Vermont Long Trail Thru-hike Journal
By John F. Klebes
Started at Journey’s End trailhead at 12:00pm. My brother Greg dropped me off and hiked with me to the Canadian border where we said goodbye. Sunny, some light snow and a few patches of ice on the ground. More moose prints than humans. So far no other hikers seen. No registers at the first two shelters? Stopped for a late lunch at Shooting Star Shelter. Stopped for the night at Laura Woodward Shelter at 5:50pm. The spring was hard to get water from – down to just a trickle.
10/20/09 – Day 2:
Overcast but still had local views of mountains from Jay Summit. Lots of ice and patches of snow made for slow progress on Jay. Was surprised to see the tram moving up but didn’t wait to see the people on it. It looked like just a couple of staff employees. Followed the footprints in the snow and ended up hiking a small section of the ski run (a short cut?) before I realized I was off the trail. I meet a large group of pre-teens on a field trip heading north on the hike down from the summit. From that point I was alone again and thought I was on a moose trail instead of the Long Trail. Hardly any footprints could be seen because of all the fresh moose tracks. The mile before Hazan’s Notch shelter was covered in leaves and with the worn and faded blazes you really had to pay attention to where the trail went and especially to the mud hidden under the leaves. Lunch at Hazen’s Notch Camp (note the register book is full). The route from Hazen’s to Tillotson Camp was a hump. I was getting tired and starting to regret packing food for 16 days! The good thing is it keeps getting lighter! The trail was clear enough but with only a few blazes I found myself always wondering if I was on the trail. The blazing from VT 58 after it heads up Haystack is non-existent. The last mile to the summit I saw no sign of blazes that I could find. By now it’s late and I am tired. Lots of stumbles and it was overcast and getting darker. I decided to skip the two summit spur trails on Haystack and Tillotson Peak since there were no views and I was tired and it would have meant getting to camp after sunset. Got to Tillotson cabin at 6:20pm just as I was loosing light and had to use a headlamp to find the water.
10/21/2009 – Day 3:
Lots of sights. Great views from Belvidere Fire Tower. Met a day hiker on the way down. Didn’t stay long since it was windy on the tower. There was a trail relocation which was excellent. No mud, great rock steps and easy hiking in a nice forest with still a little color in the trees – most where underfoot! From here I enjoyed great views from a cliff overlooking Ritterbush pond. Meet two men who were maintaining the Spruce Ledge Camp to check on it for the winter. (a new camp that was not on my old 1997 guidebook) They joined me for a nice adventure through Devil’s Gulch and to the camp with its great views from the outlook on the ridge. Had lunch and thought the Devil’s Gulch and Spruce Ledge camp would be a great winter weekend adventure. After lunch I had a nice ridge hike over Bowen with lots of views since the leaves are down. Guess there are no views in the summer. Got a weather forecast from three moose hunters I meet. Stopped at Corliss Camp at 4:30pm for the night.
10/22/09 – Day 4:
Met a day hiker climbing down Laraway Mt. Roundtop was an interesting spot for lunch. At Prospect Rock I had great views and sunshine. Sat on the rocks with a group of mother’s and young teens. It was fun listening to the chatter of the kids playing on the hike down to the river. Said our goodbyes at the suspension bridge. A long uneventful slog to Bear Hollow via rail trail and gravel roads. Here is where I met two SOBO hikers who started a week before me. I decided to push on to Whiteface Shelter, even though I was tired, to be closer to Mansfield during the good weather forecast on Friday and before Saturday’s rain. I was afraid the rain would be glare ice on Mansfield and I also wanted a nice weather day on the ridge! A ½ mile down the trail from Bear Hollow the sky opened and it rained all night. I climbed Whiteface, a neat alpine climb, but was soaked, cold (it was very windy), and not a view to be seen. Glad to get to the lean-to and put on all my dry clothes. The Whiteface Shelter floor was very uneven and I rolled into the corner all night. This entire trip I have been careful to dry clothes in my sleeping bag, stow water so it doesn’t freeze, etc. Today I hung my wet clothes on a line hoping the wind would dry them – Wrong. Woke at 11:30pm and found everything frozen solid and it snowing out.
10/23/09 – Day 5:
Everything froze overnight. Lots of ice made for very slow going over Morse Mtn and Madonna Peaks. View from Hageman overlook was mystical with Mansfield in and out of the clouds. While the ice made it very slow going the snow on the trees was magical! That is until the sun started melting it and it came down on my head like a snowball fight. On the climb up Mansfield I had to dodge a group of 100 Canadian teens climbing down. I confirmed it with three of the adults – 100 kids in one group. It was like swimming against a current. The last section before the chin was very icy and dangerous with a backpack especially combined with high gusting winds but the traverse was fantastic. Once on the ridge the sun had melted most of the ice and the views at dusk, all to my self, were fantastic! The final section – the forehead was very interesting with ladders, huge rocks, and even a bridge over a crack in the rocks. At least it was free of ice! Got to Butler at dark. Just after settling in I was joined by a couple out for the weekend. First night I had to share a shelter so far. A great day on Mansfield. I have climbed Mansfield four times before on overnight and/or day hikes in both summer and winter and always had snow, rain, or fog without views. Finally got to see the excellent views!!!
10/24/09 – Day 6:
10/25/09 – Day 7:
The theme for today is leaves, wet slippery leaves. Going down hill is like sledding. Getting to the point I am afraid to step forward. Going uphill is like going down hill, because you slide right back to where you started. Quick snack at Duck Brook Shelter. Sun is out; clothes are drying, nice views of Camels Hump! My first day since the Canadian border without seeing snow or ice on the trail. Once the sun dried up the leaves it turned into a good day. Long road walk and trail relocation to camel’s hump. (I can’t believe how many changes there are since my old 1997 guidebook was written). Very long but exciting climb over many bumps to Camels Hump with many great views! What a fantastic section. Except for one bog bridge that decided to tip and slide into a huge puddle of mud at a forty-five degree angle with me on it. Not a pretty sight. The shelter I planned on was removed so I pushed on to Montclair Glen Lodge. Great summit photo of my shadow on a rock. And awesome sunset views on the descent. Long day hiking into the shelter at 7pm in the dark. Meet three others already in the shelter – a woman who was overnighting and had been a caretaker at Butler, a NOBO section hiker out for a week adventure but was hiking out on day three because he didn’t like the weather, and SOBO hiker John from Alaska.
10/26/09 – Day 8:
Picked up a shadow. John from the hut last night has been hiking with me. Seems to have latched on to me. Nice enough but talks constantly. He is only hiking a few more days thankfully. A great, cool, sunny, day with views on Burnt Mountain and fairly easy hiking. Crossed Appalachian Gap today and stayed at the Thereon Dean Shelter – the one with the cave that I had wanted to stay at. Spare socks are DRY now! But boots are still soaked.
10/27/09 – Day 9:
Camped at Cooley Glen Shelter. Hiked with “John” for most of the middle of today. Lots of stories of his sailboat and adventures but will be glad to be back on my own tomorrow. He leaves the trail at route 125.
10/28/09 – Day 10:
Stop at Skyline lodge this morning. Very wet and windy, about 35 degrees, with no views. Can not see pond but still great to be out. Splurged for lunch with a hot cup of coffee before heading farther south! CHANGE of Plans! Before I left the Skyline Shelter the rain came in very very heavy. Couldn’t bring myself to put my wet clothes back on to go out. It is now 4pm (3 ½ hours later) and I have had a nice nap and listened to two chapters of my mp3 book on tape. It’s still raining and I have decided to spend the night in this fine shelter. Short day only about 7-8 miles. I think I can stretch my food to last for the whole trip if I am careful.
10/29/09 – Day 11:
Feet/boots are still soaked but other than that it’s a nice day. Saw some great color in the sky at sunrise and neat mist and clouds mixed with the mountains but no good spots to take a picture. I meet up with “John” at the next lean-to at 8:00am. He saw my footprints but decided not to hike the spur trail out to Skyline lodge and hiked on in the rain. I said my goodbyes and hiked on. A strange guy. No stove or sleeping pad and hiking with two day packs and a dry bag strapped together. Lives on a sailboat and acts almost homeless but lots of interesting stories. Claims to have four degrees and 300,000 in the bank but is obviously living on less then 50 a month. I climbed over Mt Horrid and sat on the cliffs enjoying the view and decided it wasn’t worth it to hike too much further into the night to get closer tot the Long trail Inn today. I decided on Sunrise shelter as home tonight. Washed my socks and built a fire to dry them but it was hard to keep it going with everything wet. The only down part on this whole trip has been my wet feet. Oh well – it’s still great to be here! This last section to Sunshine shelter has all the water bars cleaned out of leaves. Thanks Mr. Caretaker!
10/30/09 – Day 12:
Mostly dry socks and boots to start today! Made great time in the morning through surreal mist and fog. Was not thinking I would even try for dinner at the Long Trail Inn but I found the dry socks so comfortable I was moving at three miles and hour. It helped the trail was easy. By afternoon my boots and socks were soaked again. This turned into my motivation to get to the Inn so I wouldn’t have to put those wet socks on again tomorrow. Some nice limited views on this section. Made Route 4 by 5:30pm but the trail had been relocated and I had to hike over a mile on the road to the Inn. Expensive but really neat place. Rustic wood with exposed rock coming through the walls. A shower, laundry, and dinner in an Irish Pub with Guinness and a great Irish five piece band! Lots of friendly people. I called my friend Rick who said he would hike in tomorrow and join me near Governor Clem’s shelter for the weekend.
10/31/09 – Day 13:
Happy Halloween. Left the long trail inn with dry clothes and boots, a full stomach and a spring in my step. Took the old AT route, now Shelburne path? Got to visit Pico Camp and took a side trip up Pico. Lots of wind and great views. The antennas covers on the summit made drum noise in the high winds and you couldn’t hear yourself think. At Cooper Shelter I meet two GMC caretakers doing trail maintenance. One told me he had just torn out the bunk beds from Governor Clem shelter so all it had was a dirt floor. I asked him if he had heard about this secret shelter near there and he gave me some conflicting directions. A quick trip to the summit of Killington and a hike around the top in very high winds that almost knocked you down. Views blow in and out; and the wind is a howling! It feels like rain is coming. I am at Governor Clem shelter writing this while I wait for my friend Rick to join me. It’s about 3pm.
11/1/09 – Day 14:
Rick got to Governor Clem shelter last night around 4:45pm. I led him a mile down the Catamount trail before admitting I had the directions to the “secret Shelter” wrong. It then started to rain. We figured out we needed to go another ½ mile south to a different bridge crossing to find the right road to follow. I think Rick was getting nervous. We found the shelter at dark. A very nice shelter and unique privy design. The shelter was pinned post and beam with candle lanterns and the privy had a skylight. Met the owner who was out with his dogs. Rick treated me to dinner: cheese and crackers, clam chowder, broccoli coleslaw, crab cakes, French bread, wine, and chocolate. Fantastic! If only you could have brought in my girlfriend to top it off? It rained during the night but was dry by morning. When we hit route 103 I treated Rick to lunch at the “Whistle Stop” since he treated me to such a great dinner, before saying goodbye at the suspension bridge in Clarington Gorge. Rick left me with five apples and leftover bread and crackers. I think I can make it to Massachusetts without re-supplying if I cut two of my dinners in half. Clocks change today so I keep loosing even more sunlight. A very short day today – only 9 miles to Minerva Hinchey Shelter. It was a warm and sunny first day of November! A fully moon lit the sky and while walking to the privy I noticed how much down wood was on the ground so I made a small fire.
11/2/09 – Day 15:
Startled a moose when I got up at 3am to pee this morning. Having lunch now at Little Rock Pond Shelter. I put some duck tape on my boots today. Either the water, I would be surprised if my leather isn’t starting to rot, or drying by the fire, but the sole is separating from the leather uppers. Today is cold but sunny. Another trail relocation so I didn’t see Greenwall shelter but I did have a nice morning snack at White Rocks. Lots of Rock Art on the trail it was nice to sit in the sun with a view at the cliffs. I remember seeing “PooBear” here when I hiked three days with my brother Larry during his AT thru-hike. Took a nap in a sunbeam at Big Branch shelter while listening to the roar of the water – nice spot. I am now making camp at Lost Pond Shelter. Planning a small fire to pass the time and because it is cold already and the sun is still up. Just found out I broke my spoon in half. L
11/3/09 – Day 16:
Good views on Peru Peak. Did some field repairs to my boots at Griffin Lake. The duck tape didn’t work so I replaced with some cord. I forgot to note earlier that I saw a Coyote on the hill before getting to Camels Hump area. Thought I would see moose with all the prints but perhaps the hunters have them scared. I made it to Bromley Mountain by 12:30pm – to early to stop and I thought I would have found water at the old Mad Tom Shelter site but I never saw the site. It started to drizzle and looked like rain but I couldn’t bring myself to sit in the ski lodge all day and night so I headed to Spruce Peak. On the way I checked out the new Bromley Shelter. Very nice! It looks like rain tonight. Glad I made it before it came. How come there are so few Spruce trees on the summit of Spruce Peak? Couldn’t get a good photo with all the trees but Mt Equinox is right there! Nice view of the sunset from the porch here at the Spruce Shelter. All this is heaven! A hot meal, change into warm clothes and socks, and now a woodstove! Such a fantastic feeling with the rain and high winds blowing around me. I was so cold but now in heaven! I feel a little guilty burning wood for one person but it feels so good after so many cold nights. Since I am only burning it for two hours it’s not much wood. I can’t stay awake more than that! Looks like the rain is turning to snow!
11/4/09 – Day 17:
The ground is covered with gravelly hail (graupel). Looks like someone spread vermiculite everywhere. Stopped in at Stratton Pond shelter for hot coffee! The mud is frozen solid on Stratton – Thankfully. Made it to the Story Spring Shelter. Nice view of Black Brook. The snow stayed on the ground mostly so it must have been COLD today, but at least it’s mostly sunny. Small camp fire tonight – needed something to do. Fourteen hours is too long to spend in a sleeping bag each night. Saw not a sole again today. Is this a first for Stratton pond and the fire tower? It was nice to have the whole world to myself. There is an owl hooting out tonight at the shelter. Never knew they made that much noise. It’s kind of nice by the fire but hopefully he shuts up before bedtime.
11/5/09 – Day 18:
Just a light coating but very pretty. It continued to snow lightly with flurries of white flakes all day. Sometimes just a few flakes, sometimes a whiteout. If it wasn’t for the snow sticking to the toe of my boots and soaking through it would have been wonderful. Saw no one today. Just a view of the frozen tree tops from Glastonbury Tower. Spending the night at Melville Nauheim shelter. My water froze on Glastonbury Mountain.
11/6/09 – Day 19:
Wonder how much they got at the higher elevations? Could feel the ice crystals in my noise while I breathed last night. It’s like winter hiking. Beautiful with the trees all full of white! In for lunch at Congdon Shelter. Harmon Hill was not as I remembered. Wonder if they are still burning to keep the views? High brush left lots of snow on my pants. Hiking in 4-8 inches of virgin snow! Difficult at times to be sure of the trail which is hidden under the snow. But, OH the wonder of hiking with clean white snow under foot and clinging to the trees. A perfect winter wonderland and fitting end to my last full day on the Long Trail. Just need to pay attention to finding the trail. With the magic of snow I got to see lots of animal prints and tracks including a beaver, moose, deer, and a muskrat I think. As well as many chipmunks, squirrels, lots of bird tracks, a rabbit, and something larger that I didn’t recognize. Only thing I didn’t see was human tracks! I did loose the trail for a little while when it slipped off what looked to be a very old faint woods road on the way up Consultation peak. The blazes are very old and faded – look more like grey lichen then white paint. I passed the turn by 400 yards before I decided I was off trail in the snow. Other than that it was mostly just a series of 30 second pauses to figure where I should go next to stay on the trail. I hit one spot with 18 inch drifts of snow under the power lines that made me feel I was in artic conditions on top of Mt Washington in winter! Camped at Seth Warner Shelter tonight.
11/7/09 – Day 20:
Up early and hiked with very frozen boots but it turned into a great sunny day. Made the VT/MA line at 8:00am and took a couple of photos at the southern terminus of the Long Trail before both my camera batteries gave out. Glad I got my last photo but missed some nice photos on the Pine Cobble Approach trail. That’s a great trail into Williamstown! Hiked a couple miles into the bus station to learn the next bus wasn’t for 7 hours and then it wouldn’t get me to White River Jct till 12:45pm the next day! Ridiculous. I hitched a ride to Greenfield, MA. I hiked a couple miles out of Williamstown till I got my first ride – turns out the guys grandmother is “Kay Woods”, who has a shelter named after her. It was the plans for the Kay Wood shelter that we used to base the shelter I helped build on the MM trail in Massachusetts. Such a small world.
Green Mountain Club
4711 Waterbury-Stowe Road
Waterbury Center, Vermont 05677
4711 Waterbury-Stowe Road
Waterbury Center, Vermont 05677