Vermont Long Trail: 7/31 Congdon Shelter 14 Miles

 

Congdon ShelterAnticipation of starting my hike hindered a sound nights sleep last night. As many of you can attest, ones mind becomes full of thoughts for the future hike and all that hike will entail. Dreaming of perfect weather, scenic views, and serenity abounds in ones mind.

I had great expectations for the days and weeks before my hike!  Trash That Thought!!! Time for a reality Check!!!

As we pulled up to the trail around 7:45 am, I had visions of the previous years hike on the Trans ADK Route. Rain! I am not eluding to a light summers rain that is tolerable and refreshing. No sir, I’m talking about a heavy constant rain that will soak an inexperienced hiker to their core and drive them to get back into the car to head home or soak their shit so much that they bail on the journey after only a few days.

With the conditions as poor as they were, I said a very quick goodbye to my parents and headed into an abysmal downpour that would last for 5 straight hours. Lots of running water in the trail, which felt like I was walking in a stream bed.

Since I chose to start the LT at the southern terminus, I had to hike 3.8 miles of the AT in Massachusetts to actually get to the start of the Long Trail at the Vermont border. I made short work of the hike to the border, but I can say with certainty these hills are going to slow me down for a few days. No views, no pictures, no fanfare at the border. A quick look at the sign, oh isn’t that nice, I bet it would make a nice picture if the rain wasn’t blowing sideways. Screw the photo op, time to press on!

My planned destination for tonight was the Congdon Shelter which is a relatively short day of approximately 14 miles. Hey, I didn’t want to knock out a 19 mile day on my first day and sustain any major foot or muscle damage.

What a great day of hiking. Yes the weather sucks!!! But I feel good and there is a bit of euphoria about being on the Appalachian Trail again. It has been 18 years since I was on the AT and there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought back fondly of my 2000 mile journey. If only I could get paid a living wage to hike. And no I am not going to guide. I want to be out in the woods without the pressure of babysitting.

I covered the 14 miles by 2:30 today and I couldn’t be happier considering the conditions. The trail is wet.  Really wet. Not as muddy as I expected given the current weather conditions, but I fully expect to hit the mud after the rain has had a good chance to soak into the soil. As I walked up and down the hills there was no effort on my part to avoid any of the water. Hell, there was no way to keep dry as I walked in a constant stream of flowing water. But all is well. My feet held up great, my legs did their job and now I am resting in the shelter writing down a few thoughts in dry clothes and all Gold Bonded Up!

Met a few North-Bounders today as they flew by me with their ultralight getups. The packs certainly aren’t as large and heavy as the loads we carried a few years back. I even passed quite a few hikers today even though I am in pathetic shape. Guess I don’t have as much trouble hiking in the rain and sloppy conditions as some do.

Hikers have begun to filter into the shelter for the evening. Quite the mix of AT section hikers, thru-hikers and Long Trail hikers. There is a woman with her 10 year old son out for a three day section of the AT/LT. Great to see how excited her son is about being in the woods. As I write this he is cozy in his sleeping back totally immersed in a book.

3 pm and the rain has started again. Over the past hour many Thru-Hikers have stopped in and elected to move on since the shelter is pretty full. The amount of technology being used in the shelter is eye opening. Although I do have my phone and occasionally use it to send a text saying I am still alive, I rarely use it in front of others. This abundance of technology I am seeing is mostly due to the fact that the trails I have been hiking the past few years are not overcrowded and see much lower foot traffic than the AT or Long Trail.

Here is what I see being used:

  • Phones
  • Kindles
  • Weather Radio: Guess what? It’s raining!!!
  • GPS

Full shelter now. There was bunk space next to me that I offered a Thru-hiker that came in. What a dick this guy was when I said,  “there is room next to me in this bunk”. His response, “f%@# that, I don’t share bunk space.” Really? I can’t remember a time during my hike on the AT when another hiker refused to share space when the weather was crappy. Hopefully most of these AT hikers are not like this guy.

Now I have seen it all! I just met a southbound hiker that has finished his northbound hike and is heading back south. He is not flip-flopping because its cool and a big challenge. He has determined that for him it is cheaper to walk back to Virginia than to take the bus. Now here is where it gets good. I’ve seen grown men wear dresses and skirts but never a tunic. Not just a tunic, but a tunic with sandals complete with a toenail that he stitched back on himself using a needle and thread. His handle on the trail is Handmade. His backpack was a handcrafted piece of art with a big ass knife attached to the top. He was one of the first hikers to be ferried across the Kennebec River in Maine as he headed north in May. Here is an article from Bangor Daily News that was published this past October that mentions him.

Had a nice hearty meal of Lipton Noodles and chicken this evening. I have ended up with a bunk mate this evening. A woman in her early 20’s who is planning on doing the Long Trail. Nice girl who had her ass handed to her today. She is soaked, tired and covered in mud. She was telling me that she kept falling during the day. As I watched her unpack it is apparent that the heavy items in her pack are all loaded towards the top. We talked for a while and she asked for some thoughts about placement of her gear and what she may want to get rid of at her first drop. Bet she is going to sleep hard tonight!

4 Thru-hikers are now eating their dinner in the shelter. All 4 are on their phones trying to find a hotel room for the night. Back in the old days we just walked on or suffered. I can see how using ones phone to get instant access to rides and rooms is useful and popular these days on the trail.

Sleep is Calling!!!

 

 

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