Day 5, august 30th
Start: Manchester center, mile 538
End: cowboy camp just past story spring shelter, mile 559
Miles hiked: 21

I’m so groggy waking up. The NyQuil did the trick. I slept 10 solid hours. Scudz is up, making pancakes, and I go for it. Bite after bite, but no twisting of the stomach. I get down three pancakes, and still no obvious pain like yesterday. Maybe I’m getting better? I decide to skip the doctors, and we hitch out and back to the trail in the back of a pickup truck after a few errands, reaching the trail at 10am.

Scudz and I hike out, set our sights on Stratton mountain. It’s a flat ten miles to the base of the mountain. When we reach the base, we’re greeted with a huge view of Stratton pond. It’s a lake… Huge! Several trees are changing colors. There’s a sign that points down the trail, 3.1 miles to Stratton summit. It’s approximately a 1700 foot gain. I get a burst of energy, I just want to get to the summit, to the tower where I can see the views. I charge up, going as quickly as I can, just to test myself out post-sickness. I climb rocks, skirt jutting roots, and sneak past mud, making it to the summit in less than an hour. I’m soaked with sweat, and quickly take off my pack. I remember vividly being here in 2010. It’s such an iconic mountain. It was here that James Taylor conceived the idea of the long trail, stretching the entire length of Vermont. After the long trails construction, Benton MacKaye, the man credited with creating the Appalachian trail, envisioned the ‘idea’ of the trail. It is also the tallest mountain in southern Vermont with much prominence. On the summit is an old look out tower constructed in 1928.

Skudz catches up to me, still mouth breathing from the climb, and I immediately get her to join me climbing up the old rickety tower. The 10×10 box at the top of the tower is fully encased with windows to allow 360 views. There are little signs taped to the windows naming the surrounding peaks that are visible from this high perch. We can see killington and Bromley to the north, two recent peaks. We can also see mount greylock to the south, which is the highest peak in Massachusetts. It’s a beautiful sight, looking in every direction and only seeing green. Solid forest as far as the eye can see.

We make our way off the the lookout tower and make our descent. I feel good, really good. I’ve eaten a bunch, and my stomach feels better. It must have been that gross pepperoni stick I was eating, as I almost immediately got sick after that. Either way, I’m glad it was not giardia or something more serious. I’m so happy!

The rest of the day is a cruise. Socked in the green tunnel, everything so alive. Earthy smells of soil and freshly fallen leaves. I love it here, everything is so alive, so vibrant. Scudz and I hike until 7:30, finding a great place to cowboy camp on soft ground deep in the forest.

“I love it here. I love this life.” I tell Scudz as I lay down under a lush, green canopy.

“You and me both!” She responds.

Soon she begins sawing logs, and the wind picks up, rustling the leaves in the trees. There’s no wind down low, due to the protection of the forest, and I quickly fall asleep to the sound of the breeze running through the leaves.