Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 18: Walking Easy

Dscn6309September 21: The last weather forecast I had seen back in Rutland predicted that rain would start sometime this afternoon. People I talked to the last couple of days had said it might rain late in the afternoon but that it likely wouldn’t start until sometime during the night. But all the same, I figured it was best to end my day well before any rain would likely start so I got another early start to the day. If I finished hiking by 3:00 and the rain didn’t start until midnight, that was fine by me. I could use all that extra time in the late afternoon to catch up on my reading, relax, and take it easy. The previous day had worn me out!


And the day’s hike would be remarkably easy. Oh, at first, there were the giant boulders and rock hopping, but after a few miles, I reached Duxbury Road—a three-or-so mile road walk that followed alongside the Winooski River. The road was flat, paved, and incredibly fast and easy to walk. I covered the whole three miles in about an hour—probably the fastest 3 miles that I covered on the entire trail.


The downside, of course, was that it was a road walk which isn’t particularly easy on the feet—but it was still a heck of a lot easier than the boulder hopping I’d been growing accustomed to. And, even worse, there was fast-moving traffic zipping past on the road without any shoulders to walk on. Fortunately, it wasn’t a particular busy road. At least not early in the morning when I walked it. Maybe one vehicle would pass by every five or ten minutes.


And for the first time on the trail, I could really swing my trekking pole around since it wasn’t needed at all. I hadn’t done much trekking pole swinging on the Long Trail since I tend to use the trekking pole going up and down hills or over muddy areas. On the road walk, however, I didn’t need the trekking pole, so I could play with it instead, twirling it around like a baton, throwing it through the air above my head, and dropping it more times than I could count. It was great! =)


I’d be one of the last people to ever do this road walk. A new pedestrian bridge over the Winooski River was nearly completed that would eliminate the road walk—the longest road walk of the entire Long Trail. A lot of hikers complained about it, but I didn’t mind it so much. I’ve been on some bad road walks, and as far as road walks go, this wasn’t much. It was short. It wasn’t on a super busy road. And I felt it was a pleasant change from the strenuous trails I had been dealing with, although an easy trail through the woods would have been preferable. =)


Dscn6312In any case, this was the last year the road walk would be part of the Long Trail. By next year, the new $1.5 million pedestrian bridge will open, the trail will be rerouted, and never again will a hiker have to follow the path I currently followed. A part of me felt like it was my duty to record this road walk for for historical purposes. In the grand scheme of things, I know it didn’t really matter, but I liked the idea of preserving a way for people to see what the trail “used to be like.”


Once I crossed the Winooski River on a vehicular bridge, the trail passed by the town of Jonesville which, as far as I could tell, consisted of a post office, an auto repair shop, and an antique store. I didn’t stop for any of that, however, and continued following the trail under I-89 until it re-entered the woods a short ways later.


The trail went up and down hills, but they generally weren’t very steep and weren’t covered with giant boulders that needed to be navigated or covered with thick pools of mud. The trail was positively wonderful, and I continued making good time over it. Not 3 mph of good time, but 2.5 mph of good time. =)


The skies stayed largely clear. Oh, a few clouds here and there, but nothing that looked like it might threaten rain, so I slowed down my pace and tried to enjoy the hike more, admiring the sunlight filtering through the trees and leaves overhead and chatting with people I met on the trail longer than I might normally have done so.


One person I bumped into on the trail was Slowfoot, who was hiking southbound. Which surprised me because the last time I saw him was at the first shelter north of Rutland when he was hiking northbound.


“Slowfoot!” I said, a little surprised to see him. “You’re hiking the wrong direction!”


He had skipped ahead and decided to hike this section of the trail southbound. I’m still not entirely sure why, but there’s no rules about that so it didn’t much matter to me. I told him that I was planning to spend the night at Buchanan Shelter, and he said that was his intention as well but he followed the blue-blazed trail to where the shelter was supposed to be and couldn’t find it. The shelter was missing.


Missing? Well, that’s certainly disturbing news. It was supposed to rain overnight and I definitely wanted to be in a shelter for the night. I hadn’t heard any news of the Buchanan Shelter burning down or otherwise being uninhabitable from southbound hikers which seemed like the kind of thing they might have mentioned if the shelter was no longer there.


Dscn6314I continued onwards—what else could I do? And started figuring out a Plan B in case the Buchanan Shelter really was gone. The next shelter after that was Puffer Shelter, an additional 4.5 miles away. Which, if the trail was as easy as what I had been traveling on, was entirely possible to reach before dark, but it would have been about 18 miles for the day to get there—a bit more than I really wanted to hike. I crossed my fingers and hoped Buchanan Shelter was right where it was supposed to be.


A short while later, I reached the blue-blazed trail to the shelter. The shelter was located 0.3 miles off trail—one of the shelters furthest from the trail, and the idea of a 0.6 round-trip walk to get back here if the shelter was missing didn’t appeal to me at all, but I followed the trail downhill anyhow.


Slowfoot said he followed the trail to the last blue blaze which ended in an open field with no shelter to be seen, so I kept looking for blue blazes. I passed by a couple of small creeks which I thought might be a water source for a shelter, but didn’t see any shelter. I did, however, continue seeing blue blazes and followed them further down the hillside until I saw a structure through some trees that I immediately recognized as a privy. The shelter must be close!


I saw another blue blaze, which I followed, then saw a large structure. The shelter. Right where it was supposed to be. I looked around the area trying to figure out how Slowfoot missed such a large structure, but I was completely baffled.


But it didn’t really matter either. I was at the shelter, and now safe from any rain for the rest of the afternoon and night. I had covered 13.7 miles for the day—one of my longest days on the trail—and still made it to the shelter at around 2:30 in the afternoon—my earliest quitting time so far on the trail! The weather still looked great and I considered continuing on to the Puffer Shelter anyhow—I could easily pull off another 4.5 miles as long as the terrain wasn’t too difficult. But I really couldn’t be sure that the terrain wouldn’t get a lot more difficult. If it was so bad that I slowed down to about 1 mph, I wouldn’t get into the shelter until after dark which was not an option. I figured better safe than sorry and set up camp here and now and spent most of the afternoon just reading books on my Kindle. =)


Gleason Brook


Winooski River


The 3-mile walk on Duxbury Road. I had a hard time
keeping under the speed limit! Note the white blaze
on the tree to the right of the speed limit sign.
This will be the last year the trail goes this way.




Nearing the end of Duxbury Road, I started playing
shadow games while playing around with my trekking pole.


Crossing some railroad tracks by Jonesville.


The bustling town of Jonesville. This is pretty much the whole
town, I think, and I didn’t stop to look around.


These bridges are part of I-89 where the trail goes under them.




Back in the woods again!


I pose with Duck Brook Shelter, where I was just passing through.
Once the road walk reroute happens, this shelter will no longer
be on the Long Trail either. Both this shelter and the Buchanan Shelter
will not be on the reroute essentially making these two shelters obsolete.




A beaver pond






Duck Brook




Following the blue-blazed trail to Buchanan Shelter.


Buchanan Shelter. I still don’t know how Slowfoot missed finding
this shelter! But it too will not be on the reroute of the Long Trail
starting next year.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Interesting, the last time I was at Buchannan it was much smaller and open.
Either a complete rebuild or addition.
I worked for many years at the ski area where Buchannan is located.