(Sunset from Butler Lodge on the 3rd Night)
7/26/16 Day One: Winooski Foot Bridge to Buchanan Shelter
7.1miles/16.2 miles to Smuggler's Notch/90.7 Miles to Canada
It's been a rough vacation... Well, the first half anyway. After bailing out at Camel's Hump and going home, everything came crashing down around me. But, I didn't stay buried. I went up Mt. Monadnock and rose above. I repacked my pack, loosing 15lbs of dead weight in the process and got myself back to the trail. Our start point this time was the Winooski Bridge. Our end point will be Smuggler's Notch, up and over Mt. Mansfield (VT High Point) in 5 days. All the fun in-between is up to me and Isis.
Winooski Foot Bridge
This bridge cost 1 million in donations to build. There was no VT tax money used at all. I found this to be a pretty interesting fact. It was a great way to start out this leg of the journey for myself and Isis. The trail on the other side was flat and well groomed. It came out close to I89 and at the parking area, there is a library where you can take a book or leave a book... I opted to not as I didn't want the extra weight. It's still a very cool idea.
The trail so far has been good. After a short road walk, through a tunnel and up a steep hill, I am back in the woods and happy. It's humid today so the sweat is already pouring out of me and water stops are a must. There are not any water crossings so far and no seeps or puddles to draw from. With only 2L, I am hoping to make it to the shelter where there is bound to be a water source. We begin to climb and start to expel a little effort by Stimson Mountain. Not going over the summit but the trail skirts around it through a series of switch backs. On a humid day, it's enough to make you stop at the flat section of trail to catch your breath and drink some more water that you are trying to save. The good news is that from here, it's a wooded ridge walk. There are a few little bump ups but for the most part you are walking flat trail. I really enjoyed this after the effort that was put in to get here and was amazed that we arrived at Buchanan Lodge by 1:30pm (Starting at 9am). We are on a decent 1.5mph pace.
Buchanan Lodge .3 miles off trail
This shelter is .3 miles off trail and that means that I'll have traveled an extra .6 miles. It's small but significant if you keep doing this, it adds up. Plus, it's another nasty down trail that takes a lot of energy to get back up in the morning. I also realize that I could have moved on to Puffer Shelter but I wanted to rest with Isis and myself. I have a strong desire to really enjoy these 5 days back on the trail. We are joined by a recent college grad who goes by Neon Waldo. Mostly because he wears bright neon and well, everyone knows where he is. He seems nice enough but I will be glad if he moves ahead and we have some more time on the trail alone. Tomorrow is on to Taylor Lodge and up and over Bolton Mountain.
Mood: Tired but happy
Pain: Right shin is tender
Isis: Doing well
Outlook: Going to take it slow and steady and hike my own hike
Weather: Looks good for tomorrow but HUMID.
Isis snubs the camera on Harrington's View
7/27/16 Day Two: Buchanan Shelter to Taylor Lodge
7.9 miles/8.3 miles to Smuggler's Notch/82.8 miles to Canada
This was a tough day. We left the shelter at 8am and started walking. First it was the .3 back up to the trail. It seemed steeper than last night. Then it was the mile to Harrington's View. This was a tough little up hill mile as it was already humid. There was of course, lots of mud to deal with but it was well rewarded once we got there for a sorely needed view. I sat in the sun for a bit and just smiled at the day.
Happy Hiker Face
I figured on a day like today, we'll be burning through water again. It is a long 2.7 mile stretch over Bolton Mountain, with plenty more mud (so much that I had to walk through it and not around it). There were plenty of PUDS to make you think you already summited but Puffer Shelter would never seem to be around the next bend in the trail. At this point though, no one cares any more about being dirty and for me, the cool water on my feet actually felt really nice. It's the same old story with the PUDS. You think you're there but... Nope. Just keep going. It's a nice day to walk in the woods.
The View From Puffer Shelter
Isis and I stop for lunch at Puffer and a much needed rest in the heat. It is now 3.4 miles to my shelter for the night. But of course, there are a few more PUDS to get up and over Mt. Mayo first. Then, the real fun of the day began. There were lots of rocks and roots to deal with going down a little ways. There were a few slips and falls too. The trail sometimes follows the thin contour of the land which makes it hard to step with a full pack. We get down another set of ledges and I am staring at... ANOTHER LADDER. Thankfully, it was not as steep as the one in Ladder Ravine but, Isis still took ride in my shirt and this time, I kept my pack on too.
I apologized to her...
None of the hikers from yesterday are around anymore. I've had the trail to myself essentially and it has been nice. I am just taking my time on this trip. No big miles really needed and the close to 8 miles today will be enough for us. After the ladder, knowing that the end of the day is in sight, made it a little easier for us. It was definitely a fight to get to Taylor Lodge though. You walk around a beaver pond and then over the actual beaver dam.
View from the Beaver Pond
I did run into two southbounders who were heading to Puffer and we had a nice chat. It was shortly after this that I arrived at Taylor Lodge for the evening. We settled in and were entertained by two practically tame chipmunks. They did not even care that Isis was there. Dinner, and chores were completed as well as journal writing. Looks like we may have the shelter to ourselves tonight which was even better for us. The water source for Taylor Lodge is good. It's a nice flowing spring BUT, it's about .3 down a side trail that of course goes down so you have to go up again. I tried to have enough water for the morning and to get us going again. Isis was not having another walk today so, I had to carry her. I can't leave her at the shelter alone as I am not sure how she would react if someone showed up. Nor would I want anything to happen to her. She's stubborn though which make me feel like I don't know what I am doing with her when she refuses to move.
One of our new friends
Isis has had enough of today's adventure
Sometimes at night, I can feel my outside world creeping in. The world off the trail that is... I do my best to keep it out but it might be a rough night tonight being alone. I'm starting to think of the end and wishing I could continue on. Tomorrow will be a short day of 3.4 miles unless I decide to push over Mansfield and stay two nights at Taft???
Pain: Right Shin
Isis: Cranky after today and reacting to me.
Weather: ??? (this makes me nervous)
7/28/16 Day Three: Taylor Lodge to Butler Lodge
3.4 miles/4.9 miles to Smuggler's Notch/79.4 miles to Canada
Well, when I spoke last night about it being a rough night, I was right. Two "hikers" showed up with a fifth of whiskey and proceeded to make an awful racket. Their headlamps were bright and Isis was not happy that they had another dog with them. This was her home for the night. Sorry, my dog is alpha and when she is the only dog in a shelter for a while, she considers this home and will protect it and me. More so me... So, yep. There was barking and swearing. They were not happy that I was here and I was not happy that they showed up. They must have left about 2 hours later and well, when I woke up, the fifth was still on the table, half full.
We got under way after breakfast around 7:45am. Knowing it may be a short or a long day, I was still in no rush. I was however anxious to get a signal to check the weather. We ran into a day hiker around the second beaver pond and he did mention clearing skies but I wanted to be sure. We had to gain significant elevation to get a signal and when we did, the forecast was calling for thunder storms later today and just clouds tomorrow. As promised to Isis, a Nero Day was at hand. A nearo is when you do very low miles in one day.
By the Twin Brooks Tenting Area
Climbing to gain the ridge reminded me of New Hampshire
On the Ridge
As we continued to climb, we crossed three well flowing streams and I filled up there rather than back at Taylor Lodge. We continued the steep climb before gaining the ridge. This was hard work on yet another humid day. We arrived at the junction for the Butler Lodge a little after 10am. After navigating a short ladder... Isis skipped it and went down the rock.
Inside the cabin it sleeps 14
Isis relaxed on the porch
It's a beautiful log cabin with a great view. I can see all the way to the Adirondacks with Lake Champlain in view as well. It's very peaceful here and not may people are filing in and out. It must be the weather. We did visit with two very nice day hikers who shared some fresh fruit with us. This was funny because I had just been thinking of fresh pineapple on the way over here. They left soon after they finished eating as they wanted to beat the storm. I sent out a quick text requesting pineapple at pick up. We settled in for the day. I set up my bed (or Isis' bed depending on who's POV you are taking). Isis took a good nap and we then walked around for water and the privy. We are not going anywhere today and Isis is getting restless. There is thunder starting to boom all around us. And I tell her that this is why we are not going any where today. Mansfield will be tomorrow. For now though, we watch the storm roll into camp.
Storm coming in
Storm rolls out
It's hard for me to believe that this trip and my vacation is almost over. Just a few short miles to go really. I know that they will be tough but they will be worth it. It has been a good return to the trail and a good way to get away for a little while. I was so very happy that I came back and continued on. It was good to get away from all the noise and the world for a while too. I'm not ready to go back yet so, I will savor these last few miles. We were joined by two other hikers hoping to get over Mansfield tomorrow and the caretaker. We were gifted with the most amazing sunset I have ever seen on the trail.
Mood: At Peace
Pain: Right shin, Right arm (pulled forearm muscle), and fingers
Isis: restless and ready to go
Outlook: Sad to end
Weather: Partly cloudy for Mansfield tomorrow
11/29/16 Day Four: Buttler Lodge to Taft Lodge: LT, Wampahoofus Trail, Maple Ridge Trail, Profanity Trail.
3.2 miles/1.7miles to Smuggler's Notch/76.2 miles to Canada
Last night, after that beautiful sunset, I got moving slowly. I know now that no mater what, the trail will be difficult to get up to the ridge. I'd be putting myself and Isis to the test and the work was at hand. I was told by the caretaker that the by-pass trail for the LT that is safe for dogs is nothing but a slick slab of granite and it would be even slicker with the rain we just had. Sort of like a luge track. So, she suggested I take something called the Wamphoofus Trail to the Maple Ridge and up to the forehead. It's .8 miles from here to the forehead so, I'm game. First you navigate some boulders...
Then, you also deal with a few crevasse and a cave...
Yes, this trail pretty much made last weeks bail out look really silly and I have to laugh at myself now. I DID THIS!!! Isis and I were a good team and navigated this trail which, turns out to be a favorite of the whole trip and what a fun way to get up to the ridge. After this, the trail was a trail again and then it was a slab walk... Steeply to the Forehead.
The Long Trail Ridge walk over to the visitors center, was really nice. I always like a good ridge walk and we made easy time of it too. I met up with the Taft Lodge Caretaker and one of the interns who gladly took my picture. We continued on to the Chin which is the actual high point of the mountain.
Frenchman's Pile where he was struck dead by lightening
We made it to the summit with a few other Day hikers who seemed to be questioning why it took me 5 days to get here... Ahhhh, everyone has their own journey. Mine sometimes takes me the scenic route. This was a bitter sweet moment as Isis was about falling asleep in my arms and we were standing on the summit. This was the second time I had visited this summit but this was special... This was on the LT.
I again apologized to Isis for what was about to happen. We were taking the .5 Profanity Trail down to Taft Lodge. Dropping us from the 4393ft summit to 3650ft. It lives up to it's name and not many pictures were taken while we were on it.
Lots of steep sections to that Profanity trial. I would need to jump down and turn around to get Isis down with very little room to move. This day has truly put all those other bad days into perspective and I am actually glad that I broke this section up little more. I believe I will be better prepared for next year as well. We arrived at Taft Lodge around noon... about a half hour after we started the trail down. It has been a good rest here for my second to last day.
Mood: At peace
Pain: I feel really good
Outlook: Not ready to head out. But ready for anything
Weather: Looks good
7/30/16 Day 5: Taft Lodge to route 108 Smuggler's Notch
1.7miles/1.7 miles to Smuggler's Notch/74.5 to Canada
It was a rough trail down to the road yesterday but it really took us no time. We were running into day hikers coming up the trail who again seemed to not understand that it took us 5 days to get here. They all smelled so nice as they passed by us... I wonder what they smelled too? We also ran into Kasandra and her dog Maggie who had a nice chat with us about hiking. Great to meet her on the trail up here. We met my parents at Barns Camp after checking out where the trail begins again and eventually where I will start again next year. After a quick road walk, we waited for them at the visitors center. After a nice picnic lunch, complete with root beer (last years must have) and fresh pineapple (this years have to have).... We were on our way back home. Happy this time to have conquered not only this section but the fear in myself. I CAN do this and I WILL get to Canada. The form the journey takes is up to me and this feels right. It doesn't have to be a Thru, a long section, or several short sections... It just has to make me happy and happy to complete it. I will be back next year and I will make it to Canada!
I will return to hiking after a rest... See you out there on the trails sometime soon!