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Whiteface Mountain & Jeffersonville

  • Start: Whiteface Shelter
  • End: Roundtop Shelter
  • Approx Miles: 10.8

Rachel manages to wake up around 8:30 this morning (another thing I’d been worried about, she’s a pretty late sleeper).

We make breakfast and start hiking around 9 or 9:30. They brought way too much curry oatmeal (which Joe added the rest of their gravy from last night to—hes really into the gravy for some reason).

We go slow over Whiteface Mountain and stop to take in the one semblance of a view we’ll get while they’re with me. I’m sad the timing worked out the way it did. Had they been able to join a few days earlier they could have gone over Mansfield with me! It’s so much more spectacular than the woods we’re passing through now. It feels silly for them to have driven all this way, so close to Mansfield, and not hiked it. Ah well.

Rachel and Joe on Whiteface Mountain

We pass by Bear Hollow Shelter, where a sign informs me that Canada is only 54 miles away 😔.

I’m a bit worried about getting into Jeffersonville in a timely fashion. Unlike my previous resupply stops, I’m not planning to stay the night in town, so I’ll need enough time to hitch into town, do my errands, and hitch back out to hike up to the next shelter.

Thankfully, the descent gradually levels out into really nice trail and then just an actual gravel logging road. We have a great time walking nice and easy while chatting in the dappled sun through the red and orange leaves. We’re fully back down into deciduous forest by now.

I feel happy to be walking through a beautiful day in a beautiful place with my friends. I’m glad they came. It feels great to be among “my people” again after weeks with my randomly assembled hiking crew.

We stop and just stare at a pretty little waterfall along Smith Brook for a while.

Eventually we pop out in a little rural neighborhood, and cross a wide open field to the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail along Route 15.

We hug and part ways as they head towards Johnson Hardware, where their shuttle back to their car is meeting them. I’m going the other way to get a lift into Jeffersonville for my final resupply of the trip. It was a dubious choice to go this way, this turned out to be my worst town stop.

First of all, hitching is a lot harder here than further south! Not sure if it’s being in a more rural area, less hikers in the north part of the trail or what, but I must have been standing there with my thumb for at least 30 minutes. The whole time, a big red pickup truck with “Trump 2024” type stickers in the rear windshield has been going to and from the house across the street, ferrying bales of hay. The driver clearly notices me waiting and he eventually stops and asks where I’m going. “I told myself if he’s still here the next time I get back I’m just gonna pick him up.” he says. I’m grateful for the ride, I was starting to get nervous.

He turns out to be a really friendly guy. Blonde-haired and soft spoken with acne scars and a ballcap; works at Johnson Hardware down the road. He’s lived in that house his entire life. Told me about how his wife got him into owning horses even though he didn’t used to like them. Reminded me of a lot of guys I went to high school with back in Ohio.

He drops me off in town and I start running my errands. Kind of routine at this point, except that it’s already almost 3pm, and everything seems to take forever for some reason.

I wait ages to charge my power brick at the laundromat, and still only get it halfway full. I take a long time grocery shopping as usual, but I think at least managed to get less food this time. Jeffersonville is small enough that it only has a general store not a full supermarket, so there’s a lot less choices.

Silo Mural in Jeffersonville

I go to Burger Barn for dinner, which came highly recommended but turns out to be something of a fiasco. The line is long since it’s Saturday night, and then it still takes almost 45 minutes to get my food after I order. It’s just a little stand in a field with some picnic tables, and the field is full of bugs. I’m getting eaten alive. I put on my rain jacket and pants just to try and keep them off, since I mailed my bug repellent home ages ago after not really using it. I guess it’s just the difference between being up on the ridge vs down here in the valley where there’s more water. The burger and fries are pretty damn good in spite of everything else.

Burger Barn

By the time I finish eating and head back to Route 15 to try and get a hitch, it’s nearly 6pm. I’ve only got another 30 minutes or so of light. As before, a hitch proves hard to get. I wait 20 minutes while continuing to get chewed up by bugs, and I’m about to give and just walk the 6 miles back to the LT trailhead along the rail trail, when a car finally pulls over. The driver—a heavyset Black women wearning a headscarf, gets out and moves some things out of her front seat for me. I hop in, incredibly relieved and grateful for the ride. She’s from Tanzania, lives in Johnson, and is on her way home from her job at an addiction recovery center in Cambridge (near Jeffersonville). She’s absolutely BLASTING high-energy Afrobeats music—Lie by Kizz Daniel. It’s so loud we almost have to yell to converse. This brings a huge smile to my face. Thru hikers and Vermonters are not the most diverse groups, and I’ve met almost no people of color on this trip before this. Her music and whole vibe just make me happy and remind me of summers in New York. Such a funny contrast from my earlier hitch into town.

Anyway, she drops me off a few minutes later and I start hiking up the three miles to Roundtop Shelter as it’s just getting dark. My first real night hike. At first it’s fine, just dusky and I’m zooming up the trail, trying to make good time. It’s steep but wide and obstacle-free. I cross the LaMoille River.

As I go it gets darker and darker and I have to turn on my headlamp. First just red light, then white1. Then it gets much worse: with two miles through the dark still to go, I realize I have to use the privy—badly. Realistically, I should have just stopped and dug a cathole, but the woods are scary at at night, and continually I’m able to convince myself that’s not that much further. The final mile and a half I’m basically running up the mountain, racing against my bowels 😅. With every twist and turn I convince myself that the shelter is just around the next corner. And after what feels like an eternity—there it is!

Its full of half-asleep hikers who deliriously direct me to the privy, which is well hidden in the woods. Thank goodness they were there, I never would have found it in the dark by myself. Never have I been so relieved as I was to see that ramshackle outhouse looming in my headlamp beam.

I set up my tent to sleep in to avoid bothering the people in the shelter even more. It feels nice to get it out again, I can’t remember the last time I used it! I leave the fly off since it’s a clear night. Takes two seconds to pitch it that way.

The moon shines bright and full and red above me as I settle in. Is this what that call a harvest moon? Feels very autumnal. It’s been amazing to be somewhere there’s actual fall2, and to experience it so fully out here.

  1. Most camping headlamps have a “red light” mode that you use whenever you can get away with, since white light hurts your night vision and uses more battery. ↩︎

  2. In the cities I’ve lived in as an adult, the leaves pretty much just fall off the trees without changing colors anymore. ↩︎