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Breadloaf Wilderness

  • Start: Skylight Lodge
  • End: Battell Shelter
  • Approx Miles: 14.4

We all wake up before dawn, and I watch the sun rise over the pond while eating Pop-Tarts on the porch. Beautiful.

Skylight Lodge at sunrise. Mooch eats breakfast.

I try to take a timelapse video, but predictably it fails to capture the majesty:

I leave with Stiltz and Mooch. Their goal for today is to get to Lincoln Gap, 13 miles from here, where a friend of Stiltz’s is taking them into town for dinner and resupply. We’re on a different resupply schedule now due to my soujourn at Tom’s, and I want to stay on trail for a while, so I decide to push for Battell Shelter, a mile or so past the gap.

The weather is amazing again today but the morning hiking is tough. Lots of what hikers call “PUDs”—pointless up-and-downs1. The trail is crappy, with lots of mud pits, and fallen trees so big I have to take my pack off and throw it over before maneuvering my way underneath. I think the philosophy in the wilderness areas is to let them be wild and maintain the trails a bit less. I did spy fresh moose scat—there’s hope for a moose sighting yet!

Signs of a nearby moose...
The "view" from the summit of Bread Loaf Mountain.
The view from Mount Roosevelt, featuring Mooch.

Amazing view from Mt. Roosevelt, but I’m cooked by the time we stop for lunch at Cooley Glen Shelter. My knee is killing me!

While we’re eating, we run into the bearded fellow who passed through Skylight Lodge last night, who’s name we learn is Sonic. He’s a distinctive looking guy. Big AT tattoo on his leg, and he’s wearing these enormous combat boots, the exact opposite of the ultralight trail runners everyone else has. He claims to have 1700+ miles on them, they’re utterly waterproof, and he seems proud to use these and still go faster than most people! He’s from Germany, and thru-hiked the AT for the first time in 2012. He came back to do it again this summer, and after reaching Katahdin, decided to get a shuttle2 back to Rutland and finish the LT. Really friendly guy. He would quickly get ahead of us, but I always loved seeing his cheerful logbook entries. He included his Instagram handle—@le_railwalker—in every one.

I have a big lunch, put a compression sleeve2 on my knee, and take some Vitamin I before moving on. This makes a huge difference, the second half of the day is much easier.

Stiltz and Mooch still get ahead of me pretty quickly. There are ups and downs in this section, but also some nice cruisy trail, and in general everything is just more well maintained and easier to get through than our morning hiking.

Little caterpillar hustles along.

I stop for a break and view at Sunset Ledge near Lincoln Gap. Almost there.

That's Mt. Abraham peeking out on the far right.

I can see Lake Champlain to the west and Mount Abraham coming up ahead to the north. There’s an couple out for a day hike talking about cycling the Hero islands via the Colchester causeway, which I did earlier in the summer on a bike tour to Montreal, so we chat about that for a while.

After a good long break I head down to the gap and the road, which mark the end of the Breadloaf Wilderness3. There’s some trail magic there—four still-cold PBRs! I wonder if Stiltz’s friend who picked them up left these? I happily grab two (that being all I’m willing to carry halfway up the mountain) and stash them in my pack. Nothing like a surprise beer to improve one’s mood.

I’m in high spirits as I stride up the trail north. The last couple of days of hiking have been just great between the weather, the scenery, and the company. The trail is steep, but pretty easy going in spite of that since it’s wide and well-used. I encounter a lot of day hikers coming down from the peak. I imagine this is a popular local trail. I quickly make it to Battell Shelter, about a mile past the gap and halfway to the peak of Mt. Abraham, where I sit back and crack open a well-earned beer.

This is my first time having a shelter to myself—there’s no one else here. I sign the logbook and notice an entry from Particle, about a day and half ahead of me! I haven’t heard anything about her for what feels like ages. She’s wondering what makes the water on some parts of the LT brown (tannins!). No brown water around here though, it’s been crystal clear mountain streams for a while.

Typical LT logbook. I realized I hadn't taken a photo of one yet!

I make dinner (ramen, butter, peanut butter, chicken) and have my second beer. There’s a caretaker tented nearby but they don’t seem to want to be distributed and I’m happy to oblige. The feeling I’m left with today as the sun sets is just gratitude—to be out here; how much I love hiking. No big thoughts about the universe or anything. Just the joy of the moment.

  1. “Pointless” in the sense that they don’t lead to a mountain peak, or a view, or anything like that. ↩︎

  2. “Shuttle” in hiking parlance refers to locals who have a small business of driving hikers around to and from trailheads and nearby towns, resupply points, etc. Most popular long-distance hiking destinations have at least a few shuttle providers, although discovering them can be somewhat obscure. You have to check hiking-focused Facebook pages, boards of flyers at local businesses, talk to hikers passing through the other direction, etc. ↩︎ ↩︎

  3. You’ll note I passed all the way through without seeing my moose ☹️. ↩︎