Today, Rainbow and I would finally fill in the 17.7 mile section between VT 103 and US 4, including Mt. Killington, that we skipped, while Papa Monkey drove back to Connecticut to deal with personal business and hopefully get his car fixed. We left the Yellow Deli this morning with a plan to stay at the Hart Family's place tonight, since that would be close to where we'd continue hiking from.
We stopped for breakfast at Qu's Whistle Stop, and then Papa Monkey dropped Rainbow and me off at the VT 103 trailhead, and we got started just before 9.
The day started off with a rock scramble, which really wasn't all that bad (though would have been significantly unfun in the rain). After a mile, we stopped at the Clarendon Shelter to sign the log, and ran into Dago, who was at the Twelve Tribes Gathering with us on the second night of our stay at the Yellow Deli.
Although in terms of actual distance hiked, we had already passed this milestone several days ago, this morning brought us to the 500 mile marker from Katahdin. Step by step, we're getting closer to the end of our journey.
We took our first break after a little more than seven miles at the Governor Clement Shelter. This shelter has a fireplace, and the fireplace and its overall design makes it reminiscent of a shelter from the Smokies.
From the shelter, the trail continued a long, gradually steepening climb up Mt. Killington, starting on a nice gravel road for a quarter mile before moving back into the woods, reaching the side-trail to the summit after another four miles.
On the gravel road, with about a 25-foot separation between Rainbow and I, a tree branch fell right between us. I haven't seen too many tree branches actually fall while on the trail, much less fall close to me, so that was somewhat noteworthy.
The hike up Killington wasn't too bad, but the 0.2 mile side trail to the summit was the steepest section of trail I've done so far. I'm not sure I'd have done it if I hadn't heard that the restaurant (and bar) at the top was good, so I made the climb to the top.
At the summit, I met Jim and Frandy, "SOTAJerks", who were just wrapping up a CB broadcast from the peak. We chatted briefly and I mentioned I was going to the restaurant for a beer. Asked if it was a tradition, I said no, but when there's a mountaintop, and beer available, why not take advantage?
I continued down the other side of the mountain a short distance to the ski lodge there, and used the restroom. That gave Jim and Frandy time to catch up and offer to buy me a beer (and food, also, if I wanted). Not wanting to take too long since it was starting to get late in the day and I still had another 6.5 miles to hike down the mountain, I grabbed a yogurt parfait and a brownie (and a beer), and we sat down and I told a few stories as they peppered me with questions about the trail. My much longer than expected break ended about 4:30, conveniently right before Papa Monkey texted me to see where I was.
The rest of the hike down the mountain was a bit of a blur, since I was trying to get to the trailhead as quickly as possible. I didn't want to hold up the rest of the team. As it happened, I only got to the trailhead shortly after Rainbow, and not too long before Papa Monkey arrived.
Now after 7:30 pm, we needed a new plan for the evening. We went to a McDonalds in nearby Rutland, and decided to look for a place to stay in town. We didn't want to drive the hour out to the Hart residence (getting there awfully late and imposing ourselves on them), especially after Papa Monkey had already been driving most of the day as it was.
I found the nearby Rodeway Inn, and called to make a reservation. The overly bubbly agent on the phone who was insistent on finding the perfect room for me found a two-bed room (for three people). The place had three-bed rooms, but apparently, those weren't perfect for us. When we got there, it turns out that the hotel had given away the last two-bed room just before the reservation order came in, so as a consolation, they gave us a three-bed room for the two-bed rate. I guess that was the perfect room for us.
We continued to work out our slackpacking plan for the Whites, trying to take advantage of the hut reservations Rainbow already had, but shuffling them around so the three of us could stay at huts together, where necessary. (Otherwise, Rainbow wouldn't need his reservations since we'd be slackpacking, and especially with the assistance of his friend who'd be willing to help drive us around, he wouldn't need to stay at all the huts, and canceling them would involve a cancellation fee.) More on the huts later...