Tue Sept 29th, 2020, 0800-0915
Birch Glen Lodge to Appalachian Gap / Waitsfield, SOBO LT mile 106.9
2.5 miles, then about 5 miles of walking in town, 1200 gain, 900 loss
I slept really well overnight. The wind blew strong all night but there was no rain. We didn’t get too early of a start since it was a short walk to the road. I also hated to disturb my fellow lodge mates banging around before it was light. We hung out for a bit, then said goodbye to Broken Toe and company. I figured I’d see him again… he’s like an ephemeral spring along the trail.
The morning was nice and dry. I even get a view north to Camel’s Hump, which was tauntingly clear once more. I looked back longingly at the summit, wishing I could have seen the views from the top. What finicky weather.
We reached the road and barely had time to get our bearings straight before a Subaru (the Vermont state car) came by. We lazily stuck out our thumbs, just in case, and quite surprisingly, the car stopped in the middle of the road. A lady lowered the window, asking if we needed a ride. I was dumbfounded by such an easy hitch. We promised to wear our masks and hold our packs on our laps. I couldn’t help but notice her Florida plates and kayak racks. Laura split her time between Vermont and Sarasota, so we talked about that for the short ride to the nearest town, Waitsfield.
She dropped us off at the Waitsfield Inn, where we were shortly sipping coffee. The proprietors, Jon and Vickie, already had our room ready and offered to take our laundry. We were showered and in fresh clothes by noon! This left me time to get a delicious sandwich at the family owned and one-off grocer and deli in town, Melhuron’s Supermarket. I was amazed by the selection and local offerings at this grocery. I could have spent hours just roaming the isles and in fact, I did make repeated trips just to browse. Usually I hate grocery shopping but this was one of my favorite groceries ever. I got a hot panini cubano sandwich for only $6.50 and it was delicious.
While eating my sandwich outside the grocery, I noticed a Prius with a pretty Greenland kayak on top. I’d already spotted this car at a different location earlier…I can’t help noticing sexy kayaks. I took the opportunity to talk to the owner and ended up in a long discussion about Greenland paddles. Dorothy turned out to be one the most enthusiastic Greenland paddlers in the country. After this nice conversation, I went on a mission to find a fuel canister at a local gear shop, which turned into a sightseeing tour. The town was a cornucopia of quaint New England landscapes, exploding with fall colors. Leaves rained down on top me as I took in the beauty of such a quiet and peaceful corner of America. I drooled like a tourist strolling along, from the war memorial to the church to the red barn to the covered wood bridge to the cemetery and all the cute little stores in-between. Here were some of the highlights:
My short trip to the gear shop turned into an extended foray. Exploring the town probably resulted in at least 5 additional miles walked by the end of the day. Since my hiking shoes were wet, I walked all this way in my very minimalist camp shoes. By the time I make it back to the Inn, my feet were feeling it! But at least I learned that I could hike some miles on the trail in them, if need be.
I took it easy for dinner, ordering some fancy take-away soup from the Stoke Ramen Bar. It was good but overpriced. I would have been just as happy and probably more satiated from another sandwich from the deli. But it’s good to support a wide variety of the small local businesses. Speaking of which was Lawson’s Brewery, producer of Sip of Sunshine. I had some with dinner while watching TV in the lounge. The inn was almost empty. I saw only 2 other people staying there. I felt so bad for the businesses in this small town, depending on tourists for the fall and winter ski season coming up. I hoped things bounced back quickly.
Waitsfield was a quintessential small town and also a nearly perfect trail town. The locals were all so friendly and I enjoyed my stay immensely. If only the Inn had a few loaner bikes to save my feet…I highly recommend biking to see all the sights, as the town was a bit spread out. But there were plenty of restaurants and my favorite grocery almost directly next to the Inn. There was even a cute little gazebo across from the Inn that had outlets…if say a hiker on a budget were seeking just a quick place to recharge before heading back to the trail. It was a lovely place to visit and even perhaps stay for awhile.