Thursday, September 05, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Bennington, VT To Killington, VT

I knew the next few days were going to be tough.  I don't think I knew how tough.  I managed to meet my goals but I had to reduce some of my goals to make it.  As I add extra days to reduce my daily miles and zero days to let my legs recover I am creeping closer to the point of no return or, more correctly, the point of no finish.

The sun sets over a beaver pond.
Day 149 - One of the hotel staff dropped me off at the Appalachian Trail (AT) trailhead just before 7:30am - about an hour later than I usually start hiking. I had a long day planned.

The trails in Vermont, when not muddy, are decent.  There are a few rocky and/or rooty parts but the trails are similar to the trails in Virginia.  The one thing that makes Vermont difficult are the climbs.  It seems that every day has at least one and often more hills to climb.

After a long slog I reached the shelter before my target of the day.  I considered cutting the day short but knew I couldn't make up the distance and every day for this segment was long distance.  I decided to push on to the target shelter.

I guestimated I would get to the Story Spring Shelter a half hour or so before sunset.  I have been slower lately so I was a bit concerned when the sunlight dimmed.  As the sunlight dimmed I got some beautiful views of a beaver pond at sunset.  I arrived at the shelter about twenty minutes before official sunset.  I had to pull out my headlamp to find the bear box and privy.

There are some nice views in Vermont.
Day 150 - I left the shelter and headed north.  As I was heading downhill my pole stuck in a hole and I heard a sharp crack.  The pole broke in half.  That's the thing about carbon fiber trekking poles, they are very light but they only flex to a point before they break.  I'm surprised I made it over sixteen hundred miles before I broke a pole.  A replacement pole segment is waiting for me in Hanover, NH.

I climbed Mount Stratton with only one pole which felt out of balance.  At the top of Mount Stratton is where Benton MacKaye came up with the idea for the AT.

I ended the day at my target of Spruce Peak Shelter.  While I got there over an hour before sunset it still took longer than I expected.  I definitely am slowing down.

A cairn field along the AT.
Day 151 - This day was the shortest day so far but it felt like a much longer day.  The long climbs really wiped me out.

I was dragging my butt when I got closer to the Lost Pond Shelter.  Then I heard the laughter.  There was a college orientation group at the shelter.  I have found that these college orientation groups tend to be loud so sleeping in the shelter was out of the question. I found a tent pad at a safe distance.  This was a shame since the shelter really looked nice and even had a wood burning potbelly stove.

Day 152 - I decided the next two days, originally eighteen and twenty miles respectfully, were too long.  I added an extra day so that I would do two fourteen mile days and one ten mile day.  I thought this would make things easier.  The last day would be food free but it would end in a town where I could get eat.

Near the end of the day I nearly fell on my face again but managed to just roll my ankle.  I limped my way down the hill to the Minerva Hinkey Shelter.

I was joined by four south bound thru-hikers.  I went to bed early.  As I was trying to sleep one of the thru-hikers took out stainless steel throwing knives and began throwing them at a tree.  He was not very good so each throw end with a loud metallic clang.  *Sigh*

Over night it began to rain.  I kept waking up every few hours.  As it approached time to get up the rain did not let up.  *Sigh*

Only five hundred miles to go yet so far.
Day 153 - My ankle was stiff as I hobbled around camp.  I left the shelter in the rain.  It poured all day.  I slipped on a muddy hill and left a dime sized piece of palm skin on the trail.

Fortunately my ankle loosened up as I hiked.  First I climbed a thousand foot hill.  Then, after climbing down the ridge, I climbed two thousand six hundred feet to the top of Killington Mountain where my stop for the day, Cooper Lodge Shelter, sat near the top.   On the way up to Killington Mountain I passed the five hundred miles to go sign.

Near the top there is a restaurant that serves food to skiers and other sightseers.  It closes at 5:00pm.  It was only a short distance from the shelter.  Early in my AT attempt I know I could have made it in time to go to the restaurant but now I was so slow I knew I wouldn't make it.  I didn't make it.

I was the only hiker in or around the shelter.  It was a stone shelter and was a bit dilapidated.  Where there once was wooden shutters there was plastic sheeting and most of the plastic was flapping loosely in the wind.  The roof was leaking.  Some of the bunks were slanting so much they were unusable.  I picked the best one to set up my sleeping pad.

I made food.  As I was eating I started to shiver.  My clothes were wet and the temps were in the low fifties.  I stripped off my wet clothes and put on dry stuff including my base layers.  I crawled into my sleeping bag fairly early, put in my earplugs to counter the flapping plastic, and fell asleep.

I woke up near midnight having to use the bathroom.  I went out to use the privy and was greeted my a clear sky full of stars.  If it hadn't been so cold I would have stayed out and admired the stars but I went back into the shelter and crawled back into the sleeping bag.

Another milestone down.
Days 154 & 155 - I left the shelter in a fog.  I only had a bag of trail mix to eat.  Most of the hike today would be downhill but there was one small hill to climb before I got into town.  The trail conditions were pretty good but the wet rocks and roots slowed me down a bit.  Along the way I passed the one thousand seven hundred mile mark.  Each of these milestones pushes me on while each mile drags me back to reality.

I reached a road and walked the half mile into the town of Killington, VT.  The only thing here are two hotels, a deli/convenience store, a post office, and a styling salon.  I checked into the hotel across from the deli.  I took a shower, picked up my resupply box of food at the post office, and bought some food at the deli.

When I left Bennington I had considered only taking a nearo into Killington spending only one night in town but at the end of this segment my body was screaming for a full day off.  I took the two nights and I added another zero day in Hanover, NH.  My body is just not recovering anymore.  As I write this my legs feel stiff and I can hardly walk.  I am now considering taking several consecutive zeros before I enter the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  This would put me finishing at risk if the weather turns bad.  I have things to think about over the next week.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,706.3 Miles (2,746.0 km)
Section Distance: 94.1 Miles (151.4 km)
Section Elevation Up: 19,710 ft (6,008 m)
Section Elevation Down: 20,289 ft (6,184 m)


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