Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 28: Journeys End

Dscn7242October 1: I had already finished thru-hiking the Long Trail, but I still had 0.8 miles to hike to actually reach the trailhead and get off the trail. My shortest day yet! If you don’t count that zero day in Rutland. =) With less than a mile to hike, I wasn’t in any particular rush, but for all I knew, Amanda might already be at the trailhead waiting for me so I didn’t have any reason to linger late either. Ultimately, I wound up leaving at around 8:00 in the morning, and was at the trailhead at Journeys End Road about 20 minutes later.

Amanda, however, was nowhere to be seen. No big deal, though. I did need to pick up my maildrop in the town of North Troy, which included my laptop and a couple of bags of powdered milk, so I started following the dirt road east.

North Troy was about four miles away, mostly following old gravel roads that didn’t appear to get much action. The closer I got to the city, though, the more houses showed up and the more well-traveled the gravel roads looked. I had told Amanda that if I made it out before she could pick me up, I’d walk out to North Troy to pick up my mail drop and meet her there at the post office or the small market in town. I figured when she did get into town, she’d start in North Troy then drive west until finding me walking along the road or she reached the trailhead—whichever came first. We weren’t sure how suitable the gravel road would be for a rental car ahead of time, so it seemed like a good way to handle things.

The walk was largely uneventful. As I got closer to North Troy, a couple of border patrol vehicles passed by. The walking was easy—wide, flat roads to follow. Not even muddy ones. Nope, they were good, solid gravel roads.

I reached town and quickly found the post office where I picked up my maildrop. And now… I had nothing to do but wait for Amanda. I didn’t see anywhere that was particularly convenient to wait, I just sat down by the post office and started reading my Kindle.

A couple of hours went by and I lost the shade I was sitting in, but I started wondering what happened to Amanda. Did her flight not get in? I wandered over to the small grocery store in town and bought a cold drink and asked if there was somewhere in town where I could make a phone call. The woman at the desk said the last pay phone had been removed years before, but asked if it was a local call. I said that no, it wasn’t, but that I did have a phone card I could use and she let me use the phone at the store.

I got Amanda’s voicemail. I left a message saying that I was in North Troy at the market and hoped she’d get there soon. I was still left in the dark about where she was or how much longer I’d have to wait, though.

I didn’t have to wait long, though. Not ten minutes later, Amanda pulled up in a small minivan. I didn’t recognize her at first because I was expecting the usual small rental car, but she drove up in a minivan instead! It was time to get off the trail for good!

Dscn7243Amanda hadn’t followed the script we put together when I last talked with her—head to North Troy, and if it I wasn’t there, follow the road as far as she could to the Journeys End trailhead where I would come out. She went straight to the trailhead thinking she’d beat me there, and the trailhead did have a register that people could sign, but it was one of the registers that had space for your name, city, # of days out, etc. It wasn’t a register where you could ponder the meaning of life—it was just to track how many hikers used the trail or to help narrow down where someone might be if a search and rescue needed to happen. I didn’t bother to sign that register—I would sign them whenever I went into the woods. It didn’t seem necessary once I was already safely out of them.

Amanda, though, looked at this register and didn’t see my name, so she assumed I hadn’t gotten out yet and therefore just waited for me at the trailhead. It wasn’t until I called and left her that voicemail in North Troy that she realized I had already slipped past. I so should have signed that register! But Amanda was supposed to start looking for me in North Troy. We had no idea that there would be a register there ahead of time! What if it wasn’t there? How would she have known if I passed by or not?

Anyhow, it all ended well and we drove to Burlington where Amanda had gotten us a hotel. On the way, I asked her if there was any interesting news that happened while I was out in the woods and she told me that the government was closed down.

“Say what?” I had absolutely no idea.

“There’s a government shutdown.”

Hmm… isn’t that interesting! The whole government can close down and I’m completely oblivious! =)

I cleaned up and showered, putting on the clean clothes Amanda had brought with her, then we went into downtown Burlington to take a look around. I’d never been to Burlington before and I gotta say that I absolutely love the place! The closed down an entire big street to vehicles so it’s only open to pedestrian traffic now. A city after my own heart. =)

Later in the evening, we met with a couple of letterboxers for dinner: Lou and Cindy--the same Cindy from Stowe who asked me if I was missing anything.

"You have my buff!" The long lost buff had been found! But she had forgotten to bring it from home, so I didn't actually get it back (yet!), but at least I finally knew what happened to it. =)

The next morning, October 2nd, we went to the airport and I flew home. That was non-eventful, though, so I’m not going to write another blog entry about that. Just know that this blog has finally come to an end. At least for this hiking season. I’m sure there will be more adventures next year, though! =)
And, as you could probably already guess, I took about 3,000 photos along the Long Trail—and exactly 1,055 of them I uploaded to Walking 4 Fun for anyone who’d like to try a virtual walk of the Long Trail. Far more photos there than I used in this blog! =)

The Journeys End Shelter had this card. Being so close to the
border, it’s an area that the border patrol monitors.

A sign at the Journeys End trailhead. The Long Trail is
now 1.3 miles behind me, and North Troy is just 3.9 miles away!

Even the road walk into North Troy had blue blazes along the route.


What a great photo to mark the end of my Long Trail hike,
don’t you think? =) The name of the gravel road I walked
on was called Journeys End Rd, and this sign marked
the turn onto it.


Entering the bustling city of North Troy.

Mural in Burlington.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 27: The End of the Long Trail

Dscn7140September 30: I slept in late, in no particular rush. I had a measly 8.7 miles to the Canadian border, then a mere half-mile to the Journey End shelter for a short 9.2 miles of hiking. And, by all accounts, it wouldn’t even be a difficult 9.2 miles. So yeah, no reason to wake up at the crack of dawn and start hiking!


Eventually I got going, though, because I’d grow seriously bored if I didn’t! But I hiked a little over 3 miles before I reached the Shooting Star Shelter—the last shelter on the Long Trail—and I took an extended lunch break that lasted for more than two hours. Like I said, I was in no rush. Part of the time I used to write an epic 2-page letter in the register to southbounders on the trail fill with all my wit and wisdom. I wrote it upside-down so the southbounders could read it easier. (They were hiking backwards on the trail, after all.) Then I followed it up with another 2-page epic note for northbounders with nothing particularly important to say, but I didn’t want northbounders to feel cheated that they didn’t get a two-page note like the southbounders got. =)


Then I read my Kindle a lot. After filling four full pages of the shelter register, I didn’t have any other ideas for how to kill time. =)


About a half hour before I planned to started hiking again, a southbounder arrived. He was young, blonde, muscular, shirtless, and I had little doubt that women on the trail would swoon every time they passed him on the trail. Be that as it may, however, he seemed oddly out of his element. I’d seen other men hiking on the trail without a shirt. Even Decent, just the day before, I caught roaming around without his shirt, but hikers typically don’t have 6-pack abs nor do they need them, so it seemed strangely out of place.


He set down his pack and introduced himself as Erik, and was planning to thru-hike the Long Trail all the way to Massachusetts. He was planned with himself for arriving at the Shooting Star shelter as early in the day as he did since that was his goal for the day, and he started unpacking his pack.


Dscn7145I told him that I would be continuing on, but that I knew at least one person definitely planned to spend the night there (Purgy No More) and that there were about half a dozen other hikers headed northbound not far behind me that might wind up at the shelter too but I hadn’t seen them for two or three days now so I didn’t really know for certain what their plans were. Just letting him know, though, that there would definitely be more people arriving, and perhaps several, so not to spread out too much in the shelter.


He asked me about how far away the Canadian border was, which surprised me since I thought he had just come from there, but I looked it up in my guidebook and answered him a precise 4.4 miles away, but as it turned out, his friend dropped him off there the trail crossed Highway 105—2.6 miles away from the Canadian border.


“You missed Canada?” I asked, unable to hide my amusement.


And indeed, he had. He wasn’t sure where people started hiking from, and didn’t seem to know anything about the Journeys End Trail which leads 1.3 miles to the northern terminus of the Long Trail—the shortest, quickest way to the end of the trail. You could start from the road crossing where he did, but he would have had to hike north 2.6 miles, then turn around and hike back south 2.6 miles back to where he started from, then continue on to the shelter. But he didn’t do that and missed the first 2.6 miles of the trail. Oops!


As he unpacked his gear, I noticed a full-sized jar of jelly among his items. “A full sized jar of jelly?” I asked, surprised.


“To make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” he told me. I’m not really inclined to criticize his food choices, but glass jars don’t make good backpacking companions. Besides the fact that they’re so heavy, if they break, you wind up with a lot of broken glass shards to worry about and a mess of jelly with nothing to put it in, and I gently tried to warn him away from glass jars in the future. “If you slip—and you will slip!—it could crack right in your pack!”


He said he’d put in in the middle of his pack to protect it better. Well, at least he seemed to take my concerns to heart, but his solution seemed less than perfect. I wanted to tell him, “At least get the plastic, squeezable containers of jelly!” but I didn’t want to antagonize him any further and let it go.


He said he didn’t have much backpacking experience, but as he continued pulling gear out, I started thinking that he was exaggerating—I was pretty sure the boy had never spent a single night out in the woods.


Dscn7153The thing that really got me, that I couldn’t hide my shock over, was when he pulled out a 6-pack of Red Bull. I buried my hands in my face, sure I had to be hallucinating, but I wasn’t. He said it wasn’t that big of deal, though, because it was heavy now, but he’d drink two cans per day so it would get lighter with each passing day. But… but… I was in shock. Seriously? Full-sized cans of Red Bull?


“How much do each of those things weigh?” I asked him. Just eyeballing it, I guessed they were 8 ounce cans—that’s half a pound per can!


He looked at the can but couldn’t find any label, and I encouraged him. “It’s usually located near the bottom of the can, probably says something like 8 fluid ounces or something.”


Then he found it, and confirmed that they were indeed 8 ounce cans.


Then he pulled out cans of food. I didn’t look at the labels so I’m not sure what all he had, but there were a lot of cans. I had no doubt he also had the needed can opener somewhere in his pack as well. I hope he never loses it, though, because if he did, he’d starve to death quickly.


I shook my head and thought to myself, This boy is gonna die. He’s gonna die on the Long Trail. I’m going to be watching the news, and they’re going to report finding the half-starved body of a shirtless hiker surrounded by cans of food he couldn’t get into, empty cans of Red Bull, and a broken jar of jelly.


Oh, but wait—that’s not all! Then he pulled out his Therm-a-rest, which was still in its original packaging. He slipped it out of a plastic bag—a bag I knew he’d never get it back into because that’s not what the plastic bag was for.


Then he said he needed to get water. I hadn’t been to the water source yet, but a note on the shelter said it could be found on a blue-blazed trail just south of the shelter, and that there was a pump, but it worked great.


Dscn7158I pointed out the sign to him saying that I hadn’t been to it yet, but the directions on the shelter wall seemed clear enough. He pulled out a water filter and tablets to treat the water, and I asked him why he had two different ways to treat water. Mostly out of curiosity, although I was a little amused that he hadn’t even bothered to remove the bottles with the tablets from its original packaging. He said that he didn’t know which method he would like better, so he was going to try them both and send one of them home at some point.


He’s so going to die out here, I thought. But at least it won’t be from giardia! Which is more than I can say for myself since I hadn’t treated any water at all. =)


He headed down the trail in search of water, and I wondered if he’d have trouble with the pump. I assumed it needed priming, but if it was like the other shelter with a pump as a water source, there would be directions posted about how to prime the pump. Surely he’d be able to figure it out.


I finished the chapter I was reading on my Kindle about 10 minutes later then started packing up for the last 4.4 miles to the Canadian border. Next stop, Canada!


Before I left the shelter, though, I needed to fill up with water. And, I figured, I should probably check up on Erik. For all I knew, he might still be trying to figure out how to prime the pump.


Dscn7166I was wrong, however. He was already passed the stage of trying to get the pump to work and was now working on filtering the water from the container used to prime the pump explaining to me that the pump wasn’t working and the only water available was the stuff from the container next to it.


The thought crossed my mind again: This boy is gonna die out here. Surrounded with his cans of food and two water treatment methods, he’ll die of thirst. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but love this kid. He seemed so earnest and excited about his hike, how could you not like him?


So I showed him that the container on the side filled with water wasn’t for drinking—it was for priming the pump. I poured water on the pump, pumped a few times, and beautiful clear water started coming out. Erik seemed curious how that worked—pouring water on it makes it work? And I couldn’t really answer why it worked because honestly, I didn’t know myself. I don’t really know the mechanics of how these pumps work, but I know you won’t get a drop of water out of them unless you pour water over it first.


There was a sign about priming the pump on a nearby tree, but in Erik’s defense, it was badly warn and difficult to read. Some of the words were completely illegible, so anyone who didn’t know to prime the pump or how to do it would have had a difficult time getting water—not just Erik!


I filled up my water bottles quickly—it goes quickly when you don’t treat your water. =) Erik was working on treating his water when I left, but at least he had water now. He told me I might see him again because he was thinking about hiking back to the Canadian border to cover the 2.6 miles he had missed earlier. I didn’t think that was a great idea with him clearly being so inexperienced. For him to hike back to the Canadian border then back to the shelter would have been 8.8 miles round trip for him. He wasn’t trail-hardened yet. He had a pack that had to weigh at least 50 pounds, but he could have left much of the weight in the shelter. And it was already getting well into the afternoon. It didn’t seem like a good idea to me for him to backtrack with all of his gear to the Canadian border, and it seemed like an even worse idea for him to backtrack without his gear in case he didn’t make it back to the shelter before dark.


So I was a little skeptical he’d hike all the way back to the border. His better strategy, I thought, because he didn’t live terribly far away, was to come back after reaching the Massachusetts border (if he reached it!) and do a day hike of the 2.6 miles he missed to complete that link. For him, that was totally an option.


Dscn7170So we parted ways, and I continued my trek to the Canadian border.


The rest of the hike was largely uneventful. I passed a sign marking the 45th parallel. That took me by surprise—I had no idea that I was anywhere near the 45th parallel, but I liked the fact that I started my hike closer to the equator than the North Pole, and I’d end the hike closer to the North Pole than to the equator. =)


Then I turned a corner and reached the sign marking the northern terminus of the Long Trail. It looked like the sign marked the southern terminus—large, wooden, and lots of text and not very interesting. Kind of boring, really. But I wasn’t fool either. I knew there was a Canadian border somewhere, and it would be a long, deforested line running out as far as the eye could see—and I didn’t see that line anywhere. Clearly, I had not yet reached Canada, despite the sign that claimed as much.


I took another 20 steps further along the trail, though, where it came out to a clearing which stretched out as far as the eye could see to the east and west. Now this is the Canadian border! That’s what I’m talking about!


A large boulder ahead mostly blocked my view, so I climbed up onto it where I got the view I was really looking for, the deforested line marking the US/Canada boundary stretching downhill to the west then up and over a ridge far in the distance. To the east, the view was less spectacular since I was just below the top of a ridge in that direction that largely blocked the view. If I bushwacked a tenth of a mile east, there might be a view, but I didn’t want to do that. I was perfectly happy with the view to the west which also included a monument marking the Vermont/Quebec border.


Woo-who! I shook my trekking pole in the air in triumph. I was officially a Long Trail thru-hiker. I took about a bazillion photos, did a little happy dance. And I decided that I didn’t want to leave. The view was awesome! If I had enough water, I would have been perfectly happy to camp for the night right there at the border. I didn’t have enough water, though. I did have enough to make dinner, however, so I could easily cook dinner while waiting for sunset, which is exactly what I did.


In all, I spent nearly three hours at the border. I did see Erik again—he did hike back from the shelter in order to do the 2.6 miles he had missed. He wisely didn’t stop to chat with me for very long since he came shirtless and without his pack and still had a 4.4 mile hike back to his gear that he left at the shelter.


Dscn7172Shortly before sunset, a gaggle of thru-hikers arrived: Superchunk, Top Shelf, Lucky, Cheesy, Hill, Fire-Eye and one woman I didn’t recognize. It was good to see them all again, although I was a little disappointed that they had all arrived as a single, large group. I like people, but I like them in moderation. I’d have enjoyed their company more if one or two of them showed up every half hour or so. =)


They intended to get off the trail that day, however, and only hung out by the end of the trail for all of about 15 minutes before they headed off on the Journeys End Trail to hike the 1.3 miles to the nearest trailhead. After they left, I was a little sad. Alone, watching my last sunset on the trail. It would have been nice to have had one or two people around to share the moment with.


After the sun set, I pulled out my headlamp, packed up my gear, and started off. There was a shelter a mere half-mile down the Journeys End Trail, appropriately named the Journeys End Shelter. I felt a little giddy at the thought that I’d be hiking after sunset. I hadn’t done that anywhere on the trail because I needed to take photos for http://www.walking4fun.com, but the trail was done now. I didn’t need photos anymore. I could hike in the dark!


I had my headlamp ready, but I preferred hiking in the dark without a light whenever I can. Under the light of a full moon without any tree cover is easiest, but there were plenty of trees here, and it wasn’t even a full moon so it grew quite dark fairly quickly after sunset. My night vision kicked in, and I started following a vague, undefined path through the woods. It wasn’t easy to follow, but I liked the challenge of navigating in the dark and was determined not to turn on my headlamp until I absolutely needed it—and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t lose the trail completely in the darkness before I decided it was actually necessary after all!


I managed to make it to the shelter without using the headlamp, and even followed signs to a creek in the darkness where I filled up with water. The water was a lot further away from the shelter than I had expected, though, and I started growing concerned that I wouldn’t find my way back in the darkness. I left all my gear in the shelter—if I got lost now, I’d have nothing. No clothes for warmth, no sleeping bag, no food. (Plenty of water, though!) I started thinking that maybe I should have waited to get water in the morning, but it was too late for that now.


Fortunately, I did find my way back to the shelter without any mishaps. The shelter was empty, and considering that it was now about an hour after sunset, I was pretty certain that nobody else would be showing up tonight. I spread out all of my gear like I owned the place because tonight, I did. =)


This is Highway 105, where Erik started his hike from
and why he missed the first 2.6 miles of the Long Trail!




I had absolutely no idea that I was near the 45th parallel
until I reached this sign!


Can you smell it? Smells like Quebec is getting close!




Here’s the deforested area that marks the
US/Canadian boundary. Except that
stupid boulder is in the way of a great view!


So naturally, I stood up on the boulder, and this was the view!
Excellent! Everything to the left (south) of the deforested line
is Vermont while everything to the right (north) of it is
Quebec. Bonjour, Quebec!


The monument marking the border.


A self portrait—just to prove that I really was here! =)
(I had to take about 20 of these photos before I got
one with both the monument and the border clearly
showing up in the photo.)


From left to right, Lucky, Cheesy, Fire-Eye, Superchunk, and Hill,
celebrating their completion of the Long Trail.


Sunset at the monument.


Just in case you wanted to know how many steps I took
from Williamstown, MA, to the Canadian border: Precisely
705,162 steps in 27 days. =)


I took this photo about 5 or 10 minutes after sunset, shortly
before I’d leave for the Journeys End Shelter.


There aren’t anymore photos after this today because… I was hiking in the dark!!!! =)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Day 26: Jay Peak Wonders

Dscn7063September 29: Jay Peak would be the Last Great Peak. At least that’s the story I’d been hearing for quite some time now. It was strenuous, steep and some of the hardest hiking of the trail.


You might be wondering who tells me all this stuff about the trail ahead. Mostly, it’s people hiking southbound that have just completed it, and I’ll tell them about what they can expect from the trail ahead as they continue southbound. You can learn a lot about the trail from people hiking in the opposite direction as you.


Much of the morning was steep, muddy and slow going, but it was hardly the worst the trail had to offer. But that was just the lead up to Jay Peak, of which horror stories abounded. But I started having suspicions that maybe the southbounders got things wrong when I saw huge quantities of people at Highway 242—the last trailhead for people who wanted to hike up Jay Peak. Most people, I knew, took a gondola to the top, but for anyone who wanted to hike up, this was where they started. And it seemed like there were a hundred cars parked here! I saw people milling around all over the place. If the trail was really that hard, I had a difficult time believing that so many people would be hiking it.


A short ways past the road was the Jay Camp Shelter. It was about a quarter-mile off the Long Trail, but I stopped there anyhow since that’s what I do. I wanted a photo of it for http://www.walking4fun.com. =) I also filled up with water while I was there, but admittedly, if I didn’t want a photo of the shelter, I would have filled up with water earlier from somewhere else on the trail.


When I arrived at the shelter, though, I found a hiker resting there wearing nothing but a kilt. It was an unexpected sight, but not exactly shocking since I had seen hikers in kilts before. I asked him if he was hiking the Long Trail, and he was, headed southbound. And I asked if he had ever hiked a long distance trail before, and he said he had—the Appalachian Trail. Again, not a shocking revelation—there were a lot of former AT thru-hikers on the Long Trail. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least half the people hiking this trail had already thru-hiked the AT.


We chatted some more about the trail ahead, and I ate some snacks, refilled my water, signed the register, took photos, and generally rested myself before the final climb up Jay Peak.


Dscn7067Our conversation started to slow, though, and I came back to his AT thru-hike. “What year did you hike the AT?” I asked.


“2003,” he answered.


“Hey! That’s the year I hiked the trail!” I said. Then I asked, suspiciously, “What was your trail name?”


“Decent,” he told me.


I didn’t remember anyone from the trail named Decent, but I did remember a guy named “Nuthin’ Decent.” Specifically because he wore a kilt and never looked decent! =)


“Decent?” I asked, thinking. “As in Nuthin’ Decent?”


“Yes,” he confirmed.


“I totally remember you!” I exclaimed. Seriously, how can you forget a guy hiking in a kilt? I know why I didn’t recognize him—we never talked much and his kilt was much more memorable than his face. And, to be fair, I hadn’t seen him in ten years. “I’m Green Turtle!”


I remembered to use my told trail name—I didn’t use Green Tortuga on the AT, so he wouldn’t have known that name. But I was absolutely certain he’d remember “Green Turtle” if for no other reason than because of the green turtle stamp I stamped into all of the registers. People might not remember me from the trail, but they always remember that stamp.


I saw the recognition in his eyes before he even said, “I totally remember you!” in return.


So that was a fun and unexpected little reunion, and it cracks me up that we chatted for about 10 minutes before we realized we actually knew each other already. =) The small world syndrome strikes again!


Dscn7073I told him that I was still stamping into the registers with a green turtle stamp, so just in case he was missing that from the AT, he’d get that experience all over again. =) Although I had a new turtle stamp now, and it was a tortuga stamp rather than a turtle stamp, but still… same thing!


We reminisced about our AT hike for a bit before I continued onward to Jay Peak.


I passed at last a dozen people walking up the trail, and even more people who were heading down the mountain already. The trail was a bit steeper and more rugged than earlier, but compared to the toughest parts of the Long Trail, this was a cakewalk. The southbounders that spoke of its difficulty had way over-stated it.


But I took this as an excellent sign because I’m sure, to them, that Jay Peak was the toughest, meanest section of the Long Trail they had yet experienced. Having come through much worse, I didn’t think it was so bad. But if this was the toughest, meanest section of trail the southbounders had experienced, then that meant the rest of the trail all the way to Canada should be positively easy by comparison!


I wondered if the southbounders I met when I first started the Long Trail had the same experience—us northbounders claiming a section of trail was “really difficult” and then when they got to it, they thought it was easy by comparison. Had I been mis-informing southbounders early in my own hike? I couldn’t remember…


Many of the people I passed on the trail were speaking French. I was surprised at the sheer number of French-speaking people I was passing. I knew we were very close to the Quebec border, but I was in the United States so I was a little surprised when I realized that about half the people I passed were speaking French. After I passed a few of them, I was ready for it and started saying, “Bonjour!” to anyone speaking French rather than “Hello!” They all seemed to laugh whenever I did so, though, and wished me a hearty “Bonjour” in return. At least I learned something useful during my month in France, eh? =) (I put that “eh?” in because I started using it more and more as I got closer to the Canadian border. They expect me to!)


Near the top of the mountain, I followed the white blazes up a boulder a couple of people were sitting on when I saw another person taking a photo of them and thought, “Oh, crap. I just photobombed their photo.” I totally didn’t mean to do that! It must have looked rather amusing, though, like I was floating up from behind the rock out of the middle of nowhere.


Dscn7084I started talking with a woman named Joan who had asked where I came from, and I wasn’t sure if she meant what trailhead I used to get up Jay Peak or was asking if I was hiking the Long Trail and started at the Massachusetts border, so I told her Massachusetts and her eyes got all big and wide and she was absolutely amazed and started asking all sorts of questions my hike that I was perfectly happy to answer. =)


I gave her a business card, so maybe she’s reading this blog. (Hello, Joan, if you are still reading this!)


Eventually I continued onward heading into the snack bar by the gondola. The summit was crowded with what seemed like hundreds of people, but I wasn’t surprised. First, there was a gondola to take people up which made it very easy for people to get to the summit. Second, it was Sunday—a weekend—so a lot of people could make such a trip since it was their day off. And third, it was prime leaf-peeping season and everyone and their mother was out looking at leaves.


Consequently, the top of Jay Peak was positively packed with people. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the snack bar was almost completely empty of people. Inside, I found Purgy No More already there putting an order for lots of food and a beer. I set my pack down inside, by some large panoramic windows with absolutely wonderful views and looked at the food options. I was excited about not having to eat something dry or dehydrated out of my pack. =)


They had a “Seattle Dog,” which I was almost tempted to buy because hey, SEATTLE, right? But the toppings of the Seattle Dog just didn’t sound very good at all, so I ordered the Tijuana Dog instead which was a bacon-wrapped hot dog topped with jalapeno peppers, avocados, sour cream and I don’t remember what all else. That sounded appealing, though, so I ordered that, a giant macadamia nut cookie, and a bottomless fountain drink. =)


Purgy was jealous of my bottomless fountain drink—he didn’t get any refills on his beer, and said he might have reconsidered his options had he realized that he could drink all the soda he wanted. And we ate and chatted while overlooking the great view from indoors where it was warm and out of the wind. And I was still more than a little surprised that absolutely nobody seemed to be inside—it was actually more crowded with people outside than inside!


Dscn7090Purgy decided to camp at the top of Jay Peak for the night to watch the sunset and the sunrise the next morning. I rather liked that idea myself, except I wanted to be closer to the end of the trail to make sure I’d get out first thing in the morning on October 1st. So no, I’d continue on to the next shelter barely a mile away. Even then, it would still set me up for a short 8.7 miles of hiking today. I was definitely not in any rush!


So I spent the next few hours at my seat chatting with Purgy and admiring the view. We pulled out our maps and tried to identify exactly where the trail was heading. From Jay Peak, the Canadian border was a mere 10.2 miles away. As the crow flies, it would be even closer, so we knew that some of the mountains in the distance were in Quebec—but which ones? Where exactly did the border run? Neither of us could see a long, linear deforested area that would mark the border—not from this distance at least, so we mused, examined maps, and generally enjoyed the views.


I pulled out postcards to write. If you got a postcard from me where I said I was looking into Canada, this is where I wrote the postcard. =)


And I used the restrooms because—hey! Flush toilets!


It was a magical time. =) At 4:00, the snack bar started to close, though, and I figured that was my cue to leave. The dining area would be open a bit longer, I did want to get to the next shelter well before dark and it was still about 1.5 miles away. That should get me in by 5:00, which is a good time to get into a shelter. =)


So I parted ways with Purgy and continued down to the Laura Woodword Shelter alone. The trail wasn’t particularly bad, but I was surprised at how much it hurt for me to walk down the ski runs that the trail followed. My knees were hurting bad when I started down the ski run, but they had been completely fine until then. As soon as the trail turned off the ski run, my knees were fine again. Just going downhill on the ski runs were painful to walk, but going downhill on the non-ski runs weren’t a problem. It was a perplexing development, and the only thing I could think of was that my feet actually angled downhill on the ski runs which pushed out my knees a bit while on the downhill trail, I could usually get my feet on a flat surface—the top of a rock or log—so my knees didn’t buckle outward even though the trail might have been considerably more steep than the ski run.



I made it to the shelter without anymore problems than that, however, where I met Mike—a Canadian who decided to section-hike the Long Trail. He seemed surprised to see me, not thinking that anyone would show up at the shelter so late. Which I thought was amusing because I didn’t consider 5:00 late at all—that was the normal time I preferred to get into a shelter.


From the Laura Woodward shelter, I was a mere 8.7 miles away from the Canadian border. Without a doubt, I had every expectation that I’d be standing in Canada within 24 hours! =)


Decent—a hiker I first met on my AT hike of 2003!
He was kind enough to put on his shirt before I took this photo. ;o)


It was really prime leaf-peeping season at this point!


Overlooking one of the ski runs on Jay Peak.


View from near the top of Jay Peak.


The top of Jay Peak had tons of people on it!


Purgy No More is looking for Canada on his map.
It’s out those windows somewhere! =)


The gondola is about to arrive with another load of passengers
at the summit of Jay Peak.


Oh, Canada! Where art thou?! Those mountains in the foreground,
we determined, were definitely US territory, but beyond that,
we weren’t sure exactly where the US ended and Canada started.


Walking down ski runs like this one turned out to be remarkably
painful on my knees. Going down much steeper slopes that
weren’t ski runs didn’t cause me problems, though—just the ski runs!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 25: Another Day on the Long Trail

Dscn6911September 28: In the morning, Purgy and I woke up to fog. A thick layer of fog that seemed to fill the lake, and I was a little disappointed about this since I had hoped for a beautiful sunrise over Ritterbush Pond. I ate breakfast, at which point much of the fog had burned off and I could once again see across the lake. And the view! What a view!


I finished breakfast, then wandered over to the dock by the shelter to take photos. Immediately, I noticed dozens of beer cans littered around the shelter—beer cans that weren’t there the afternoon before. I wasn’t entirely sure if the drunken idiots from the night before had actually slept in the shelter or if they had left in the middle of the night after I fell asleep, but I saw a dog at the window of the shelter and I knew they were still in there. A part of me thought it would be hilarious to pound down the door and shout, “GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE!” all bright-eyed and perky, hoping to annoy these people as much as they annoyed us upon their arrival at the shelter last night, but good sense prevailed and I steered clear of the shelter going directly to the dock instead.


And the view! What a view! I eagerly took dozens of photos—I couldn’t stop myself. Even when I was taking the photos I thought that these were, hands-down, the best photos I’d taken on the entire hike so far. (Just ignore the beer cans around my feet! I thought.) There was still a hint of the morning fog, but the trees positively glowed in the morning light with their fall colors. I walked back to the campsite where I told Purgy that he really needed to check out the view from the dock because it was absolutely stunning, but now I wanted to walk down to the other shelter for yet additional photos from another perspective.


I took tons more photos, absolutely enthralled with the views. The fog drifted in and out, so sometimes the views were better than others, but it certainly kept me alert! Eventually, a thick layer of fog came back and stayed, and it was time to start hiking again. I left camp a little before Purgy.


Dscn6914The trail soon crossed Highway 118, at which point I almost immediately lost the trail. I was on a wide, clear path which led directly into a large mud puddle on the trail where I could see hundreds of ankle-deep prints left by hikers before me. Tree falls blocked the trail, though, and I tried to find a way around the left side of it, but I couldn’t find the trail in that direction. So I backtracked and tried going around the mud hole to the right, but was blocked by more trees and bushes before I could find the trail again. Where the heck did the trail go?


After about ten minutes of pondering this, I looked back up the trail—clear as day—and followed it down into the mud pit where the trail just seemed to dead end, and thought maybe I should back up even more to make a wider sweep around the dead end. I looked back and to the side of the trail when I noticed a small, white blaze on a tree that wasn’t at all where I expected to see one. It wasn’t in the direction I had come from, and it wasn’t in the direction I was trying to get. Did I somehow miss a turn?


I backtracked a bit until I noticed that the trail did, in fact, make a slight, barely perceptible turn, but so many people had missed it that the wrong turn actually looked like the main trail while the correct trail barely looked like a game path. I could totally see how I missed the turn, and I was frustrated at my loss of time but glad to finally be back on track again. The GMC really needs to mark that section better. Given all of the footprints in the mud hole, I knew I wasn’t the first (or the last) person to miss that turn!


The trail over Belvidere Mountain grew considerably more difficult than the last couple of days of hiking had been. Mud become the norm over flat ground, and steep, slick rocks became the norm on the unflat ground. The trail doesn’t lead to the very top of Belvidere Mountain, but a short 0.2 mile side trail leads to the top where there’s a fire tower. Of course, I had to go up in the fire tower, which meant I had to take the 0.2 mile side trail to the top. The views were absolutely fantastic! But I didn’t linger—I had left my pack down at the trail junction and I was leery about leaving it unattended for too long. Lord knows what kind of animals could be getting into my pack right now!


My pack was unscathed, though, and I continued hiking. The mud on the trail became epic. At one point, I slipped and fell directly into the mud making a mess of my pants, shoes, and the cuff of my shirt where my hand fell into the mud to catch myself. Another particularly muddy area had bog bridges built, which looked solid until I took a step on it at which point it promptly sank into the bog nearly up to my knees!


Dscn6916Eventually, however, I made it to Hazen’s Notch Camp just before sunset. When I arrived, two Canadians had a campfire going, and one American from Georgia named Mike was hiking southbound. The Canadians were just out for a night or two, but Mike was thru-hiking. Being from Georgia, he had a deep southern accent. He was a large man, built like a football player, with a wild beard—the kind you imagine someone growing if they were stranded on a deserted island without any razors. He seemed nice, but he looked kind of scary and I couldn’t help but think that he reminded me of photos of the Unibomber.


The Canadians decided to camp in their tent outside, and Mike, Purgy and I were chatting in the shelter when Mike left for a bit. As soon as I did, I turned to Purgy, “He’s going to kill us in our sleep!” I told him.


And Purgy didn’t seem at all surprised at this observation, but instead noted that I was sleeping closer to him so he’d have to kill me first and he’d make a run for it.


Well, I’m glad he had a plan, but I can’t say I liked it much. =)


All joking aside, though, we didn’t really expect that he’d murder us during the night, but you’ll have to wait until my next blog post to find out… =)


You can see Purgy standing on the dock in this photo.
After I told him it was worth the effort to check out the view
from there, he did so. Which is when I took this photo. =)


Purgy No More cooking breakfast!




The view from the Belvidere fire tower. It looks like there’s
a large quarry or something over here, but I’m not
sure what they’re doing here.


Another view from the Belvidere fire tower.


Belvidere fire tower


I took a fall—right into the mud! (The mud in the background
is the stuff where I fell.)


Beaver dam


View from inside of the Tillotson Camp.






The view ahead… The high peak in the background on the
left is Jay Peak—and the trail will go right to the top of it.
Tomorrow, though. Tomorrow. =)