It’s been many days since I’ve posted. I’ve written and photo’d but haven’t had a stretch of time with steady wireless and power. That won’t happen until my next Zero Day off trail. So here’s one from yesterday until then.
In short, we are well. Feeling stronger with growing awareness and appreciation for the peculiarities of this trail.
It’s Saturday. The dance with the weather and the rocks is on.
Madonna Peak is our target today. Very rough and steep tread. We’re just starting the biggest Mountains of the Greens. Today Whiteface. Then a day in the warming hut for thunderstorms. Then down a very steep Smuggler’s Notch. We call it Snuggler’s Notch, but not sure it’s gonna feel snugly.
Then up Mt Mansfield. The biggest peak in VT. Then down and up Camel’s Hump. Look at the elevation profile.

I’m anxious about this next stretch of the trail.

It’s steep. Rocky. Some places on Mansfield and Camel’s Hump there are ladders or rebar in the rocks to climb up or down. The rocks are slippery when wet. Probably lots of butt sliding. I’m balancing what we can do in a day with the food we have and the weather. Looks like we’ll have a dry Tues-Thurs.
We may make it over Mansfield before the rain starts again. Uncertain. #1 priority is be safe. Adventurers have waited for good weather for millennia. We’re in good company. Have to remember to hike our hike and not pick up the pressure from people who are going 12-15 miles a day. Most of them are also in their 20-30’s. Very different body time…
A small stream fills our water bottles. Thank you!
We’re approaching the top of Whiteface Mountain. The trail has just gotten stupid. Climbing piles of rocks. Sliding between rocks and trees. Have to let Sherman find his own way. Too technical for the 8 ft range of his hiking leash. There are many places where he stops and waits for me to move him to the next place he can maneuver. We get to the peak. Not an open view with trees growing around the rocky top. Now we’re going down again. The shelter is supposed to be a half-mile down. It’s crazy steep in places. We get to Whiteface Shelter and it’s the longest half-mile on record. Time for lunch. I take Sherman’s pack off, which I don’t usually do at rests. When he lays down the pack is also touching the ground, but it feels right this time. In Johnson I got some tuna packets to share with him. A couple to save in case he runs short of food. His eating volume is erratic. 2 small meals. Or 1 small and 1 big. Or 1 very big. Have to trust that his body knows what it needs.
A hiker going north on a day hike stops at Whiteface Shelter for lunch. He knows the area and I ask him about the trail between here and Madonna Peak. He points straight across the view from the shelter at a mountain. “That’s it”, he says. “Oh! I had no idea.” I think the trail is going around to the left and looks very far, though the map says it’s about 2.5 miles. He points to the ridge circling to the right. “The trail follows that ridge.” That looks closer, but still a long way away. I’m sharing tuna fish with Sherman and he asks if Sherman likes turkey? Usually, I say. He gives me what’s left of his sliced turkey. Sherman gobbles it.
We’re packing up to go when Lyric walks in. We wag our tails. We talk a bit and she says, “I don’t like it here.” I’m heading Sterling Pond Shelter.” I say, “You’re welcome at the warming hut.” She say, “I did’t want to bother you again with my snoring.” I chuckle. “It’s not a problem. You’re family now.” She’s moved. ” Awwww. Thank you, so much.” Sherman and I head out.
Love this rock hugging tree.
We are soon behind a group of 3 women and a dog out for a day hike. They are friends from 25 years ago when they lived in the same Vermont town. They get together every year for a few days and do a hike on the LT. Their dog Bodhi and Sherman like each other immediately and when the trail permits, do some doggie dancing. I learned a lot from them about how to hike this trail. How to move up and down the rocks and tree roots. Sliding. Crawling. Using the trees more than their hiking poles on the steep places. They go up and down the steeps easier than I do. We’re all about the same age. Maybe it’s fresh legs, They *are* on a day hike… No, it’s a difference in lifestyle. They live and work in the hills. They hike. They bike. They ski and snowboard. They are just in better shape. A living lesson before my eyes…
The last part of the trail up the mountain follows the ski trail. Like on Jay Peak, it’s straight up the steepest part of the mountain. Sherman is hiking with Bodhi now, and so is mostly in the middle of the 3 woman pack, where Bodhi hikes.
If you expand this photo you can see the lead woman way ahead in green. Bodhi, then Sherman, then these two women just ahead of me. The woman on the left is Bodhi’s person.
As we get to the top I see the warming hut up to the right. It looks HUGE! Nice surprise.
I’m expecting something a third this size. This looks like a rentable mountain cabin!
I call Sherman and head for the stairs. He’s hanging with Bodhi. I tell him we’re going back down the mountain and he’s still with Bodhi. Bodhi’s person comes with me and the two dogs follow. I get Sherman leashed. She heads back to her friends. We all say our goodbyes. I carry Sherman up the open wire grated steps and we enter the warming hut. It’s a room about 12×12 with a picnic table in the middle and a car seat couch on the side. I take off our packs and look around. Sherman immediately hops up on the couch and stretches out. He’s claiming his space.

There’s a door into a second room that’s about 8×10 with a couch. Hmmm. Two rooms. As I start to unpack I notice the plywood floor is dirty. I find a broom in the other room and sweep. Lots of shoe dirt and plywood splinters. A bit of small paper trash. Then I unpack and start getting organized for food, rest and sleep.
This is Mt Mansfield. Our next big challenge. It’s supposed to look like a sleeping person. The highest peak is the chin. From this angle it looks like the nose to me…
It’s getting cloudier, a little cooler and darker. The rain is supposed to start soon. I wonder how Lyric is doing. Just as it starts to sprinkle she arrives. The wind is really blowing. I’m guessing the gusts are 25-35 mph. The trees are whistling. One of the windows has a small air leak and on big gusts makes a low throbbing sound. She claims the smaller room with the door. I’d already claimed the bigger room, so that worked out!
We settle in for food. Talk. Checking the weather forecasts in different weather apps. There’s a good ATT signal up here. I’m being judicious, because my backup battery is not functioning properly. In the 4 hours I had it plugged in yesterday it didn’t go over 3/4. It’s supposed to fully charge from near 0-100% in 4 hours. I was at 50% when I started charging yesterday. Not good. I ordered a replacement that I’ll pickup in about a week.
The weather for tomorrow is sketchy. A possibility we could sneak down Snuggler’s Notch between rain patterns. We’ll wait to see what the forecast is. If we do get down, we’ll go into Jeffersonville to a B&B for Sunday and Monday, heading back to the trail Tuesday morning.
Bed time. Sherman is sleeping on his couch. I’m on my pad on the floor.