September 13, 2016
It’9 p.m. and I’m standing on the highest point of Vermont. No, really! I climbed Mt. Mansfield, the highpoint of Vermont, at night!
We reached the first peak, The Forehead, at 6:21, just as the sun was setting. The almost full moon was up. Happily, we had made it that far in daylight. Some of those obstacles had challenged my agility greatly. Leaning ladders, a slot called Eye of the Needle, an oblong and rounded boulder squeeze, things like that.
The moon lit up the slope for the last half-mile easy slab walk up the final knob called The Chin. We kept our headlamps off and picked our way over the gray rocks. I kept thinking, “This should be scary and forbidding, but it’s actually very thrilling and not even so hard! What a neat thing to do!”
My heart sings tonight, gratitude filling me as I live into my New Story that my amazing body climbs mountains whenever I want!
P.S. Our reason for summiting Mansfield last night was just validated! 8:25 a.m. the predicted rain just started! Ooh! It’s pouring! Instead of fretting a dangerous traverse of the mountain, we are dry and warm in Taft Lodge, on the north side of the mountain. Yay!
I am in awe of John’s attention to the fine points of strategic planning. Yesterday, even though the sky was perfectly clear, he heard a clue in another hiker’s conversation about “today” being a good day. He checked the weather forecast and saw 100% chance of rain for this morning.
At 1 p.m. he proposed that we go ahead o er the mountain instead of stopping at dusk at the shelter on the south side. That would give us 7 more miles to walk, including the 3-mile summit traverse after dark. We did it!
September 12, 2106
I bought a backpack in Waterbury. It’s very cool, emblazoned with “I ♡ 1 Direction” and a photo of the boyband. “Whaaat?” you say!
Actually, it’s perfect…….because…
It has a zipper! My pouch needs a new zipper, and this backpack has a good one. I can cut it out and use it. And it only cost one dollar at the Bargain Boutique in Waterbury.
With my tiny swiss army knife scissors, stashed needle, and multi-purpose dental floss, I can switch out the failing zipper in my pouch.
Well, sorry boys, you are not coming along, but glad you had a zipper I could use.
My New Story that my amazing body takes me up stunningly beautiful mountains whenever I want helped me fulfill a wonderful accomplishment today!
We kept going past the Montclair Shelter, a good stopping point for a comfortably short day, to Camel’s Hump!
Tricky rock climbs, slabs, and straight-up trail made our approach up the 4,080 feet to a windy, cold summit.
Wow! What a place!
360 degree view, perfect visibility, and even a siting of a surprise mammal, perhaps a flying squirrel.
Hurray for belieiving in my body!!!
September 11, 2016
First, I remember the World Trade Centers. May all the significance of that day be sanctified and elevated to its spiritual clarity, in perfect timing.
Now, for my current story. It’s 6 a.m. Thunder rumbles in the distance. The severe weather that motivated us to choose yesterday’s early stop at the Birch Glen Shelter has finally arrived.
I have no idea how many hikers are bedded down in this structure. After we had gone to bed, granted 7 p.m. is early, two college orientation groups of 8-10 hikers arrived!
They were graciously quiet, except for their clumping boots. It was a remarkably quiet night! Apparently, college freshmen sleep through the night!
It’s now 7:48, the rain is pelting down and it’s still quiet in here. I’ve got to get up soon! We have a big day planned, up to 13 miles, including Camel’s Hump, one of the five 4000-footers on the trail.
8:30 Everyone is up. WIell, everyone but Henry, one of us four Long Trail hikers over eighteen. I just counted the hikers from the two groups who crowded in last night – 11.
That makes 15 people in the shelter with four double bunks! Good thing, Birch Glen Shelter has two rooms! Hikers were packed in all over! I was so thrilled that everyone was quiet. I slept way better than I thought I would!
9 a.m. we’re out the door and the rain has stopped. A little apprehensive that the trail – and the rocks will be wet and slippery.
But, it’s warm and we’re off to Camel’s Hump!
September 10, 2016
It’s hard for me to admit and write about my Old Stories, those beliefs that could sabotage my outer journey and yet open gateways to my inner journey. I’m up for walking my walktalk, so here goes!
Yesterday, we walked 11 1/2 hours through dense forest, up some steep and rocky mountains. 14 miles was enough – a big day. But, I was fine! We had reached our destination, Battell Shelter. We knew it had a caretaker, and we had heard that another couple had already taken space in the shelter. No problem, we would tent nearby.
The caretaker started explaining that in shelters above 3200 feet elevation, no one may tent in the fragile high forest until the shelter is full. Full means having at least eight people, not just two with their gear spread out over the whole thing. We would have to join the others in the shelter – and pay the $5 per person fee for having a caretaker.
We wanted to tent, get some sleep, and be ready for tomorrow’s summit of our first 4,000 footer.
John waited next to the shelter, pack still on. I unloaded, put the cooking pot on the table, where the others had cleared a space, and settled in to a social evening of shelter life.
I made a final stab at getting something I wanted. “Can I get half-price camping with my Senior Discount Pass, since this is a US Forest Service facility?”
“You can contact the Green Mountain Club about that. I haven’t heard of it.” The caretaker replied.
Meanwhile, John had moved to a space on the ground nearby, laying out dinner food packages. I took out one of my two bills, a ten.
I went over to pick up the noodles and tuna from John. “I don’t want to stay here,” he muttered. That motivated me. Time for action! That’s where my Old Story kicks in – “Keep moving, even when you’re tired! Give him what he wants, doesn’t matter what you want.”
Without speaking, I packed up. I said to the caretaker, “I made a mistake. We’re not staying. I’ll take that $10 back.” He explained in detail where we could camp next – a viewing platform at the ski lift 1.7 miles up Mt. Abraham.
I walked with determination. We literally climbed straight up for an hour and a half. I was sure my body would give out, ankle or knees. Or I would collapse from hunger. I believed I had to prove to John that fulfilling his need to avoid social discomfort would hurt me more.
Well, it didn’t. My Old Story was not true. My amazing body got up there just fine! We summited a gorgeous mountain before sunset. The view was spectacular!
The platform was challenging to set up on, but private, free, and almost two miles further along!
My amazing body had walked 15.8 miles of mountain that day! I didn’t collapse or starve or anything bad. Guess I’ll need a new beleief about myself, like “I have an amazing body that can take me to stunningly beautiful mountaintops whenever I want to go!”
Do you have an Old Story that pops up in challenging situations that could have a New Story or belief? Let me know and I can help.
September 8, 2016
I’ve spent almost as much time shopping when I lived in Decatur, GA, than I did today starting from the trail! When I lived in Midway Woods, John Reiter and I would don our backpacks (we had no car then) and walk 45 minutes to the Dekalb Farmers Market, shop for a while, sit outside and eat a snack, then walk home. That would take 3-4 hours, and we enjoyed it!
Today, Hiker John and I reached Rt 125 at about 10:30, not knowing who would be givi g us a ride to Middlebury, VT, 10 miles away. John noticed a bus schedule posted at the trailhead. He called the bus company to confirm that the bus made a stop at this spot later in the afternoon.
While he was calling, I thumbed. The second car pulled over, then parked in the lot. Immediately, the passenger jumped out and started rearranging things to flip up the back seat. Yes, they were going into Middlebury, knew where the co-op was (the dayhiker we had met earlier said, “Go to the co-op!”), and were going there themselves!
It was as if we had all known they would be meeting us! We talked like old friends – about her growing up on Long Island, how they enjoy vacationing nearby, how we love the CA desert. “You’re selling it well! We might have to go there!”
I forgot I had to get out when Ireet (isn’t that a beautiful name?!!) pulled up to the co-op. “Oh right, this was just a hitch with strangers”, I reminded myself.
The co-op worked great for our resupply. We did our tried and true Three Passes Shopping method. First, walk through the store getting ideas. Second, buy something to eat immediately and take it outside. Three, make a list, then go back in and carefully choose our purchases. This method gives us a better chance of walking out satisfied and with light packs!
Oh, we had fun! What was great was the pancakes the rep from Gormly’s Farms was cooking up for sampling, Kombucha on tap, and…..maple syrup – real Vermont maple syrup sold by the ounce!
We really appreciated buying olive oil, spaghetti, dates, cornmeal, cayenne pepper, and salt in the exact quantities we wanted. We filled our empty plastic almondbutter jar with maple syrup.(The cashier graciously recalculated the maple syrup price when the code reader picked up the almond butter price. Hazards of reusing containers.) Seems heavy, but it’s been a staple for our delicious cornmush or oatmeal breakfasts!
Dried mangos and apricots, fresh local apples, garlic, EmergenC, and a block of Vermont cheddar filled our bags……but not too full or heavy!
1:30, we were packed up and ready to find Merchants Row to catch the 2:15 p.m. bus.
While waiting for the bus, we sought the shade in front of on of the row of stores. “What would make you come on in?” a woman setting up a sandwich board was suddenly asking us. “People here just stand outside and look in the window, but won’t just come in! It’s just a store! You can look around!”
Wondering what she meant, we noticed that this was called Curve Appeal, a boutique for sexual pleasures. Oh! So she thought people were shy! “We would just need more time! We’re catching a bus soon, and don’t want ro miss it. So, I asked her, “What made you go inside?” That got her talking about herself and her degree in psychology and how this county was the incest capital of the country, and how the town tries really hard to have an image of prosperity, but all the poor people live downtown and she really wanted to help people feel comfortable with their bodies and their sexuality and not just pretend that everything is ok. Very touching really!
But, the bus came, and we rode with Robin, the bus driver, who told us a lot about the local hotels and Middlebury College, and her bus route in our 45- minute ride back to the trailhead. There’s a popular ski slope here too, which is why there’s a bus stop here.
Then, we were there! 4 1/2 hours for a town visit was pretty good! I got a couple of phone batteries charged (well, now one is back down to 29% after writing this) and we have great food choices for another four days of walking!
I celebrate living on the trail. We just go grocery shopping like always!
September 7, 2016
The local hiker we met a couple of hours after our 6:43 a.m. start on our first full day of this walk said, “This slabbing makes for quite a walk, doesn’t it?” I was unfamiliar with the term, but realized she was talking about how the trail was carved out of the side of the mountain. Sometimes the trail was very narrow and slanted sideways making it hard to keep from sliding down the steep mountainside! I had called this kind of trail “sidehill”, but “slabbing” is a good name for it too!
Today’s trail, at least ’til about 2 p.m. when we crossed VT 73, our first paved road, was mostly slabbing as we wound around a few mountains with gaps in between. The mountain forests here are dense spruce woods, thick with moss and shrubs in between massive paper birch trees. Huge boulders stick up from mats of thick, humus-rich soil. “Green” mountains is a perfect name for them.
Within our first hour of walking this morning, we started climbing up out of Telephone Gap (no idea why it’s called that!), hearing a bellowing noise that made me think cows, or some kind of farm animals, were nearby. But where? We were in a forest! A few minutes later, a treetop shook. A lot! “That’s not a squirrel,” John said. “That’s a bear! Two cubs!”
Then, I saw them too, shimmying down a tree maybe 50 yards in front of us. “We’re too close. They’ve modified their behavior – and there could be a mom too.” Yep. A crash in the brush to our right was a good sign of that. We retreated on the trail a good fifty yards and waited. Silence. “The cubs are gone and there’s no other movement. Let’s go forward.” No further sign of the bears occurred, but we were happy to have seen them!
After crossing Rt 73, Nineteen miles from yesterday’s starting point, our route changed from slabbing to straight-up peak climbing. Within the next 5 miles before we reached the Sucker Brook Shelter, our rest stop for the night, we went up and down three mountains – Horrid Peak (what a name, eh?), Cape Lookoff Mtn., and Gillespie Peak. All were fairly steep climbs of 100-400 feet, not too bad.
It was a full day, though, a focused twelve hours of walking with short rests for water, meals, and snacks. I’m ready for a rest and grateful for this lush forest that stretches for miles and invites us to walk!!
September 6, 2016
8 miles completed on this section of the Long Trail! We got out on the trail about 2 p.m. A sense of home at the Inn at Long Trail pervaded the day. Was it the familiarity with that spot since we had stopped there last year, even though we didn’t stay. The hefty breakfast, included with our stay could have had something to do with the feeling. Perhaps the homelike arrangement of the furniture in the common living room or the laundry room tucked in a hallway next to the kitchen. The place seemed, well, livable, not like a hotel. I got a surprise service from the Innkeeper, Maury. Another hiker and I were waiting at the bus stop across the road from the Inn, with plenty of time to catch the 10:38 bus. We stood, chatting about our hikes, when zoom, the bus passed by! Right on time too! “Hey! It’s supposed to stop here and it didn’t!”
John, who had been waiting with me even though he wasn’t going along with me to the post office, volunteered to go back in and call the bus company. He found out that the bus had indeed passed us by and that someone with a truck would take us to the post office.
I found out that our driver was the Innkeeper. He even waited for me at the P.O. and while I picked up a bottle of hand sanitizer at the store next door. “Thanks for the ride! Now I have some extra tip money for the room attendants!” I said when he delivered me back to the Inn.
It’s notable that this is the first time in a while that I’ve walked on unfamiliar trail! My walks lately have been on the AT and Pacific Crest Trail, both familiar ones.
The forest and general terrain are the same as we’ve walked for the past week here in VT. It was a pleasant walk this afternoon. We did see another hiker on the Long Trail – a southbound Appalachian Trail hiker who had been confounded by the white blazes marking both trails! He had walked a few miles north on the Long Trail before concluding that he had made a mistake!
Otherwise, as we settled into our campsite, a previously used undeveloped site 8 miles from the Inn (I know that because the new Guthook App told me so!), John said, “I guess since we’re still out here hiking even though we finished the AT, we must be living on the trail!”
Maybe that’s why it feels like home!
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September 5, 2016
The sign here we left the Appalachian Trail, finished and new complete, and a little sad, said “Please Stay on the Trail.”
In my mind I sang along with Arlo Guthrie, “That sign was made for you and me.” And we also knew that what we really wanted to do was heed that sign and stay on the trail.
But, not the Appalachian Trail. We finished that – twice! You may not know that for 100 miles in southern Vermont the Applachian Trail coincides with the Long Trail, 372 miles on a vertical axis through Vermont.
We bought the map and food for a few days. John has been researching resupply points, since we like to travel light and go into towns for food. We won’t have our trusty maildrops filled with our favorite homemade dehydrated trail foods. We’ll do our best shopping at grocery stores. I also just bought my first section of the Guthook’s Guides, a new favorite tool for smartphone hikers. (I’ll try to ignore that gastly name. Guthook, eeww!)
Stay tuned! This is a new trail for me, so you’ll get to see me in new territory. I’ll post as signal – and courage – allow!
September 4, 2016, 1:00 p.m.
Tadah! John and I reached our goal of Killington Peak, Vermont, the point that marks where we have walked all of the Appalachian Trail at least twice!
When I set out to do a thruhike of the AT in 2007, my aim was to start in Maine and at least make it to Catawba, VA where I had left off walking the trail in sections with my then husband. I wanted to be able to say, “I’ve walked the whole trail” in one quick sentence.
I reached that milestone in November, 2007. That day, when I reached that nondescript road crossing, I burst into tears. “I’ve walked the Appalachian Trail!”
Then, I kept walking, 693 more miles to Springer Mountain, Georgia, completing a “thruhike”, walking the whole trail in one year.
My original plan was to finish the trail to “get it out of my system” and get on with my next career. I was 53. My husband thought I would do that too. He said something about that a week or so after I got home. To appease him, I dramatically stuffed my beloved thruhiking gear into a big box and stashed it in the attic. “There! My hiking persona is put aside!”
The next day, he excitedly invited me to meet him near his office in downtown Atlanta for lunch. We sat at Olympic Plaza, he expounding on the beauty of the place and the glories of being outdoors. I gaped, stunned by the noise, the garish scenery, the puny trees. “This is my fate as a former thruhiker! Nooo! I can’t do it!”
And I didn’t.
I did keep hiking. I had realized that I did not get hiking out of my system, but that hiking IS my system.
There are eight years of walks between that day and today, many other trails, and even six summer seasons of paid employment on the AT.
Today’s fulfillment signifies another milestone in claiming hiking as my system. I am brimming with gratitude for the privelege of getting to choose walking this amazing path, both its physical aspects and its spiritual ones.
There’s a lot more to say, and to reflect upon, which I’ll do in the upcoming months. For now, I’ll bed down for another night out, then open a new chapter.
Thanks for reading, affirming, and cheering me on. I’d love to hear of YOUR own life’s discoveries, milestones. What’s your “system” that you had thought you would outgrow yet found out is fundamental to your authentic expression?
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