L is for Long Trail Part 5 – Stowe, USA, to Canada

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Written by Lucie.

Part five 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 16, Stowe to Bear Hollow Shelter, 10.5 miles

After a late night out in Burlington, Lucie and LD took the 5:25am commuter bus to Jeffersonville. We had to work hard to flag down the bus in Burlington it never has passengers on the outbound journey and so the driver was not expecting anyone to be at the stop. We got out at the junction with VT Route 108 and got two hitches to get back to the trailhead.

Woo! Back on the trail and the weather is… Grey and damp.

It was still pretty grey and drizzling when we started hiking up to Sterling Pond, but the pond was very pretty and white ethereal in the stillness.

Apparently, Sterling Pond has a resident moose. We didn’t see it though.

As we walked further and further north we found that the Long Trail begins to hold a pretty loose definition of what counts as a path. At least when compared to the southern half. In particular, having a reasonable gradient is not a concern. You need to get to the other side of a big mountain? Just go straight up it. It’s a sketchy tree root staircase? No problem. Vertical face of rock? Up you go! Cascading brook? Totally counts as a path.

As such, the hike up to Madonna Peak, was very slow and wet and slippery. The deluge of rain had turned all areas of dirt into bogs, and every step on rock or a tree root had only a 50:50 chance of getting grip. This general trend continued for the next few days making our progress very slow.

Eventually, we made it to Whiteface Shelter and we were very shocked and disheartened by how long it had taken us. We had lunch and then trudged on over Whiteface Mountain, down to some brooks. The path quality started improving and we reached Bear Hollow Shelter where, for the sake of morale, we decided to call it quits for the day.

After a little while, other people started arriving at the shelter. First was Kurt, he was supporting Alyssa Godesky, who is an ultra runner. She was attempting to beat the fastest known time to complete the whole Long Trail. She had set off from the Canadian border that morning and was due to arrive at the shelter at about 11:30pm. For reference, we expected to take another four days to reach Canada, by which point she would (and I think did) reach Massachusetts.

Next, arrived a man called Paul who was heading south, Chaser, who turned out to be the woman we met at lunchtime at Peru Peak Shelter a full two weeks earlier, and Sprinkles, who was hiking with Chaser, Apricot and Baloo.

Day two

Hiking day 17, Bear Hollow Shelter to Corliss Camp, 15.9 miles

This day’s hike started with an easy walk along a logging road, then a cycle path, and we were averaging 3.5mph and feeling pretty good. We crossed Route 15, then some water, then a really overgrown patch of ground, then a bridge over the main flow of Lamoille River. This took us up to morning tea – yummy dried mango and almonds.

Next, we started hiking uphill to a second Prospect Rock (we had lunch on a Prospect Rock before reaching the town of Manchester at the end of section one). We continued on to Roundtop Shelter where we stopped to eat lunch at a picnic table. We noticed that, like many shelters, there were pieces of string hanging from the rafters with an upside, empty bottle or tin about halfway down. These are so you can hang things in the shelter, but rodents can’t get to whatever you have hung up. Not very interesting on its own. However, in this shelter the rodent shields were made of beer cans: Heady Topper (revered Vermont craft beer), and Fosters. I’d happily forgotten that Fosters even existed.

A little way down from the shelter was a water pump, which was a short metal thing you had to prime (by pouring in about 0.3L of clean water) and physically pump for a minute to get the water flowing. It was quite fun and very rewarding! The water was nice and cool. We left the shelter just as Sprinkles and co were arriving.

Some nice forest.

Next, our hike took us to a small road, followed by a few streams, now with some water, and Codding Hollow Brook. The latter supposedly has a series of waterfalls but even following all of the rain, the water level was not that high and the waterfall was pretty weak and unimpressive.

We started uphill on a very nicely graded section. As we were climbing Laraway Mountain a new thunderstorm started up. We heard thunder before it began raining, but soon there are waterfalls hitting the path, caused by a large overhanging rock. Mark considered stopping for a shower but we continued on. The path disappeared for a bit and we found ourselves hiking up a rocky stream, now spotted with very excited frogs.

Shortly after we found a great lookout and the sun came back out. There were really nice views to Madonna, Mansfield and maybe even Killington, and as we snacked we were joined by Chaser and then the rest of the Tramily (trail family).

Damn it feels good to stretch.

Last 2.8 miles into Corliss Camp were uneventful. We went down for a wash in the stream and were joined at the hut by the rest of the crew. We shared sweet tastes around the dinner table and listened to coyotes howling nearby.

As we got settled down for the night a lone headlamp bobbed up to the doorway and Shrooms arrived after a long and eventful day that included being lost for a long time.

Thunder rumbled through the night.

Day three

Hiking day 18, Corliss Camp to Tillotson Camp, 14.5 miles

After leaving camp we first had to climb Butternut Mountain, which was another viewless (wooded) summit. We continued on through the woods, past trees and streams and reached Spruce Ledge Camp where we stopped for lunch. A short while later, Shrooms arrived and joined the feast. There was a nice view of Mount Belvidere from the shelter.

Next, we entered the Devil’s Gulch. This is a gully and the ground is a jumble of large boulders. It started to rain, which made us quite slow to navigate the large steps and slippery rocks. It was very interesting though, and quite different to anything we had hiked through up until that point. Just outside of the gully we saw huge paw prints in the dirt… I wonder who, or what, they belonged to!

Amazing views from the foot of the fire tower.

We crossed over a small road (VT118, Eden Crossing) and were very excited to have an easy uphill hike to Mount Belvidere. Finally, we were thoroughly back into the swing of things! It was a quick 0.2 mile walk off of the trail to reach the summit and the fire tower. The views from here were amazing – mountains, forest, rocky outcrops, wind farms, water. While we were up there the colours stayed to change, warning us of an approaching storm. Then the thunder started to rumble and we quickly climbed down from the tall, metal framed tower and scrambled down the trail to our packs.

I’m sure that being up this tall metal structure is totally safe in an electrical storm.

We set off downhill and once again our estimated arrival time at the next waypoint was thwarted by extended sections of bog and loose, wet, moss-covered rocks masquerading as a path. Clearly, we had begun to feel cocky and the Long Trail decided that we needed to be put back in our place. The downhill continued the whole way to Tillotson Camp. The first 1.5 miles was very hard – steep, slippery, boggy… The second 1.5 miles was easier but we were getting really tired so it seemed difficult and we stopped for a quick sugar boost. Eventually, we reached the beaver pond and then camp and found the tramily already there. We had a wash in river, got lots of water and cooked dinner.

It was dark by the time Shrooms arrived and we forced some garlicky mashed potato and then some dark chocolate on her before she collapsed into her sleeping bag. We watched the moon rise before turning in ourselves.

Day four

Hiking day 19, Tillotson Camp to Jay Camp, 11.7 miles

Our penultimate day on the trail! We began by passing a pond and climbing up about 500m to skirt the double apex of Tillotson Peak. We then dropped down to a stream and started up the other side.

After a bit of undulating we got up to the summit of Haystack Mountain, which afforded us some decent views.

We dropped steeply down to a road and climbed up towards Hazen’s Notch campsite where we had lunch. Again, the terrain was pretty tricky for most of the morning so we were more than ready to stop for lunch, even though we had only covered about 6 miles (plus all the up and down).

Lost in the forest.

We managed to burst one of our Sawyer water bags at lunch but luckily we had a spare. Once again, Shrooms caught up with us during lunch and we took her dehydrated meal so that we could get it cooking and have a hot meal ready for her if she was late into camp again.

After lunch, and several other smaller peaks, we hiked up Buchanan Mountain, which was a wooded summit. However, shortly thereafter we reached Chet’s Lookout to make up for the lack of views, or so we thought. Chet’s Lookout was a large boulder with a very slanted ladder leaving up against it (not attached to the rock on any way). Once standing on the rock we were entertained to discover that the Lookout does not offer any views whatsoever. It is completely surrounded by tall trees. Perhaps Chet was eight feet tall.

We had a few more peaks to conquer before the end of the day and Lucie was happy to meet Leap Frog to chat to on the climbs. Mark was less impressed by new company because he was already super excited to be climbing up Domey’s Dome. This is the legit name of the mountain! There were no views but Mark got a photo with the small ‘Domey’s Dome’ sign and sang his “Domey Domey Domey Domey” song, which he had been perfecting on the hike up.

He is SO happy about Domey’s Dome!

The last named peak for the day was Gilpin Mountain. After that we descended to cross over Jay Pass and reach Jay Camp.

We had a campfire with the tramily and Shrooms made great time and reached camp in time to join in the fun. We also camped with Leap Frog and another new hiker called Sadie who we would see again at Journey’s End.

Day five

Hiking day 20, Jay Camp to Journey’s End, 11.0 miles

Our last day on the trail had gorgeous weather. We started out by climbing up Jay Peak – the last big peak heading northbound, at 3,862 feet (1,177 m). It was a fun climb, mostly because it was dry! In the wet it would probably stuck because it was lots of big steps, rocks and some scrambling. From the top of the peak we had amazing views and could see well into Canada.

Hanging out on Jay Peak.

After a snack and some photos at the top we set off down the ski trails and through the wilderness. This was very steep again and quasi a bit wet and slippery in some places. We reached Laura Woodward Shelter but kept going, next hiking over Doll Peak. We stopped for lunch with Shrooms, next to a stream 1.3 miles south of Shooting Star Shelter because we had heard that this was the only reliable water for the rest of the trail. Our lunch consisted of finishing up lots of things, and contained a LOT of sugar. This meant that we were all a bit hyperactive between lunch and camp and made really good time.

When we reached the camp we signed the book for the time and started the last few miles to Canada. This was quickly accompanied by a sugar crash (we need to quit sugar after this!) but fortunately we found a glut of raspberries to top up on.

Shooting Star Shelter is the last stop before Journey’s End at the Canadian border.

We went over Burnt Mountain, then North Jay Pass, at which point we had only 2.6 miles to go! Mark started to get sentimental and take lots of photos, and we all started to feel eager to reach the end. After summitting Carleton Mountain it was all, literally, downhill to Canada. We reached the sign, making the start /end of the Long Trail to the north and then found the obelisk, which denotes the USA-Canada border. It sits in strip of cleared forest, which is a few metres wide and runs as far as you can see, marking the boundary between the two countries.

Is this relief or exhaustion?

After taking a few photos we started walking towards Journey’s End (on a continuation of the same trail) and immediately found Hot Mess and her dog Scoop. We went back to the sign where we had some sparkling wine and more photos.

We made it!

Eventually, we walked past Journey’s End Camp to the car park where Hot Mess had more drinks, watermelon and other snacks! We drove to Colchester (just north of Burlington) where we went out for dinner and then all showered and slept in real beds.