18.4 miles, 1699.2 overall (Inn at Long Trail)
The goal today is to reach the Inn at Long Trail. The hotel provides rooms at discounted rates for hikers when available and allows tenting for free across the street. Either option sounds good to me, with a room in the hotel being preferable. It hasn’t been too many days since I got cleaned up but it has been hot and, even worse, humid lately so I feel yucky already. I’m obviously not a warm weather hiker. To get a room I figure I should leave early, which is also a good idea considering I am camped only a few feet from the trail. I hit the trail just after 6:00.
I usually hike for a while before listening to anything but this morning I decide to start early. There is a large climb coming up over Killington Mtn not far into the day and I figure I may as well put something on now. I don’t get far though before I reach a road crossing and when I arrive I see a pleasant sight. There is a van there with a man behind it who appears to be laying out food. As I get closer I recognize both the man and the van – it is Santa’s Helper, the man who was providing trail magic way back at Wayah Bald near the beginning of my hike! He had mentioned back then that he does trail magic all up and down the trail and I had heard others mention that they had run into him but I didn’t expect to see him again. It turns out I am lucky because this morning he got out earlier than usual. It is 7:15 and he usually doesn’t arrive until later. I grab a soda and a snack, drop off my trash, and talk to him for a while. He is getting ready to get back on the trail and finish his last section – 270 miles to Katahdin. He plans to summit around the beginning of September which would mean I’ll pass him somewhere in Maine, so this won’t be the last time I see him.
As I get going again I reach a detour. I have heard about this detour from southbounders and from Jeff at the Green Mountain House. It is in place because of damage from Hurricane Irene last year which took out a bridge, however other hikers have been taking the old trail without a problem. I decide to take the old trail since it is shorter and I’ve been assured it is safe and easy. It turns out to be a good decision. Not only is the trail passable but it gives me some views of the damage caused by the hurricane. As I follow the trail along a large stream I can see trees that have been knocked over, lumber debris, and eroded stream banks. It is really impressive.
Safely through the detour I start my climb up Killington. It is about a 2000 foot climb but it is fairly gradual with switchbacks. I am engrossed in my book during the climb so it passes quickly and when I reach the top it doesn’t seem like it was that hard. Maybe I’m starting to get my climbing legs back just in time for the Whites!
On the other side of the mountaintop I reach a shelter and stop for a snack. The data book tells me the summit of Killington is accessible by a 0.2 mile side trail behind the shelter. I decide it is short enough and head up with my snack and water to take a look. Part way up the trail I find ski lifts with a great view of the valley below. There are stairs that lead up further so I follow them and at the top I find gondolas that are in service carrying dayhikers and mountain bikers to the summit from somewhere below. The view from this spot is about the same as the one from the ski lifts so I don’t spend too much more time. I eat my snack, drink some water, and head back to the shelter.
On the way down Killington I pass lots of day hikers on their way up. Some are on their own and others seem to be in tour groups of some sort. Near the bottom I stop for water and two hikers ask how much further it is. My first question to them is where are you going? To the summit they say. It is about 2:00 and it is 4-5 miles to the summit with 2000 feet of elevation. They also ask if the gondola will still be running when they get there. I consider talking them out of the ascent but they seem set on doing it. They also decide to give me some of their water, something I also consider a bad move on their part but they’ve made up their minds. I hope they make it up and back ok.
A couple miles further I find some trail magic at a bridge – Mountain Dews and water. Since I just got water I grab a soda and drink it while I hike. I only have a few miles left to the Inn and they go quickly. I run into some more day hikers on the way, one of which mentions that he went to Virginia Tech. I reach the Maine Junction where the AT separates from the Long Trail. The former heads to Maine while the latter continues north to Canada. I take the AT.
A mile later I reach the half mile side trail for the Inn and soon I’m at the front desk. The Inn only gives hiker rates to hikers who walk in. I ask if there are any left and it doesn’t look good. The man behind the desk says he was just trying to figure that out. Apparently there is one room taken by a single hiker. They call on the room to see if the hiker wants to split it and he says sure. I’m ok with it too since the room has two beds so I pay the incremental amount to the front desk for double occupancy in the room, get a key and head up. I wonder if it is a good decision since I don’t know the hiker I’m going to be splitting the room with, but I’m soon put at ease. His name is Bookworm and he seems like a great guy. He’s a little younger than I am and will be starting law school in a few weeks. For now he is southbound on the Long Trail. I get situated in the room and soon I’m showered and on my way down to do laundry.
The Inn has an Irish pub so while my laundry is running I go there to have a beer and start on dinner. I don’t see any other hikers but I take a seat at the bar. A soccer game between Brazil and Argentina is on tv. It must be a rerun because I can’t find anything about it online when I try to look it up on my phone. I order a Long Trail Ale and a blue cheese burger to eat while I marvel at the talents of Messi, who it appears scored a hat trick in the game.
By the time my laundry is done the Mules have joined me at the bar and I am drinking a Guinness. A musician is preparing for a live set at 7 and I order some Irish spuds (potato skins) because I’m still hungry. Eventually Five Pair joins us too. I get to talk to her for a little while before I head up to my room. It is early, but as a hiker I’m not able to stay up late anymore. Bookworm arrives not long after I do and I’m thankful that he is also on hiker time. We both go to bed by 9:00. Tomorrow I will resupply and continue north towards Hanover and the White Mountains of New Hampshire on the Appalachian Trail.