Cooper Lodge to Minerva Hinchey Shelter
October 14, 2007
LT Miles – 13.8
Total LT Miles – 188.6
Extra Miles – 1.6
My fingers are numb as I pack my things.
No snow fell overnight, but it’s a frigid morning nonetheless.
“Hey look, it’s the superman palace!” Frog says, pointing at the ice in his water bottle.
I hike out of the shelter shortly after him, and plunge into a frosty world.
The frost disappears at a lower elevation.
I catch up with Frog. We walk as he tells me about his bicycle trip from Greece to France last summer, among other discussions.
Governor Clement Shelter is home to the first snack break of day – a Snickers bar dipped in peanut butter for me.
Despite its old charm, this shelter has a reputation as a party spot for locals… and a place for hikers to avoid. It would be interesting to spend the night here and see if it lives up to the hype.
A stream runs adjacent to the shelter.
An old stone wall serves as a reminder that this wasn’t always forestland.
I let Frog go on ahead, and turn off the trail to search for the “secret shelter.”
It’s said to be on private land, and unlisted in the maps and guides.
The Secret Shelter
I attempt to record a soothing nature clip at Sargent Brook.
Here the path parallels a stream, twenty feet below the trail.
The trail crosses a few silent roads and quiet pastures on this clouded, breezy day.
This stepladder is called a stile, designed for pedestrians to cross a fence or wall that livestock can’t navigate. Some property owners prefer these in place of gates, because then they don’t have to worry about people negligently leaving the gate open.
This particular stile seems to be outdated.
Over Harmon Hill I come to Clarendon Shelter, where I meet a lone backpacker relaxing.
He says Frog passed this way not too long ago.
Clarendon Lookout provides a view to the southeast over route 103.
I remember a sunset here in 2002.
I descend from Clarendon Lookout through a rocky, narrow ravine.
Vermont Route 103
I walk a half mile on the road to The Whistle Stop Cafe, a popular restaurant among hikers for a convenient meal. There’s Frog with a full belly on his return.
I’m the only patron on this gloomy Sunday afternoon, quickly wolfing down a hot open-face roast beef sandwich. I get the feeling that I’ll be hiking in the dark this evening.
Clarendon Gorge lies just to the south of the road, spanned by a rickety suspension bridge that’s over thirty years old.
There’s a popular swimming hole here in the summer, but it’s vacant today.
Darkness finds me still on the move.
Underneath the clouded sky, I surprise myself with how long I can continue without turning on my headlamp.
A deer snorts and rushes off into the brush.
I see very little, but sense rocks and logs strewn across the path.
Finally I must use my headlamp in the total darkness.
Almost an hour of darkness passes by the time I make it to Minerva Hinchey Shelter, glad to see a glowing campfire through the trees. Frog is there as well as another hiker, a young man who goes by the name of Ronin.
The majority of his gear hints of the military, including camouflage clothing, a canteen, heavy unnecessary items, etc. He’s friendly but terse – probably disappointed that Frog and I arrived late this evening, after he thought he had the shelter all to himself.
The others go to sleep as I cook my dinner and silently stare into the campfire.