Long Trail Mileage: 56.4
Time: 4.5 hours
Day / Night Temp: 33 / 20 F
Today was the most excited I've ever been to wake up on this trail. There's something about the knowledge that you're going into town, that you get to feel human if only for a few hours, that drives a hiker to achieve record paces in getting somewhere. We struck camp and meandered through the rolling hillsides of the Green Mountain National Forest with ease, word choice not to discredit what we were doing but just to convey the relaxing nature it brought upon us as we started our day. By 0830 we had made it over a mile and the snow began to fall heavily, another indicator of the unusually warm weather we had. It was only 33 degrees, but compared to 15-20 on most mornings, a it was a welcome change.
Passing by the side trail to the shelter where we had intended to stay the night, the L.T. crossed a small footbridge then strolled down a wide gravel road, still following white blazes, for over a mile, a time during which we were able to travel at an awesome speed, sliding a little on the newly falling snow, and having a blast. We stopped quickly at the Prospect Rock lookout, able to see very little of the valley below but remembering fondly photographs taken there in 2014 with Dorothy, Legs, and Rocket Girl. The drive to get to town pushed us forward back into the mountains for another 4 miles, aimlessly going up and down through rolling mountainous terrain as the snow got thicker and fog rolled in. We conversed extensively as we hiked along through the strangely beautiful scene, discussing what kinds of burritos we would get from the restaurant in Manchester Center. The excitement that comes from the prospect of hot food that doesn't involve my stove or boiling water is indescribable.
We stopped for a quick snack at the Spruce Peak shelter four and a half miles into our morning, sliding open the front door ( it was more of a cabin than shelter - photos below) and watching a few nice scurry away. Packing back up after a granola bar and layer change we rushed on to finish the last 3 miles , climbing a few hundred feet while the sound of cars grew louder as we approached the roadway. We reached VT 11/30 at 1115hrs and after being passed by two dozen out of state license plates were picked up by two locals in a black Expedition. Jim, the driver, helped us throw our gear in the back while Jojo explained to me how she made him turn around to get us in fear that nobody else would. No words could convey the gratitude we have for these two. They drove us to town, gave us a brief tour, suggested a restaurant when the burrito place was closed, and even gave us a $50 gift card to the outdoor outfitter to aid with our resupply; they were truly incredible people!
We are at the Book Store Café in town, each ordering two different hot paninis and a cold drink, basking in the heat until it was almost unbearable to do so. I couldn't take my jacket off, fearing is empty the dining room of patrons with my body odors, so I sat there clammy in my down puffy. A quick fuel resupply at the outfitter using our gift card (Jojo/Jim, thank you so much if you're reading this!!) we then walked to the laundromat to wash clothes and dry sleeping bags of the moisture they've accumulated. You never realize how wet things are when your every activity is done below freezing... Once it thaws it becomes readily apparent how much moisture has been absorbed. We resupplied quickly at the grocery store and as Santa packed his gear up at the laundromat I was able to convince a woman there to give us a ride back to the trail 5 miles out of town in her truck. Thank you again, Adele.
From the trailhead we made the quick and gradual climb of two miles up to the Bromley Shelter, another which I stayed at in 2014 during my thru-hike, arriving around 1815hrs. We set up sleeping bags on the second floor/loft of the shelter, and Santa is reading as I write this. We made it nine miles in half the time of our normal day, something I'm grateful to the terrain and my hiking companion for.
It's not my typical Christmas Eve, and I'm really sad to be missing out on the traditions with both family and friends that I've maintained for years. I wish there was a way to be home tonight and tomorrow, but alas here we are. Hope you're all having a warm and wonderful holiday, and spending it with the people you love.