Walken’

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

The Lookout

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Day 142

Location: The Lookout, VT

Miles hiked today: 17.5

Miles from Springer: 1,705.7

Miles to Katahdin: 470.5

Elevation: 2,320’

Today was an awesome day to be hiking the trail. I started the day in what has possibly been my favorite trail town so far, Rutland. I had an amazing breakfast, on the house and courtesy of Ranan and his staff at the hostel. He and everyone I met here were incredibly nice and really made my stay special. Ranan handed me two energy bars before I left, which were not ordinary energy bars. They were very dense green bricks of mystery ingredients, made in-house and wrapped in saran wrap. They taste just like peanut butter cookies and give you a sensation of having just guzzled hiker rocket fuel. As he handed them to me, Ranan said, “You’re going to eat one of these, and then you’re going to climb a big mountain. When you get to the top, you’re going to think to yourself, I have to do that again.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

I caught the morning bus out of Rutland, which took me directly to the trailhead for 2 bucks. The bus stop is literally out the back door of the hostel, and is part of the city public transit system. See, I told you this trail town is awesome. Very soon I was back on the trail, but faced with immediate options. This part of the trail has recently been re-routed, and now goes no more than within a mile of the storied Long Trail Inn. It is a place that has been highly recommended to me, however because it was still morning I thought better of it. I was full of food from Rutland, and if I didn’t eat what was in my pack, then my pack would never get any lighter. Besides, I could save the Long Trail Inn for when I do the Long Trail, right?

At a place called Maine Junction, the Appalachian Trail splits off to the east towards New Hampshire, while the Long Trail continues north to Canada. The AT and the LT have been the same trail since the Massachusetts border, but no more. All of those Long Trail thru hikers, still green and working through their first blisters and what gear they should be carrying will hopefully figure everything out before their trail actually ends. As for us AT hikers, the best is just about to start. There is nothing but beautiful and picturesque rolling hills through the rest of Vermont, and then the storied White Mountains.

I stopped for snacks at Gifford Woods State Park, correctly guessing that they would have flush toilets and vending machines. Turns out they have Ben and Jerry’s ice cream as well, so I was well rewarded. No sooner was I back on the trial then I was confronted with yet another temptation and potential mileage killer. The Mountain Meadows Lodge at Kent Pond has an absolutely beautiful property on the edge of the pond, and supposedly they serve lunch. Using the same logic as I applied to the Long Trail Inn, I hiked on. As I would learn later, this was regrettable because not only did I miss out on some killer, cheap food, but they have a pot bellied pig named Alice, that will pose for photographs.

At the Stony Brook Shelter I stopped to sign the register and see how many mosquitoes I could kill in a given period of time. Soon a hiker named Tailgate arrived, who seemed to be aiming for about the same distance I was for the day, the Wintturri Shelter 10 miles away. It was afternoon now, but both of us had packages to pick up at the post office in Hanover, which was still 35 miles from here. This being Thursday, and the post office closing at noon on Saturday, this meant that once again I am racing the post office, which is fast becoming one of my least favorite pastimes on the trail. Happy to have company, I set off with Tailgate.

About a mile and a half before the shelter is a place called The Lookout, which I had heard a lot from south bounders. Basically, they had said whatever you do, don’t miss this place. When we arrived, I soon figured out why. The Lookout is a vacation cabin built on a very prominent knob with a 360 degree view, including our first good look at the Whites to the northeast. It only has one level, with a barn-style loft inside, yet with an a-frame roof the top of the building is about 2 stories up. They have built a ladder, and a small deck platform on top of the roof, which provided what turned out to be the best perch I had during the whole trail. Inside was a hiker log book with the first page signed by the owners of the cabin, basically given us permission to stay there.

Up on top of this perch, chilling out in a cotton t-shirt was a local and former thru-hiker named Freebird. He had hiked the AT twice, and now lives up in this area. Freebird has an incredible memory for terrain and places, and seemed to know every single peak within our view. It was most fortunate that he happened to be up there when we arrived, as he gave us the best tour anybody could possibly give, pointing out every single peak in 100 miles in all directions that we could possibly see. It was an impressive display of memory, but even more made me appreciate this place so much more. We could see the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the northeast, which everyone was so eagerly anticipating. Mt. Washington kind of disappeared in the haze of Franconia Ridge in front of it, but we could clearly make out Mt. Cube, Smarts Mountain and Mt. Moosilauke. To the north we could see the entire second leg of the Long Trail until it reached the Canadian border, including Mt. Mansfield and the Camel’s Hump. Freebird pointed to some distant, faint peak a little to the right of this line, and declared that was a peak in Canada. We could see into Canada!!! To the west we could see all the way to the Adirondacks of New York, and to our south we could make out peaks that were actually in Massachusetts! We could not see Greylock, as Stratton Mountain obscured anything that was south of it on the AT. As all of this started to sink in, Freebird pointed out that it was about 200 miles on the trail from Stratton Mountain to Mount Washington, which means from a single place we were looking at one tenth of the trail. Freebird thought that this rivaled even the view from Mt. Washington or Clingman’s Dome, as from here we had high peaks to mark the farthest points, instead of standing on one. The unique placement of the lookout allows this, as there are no peaks nearby that are too tall to obscure the view in any one direction. Not only were we taking in one tenth of the trail, but we could see four states plus Canada!!!

Our thoughts of pushing on to Wintturi Shelter long forgotten, we set up camp. A few other hikers showed up, and I ran and got my sleeping mat and staked my claim on the roof. It was a really incredible sunset, and even the moon was impressive as it rose a fiery orange. It would be one of the most incredible nights I had on the trail, sleeping under the stars 30 feet off the ground on a small platform, knowing I would awake to the most incredible sunset I could imagine over the White Mountains.

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