Walken’

Powder River’s Appalachian Trail Journey from Georgia to Maine 2008

Killington Peak

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Day 141

Location: US 4 (Rutland, VT)

Miles hiked today: 10.7

Miles from Springer: 1,688.2

Miles to Katahdin: 488

Elevation: 1,880′

I was really glad I didn’t climb Killington last night. It got rather cold last night, dropping to around 40 degrees in the valley. My sleeping bag is rated to 45 degrees, so I was definitely testing the limits of it. On top of Killington, it would have been another 10 degrees cooler, with high winds.

The climb was no picnic, but was very beautiful. The forest has truly turned to an alpine environment, and I could have easily been hiking through the Big Horn National Forest in Wyoming, just looking at the trees. Killington is the second highest mountain in Vermont, and the highest that the AT climbs in Vermont. (Mount Mansfield, the tallest, is farther north after where the AT turns east for New Hampshire.) Killington is also a huge ski resort, possibly the most respectable one east of the Rockies.

The shelter I would have stayed at last night at the top of Killington is basically a run-down park ranger cabin with all the windows broken out. There were a lot of big windows, so basically the entire west facing wall is open, which happens to be the windward side. I got there at about 10:30 in the morning, and it was freezing cold inside. I am definitely thankful for the secret shelter last night, and glad I didn’t stay here. There was also a quarrelling family occupying it, who were still in bed when I got there and would have made for a long night of listening to two little kids fighting with each other and the mom counting to three every 10 minutes.

The AT does not go to the summit of Killington, but rather just past and below it. There is a quarter mile summit trail you can go up, which is possibly the steepest incline I have seen yet; it goes practically straight up. I dropped my pack and clambered up.

The view from the top was spectacular. This is the only place in Vermont on the AT that you can see off a mountain without climbing a fire tower, and there was a really great rock slab with a 180 degree view. It was extremely windy up top, but of course I enjoy cold mountaintops (as long as I’m not sleeping on them) and it was just a nice place. The Appalachian Trail makes a turn to the east just a few miles to the north, while the Long Trail continues towards Canada. Looking to the northeast I could make out some very distant and tall mountain ranges, which I guess would be the White Mountains. To the north, I could see what was probably the rest of, if not most of the rest of the Long Trail.

I followed a path off the back side from the viewpoint which led to the ski lift and lodge. The gondola was operating, and every so often a guy on a mountain bike would get off and go tearing down the mountain. Every run going down from the lift was either a black diamond or a double black diamond, so I would guess that these guys are collected in a heap somewhere far below and sent to area hospitals. I can guarantee that if I tried that it would be my last time riding a bike, or even walking for that matter. The lodge was nice for a ski lodge, and they even sold food for outrageous prices. The guide book actually says that the prices are adjusted to match the altitude. I decided it was time to be getting back to the trail, so I could get into town.

The trail down to the highway was only six miles, but seemed a lot longer. It was just a long, gentle downhill that never seems to really drop in elevation, and all the while you get glimpses of the highway to the left which still seems too far below. At the very end it actually goes up several hills just for good measure, so by the time you get to the highway you are not quite sure you trust that you are actually seeing it.

Rutland is 11 miles from the trail, therefore necessitating a hitchhike. Because it is so far off trail it is not a town I thought I would be stopping at, but the highway goes straight there and most people travelling it are probably going there. I have been hearing a lot of good things about Rutland, plus they have food! Like all things on the trail, you can plan all you want, but if there is fast food in that town, it doesn’t matter how far away it is.

After sticking my thumb out for about a full minute, I got picked up by a former thru-hiker named Creeper, who told me an incredible but true story about when some hikers found a dead guy in one of the rooms at the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon. I had heard the story before, but Creeper was actually there and provided a detailed account, much of which I had never heard before. The Doyle dead guy story will truly go down as one of those legendary tales of the AT. I made a mental note not to stay at the Doyle next time I’m in Duncannon.

I checked into the hostel in Rutland, which is run by a religious community called the 12 Tribes. I never did quite figure out what they worship exactly, but my impression is that they are Old Testament centered Christians. At first I thought they were Jewish, because they all take Hebrew names. But then I saw that they study the gospels, which left me wondering. No matter though, because the bottom line is they are incredibly nice people, and run one of the best hostels on the trail. They don’t try to push their beliefs on anybody anyhow. This was one of my favorite places I have stayed at yet. They run a cafe downstairs, which has really amazing organic food that they grow on their own farms. They serve mates, which are house recipe teas that are absolutely addicting. As a thru-hiker, I signed up for work for stay, which meant that I got a pizza dinner, breakfast, unlimited mates and my stay was free in exchange for helping out in the kitchen. This place is really making a strong case for me taking a zero tomorrow.

Map

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