Friday, August 28, 2015

Going Back to The Whites on Lafayette and Lincoln

I really was not going to hike until September... I was going to give myself and Lil' Nugget a nice break and maybe get a few things done. I did not count on the real world having such a slow integration (not that I am complaining) or for the weather to be... Perfect. So, early in the week, I thought I'd head up the ridge, thinking it would be a nice little hike. Then I realized that 3 of my trail friends from the LT/AT were going to be on the ridge too. So, I stopped and picked up some goodies in hopes that I would run into them. Call me crazy but after my two weeks on the trail, I get it and I get the value of someone gifting you with a tasty snack. I may have only gone 151 miles and these guys are going a lot further but I still understand what happens. The trail changes you... And it makes you hungry (literally and figuratively). I needed to get back on the trails again and So, I hiked Franconia Ridge (half of it anyway), as a nice welcome back to the Whites. We left the house by 5:30am and hit the trail around 8am. Deciding to go up Old Bridal Path and then down either by Liberty or ducking down Falling Waters... It depended on how the day went and how far I wanted to go. 

Starting out, we of course stop by my favorite tree. A picture with just Lil' Nugget this time... As we were getting back on trail, someone was running at us waving and a little manic. He was asking to hike with me but the energy really creeped me out. He wanted to hike with me because he was "scared of bears".... After declining due to not knowing him, and reassuring him that there were no bears in the area (and hoping that didn't bite me later), he seemed to pass on by. I shook it off and got back to it. There are a few things that I suddenly notice: 1. My pack is so light, I feel like I am cheating. 2. My legs are very strong and I'm not even getting winded anymore. And 3. Lil' Nugget does not want to do this yet. I think she believes we are in for another 151 miles. So, after some convincing that we are only in it for a few hours today and that we will go to our home and not a tent or shelter, she get's her groove going again. We're on the Old Bridal path and really enjoying how easy it is to move up the trail. There's no trail work that needs to be done as these trail are so well traveled. We are then passed by a group of slow moving students who have a croquet set on them... Not interested in seeing what they will do with this. We hike to our own beat and soon hit the ledges for Agony Ridge... The view is... Classically clouded and I laugh to myself and say "Well played Lafayette... Well played". 

I love this section but usually, I am very winded and looking for breaks. I've barely needed a break today and we seem to be moving pretty good now. We take in both the clouds and the sun on agony ridge and then begin the Agonies... The ups from Agony ridge. Seeing as I am use to these with snow, this is well, different. The rocks are very smooth and yet where I am usually worried about slipping, I just step right up. Yes, the trail does change you after a while and I am happy with he changes. Seems to take no time to get through the agonies and then to hit the hut... And the clouds roll in. So, we have a seat outside the front door and I have some tuna (yep, tuna!). Lil' Nugget also has a few snacks. We try and take a long enough break to see if it clears up. After all, I saw from Agony Ridge that it was clear going towards Liberty. Unfortunately, it was also chilly still and it seems that everyone wants to pat Lil' Nugget but she's not too interested in being social. I wouldn't either if I just hiked my butt off twice as much as any human. Give a girl a break.... Let her snooze while her owner eats. 

  So, after a little bit of time, we head up the Greenleaf trail and begin making our way to the summit. It's chilly, so my layers are back on but I'm not wearing anything winter related which is great. There are no views of the hut as we move up and keep going. We run into Larry who gives us the news of another hiker having a hip replaced. Amazing what happens when you take two weeks off to hike in another state. Great to begin to run into familiar faces though. Again, I note that I am not struggling at all on the trail today. I'm very pleased with this as yet another change from my Long Trail experience. The trail is also in good shape No real maintenance needed and it's not even really wet (yay! No mud!). Before we know it, we are at the summit and it's an absolute zoo in the clouds... The students have set up a croquet set in the shelter of the foundation up there and there are people in costumes and what not... I'm really not interested in this. I can appreciate it but it's not my thing. I just want to hike now. I don't need silly costumes or any kind of agenda to get up and over a mountain. To each their own. We don't stay too long but think that we'll forgo the crowd and try and punch through this cloud over the summit. I'm also thinking that my 3 trail friends have already passed over the ridge so, we continue hiking down Lafayette and then Lil' Nugget starts with the butt wiggling... She recognizes someone and is excited for it. It's Rigga! We pop down and catch up for a little while. Lil' Nugget gets plenty of love from her too. I give her some chocolate I had packed in with the intent of giving it out and we try and wait for Boston and Yeti to show (they were waiting for the clouds to clear on Lincoln). What a nice visit right here on the side of the mountain, talking about our experiences and Rigga talks about how the mileage has gone down for them. The understanding is that it's the Whites... It's not a flat trail anymore and they are so thrilled to be hiking through on a good weekend (Hoping to be on Washington by Sunday). You'd think I'd get a picture together but no.... My brain doesn't work that way sometimes. It's all good though. Today was turning into a great day. She's off to have lunch on Lafayette and I keep moving down the trail after I woke Lil' Nugget up from her nap.

Shortly after visiting with Rigga, come the other two (Boston and Yeti). I had hiked  with these guys a little. Or at least met them at a few shelters and then camped with them at the base of Stratton Mountain on the AT/LT in Vermont. Just all around great energy from these 3 and I was happy to provide them with some chocolate goodies to get them through. As I was hiking though, the views were coming again. The clouds were clearing and all three of them talked about how magnificent the Whites were. Tough but very picturesque was the gist that I got from them all. They had an awesome experience on my favorite peak (Sunrise and set on Mt. Liberty). Again, I neglected the pictures together but that's OK again. Boston really gives Lil' Nugget another dose of love and I think she was really happy to see these guys too (judging by the level of butt wiggling and smiling). We then continued on our way as they continued on their way to Maine. 

We had some great views heading over to Lincoln and Lil' Nugget and I just enjoyed the walk. It was breezy but not unbearable cold and we eventually made it to Lincoln (we took our time) and stood talking with another Thru Hiker but the name of Luigi. He gladly accepted my last bag of chocolate covered cherries and was most appreciative. We talked for a long time about hiking and how much a long distance hike affects you. We of course cracked jokes about the weather and about the smell too. It felt good for me to reconnect with this mentality. It seemed to really lift my spirits and bring me back to where I was a week ago. It would not be long now before we hit Little Haystack and ducked back below tree line. I savored every last minute of this hike including another great conversation with a hiker from New York. Not a Thru hiker but someone who "gets it". The trail really does change you and you do need time to adjust again after a long distance hike. 

We made our way through gargoyles and seemed to get over run by a school group. Lil' Nugget and I just pulled over to enjoy a view while they all past us. We were in no hurry. The views at this point were going on for miles and the sun was feeling very warm. I took my layer off and continued to hike on. Once we arrived a Little Haystack, it was an empty summit.... Wait a minute, that NEVER happens. But we quietly sat and enjoyed some peace before the next wave appeared and then we need to get moving down below tree line. 

We passed by the water falls on falling waters trail and there were some that were climbing up Cloudland Falls with ropes and what not. They looked like they were having a good time although I heard one say that it was cold. It was really all down hill from Little Haystack as we made our way back to the car. I didn't much care for keeping track of the time, the peaks, or what others were doing today... I just wanted to hike and stay in that peaceful feeling for a little while. Lil' Nugget at first was not too keen on the hike (thinking we were going distance) but soon got her groove going. We had a fabulous day on one of our favorite ridges and while it was a little crowded, we enjoyed it very much. All trails are in fantastic shape and easy to travel. 

I have written about how much the Long trail had changed me... I've felt stronger, not only on the trail but off too. I've been telling anyone we run into what I have done as well as what my dog has done (she's a little dog... Not a whole lot of little dogs do this!). So, I am taking advantage of the bragging rights. It's not that I did a Thru either... A section but a pretty big one at that. It was on this journey that I grew stronger... Nice to hike today and feel like my legs could handle it, my lungs were not taxed to the point of needing to rest, and finally feeling like I could handle the steepness that is the White Mountains of New Hampshire. You gain a certain perspective on the trail too. Being less concerned with others and more concerned for yourself, you begin to hike as if no one else matters. You can't control anything but your own actions. I'm am forever grateful for this lesson in particular. It's something that I have needed for a long time. Happy to have the sun on my face today as well as the breeze to keep me cool. We had a full day on the trails and went home with big smile son our faces (yes, Lil' Nugget too).   

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Division Eight... Just a little: Cooley Glen to Lincoln Gap... Then Home.

Day 16: 8/22/15: Glen Cooley Shelter to Lincoln Gap to Jaffrey, NH

I have to say that I didn't sleep well last night. Maybe it was the anticipation of leaving trail. I felt I was ready and that I had accepted it as finally here. Slowly, I got up. I had coffee because that was all I had left. Then Isis ate the last of her food too. I packed up and quiet as a mouse, I got on trail. It was clearing up bit from the morning overcast but it had not rained. As I was leaving, Mike T's brother passed me the last orange and I told him I would have it for second Breakfast on Sunset Ledge.

The mud of course was plentiful as were the rocks that were slick from the morning. The first thing up was a climb of Mt. Grant. It was an easy .8 with decent grades though both hard wood and fur trees. Jonny Appleseed caught up to me and I slowed down just a little. 4.7 miles goes quickly and I didn't want to leave trail too early. I turned to look at the view and almost slipped on a rock. Jonny sat down to tape his feet as he was having foot pain that was not blister related( I thought it was a bunion). His neon orange duct tape was super bright. We took turns leap frogging a little and then I let him get way ahead. I wanted to savor the time. The next 3.9 miles seemed to fly by.

As we approached the ledges, Labeled sunset ledge on the map, I thought it should be renamed for the plural. We chose one for Second Breakfast but it was not the one apparently. Then we continued to navigate over them as the day hikers were pouring in. I kept to myself so I did not ruin these moments I was experiencing. It was not long now until I saw it... The end.

I stopped and for a moment I froze and looked back. Then I looked forward again at the cars and the people every where. Everyone was laughing and moving around so fast. Do I have to go forward? Can I just wait a minute? I'm really not ready for this. All that stuff about acceptance, forget it. I want to keep going. I want to stay on trail! But instead, I walked forward into the noise and I just started to cry. I looked at Jonny Appleseed who was sitting on the ground waiting for his ride and said that I didn't expect to get so emotional over my ending. This continued to spill out of me when my parents came. I was overwhelmed by food and dogs, and emotions, and heat, and memories, and I could not put anything into words. After I changed in the woods, I cried and cried on the ground and tried to eat a sandwich which seemed to be an EPIC fail. I want to go home was all I could say. What I really wanted to say was let me stay in the quiet, I am not ready for the noise of real life and I'm way too overwhelmed by everyone right now. Once I came around and back to myself a little, we loaded up the car and I was on my way home...

Division Eight... Started. To be continued in 2016

I'm not sure if I can accurately put into words how much the trail has changed me. I feel stronger now than I ever have. I feel I have a new appreciation for a less complicated life and I have less tolerance for the unkind and selfish acts of people. At the same time too I feel really overwhelmed still by the world around me. I like the slower times on the trail. The basics... I'm going to get up and walk today. My only responsibility is to care for myself and for Isis. I don't have to worry about what I look like or how I dress. I just have to walk and enjoy the world around me. It's hard to do that in the real world because it's so loud and cold sometimes. Give me the warmth of a fire on my toes and less in your face opinions of people who barely matter. Give me fun conversations around a picnic table or just sitting the ground rather than trying to compete for attention and hoping that someone notices me. The trail changed me for the better and I hope that I can carry some of these feeling with me throughout the rest of my life. 

I'm not done with the Long Trail yet... Planning for 2016 starts in a few weeks after a rest. 

I'm not sure of my future in the Whites... I'll hike them but how serious I remain, remains to be seen. There is a BIG world out there beyond the Whites just begging me to come see it.

I've been home for a little over 24 hours... Eaten a lot but trying not to gain back the 10 pounds I lost. I have yet to turn on the TV. 

If any one is interested in viewing my pictures they have been set to public only Facebook Page. jus follow the link to the right. Thanks for ready my story but really, it has only just begun. :)  

The Long Trail Division Seven: Brandon Gap to Cooley Glen

Day 13 Continued... 8/19/15: Brandon Gap to Sucker Brook Shelter

Going down to US 73, we crossed the busy road and after a field, we began climbing rock stairs. It was .7 up to the Great Cliffs of Mt. Horrid. These were beautiful and offered 180* views of the valley below. I spent a little time out there just soaking in these final sights. The end was coming fast and while I was getting excited, I also wanted to put the brakes on. 

We then continued back on the trail to Mt. Horrid. which had a nice vista to look out over as well. The breeze was welcoming so, we kept moving on down the trail a little and then up again to Cape Lookoff Mountain with another great view. The trails have been a mix of rocks and roots and starting to resemble The White Mountains I know so well. This also signals that we are getting close to the 4 remaining 4K peaks. After a few miles of ups and downs, some slips and falls, I arrived at Gillespie Peak. It's been a long day already and with 2 miles to go, Isis and I begin descending. My feet are so tired, I'm probably a little dehydrated too from the sun. We took it slow and navigated the rocks and stairs to finally arrive at Sucker Brook Shelter. Jonny Appleseed was already there and I was followed shortly by some of the kids, Mike T, and the family had also arrived. Some of the kids however were still out there. Slowly, I get camp set up away from everyone so that they have the bigger sites and I ate dinner as did Isis. Then we joined the crowd for a fire. I died my socks on the hot fire ring. I also propped my feet up so they got a good chance to dry out too. It was one of the best feelings in the world. My heart was full this night. I felt really good again. I felt whole for the first time in a long time. 

Tomorrow, I could do 7.6 to Boyce which is closed but I can tent there or I can do 9.6 and stay at Skyline Lodge...

Day 14: 8/20/15: Sucker brook to Skyline Lodge

Here's what I've been thinking about this whole trip... Peak bagging, The Lists, The Grid, None of it really matters any more. Spend time out on a long distance hike with just yourself and maybe your dog if you are lucky and see what you learn and what suddenly matters and doesn't matter any more.  Out here on the trail, it seems that just making it anywhere, be it one mile or 20 is what matters and if you got up and over a peak, that's fantastic. As long as you make it somewhere to share some time with someone (or maybe just a quiet night with yourself to think), you're ahead of the game. Numbers don't matter. Having the time of your life is what matters. Smiles not miles. Do you give up or do you keep going? What pushes you on when it rains and the only choice you have is to walk? I'm not really sure what it is for me. I just know that there was somethingI had to see through to the end. Something I needed to complete. I still have two days left and tomorrow and Saturday are low mileage days. I can take it easy finally. This has been an endurance test for me. The day in and day out walking has been a good experience. Not sure yet how I feel about going back to The Whites either. I guess we'll see. 

Today was not a hard day but it certainly was not easy either. The high miles have done a number on my feet and they just hurt now. As I left Sucker Brook this morning, I took it slow. Footing was good so I was able to move at a decent pace for me. It was a pretty good climb up Worth Mountain too. Passing through the ski slopes, I stopped dat a lift where Jonny Appleseed was resting. A chair was in the perfect spot for a photo and I asked him to take my picture with Isis. After a rest, We continued to Middleburg Gap and the road. The descend was gradual. After this, we began climbing again up Burnt Hill which had some nice open spots to catch the sun. It also had a relatively flat walk once you got up to elevation. I did really enjoy this. descending down and then up to Kirby peak, I passed by Boyce Shelter which is not structurally sound and closed. A long ascent to Mt. Boyce followed by a rough 2.1 miles to skyline lodge where we would find our home for the night. 

As it would turn out, there was rain moving in and even though I had set up my tent, I asked Jonny Appleseed if I could stay in the shelter with Isis and agreed to ask Mike T when he arrived too. Since it was originally going to be just the 3 of us, it was OK. As the night wore on, the 3 of us plus Isis turned into about 16 of us in a 14 person shelter. Everyone took shelter form the early rain. Sleep was hard this night. Still, I was happy because my gear was dry!

Day 15: 8/21/15: Skyline Lodge to Cooley Glen

Wow! Day 15 already and at the same time, I never thought I would get here. In a sense, I thought that I would have quit a long time ago. But here I am and this morning, I woke up too rain at Skyline Lodge. It was a slow morning with oatmeal and coffee to get me on my way. I put on the rain poncho m mother had given me (A free one from my cousins triathlon in London of all places!) and set out for Glen Cooley. I should arrive there around lunch time. Since it was cloudy and drizzly to start, I skipped the summit spur to Breadloaf and took a break at Emily Proctor Shelter. the rain had already lightened up so, I figured that it would b a nice day after all. Of course, the other hiker at the shelter seemed to report that Armageddon was happening... and he was not sure how he was going to make it to Skyline. We set out again for Glen Cooley undistorted up and over Mt. Wilson. The rocks were slick but the view was worth it. 

Coming back to the LT, I got a little turned around initially and headed back south. Corrected, I was on my way again but got turned around again whenI saw the Clark Brook trail. Again, I got on track and headed in the right direction. I went up and over an un-named peak and then the long walk Mt. Cleveland. With only a few blazes, it make sit a challenge to get there. There were a number of ups and downs to this trail too and every up seemed to fool me into thinking I was there. Oh, and the mud was back... Deep. As we walked, we caught up to Let it go and Lost and Found the father and son from Russia. I know I had to have been close now and with one great big push, down a steep trail, we arrived at Glen Cooley. My final shelter at 1pm. I sat in the sun and dried my feet again. Footsie, Water Boy, and their sister were having lunch with Jonny Appleseed. It was nice to have a group good bye as they were all moving on the Lincoln Gap tonight along with the Russians who were continuing to Batel Shelter. I was happy to rest here for the night. Mike T was the last to arrive and I set up my tent shortly after he came. His brother met him at the shelter too as they will walk out and off trail together tomorrow. The school group did also arrive and kind of awkwardly set up camp around us. I will say that it has been fun to see them all progress to what they referred to as "Thru hiker speed". Mike T's brother brought up candy and an fruit (including oranges!). I was in heaven! I had been craving citrus since Stratton Mountain.

A chill set in me and I went to my tent with Isis. I took some quiet time to think as well as try and sleep. Tomorrow, I am excited and sad to go home. Only a 4.7 mile day tomorrow.

Division Seven Completed!

Division Six of the Long Trail: US 4 to Brandon Gap

Day Eleven Continued: 8/17/15: US 4 to the Former Tucker Johnson Shelter Area. 

I ran across the three lanes of traffic on US 4 and found empty trail magic when I got there. Now, it was one mile to the Maine Junction. Less than 500 miles to Katahdin for my NoBo Thru Hiker friends. Isis and I fought up the trail. My feet were hurting and she was being distracted and defiant as well as tired. I was getting tired also and wanted to go home again. So, I stopped. I fixed my feet as best I could in my muddy shoes and then I kept going in spite of wanting to go home. I kept going up that steep trail to the Maine junction. I would not see any of my NoBo friends that were behind me any more. So, I said a silent good luck to Tumbles and Scout, Rigga, Boston, and Yeti, and 4B as well. I would no longer hear Tumbles laugh and say, "You know what? Today, I think I'll walk". I made the turn down the Long Trail solo. Not another soul around. It was so quiet I could hear my own thoughts. It was very spooky but we opted to stay at Tucker Johnson. The tent site was right on the trail so, I figured someone might walk by. It was full of bugs too so, I ate and we went directly in the tent. It was an early night for sure. Early to bed and early to rise meant more miles and right now there is 11.2 planned. 

I'm tired, sore, and in bad need of a shower. Everything smells of greasy me. I'm really looking forward to that on Saturday.

Day 12: 8/18/15: Former Tucker Johnson Shelter to David Logan Shelter.

As I looked around that night, everything is dirty. I'm dirty and so is the dog. I have hot spots on my feet but not enough to make me hate the day. Today was a hard day. I got going from Tucker Johnson fine but I was sluggish as the day wore on. The humidity is a little unreal for August or maybe not? I'm officially on just the LT and it's so quiet. There is hardly anyone out here now. We managed the trails pretty good over rocks and roots with a few streams for Isis to drink from. I wanted to take it slow today. Isis always has other ideas and is full of energy that she burns so quick. It was 3.6 to second breakfast at Rolston Rest. and in-between there were active logging roads. With people actually logging. I encountered some of the worst mud in this section and it smelled worse than me.

So, we press on and I remain conscious of my feet at this point. We make it to Rolston Rest and I send out a quick message about my pick up while I am thinking of it and have service. My phone is dying but I am hoping to charge it tonight. It was good to hear from mother and I think at this point, I was finally home sick or ready for a shower. Two tough days today and tomorrow and could use encouragement. I sat at the shelter and spied and jar of peanut butter... It was just sitting there and no one was around. So, I find my spoon. It's good and I have 4 big spoonfuls plus Isis gets one too. We get ready for the next 5.5 miles push to telephone gap with more mud but no more logging. We gain some elevation but nothing like Killington. I enjoy the little overlook views but it's hazy today. I'm also discovering that I can't keep taking pictures of the same trail over and over so, the dog is now my subject. And flowers. I pass the time thinking of hiking The Whites in winter. I am also now aware that this is the toughest thing I have ever done in my life. What was I thinking at almost 43, I was thinking that this would be a good way to grow. I was right.

The 5.5 miles seems to take forever with lots of ups and downs. I'm going over a ridge and the drop downs into the gaps are thin trails that put my feet at awkward angles. I struggled here a lot between the heat and the trail. We stop on a rock for lunch and I know I need to break more. I need to remember that I have plenty of time. Continuing on, it's more ups and downs into and out of gaps. It does not seem to follow my map which shows a pretty straight forward curve. I'm taking extra turns it seems and I'm getting more than a little angry as every turn I think I'm there an I am not. I am wondering if I need to re-think my 13 mile day and really I just need to remember to slow down and think as well as rest. Stay the course. Soon, I run into a school group heading to the same shelter. I hope it's quiet is all I can think. The turn for the new Boston trail takes forever and I swear the trail threw in a few other twists too. We finally hit the spur to the shelter and it's a down trail. So, we are there in no time. I take the first site by the water source and set up camp. It was a small site so that would leave the bigger ones for the school group. I get water and it's really good. Almost Garfield spring quality good. The school groups filter in and I talk with Mike T and Jonny Appleseed at the shelter for a while. As I get tired, I crawl into my tent and hope for a quiet night and a better tomorrow.

Day 13: 8/19/15: David Logan Shelter to Brandon Gap

Today was hopefully the last of the long days. I was planning 13 miles over several peaks and it was going to be tough. My feet are already shredded and I have wrapped them in bandages I had intended for the dog. This morning started out great at least. We hit the trail after packing up around 7:30am. The walk to Sunrise shelter for lunch was pretty flat through most of the gaps. It was a decent walk up high with little views here and there. The landscape was still hazy but the breeze was nice and very welcome. Isis and I leap frogged the school group of high school kids. They had stayed a David Logan with us last night and seemed to be handling it well. There were several bridges to cross and some had water where some had dried up. At 11:30am we arrived at Sunrise, making good time today for a rest and for lunch. We were joined by the school kids too and had a chance to talk. Some seemed to be struggling but others were doing quite well. After a nice rest, we set out around noon time. Within no time, we arrived at the road in Brandon Gap. Next came the tough part.

Division Six Completed!

The Long Trail Division Five: Vt. 140 to US 4

Day Nine Continued... 8/15/15: Vt. 140 to Minerva Hinchey Shelter.

After leaving our trail friends, we were on to Bear Mountain and then Minerva Hinchey shelter for the night. Bear Mountain, just about did me in and put me over the edge as it was steep. But even before that I had to navigate some pretty tough surroundings with a water crossing that was confusing. There were also people... Novice hikers who really didn't know what they were doing and looked at me like I was crazy as I told them to turn back. So, back to Bear Mountain. This peak was full of switchbacks and it was marked as if they were junctions. It was very confusing and of course very hot! I don't think the trail actually went up and over but skirted around the summit. 1.7 miles we hiked and then we had the .9 down to Minerva for the night. This was a long .9 as all I wanted to do was get off my feet. There was also thunder rolling around. I had to get to some kind of cover soon. I was determined to get there. 

Of course, when we got there, who was there but... Beast. And he was smoking cigarette in the shelter too. Bleck! Looks like I'll have to tent it tonight and the gear will be wet again. I was running low on water so after I quickly set up the tent, I went to the spring which was barely flowing. I stopped into the shelter briefly to sign the log book but explained that I would not be staying since the smoking really bothered me (truth, it makes me sick). He seemed offended. I didn't care. Just as I got back to the tent, it started pouring. Looks like tuna for dinner and I'll have to figure out meals for the remainder. Seems like I shorted myself a little and may have to stretch it out. I also dressed my feet. First I cleaned them up and then I popped the blisters. So much fun! I accidentally stabbed my sleeping pad so out came the duct tape. Isis went to bed early too as she was very tired and probably a little stressed. I ended up taping my feet up and we'll see how they do tomorrow. It's still very muggy and I barely slept in my sleeping bag but more use it as a blanket over both of us. Tomorrow, we have 9.5 miles which is not as bad as we have been doing.

Day Ten: 8/16/15: Minerva Hinchey to Gov. Clement Shelter.

Last night was a rough night with the rain and the thunder/lightening as well as everything else that went wrong. I was hot too which made it sticky sleeping and the smell was starting to get to me. Mostly bad hiker smell as I have not showered in ten days. Woke up early and decided to also duct tape my feet. Packed up my wet gear and started to head out. I didn't even bother going by the shelter. I just wanted to hit the trail again. It was pretty dismal with no sun to speak of. The tape only feet actually helped and popping the blisters was for the best too. It was 2.7 miles to the crossing at 103. It was relatively flat which probably helped me out a lot. But it was slick from the rain and on a few down sections, I fell. I sort of set into a rhythm and enjoyed the quiet morning. Not a soul around, just me and Isis for a change. Nothing much really mattered today. Not miles, not time, not anyone or any thing. As we climbed, I saw a plastic chair at an out look. Naturally, I stopped. I viewed a beautiful undercast that had overtaken Clarendon Gorge. I was in awe once more and gained some much needed perspective. Climbing down to 103 was slick and slow. It was already humid out too.

We then found ourselves at the trail head for 103. There was another water cache there and I quickly traded out my water. Better to have clean water than dirty. The Russians also pulled up from another off trail excursion. They seem to be spending more time off than on trail lately. So, I got myself together and got moving. I just didn't feel like hiking with anyone today. As we crossed the busy road, the sun came out and hit me hard. It was another warm day. Through the field we walked and then scrambled up Carendon Gorge. Wow! That was a ton of energy I just put out there. Clarendon out look was pretty as it over looked the town. I was more interested in the mile I had to lunch at Clarendon Shelter. Everyone was clearing out once we got there so, we took some quiet time and rested. The shelter itself was nice. Right by a stream and had some grassy areas too. Lunch was of course... Tuna.

Then it was the long climb up Beacon Hill which it turns out is just a cell tower. A good walk over a ridge and then a series of road walks. I would basically get to a road and then climb, ridge walk, down, road walk, and start all over again. After this series, it was  3 miles to Gov. Clement shelter. It was a nice walk there and we crossed paths with a few NoBo's at the 500 mile mark for Katahdin (The Dirty Peanut Crew). At the shelter, I was joined by 4B, Jonny Appleseed, and Beast... Surprisingly, it was an OK night. As we all sat and talked, Nobo's would breeze in and keep going. Some were doing big 30 mile days. I get it. At this point, it's 500 miles (now less) to Katahdin and they want to get there. The push for them is on. Me, I want to enjoy everything and savor the trip. I want to see it all. Hike your own hike is so big for me now.

Tomorrow, we go up and down Killington. The approach does not look too bad from this side. It's also going to be another 12.2 mile day.

Day Eleven: 8/17/15: Gov. Clement Shelter to the Former Tucker Johnson Shelter.

Today was a hard fought day. High mileage on tired feet and paws and a 4K for us to climb. I'm starting get those pangs for home too. Funny because I spend so much time running away from it. After breakfast and packing up, we head out. From the shelter, the trail goes up the back of Killington. A road walk first and then we head into the woods. It's humid again too and I'm already swimming in my dirty cloths. Although, I do know that it will be cooler up top. Isis and I climb the steep an narrow trail, I loose track of where I am at and at one point think I am ahead when I have 1.6 to go. Out of discouragement, I seem to start rearranging m plans. It's an automatic thing with me. I slow down. There's no need to do this, I have plenty of time. I huff and I puff up the mountain and we meet up with 4B at the Cooper Lodge which has seen better days. I head up the ski platforms and save my self the scramble. At this point, to go easy on my feet was the plan. At the top, I get my picture snapped by some day hikers who are full of questions. Small world, they are from Temple NH which is right next door to me.

The view as always is beautiful for my second visit to Killington and now Isis has climbed all the Vermont 4k's. We don't stay too long on the summit because we need to keep going. I had dropped my pack at Cooper Lodge so it was time to get back down there. We head out over the ridge to Pico and then split at Jungle Junction. I did note the temp change on the ridge and loved it. We perked up and continued. There were a few day hikers out and one SoBo but other than that, we ran into no one and our group was scattered as some were going to town. It was kind of eerie how the trails start to get quiet really quickly. As we reached Mendon Lookout, we begin to descend to the Churchill Scott shelter. It's a hard down this late in the day. We stop here and figure out that Tucker Johnson Shelter has burned down but they still allow tenting. So, my plan remains the same. It was only another 4 miles as we cut across another ridge that ran parallel to the road and then met a busy US 4.

Division Five Completed!

Division Four of the Long Trail: Mad Tom Notch to Vt 140

Day 8 Continued... 8/14/15: Mad Tom Notch to Lost Pond Shelter.

There was no real water source until after Baker Peak so, the water cache was really necessary and I was happy to have the water. Beast somehow got on trail and caught up. Showing up all sweaty and huffing and puffing. He picked up one of the jugs and took a big drink. I was slightly disgusted as people (like myself) use these to fill up our bladders. I said nothing though. Quiet and a mouse. I really wanted to distance myself from the Bromley crew. I felt the need to either be on my own or at least with people closer in age. We took our time heading up Styles Peak as we dealt with switchbacks and really hot temps. Once we got there, it was really crowded for the small view and we didn't stay long. There were other peaks to climb today too. Descending to a flat path, and then ascended almost immediately to rocks and switchbacks to Peru Peak. This day would be full of ups and downs. Isis and I were on our way to lunch at Peru Peak shelter. We were determined to make our goal again today. Peru Peak had no view so we went up and over without blinking. A lot of the peaks in Vermont have no markers so, you never even acknowledge the top. I kind of like this. It's just hiking. We descended to another flat section that lead up to lunch at the shelter with everyone that I was trying to get away from. They did not seem to welcoming any more. Isis and I had our lunch and talked to those that wanted to talk. The rest we let be. We had 5 more miles to go before our shelter for the night. 

It was now the heat of the day and I had my huge pack on still full of resupply. My feet were clumsy today too. Isis had some fits and stops in the heat as well but we kept going. As I walked, I started to think about the 48, the grid, Peak counting, and the general rat race in New Hampshire and I came to the conclusion that none of that really matters any more. Long distance hiking seemed to be way more fulfilling. I was struggling but still moving forward. Isis and I began to climb again and got to the junction (so we were told) for Baker Peak. I in turn told Giggly Gus what I was told about going around but as it turns out, you can't. We scrambled back over our tracks and up Baker to a beautiful view of Dorset Peak.

As we crested the top and took a break, the breeze was nonexistent. It was now two miles to my drop point for the night. Time to get moving and lucky for us, it was mostly down hill. The trail itself was a lot of bog bridges by the lake and then pretty flat. We ran back into Beast. Isis growled and he (a big "man") jumped. I kind of laughed... Most were moving on to the next shelter so, I was happy to stay put. We made camp at Lost Pond Shelter for the night with just a few sectioners like myself. It was nice and quiet. Isis and I had dinner, chatted and then went to our tent for the night.

There is no right or wrong way to hike. There is only YOUR way to hike. I really enjoy that mentality out here as we all hike our own hikes and come together at the end of the day... Who ever is at the shelter is always glad to see someone come in and sit and chat. I hike to Isis' pace and it works for us. She maxes out at about 12 miles so, we stop and rest. Tomorrow should be another 12 mile day.

Day 9: 8/15/15: Lost Pond Shelter to VT 140

As I sit here, in my tent, I have bandaged up hiker feet. Blisters were huge when I got into camp. I left this morning around 7am. The hike over started relatively flat and easy. I could feel my feet rubbing my shoes. I seemed to make it to big branch in no time so I sat and had a snack while Isis rested. It was a nice shelter, right on the river and seemed peaceful yet small. We continued to Little Rock Pond which was a decent 1.7 miles. The weather was warming up but the trail was mostly flat. Little Rock Pond was very nice once we got there. We stopped in at the shelter where Tumbles and Scout as well as Lost and Found and Let it go were having breakfast. Another snack break for us. We We chatted but didn't stay too long since we had many miles to cover. Lost and Found (who is 11) has really been teasing Isis so, I figured it would be best to move on. It was 5 miles to lunch given the distance that Greenwall Shelter was off the trail. Isis and I were slowing down a little again as my feet were clumsy and hurting. As we were walking though, I ran into someone I work with who was hiking South Bound. Funny I had forgotten that she was going to be out at this time too and didn't think I would run into her. Small world! As the heat of the day came in, we pressed on.

On our way to Greenwall Shelter, we passed a lot of Cairns that made the trail look like a sculptured rock garden. I also caught up to Magician who I met at my last shelter where I stayed the night and he was talking to some kids about hiking the AT. I stopped briefly but wanted to keep going. Beyond that group were three men... At first look, they had no shirts on. At second look, they had no pants on either. Just packs and shoes. Naked hikers! I did not take pics as that would be rude. I did talk with them and they were very nice. Tumbles was coming down the trail but ran back to warn Lost and Found as well as Let it go. Finally making it to Greenwall shelter, I stopped for lunch (Yay Tuna!). It was tempting to stay but I really wanted to stay on track at this point and take advantage of the good weather. Tumbles and Scout were taking another break to camp with their friend Wildcat who was heading South on the AT. I wished them all good luck as I did not know if I would see any of them again. The AT/LT split was coming soon. From Greenwall, it was down to Vt 140 to cross.

Division Four Completed!