked into taxis, Uber, and Lyft and discovered none were going to work. Green Mountain Cabs in Burlington would have to send a taxi about two hours to Rutland then drive Shirley and Lynley to Stowe, and finally return to Burlington. The cost was understandably quite high at $400USD!
With two transport geeks on the case we plotted a solution. The advantage to a traditional taxi was that you could pre-book, providing a sense of security to poor Lynley looking after Shirley and with way too much stuff to lug about. Hypothetical uber searches suggested the trip would cost about $150…which sounded alright but there was no pre-booking option available in Vermont and we needed to get back to the trail. Finally, Lorelei asked the Airbnb host if she new anyone who might be able to make the trip for $150. She put up her hand. We agreed a few final logistics and all was sorted. God bless the sharing economy and our Airbnb host.
Our trail notes suggested we could get a bus, the Diamond Express, back to trail. The transport nerds were on the case of investigating how to achieve this and soon enough we were happily on our way, for $2 each!
On the amazingly air-conditioned bus we discussed how challenging it might be to find Mark and Lucie. We wouldn’t know if they were ahead or behind us. Would they be able to hike fast enough to find us? What if something had happened to them or something?
Then just as we were approaching our super weird side of the highway bus stop we saw two hikers crossing the road. Physio thought he recognised them, but Cashmere was less convinced. As we got closer we both realised it was Mark and Lucie! Yay! Jake was so excited he almost ran out in front of high speed oncoming traffic.
Our excitement at this perfect timing was somewhat short-lived. We soon found out Lobster Dick was having a lot of problems. He was now pissing blood, urinating frequently and painfully. It sounded like he definitely had a UTI and needed a doctor ASAP. We made a new plan for them to hitch to Rutland while we continued hiking. We would plan/hope to meet them at a shelter near a road around 20 miles up the trail. They would go stay at the Airbnb, help Lynley with Shirley if possible and we would give the host a little more money.
We contacted Lynley to let her know. Cashmere also strategically remembered that she had forgotten to pass on instructions for the next Airbnb in Stowe so battled with our dodgy mobile phone service to send them to Lynley too. Physio was feeling very antsy to get moving and found waiting for these important tasks to be extremely frustrating.
Poor Lobsterdick ended up in medical care until around 2am. The doctor they initially saw was worried (about Mark and probably malpractice suits) and suggested they go to a hospital where a series of extra tests could be run on Lobster Dick to check his kidneys and such.
During their five mile hike to the Rolston Rest shelter, Physio and Cashmere were both feeling down. They hadn’t been able to walk with Lobsterdick and Lucie for a while and it seemed like they were killing Lynley. What were they really achieving? Was this hike a stupid idea? There were so many logistics and the heat was hard on everyone.
We passed the trail junction where the Long Trail and the AT split and then we arrived at the shelter. We decided to do our usual: get involved in a little bathing in the local stream. All was going well with that as we refreshed ourselves until some new arrivals passed by and saw Physio naked, definitely.
After some awkward laughs, dinner, and our evening bear bag hanging routine we fell asleep in our tent.
During the night it started to rain. We knew some weather was coming but we were still a bit sad. We woke up to a wet tent, but most of our other things were just damp as the rain had stopped. We packed up and got ready to hit the trail. The hikers in the actual shelter were seemingly not interested in leaving at all. They were all still in their sleeping bags. Just as we departed the shelter it started to rain again.
The rain was persistent and often quite heavy. This made the rock and root infested trail especially tricky in our light weight trail runners. Our lunch time target was the David Logan Shelter, which was around 8 miles away. When we saw the sign for the shelter Physio was very upset to discover we had to walk 0.1 miles off trail and it was all down hill…which meant we had bonus climbing to look forward to after lunch. Physio was wicked mad about this development.
Interestingly once we arrived and got settled for lunch at the shelter Physio completely fell in love with it. Would Lucie and LD really make it to Sunrise Shelter that evening? Maybe we could just spend the rest of the day at this wicked nice shelter and avoid hours and hours of hiking in pouring rain. Cashmere managed to convince him that there was more to life than the David Logan shelter and we needed to keep hiking.
As the day progressed the weather only got worse. It was raining so hard the trail was starting to resemble a river. It was like walking through a wall of water, we could barely see a few metres ahead. We were dreading the possibility of our desired shelter being overrun with hikers. This was definitely not the sort of rain you would want to experience from inside a tent.
We finally arrived at the shelter and the rain was still absolutely bucketing down, but we were relieved to have the shelter to ourselves. With such crazy weather and Lobster Dick’s medical emergency we had little hope they would make it to Sunrise Shelter that evening. We weren’t sure how we would find them again.
We got ourselves settled in the Shelter and had wet belongings hanging everywhere. Before long two sodden and deshevelled figures appeared and by some miracle it was Lobster Dick and Lucie. Somehow they had made it to join us. We heard the full tale of LD’s medical adventure, that Lynley had their help with loading up the car, and the trials and tribulations of hitching in torrential rain. They feared they were in for a very long wet road walk, but eventually when all hope seemed lost a guy finally picked them up. He had seen them hitching while driving past in the wrong direction, gone home to drop off his kids, and then come back to pick them up. What a legend!
Lucie and LD added their wet gear to our abundant collection, and we set about eating dinner and playing some celebratory 500. Before long everyone was ready for bed, but not before Lobster Dick repeatedly stood up too straight at the back of the shelter and banged his head on the low ceiling. For some reason Physio found this very amusing.
The next morning everything was still very wet, but the weather was improving. We started the day by dropping down to the highway and then we had a fairly substantial climb out to the Horrid Cliffs. However, we weren’t able to check out the Cliffs because there were Peregrine Falcon’s breeding and the cliffs were their nesting habitat.
Our first stop was Sucker Brook Shelter, which was a little over 6 miles down the trail. We stopped for lunch and played a quick hand or two of 500 at a delightful picnic table while we hoped the sunshine would dry our clothes wet clothes that we had laid out.
We soon crossed the Middlebury Snow Bowl, which Cashmere informed us was a university owned ski field. Not only was that a pretty outrageous concept, it also availed us of some excellent views and some super sweet photo opportunities.
We eventually arrived at our planned destination for the evening, Skylight Lodge, which was a short hike off the LT. The Lodge was a spacious log cabin complete with a weird warm silty pond, excellent views, and a small deck from which to enjoy them. The only downside of the Lodge was the water source, which was only a small trickle that required some traversing to access. Heroic Cashmere collected water for everyone when we arrived.
We all went down for some super weird bathing on the edge of the pond before cooking dinner and hanging out on the deck watching the sunset over distant mountains. Not only did we have the Lodge to ourselves, but it was a lovely clear calm evening to enjoy it. This was one of our favourite spots on the LT so far. As it started to get colder we retired into the Lodge for 500 and more food.
Lucie was cold and was having trouble finding a comfortable way to play 500, while staying cozy in her sleeping bag. She decided to lie on the bunk while propping her upper torso on the edge of the table like some sort of worm. It was quite hilarious.
We lamented the fact that Lucie didn’t have a trail name and began brainstorming some ideas. For some reason Physio in particular became very interested in naming Lucie ‘Emily Proctor’, which was the name of the next shelter down the LT from Skylight Lodge. Cashmere suggested going one step further with ‘Emily Proctor Animal Doctor’, because Lucie had recently shown interest in the welfare of small animals. We went to bed with a glimmer of hope that Lucie might have a trail name soon, since she wasn’t strongly opposed to it, but just didn’t really see much logic to it.
After hanging our food up in trees night after night with variable levels of success we decided we would risk hanging our bear bags up in the Lodge. Surely a black bear wouldn’t bust down the door…
The next morning we were relieved to find the door to the Lodge and our food intact and enjoyed more views from the deck as we prepared to depart this wonderful haven.
Despite all the rain we were becoming concerned about water security on the trail. We would be largely following ridges for the next couple of days and there were very few reliable water sources. LD and Cashmere went through the painstaking process of gathering enough water to get us to Emily Proctor Shelter, where we planned to load up for the long day ahead.
Cashmere and Physio arrived at the Shelter well ahead of LD and Lucie and were feeling frisky for some reason. After gathering water they went in search of a suitable location to behave like wild animals. Unfortunately they were not very sensible or responsible in this regard and upon arrival Lucie made a wrong turn in search of the privvy only to discover something far more disturbing. She informed Physio and Cashmere shortly afterwards, much to their embarrassment, that a disturbing image was now burned in her retinas.
The rest of the day was incredibly tough, with absolutely endless tree fall, and fairly regular feelings of embarrassment.
Lucie: “I just don’t know what you were thinking. You weren’t hidden at all and it was 8:30am in the morning.”
Physio: “It was Cashmere’s idea…”. Turns red.
Cashmere: “Physio chose the spot, it’s his fault”.
Lucie: “Any of the other people camping at the shelter could have seen you. There was practically a path leading right there.”
Physio: “I didn’t think it was that bad”.
Lucie: “It was pretty bloody bad”.
With all the tree fall we frequently had to bush bash off trail, which made wayfinding difficult. If we weren’t bush bashing we were clambering over or under fallen trees, and the going was incredibly slow.
At one point in the afternoon Cashmere was walking closely behind Physio when he pushed his way through a fallen branch from a pine tree. Not realising how close behind Cashmere was, Physio kept walking and it sprung back in her face, hitting her in her eye. Cashmere’s eye was very sore and she was unimpressed with Physio’s lack of care with the pine branch.
Aside from all the bush bashing and tree fall detours we had lunch at Cooley Glen Shelter and enjoyed snacks and views at Sunset Ledge, especially once the crowd there thinned out. We also found some viewful chairlifts to play on at various Vermont ski fields.
Over the course of around 18 miles we bagged a whole series of peaks, including Bread loaf Mountain, Mount Roosevelt, Mount Abraham, and Lincoln Peak. Mount Abraham was over 4000 feet with a bare rocky summit that awarded us with stunning panoramic views. For Cashmere her sore eye detracted from this experience, with her good eye struggling to process the panorama on its own. We had also got ahead of Mark and Lucie, who had started to struggle towards the end of the day.
At last we arrived at the Castle Rock Chairlift top station, where we would sleep for the night. Unfortunately we still had some bonus hiking to do to gather water from Holt Hollow, which was around 0.2 miles from the station, meaning a very tired 0.4 mile return trip. Physio and Cashmere got straight into cooking dinner and gathering water at the Hollow and Lucie and LD soon arrived, with Lucie announcing her arrival by saying “That F@#king Sucked!”. It was a reasonable emotional response to hiking 18 miles up and down mountains through and around tree fall.
After dinner we stumbled our way back to the chairlift Station and set about preparing for bed. It was a clear evening so Physio and Cashmere decided to camp out under the stars on the deck of the Station. Lucie and LD slept inside with a couple of other hikers. Cashmere’s eye was really sore and weepy so she could only get limited enjoyment from the starry night.
The next day Cashmere’s eye was really causing some problems and she had to hike using only one eye. This completely threw off her balance and depth perception making the steep rocky descents particularly challenging.
We started the day by summiting Mount Ellen and then struggled our way down to Stark’s Nest, a lodge at the top of Mad River Glen ski field. Cashmere had a full on meltdown at the Nest, balling her eyes out. She needed to see a doctor to do something about her eye, but we were supposed to be meeting Tyson at Appalachian Gap to hike with him for a couple of days. Her eye problem was ruining everything! And you really don’t want to mess around gambling when it comes to eyes and retaining vision.
We met a nice local with a toddler at Stark’s Nest who helped phone a local medical centre and agreed to give Cashmere a ride part of the way from App Gap to the emergency medical centre. We decided Physio and Tyson would hike north from App Gap staying at Cowles Cove Shelter while Cashmere sought medical attention. Cashmere would hopefully be able to catch up to them. Meanwhile Lucie and LD would be hitching into town to stay with a friend in Waitsfield, where they would resupply before returning to the LT.
The track down from Stark’s Nest to App Gap was incredibly steep. There were multiple ladders and rungs anchored in rocks to assist with descents down sheer rock faces. It was not ideal for someone hiking with only one eye. Physio decided to hike with one eye closed both out of solidarity and also to better understand what Cashmere was going through. He can confirm it is pretty bloody challenging, especially when confronted with steep rocky terrain.
Physio realised he was the only one of us hiking on from App Gap and that he was running out of water. While the others continued down, Physio made a detour in search of a reputed spring near Theron Dean Shelter, but the spring was dry.
Cashmere, Lucie and Lobster Dick soon found Tyson waiting for us at App Gap. He had parked his car at the Winooski River and then biked with his hiking pack all the way to App Gap – a ride of around 25 miles complete with a huge climb. Cashmere had to leave with the kind local so quickly grabbed the stuff out of her pack she thought Physio would need and took off. She also absentmindedly left her poles without realizing it.
By the time Physio made it to App Gap he found LD, Lucie, and Tyson relaxing in the shade waiting for him. Cashmere had already gone, so he was handed what Cashmere had pulled out. Tyson and Physio soon farewelled LD and Lucie and began the climb out if App Gap towards Cowles Cove Shelter. Yet again the trail was bloody hard, and Tyson was really struggling. Physio wasn’t particularly impressed when Tyson wanted to take his pack off each time he needed a drink or wanted to take a photo.
Physio also soon realised that with Cashmere’s abrupt departure we were quite unprepared for the days ahead. Tyson had brought limited food based on the understanding Physio and Cashmere would have plenty, which was not really the case. It was day five of the section and we were now rationing. Cashmere had also forgotten to hand over the stove, which we would need to make the freeze dried meals edible, and we had no toilet paper because Cashmere had the pootensils. Physio was also running out of water. The situation was not great.
We stopped at Birch Glenn Lodge for lunch and to hopefully find some water. Yet again the water source was dry. Our lunch of peanut butter and crackers was not ideal with water supplies running out. We met another hiker at the Lodge who had loaded up on water in town and could spare a half litre much to Physio’s relief. Physio also recalled seeing a small trickle of water back up the trail from the Lodge that he thought he could collect from. So Tyson continued his slow and steady hike towards Cowles Cove Shelter, while Physio went in search of water.
Much to Physio’s relief he did find water where he remembered seeing it, and with assistance from a ‘leaf spout’ he was able to very slowly collect it. By the time he returned to Glen Ellen Lodge heading north he developed a poo and had to use some leaves in place of TP.
Somehow despite the long dalliance, Physio arrived at the shelter just after Tyson. We were sitting there contemplating whether to sleep in the shelter or camp when Physio swore he heard Cashmere’s voice along with someone else’s. Maybe there was a Cashmere clone on the LT? There’s no way she could be approaching the shelter already. But sure enough somehow Cashmere arrived at the Shelter merely minutes after us.
Not only could she now see with both eyes, she was also carrying a big slice of pizza and a big can of ‘Sips of Sunshine’. Holy shit she was basically a trail goddess. Cashmere told us how she had ridiculously good luck hitching to the medical centre, with the only delay being a stop to get an ice cream on the way. Then was seen by “the most Vermont doctor in the World” immediately who checked her eye and gave her special eye drops, enough to hold her over until she could go get a prescription filled in a few days. Then she discovered a pizza place next door and, no sooner than she finished a slice of pizza, she was already getting picked up again. Right after those people gave her a tasty beer for the trail and dropped her she got picked up again. When that fellow dropped her off, she then found a bike shop across the road as she realised she needed to fill up her water, and they gladly obliged. Then within no time at all she had another ride. Feeling stoked on humanity, having her eye sight back and carrying a lighter pack having offloaded most of it to Physio, Cashmere had made short work of the difficult trail out of App Gap and ended up hiking with a guy named Animal. Animal was a speed hiker with some very ambitious plans and Cashmere had been keeping up with him. She always seems to hike faster when she has someone new to talk to!
Behind Cashmere came a young woman named Shrooms who joined us at the shelter. Physio and Cashmere went to put the beer in the nearby creek to cool, have a wash, and gather water. We set up camp and had an early dinner at the shelter complete with Sips of Sunshine.
While we were hanging out near the shelter two families arrived who were regular long distance hikers. Apparently by hiking together in one big group they had normalised the activity for the kids and the two families spent their summer holidays hiking together. They were a real inspiration to Cashmere and Physio. Clearly they need to find another hiker trash family to adventure with.
The shelter had one cool/unique feature, which was an open air privvy. Instead of being enclosed in a small shelter like normal, this privvy was just a long drop on-top of an open platform. After taking turns enjoying this throne feature we hoisted our bear bags into a nearby tree and got ready for bed.
We awoke fairly early the next day. With so many people camping around the shelter we woke with the sound of others starting their day. We shared a pot of granola between three of us, gathered and filtered water, packed up camp and were soon enjoying the open air privvy one more time before heading off up the trail.
We had a big day ahead of us, complete with a climb over Camel’s Hump towards the end of the day. The first summit of the day was Burnt Rock Mountain, which had only patchy vegetation and in a lot of places was just bare rock. This made for awesome views and an excellent preview of what we would be climbing later in the day.
Burnt mountain was just one part of the trail that featured bare rock. Much of the rest of the days hiking also featured fun scrambling and wayfinding over bare rock. Instead of the usual white blazes on trees, the white blazes were painted on the rock with the angle of the blaze indicating which direction to go next.
Even with the frequent views and fun navigation there was still plenty of mental downtime, so we played the hum game extensively throughout the day. Physio had the best luck at guessing the songs Tyson and Cashmere were humming. However, at times Tyson grew frustrated with the hum game because Physio and Cashmere kept walking too fast and he couldn’t hear the humming. To resolve this issue we put Tyson at the front of the hiker train to stop Physio and Cashmere from walking too fast. Cashmere took the time to sample the local blueberries but declared them inferior to Washington’s.
The second significant summit was Mount Ethan Allen, which was around four miles from the Shelter. After descending from Mount Ethan Allen we stopped at Montclair Glen Lodge and ate some lunchy snacks at a shaded picnic table and gathered water to get us through the rest of the day.
It was a fairly tough climb to Camel’s Hump, with sections of steep trail and more and more bare rock scrambling and navigation the further up we got. Physio and Cashmere were loving it, while Tyson was continuing at his slow and steady pace. The closer we got to Camel’s Hump the more day hikers we saw, and the trail started to get pretty busy once we passed other side trails that offered alternative approaches to the Hump.
Eventually we made it up to the top. It was super busy up there but it was getting a bit late in the day and we dallied long enough that the crowd started to thin out. It was an absolutely stunning afternoon to be on Camel’s Hump, so we took some photos, enjoyed our achievement and then started the long plod down to the Winooski River.
It was fairly quiet on the way down but it felt surprisingly long. I guess it was about 7 miles. To pass the time between blue berries and views we played more hum game. Tyson’s knee started to complain about the long day of fairly steep and rugged hiking and the extended downhill from the Hump was particularly problematic. Physio’s archilles tendons also struggled to cope with the often steep downhill from the Hump. Meanwhile Cashmere was feeling great – because as usual the sixth day of hiking is when Cashmere excels.
After what seemed like an eternity of hum game we finally reached the carpark, Tyson was very excited to see a a bunch of bottled water, his very first trail magic. Even though he didnt really need one, he grabbed one. He also picked up a bag with dog crap in it that some jerk had left, because he is that kind of a guy!
Not only does Tyson pick up other people’s dog shit, he also provides complementary cans of Sips of Sunshine upon completing a section. It had been a long hot day and we soon set about enjoying our celebratory beers and finding a good spot to swim in!
We arrived in Stowe that evening to find Lynley in a slightly better state than when we last saw her in Rutland. Her and Shirley’s (and now our) accommodation was air conditioned and far less dirty than had been the case in Rutland. Tyson returned home to Boston the next day after sleeping in a yurt, and we spend a couple of nights in Stowe and were reunited with Lucie and LD who had made it around Mount Mansfield in some atrocious weather. We managed to arrange a rental car (against all odds) and relocated ourselves (five adults and one toddler) to Burlington (which in itself was a logistical challenge). After a couple of nights in Burlington we bid farewell to LD and Lucie who were continuing north on the LT and we headed back to Boston with Lynley and Shirley.