Hiking Killington Peak: 7 Months Pregnant

Hiking Killington Peak: 7 Months Pregnant

Climbing up the final steep, rocky ascent to Killington Peak while 29 weeks pregnant

Even though I’m seven months pregnant, it didn’t take much to talk me into climbing Killington Peak (one of Vermont’s 4000 footers). In fact, all my partner had to say was, “Hey Patches, do you want to climb a mountain?” My answer, of course, was “Yes! Which one?” The mountain he suggested was Killington (elev. 4242′) in Vermont.

The last time I’d climbed Killington was in 1998 on my thru-hike of the Long Trail (LT), so we did a quick check of the different trails to the summit. The Bucklin Trail, which approaches the peak from the West before joining up with the LT and the Appalachian Trail (AT) seemed like the best choice for our day hike. It would be an out-and-back hike of a little less than 8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of ~2400′.

Trip Report: Killington Peak Via Bucklin Trail

  • Date: August, 2021
  • Activity: Day Hiking – Out and Back
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Trail Name(s): Killington Peak (elev. 4242′) out and back via the Bucklin Trail and the AT (~7.8 miles total; ~3.9 miles each way)
    1. Bucklin Trail (3.4 miles) from the parking lot to the Appalachian Trail. The first two miles to Irene Falls is gently and easy. From there, the trail begins a steady moderate climb the rest of the way to the Appalachian Trail/Long Trail Junction.
    2. Long Trail/Appalachian Trail (0.1 miles) to Cooper’s Lodge and the Killington Spur. This stretch of trail is generally easy.
    3. Killington Spur (0.2 miles) to the Summit of Killington. The final push to the summit is rocky, steep, and strenuous, but it doesn’t last long.
    4. Trail J (0.2 miles) from the Summit down to Peak Lodge for a snack, water, and flush toilets! This trail is short and moderate and chock full of tourists when the gondola is running. On the plus side, you may be able to purchase food and beverages at the lodge.
  • Location: Wheelerville Rd, Mendon, VT
  • Access and Amenities: Parking area and trail kiosk. No restrooms or outhouses available. No fee.

As a pregnant hiker, I find that I am much slower while climbing mountains than usual, so we opted to do a three-day camping trip to Vermont with our climb of Killington bracketed in the middle so we could get an early start on our hiking day, and not have to worry about a long drive home after our climb.

Our glamping tent, set back into the woods in Vermont. I have to admit that I’ve really appreciated having a queen-sized cot in the glamping tent while pregnant. It is definitely easier than levering myself up and off the ground while backpacking.

Bucklin Trail (~3.4 miles; easy to moderate)

We arrived at the Bucklin Trailhead Parking a little bit before 10 am on Saturday morning and were pleasantly surprised to find the parking lot more than half empty.

As advertised, the first 2 miles of Bucklin Trail were fairly flat, wide, and easy, so they went by fast. However, the easy stuff came to an abrupt halt just after the “Irene’s Falls” sign 2.3 miles from the trailhead. From there, the trail veered away from the stream and started gaining elevation much more quickly, ascending nearly 2000′ in the next mile.

In this steeper section my pace slowed significantly. The extra weight of pregnancy definitely makes hiking harder. That and my uterus crowds both my diaphragm and my bladder so I get short of breath more easily AND I have to pee more often :-P However, we kept a slow and steady pace and eventually made it up the to junction of the Appalachian Trail/Long Trail.

Grinning ear-to-ear after finally merging onto the AT/LT section of the trail, reminiscing about my Long Trail thru-hike in ’98 and my AT thru-hike in ’13. It may be harder hiking while pregnant, but the trail still brings the same smile to my face that it always has.

LT/AT (~0.1 miles; easy)

Although we only followed the Appalachian Trail/Long Trail for a short distance, it was nice for me to visit the white blazes of my thru-hiking journeys.

The stretch of trail between the Bucklin Trail and Cooper’s Lodge (an AT shelter) was standard AT fare with plenty of rocks and roots, but didn’t gain much elevation.

Although we were eager to get to the summit and the views it offered, it was definitely time for a refueling break for me. So we stopped and ate some snacks/lunch lounging in the sun at the tent platforms behind Cooper’s Lodge (The spur trail to the summit of Killington is located behind the lodge, just passed the tent platforms.)

While we were there, we ran into some thru-hikers and I offered them some trail magic. I’d packed in half a dozen extra raspberry bear-claws and macaroons just in case we ran into hungry thru-hikers. During my 2013 AT thru-hike I was so hungry and so low on food that I hadn’t been able to climb the spur to the summit of Killington. Instead, a day hiker had offered me a snack and I’d headed straight to the Long Trail Inn and a long-awaited resupply… so it was extra special for me to be able to offer some of this year’s AT thru-hikers extra snacks. They each took a bear claw and a macaroon and headed to the summit.

The steep, rocky trail of the final ascent to the summit of Killington via the spur trail. It was definitely slow going.

Killington Spur (~0.2 miles; strenuous)

After resting and fueling, we were ready to tackle the final 0.2 miles of steep rocky trail to the summit. This section didn’t last long, but it definitely gave me a full body workout and was very slow going. It reminded me of a lot of the other trails to the summits of 4000 footers in New England. It still went by one step at a time, but each of those steps was much bigger. There were definitely places where I was using my hands/arms to help balance my body as I scrambled up and over the rocks of the trail.

Before long, the trail was steep enough and high enough that we could start to see spectacular views of the valley stretched out below us and we emerged onto some rocky outcroppings where we could stand, catch our breath, and take in the views. It was gorgeous.

However, we knew when we finally reached the summit because it was crowded with folks that had hiked the much shorter and more moderate 0.2 miles from the gondola to the summit. The summit was big enough for all of us, and it was such a spectacular view and a spectacular day that we didn’t mind sharing it. Also, it meant that we were able ask someone to take a photo of us at the summit.

Beyond the Summit (~0.2 miles)

After a short break at the summit, we decided to hike over to see if the Killington summit lodge was open. It was so nice out I was looking for an excuse to linger at the top of the mountain, and I was daydreaming about what kind of nice icy cold beverages might be available at the lodge.

The trail over to the gondola and lodge immediately dropped into the trees, but didn’t descend very far before opening up onto the grassy ski slopes. It was a little bit surreal after all our long hours of hiking to see the constant stream of people, mostly mountain bikers, emerging from the gondolas and spilling out onto the ski slopes. I’d heard that mountain biking on Killington was a thing, but hadn’t realized just how popular it was!

At the platform for the gondola they’d set out a sign that said “Ski Lodge Closed for Private Event”, however I wasn’t sure I believed the sign because I’d seen so many people hiking between with lodge and the summit with ice cold beverages. Since the lodge was just a couple of hundred feet further we decided to check it out anyway. Sure enough, the lodge was open. It turns out that the sign said open on one side and closed on the other side. They’d faced the open sign towards the gondola riders and hadn’t given any thought to the hikers that had come up the long way.

I was surprised at the number of different ice cold beers and microbrews were available at the Summit Lodge, but luckily there were a few nonalcoholic beverages available too… so I loaded up on cold drinks, ice cream, and chips and lingered a while longer near the summit before my partner nudged me and suggested that we should probably start heading back down. By that time it was already passed 3pm, and we was definitely right.

Bracing my ankles for the long downhill of the return hike

Heading Back Down

On the way day, we just reversed our steps. However, over the course of my pregnancy I’ve definitely noticed that my ankles have become more unstable, especially on the downhills. Having sprained my ankles more than enough times for one lifetime already, I pre-emptively wear BOTH of my heavy-duty lace up ankle braces when descending mountains while pregnant. I also carry both of my knee braces with me in cases my knees get cranky, but so far I haven’t had to use them.

In general, the descent was just long, slow, and careful. The steepest parts of the spur trail to the summit I essentially had to sit/slide down in parts because my center of gravity is a bit out of whack and I wanted to err on the side of not falling, but in general it wasn’t too bad.

We made it back to the car a little bit before 6pm, happy, tired, and hungry. Since it was getting late we decided to stop and get dinner at the McGrath’s Irish Pub at the Inn at Long Trail in Killington. I’d stopped there for dinner on my LT thru-hike (’98) and my AT thru-hike (’13), and it was the perfect way to finish our day hike in ’21.

A couple of happy hikers on the trail looking forward to new adventures..

Thowback Thru-Hike: The Long Trail (1998)


In 1998 my brothers and I set off on an end-to-end hike (a thru-hike) of the 271.1 mile Long Trail in Vermont. For the majority of the hike the three of us wore matching blue shirts, and we were nicknamed the blue crew :) It was an awesome adventure. On that 19-day backpacking trip I came to the conclusion that I would enjoy thru-hiking. Although I dreamed of an Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike, I never could have imagined that 20 years after that first thru-hike I’d completer the triple crown of long-distance backpacking with the completion of the CDT (2018), PCT (2014), and AT (2013).

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New England’s 4000 Footers

Mt. Katahdin, October 3, 2013

Mt. Katahdin, Maine: October 3, 2013

New England’s 4000-footers showcase some of the most rugged trails and most spectacular views in the Northeast! So far, I’ve climbed 14/14 Maine 4000 footers, 35/48 New Hampshire 4000 footers, and 5/5 Vermont 4000 footers. As I continue hiking the peaks of the Northeast, I will post the links and pictures from my 4000 footer adventures here! If you have any questions about which mountains, trails, and hikes are my favorites, or if you have suggestions about additional information you’d like me to share, please leave a comment below!

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Bog Logs (112-116)


One of the things that I’ve noticed about New England is that there is a lot more water here (More streams, more creeks, more lakes, more ponds, and more swamps) than in other parts of the trail. All of this means that there has been a lot more mud on the trail, and that there are a lot more bog logs.

Bog logs are planks, either split logs or 2x8s, that have cross supports under them and span the muddy/swampy areas and at least theoretically keep us out of some of the muck. This sounds like a good thing, at least in theory, but all that moisture means that the logs get covered in slippery algae and that they deteriorate and decay quickly.

I am always extremely cautious when I approach a section of trail covered with bog logs. It is unnerving to see the evidence of past mishaps where the boards are cracked or broken…

I was hiking through one of those sections with a couple of other thru-hikers (Snacks and Lady Mac). As the person in front of me crossed each set of bog logs I would stop and wait until they were completely off of each bog log before I stepped onto it. I definitely didn’t trust the logs to hold the weight of two people at once.

As the person in front of me stepped off of the next bog log I stepped forward towards the bog log and was hit with blinding pain and began to fall. There was no log beneath my foot to step on… I managed to catch myself with my poles and evaded a plunge into the swamp, but the pain in my leg was so intense that I couldn’t think straight. The person in front of me turned back and asked me if I was ok. I couldn’t get my brain to formulate words yet. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly and then again before finally choking out, “I will be”.

The person in front of me had stepped off of the very edge of the board, the wood around the nails holding the other end of the board down had rotted out, and the board popped up like a seesaw around it’s pivot point. All of this was timed perfectly so that my shin (right above my ankle) with all of my body’s forward momentum behind it collided with the end of the 2×8 as it popped up.

Eventually my words came back to me and I explained what had happened to Snacks and Lady Mac. I let them hike ahead of me and hobbled after them. Ow! I was surprised by how much it hurt. As I hiked the limp went away. I was relieved since that meant that there wasn’t any structural damage that would prevent me from continuing with my hike, but dang did it hurt.

After a while I stopped to look at my poor shin to assess the damage. I was surprised to see that it was bleeding, but even more surprised to see a tennis ball sized egg forming on my leg. Damn, I took some ibuprofen and wished I had a way to ice my leg. There isn’t much ice on the trail, but sometimes I soak things in the chilly water of streams and creeks, so I started looking for a good stream to soak my leg in.


The first stream I came to looked pretty yucky. Since I was bleeding I decided it wasn’t worth the risk of infection to put my poor leg into that water. A few minutes later we came to a parking lot with an RV in it and a couple of people sitting outside of it. I wandered over and asked them if they had any ice.

Lucky for me they had a bag of frozen peas that I promptly put onto my shin as I plopped down on the ground beside my soon-to-be new friends. As I iced my shin for the requisite 15 minutes I chatted with the group at the RV. They were a group of southbound thru-hikers from England along with their support crew. After a nice cup of tea I was ready to hit the trail as good as new.


Well, almost as good as new. Mostly I was just thankful that I’d gotten a chance to ice it and that I could still hike!

Extra credit: A 150 pound hiker with a 35 pound pack is hiking at 2 miles per hour when he steps onto the end of a 12 foot long 2×8 plank approximately 1 foot away from it’s pivot point. A second hiker (145 pounds with a 35 pound pack) traveling at 2 miles an hour steps forward and into the rising edge of the 2×8 plank. What is the force of impact associated with the collision of the hikers shin and the 2×8 plank?


The Beginning (Days108-111)


People are always asking me when I decided that I wanted to do a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Until recently I’ve said that I grew up hiking and backpacking and have always wanted to hike the AT. As I approached the final section of the AT in Massachusetts and the start of the AT in Vermont I realized that that wasn’t exactly true… There definitely was a start, a beginning, a place, and a time when the dream of hiking the entire AT was born.

It was right there… The trail I was walking on was the trail that gave birth to that dream. It was the first backpacking trip that I went on with my family when I was 11 years old. We hiked from Massachusetts all the way into Vermont and it was awesome.

One of my strongest memories was of sitting around the campfire and sharing a meal and stories with a couple of thru-hikers. I was entranced by their stories and in awe of the fact that these people had walked all the way from Georgia to sit at a campfire in Vermont with me. It was unimaginably cool that you could spend that much time in the woods and survive!

Walking along the trail in southern Vermont felt like walking through a land of memories. Not only was my first backpacking trip in Vermont, but my first long distance trek was also in Vermont. In 1998 I hiked the long trail from end-to-end with my brothers.

Having my brother and his wife meet me and hike across the Vermont border meant that by the time I finished hiking through Massachusetts I’d gotten the chance to hike with all of my immediate family. It was a great way to go through my home state.

My brother’s feet weren’t quite as used to hiking 20+ mile days, but after a little doctoring he wasn’t any worse for the wear.