Mile: 1634.6 - 1650.7
If I'm really going to do this I refuse to wake up ridiculously early and miss anything since dawn is at 5am I need to be on that summit by 5. The trail is not smooth, rocks and roots abound and I'm figuring it will be slow going in the dark. Needless to say my 3:10 alarm hurts. I'm bleary and mosquitos hum as I pack up.
Its quiet this early, I forgot the birds and animals aren't all up either. Although I heard plenty of rustling and my light glanced off enough eyes to remind me I'm definitely not alone. The trail isn't hard to follow, by this many miles you get a sense of what rocks you climb and when you're off course but I'm happy to see I'm on track whenever I check (the one time gps apps on the AT are useful not just fun). I make it to the summit in the gray predawn at 4:40, it's gotten colder as I climbed and the wind howls around the 55 ft tall tower. But it's beautiful and I'm so happy to be up here.
It's a fully enclosed tower and I huddle inside popping down a bit to snag photos not through glass. I can't stay out long with the howling wind but it's so fun.
With the sun fully up I finally head down. Camping isn't allowed on the summit and there are caretakers in a small cabin near the base of the tower. I'm a little sheepish when I see one, hoping he doesn't think I camped illegally. I backtrack to say good morning and explain. We start chatting and soon enough I'm invited into the tiny cabin to meet Jeanne and Hugh the caretakers who have been seasonal up here for over 45 years. They are absolutely fabulous. They make me coffee and then a breakfast of eggs that they store in a cave nearby. I'm in love with them. Hugh was a fire spotter back when he was 27 and the tower was actually in use for fire. We talk for at least 2 hours. Work stories and people and life, pretty much anything and everything. I can't say enough lovely things about them. I looked when I got service and for a nice in depth article about them check out: http://m.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/from-4000-feet-hugh-and-jeanne-joudry-have-kept-watch-over-vermonts-stratton-mountain-for-decades/Content?oid=2266512.
I do finally leave, sleep deprived and giddy with my magical morning. I feel like I'm in a special bubble with spongy moss and springs. It's the perfect fairy tale location. But it's chilly and I'm very tired so on I stumble.
The pond is beautiful but it's much too cold of a morning for a dip.
Back into the forest, there's even some nice flat terrain before I make it to the road. I'm headed into the town of Manchester Center. My hitch takes less than 2 minutes and my driver goes out of his way to drop me off at the grocery store. After eating and resupplying I call up the hostel who picks you up in town and head out into the idyllic countryside.
The Green Mountain Hostel is lovely and quiet. There's a kitchen and wifi and soft comfy beds. Showered and resting I'm bleary eyed and excited for my planned zero. What a great spot.
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