Got up and started. No lazy morning today. I need to get to Eden and our food resupply. Actually 4 boxes waiting there. Food. Bounce box. A raincoat — Ruffwear Cloud Chaser — for Sherman. And misc things I discovered at Bob and Chris’ that I wanted in the bounce box. We’re walking by 8:15.
I assume it’s a 5.5 mile downhill to the road to Eden. Surprise! It’s up a mountain first. Then down to VT 118. It’s pretty easy hiking compared to what we’ve been through the last 5 days. Sherman has gotten much smarter about the boggy areas. Jumping from rock to rock to tree trunk laid in the mud. But he slips off a couple times and is mud to the belly.
This is a good example of Vermuddy Bog. This could be 2 inches deep. Or, it could be 6 inches deep. Or, it could be a foot deep. Only one way to tell.

Push something down into the mud. There are hikers who think that to get the whole Long Trail experience you have to just walk straight through wherever is on the trail. I am NOT one of those. And Sherman is learning that it’s best to be NOT one of those. I almost lost a trekking pole in one bog. I lost my balance and the pole kept me from falling. But, it was now stuck in 2 feet of muck. It took me 10 minutes to figure out how to retrieve it without stepping into the mud to have the leverage to pull the pole out. I was NOT going to step into the mud. And, I was NOT going to abandon my pole.
Sherman’s now a mountain dog with a slice of mountain goat. At a steep place, he takes a minute to see what’s in front of him, chooses his path, and climbs, jumps, runs in short steps like he’s always done this. We’re both learning…
fullsizeoutput_203eWe go by Ritterbush Pond
fullsizeoutput_1f9c We go up and down steep rocky trail
fullsizeoutput_2028We see nice glimpses of the surrounding mountains.
I take my first fall between the mountain and the road. I step on a level root with my right foot going down a slope and it moves, pitching downward. My shoe slides down the root, I loose my balance backward, my left leg bending all the way under me to my butt. Good thing I can do the squat to the ground to rest move! I get up and test all the moving parts. Thigh muscle has been stretched, but no more that pulling the heal up to the butt. The knee bent at it’s normal angle and feels fine. Foot and ankle ok. We keep walking. Now being more careful when stepping on roots. There are many times when that’s the only option… About at hour later, I notice a small twang in the back of the calf. In a couple hours it’s gone. From the fall? Or from the hills?
We get to the road at 12:45pm. The guide said about 4.5 hours. We’re on target. However, Sherman cannot get in anyone’s car as he is. We take a break and I brush out his muddy legs and belly. Those areas are all grey now. I decide to carry his pack until we get back to the trail. It’ll let him dry out better, and both packs are light new with little food.
We start walking the 5.2 miles to Eden. In 30 minutes Sherman has dried out and is white again. I wish dirt fell off of me like that! A couple dozen vehicles drive by by outstretched hand with thumb up. It’s been a long, long time since I hitch hiked. We’ve walked about 2 miles when a van pulls over.
The woman pops the back. I put our packs and hiking poles in, and get in the front seat, with Sherman. She say, “I don’t know why I stopped. I’m late picking up my kids from school and the dog from the groomer. My 8 year old daughter and I did an over night on the Long Trail recently. We stayed in a shelter with 3 thru-hikers, so I got a sense of what’s it’s like. My brain is telling me I’m late. My heart told me to pull over, and the van pulled over.” I was so moved. We had a nice, sweet chat about the trail. Her daughter wants to do a thru-hike!
I asked her to drop us at the Post Office in Eden. The guide says it’s in the small market. I go in and — no — it’s now a mile down the hill in it’s own building. We walk again. No one gives us a ride this time. It’s more like a half-mile… We get there at 2. It closes at 3. Jean,the postmistress says she’s there til 3:30 doing paperwork, so don’t worry.
I empty the pack down to the food bag. Open all the boxes. Spread the food out into groups and start counting days of food based on the experience of the last week. I take one additional days worth. I get the missing left sock and left pant leg. I put everything extra in the bounce box and ship it on to the next resupply town. I finish packing. Now, the fun. Getting a ride back to the trailhead. I just start asking people at the post office and the gas station next door if they’ll give us a ride. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. OK. Time to go to the road and hitchhike. Many more cars going by on the road that these two places. About 15 minutes later a women pulls in the PO in an SUV and waved. I’m hopeful. Many cars drive by on the road. I’m standing there as she is leaving the PO. I’m looking at her. She turns to look at me and opens the window asking where we’re going. Looking for a ride to the Long Trail up 118 I say. I can do that she says. I put the gear in the back. Climb in the front with Sherman. She says, “I was trying to decide of you were a hiker or homeless. Decided that the hiking poles meant your were a hiker.” Turns out she’s hiked many sections of the trail. She asks which trailhead I want to go to? The one I left? Or the “closer” one? I want to go back to the one on 118. She knows right where it is. We tell good hiking and dog stories.
At 4pm, Sherman and I are ready to begin the 3 miles to Spruce Ledge Shelter. The sign says Devil’s Gulch 2.6 miles. The camp is just beyond the Gulch. The trail is pretty good until we reach what looks like 5-points. A river runs through it and there are trails going every which way. There are no white blazes visible. I follow two trails that dead-end. So, we go back to the large open hub of the wheel. I see a ladder off on one direction up some rocks. That must be it. There are ladders on the Long Trail. I go up the ladder. Sherman goes up the rock. There’s a sign that says Devil’s Gulch.
This is a notorious half-mile of pick-up granite boulders. We go around a bend and there is just a jumble of small, medium and huge rocks every which way. I see a white blaze and we head that way. Picking our way through these rocks is very slow going. Many of the rocks are too big for Sherman to climb. So, I pick him up by his handle (on his pack) and move him to a rock he can stand on. Many times he can climb and jump for 2-3 rocks, then he’s stopped again until we coordinate our next move. It takes an easy 30 minutes to pick our way through. (I was too focused on getting Sherman through that I forget to take any photos. So these are from other people and the web.)
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As we’re nearing the end another hiker is coming I in the beginning. He catches up with and passes us. His name is Wilson. We’re both heading for Spruce Ledge Camp. We exit Devil’s Gulch and see the sign for hikers going the other way. I take this as a congratulations for exiting without incident.
30 minutes later we arrive at Spruce Ledge Camp. This is a nice camp. Covered picnic table. Sliding doors on the camp. An overlook of the pond we walked by earlier. We setup. Eat and sleep.
During the night, Sherman sits bolt upright. It wakes me up. He’s not growling. He’s not barking. There is the sound of large footsteps outside. Moose? Bear? Sasquatch? It passes. Sherman lies back down. Sleep returns.