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Manchester to Bennington - Part 2

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As usual with my trips to Vermont, the weather has been exactly what I did NOT want to experience – lots of humidity, grey, cloudy, gloomy, and rain that gets you wet but doesn’t clear out the humidity. It was thus with great relief that my hike to the top of Mount Stratton – with a former fire tower now usable as a great scene viewer – featured sunshine and blue skies. Indeed, I was even able to get some pretty good photos from the lookout:

One minor warning about this section of The Trail: it’s the only place where I had great difficulty getting a Verizon signal. Before anyone says, “Oh pul-LEASE!”, note that I had enough signal to know that Shuttle was sending me e-mails, one even said to be “Urgent.” Thus, I knew that I needed to get in contact with her, but lacked the ability to do so. Worse, because I had (foolishly) used up a lot of battery strength on my drive up (long story), I had to be careful on when I would check to see if I got a signal. Between the lack of signal and the dying battery, I only got to make one quick phone call at the end of this trip, stating I would be home that evening. This took a lot of energy out of my psyche. When you have a mother who’s 85, in-laws who are older than that, and a brother whose heart stopped twice earlier in the year (amazingly, he survived pretty much unscathed); you always worry about getting urgent news while you’re out of reach of anyone.
And, if anyone cares, the messages from Shuttle were simply that she missed me. And I misread the labeling of the one I thought was “Urgent” – it was a standard e-mail.

When I got to Story Spring Shelter, it was (amazingly) empty – an occurrence I was finding more often than I would have guessed. As I’ve noted before, my efforts to be on the trail by 6am were working, simply by waking by 5am, while it was still dark. Since I hate to disturb others, I prefer to be in an empty shelter – nice to hope for but something never to plan for.

The blessing of good weather at Stratton Mountain was definitely not repeated at Glastonbury Mountain, which also has a fire tower. By the time I was there, late in the daytime, fog had rolled in and visibility was barely to the trees below. But I had to go up, hoping for a signal – which I didn’t get.

My recognition that shelters aren’t always empty turned out to be completely true when I got to Goddard Shelter. About fifteen students from Williamstown College were enjoying a last weekend before classes start, and all were in the shelter! I decided that the noise they were making within the shelter would make it difficult to get the sleep I needed by 9pm, so I started looking for an alternative. To their credit, they set up a large tarp for anyone else to use. Since its placement was probably as good as any place I could set up my own tent, I just dozed off there.

One heads up about the Goddard Shelter: there’s a large, metal box nearby that could be taken as a bear box. It isn’t – more likely it’s a tool box for work crews in the area.

Remember my statement about waking up at 5am so as to be on The Trail by 6am? Recall that this was to ensure that I could do my typical ten miles in twelve hours of daylight? This planned wake up time didn’t work so well on this last day. When noise from the shelter awoke, it was already broad daylight at 6:30am! Yikes!! I packed up more quickly than usual, and hit the Trail by 7:15. As I had to do 10.3 miles to Highway 9 (recall that’s where the car was parked), my plan was to do my (all-too-typically slow) “speed” of one mile per hour, arriving well before dark. Even though I would have preferred having more time to observe and rest my feet; the fact remained that I had to skip a few stops I would have wanted to make.

It was thus a series of blessings to find (a) the trip was almost entirely downhill, (b) the weather was relatively pleasant, and ( c) I was in tip-top shape on this day. I was going downhill at a rate much better than one mile per hour, so I actually was able to take a couple of rest stops. I got back to my car with plenty of daylight left, returned to Philly with minimal trouble (sometimes I so exhausted at the end of a hike that driving would have been dangerous), and was (of course) welcomed by Shuttle. She re-assured me about the e-mails – no emergencies – and allowed me the joy of real food and a real bed.

Overall, this wasn’t too bad of a hike – I got few insect bites, fell only once, and never forgot my hiking pole. If Vermont will just give a few days of decent weather, I’ll be fine.