Total Miles: 241.8
Pancake Power is serious power. Just ask Gazelle. She’ll tell ya. My little Canadian friend and fellow lover of pancakes would have approved of the way this day began, with coffee, eggs, sausage, and the most divine blueberry pancakes courtesy of our hosts at Nye’s Green Valley Farm B&B. Not only did all of that pure deliciousness make my mouth water even hours later in the day, it helped deliver some real energy to churn our legs up more than 6,000 feet of climbing. That’s pancake power.
But the breakfast this morning was merely the cherry on top of an overnight stay that would mark our final resupply of the trail. Nye’s itself is a quintessential Vermont farm B&B with wide plank hardwood floors, classic red barns, and flower beds in full bloom. And Marsha, our host, was as gracious as can be: driving us to and from the trail, doing our laundry, and even taking us into town for dinner.
We’d shared the inn with two other hikers: Adam, who we’d met only hours earlier, and Colleen, who we’d met a few days beforehand and had really enjoyed seeing several times along on the trail in the time since. We drank Long Trail Ale to celebrate Adam’s birthday and sat on the porch of the inn until “hiker midnight”—otherwise known as when the sun goes down—hurried us all off to bed as if we’d otherwise turn into pumpkins.
Leaving behind such wonderful people—not to mention the pancakes—is a bittersweet reality of long distance hiking. Not knowing if or when your paths may cross again, you’re left with the memory of however brief the period of time—perhaps days or even mere hours—in which your lives intersected.
Our packs laden with the final three days worth of food, we set foot off the gravel parking lot which Marsha had returned us too and onto the grassy footbed of trail that skirted the edge of a dew covered field. Watching our shadows on the banks of the Lamoille River from the suspension bridge that spans it, we also watched the character of the trail shift. Gone were the rough scrambles over boulder and bedrock, replaced by trail that settled for simply going steeply up and down everything in its path.
Mile after mile of idyllic hardwood forest came and went, sunlight dappling the leaf-littered forest floor while leaves above bristled in the slightest of breezes. One such mile came with the additional twist of a vast web of blue tubing running every which way between countless trees. From above, it would have resembled the string on a cork board connecting together various tidbits of a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.
Running 6 to 10 feet off the ground, you’d be forgiven for being dumbfounded by the sight of this extensive network until you realized one important detail: they’re all maple trees. With pancakes still on the brain, walking through a state and towards a country that both pride themselves on the delicacy born from the nectar of these trees, it seemed all too fitting that the trail would bring us up close to a maple sap operation.
It’s here, in the rural-by-Vermont-standards Northeast Kingdom, that the last of the Green Mountains feel as though they’ve been scattered on the breeze. Lower and less well organized into a continuous chain, there’s still plenty of up and down and plenty to see including Devil’s Gulch—a narrow, steep walled, moss and fern covered canyon filled with giant boulders. A miniature version of the Appalachian Trail’s Mahoosuc Notch.