June 25. We finally said goodbye to Sunshine, Nick, and Josh around noon and stopped by the local deli to get food before hitch hiking the 10 miles back to the trail. I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a coke...it was a lot of food, but just what I needed! We sat out in the parking lot and ate as we watched the dark clouds rolling in overhead. We walked down to the corner in front of the grocery store where the road takes off towards the trail head. We tried to hitch for about 20 minutes with no luck before the clouds above opened up and started dumping rain. Luckily the grocery store was across the street and we ran there to take cover. I was still hungry so I went in and bought a chocolate milk and a chocolate covered doughnut. The lady at the checkout counter said "We were all rooting for you guys out there" and I noticed that the huge picture windows in the front of the store looked right out at where we had been trying to hitch. Most hikers probably go to Manchester Center so the village of Londonderry may not be used to having hikers around. We waited a little longer as the rain kept coming down and I killed time by eating another honey glazed doughnut. When the rain passed we headed back out to the street and the first car that passed stopped for us and we got a ride back to the trail in a Westfalia bus from Toronto! When we got out of the van the rain had started again and we quickly put on our rain coats and pack covers. A few steps into the trail we found a cooler of drinks and I downed an orange soda. We hiked on in the rain for a few minutes and it cleared off. One section of the trail climbed up a ski run and that made for some interesting views. I wondered how difficult it would be to hike this section on the winter with people skiing at you! We hit a shelter at 5 PM and met a couple who were section hiking 100 miles in Vermont. They offered to make us some hot coffee as Rat Bucket, Rayo, and I debated about hiking 4.7 miles further to the next shelter. We decided to go on after much deliberation and around 6:30 hit the trail. We crossed a few areas where flooding had taken out the trail but found ways around it. About half a mile from the shelter the rain started again and we ran the rest of the way arriving soaked but happy to be there. With no one else in the shelter we could spread out and have dinner and hang out wet gear out. Another great day of stories, 15 miles hiked, and I was ready for bed!
June 26. Woke up cold! Freezing to be exact. Rat Bucket let the air out of his sleeping pad at 6:30 and Rayo said we should all sleep another 30 minutes, so I pulled my Tyvek over me and fell back to sleep. I finally strated moving after 7...it was cold and looked wet out but it wasn't raining. I got ready for the day, I thought about wearing my underwear today under my shorts for an extra thermal layer during the cold rain...but I am glad I didn't, I needed dry underwear to help keep me warm for another cold night! We left the shelter and started up the trail. Around noon we hit another shelter and stopped in for lunch. It had been misting most of the morning and I was cold and wet, but ready to keep hiking! We talked about stopping off in 8 miles to visit a restaurant 0.5 miles down the road. I headed out first and made good time to the road. The rain had really been coming down and I was soaked. I walked half a mile down the road and as I came to the restaurant a guy pulled over and offered to give me a ride into Rutland, 10 miles away. I said no thanks and walked up to the restaurant to see they had closed for the day at 2:30, it was 4 PM. I sat under their roof for a bit, out of the rain, and ate some of my snacks. I walked back to the trail in the pouring rain and waited until 5 PM to see if Rayo and Rat Bucket would be coming by so I could tell them the place was closed. At 5 I left because I wanted to make it to the next shelter and I was freezing in the cold rain. A mile later I made it to the shelter and found a note from the guys that said they moved on and would be staying at the next shelter 6 miles away. The shelter I was in was ok...big...but definitely had a leaky roof problem. There was water everywhere! It was 5:30 and at 3 miles an hour I could make the next shelter byh 7:30, but any slower and I would risk losing light in the woods...the rain cloulds made it dark pretty early, and my headlamp battery was running out. It probably wouldn't be the best idea for me to forge on so I changed into dry clothes and ate dinner alone in the spacious shelter. A little after 6 two other hikers arrived and decided to stay, which worked out great! One was from Illinois and the other from Indiana and we talked about the midwest, building our own gear, trail stories, and other hikers. We all found dry-ish spots to sleep in. I pulled out my Lafuma 600 sleeping bag for the last time...it is a 45 degree sleeping bag and I have been freezing in it the past few days even while wearing my silk long pants and shirts, silk socks, wool socks, underwear, wind pants, my Thermawrap coat, and fleece hat. My 15 degree sleeping bag was waiting for me in Killington and I would be there tomorrow! Today was a short day for me, 20 miles, and Killington was only another 20 miles away. We were all planning to stay at Kent Pond and sit in the hot tub tomorrow night, so I hoped to get an early start on the day, get to Killington and get my town chores done, and then relax!
June 27. I had a hard time waking up. I had stayed dry and relatively warm through the night but the brisk morning air made getting out of my sleeping bag and back into my wet clothes very unatractive. I finally started moving and put on my damp shirt and shorts and my cold wet socks and shoes. I was out of the shelter by 8 and making progress up the trail. I passed a sign that said "Trail Closed" from Hurricane Irene and a relocation map. I thought for sure it was an old sign so I continued on. I realized shortly though that the sign was current! I approached a stream and saw the damage and destruction from Irene...trees down everywhere and the river banks washed out. The trail was gone as well...but there were some rock cairns across the river, so I crossed the swollen river in knee deep water, I was wet! When I got to the other side I didn't see the trail there either and after 10 minutes of looking around I saw another rock cairn further up back on the other side of the water. I waded back across the rushing current and made it to the white blazes. I continued on to another washed out river but at least here someone had laid out a ladder of steps and built hand rails out of branches and limbs. I found out later that very few people hiked through the closed section of trail...oops! I didn't think it was that bad! Plus, in the closed section I passed the 500 mile sign to Katahdin, the end of the AT! I finally made it to the shelter where the guys had stayed the night before and started the long climb up Mount Killington. It was really cold on top of the mountain, the wind was blowing, the clouds were thick, and the rain was still falling. For a brief minute the sun poked through and I saw my shadow! I got really excited and started singing to myself and thinking today might be a good day after all! Then...the sun went away, the clouds came back, and the rain started falling. A few miles from town I caught up with Rat Bucket and Rayo and we headed into Killington. We passed the "Maine Junction" where the Long Trail goes north to Canada and the AT goes north-ish (more north-east-ish) to Maine. Rat Bucket and Rayo went to the Mountain Meadows Lodge and I walked into town to the outfitter to pick up my sleeping bag and then to the post office to send the other one home. I was glad to have my warmer bag...but it is a TON bigger! I took a before and after photo below...first is my summer bag...then the winter bag... I stopped by the Killington Deli to get some snacks and a delicious sandwich and soda and milk. I walked back to the Lodge and learned that we could do a work for stay! My job was to strip paint off a door and put a coat of primer on it. While I was working I was called to dinner...a plate full of ribs, garlic bread, veggies, fruit, and more! We ate until we were stuffed and I finished painting the door. We put our clothes in the laundry and all jumped in the hut tub out back to relax. My friend Rafiki also showed up and joined in on the work for stay. We were 4 tired hikers, sick of the rain, enjoying a nice place to stay...even with the rain clouds looming for the next few days, at least tonight we were dry and comfortable!