[at-l] 90 PG, excerpts for MA/VT to Gorham

RockDancer rockdancer97 at comcast.net
Sun Mar 25 07:14:49 CDT 2012

(My comments are in blue text. I hope they aren’t becoming tedious, it’s fun for me to review my trail experience only 7 years after this guide. –rockdancer) 


VIII MA/VT Line to Gorham

1.      From Hank of 89: “For those unfamiliar with are and thinking that leeches don’t start until Maine (like me), I would suggest a careful inspection after exiting VT ponds, especially Little Rock Pond. Had at least a dozen little vermin on my feet.”

5. Stratton Relo: This relo adds about 4 miles and a worthwhile climb. JB of 89 “Caretaker extremely disappointed in the turn-out of Thru-Hikers. So much work has been put into this relo and it is the nicest climb offering the best views in all of Vermont… Skipping this mountain is the perfect example of being so obsessed with getting from point S to point K that the journey is missed.” Cracker Jack added “Excellent engineering done in this area to keep water off the trail. Well worth the climb even in bad weather.” Caretaker in 89 is ranger-naturalist Craig Jolly, an 88 Thru-Hiker.


6. At Prospect Rock, can follow old Rootville Road to Manchester Center but you won’t want to come back up this way, so it means cutting off Trail. Spruce Peak Shelter “The Palace” is one of the best shelters on the AT again in 89. A cabin with loft, woodstove, light switch windows and sliding front door. Great spring even during drought of 88.


7. Zion Episcopal Church: Past hiker donations helped get hot showers installed. Reverend Jim Rains is a hiker himself, used to be rector of a church in Rangeley, ME. An 88 hikers advice: “Excellent hostel, keep it clean or we will lose it.” (This hostel was closed in the late 1990’s. From what I heard the reason was hiker abuse. – rd)

Also in town: Ben & Jerry’s “defective” ice-cream store, $1.60 for pint in 89!


8. Bromley Mtn: Bromley Cabin torn down, but tentsite there (unmarked in 89, GMC will mark in 90). Bromley Summit poorly blazed, GMC may have site maps in place. Where AT emerges onto ski trail, follow ski trail (no blazes in 89) uphill for ¼ mile to summit where take had left, stay to left on top of Bromley, keeping all buildings to your right. Trail leads past red dilapidated outhouse on north side and through thick growth to Mad Tom Shelter with sliding doors and windows. The Bromley ski lift (down & back in 89 $4) does not go all the way to top except in autumn, leaves mild climb up service road. (Wow, by 97 hikers were staying in a warming hut at the summit and I don’t recall an operating ski lift here. Mad Tom Shelter, by that time, had become decrepit and slid off its base. The area was blazed like crazy with white marks on bedrock, buildings & trees. –rd)


9. Clarendon Gorge with suspension bridge. Don’t jump in no matter where the locals say the underwater rocks are. (Hurricane Irene damage in 2011 forced closure of a large section in this area. –rd)


14. Inn at Long Trail: Offers Guinness Stout (pint $3.25 in 89 thanks to VTs new sin tax) and Harp Ale on tap in their pub, which is built around the living rock of the cliff. Strong Fenian atmosphere.


20. Pomfret Road, the dogs at the last red farmhouse on left are Kreger and Cassidy, call them firmly by name, don’t be afraid and don’t run. Rose of Cairo of 89 wrote “I had heard about these “dogs from hell” weeks before I encountered them. I think Kreger is the Rottweiler, he’s the scary one.”


21. About 5 miles north of Winturri Shelter, the unmarked “Hobbit Hut” sleeps 4 very small people.


24. Hanover: Due to problems with hikers in 87 & 88 you can scratch the Edgerton House Episcopal Student Center as a place to stay. Alpha Theta and Tabard each allow 6 hikers. Okay 90 hikers; here is a warning for you from an 88 hiker. “An early group of Northbound hikers threw their own party without permission at a frat and nearly ruined it for everyone! They now limit stays & numbers of hikers & have other rules. Each year we ruin something for the next crowd, it never fails.” (In 2011 a large number of hikers were stranded in Hanover due to the Hurricane & trail closures. The community center was opened up for them and locals made their week-long stay quite nice. –rd)


31. Smarts Mtn: At summit, fire wardens cabin got a new roof. Firetower for witnessing spectacular sunsets & sunrises. Smarts Mtn Shelter removed, now just a tent platform with “The Ultimate Driving Machine” privy nearby, with steering wheel, speedometer, tail lights, safety belts, ignition, gas pedal. More evidence of DOC’s great sense of humor are signs saying “Beware of Tourists”, etc. (In 97 the front porch of the cabin had separated from the building, hikers still slept inside. Wish I had seen that privy! –rd)


32. The part that goes over Eastman Ledges is referred to by DOC as the Kodak Trail –get it? New shelter called Hexacuba Shelter between South Jacob’s Brook and Mt. Cube was completed in fall 89.


33. Old AT off Mt. Cube has been closed at landowner’s request. At road go left to Mt. Cube Sugar House. Friendly to hikers, run by wife of former governor Meldrin Thomson, occasional permission for staying in barn with lots of hay or camp next to pond.


34. Atwell Hilton: In 89 $5 for bed/shower, $3 camp, may use kitchen if too late for supper. This is the summer trail-crew base for DOC, when crew there great company but sometimes late-night noise. (By 97 the building was derelict & locked. Hikers camped for free & most got to meet the famous Dizzy B! The building was later burned, the campsite removed and the land resculpted so it’s not recognizable. –rd)


35. Glencliff: Rotary dial phone outside the Willing Workers Hall next to the PO. Henry Anderson, red house with porch, had cold drinks in small fridge out front, honor system. Roger Brickner is in Haverhill, NH about 9 miles from Glencliff, puts up hikers for free, will pick up from trail at either NH 25 or NH 25C. Has 8x26 foot mural of the AT. (Brickner was near retirement age in ‘90, founder of the Museum of American Weather, and a well-known trail supporter. I believe he was still in Haverhill in 2011 but he must be 90 years old by now. He and Roger’s Appalachia Cottage at Greenwood Lake were similar in their hiker support, accommodating them as much as they could at their summer homes. –rd) 


37. The Whites: These mountains are tough going. The notches are deep, the trails steep and old, (some from the 1800s), in places the Trail is mothering but splashes of pain in a sea of boulders. Expect a decrease in your average daily mileage. It is time well spent. Hiker traffic is high since this is a trail system of over 1200 miles! Many dayhikers, so might not want to mention you are a Thru-Hiker, unless you get off on the 20-questions routine.

A word of advice: Don’t try to impress the hut croos, and don’t expect special consideration because you are a Thru-Hiker. You definitely should not burst into a hut late at night and unexpectedly with demands for a meal and a bunk. If a hut person is short with you, it might be because you are being a complete and utter fool, but more probably because of the duress of the continuous stream of tourists that must be contended with. Be considerate, stay on the bright side, and things will go brighter for you. The hut croos are killer hikers: Take a look at the pack frames they use to haul heavy supplies up from the valley.

The trails are patrolled at night by folks wearing miners’ hats and violations prove expensive. Stay on the Trail, especially in the extensive alpine sections; the vegetation and soils are fragile. It can snow any month of the year here, and thunderstorms blow in very rapidly. Getting caught in an electrical storm above tree line is a harrowing experience, believe me. It is helpful to know the local historical names of the trails that the AT follows through the Whites. Sometimes the trail-junction signs don’t mention the AT at all, only the local trail names. Also know that some of the trail signs contradict the guidebooks and even one another regarding mileages, but you area used to that by now, right?

Blue Ridge Ranger of 89 said “I think folks have to realize 2 things. 1) The AMC has a tradition of serving weekenders and short-timers in the mountains; that’s primarily who the huts are for. 2) While hiking the whole AT is certainly popular now, it’s not an officially sanctioned sport of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. It’s just something that a lucky bunch of us get to do with 4-6 months of our lives. It’s not up to AMC to adapt to us, but the other way around! It’s part of the challenge and fun of being there.” (For 89 a hut stay was $42 including breakfast and dinner. For 2012 the rate at Lakes of the Clouds is $137. –rd)


40. After Eliza Brook Shelter the ascent of Kinsman Mountain, or, “They’ve got to be kidding!” As you struggle upward, asking yourself if this could really be happening, let me confirm that, Yes, this is really happening. One of the best climbs on the AT! Mr. Natural mused “The guidebook calls it ‘rough and steep’ and wet, rough’ but this seems very misleading. I think a handicapped hiker of family with children might reasonably expect to be able to hike ‘rough and steep’ but might find this an impossible epic.” (In ’97 this ascent still required a few technical climbing moves & one pack removal for me. But rocks in piles, strategically placed, had improved the trail since ’90. –rd)


42. North Woodstock: The Cascade House puts up hikers for$15, Betty & Bill Robinson. (I stayed here in ’98 and found it disgusting, it closed a year or two later. By 2011 the place was cleaned up & reopened but I don’t know if hikers are staying here. –rd)


43. Garfield Shelter badly damaged in fall 89 storm. Repairs are planned for summer of 90. Tenting available but don’t plan on using shelter.


44. Crawford Notch: The AMC Crawford Notch Hostel, a favorite with Thru-Hikers for several years, has been torn down. A new, modern hostel may replace it someday. One bunkhouse available by reservation. (I remember the old hostel as a single large room with a pot-bellied wood stove. For a while it was replaced with a set of bunkhouse cabins & a Visitor Center. Later this was replaced with the current Highland Center Lodge. The space for AT hikers is in Shapleigh Bunk House, 16 beds in 2 rooms, rate in 2012 is $60, includes food. –rd) 


52. Gorham House Inn run by Maggie & Ronnie Orso, has second floor of barn for hikers at $5 in 89, mattresses on floor. Ron & Maggie no longer do laundry for hikers; kitchen privileges, TV room. Don’t take too many liberties because it is a B&B with full-paying customers. Maggie tries to repair torn packs, maybe rides back to AT during week. A hiker reported “Ron has had some bad experiences with hikers this season. They are real nice folks, so I hope that future hikers don’t take advantage of their hospitality. I would hate to see another Dalton Community Center.” An 89 hiker reported “Again problems with hikers who skipped out on their bill. Sad to report, Ron has adopted a fatalistic attitude regarding Thru-Hikers.” (By ’97 this place was called The Barn, run by Paul & Maggie, not sure if same Maggie. In 90 no mention of Hikers Paradise, the competition in ’97. –rd)


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