Awaken with 5am alarm. Hard frost last night. It’s 28 in Bristol. When I take Sherman out to pee we are both hit by the chill. I finish packing, feed Sherman a half pound of sliced turkey I got him yesterday, and have a quick breakfast.
Chris takes us into Bristol to meet Michelle, a friend that drives to Dartmouth every day where she is the school librarian. Michelle’s giving us a ride to the trail. It’s 15 min out of her way to drop us off. The trail’s 90 min from Bob and Chris’ house.
We start hiking at 8 am. There’s still frost on the grasses by the road and trail.

We have a 2000 ft climb to the top of Mt. Killington, yet the terrain is quite calm. A steady rise and fall, that winds its way up the mountain.
The roots look like snakes hiding and writhing in the leaves.
Love the bright red and yellow together.
The two large rocks with the parallel channel between them through which water is flowing have been placed here by the GMC trail crews. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of these rocks placed where the trail crosses small streams. They keep the creek shore from breaking down from the thousands of footfalls each year. Every time I see these rocks placed so carefully, I wonder where they came from? There aren’t any holes in the ground nearby. There is no machinery to lift them and set them down in place here. Just pry bars and lots of trail crew volunteers.
A larger creek with small waterfalls and pools.
A smaller mountain on the way to Killington is called Pico. When we get there I see a sign warning about porcupines. Evidently in this area there has been an explosion of the porcupine population. The sign quotes a local vet about the huge increase he’s seen of dogs with quills. The sign asks dog owners to keep their dogs on leashes. Sherman’s been on a leash since our last shelter when there was evidence of porcupines chewing on the end of the bunk boards. They love the oil and salt left behind by people touching the wood. They also seem to love shoes, which having been sweated in, are also salty.

The fall color at it’s peak from Mt. Killington.
A beautiful birch grove on a rise approaching the Lodge.
The steeper trail has steps built by the GMC. This only happens in the more gradual inclines or declines.
We get to Cooper Shelter about 1pm. A 5 hour hike. Good for our first day out after a 2 1/2 day break. The shelter is an aesthetic contradiction. Very nice stone foundation and walls. But the windows have been broken out, the roof is in bad shape and one of the bunk platforms is no longer level on account of wood rot. The worst condition shelter I’ve seen so far. But, it was too far to go to the next shelter with the light left in the day, so we’re staying. We’re setup on the bottom bunk on the level side. All good. There’s a breeze coming through the windows, so it feels like it’ll be cold tonight. A good test of the layers I brought for me and for Sherman. Of course, he can come under the quilt and we can be furnaces for each other if needed.

Sunset from outside the lodge and through a window from inside.
I’m thinking about a 14 mile – 3rd shelter day tomorrow. It’s mostly downhill. I’ll see as we descend Killington. That’s the majority of the distance. If it’s difficult in the early going, then it’ll be a 10 mile – 2nd shelter day.