Day 102: Kid Gore Shelter

Day 102. Well, that was an interesting evening. The picture above is not of me, but it is a story worth telling in today’s post. Nothing as interesting as this medical evacuation happened to me today, but I’ll briefly rush through my hike so I can get to that story for you.

I had thoughts of doing the 18 miles planned today, or perhaps 23 if my feet were up to it. Coming down Harmon Hill this morning was a steep decent, but I met a nice family on their first backpacking trip in 30 years. They haven’t been out since the kids were born, and decided this was the year. The parents, Bev and Mike, were joined by their son for a section of the AT, and severely overpacked on food. To my advantage. When I passed them on the trail, they were eager to learn about my travels and to share their trail mix and apples in exchange for stories. Apples! Fresh produce was a welcomed treat and I thanked them for the juicy treats as we walked down together.

Then I climbed up, up and up. One hill after another for the next 15 miles. There weren’t many views, and the bugs kept me from stopping anywhere long enough to enjoy a rest anyway. So I rushed through the terrain and made my way to Kid Gore Shelter, unsure of whether I’d stay (18 miles) or go on to the next one (23 miles).

But when I got here, I knew I wasn’t leaving for 2 reasons: one good, one bad. The good reason is that this shelter looks out over a valley to the east, with a beautiful view at night and (supposedly) and even better view at sunrise. Getting to see that sunrise tomorrow is my primary motivation to stay here, I hope it’s as good as the guide books say. Here’s the view at night as I write this:

The bad reason, was because a hiker was waiting to get extricated by rescue services. He was a young hiker, on his 3rd day thruhiking the Long Trail (which overlaps the AT in Vermont). While hiking yesterday, he had a nasty fall and thought he tore a ligament in his knee. After a day of rest, he tried to hike out today but couldn’t get more than a couple miles before the pain was too much. So he called the local police and asked what to do, they said to wait at the shelter and they’d come get him.

Side note, Happy has a similar medical evac story from Montana that I knew of, but this was the first time hearing about/seeing it in person out here on the AT.

Now, let me say, I am incredibly thankful for the people that do this, and knowing they will come if needed is extremely reassuring. But, I was even more amazed by the process of this rescue. Approximately 3 hours after his initial call, just as I was finishing dinner, we heard them coming. Nine men, one women, a dog, and a stretcher on one wheel all rolled into the shelter. They cane from a back road behind the privy, the opposite direction of the Appalachian Trail. It is approximately a 1 mile hike up a secret unmarked trail, which is used only for maintenance and rescue purposes (I learned almost every shelter has these). The Fire Chief told us that they all hiked up together, after an ATV ride up a private dirt path from the nearest accessible road. The EMTs with them (2) immediately began gathering his vitals and medical history, and the others (consisting of fire fighters) waited patiently while assessing the exit strategy. I learned that the reason for so many people, was to make sure teams of men could carry him down in shifts, if needed. That wasn’t needed (nor was the stretcher), as the hiker was going to hobble down alongside them on his feet, with some assistance. The rescue team did not mind, and they all left together after about 20 minutes.

I hope I never get hurt out here, but it feels very comforting to know now what happens if I do. And, that’s just for calling 911. If I push the emergency button on my PLB device, the army and a helicopter are on their way to get me even faster. Now feels like a good time to symbolically “knock on wood”…

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)

  • Start Mile: 1607.4
  • Start Time: 08:45
  • End Mile: 1626.1
  • End Time: 17:05
  • Miles Hiked: 18.7
  • Miles to Go: 564.8
  • Lodging: Kid Gore Shelter

Day 101: Congdon Shelter

Day 101. After yesterday’s antics partially up Mt Greylock, getting up the rest of it today was a breeze. I broke camp at 7:30 and casually made my way up to the top before 9am. Along the way, I passed a tiny pond with an old abandoned cabin on it. I’m not sure what purpose this tiny cabin on a tiny pond could have once served (old ranger station perhaps?), but it was a beautiful scene. Untouched by wind, the pond projected a perfect mirror image of the landscape into the water’s reflection. It was a really nice morning treat to see, I even stood for a minute with mosquitos biting to take it in. Here’s a photo below that captures it pretty well.

From there, it was maybe a half mile more to the top. And at the top was quite the setup. Since there is road access and a parking lot, this is a very popular tourist site, and there is a lot to see and do. At the top of the mountain, looking like a giant white lighthouse in the sky, is a veteran’s memorial tower. You can climb 100 stairs the top and see hundreds of miles in every direction. On today’s clear blue sky day, it was perfect, and felt like a makeup for my crappy view atop Clingman’s Done 3 months ago.

There is also a lodge and cafe, where you can spend the night for $40 or get a hot meal/drinks. I’m not sure what the accommodations are like, but that’s a great rate for a full-service lodge on top of the world. I should have kept climbing last night and stayed there! Instead, I awarded myself with a consolation prize of raspberry pancakes and coffee, deciding that a trip back was definitely needed.

Side note, all these “trip back” destinations are starting to add up. At this point, I should just plan to hike this whole damn thing again!

The rest of the morning consisted of climbing down the other side of Mt Greylock with dozens of day-hikers … it’s the weekend in June, I should have expected it. Everyone was very nice, though it was crowded. At the bottom, I crossed through the town of North Adams and had lunch at a park with a picnic table. I walked through a nice neighborhood to get there and watched a little league game taking place while I ate. Then I journeyed on, back up the next set of mountains.

But these weren’t just any mountains, no they were the Green Mountains … and within a couple miles I crossed into my 12th state. Vermont! Man, New England states go fast on this trail. I celebrated the achievement with a snack and a photo (above), then journeyed on again. Still having 14 miles to go to tonight’s shelter, I thought I’d make it to camp early enough, but I forgot about Vermont’s nickname.

Ver-mud.

Almost immediately, the trail (which now overlaps with Vermont’s Long Trail) became a mess of rock and mud, and I regretted leaving the niceties of Massachusetts so quickly. My pace was slowed significantly by muddy walkways, even though it hadn’t rained here in days. The problem, I think, is the many ponds and bogs that appear to leak water down the trail from up high. Massachusetts had these too, but somehow it wasn’t as bad. It’s nothing too compromising, just slows you down a bit. On the bright side, though, I did see a beaver swimming in one of the ponds, which was a nice addition to my animal sightings collection. Even got him on video before he slapped the water with his tail and dove down. That was cool to see.

I reached the Congdon Shelter before 7pm, and found a group of women here for a friendly overnight. No other thruhikers in sight, but a section hiker was setup at a campsite (the girls occupied the small shelter). The overnighters had a fire going, a bag of wine, tons of extra food, and a willingness to share … so we had a nice dinner together and enjoyed the campfire until the sun set. I am exhausted from today’s long trek though, so I called it a night early and hopped in bed.

Tomorrow looks to be a shorter day of only 18 miles, though if I can do more I may consider it. I’m nervous I don’t have enough food and stove fuel, so I may try to get to Killington in 5 days instead of 6. We’ll see. I could also hitch to one of the many towns within a few miles of the trail. I’ll see how tomorrow goes, but it’s good to know my options.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)

  • Start Mile: 1583.7
  • Start Time: 07:30
  • End Mile: 1607.4
  • End Time: 18:45
  • Miles Hiked: 23.7
  • Miles to Go: 583.5
  • Lodging: Congden Shelter