Day #45-Up and over the top of Vermont; Miles hiked: 16.7

Today was my last full day on the Long Trail before the AT makes a break for Nee Hampshire. I’m also passing a SOBO bubble which has been pretty fun; there’s something really special about passing people out doing the same thing in the opposite direction. I’m taking names so I can remember if I ever end up with them again on the flop section of my flip flop.

As for my NOBO friends, today was a big day as we are all within 500 miles of Katahdin now. For me, this means 1,524 miles to go, but for them it means real life is incredibly close to starting again. Please pray as there is plenty of anxiety for many about going back and having to face all of the things we get to leave behind on the trail. I also climbed over Vermont’s biggest peak and a popular ski area, Killington Peak.For the evening, I stayed at a famous hostel in Rutland, VT. It’s run by the Twelve Tribes spiritual community, a Christian spin-off that believes in living in total community with one another. Their hostel, the Yellow Deli, has been taking in hikers for years. While the organization is considered by many to be a cult, I sure did enjoy getting to meet their members and learn about their way of life.

Ps-anyone know what plant this is?

Day #44-The hiking family is real; Miles hiked: 18.6

Today the sun finally came out! However, Vermud still lives up to its name and my feet were still just as wet.

Today I caught up with quite a few of my hiking friends. For anyone that thinks that hiking the AT is about a solo journey through the wilderness, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just this morning, I found Half Slow in his camper again, sat down, and started quite a congregation in the parking lot.Notice we could definitely use some more chicks out here–ladies, apply for the 2019 chaplaincy!

Later in the morning, I got to stop by Little Rock Pond and take a quick dip in the crystal clear water. Lunch was spent with yet another group of hikers at White Rocks Junction where rumor has it that forest gnomes have built all of these cairns (piles of rocks).My feed did finally stage a blister rebellion today after 7 days in wet socks, but I’m hoping drying them out and some more sunshine will help them recover. More adventures to come!Ps-passed the Rutland Airport, an interesting sight for sure.

Day #43-Storm dodging and hiker hangouts; Miles hiked: 14.8

Today, the weather forecast was calling for severe thunderstorms and hail. I do not really want to walk in that kind of weather, so some of my hiker buddies and I made a plan to miss out.

But first, foreshadowing for my after-trail employment. I’ve gotten a job as a ski instructor for the winter at a mountain in Utah, but I spent this morning climbing over Bromley Mtn in Vermont!After Bromley, it was time to start cranking miles to get ahead of the hail. Check out this thunder cell building while I ate lunch: The severe weather did show up and I just made it into a shelter before it got really bad. I put down my bag and took a nap while a dozen other hikers rolled in who had gotten caught in the weather.

After the first storm, I set off with and got to learn about my new friend Crush. We passed over Baker Peak before it started rumbling again.Even though I was under my mileage goal for the day, I decided to duck into a shelter just in time to avoid the second storm. It kept going all night long, but all is well.

Day #42-A zero can fix anything; Miles hiked 0.0

Man, there was a reason the Lord created the world and then took a day off…He knew we would need to rest! Today was a great day to do just that while it continued to pour down rain.

After sleeping in and eating a lion share of Lucky Charms, I played the piano for awhile at the hostel and mainly just laid around in my PJs (courtesy of Jeff and Duffie!).

I did eventually work up the energy to venture into town where I was able to replace my shoes and the food bag that the mice destroyed the other night (that bear box was not mouse proof). I also spent quite awhile wandering through the local bookstore while it rained and rained.This afternoon, the rest of my hiking crew rolled into town and many of them ended up at Green Mountain House with me. Instead of going out to pay resort prices for food, I decided to use my time to cook for the whole hostel. Ten hikers and I feasted on a double portion of my mom’s spaghetti casserole!If I’m being honest, I would like to stay here another day, but I suppose I’ll have to move on as Jeff has a full house tomorrow. There is an 80% chance of rain-bring it on!

Day #41-Are we there yet?; Miles hiked: 21.1

Today was another wet one. I believe that it rained for 20 of my 21 miles. However, the soggy walk was well worth the reward!

I pulled out of the shelter at 6:20 this morning and headed up Stratton Mtn. With the whipping wind, I chose not to climb the tower, but this is where Benton McKaye envisioned the AT. If it was a day like today, he must have envisioned thruhiking.There was too much rain to pull my phone out for pictures the rest of the day, but I walked for 8 more hours, fell in some mud, ate some snacks, and rode in the back of a pickup truck in pouring rain down to Manchester Center.

Once in town, it was time to revisit my very favorite hostel on the AT: Green Mountain House. This place is just amazing, and inspires me to maybe open my own hostel one day. The best part is Duffie, the guy helping the owner Jeff run the place, has been in contact with the chaplaincy program since Wildcat hiked in 2015. He was watching my tracks (via Facebook) get closer and closer to Manchester until I surprised him by showing up at his door! To Alan, Wildcat, and others-Duffie says hi and to keep sending chaplains his way!

Goes to show how much of a legacy this ministry has been creating up and down the AT-I sure am glad to be part of it!

Day #40-They call it Vermud for a reason; Miles hiked: 17.4

Today there was more rain predicted, but it turned out to be sunny and gorgeous! After putting on wet clothes this morning, I couldn’t have been more thankful.

First up this morning was climbing up and over Glastenberry Mtn. There was a fire tower where I could pick out all the peaks I’m about to head over. Stratton is up for tomorrow!The rest of the day was a very intimate encounter with Vermud. After the rain yesterday, the trail was a literal mud pit/creek. My shoes were already wet, so I freely sloshed through it but they got sucked into the slop a few times.Double Dip, is you’re reading this, I found your favorite creek to fall in.Tomorrow there is a 90% chance of thunderstorms all day…gonna be a wild ride, but going into town tomorrow!

Ps-the cell service will be spotty from here on out, so please have patience with blog posts.

Day #39-Splish splashing down the AT river; Miles hiked: 13.1

Today was a wet one! Bill got the full AT experience. I didn’t take many pictures because the heavens were busy dumping over 2 inches of rain, but I can rest assure you it was soggy.

After hiking 11 miles with Bill and grabbing him a hitch into Bennington, the sun broke through the clouds and gave me false hope as I traveled over this raging river:But indeed the hope was false and the rain continued to bucket down. When I reached a shelter 1.5 miles later and realized there was still a spot available, the temptation was too great and I called it a day early. Here’s what it looked like just outside the shelter:And here’s what it looks like inside a shelter when it’s pouring rain…we say a shelter that sleeps 8 in good weather sleeps 15 when it’s raining. However damp I felt, being crammed in with so many other people did provide for some excellent conversation.

Day#38-Welcome to Vermont and UMC connections; Miles hiked:6.9

Today was a very exciting day! First of all, I got to sleep in and then enjoy a big waffle breakfast with Pastor Dan and his family.

Up next was church for the first time since I started my hike. How sweet it was to worship alongside other believers! I also got to share a little about the ministry and the needs of the friends I’m hiking alongside right now.Next it was off to the grocery store for a resupply where I ran into about 7 of my hiking friends. Pastor Dan and I were able to bless them with a big box of fudgesicles and ice cream.When it was time to hike out, Bill from Backpacker magazine joined me so he can get some insight into the ministry for a story he’s going to write about the chaplaincy program.The final excitement of the day was crossing the border and heading into Vermont. Here the AT joins the Long Trail so I’m camping with NOBOs, SOBOs, and Long Trailers every night for the next 100 miles.

Day #37-Heaven on earth; Miles hiked 18.8

I was walking before 6 am this morning, but the destination was well worth the journey. I was on a mission to make it to North Adams and my next stop on the UMC connection pathway.

On my walk I passed through a patch of a new indigenous species on the AT…too bad it wasn’t ripe or I would have snagged a few ears.After fueling up on Dunkin on the way out of Cheshire, it was up and over Mt. Greylock-the highest point in Massachusetts and my first peak over 3000 ft on my hike. There are many more to come! There were a lot of hangliders riding the wind at the summit and a restaurant where I pounded a grilled cheese and fries.

On the back side of Greylock, I put it into gear headed down to North Adams (in the distance) where I got to meet Pastor Dan and his family. This visit couldn’t have come at a better time as they were gracious enough to take me on a phone-fixing saga to Albany, NY. Five hours, a Chipotle burrito, Starbucks frappuccino, and Sonic milkshake later, my phone has been resurrected! Thankfully, the kiddos enjoyed their extra screen time at the Apple Store.I can’t tell you how refreshed I feel by being around this family. I haven’t really spoken with another believer in over a month and that can run my soul weary pretty quickly. But how sweet it is to be with God’s family again!

Day #36-Eating our way through Mass; Miles hiked: 25.3

Today it was time to push some miles to get to the next town where I get to enjoy some UMC hospitality. However, with my now 500+ mile old trail legs, big miles really don’t bother me anymore.

After a big pancake breakfast at Upper Goose, it was off to finally connect the dots and reach the stretch of trail I hiked in 2014. I definitely had some nostalgia as the path seems amazingly familiar (I can remember exactly what I was thinking/feeling the last time I was here). However, it was almost equally sweet to think about all the Lord has done in and through me in the time that has passed between then and now…it’s been painful at times, but I’m so much stronger and more sure of who I am because of who He is now.

But back to the trail…today we passed the “Cookie Lady” who did indeed give us cookies and hard boiled eggs from her chicken coop-almost like home!Just a few miles later, we came to an open mountaintop with more blueberries than I’ve ever seen in my life. I spent an hour living up to my name.I forgot to take pictures the rest of the day, but I passed through a town with even more trailside snacks put out by locals on their porches. Whoever you are, hikers sure do appreciate you!

I’ve met my first few SOBOs (hikers going south) today and am looking forward to a stay with a UMC family (and shelter from rain) in North Adams tomorrow. Goodnight from the AT!