Williamstown to Hanover

The last ten days of hiking since Williamstown have taken us 150 miles through the state of Vermont. The weather has been crazy, the ascents have been steep and rough, but it’s been good fun (mostly). Although it’s been hard work, it’s good to get back to going over bigger mountains. Even though we haven’t always got a view from the top, due to the trees, the effort of long steep uphill slogs followed by slightly easier downhills provides more interesting hiking than rolling hills.

We had a great rest day at the Willows Motel in Williamstown. The weather was incredibly hot and humid, with a huge thunderstorm in the afternoon. We did as little as possible during the day, just resting our tired bodies in our cool air-conditioned room, before going out for an Indian meal with Dingo and Rolodex in the evening.

Dingo and Neil at the Willows Motel, Williamstown

The next morning we enjoyed a fabulous hotel breakfast of cereal and a huge range of fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts and yoghurt, and marmalade on toast, before reluctantly arranging a lift back to the trail and leaving comforts behind. Even after several heavy downpours it was still really hot – the heat and humidity combined gave a “feels like” temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius) and there were heat warnings in place for the north eastern states, warning against excessive exercise and advising people to stay in air conditioned rooms. Fortunately it wasn’t as bad once we were back in the woods. We poured sweat and drank lots of water, and reached a shelter and pitched our tent before the evening’s thunderstorm arrived.

For 100 miles in Vermont, the Appalachian Trail follows the Long Trail, the oldest long distance trail in the US, which runs for 276 miles from just beyond Williamstown to the Canadian border. This makes it a busy section of trail, with lots of hikers, lots of shelters, and unfortunately a very overused and eroded footway.

Over the next four days the hot weather abated, leaving heavy showers and thunderstorms and miles of mud and puddles in its wake. We tried to keep our feet as dry as we could by stepping on roots and rocks, but inevitably we ended up with our feet soaked in muddy water, turning our socks into abrasive instruments of torture. Just three and a half days after leaving Williamstown, we were worn out and suffering from horrible chafing from wet clothing (and totally sick of mosquito bites).

Very muddy section of trail
Wet and slippery duckboards, great
A real morale booster in a difficult section – Cruise Control baking cinnamon and maple buns for passing hikers in his camping oven

We needed to go to the small town of Manchester Centre in any case to resupply, and decided to treat ourselves to another motel stay to get properly clean and dry. I was so glad we did! The outfitters in town had stock of bug spray for the mozzies and Body Glide for the chafing. Bob’s Diner next to our motel was perfect for a huge hot breakfast skillet and good coffee, and by the time we’d enjoyed long hot showers and done our laundry, we felt very smug at being able to watch yet another massive thundery downpour from the comfort of our room.

The next day, after squeezing in another massive breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon and maple syrup at Bob’s Diner, we hitched back to the trail. It was another wet and dreary day, and I just wasn’t enjoying the trail at all. I was sick of getting wet, and sick of hopping between slippery rocks and roots. Luckily, this was the last of the really wet days, and after that the temperatures stayed low but we started to see more sun.

Me and Pixie at a rare open view
Morning sun shining through the trees is one of my favourite things on this trail
Me and Pixie filtering water for drinking next to a stream. At least the rain meant the water sources were all good!

We also had some brilliant trail magic, with two guys offering hot dogs, cold soda and other snacks to passing hikers. They had a big first aid kit, which I raided for leukotape to patch my rubbed-raw toes. They also had a luggage scale for hikers to weigh their packs, which was quite entertaining – Neil’s pack and mine were definitely at the lighter end of the spectrum, weighing around 10 kg each including two days of food but excluding water. It was quite funny that out of the two hiking couples there, both of us women thought that our men were carrying more weight, while the opposite turned out to be true!

Weighing Pixie’s pack – Pixie, Neil and Bubbles

So after 100 miles from Williamstown, the Long Trail and the AT parted company – we turned east  while the Long Trail continued north. We marked the end of this section with a visit to McGrath’s Inn at the Long Trail, an Irish pub, with Pixie (who we first hiked with in Georgia) and Bubbles and Firefox (first met in Pennsylvania). It was a really good evening chatting at the bar, and unwinding after a tough section.

Neil, me, Bubbles, Firefox and Pixie, Inn at the Long Trail
This was fun! On The Edge Farm Stand less than half a mile from trail, selling all sorts of wholesome produce including some delicious fruit pies. Neil, me, Firefox, Bubbles, and Just Henry, a section hiker who we kept meeting throughout Vermont
White blazes indicating a change of direction on trail, and sign showing that it’s 500 miles to the end of the AT at Mount Katahdin! We’re getting there!

From there it was just two and a half days’ hiking to the state line, and we crossed into New Hampshire at the pretty, touristy college town of Hanover. We rushed into town to get to the post office before it closed at midday on Saturday, to collect our “bounce box” of equipment and supplies, and send it to ourselves further up the trail. We made it with 30 minutes to spare, but decided to stay in town until Monday in any case, as my feet really need some recovery time before tackling New Hampshire and the White Mountains. Hanover is very expensive, so we used the free bus network to go to White River Junction, for a cheap motel for two nights. Our accommodation isn’t fancy, but friendly and comfortable. Although we are marooned outside the town amongst car dealerships, gas stations, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, we also found an amazing barbecue place, Wicked Awesome BBQ, where we had possibly our best meal yet on this trail! It was so good we might just go back there tonight!

Monster meal – pulled pork, smoked beef brisket, Mac ‘n’ cheese, cornbread, fries, and blueberry cider. Neil did his best but had to ask for a doggy bag!

  1. Roz Savage
    | Reply

    Food seems to feature heavily in your updates at the moment – the one upside to burning a gazillion calories per day, I suppose! You’re absolutely romping it – are you ahead of schedule? Hoping the last 500 miles are less hot, humid, and blistery!

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