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  • Start: Clarendon Shelter
  • End: Cooper Lodge
  • Approx Miles: 10.4

Today’s the second big climb of the trip, up the second tallest peak in Vermont: Killington. It’s a fun morning what with all the people around and everyone getting up and ready around the same time, reminds me of being at Boy Scout camp in the summer when I was a kid.

Mockingbird, Rock ‘N Roll, Bugbait, and Zach all set out early. Ryan, Easy, and I all get a slightly later start and set out hiking together around the same time. We get to talking about FKTs1 (apparently someone set a new unsupported record for the LT earlier this summer) and I mention the only world record I’ve ever attempted: the shortest time to ride the NYC subway to every station2. They laugh; I talk about the attempt for a bit…and then Ryan says “Well, I reckon your trail name ought to be Subway.” Subway! I love it!

It references something unique about me, and my love for New York City. It also captures something about my vibe: subways are a little furtive and underground. They can be kind of confusing and hard to navigate, but are ultimately useful and rewarding to figure out—like me! A subway track is also like a trail: it goes on straight in one direction, with occasional junctions. The timing feels fitting: Alicia and Rob, who attempted the record with me, are going to meet up with me tomorrow. I also like that I got my trail name from a real Vermonter and GMC board member to boot. I know people will think it’s about Subway sandwiches. But I even love sandwiches! It’s perfect!

Karl Barx getting ready to start the day.
An encouraging message for AT NOBOs.

We cross Upper Cold River Road, where Easy splits off. His car is parked here and he has to pick up some mulch to take to Cooper Lodge via the Killington ski gondola. Ryan and I press on and catch up with Bugbait at Governor Clement Shelter, the last stopping point before the climb up Killington. We all eat lunch and hang out for a bit. The shelter is old and dark. Bugbait sets off first, then I leave ahead of Ryan. Somehow, we all feel like climbing the mountain alone.

Govenor Clement Shelter
Ryan and Karl survey the trail ahead

The climb is tough, but not ridiculous. Beautiful though. The density of moss in the alpine forest never ceases to amaze me. Eventually I reach Cooper Lodge, which is the finish of the climb—a short but very steep spur trail leads from here to the peak and the terminus of the Killington ski resort gondola.

Cooper Lodge
The privy

I catch up with Zach eating lunch in the shelter and join him. He’s a musician in NYC, lives in Sheepshead Bay. Teaches drum lessons there, and also is one of those comedy ticket seller guys in Times Square. He’s been section hiking the AT when he can get away, this trip he’s aiming for Hanover, NH.

Cooper Lodge from the inside. This is one of the oldest shelters on the LT, so the graffiti is spectacular.

I text with Alicia for a bit to make a plan for tomorrow. Her and Rob are going to park their car at the ski lodge, take the gondola up, hike down to Route 4 with me and take the Rutland bus back to their car. I think it’s a pretty good plan! Between uncertainty about exactly when I’ll reach certain places and poor cell service, it’s been surprisingly stressful to try and coordinate with friends who want to meet up with me for a day or two. I’m glad the timing on this one worked out so well.

I leave my pack in the shelter and head up. It’s windy as hell up there, but the view from the peak is spectacular. So grateful that it’s a clear day. I’m in a great mood, just psyched—to have finally gotten my trail name, to have made it through the next major challenge of the hike, just to be here in such an incredible place.

The steep spur trail up to the peak
"Wood sorrel"
"Differential weathering"

I wander around the peak for a while, taking in the ski area and the snarl of short trails on top that Killington resort maintains. The gondola is huge and fancy. It’s actually pretty busy because there’s some sort of Spartan race happening today on the mountain. I bump into Mockingbird and Rock ‘N Roll up there too.

Heading back down to set up my tent on the platforms near the shelter, I meet Ace and Toe, two AT section hikers. They’re old friends from North Carolina3. Both of their trail names are from injuries (Ace like the bandage, and Toe because he hurt his toe). They’re talkative and jokey, fun company. We set up our respective camps and hang out for a bit, then I decide to head back up to the top to catch the sunset.

It’s still incredibly windy—so much so that I have to wedge myself into a crack between two rocks to feel like I’m not about to be blown off the mountain. But totally worth it.

Arriving back at camp as it gets dark, Ace asks me “Hey do you know whose packs those are in the shelter?” Uh oh. Indeed there are two packs sitting in there unattended, and I recognize them—they’re Mockingbird’s and Rock ‘N Roll’s. We speculate nervously about what could have happened to them for a while. I saw them up on the peak earlier, where could they have gone? Then it dawns on me—they must have taken the gondola down to the ski lodge4 not paying attention to the schedule and missed the last one back up. Well, nothing we can do it about it now. Just have to hope they show up in the morning.

After preparing my dinner of mac and cheese in the dark, I go to sleep excited to see Alicia and Rob, and about my destination for tomorrow—the Inn at the Long Trail.

  1. “Fastest known times”, which are speed records for completing a trail. You can see the FKTs for the Long Trail here↩︎

  2. I’ve sadly never written anything about this so I have nothing to link to. Briefly: in 2018, Alicia, Rob, me, and a few others attempted to set this record, mostly just out of youthful zeal and enthusiasm for the city and public transit, but also because the 2nd Avenue Subway had just opened up to 96th Street. The previous record was void becuase of the new stations, so this was a perfect time to make the attempt. We also had some fun ideas that never quite came together about using the then-new MTA real-time data feeds to help with our route planning. We visited all 472 stations in 25 hours and change, and while we were never in the Guinness Book due to a technicality, I believe that until Kate Jones officially set the record in April 2023, we were the people who’d been to every station the fastest. ↩︎

  3. What is it with everyone I meet being from North Carolina? ↩︎

  4. This is a pretty popular hiker activity when crossing over ski resorts becuase the lodges and base camps usually have restraunts and bars. ↩︎