Monday, July 25, 2011

Chapter 121: Moldy White Blazing

At 4,235 feet, Killington Peak was the tallest mountain I'd climbed since Stratton Mountain some four days earlier. Or, well, it would have been, if I had actually gone to the summit. Unfortunately, the Appalachian Trail only climbs as far as the Cooper Lodge, a derelict shelter for wayward skiers that teeters precariously at 3,850 feet.

The Killington Peak Trail beckoned nearby, promising a short 0.2 mile stroll up the roughly 400 vertical feet to the summit. However, I am neither certifiably insane nor particularly masochistic. I ate lunch in the dusty lodge, and pointedly ignored the detour.


According to The Thru-Hiker's Handbook, a "blue blazer" is a "long distance hiker who substitutes a section of blue-blazed trail for a white-blazed section between two points on the Trail." Got that? I normally considered blue-blazing acceptable only as a way to avoid doubling back or in case of inclement weather. However, there are always exceptions.

An alumni thru-hiker named Blue Jay had told me once about the Sherburne Pass Trail, which diverged from the Appalachian Trail just north of Killington and went straight down to the Inn at the Long Trail, bypassing some three miles of pointless switchbacks. Apparently it was the original route of the A.T. The trail had been rerouted sometime in the not-so-recent past to avoid cutting through private property. I had been on the fence about possibly taking it, but was willing to let him try to convince me.

"It's the original path of the A.T., and it's so much better!" Blue Jay had sworn.

"So it's not really like blue-blazing?" I had asked, intrigued. Because I really did want to go to the Inn. I'd been there once as a child, and had some fond memories. Plus they have free camping in a lot across the street. And beer.

"No," Blue Jay had insisted, "It's like... Old white blazing!"

"So they're not blue blazes," I had mused, "They're just moldy white blazes."


So I wasn't blue-blazing when I took the Sherburne Pass Trail down to the Inn. Or, at least, that's what I kept telling myself. I was just moldy white blazing.

The Inn was just as I remembered it, sort of. Popeye was there, which was cool. We'd developed a nice repartee ever since being unwilling roommates at the Green Mountain House in Manchester Center. And Fredo was there, a nice surprise. A man at the bar even bought us thru-hiker's a round of drinks. Of which we had several. It was rather festive inside. The owner was behind the bar, and very chatty. I had a veggie burger. Delicious.

And then the time came for me to step back out into a stinging wind and rain. Slightly buzzed, I trudged across the street to my tent. I lay awake for a while, listening to the sound of the storm, and hoping my tent wouldn't blow over during the night.

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