I have been eagerly anticipating my first overnight hike of the season.  I had to push it a week due to bad weather, but it finally happened!  I took some ladies from OWA out for a short jaunt on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont.

I haven’t fully packed my pack in a while, and I needed to switch over from winter gear, so it took me a while to get it together, thinking that I had to be missing something.  I took the opportunity to reorganize my gear bins so it will be easier to find things in the future.

We met at Podunk Road in White River Junction, left a car, and shuttled over to Stage Road in South Pomfret to get started.  This section of trail has nice rolling terrain through woods and fields and it felt good to be back on the AT.  The weather was warm and sunny and just about the best spring weather you can find in New England.  Since the trail is at lower elevation here, we didn’t have to worry about mud and could just enjoy the hike.

We had to stop for several breaks to take in the views from bald hilltops, and we enjoyed the easy trail past old stone walls in the woods between.

We made good time over 6.4 miles to Thistle Hill Shelter, which I missed the last time I was here on my thru hike since it’s off trail and I was slackpacking the state with a broken big toe.  It’s a very nice shelter, with room for tents nearby, and a very interesting hexagonal privy.

There were already two hikers at the shelter, one a section hiker and one an AT thru hiker who had started in Georgia in January.  I hate to not have trail magic for thru hikers but I would’ve never expected to see one this early so I was caught unprepared.  He camped away from the shelter and went to bed early in any case.  The section hiker was already set up in the shelter but he had collected a bunch of firewood, so once we got our water collected and filtered and dinner started, we got the fire started too.

It was nice to hang out near the fire and the bugs weren’t too bad.  I had just enough bug spray for my lower legs and put my jacket on to cover my arms and was fine.  We stayed up fairly late – almost 10pm!  Way past dark any way.  I slept in the shelter since the bugs weren’t bad and it was going to be a nice night.  That allowed me to wake up to a great sunrise view through the trees in the morning.

We spent some time trying to identify the birds we heard nearby, who had been incredibly active at 4:30am.  Then we hit the trail around 9:30am and only had 5.5 miles to go until the car.  It was more beautiful weather and woods and a few views to boot.  We even saw a porcupine climbing a tree!  The first time I ever saw a porcupine in a tree, I was so confused.  I had no idea they hung out up there.

We ended with a road walk through West Hartford, over a bridge over the White River that the locals all jump and swim from, and past a closed general store.  What a great first hike of the season!

After the hike, I met Jenn and Owen in Norwich for lunch, and who should walk into town but the thru hiker from last night.  I bought him an ice cream at Dan & Whit’s, my paying it forward complete (for now).