L is for Long Trail Part 2 – Manchester to Rutland, USA

posted in: Alphabet Challenge | 0

Written by Lucie.

Part two 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):

Day one

Hiking day five, Manchester to Big Branch, 16.4 miles

The Long Trail stage two began at Manchester, VT. After a great breakfast, Kathy kindly drove the four of us (Physio, Cashmere, Mark and Lucie) to the Long Trail (LT)/Appalachian Trail (AT) trailhead on Route 11/30 and we starting walking north.

After a short distance we reached Bromley Brook and Shelter, and then a viewpoint across the valley where we met a fellow hiker called Mick. We stopped for a quick photo, Physio and Muck engaged in some gear chat, and then we kept going up to Bromley Mountain, where we got some lovely views, thanks to the tree clearing for the ski field.

Physio identifies mountains from our sweet viewpoint across the valley.

Then it was on to Styles Peak (which was heavily wooded and thus without views), with a snack break on the trail when we found some comfy logs in the shade.

About 10 miles from the road we were in the middle of the Peru Wilderness and stopped at Peru Peak Shelter. Here, we had a fine lunch (including cheesey quesadillas for the Schmicelwees), soaked our feet in the cold river, and played a few hands of 500 (this chilled out stop made Physio somewhat confused, “Whoa. Have we become Team Fun and Appreciation?”). There was also a monumental occasion when Mark accepted the trail name of ‘Lobster Dick’ (because of his on/off UTI issues – despite looking at, and photographing, cranberry products in a pharmacy in Manchester, he had actually *done* anything, thinking that it was healing by itself). The trail name was made official in the shelter book.

During lunch/500 we met a fellow hiker who seemed to want to ask us something, but then didn’t and carried on hiking (we would meet her again in the final section) and we also saw Mick again.

After lunch, Lucie set off a bit before the rest of the team and enjoyed wandering past Griffith Lake, watching chipmunks, and taking photos at her leisure.

Griffith Lake.
A pretty jay feather – this meandering photo time is why Lucie enjoyed her headstart.

Team 500 reconvened a while later, played a bit of Best and Worst to catch up on the previous few days and stopped hiking for the day at Big Branch. This was a very dreamy campsite with an amazing swimming spot in the river under the bridge. Physio found mini submerged bum slide, Cashmere found a ‘cave’ under an overhanging rock, which she wanted to go into so that she could impress everyone else (despite finding it a bit creepy). We had a long swim/wash, then pitched our tents, had dinner, hung up our bear bags and then went to bed.

Just as we were drifting off some late hikers came past and went further upstream to camp.

Day two

Hiking day six, Big Branch to Clarendon, 15.9 miles

After setting off in the morning we quickly came upon the Big Branch shelter and then shortly after that crossed the road USFS 10. We walked along the edge of Beaver Bog (another one, but still didn’t see any beavers), then Little Rock Pond. This is arguably too large to be a mountain pond, and is really a small lake (where is the distinction?!). We pondered going for a swim, but determined that we didn’t deserve one yet.

Little Rock Pond, a nice lake on the trail.

We met an… interesting hiker at a small bridge over Homer Stone Brook. She was looking at a map and asked up how far it was to Greenwall Shelter, where she was planning to stay that night (it was maybe another four or five miles on, before we were even planning our lunch stop). A few minutes later we stopped at another brook for a morning snack break and the hiker caught us up. She didn’t seem to have a good memory for things. Literally immediately after Cashmere had just finished a longish conversation about growing up in Boston and going to university in Vermont (before moving to New Zealand) our hiker friend asked if Cashmere grew up in New Zealand. This person seemed rather spaced out, maybe very high. She wanted hike with us but had a much slower pace so it was not going to work out. We fortunately, although unintentionally, left her behind very quickly.

Once we were back to our usual foursome we came to the ‘Rock Garden’, which was an interesting area with many, many small towers of stones.

The rock garden.

We passed Greenwall Shelter and briefly thought of our interesting hiker ‘friend’, but continued on and crossed a few more roads before stopping for lunch at Domed Ledge. From here we walked some more and went past Airport Lookout and then onto Clarendon Gorge. We were really tempted to cool off in the water here. However, Lobster Dick and Lucie needed to meet Robin (Jesse’s mum) and Cashmere and Physio decided that they would prefer to find a campsite and then swim, rather than get nice and cool and clean and then immediately hike up a big hill.

Lucie and Lobster Dick met Robin without a hitch and went to Clarendon, where we met the dogs, Trudy and Malcolm, plus partner Scott. We had a great outdoor shower on the porch and then were treated to an amazing dinner and dessert, with lots of great conversation. At night, the fireflies were out in garden, and we had a brilliant night’s sleep in Robin’s studio.

Our excellent stay at chez Robin in Clarendon.

Day three

Hiking day seven, Clarendon to Governor Clement Shelter 7.2 miles

After our (Lucie’s and Lobster Dick’s – who knows what happened to Cashmere and Physio during this little section?!) amazing sleep we were treated to a delicious breakfast. We went for a resupply with Robin and then had lunch with her and then Scott. We then had to finish packing our bags, had a quick play on Scott’s electric bike (he was so proud and excited – we kept catching glimpses of him sailing past the window, grinning), took a photo with everyone and then Robin dropped us off at the trailhead.

The first thing back on the trail was a long, steep uphill section which was hot and sweaty and sucked. Then we got up to the top of Beacon Hill where we found wild raspberries and things started to seem a lot better.

Wild raspberry picking. Delicious!

We crossed a couple of small roads, a stream and then Gould Brook and a spot where a small road crosses Sargent Brook. Here, we had an unnecessary campsite freak out. Should we camp near one of these streams? It’s quite close to a road. But the road is really small and quiet. Maybe we should camp closer to the start of the climb up Killington. But what if the shelter is busy? Will the stream at the shelter be good enough for a wash? What do we do?!

Eventually we sorted ourselves out and kept walking to Governor Clement Shelter. As is turned out, Sargent Brook runs close to the shelter and was a prime spot for a wash. There were some people at the shelter but plenty of camping in the woods around and we found a nice little clearing close to the stream to pitch our tent. We had dinner, hung the bear bags, all the usual stuff and then lay down for the night.

Day four

Hiking day eight, Governor Clement Shelter to Rutland, 10.6 miles

Our first hiking challenge of this day was to climb Killington Peak. This is the second highest peak in Vermont at 4236 feet/1291m. We were prepared for a long, steep slog but it was actually fine! The trail heading northbound up the mountain is well graded and quite pleasant to walk on. Not as bad as expected!! The four miles were soon completed (about 2 hours) and we dropped our packs at Cooper Lodge for the last 0.2 mile scramble up a very steep section of rock.

We were rewarded with amazing views from the top of the mountain and sat on the rocky top gazing out over the Green Mountains. We saw Mick for the third time on the trail and a lot of day walkers and people who had caught the gondola up to the top of the mountain.

At the top of Killington, infinitely more dirty than everyone else up there.

The plus side of Killington being an accessible ski mountain is that there was a restaurant at the top, where we could use the toilet, get water and Lobster Dick bought an ice cream.

After a while we made our way back down to our packs were we refilled the rest of our water and then continued on the trail, down the mountain, to Churchill Scott Shelter for lunch.

Lobster Dick on the Killington descent.

After lunch we went past the trail junction where the LT split from the old AT, which was also our 100 mile marker!

100 miles in and at the split with the old AT.

The rest of the trail was uneventful apart from Lobster Dick needing to pee every five minutes… When we reached US route 4, we decided that medical intervention was required and just as we were wondering how to alert our hiking companions to the change of plan, a bus went past and off hopped Cashmere and Physio! Our short reunion consisted of explaining the situation, sending a text to Lynley to warn her what was going on and then we said bye again and the Schmicelwees started hiking while we hitchhiked into Rutland.

Our kind hitch ride (probably a 40-something who ended a phone call with her mum because she didn’t want her mum to know that she was picking up hitchhikers!) took us to a medical centre. We assumed that Lobster Dick would just need to explain his symptoms, pee in a cup and then get some antibiotics. Then, we could then get straight back out on the trail and reunite Team 500. However, long story short, the doctor thought that Lobster Dick was basically dying, and insisted on us going to the ER. We were forbidden to walk there and when the taxi no-showed a patient drove us. We spent the next six hours waiting around in ER, Lucie had a weird hiker trash dinner in the waiting room, more urine and blood samples we taken, plus a CT scan to check for kidney stones or Amazonian fish…

How much do you think this is going to cost?

Eventually the hospital decided that it was a standard UTI and wrote a prescription. The charge nurse kindly drove us (because there were no taxis in town) to the accommodation that Lynley and Shirley were at. We snuck into the house as quietly as possible and crashed out.