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Too muddy, too muggy, too buggy - Part 4

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As noted earlier, my plan for Day 4 of this trek was to get from Governor Clement Shelter (GCS) at least to Highway 4 near Killington before (about) 6:10pm – since the last bus for Rutland leaves Killington just after that time.
These two pdf maps
showed me that I had a lot of potential trouble in this plan – starting with a climb of 2000 feet in the first three miles – but also a lot of options. I could do the ten miles in twelve hours, and ride the bus into Rutland. Or I could spend the night at the Inn at Long Trail, take the first buses into town, and then ride the 11am train back home. Or, if my walk went really bad, I could sleep at Churchill Scott Shelter, and then leave early enough to hike the last mile to Highway 4 in time to get that early bus into town.

The trail from GCS starts easily enough, down a gravel road. Be careful NOT to miss the turn-off for the Trail, as I almost did. When you do get off this easy road, be prepared for a really nasty climb up to the intersection with the Shrewsbury Peak Trail – a section about which the Green Mountain Club has stated: “Appalachian Trail between Governor Clement Shelter and Killington is in rough shape and should be avoided until June 2013.” Fortunately for me, it was the start of the day, so I was able to continue at a good clip, despite still more of the three miseries that this trek has thrown at me.

The notes I had written before leaving said that the trail to Killington Peak was 2.7 miles from GCS. I was thus a bit disappointed when I got to the intersection with Shrewsbury Peak Trail in about 3.5 hours – meaning I was falling a bit behind in my schedule. I was thus QUITE relieved when I got to Killington Peak in just over four hours – and found I had actually gone 4.1 miles! Thus energized, I knew I could get to Highway 4 even if I took some breaks along the way.
The first one of these rest stops was at Cooper Lodge, clearly the worst shelter I’ve ever gone into: graffiti ridden, dirty, in need of some repairs. Frankly, it probably should be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. I got some water at a stream just past here, and kept on schedule without too much hassle. I continued down from Cooper at a good pace, and soon felt a sense of relief in thinking I had made my last climb of this trek. Then I found another climb I had to do – and then another, and another. I finally HAD to ask a family that (apparently) had just left Highway 4 if there were any more climbs, and they figured I was done. This good news was tempered by noting that the kids in this group – I estimate they were about six to eight years old – were walking through the mud faster than I was. SOME day I will meet a hiker on the Trail who’s slower than I am – but in 760 miles on the Trail, it hasn’t happened yet.

I was heartened to hear the vehicles on Highway 4, getting louder and clearer with every minute. As some day hikers passed me (what else is new?), I shared my experience on how close a road is: when you first hear vehicles, you’re about one to two miles away; when you can tell a car from a truck, you’re less than a mile away; when you can tell whether the car is going from left to right (or vice-versa), you’re less than half a mile away. Amazingly, less than five minutes after sharing this, we got to the road – at 5:20! I saw the Diamond Bus go by, but felt fine, as there would be another in an hour.
This couple was kind enough to offer me a ride to anywhere east on the road – obviously, I had hoped they were heading into Rutland – but felt good about getting a free ride to the Inn at Long Trail.
I went to the front desk, asked where I should stand to catch the bus, and misunderstood the answer. I THOUGHT the bus would stop at their front steps
but the fact is that you need to stand at the speed limit sign.
I should note it was completely my fault that I stood at the wrong place – the Inn has a sign fully explaining where to wait – but that didn’t help much as I watched the last bus glide on past me down the road. Plain and simple, the schedule saying that the bus stops “at” a place means it goes by there without exiting Highway 4. Stand on the shoulder of the road, or you’ll miss the bus just like I did!
Knowing I had missed the last bus, I asked the Inn’s desk clerk how much a room would cost for this night – and got a quote of $83 when tax and tip were included. With a night in Rutland costing a mere $20, I figured a cab ride of even $65 would be a break-even point. I thus asked what I thought would be a fairly simple question – could the front desk recommend a taxi to get me into Rutland – and got the business cards of two “local” companies. Calls to both resulted in an answering machine – one message was never returned and the other was the response that the company doesn’t operate in the area anymore. Then the front desk clerk showed me the phone book, in which I found Rutland Taxi.
I once again note that taxis in these small towns are not like those in big cities. Your call will reach the cell phone of a one-person operation, who may or may not be able to answer your request for a ride. I thus felt blessed that this one-woman company was able to pick up and take me to Rutland, at a cost of $25. She was also perfectly willing to take me to an ATM to get the money I needed; she said she had done this before. So, despite the street festival on Center Street this Friday night, and the fact that the group running the place had begun their Sabbath celebration, I had little trouble checking into Hikers Hostel. My exhaustion at this point allowed to sleep quite well.

Saturday mornings in Rutland feature a farmer’s market, with plenty of vendors selling the products I was looking for, as a gift for Shuttle. I found what I was looking for, easily made the 11am train, had a relaxing ride back to Philly, and ended this section hike – clearly the worst of the ones I’ve been on – by finally eating food I enjoy, sleeping in my own bed, and lying next to Shuttle.

How do I avoid a repeat of the miseries of this trek? I’m going to
1) avoid hiking on days I happen to know will have horrible weather. If that means delaying a train ride, so be it.
2) use only my external frame, as the one I used on this trek – a Walmart cheapie – is good only for overnight trips. My shoulders were aching after just one day, and got worse each day after.
3) not require that I hike more than ten miles in one day. I know this is a wimpy requirement, but the fact is that I wimp out after ten miles on the Trail. Reducing the required daily miles will allow me to enjoy the views on the Trail, instead of simply saying, “Wish I had the time to get a photo of that!”
4) eat breakfast bars instead of oatmeal in the morning. I just don’t enjoy oatmeal in the morning, but always seem to want something with a lot of sugar. This choice will allow me to almost eliminate the need for even an alcohol stove.

Due to continued bad weather on the East Coast, as well as several local commitments coming up, it may be a while before I get back on the Trail. I had hopes of reaching a total of 1000 Trail miles before the end of 2013, but it looks like this will be delayed. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to getting even more miles on my list.

Updated 07-21-2013 at 23:41 by GoldenBear