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AT 2017: Day 124, Kid Gore Shelter to Stratton Pond Shelter

Inspiration, move me brightly

Hike with Gravity

If you were looking for ground zero of the long distance hiking world, you would come to Stratton Mountain.

James P. Taylor was sitting in his tent there during a rainy day in 1909 when he was struck by an idea. He wanted to construct a hiking trail through the entire state of Vermont, from the southern border at Massachusetts to the northern border at Canada.

He was able to quickly move on his idea and by the next year work had begun on the Long Trail. When the 272-mile trail was completed in 1930 it was the first long distance recreational hiking trail in the United States.

As the Long Trail was being constructed, Benton MacKaye came to this same mountain, and he too dreamed of a long trail. He took Taylor's idea and extended it into a plan. His idea became the Appalachian Trail, which would traverse the entire length of the Appalachian Mountain Range.

Date
Weather Cloudy, high temperature in the low 70s, with an early evening thunderstorm
Trail Conditions Rock, roots and mud, mud, and more mud
Today's Miles 15.2 miles
Trip Miles 1,640.2 miles

For now, I’m still walking the footpath that is shared by the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail. A couple more days north of here the AT will turn away and continue on its own path to New Hampshire and Maine.

Rain was still falling when I woke up at 5 a.m. It stopped within an hour, just as I was packed and ready to take down my tent.

Before leaving camp, I had to spend more time repairing my broken pack. There’s an outfitter store in Manchester Center, so I’m hoping I can buy a replacement there.

For much of the morning I felt as though I was walking in slow motion. One look at the footpath might explain why I was thinking that. It was full of mud, roots and rocks.

At a couple intervals along the way I compared my time against the distance I had covered. I was surprised to find I was moving at a reasonably normal speed.

The rain overnight made the trail a mess.

The trail took me past a beaver bog, where I saw their house in the middle of the pond.

Less than a half mile beyond the bog I stopped for lunch and water at Story Spring Shelter. Becky and Stick were also there.

One thing I’ve noticed so far about Vermont is that the shelters are spaced more closely together. They are also mostly older.

After a three-mile gradual descent, the trail began a four-mile, sometimes steep climb up Stratton Mountain.

The trail was especially sloppy as it went up the mountain.

At just under 4,000 feet in elevation, Stratton's summit was the spot that inspired two long distance hiking trails.

Nearby was a short side trail from Stratton Mountain Resort, which operates several ski runs during the winter. A couple of tourists arrived at the summit about the same time I did. They said they rode a ski lift to the resort before walking the easy trail to the summit.

As I looked around I saw a small, white cabin. It was used by forest rangers when they watched for fires from a fire tower that still stands nearby.

The cabin now serves as a home during the summer for a couple who work here as caretakers. Their names are Hugh and Jean.

I didn’t get a chance to meet Jean, but had a long chat with Hugh. He told me they have been serving as caretakers since 1968.

The tower was built in 1934 and remained in service for spotting fires until 1982. It continues to be well-maintained.

I climbed to the top. The view was obscured by rain clouds that were moving closer and closer.

Wind made the tower shake and it seemed a storm was on the way, so I didn’t stay at the top long.

A thunderstorm swept across the mountain as I was leaving the summit. That made the trail on the descent more of a slog than the climb had been.

By the time I arrived at Stratton Pond Shelter the rain had stopped. I was greeted by Chris, a caretaker employed during the summer by the Green Mountain Club. He was responsible for the shelter and a hiker campground on the north shore of the pond.

To help defray costs and keep the area from being overcrowded, Chris collected a five dollar camping fee.

Tenting was not allowed at the shelter, so if we wanted to camp in our tents we would have had to continue down the trail to the pond and then follow a side trail to the campsite. With the recent rain and more likely to come, we decided to sleep in the shelter. For Becky and Stick, this was their first night in a shelter.

While I was heating water for my mashed potatoes and pepperoni dinner, I looked on as Becky was trying to light her stove. Suddenly, it burst into a fire ball. Stick tried to blow out the fire and singed his beard.

I couldn’t help myself. Impulsively, I shouted, “Opa!”

I’m glad to say no one was hurt. After a second try, Becky was able to light her stove and cook dinner. Stick’s beard was only slightly shorter than before.

The shelter was a tall, two-story structure. Once dinner was done and our bear bags hung, we climbed to the loft and stretched out our sleeping pads and sleeping bags. It was dry and not too chilly up there, but got a little noisy when rain started falling again, hitting the shelter’s metal roof.

Inspiration, move me brightly
Light the song with sense and color
Hold away despair
More than this I will not ask
Faced with mysteries dark and vast
Statements just seem vain at last
Some rise, some fall, some climb
To get to Terrapin

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