Written by Lucie.
Part four 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 three: Rutland, VT, to Stowe, VT
- Part five: Stowe, VT, to Canada
- Sweet tips for hiking the trail
After 164 miles, lots of mountains and one hospital visit, Team 500 reached Appalachian Gap. Here, Lucie and Lobster Dick left Cashmere, Physio and Tyson, with Cashmere zipping off to the medical centre to get some ointment for her eye. Team 500 was set to reunite in two days at mile 191. You can read about the Schmicelwees App Gap to Stowe adventure in the blog for part three.
Meanwhile, Lucie and LD headed into town and had three delicious mains plus some beer at the Mad Taco. Lucie needed a lie down afterwards and we reclined in the beer garden, trying to stay away from clean people. After a food resupply and a long hike in the sun to buy more camping gas, we headed up the hill to visit Jesse’s friend Karen.
As we set off, a woman pulled over and asked if we wanted a ride, so we hopped in with her, her cocker spaniel, and several punnets of blueberries. While chatting she suddenly asked, ‘wait, are you the Australians?’ It turned out that she had never picked up hitchhikers before but had driven Cashmere from the medical centre to the trailhead about an hour before! We loved the crazy coincidence, and felt even better to know that Cashmere was okay and back on trail so quickly.
We had a great evening with Karen and left Waitsfield ready to tackle more mountains…
Hiking day 13, App Gap to Bamforth Ridge Shelter, 15.3 miles
After a delicious breakfast, Karen gave us a lift back to the trailhead at App Gap and set off up the hill. After a solid uphill section, we came to a good viewpoint down to Huntington Gap and across to some upcoming peaks. Then, we dropped down to pass a campsite with lots of tents outside, and later a small stream and a shelter with fellow hiker Atlas asleep inside. We had planned to eat lunch there but decided to continue on and stopped at a good rock a short distance later.
After lunch, we began the climb up to Burnt Rock Mountain. This open, smooth rock summit went on for several hundred metres with fantastic vistas. It was also incredibly hot. The sun was beating down and the rock was radiating heat.
After Burnt Rock we climbed Mount Ethan Allen and dropped down to Montclair Lodge where we got more water and had a snack. Then, it was back uphill. It was a long climb up to Camel’s Hump and we were already pretty tired. On the plus side, it was late afternoon so the crowds of day walkers had vanished and we had it pretty much all to ourselves. Given the rock scrambly nature of the last section of the climb, Lucie ended up ahead (while LD dropped further behind when he missed a marker and got himself onto a sketchy, rocky ledge situation).
When Lucie reached the top it was very windy and she huddled behind her backpack to get some shelter while she looked at the sun coming down over Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks in NY, the White Mountains of NH and the whole of the Green Mountains (and thus the LT) in VT.
After LD had caught up and was ready to move on we set off down to camp, approximately 3.5 miles away. We moved at a really quick pace and were feeling great about ourselves. We reached some exposed rock and saw the sunset throw up amazing colours.
We continued on, keen to get to camp. However, the trail started to get a bit more difficult and it just kept going. We had walked a fair while when we came to another section of exposed rocky ledges and determined that we were still quite far from camp. We kept an eye out for a spot where we could pitch a tent and get water but there was nothing. We started to get pretty fed up and cycled between desperation, mild sadness and anger. And still we weren’t at camp!!
We heard something that sounded like gunshots through the forest and felt even more trepidation. But finally, in full darkness, we reached Bamforth Ridge Shelter.
The tent sites were full, the shelter was full, so while Mark collected water Lucie set up the beds on the shelter porch, as quietly as she could. We had dinner and crawled into bed.
During the night, Lucie woke up convinced she heard a bear, but it turned out to be really loud snoring.
Hiking day 14, Bamforth Ridge Shelter to Buchanan Lodge, 11.8 miles
We woke up in the morning and chatted to people at the shelter (here we met Shrooms, who we had read notes to and from in trail logbooks, and who the extended Schmicelwee clan had camped with the night before). We had breakfast and packed up.
Leaving the shelter was an easy downhill section to the Duxbury Road Trailhead. It was lightly raining but the trees protected us from most of it and we only got a sprinkling when the wind moved the leaves. About halfway down we had a lookout over the roads, river and across to the ridge line that we needed to climb that afternoon.
Next, we set out to walk along the road for a couple of miles, in more persistent rain. Someone at the shelter mentioned that there is a path next to the road, however it was not obvious to us and without the app (Lucie had given her phone to Physio when Cashmere went to the medical centre) we weren’t sure where to get onto the path.
We soon came to another car park with a sign stating, ‘this is NOT the Long Trail’. It instructed us to walk along the road for 2 miles. However, long before our two miles were up we reached a suspension bridge with white blazes and so we crossed over the river. We then crossed a train track, found a Long Trail car park with a little library and had a bit more road to walk on. During this section, a man pulled over, got out of his car and called out to us. He then threw maple syrup waffles to us (over the nature strip) said bye and went back to his car. Magic!
Under the highway (you press a button to turn on flashing lights to tell motorists of pedestrians in the tunnel) we went steeply uphill on the small road. Then, we were back on the trail and stopped at a stream for water and snack. We met a couple and their dog day walking and had a quick chat.
The uphill section through the woods was fairly nice, with good tree cover again keeping us dry, and LD enjoyed doing trail maintenance.
It was only mid-afternoon when we reached Buchanan Lodge, where we had arranged to meet the rest of Team 500. We went into the lodge and found Atlas reading a book. He told us that he had arrived at Bamforth Ridge Shelter even later than we had and pitched his tent in the woods. At dawn, he woke up to the sound of people walking around his tent. Confused, he stuck his head out to say hello, only to come face to face with two moose!
We went to wash in the stream and get lots of water. Then Lucie swept out the lodge, which was really dirty. A short while later, it was pretty dirty again and we realised that there were tons of mice living in the rafters and knocking down dirt. We also read many accounts in the logbook about mice in the shelter. This included one entry that rambled on a bit so I’ll summarise:
Everyone in this logbook is going on about the mice in the shelter being terrible, but we’ve been here for hours and haven’t seen a single one! There aren’t any mice. It’s a beautiful shelter, it’s a beautiful day. All these other hikers are just being wimps.
The bit about there being no mice had a line through it a huge arrow pointing to the bottom of the entry. Here, in all capitals the hikers had added a postscript:
BEWARE THE MICE!
We decided to set up the tent.
After dinner on the lodge porch with Atlas, we started wondering where the rest of Team 500 was. A hiker called Stone arrived – he was an interesting person who seemed to be on a mission to do multiple back-to-back through hikes, all as quickly as possible. I’m not convinced that he was at all enjoying the experience. Either way, he was travelling fast and had not seen Jake and Lorelei, so we assumed that they weren’t coming. We gave up and went to bed.
Hiking day 15, Buchanan Lodge to Stowe, 16.1 miles
In the morning we had a wet tent, but Atlas’s comments about the mice through the night confirmed that we had made the right call by camping outside!
We were still sans the full Team 500, but with no word we set off and hiked up to Harrington’s View – an overhanging rocky ledge – and could see more clouds rolling in. It looked like heavy rain was coming our way. Next we went over the viewless (i.e., covered in trees – quite common on the LT) Mount Bolton. At this point we were hiking through a cloud, so even where the trees thinned our only views were of the grey inside of a cloud. It started to drizzle.
Along the way we kept hearing weird foghorn noises, plus some explosions and gunshots. It was a bit disconcerting.
We stopped for morning tea at Puffer Shelter and notes in the logbook all talked about the incredible view, but we could only see a wall of grey all around us. Then Atlas rolled in and told us about the noises we had been hearing. Down in the valley was a military base. The foghorn noise was actually the sound of a gun firing – the actual gun itself – 1000+ rounds per second. Terrifying! Each time we heard the noise after that it became more scary.
With no word from Physio and Cashmere, plus more rain on the way, we decided we should get to Stowe that night. We got down to Taylor Lodge and filled a litre of water from the stream. It was raining more and getting heavier all the time so we kept moving and slammed it up a fairly wide and nicely graded bit of trail to Butler Lodge. By this time the rain was really heavy and we knew we’d get cold if we stopped moving for too long. We had a quick snack on our feet and kept going.
Our last challenge for this section was Mount Mansfield, and it would turn out to be a pretty hefty one. We started climbing up the Forehead. It was pouring with rain and was also very windy higher up the mountain. We found it very difficult to walk and were constantly slipping in mud and on the wet rocks. In places the path was more like a river.
Mark had been really excited about climbing over Mount Mansfield (mostly for the name), however, it was starting to get pretty scary. We couldn’t see very far in front of us and the weather was awful. Then, we came across a sign for the alternative bad weather route and decided that this was the situation to take it.
We abandoned the peak but the alternative route was genuinely scary. We had to ascend 45 degree angle rock faces with rivers cascading down them. We were constantly slipping. We took the South Link and the Haselton Trails and started to descend. The trail conditions didn’t pick up much and we were still moving very slowly. It was very slippery, traversing huge rock steps, walking through rivers etc. Eventually we got down and rejoined the Long Trail where it meets Route 108.
We were lucky to get a lift to Stowe from a lovely woman who had just been camping in the White Mountains. She dropped us off at the address we had for Lynley and we quickly found the house, let ourselves in and had some food. Then all of our friends returned!
Lucie and LD got a room at the neighbouring Stowe Inn, where we had a very fancy room for our hiker trash explosion. We cleaned up and dried up (apart from our shoes) and then Team 500 went out to a bar for food and beer and cards.
Days four and five
Chill time in Stowe and Burlington
For various reasons, the Schmicelwees had decided to end their Long Trail adventure and so Team 500 spent two days having fun off-trail. Some of the activities included Mark and Jake hitching to a car rental place with Britney Miracle, a visit to Huntington Gorge, a picnic on the banks of Lake Champlain, lots of 500, American Flatbread and lunchtime shuffleboard at the Growler Garage. We also had a craft beer tour of Burlington in a heavy thunderstorm, which included scoring free drinks from a band, harvesting pickled vegetables and staying out partying way too late.