Adventures in the Southern Appalachians & Beyond!  

 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

VERMONT (Appalachian Trail & Long Trail) - Bennington to Danby
     

July 20th-24th, 2009 - After attending the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's biennial festival in Castleton Vermont, Shannon and I hit the Appalachian Trail at route VT-9  near Bennington for our "honeymoon hike" (following our July 4th wedding).  Our good friend Jake Mitchell shuttled us by leaving my car at the Danby-Landgrove road... 58 trail miles north of Bennington.  Not knowing what to expect from the Vermont trails, we felt the 58 miles was a conservative distance for our 5-day trip... boy, were we wrong!  

 

Day #1 (10.9 miles hiked):  Shannon, Jake, and I started about 10:30 in the morning, and began with some tough climbing up Maple Hill and Little Pond Mountain.  We weren't alone as we were right in the middle of a big batch of thru-hikers for most of the day, leap-frogging each other every time somebody decided to stop for a break.  We would talk with and see many of these same people for much of the trip.    

 

Our first stop of the day was for lunch at a pretty stream called Hell Hollow Brook.  From there we made our first big ascent up to the summit of Glastenbury Mountain.  We replenished our water supply, and were treated with great views from the top of the fire tower.  It was here that we also saw our first moose tracks.  We had climbed over 2500' on this first day. 

 

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Bill, Shannon, and Jake at Route VT-9 Near Bennington, Vermont

  Shannon Going Through "Split Rock"
     
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Shannon Early in the Day, Near "Maple Hill"   Vista from Our First Major Summit of the Trip... Glastenbury Mountain
     

Our initial plans were for the three of us to camp together on the first night, but it was at the fire tower that Jake decided to press on further.  So we said our good-byes and traded sweaty hugs. Shannon and I then descended a half mile or so from the summit and found a small secluded campsite just off the trail.  We made what was to be the only campfire of our trip (due to wet weather) and had a great dinner.   

     
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Shannon in the Fire Tower   Evergreens from the Fire Tower
     
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First Night Campsite... The Only Fire We 

Had on the Entire Trip

 

DAY 2 (10.7 miles hiked)  Shannon's Birthday!  I got up a little early to make her coffee and to get things situated so she could sleep in a little bit. When she awoke I also gave her some chocolate and a birthday card that I'd packed in.  We got back on the trail soon after, but unfortunately Shannon was already getting some blisters.

By late morning we had passed Kid Gore Shelter, which is where Jake spent the night.  We also re-filled our water at one of the many streams in the area.  Soon after filtering water, we felt the first rain drops, which would continue and increase for the rest of the day, and most of upcoming night.     

     
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Shannon Early on Day #2   Already Tending to Blisters
     

At first the rain was somewhat pleasant.  It wasn't hard enough to get us really wet, but kept us cool.  However, by the time we reached Story Spring Shelter in mid-afternoon, the rain was becoming very hard and cold.   The shelter was already completely full so we had no choice but to keep going.  The next three miles or so were pure misery as the skies opened up.  The trail turned to deep mud, greatly slowing our progress (something we would deal with for the rest of the trip).

We finally made it to Black Brook where we found a nice campsite right alongside the stream.  We set up the tent in the rain, and tried to keep our gear as dry as possible.  I also cooked dinner as best I could in the monsoon, and even though it was still somewhat early in the day, Shannon and I ate and then went to sleep.  It would keep raining for most of the night.  Obviously with all the rain, I didn't take many photos on day #2.        

     
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Hard Rain!  

Black Brook... Near Day #2 Campsite

     

Day #3 (13.6 miles hiked):  Thank God, we awoke with no rain.  But, everything was still so damp, and the wind was blowing lots of wetness from the trees, so we kept our raingear and covers on for most of the morning.  

Today we would climb Stratton Mountain...  The summit from which Benton Mackaye first envisioned the Appalachian Trail while sitting in a tree top in 1921.  Even though we were soaking wet from the day before, including all our socks and boots, we had a nice morning and easy ascent up Stratton.  Unfortunately, the summit was completely covered with clouds and fog so we had no views.  Shannon was able to get phone reception on this peak however, so she was able to check in at home along with paying the DirectTV bill that she'd forgotten to do before we left.                

     
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Shannon Crossing Black Brook Early on Day #3  

Getting Reception on the Summit of Stratton Mountain to Make Calls and Pay Bills!

     
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Shannon and Bill on the Summit of Stratton   On Stratton, With the Firetower
     

We then made our descent down Stratton quickly, as we wanted to make up a few miles with the pleasant weather.  We reached Stratton pond by mid-afternoon, where I tried to air out my soaking wet feet for a few minutes.  They were beginning to hurt from being wet for so long and blisters were starting to develop.   I also had a major rash popping up on my legs that I initially thought was Poison Ivy.  However, in hind sight I think it was just too much Deet sprayed on my legs from all the flies and mosquitoes. 

Stratton Pond would have been a wonderful campsite with such a great view, but we needed to go further.  After another 5.5 miles, and replenishing our water at a nice stream near Douglas Shelter, we reached an overlook called Prospect Rock.  This is a sheer cliff looking west over the town of Manchester Vermont.  It was right beside a forest road (which I normally try to avoid), but it was a nice, dry campsite after a long day of hiking on muddy trails so we stopped for the day. 

We took out all of our wet gear and clothes and laid them out on Prospect Rock to try to dry them out, and then Shannon and I sat on the rock and witnessed a wonderful sunset.  I have to say that this sunset was probably my favorite moment of the entire trip.  It was beautiful.  

We had a late dinner that we cooked by headlamp.  I hung our bear-bag, and we got to bed.  I slept really well.             

     
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Shannon Making a Quick Descent Down Stratton   Resting at Beautiful Stratton Pond
     
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At Prospect Rock... Day #3 Campsite   Trying to Dry Out Clothes on Prospect Rock
     
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Amazing Sunset
     
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Another of the Sunset at Prospect Rock

     

DAY 4 (13.1 miles hiked):  The wind seem to blow most of the night on the Prospect Rock ridge, and even though we had our clothes hanging on tree limbs, everything was still wet in the morning.  I was disappointed that I had to put my feet in wet socks and boots again.  By this point Shannon and I both were just duct taping our blisters, which was the only thing that would hold in soaking wet socks.

 

I made our coffee and we got an early start back on the trail.  By late morning we had made the side trail to Spruce Peak.  We took off our packs and took this short trail, which had a couple of tough scrambles to reach the rocky summit, but rewarded us with nice views overlooking Manchester.

 

The following 2.5 miles after Spruce Peak, which was mostly a steep, rocky, muddy descent, was very tough on me.  Shannon and I both had been hiking in wet socks and boots for two days and the blisters were getting bad.  My feet were also simply starting to burn with every step... just from being wet for so long.  And Shannon's knees were beginning to wear on her from the descent, so we were traveling slowly.  When we reach VT-11 around noon (the road to Manchester), I took off my boots and was shocked at how my feet looked and felt.  We had hiked 40 tough miles, and I was just about ready to catch a ride into town and call it quits.  But Shannon urged me to keep going, and since I knew she was hurting as much or more than me, there was no way I could quit.  So we continued across the road and began our ascent up Bromley Mountain.                

     
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Early in the Morning, Looking Over the Town of Manchester Vermont   Shannon Packing Up
     
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Shannon on the Summit of Spruce Peak  

The Only Snake We Saw, at an Overlook Near the Summit of Bromley Mountain

     

I don't know why, but climbing a mountain for me is much easier than descending.  It's not easier physically, but it's easier for me mentally.  Maybe it's the thrill of reaching a summit, or the wonder of what's on top, or just some gratification of a physical accomplishment... I'm not exactly sure, but climbing Bromley gave me a second wind and I was glad Shannon had pressed me to go on.

 

Near the summit of Bromley the AT/LT goes directly up the Bromley ski slopes.  My photos don't portray how steep these climbs are, but they are tough.  When we reached the top, we had amazing views in all directions with wildflowers in bloom in the open fields.  We then climbed the ski slope observation tower for even more grand vistas.

 

After our descent we made it to the road at Mad Tom Notch where we got water at a hand pump from a well.  We ran into some south-bounders here and they informed us that the rain was coming soon. It was getting a little late in the day, but we decided to go a little further before stopping, so we starting climbing Styles Peak.  This climb was straight up and very tough, especially with it being near the end of the day.  No switchbacks here... just straight up!  We reached the summit (3395') and realized that the weather was turning fairly quick.  There was a nice campsite on top of Styles Peak, but we were too afraid of staying up high with rough weather, so we continued down into the gap between Styles and Peru Peak.  When I saw a rare flat spot on the side of the trail, we called it a day.

 

We set up the tent, and warmed up some water for our Ramen noodles that we ate inside.  Both of us were completely spent.  I think it rained most of the night, but we stayed warm and dry.

     
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Very Steep Ascent Up a Ski Slope, Nearing the Summit of Bromley  

Bill and Shannon on the Observation Tower on the Bromley Summit

     
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Bromley Ski Lifts  

Old Ski Lift Marking the A.T. Directions

     
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MUD... This  Was Typical of  Almost the Entire 58 Miles

Day #4 Campsite Was Just Off the Trail Near Here

     

Day #5 (9.7 miles hiked):  We awoke with wet conditions after a night of rain, but got packed up and back on the trail reasonably early.  I think we were both excited about seeing my little red car at the end of the day. 

We climbed Peru Peak and got no views again due to the cloudy, foggy weather.  After descending we went by Peru Peak Shelter, refilled water, and then worked our way down to Griffith Lake, which was a pretty area with lots of puncheon bridges.  By the way these puncheons were everywhere in this entire hike, but very slick.  So, even though they got you up off of the muddy trail, you still could not make up time as you had to pay close attention to your every step.  

Our last climb of the trip was Baker Peak...  and it was my favorite summit.  To make the final half-mile ascent we had to navigate a steep rocky ridgeline at approximately a 45 degree angle.  It was a tough scramble but almost every advancing step gave beautiful opening views of the surrounding mountains as the skies were beginning to clear as well.  Shannon and I stopped at the summit for lunch and to enjoy the vistas.  At one point an airplane flew by us at a much lower elevation than where we were.             

     
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Near Peru Peak Shelter   Griffith Lake
     
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Shannon Getting Ready to Make the Final Climb   Shannon (barely visible) Making the Tough and Steep Scramble Up Baker Peak.  
     
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One of Many Slick Puncheon Bridges That We Crossed   

Views from Baker Peak

     

From Baker Peak it was all downhill to the car.  The Big Branch stream and suspension bridge was a nice site as we knew we were getting close.  When we reached the car at the Danby-Landgrove road there was no doubt we had both accomplished the toughest 58 miles of Appalachian Trail that we'd ever done. 

     
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Shannon on the Summit of Baker Peak  

Suspension Bridge Over "Big Branch"

     
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Big Branch... Near the End of the Trip  

Shannon Crossing the Last Bridge

     

Some other facts and thoughts about our trip:

- The Long Trail, which traverses the state of Vermont from north to south, is the oldest long distance hiking trail in the U.S.  It is shared with the Appalachian Trail in the southern part of the state.  All of our trip was within this shared section, which means we also hiked 58 miles of the historic Long Trail!

- You usually think about food, shelter, and water being the primary requirements, but I now rank dry feet very high on the list too!  Our feet were wet for four straight days.

- Shannon and I carried about 16-18 lbs. of food for this 5 days trip.  I estimate that our ending pack weights were at 25 lbs. (Shannon) and 35 lbs. (me).

-  We carried 35 degree sleeping bags, reducing a pound of weight each from our cooler weather bags.  This was a good choice as we stayed warm.

- We had a different insect bombard us each night on the trail.  Night #1 was flies, night #2 was mosquitoes (even in the rain!), night #3 was granddaddy longlegs, and night #4 was slugs and snails.  I carried a bug net, which I did use to cook dinner on night #2.

- We got to see and hike on some of the oldest trail systems in the U.S. while also seeing numerous old, historic shelters.

-  Shannon and I can normally hike close to 2 miles per hour, but with the tough conditions we were averaging closer to 1-1.5 miles per hour.  Meaning... These ~12 mile days were taking us most of the day to complete.    

-  We could not have accomplished this hike without trekking poles.  Neither Shannon nor I fell the entire 58 miles, which is unbelievable considering the mud, terrain, slick puncheons, and wet rocks.  

Total Miles Hiked:  58.0

Hike Rating -

 

Bill's Overall Rating:

Distance:  58.0 miles

Difficulty:  VERY DIFFICULT

Type: Continuous

Vista Rating: 

Waterfall Rating:  NONE

Water Crossings:  numerous EASY to MODERATE

Scrambling/Climbing:  many EASY to MODERATE, a few DIFFICULT

Hazards:  open bridges, slick puncheons, slippery slopes, very steep areas and steps,  some rock scrambling (some requiring handholds), avoidable cliffs 

Significance:  Appalachian Trail, Long Trail, Historic shelters (12), County Highpoint (Stratton Mountain 3940' - Windham Co. VT)

Recommendation:  Advanced Backpack

 

Click here for hike rating reference guide.

 

 

 

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