Day 9: US 4 / Inn at Long Trail
Tuesday, July 25, 2017 10:27 pm
Location: US 4 / Inn at Long Trail (103.5 miles)

About five minutes after I got into my sleeping bag last night was when the pain hit. My feet had lied to me: they weren't actually ready for 19 miles of hiking. For the next two or three hours, they demanded constant attention, and I cycled between lying there restlessly and massaging each foot in turn. Eventually, the pain subsided, and I was able to get some sleep, though the wooden bunk I was sleeping on in Cooper Lodge felt hard as rock, and I couldn't really get in a comfortable position. (That there was no guard to prevent you from rolling off the edge did little to help my sleep, and I would occasionally wake up and wonder if it was safe to roll over because I couldn't actually remember which way I was facing.)

Eventually, I drifted off to sleep, and woke up sometime shortly before 7. It was a bit cool outside, and it took some effort to work my way out of my sleeping bag. I finally left the shelter around 8 am, and began descending Killington, to head towards a warm shower and bed at Inn at Long Trail.

While it was not raining, the mountaintop was still in fog, so it was no less wet and miserable leaving the shelter as it was when I arrived, though there was a little bit less wind.

Two and a half miles of gradual downhill and very slight uphill from Cooper Lodge brought me to Jungle Junction, the intersection between the Long Trail and the Sherburne Pass Trail. This trail was the former route of the Long and Appalachian Trails, which were relocated to the west in 1999 when it seemed a ski slope would be built near the trail alignment.

Besides making it to a warm shower and bed, my goal for the day was to summit Pico Mountain, #71 on the New England Hundred Highest list, and the way to get there was to follow the Sherburne Pass Trail to the Pico Camp shelter, and then take the spur trail up to the summit. So, off I went down the old trail, reaching Pico Camp fairly quickly.

Pico Camp was a small four-walled shelter, which was (surprisingly!) occupied by one hiker when I arrived. (He reported it had been really cold there last night, which didn't seem surprising given my experience at Cooper Lodge.

I left my pack in the shelter, and headed off on the half-mile side trail up to the summit. The trail was steep in a few places, but, relieved of the burden of my pack, I made relatively short work of of the climb. Naturally, the trail crossed a maintenance road (or, perhaps, a ski slope in winter) leading to the summit several times, before ending at the road near the top. The summit itself was nothing special; a used fire ring seemed to mark the peak.

I returned to Pico Camp, picked up my pack, and continued down the Sherburne Pass Trail. While technically not a part of the Long Trail, it used to be, and I've already hiked the segment between Jungle Junction and Maine junction (where the AT and LT split). The primary advantage of continuing down the old trail is that it exits the mountain directly across from Inn at Long Trail, my destination for the day; the AT/LT's current alignment reaches the road a little less than a mile away, making for a long road walk to and from the trail. For the AT, the Sherburne Pass Trail would be a bit of a shortcut, but adding in the Pico Spur, and the extra distance on the AT I'll have to do to get back to Maine Junction, I think it's fair to say I'm not really taking a shortcut for the Long Trail.

From the Camp, the trail wound its way around the side of the mountain for a half mile, exiting onto a ski slope and steeply dropping down about 200 feet before re-entering the woods. A sign warning skiers of the "dangerous and desolate area" ahead added some color. From there, the trail was more-or-less a continuous, gradual downhill, gradually becoming less rocky and rooty as it descended the mountain. Making good time, I reached my destination, the Inn at Long Trail, around 11 am.

Tree Arch
Tree Arch

The original plan for the day, upon reaching the Inn, was to get a room, get a shower, do laundry, get some food, and then take the bus to Rutland for resupply. However, I wasn't able to check in immediately, since the rooms were not ready, so I wound up sitting in the lounge for a short while waiting for the bar to open up so I could get lunch. After lunch, I checked into my room, a bit after 1, and then got a shower. After inserting a nap into the plan, the timetable for a resupply became questionable, since it would be difficult to finish in time for the last bus back to the inn. I decided to zero here tomorrow, and give my ankle a bit more time to rest, after the beating it must have taken yesterday.

That freed up my afternoon and evening for sitting at the bar chatting with the bar staff and other hikers until well past hiker midnight.

Tomorrow: a relaxing day, involving no hiking.