Thursday, October 17, 2013


As I came out of the Green Mountain N.F. toward Rutland there were definitely more signs of civilization: farms, road crossings, power lines. But, almost ominously to the north, looms Killington Peak.

Although at just under 4000' Killington is not Vermont's highest peak, it towers over the surrounding area, sitting alone among a bunch of 2000-footers. Fortunately the trail leading up to Killington is pretty gradual and graded for the most part even though there is a net elevation gain of 2800'.
I was happy to pass one milestone in this section: the countdown to being less than 500mi from Mt Katahdin. Seems like a long way yet but I've already gone 1700mi so it actually seems attainable now.
I had planned my arrival at the top of Killington so that I could watch the sunset from its 360ยบ view but Mother Nature had other plans, giving me another grey, cloudy day. Killington is also famous for being a highly developed ski resort but fortunately, the AT crews have routed the trail along the opposite edge of the peak and down several hundred feet. Even though there's a gondola that transports more sedentary travelers to the top, I had Killington all to myself on that gloomy Friday evening.

I was due for a trail stop to rest and resupply so I decided to treat myself to a night at The Inn at Long Trail. It's a little off the AT but right on what used to be the Long Trail, run by the McGrath family since the 30s. Although they've maintained the rustic feel of a mountain lodge, there's an understated luxury with great food, a lounge, and even a hot tub! They are super hiker-friendly folks too. Another bonus is that there's a bus line that runs into Rutland every hour (about 10mi) so it was pretty easy to find supplies and a few treats as well.
I was pleasantly surprised at the resources Rutland offered. It was obviously a sizable, vital hub in the past of timber and industry but has reinvented itself through some tourism. I was happy to find a really nice food co-op and a local coffee roaster. Civilization ain't all bad :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

More Long Trail Views

Fortunately, I had some great weather during most of my time on the Long Trail: Clear, sunny days and cool nights. It was little warm for my hiking style but I still was able to make 18-20mi per day and still have time to stop and appreciate some of the views. On the AT, many of the "views" are not necessarily a sweeping panorama from a high peak but the more subtle things one sees while quietly traversing the forest. Like this foot bridge...
I noticed each day as I headed north that more Fall color was showing, especially at higher elevations. It's amazing how much of a difference one sees in just 100mi from Mass into Vermont during transitional seasons.
Considering how nice the weather is in early Fall, I saw relatively few other hikers on the AT. Most of the long-distance hikers I saw were either going south on the Long Trail (270mi from the Canadian border to MA) or going south completing a flip-flop hike of the AT. There were a few other section hikers doing small pieces to the north but we were really near the end of the season for that.
Another interesting feature of Vermont (and really much of the trail from NJ north) is the number of high elevation ponds and bogs. Because so much of the mountains are solid granite and non-porous, wherever there is a dip or a bowl in the rock, soil and/or water collects and forms it's own ecosystem.
Some are tiny little pools, but often large ponds a half mile across might be seen above 2000'.
And streams! Even without rain for weeks, no shortage of water in Vermont.
Nothing like waking up to a view like this.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Southern Vermont

The section of AT from Rt9 at Bennington to Killington is my favorite in the north so far. The trail traverses several wilderness areas and I pretty much stayed away from civilization for 5 days. Not even cell service! The AT shares the same trail bed as Vermont's old Long Trail for over 100 miles through the Green Mountain National Forest. The AT is noticeably more primitive: less blazing and blowdown removal, in places fairly tricky to follow.

The AT gets considerably more rugged with a lot of ups and downs. There are several big climbs to peaks just under 4000' which I haven't seen since central VA. Beautiful country.

One of the highlights of this section is the view from Stratton Mt. Firetower. Fortunately I hit it on a clear day. At this location Benton McKaye is storied to have formulated the idea for the AT.
Among the higher peaks in this region are Glastenbury, Mt Stratton, Mt Bromley, and Peru Peak. I noticed above 3000' that the forest changes to a sub-alpine mix of spruce and a rich mix of mosses and ferns. I love the elfin trails through the green.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Although I stayed less than 24 hours, I found most of what I needed in Bennington. The town is surrounded by mountains, maybe 5 mi or so off the AT.
It's a cute little trail town but looked like it had seen better days. A lot of history there too. The highlight for me was getting to a meeting in the heart of Bill W. land. Strong medicine indeed. However, I strongly recommend avoiding the Autumn Inn at all cost. It was an overpriced shithole. So there.