After the phenomenal sunrise on top of Bromley, we all contemplated going back to bed, but we were up so we ought to get hiking. The morning flew by quickly. Pants and I hiked past Mad Tom Notch, up Styles Peak, up Peru Peak and landed at Griffith Lake for lunch. This was an awesome site, tons of tent spots right on the lake, a nice fire pit and a privy. Since the elevation profile showed an easy afternoon, we decided to take a long lunch here. Very few hikers walked by as we swam and did crossword puzzles all afternoon. Around 3pm, when we were thinking about packing up, the sky started to darken and we could feel a storm coming. Looking at the sky, it looked like it would pass quickly, so our options were to start hiking now and deal with it, OR we could quickly set up our tents and wait it out. We got our tents set up just in time for the nasty storm that blew over the lake. It lasted about an hour, and I spent that time making warm whiskey drinks and finishing my crosswords. By the time the storm passed it was already past 4pm, I was a couple hot toddies deep, my tent was cozy and I wasn't going anywhere. Pants agreed and we called it a seven mile day. This would not be the last single digit day in VT for Pants and I.
To make up for our short day we vowed we would do a 20 the next. It looked like it would be an easy 20, with only one small climb over Bear Mountain (yeah another). We got an earlyish start, went past Baker Peak, past a few shelters and after Big Black Branch Bridge (say that 3 times fast) decided to have lunch at a stream. We tucked ourselves deep inside the trees and took our shoes off to soak our feet. After lunch Pants got hiking a bit earlier than me, but I eventually pulled myself away from the cool water and started hiking. I made my way up to White Rocks Cliff, where I encountered some bizzare rock sculptures on the trail that must be from the aliens.
On my descent, right outside Greenwall Shelter I ran into a group of young guys wondering where they could find water, as the shelter was known to be dry, and currently was (if you are wondering how I know these things, my guidebook indicates if a water source is reliable or not, this year it's safe to assume all unreliable sources are nonexistent, so plan ahead). I asked if they were going north or south, confused by this, I pointed in the two directions. They indicated south. I told them it was three miles to the stream where I had lunch. They looked distraught, and I asked why they didn't get water at Bully Brook, which they would had passed, and I was about to in a mile and a half. Instead of answering my question they proceeded to bitch about why "they" didn't put water up here. They? You mean nature? No one's in charge of the water kid, it's either here or it's not. I gave them a liter, knowing I could get more at the base and wished them luck.
On my way down to Bully Brook I passed an entire group of Jewish kids wearing black pants and panting up the hill. They all asked how far it was to the top, I tried to say as encouragingly as possible it was only a mile, most of them weren't carrying anything, let alone water. Even further down I found two kids slumped up against a tree. I asked if they were alright, they said they were fine and wanted to know how far the shelter was. I told them a little over a mile and warned them about the water. A bit further down I ran into who I assume was their leader, who seemed to be struggling with another kid who was insisting on wearing his pack slung on one shoulder like a book bag. He was too cool for hip belts. I smiled sympathetically and snuck past. I was ready for amateur hour to be over.
I ran into Pants at Bully Brook (full of water!) and we started our climb up Bear Mountain, if you could call it a climb. Thank you to whoever was in charge of that bit of trail. It was the most elegantly switchbacked climb, I hardly had to exert any effort. We made our descent down the less than elegant north side to Minerva Hinchley Shelter. The only other hiker there was Falls, who we met in NY and hadn't seen since. It stayed just the three of us all night, with a few trail maintainers roaming past (to whom I thanked for the awesome trail). After a very stormy night I packed up my sopping wet tent, chatted with the ridgerunner who had stopped by and headed on my way. We were aiming for Cooper Lodge Shelter that night, 16 miles away. That would set us up for an easy 5 miles into Rutland, VT. I stopped at a nice view that unfortunately looked over the Rutland airport and headed down to Claredon Shelter for lunch. After lunch I headed up and over Beacon Hill and landed on Keiffer Rd. I found Pants trying to dry out his tent on the deserted gravel road. We crossed a small grassy area and came to Cold River Road. Here is where things got interesting.
A sign at the road crossing directed us to take a road walk detour for the next two miles, as the original trail was closed due to damage caused by Hurricane Irene. Now the ridgerunner that morning said without saying that the trail was still kinda passable if we wanted to check out the damage. Even though we were told a couple of bridges had been washed out, we figured we could deal with that and it would be worth it seeing what the hurricane did to the woods and the trail. So, we pretended we didn't see the "Warning Trail Closed" sign and made our way down the trail. The maintainers had done a pretty good job clearing the trail, but the woods looked pretty demolished. Trees and branches were blown everywhere. There were a few times where we lost the trail because it had been washed away, but otherwise we could find our way ok. We had to cross one stream that used to have a footbridge, and the bridge over Robinson Brook had been wiped out, it's sad remains scattered about. The maintainers had set a 'replacement bridge' there, which was basically a ladder laid down over a fallen tree, but I can't complain as I wasn't even suppose to be there.
We finally emerged on the other side of the Hurricane Irene section right before Governer Clement shelter. We ran into DayGlow, who had taken the detour, and seemed pretty bummed when we told him it was passable. I can't imagine what it would have been like for the hikers out in that. Living outside for the majority of the last 5 months, I have developed an immense amount of respect for mother nature. She is powerful, does not care about you or your agenda, and my current life is completely controlled by her. She decides where I go, how long it takes me to get there, and how comfortable I am during that journey.
We arrived at Governer Clement in the late afternoon and decided to push to Cooper Lodge Shelter. AWOL (our guide book) said it was 6.8 miles, but a sign in the shelter said it was only four, and that was backed up by a SoBo who had just arrived. Apparently AWOL messed up, the shelter was only 4, but the road after, US 4, was two miles further than what the book stated. So we started our climb up Mt. Killington, trusting AWOL was wrong and we wouldn't end up night hiking. The climb up Killington was insanely steep, but I enjoyed taking my time and watching the sun slowly set through the trees.
I got there before dark, unfortunately the shelter was full of some child group of some sort, but there were tent pads high above the shelter far away from them. There were two other hikers, a section hiker and another lady named Bluebird who was hiking the Long Trail. She had the same tent as me, but really had no clue how to set it up. Pants and I helped her get situated and spent dinner answering all her questions. She was genuinely eager to learn and seemed very appreciative to find people willing to take the time to teach her. We all eventually drifted off to bed. Pants and I were heading into Rutland the next day with plans to simply resupply then hitch back out, but a very friendly cult and an Irish Pub had other plans for us...