Updated: Jun 26, 2021
Living life as a New Yorker, I don't have a car. While this is fine for city living, it makes getting to and from trail heads logistically difficult. Five buses kind of difficult.
Today J-Dub and I started our day at beautiful Port Authority in Midtown Manhattan. We took a 7:45am bus to Springfield making our first connection of the day on an Albany bound bus.
This all went surprisingly well. In fact, we were ahead of schedule on both buses which is something that doesn't normally happen on interstate bus rides. Perhaps I should have guessed that this would lead to trouble later (as all things must balance out), but delighted by the time we set off into Pittsfield.
Our first stop was to our old neighborhood ice cream shop, Dairy Cone. This was the place we'd go to after games, on lazy summer afternoons, or just for a quick treat. In my opinion, it's still the best soft serve there is, though admittedly all that sugar does have hints of nostalgia for me that makes it extra sweet.
We passed through our old neighborhood, Morningside, and made our way to a new fixture: the Berkshire Roots dispensary. Having been to some other dispensaries in the state, believe the hype! The staff were all friendly, helpful and kind and the store itself had some beautiful decor.
Our plan after these stops was to take a Lyft or Uber to the trailhead. Seemed simple enough. I've managed to find rides in locales much more rural than the city of Pittsfield, but when I checked there were no cars available. This was unexpected and threw a wrench in our timeline, but with nothing to do but press on we got on the Berkshire Regional Bus line the BBus, and made our way to Williamstown.
The first shelter on the Long Trail heading North is the Seth Warner Shelter. From the bus stop including the Pine Cobble Trail to access the LT, we'd be 6.8 miles away with about two hours of sunlight and no trail legs. It became apparent we needed a new plan.
We considered heading to the Sherman Brook campsite on the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts, it'd be a bit closer to a bus stop and then give us a running start the next day. But even that would be a two mile hike and with the bubble of AT thru-hikers in the area there'd be no guarantee of tenting sites.
On the bus to North Adams, J-Dub remembered that a local art gallery in Williamstown The Mountain Goat Artisans allowed hikers to camp for free in their backyard. Or at least, they used to. He had stayed there a few years back when he hiked the Taconic Crest Trail.
A short phone call with the owner assured that they do, in fact, still allow hikers to stay! So our plan was set.
It took $10.00 each and three bus transfers (a total of five in eleven hours on the day), but we found ourselves in downtown Williamstown, a preppy, brick lined, New England college town.
After a quick walk to the gallery we set up in the backyard, able to get our tents up in between evening storms.The yard is really quite lovely and the situation turned out as well as possible. The Hoosic River runs behind it. We were also able to hit the town for some fish and chips at the Purple Pub! An added bonus before digging into our dehydrated food.
LT Mileage: 0
Slow soggy start out of Williamstown, MA. A surprise morning storm got most our gear wet as we were breaking camp. Since we were in the backyard at the Mountain Goat we didn't have any tree cover, so it really poured down on us.
We got coffee, breakfast, and a new trash bag for me at Tunnel City Coffee. I needed the trash bag for my sleeping bag. I usually always pack two: one to line my bag the other as added protection for my sleeping bag, but I made the mistake of only packing one as a liner. The barista was kind enough to give me one for free along with our meals!
Then up to the Pine Cobble Trail. From Williamstown Center it was a pretty straight shot about 8 miles. One tricky thing to note is that at the crossing of Cole Avenue and North Hoosac a sign seems to suggest walking down North Hoosac when in actuality you should: continue up Hill on Pine Cobble Road (obvious enough it would seem, but it's tricky) past a community gate, follow the veer right, and in a few yard you'll find the trail head on your left.
The Pine Cobble is teal blazed a local hiking trail maintained by the Williamstown Rural Land Foundation.
While the trail leads out to Ephs Outlook, a cool view of the valley below on a clear day, we continued to connect to the end of the Massachusetts AT and reach the Vermont border.
At the border we bumped into a Southbound AT thru-hiker named Teacher who was kind enough to pause and take the obligatory southern terminus picture of us.
The sky started to break which was nice and we made it pretty swiftly into the Seth Warner shelter where we decided to stop, dry our gear, our feet, and our... well everything.
At the shelter we met Jim, a Green Mountain Club trail maintainer who has been working this section of trail for 16 years.
We chatted as he packed up and we unpacked and he gave us some good local news and tips on upcoming towns and shelters.
He also told us about a plant that is, "the best natural toilet paper in the New England forest."
While I've since forgotten the name of it, I remember learning from him that it's a native plant which readily roots in the parts of trail often eroded by all the foot traffic and wet weather. Oh, and in terms of toilet paper: tested and approved.
Shortly after Jim left, we moved our operation and set up camp, wanting to get our tents up before any afternoon storms popped up and made things wet again.
As the afternoon and rain went on we met groups of AT thru-hikers, both southbound and northbound. The most curious of which was a couple with a hiking dog who were sponsored as light weight dog food ambassadors. In return for the food they had to post Instagram photos of their dog on the trail. The dog was, admittedly, very Instagramable.
It became clear from the amount of hikers in the tent site and shelter that for the first 100 miles we'd be hiking in a big AT bubble.
LT Mileage: 2.8
Slippery, misty start to day two, but with no rain I couldn't complain!
Out of Seth Warner we came upon what the GMC guide book calls an old beaver pond. While this is probably true, what it doesn't mention is that those generations of beavers engineered the Hoover Dams of beaver dams.
After passing this feat of engineering, we had a climb up to Consultation Peak then and some ups and downs around more ponds to complete the 7.2 miles to Congdon Shelter. We stopped for an early lunch there and noticed someone decided to add a homey touch with a small, Thomas Kinkade-esque cottage painting above the shelter's window.
After our break at Congdon we hiked up Harmon Hill, catching it light and bright at 1pm, a nice contrast to the rainy skies we started with. I also stopped here to take care of some blisters that all the soggy days had given me.
A nice, mountain breeze followed us the rest of the day and kept us cool as we walked down and up the steep climbs from VT 9. The trail often drops in elevation to a road crossing then immediately climbs back up after the road crossing and this was one such, very steep, occasion.
We ended the day at the Melville Nauheim shelter, which was at the top of our road climb. resting before climbing Mt. Glastonbury tomorrow.
LT Mileage: 15.9
Foggy climb up Glastonbury, our first real beast of a climb on the trail. While not our highest climb, we gained about 600 feet over 6 miles making it a long, sweaty climb.
We were joined for about half the ascent by a young hiker named Pec who had just finished a thru-hike of the PTC (so named because he tried carrying Pecorino cheese through the California desert). The funds for his PTC hike had been a college graduation gift from his parents, but now that he had a job on the East Coast he was trying to adjust and was taking a short weekend hike to see what the AT/LT was like.
Pausing at Goddard Shelter we watered up and met some day hikers and AT thru-hikers all making their way up the mountain. Fortunately the sky cleared up just long enough for us to get a view off the fire tower.
As we were descending the tower though it started sprinkling and a few miles back on trail that light sprinkle erupted into a cold down pour.
Soaked and cold we rolled into Kid Gore Shelter and changed into the dry, cold weather layers we packed.
This was probably my lowest point on the trail. Three days in and I now was as soaked and frozen as I was on day zero. To add insult to injury. I had just changed into dry socks in an effort to double-sock and help my blister situation... but now both my socks were soaked.
I was honestly doubting myself. What I was doing out on trail? Why was I letting my feet get ruined? Can I finish this?
In that state of mind, we had a duo of optimistic Nobo AT hikers come into the shelter to warm up and snack. Despite their Katahdin deadline this pair was focused and positive, "look, at this point I'm not just going to quit because I got a little too cold one night," one of them joked about their own predicament and this attitude brightened my own.
After this duo another LT end-to-ender named Gingersnap came in for the night. Like J-Dub, he had completed the LT before. Their conversation about favorite parts of the trail still ahead turned my mind forward rather than inward and I went to bed more excited than uncertain.
LT Mileage: 28.5
The sunrise at Kid Gore was spectacular. The shelter faces eastward into a valley and with the day starting on that beautiful note I set off in high spirits.
Our next mountain to climb was Stratton. Another large, long climb with switchbacks around the mountain that seemed to go on and on.
But the top was so worth it. On a previous section hike this top had been clouded in, but today it was clear and a climb up to the fire tower revealed the trail ahead and behind us.
This fire tower is famous on the trail, as it was from this vantage point that Benton McKaye looked out and conceptualized the Appalachian Trail, seeing the chain of mountains and believing that they could and should be linked.
Heading down the mountain, we considered staying at Stratton Pond Shelter, but were still technically a day behind our schedule after the bus travel day. Feeling good and with sunlight left, we ate dinner at the pond and pressed on into the Lye Brook Wilderness where we found a tranquil place to camp close to the Winhall River.
LT Mileage: 45.8
By our fifth day we were starting to run a bit low on snacks. We had plenty of meals so we weren't going to starve, but when you're craving a chocolate protein bar, instant mashed potatoes just aren't the same.
With this motivation driving us we pushed on into Manchester Center where we had our first mail drop sent. First we stopped at Up for Breakfast which we had heard about from a day hiker on top of Stratton. The pancakes didn't disappoint.
Along with pancakes and our mail drop, I also needed rain pants.
We checked the Mountain Goat (no relation) an outfitter in town, as well as some of the outlets. We struck out, either because of price or product, until Eddie Bauer. Now, I never really fancied myself an Eddie Bauer kind of guy, but as an outdoor brand they still carry some pretty good gear and at an outlet sale price, these pants were a screaming deal; just what the doctor ordered for cold for wet mornings.
Not wanting to stay in town we got a ride out of town and went up Bromley. It was a hard three miles up with our packs now completely refilled with food. At the very summit of Bromley, the ski patrol allows hikers to stay in their warming hut.
Not only was this incredibly convenient as an enclosed shelter, but it also offered panoramic views of sunset and sunrise.
LT Mileage: 57.9
Our sunrise however was dampened by thick rain clouds.
We got an early start and pushed hard, wanting to get over the steep, rocky cliff walk of Baker's Peak before any rain hit and made the rock slick.
Once up and over we stopped at Lost Pond Shelter and let a series of afternoon storms pass over. The shelter became hectic as other hikers came in and out to avoid the weather.
The sun started poking back out in the afternoon and we decided to push to Little Rock Pond. An amazing, amazing pond tucked between mountains where a lone loon called out throughout the night in that eerie, mesmerizing howl.
After doing a bit of math, I realized that this marked my 500 mile mark for Appalachian Trail section hiking. I couldn't have picked a more perfect location.
LT Mileage: 74.2
Slow start out of camp the next morning even though we woke up at our usual 5:00am time. We had done a couple big pushes to make up for the lost time riding buses and for whatever reason our bodies decided today would be the day we paid.
Unfortunately for our bodies we had two big climbs back to back. First a quick 500+ foot elevation gain up White Cliffs where we passed an expansive cairn garden.
Then down a switchbacked 1000 foot climb up Bear Mountain to the Minerva Hinchey shelter where we stopped to rest and let the afternoon heat pass.
A cup of coffee got us motivated and we made our way from Minerva Hinchey up the Claredon Gorge, a rocky, steep ascent that would be my first little taste of what the Northern Green Mountains had in store.
At the Claredon Shelter we bumped into out first big group of Long Trail hikers. There was Bill, who was ending his hike after Killington. Adam and Rachel, a couple from the Burlington Area and Meathands and Trail Brains from the Waitsfield area. Both couples seemed to be fairly new Vermonters who wanted to know or see more of the state. In many ways the Long Trail is a kind of Vermont clout, a rite of passage or perhaps pilgrimage for the Green Mountain State.
LT Mileage: 87.8
Killington today, all four thousand plus feet of it.
First came the final climb out of the Claredon Gorge, another little rocky up, though nowhere near as steep or tough as the initial climb.
Then some level road and river walking which led into pine forest. Really quite a lovely stretch. Finally the ascent. We had heard Cooper Lodge, the shelter on top, was dry so we got water at the Governor Clement shelter and chatted with two women hiking southbound on the LT. We were starting to hit our own little LT bubble of hikers as we neared the split with the At.
Chit-chat done, up Little Killington we went, the first of the two peaks.
It started relatively tame, but soon became a narrow climb. We balanced from pine root to pine root to stay on trail, all the while looking down the slope of the mountain between the wide canopy of the pine forest.
Once up Little Killington there was a ridge walk and fairly quick uphill to the Cooper Lodge, the trail's highest point on the mountain. We chatted with another LT hiking couple who came all the way from Austria for an end-to end hike!
We took the quick but incredibly steep 0.2 brought us to the true summit of Killington.
This was a pretty crowded point as tons of day hikers and guided tours were also summiting by following the AT/LT up.
On top of that traffic there's also a gondola which ferries people up to view the summit, mountain bike down, and visit the lodge. The lodge is a swanky cafeteria style restaurant with windows for walls to give diners a view of the whole valley.
The view was was beautiful, but the food was expensive, so after snacks and coffee we pressed on heading down Killngton to spend the night at the Inn on the Long Trail where a Guiness and Veggie Burger capped off the first 100 miles of the Long Trail for me.
At the bar we chatted more with Adam and Rachel, getting to know the hikers around us.
LT Mileage: 105.6
In the morning we went into Rutland, taking The Bus with Adam and Rachel. The Bus is part of the Marble Valley Regional Transit District. The big, bubbly, hippie lettering and the sound of The Clash as we entered set the tone.
In Rutland Adam and Rachel were staying at a hiker hostel run by the Twelve Tribes known as the Yellow Deli, we had some chores however. First we bounced our mail drops ahead to Stowe. We had a lot of food left over, so rather than pick up our mail drop we bounced it ahead to Stowe.
The post office will let you bounce priority boxes for free to another destination, which is convenient for any hikers in positions like ours. While we were initially just going to shop in Stowe for the last leg of the trip, now we could have our groceries covered.
We got some food at the Yellow Deli, said goodbye to Adam and Rachel and hiked a short 1.4 miles, past Maine Junction where the AT and LT officially split to the new Tucker Johnson shelter.
With bad weather in the forecast and a late start out of town we decided to stay put, make a fire, and take it easy. On the shelter we only had one other hiker, a SOBO LT hiker named Nemo. This was a welcome change from the shared AT section where shelters and campsites could get crowded.
LT Mileage: 107
Thick fog held up until about eleven for our first day on only the LT. I immediately noticed the trail was more rugged than the AT. It was narrower, steeper, and over grown. Not mention blazed less frequently.
We pushed past Bolston Rest where a family was just waking up for breakfast as we passed by camp.
Hiking through the mist was a bit mind numbing, as if the trail was playing a kind of trick. Not only were any vistas out of the question, but it was difficult to see the trail more then few feet out!
Moving as well as we could through the conditions, we stopped for lunch at the David Logan shelter where we chatted with an older, southbound LT hiker about the Benton McKaye Trail.
Leaving lunch, the mist finally started to lift around and we finished out at Sunrise Shelter, beating out a late afternoon storm which felt like a nice win.
However, a full shelter of LT hikers confirmed that we were in fact in a kind of bubble of summer LT hikers.
LT Mileage: 124.6
Waking early at sunrise we followed the gentle slope of an old ski trail down to Brandon Gap. Taking a .1 side trail to the vista at the Great Cliffs we got well rewarded for our morning efforts!
Then up and down steep mountains and gaps! Lots of blow downs in this section made it feel as much like a tough mudder as hiking. We lifted, bent, squeezed, and lunged our body over dozens of trees.
We passed the Middlebury snowball which was novel and also offered a nice view of the valley.
At the Sunrise Shelter a SOBO end-to-ender named Fun Sized mentioned female moose st Boyce shelter and on our way by the cow walked right across the trail in front of us!
Aside from the Moose we pretty much had the trail to ourselves. The bubble seemed either ahead or behind us by a few miles now and we ended our day at Skyline Lodge with the whole cabin to ourselves. Reaching our halfway(ish) point with a view of Skyline Pond at sunset.
LT Mileage: 140.5
Setting out from Skyline Lodge we were determined to make it out of the Breadloaf Wilderness.
The trail had been a muddy, rugged challenge with few vistas to reward us for battling back pine trees and scrambling around blow downs.
We managed to wait out an early morning storm at the Emily Proctor shelter, but after that simply put our heads down and climbed our way out of Breadloaf and halfway up Mt. Abraham to the Battell Shelter.
LT Mileage: 154.5
We left Battell a little earlier than usual. We'd been waking up at 5:00am every morning, breaking camp, and hiking. This early start time not only had us hiking for sunrise, but insured we could beat most afternoon storms or at least pause for them with some good miles covered.
J-Dub wanted to be on the summit of Mt. Abraham for sunrise and after a tough, rocky scramble to the top it was obvious why. This was my first view above treeline and it was awe-inspiring.
We stopped early at Stark's Nest, another ski patrol warming hut. This hut had a vast history of ski culture in the Mad River Valley which was cool to read through.
We thought about staying, but as the shelter grew more and more crowded, we hiked on. At first we thought about going into Waitsfield, where we needed to resupply the next day anyway, but found a spot to camp on lower ski trail/warming hut of Mad River Glen where we had an amazing eastward view.
To get water for the site though we had to go back up to the Theron Dean shelter. On our way back we took the Dean Cave bypass trail which was a fun bit of cave crawling and gap lunging.
The open canopy of the ski trail made the stars lovely and the streak of the Milky Way was faint, but present.
LT Mileage: 162.5
We woke up for a wonderful sunrise, then broke camp and headed down to the Appalachian Gap at VT 17. The descent was steep and my first introduction to rebar ladders!
Getting into Waitsfield from VT 17 was simple enough and as we went about our chores we were pleasantly surprised to come across Adam and Rachel at Mad Taco, a restaurant we had been hearing about for the past forty miles or so.
This was going to be their final day on trail so we passed the afternoon with them at the Lawson Liquids Brewery.
Saying our farewells (for now), J-Dub and I headed to our rooms at the Hyde Away Inn, ate dinner, organized our packs, and rested up before heading north.
LT Mileage: 164.3
After a delicious pancake breakfast at the Hyde Away Inn we took the Inn's shuttle back to the trail head.
As a courtesy to their hiking guests, a shuttle (along with breakfast and laundry) is included in the cost of the room stay. The owner was incredibly kind and we chatted about skiing, the economics of inn owning in Vermont, and other bits small talk until we reached Appalachian Gap and hit the trail again.
The climb right out of town was a rude awakening! Right off the bat there were rock scrambles, made slick from yesterday’s rain, and it seemed like we were only going straight up or straight down on the 5.5 mile hike to Cowless Cove Shelter.
The skies opened up for a quick cloud burst on our way to Cowless Cove and we encountered a southbound hiker who warned us that the scrambles up ahead for the next ten miles or so could have, “serious consequences” in all this wet weather.