We were helped along considerably by Tom Levardi in Dalton, MA. Tom is a mild mannered trail Saint that only asks for his guests to keep their voices down so as not to disturb the neighbors. His house is on the trail, like he has a blaze in his front yard and a blue blaze on his water spigot. He slack-packed us 23 miles, fed us a fantastic meal two nigths in a row, washed our clothes, and let us sleep in his warm house. When it was time for us to leave he drove us to the trail miles away. He routinely hosts dozens of hikers and has been doing so for 35 years. It was a delight and an honor to have met and hung out with Tom.
Shortly after leaving Dalton, which is one of the few towns the trail actually runs right through, we went up a hill and into Vermont. Suddenly, it was as if someone had flipped the switch between summer and fall. Days became cool and breezy, nights actually felt cold. The only heat was around the fire. Time to break out the winter gear again for the final 500 miles!
We unanimously agree that Vermont is one of the most beautiful states thus far. It may be that the previous four states where sweltering bug swarms, and the contrasting cool bug free nights of Vermont are a most welcome reprieve, but there really is something magical about this state. We are finally getting up into real mountains again with elevations more than 3K feet. The forest is changing over to spruce, pine, and birch, and the smell of the cool wind thrashing through the pines is something we rarely got in the south.
Scattered throughout the valleys are numerous swamps, lakes, and ponds created by the ever industrius beaver. The trail even walks along, on top of, and beside several of their gigantic dams. Along the ponds are trees chewed to bits. Some trees have smooth chunks bitten out of half of a large trunk, leaving the tree standing, but teeterig on a nub. The change in scenery is something we have certainly enjoyed, but we have yet to spot an actual beaver.
Vermont is the second most rural state in the US. We were reminded of this when we climbed Glastenbury lookout tower near 1618.4 miles, at night. At the top the sun was setting and the light was perfect for taking pictures. We stood up there in a fierce breeze and took in the view. We were just about to take a picture for Paramount Fit Foods with a packet of jerky when the camera flash's batteries died.
Still Don't took them out to try and warm them in his hands and get one last shot. In the cold, he dropped one. Bounce, bounce, ting, ting, ting, down the stairs to the ground 50 feet away in the dark. We didn't get that shot, but we got quite a few others.
When the sun finally vanished behind the horizon in a brilliant pink flash, darkness fell upon our camp beneath the spruces. From the top of the tower, there were no visible lights for miles and miles around. The mountain side was desolate, there was really noone else around. This was the real deal wilderness we had been waiting for for some time.
In the absence of city light clouded the sky with STARS! The best stars we have seen thus far came out in Vermont in the Green Mountain Wilderness. The milkyway stretched across the sky, and above the trees in the tower, we could see stars like no other on the cold, clear, blustery night.
A few days later we were hitching into Bennington, VT to resupply, consume copius amounts of buffet pizza, and run a few errands. Muffins and Still Don't were a couple minutes ahead of Mr. Dallas who had stayed behind to work out some logistics with the map and resupply boxes and postage etc. They arrived at the road and met Steve who is a local trail angel. He offered them a soda, and then gave them a ride direct to pizza the hut. The trail provides.
Mr. Dallas arrived at the road and thumbed around for a few minutes. Five minutes later, Ellie May, another local who lived at the top of the mountain picked him up. "Where you headed?" she asked him as she stopped right in the middle of the road. "To the post office in Bennington," Mr. Dallas replied. "Perfect, hop in. That's exactly where I'm going too so you nailed it on that one," she said to him through the window. Mr. Dallas hopped in quick and off they went. Coincidense? The trail provides.
At the post office was our resupply box with 17 lbs. of wholesome nutrition, and a separate box full of warm winter clothes and gear. Mr. Dallas was about 5 miles away from the pizza the hut where Muffins and Still Don't were gorging themselves and wrecking the buffet. This was a problem. He didn't want to lug the boxes and his pack all the way over there. Mr. Dallas sat on the boxes and looked at the map for somewhere close to eat.
A brewpub caught his attention on the page. Just as he was about to plot his way a couple blocks over to it, a woman's voice distracted him from dreams of hoppy water and burger. "Are you hiking the trail?" she asked. "Yes, ma'am I am," he replied looking up at her from the grass. He may look like trash, but he speaks with class.
She was fit and had short hair and looked like a runner. "My husband and I are thinking about hiking the trail, but I don't know if I could do it." Mr. Dallas wasn't sure where to go with it, but encouraged her to get out and do it. "It's mostly a mind game, your body will hurt and build up, but it's all in the mind," he said. The converstation continued, she was asking good questions.
She looked at Mr. Dallas's phone and asked, "How do you keep that charged?" "Simple, I turn it off, take the battery out, and don't use it. I really only use it when I get to a town and say for example I want to find the closest pizza the hut," he replied. She looked at Mr. Dallas and thought for a second, luckily the breeze was in his favor and the essence of smoldering wet dog drifted away from the conversation.
"Well, would you like a ride to pizza the hut?" she asked.
"Yes, I most certainy would," he answered.
The trail provides.
Written by Mr. Dallas.