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Gifford Woods State Park to Stoney Brook Shelter (AT Killington, VT)

Still chipping away at the miles on the AT in Vermont, I figured I'd pick up where I left off last week. So, off to Gifford Woods State Park in Killington VT it is. Took a little convincing to get out of bed this morning but thankfully, there is still a lot of day light left to play with and a late start is not noticed. Not that I don't have a head lamp... Just that I like to drive home with some semblance of light sometimes after a long day on the trails. Anyway, after talking to the rangers about picking up the trail, and not really making heads or tails of what they told me (I could not focus this morning to save my ass), Isis and I were off. The car was secure in the park so, I was not worried. What a fantastic start this section has. 

After crossing the road, you come to the cutest little AT sign I have ever seen. Then the trail winds through the forest by Kent Pond. It's a cool morning so, I actually have a warmer shell on. Over a bridge where you can tell the water is low (It's still flowing but not as strong), you make your way around Kent Pond with some nice views to look at. I ran into Red Squirrel here and we chatted about the trail quite a bit. He's a trail angel too and offered to co-ordinate rides with me if I needed one for the remaining miles I have in Vermont. So refreshing to chat like this on the trail. Continuing through this section, you come out to Mountain Medows Lodge. It's privately owned but Hikers are welcome. Today there is a Private function so, they ask us enjoy the view and to move along quietly. It's just Isis and I so, no problem. 

Following this section, after crossing two roads, you pass by Thundering Brook Falls. I will stop by here on our way back. I was so happy to see the bridge trail over the marsh. It's a great stretch and so easy on the legs and feet. The trail has been kind so far. Nice views through this section as well. 

Crossing the road again, this is where the AT makes up for that easy walk in... You're going up. Classically, when you cross a road, you are going to climb up out of something. So, up we go. It's getting warmer and the warm shell has come off. I give Isis and myself a water break. And we continue. The AT is kind enough to give us a few flat stretches before it tosses.... Switchbacks. Really tight switchbacks. There's no other way to describe the trail except to put your head down and do it. Lucky for me, it's well cared for and the rocks are minimal. Isis and I are listening to the fading crowd and car noise as we get deeper into our day. The trail itself is not crowded until you cross those more tourist type stops. I would expect to see not too many more people as we head North to New Hampshire.

At a certain point, you do level out and cross a short ridge. It give you a bit of a break before you start climbing again for a short distance. And just when you think you've got it made and you've done all the work you can to get to your lunch... A ladder appears. What is it Vermont with the metal ladders? They are on the LT as well. Isis and I manage and it's not long before we reach our destination. Stoney Brook Shelter.

Knowing the the trip back is going to be mostly down hill makes this ride worth it. Since you have to go up slightly and then down to the shelter, you're going up and then down to get back. That is, if you are doing an out and back. If you are continuing on, that makes it a little easier. So, Isis and I start back the way we came after giving my feet, legs, and body a rest. Still dealing with a little joint swelling in my wrists, I try and get some fluids of course. Knowing that there is Aleve in my future when I get back to the car makes it all good. Heading back, Isis and I run into a few NoBo's that are making their way to Mama K and one that is stopping in Franconia Notch.... Such fun people out on the trails today. It doesn't take too long it seems to get back to Thundering Brook Falls. These are running low as well. I could only imagine what they were like after a rain.

Vermont is actually not experiencing the record drought that NH and ME seem to have going for them. From the falls, it was not long until we were back at the park and getting ready to head for home. Such a refreshing day on the trails and so nice to have them virtually to myself. This had to have been one of the nicest sections of the AT in Vermont so far... Well excluding some of the great sections that share the LT... Even with the big old case of switchbacks in the middle, I really enjoyed myself today. Onward and pushing to New Hampshire... 35.6 miles to go.

Closing in on finishing  my first state on the AT feel pretty darn good to me. This change of pace for me, from hiking the peaks of New Hampshire, has made all the difference as well. I've been enjoying the trails more and really appreciating the chance to clear my head and really find some peace. That's what this journey is all about for me. I love my family and friends to death but mostly, I go into the woods to heal and to feel myself smile and to get stronger. Literally, my whole body smiles as I push myself up and down these hills and peaks. I have learned to appreciate the quiet more and really see with my heart what lies in the forest proper. Sometimes it's lots of chipmunks, other times it's eye opening realizations of how strong I really am and no one can take that from me. Either way, a day in the woods with my best four legged trail partner beat the hum drum of life any day... Life in the civilized world moves so fast, it's just nice to escape it and slow down for a while and just be. 

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