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AT 2017: Day 121, Sherman Brook Campsite to Bennington

It's been a long time coming; it's going to be a long time gone

Hike with Gravity

When I started this hike more than four months ago, I wanted to complete it in five months. I knew a more realistic time frame would be five-and-a-half months or more.

If I can keep on my current pace, I can keep that goal. The question remains, can I keep that pace, considering what lies ahead?

Date
Weather Partly cloudy with a high temperature in the upper 70s
Trail Conditions Several ups and downs, rocks, roots and mud, with a difficult, rocky descent at the end
Today's Miles 16.8 miles
Trip Miles 1,610.6 miles

Though there are only three states remaining, there are big miles to cover in these states. For Vermont, the state I’m entering today, the trail covers 150 miles. New Hampshire has about 161 trail miles and there are more than 280 miles of the trail in Maine.

And these miles are notoriously more difficult than all of the miles already completed. That’s especially true for New Hampshire and the southern part of Maine. The trail there is so difficult almost every hiker decreases his or her average miles per day.

To be sure, I still have a long way to go.

Before leaving our campsite, I spent some time this morning trying again to repair my pack. The bottle caps I added in New York to fix it were not holding in place, so I tried adding some duct tape.

I was beginning to fear my relationship with this pack would not end well.

I also noticed my water filter was beginning to filter slowly. This was to be expected, though. Filters eventually clog, even when they are regularly flushed with clean water. Mine wasn’t filtering so slowly to be a problem, but I made note of it so that I will begin to look for a replacement.

First off, the trail continued the climb up East Mountain that I began yesterday. It was often rocky and steep.

Near the highest point in the ascent, the trail crossed the state line into Vermont. This was also the beginning of the 272-mile Long Trail, which runs north to the Canadian border. The AT will share the same footpath for the next 100 miles.

The Long Trail is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the U.S. and was the inspiration for Benton MacKaye when he conceived the Appalachian Trail.

While I was stopped here I received a message from Felix, telling me that his plan to meet me in Manchester Center was not going to work, but he would continue to figure out a plan.

In the meantime, Stick and I cemented our plan to take a zero day in Bennington. We had considered stopping a few miles short today and nero-ing into town tomorrow, but going today made more sense.

The shared footpath continued with more ups and downs, but it also took on some of Vermont’s famous mud.

This is the reason Vermont is known to hikers as "Vermud". The state even has a mud season.

In March, April and usually well into May, the ground here frequently freezes and thaws. Often the soil below a few inches remains frozen when the upper portion has thawed. When it rains during this time, the water is trapped on the surface by the frozen layer and cannot percolate deeper into the soil.

The result is a thick layer of goo that hikers must battle until the ground sufficiently thaws and dries out. In some shady and low-lying areas, that never happens.

To be fair to the state, it isn't the only place where mud season exists. It can be a problem at any high elevation. That just happens to be where the trail goes.

Still, I was surprised to find so much mud in August.

Many ups and downs and 12.5 miles later, I arrived at Harmon Hill. Stick and I agreed to meet there because we had learned this was a good spot to get a cell phone signal, and we needed to call for a ride into Bennington. When I arrived, Stick was already there, but he said he hadn't been waiting long.

Harmon Hill provided a limited, hazy view of Bennington. From there, it was just under two miles down to Vermont Route 9, which is where we wanted to be picked up. Some parts of the descent were extremely steep and treacherous, and it was nearly dark when we reached the highway.

We were picked up and delivered to the Catamount Motel in Bennington. Homeward Bound was already there, and he agreed to share his room with us. He said he wanted to pay for the room.

Stick and I both protested, but after a moment we remembered it was okay to accept kindnesses offered on the trail.

Later, we insisted on paying for the pizza and salads that we called in for delivery to the motel.

It's been a long time coming
It's going to be a long time gone
And it appears to be a long
Appears to be a long
Appears to be a long time
It's a long, long, long, long time
Before the dawn

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