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Map and Guide Book: New Hampshire-Vermont Appalachian Trail Guide
Parking: We got a shuttle to Stratton Arlington Road and left our car at Route 9.
Directions: Stratton Arlington Road south to Story Spring Shelter
This weekend is our first "real" backpacking trip. We had a practice run in Harriman, but it was really a mini hike. We learned a lot that trip, and that definitely ended up helping us out for this trip. For example, I never practiced hanging a full bear bag before our Harriman trip. I practiced my rock throwing and learned how to use the PCT technique. But when I actually tried to hang the fully loaded bag, the rope burned my hands. I also couldn't release the stick from it's knot when I tried to get the bear bag down. So, this was something I worked on at home before our Vermont trip. I also got a P-Style to help deal with nighttime peeing, but haven't practiced using it - and didn't want to try it in the tent for the first time! I brought ear plugs - because I can't sleep when I hear noises. At home, I sleep with a white noise machine. In the woods I hear every single thing at night. I didn't bring a pillow this time. We had 2 ounce pillows, but they just ended up sliding off our sleeping pads and I ended up with a sore neck. Plus, 2 ounces is a lot! This time we used our stuff sacks filled with our daytime clothes as a pillow. I was freezing on our Harriman trip and I knew it should be around 10 degrees warmer this weekend. I decided to switch out my long underwear for winter running tights to see if they were any better. I think they are a little. We also boarded our dogs for this trip, so that we could work on our skills without the added stress of having Trek along. Trek is a joy to hike with, but he isn't used to camping yet. In addition, Trek was diagnosed with cancer this week. He acts as healthy as can be, but he has a malignant tumor on his belly. I want to wait until it is removed before taking him hiking again. I have no idea if the tumor could rupture, but I don't want to take a chance.
On the night before our trip, my fully loaded pack including food + 2 liters of water + fuel weighed in at 22 lbs. By the time I left the next morning, it probably was up to 24 lbs! One thing I added was Crocs, and I ended up being really glad I did. My goal was to be under 25 lbs, so I think I did okay. I carried all of the cooking gear & food, whereas Glen carried our tent. We drove to Route 9 in Vermont, and got picked up by our pre-arranged shuttle driver who took us to Stratton Arlington Road.
We started off at 3:30 pm, and didn't have far to go to camp. We aren't looking to do longer miles at this point, because this is our first trip. We wanted to get to camp with plenty of time to do all of the things we need to do. In addition, we need our bodies to gradually get used to carrying heavier backpacks. My knees hurt from this hike even though it was so short. I know I have arthritis in my knees, but it normally doesn't bother me. Vermont is very green and muddy. You can't avoid the mud (nor should you walk around it). By the time we reached camp my shoes and socks were soaking wet and muddy. There were a few section hikers at the shelter when we arrived. They had a fire going to try to deter the bugs. Oh yeah, besides being green and muddy, Vermont is very buggy. I was super happy to have my Crocs. I changed out of my trail runners and put them next to the fire to try to dry them out. I also tried to wash my socks in a ziplock bag. Do people wash with filtered or unfiltered water? Hmm. I used filtered water. Probably overkill. I just used a couple drops of Dr. Bronners soap. After 2 rinses in the bag, my socks were still filthy so I gave up and put them next to the fire to dry them out as well. Nothing really dried.
We found a nice tent spot away from the shelter. We noticed that people hung their bear bags quite close to the shelter. We found a tree and hung ours away from others. It isn't easy finding a perfect tree. And sometimes you see a good branch, but there are too many trees close to your tree - making the rock throwing hard. It took us a long time to set up, but we are learning. We both tend to work on the same "chore", whereas I think other couples split chores, getting things done faster. So, my Dr. Bronner's soap is scented. Ack. Bears like scented things. Would the few drops I used be an issue for my socks I washed using it? I hung the soap in my bear bag, but not my socks. On the other hand, I just read about a bear who stole unscented soap from someone's backpack at the Fingerboard shelter this week. That's the same place we did our mini backpacking trip. This shelter has a picnic table, which provided a nice place to cook dinner and chat with the other hikers. I'm still confused about the whole cooking right next to the shelter thing. Everything I read says to cook 150-200 feet away from where you sleep. We filtered a lot of water - probably related to my attempt at Ziplock sock cleaning :)
I didn't sleep well, but I still slept better than on my Harriman trip. I still got up 3 times to pee. Ugh. I managed to not trip over our guy lines once! I was pretty much warm enough. I didn't use ear plugs (though I brought them). One couple who was also tenting was very talkative at night. We just go to bed when it gets dark, but they were talking quite late. One other thing that freaked me out at first was their headlamps shining into our tent. It looked like they were right outside our tent, but I think they were just using their headlamps in their tent.