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!!