September 15, 2014

Savvy Senior: How to get social security benefits when you’re disabled

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Dear Savvy Senior,
What do I need to do to get Social Security disability? I’m 57 years old and have some health issues that are keeping me from working, but I’ve heard it’s very difficult to get benefits.
—Need Assistance

Dear Need,
The process of getting Social Security disability benefits can be tricky and time-consuming, but you can help yourself by doing your homework and getting prepared.
Last year, around 3 million people applied for Social Security disability benefits, but two-thirds of them were denied because most applicants fail to prove that they’re disabled and can’t work. Here are some steps you can take that will improve your odds.

Get Informed
The first thing you need to find out is if your health problem qualifies you for Social Security disability benefits.
You generally will be eligible only if you have a health problem that is expected to prevent you from working in your current line of work (or any other line of work that you have been in over the past 15 years) for at least a year, or result in death.
There is no such thing as a partial disability benefit. If you’re fit enough to work part-time, your application will be denied. You also need not apply if you still are working with the intention of quitting if your application is approved, because if you’re working your application will be denied.
Your skill set and age are factors, too. Your application will be denied if your work history suggests that you have the skills to perform a less physically demanding job that your disability does not prevent you from doing.
To help you determine if you are disabled, visit ssa.gov/dibplan/dqualify5.htm and go through the five questions Social Security uses to determine disability.

How to Apply
If you believe you have a claim, your next step is to gather up your personal, financial and medical information so you can be prepared and organized for the application process.
You can apply either online at ssa.gov/applyfordisability, or call 800-772-1213 to make an appointment to apply at your local Social Security office or to set up an appointment for someone to take your claim over the phone.
The whole process lasts about an hour. If you schedule an appointment, a “Disability Starter Kit” that will help you get ready for your interview will be mailed to you. If you apply online, the kit is available at ssa.gov/disability.
It takes three to five months from the initial application to receive either an award or denial of benefits. The only exception is if you have a chronic illness that qualifies you for a “compassionate allowance” (see ssa.gov/compassionateallowances), which fast tracks cases within weeks.
If Social Security denies your initial application, you can appeal the decision, and you’ll be happy to know that roughly half of all cases that go through a round or two of appeals end with benefits being awarded. But the bad news is with backlog of about 900,000 people currently waiting for a hearing, it may take a year or longer for you to get one.

Get Help
You can hire a representative to help you with your Social Security disability claim. By law, representatives can charge only 25 percent of past-due benefits up to a maximum of $6,000, if they win your case.
It’s probably worth hiring someone at the start of the application process if your disability is something difficult to prove such as chronic pain. If, however, your disability is obvious, it might be worth initially working without a representative to avoid paying the fee. You can always hire a representative later if your initial application and first appeal are denied.
To find a representative, check with the National Association of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (nosscr.org, 800-431-2804) or National Association of Disability Representatives (nadr.org, 800-747-6131). Or, if you’re low-income, contact the Legal Services Corporation (lsc.gov/find-legal-aid) for free assistance.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Modern education for lifelong learners

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By Robin Reid
Observer correspondent
As summer fades, students have headed back to school. Many of us remember the days when we hopped on the school bus and sat in a classroom for mandatory lessons. We recall fellow students who finished the requirements as soon as possible, while others continued on to college and university, some earning multiple degrees. There was a pervasive attitude that once you stopped taking courses, your institutional learning days were over.
Today however, even those who have passed traditional school age have many avenues open to them to pursue additional education and there are multiple and diverse reasons for individuals to make that choice.
Lisa Kiley, who is “pushing 70,” has added to her bachelor’s degree from the UVM College of Education and Social Services by taking classes she wasn’t able to sign up for while fulfilling required coursework. She says, “I like to pursue my special interests, but not because I want a credential or to make a career change.”
She has enjoyed auditing and taking classes for credit in mathematics and sciences. “Some people seek entertainment by going out to bars or sporting events, but I prefer to read and study for enjoyment.”
Kiley noted that there are many educational resources including at local senior centers and many volunteer opportunities where new skills can be obtained.
Indeed, lifelong learning comes in many packages. There are programs for people who seek to learn new or career skills, enhance job performance, earn a half-finished degree, earn a higher degree or simply learn for fun and interest’s sake. The University of Vermont, Champlain College and the Vermont State Colleges all provide some great options for seniors who wish to enroll in their program offerings.
The process of selecting the right continuing education path depends mostly on what you want to learn and why. If you are seeking to change or enhance your career, then you should explore specific options relating to your career goals. Courses in accounting, medicine, technology, education, engineering and the environment—to name a few—are available for the taking.
University of Vermont
UVM offers over 400 for-credit courses to non-degree students. The careful selection of several such courses can provide the student with advanced knowledge that may directly improve their job performance and subsequent earning capacity. Older students are also encouraged to pursue a degree if that is their desire.
Continuing Education at UVM (learn.uvm.edu) provides assistance for seniors in choosing a curriculum. Prospective students may schedule an appointment with an advisor.
A recent UVM graduate, senior Jessie Bradley, attended college as a young student until 1976, but never finished her degree. She was inspired to graduate from UVM along with her youngest daughter. Although she had to retake several required courses, Bradley earned a Bachelor of Science degree in plant and soil science. A sought-after garden designer, Bradley says, “finishing my degree did not change my career path, but it enhanced it.”
Recently, she attended her first alumni event on campus. “It was so much fun,” she said. “I’m proud of my education and never thought I’d have the chance to enjoy a University alumni event.”
Vermont seniors may enroll in an unlimited number of classes at UVM for credit or audit on a space available basis. The university will pick up the tab for students who are 65 years or older who wish to audit a class. The student must live in Vermont for at least one year prior to enrollment. Be aware that tuition waivers at UVM are considered scholarships and may be taxable.
UVM is also home to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). The program is touted for its diverse offerings that include lectures, travel, film and discussion. The classes are typically just four weeks long, designed for affordability and fun. Updated information on OLLI Travel and other offerings can be found at learn.uvm.edu/olli.
Similar tuition waivers for seniors are also available at all Vermont State Colleges (VSC.edu). These include Castleton State, Johnson State, Lyndon State and Vermont Technical colleges. Vermont State Colleges offer a vibrant campus life for those who wish to learn alongside younger students. While a senior may enjoy free tuition, they must not displace a paying student in any particular class. Also stipulated for a Vermont State College tuition waiver is that a senior student is not seeking a degree. Another branch of the Vermont State College system is Community College of Vermont (CCV.edu). CCV has a vibrant senior program with more than a dozen locations statewide.
Champlain college
Champlain College is strikingly career-oriented compared to liberal arts institutions, with a highly successful job placement rate. Continuing education programs in computer science, cybersecurity, health care and professional certificates in accounting, human resource management and entrepreneurship are designed for serious students on a career track. The college also developed The Center for Financial Literacy that is geared toward students of all ages. More information is available at Champlain.edu/online.
non-degree
Other simple, fun learning experiences are offered through ACCESS at CVU (cvuweb.cvuhs.org/access), MMU After Dark (mmuafterdark.com) or Burlington Continuing Education (burlington.coursestorm.com). While you won’t earn a degree taking these courses, it’s a great way to learn more about computer technology and software applications, receive instrumental instruction, take dance, art, and language classes, beekeeping and much more. It’s also an opportunity to offer your particular expertise or share your knowledge by making a course offering.
online
There are other ways for lifelong learners to pursue education without enrolling in a college or university. Try Googling “online continuing education courses” and many different options come up. Coursera.org offers a wide range of courses and degree programs from many renowned colleges and universities all over the world. Even if you don’t know what you want to study, there will be something of interest on this website. Ed2go.com allows for browsing through an extensive selection of course offerings. Information about the instructor, a syllabus, requirements and reviews are provided. You can also explore any college or university of interest and examine their continuing education departments. Steer clear of online sites that request your personal information before allowing you to browse their offerings.
In this age of computer technology, it’s natural for people to pursue continuing education through online courses, but specialized forums and websites can be useful for busy professionals and entrepreneurs. Senior Melissa Mendelsohn owns Orchard Road Computers in Charlotte. She keeps herself current by joining forums such as Computer Troubleshooters and the Computer Repair Marketing Group and she follows websites such as techcrunch.com and wired.com. Pick your interest and there will be a forum or blog out there to increase your knowledge on that subject. Mendelsohn says “keeping up with technology is very time-consuming. I read through the forums every day and learn a great deal.”
Local libraries offer various programs that are open to the public. Check your town newspapers for such listings. Free lecture series are also scheduled through various organizations. These can provide lots of information on a wide range of subjects. For example, Elder Education Enrichment (EEEVermont.org) offers a series on foreign affairs, Vermont history, issues and news.
It is never too late to learn and there is always something new to examine. The Internet opens many doors for lifelong learning, and if you want to meet people while enjoying a common learning experience, the Champlain Valley is not short on options.

HUB Happenings

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ALS Adams

Adams Farm Market family members and staff get doused. (Observer photo by Marianne Apfelbaum)

Employees (from left) Carolyn Watcke, Lori Crowley and Kylie Webster take the challenge.

Employees (from left) Carolyn Watcke, Lori Crowley and Kylie Webster take the challenge.

 

Local businesses take on challenge
Two local businesses, Adams Farm Market and Vermont Federal Credit Union, recently took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge asks individuals to raise awareness for ALS by taking a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads, sharing the video through social media (and at www.willistonobserver.com), donating to the cause and nominating others to do the same.
In memory of Vermont Federal Credit Union’s Board Vice Chairman Gilbert Tabor, who passed away in 2011 of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), the Credit Union challenged its entire staff to complete the Ice Bucket Challenge. The credit union also donated $10 for every staff member who completed the challenge, totaling more than $500 to the local ALS chapter.

 

New employees at Peak and Whole Health
Peak Physical Therapy Sports and Performance Center and Whole Health Nutrition in Williston recently announced several new additions to their staff.
Courtney B. Kaup joined the company as a physical therapist. Kaup earned her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from University of Colorado Health Sciences in Denver. She has nine years of experience as a physical therapist and more than 30 years as an athlete. Ian Marquis, who will work as an exercise specialist and performance trainer, graduated from Norwich University where he played collegiate basketball. He has worked as a strength and conditioning coach with all collegiate teams at Norwich and UVM. Brayden McKenna, who graduated from the University of Vermont in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree in health and wellness and a minor in nutrition, is a new member of the front desk staff.
Victoria Bruner received her Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition, dietetics and food science from the University of Vermont and her Master of Science in dietetics degree in May of 2014. She will be a registered dietician for Whole Health Nutrition.

Businesses partner to support Vermont’s homeless
For the fourth year in a row, Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel, Darn Tough Vermont and Smartwool have teamed up to help provide warm, Merino wool socks and much-needed support to Vermont’s homeless population in preparation for the state’s colder months.
Lenny’s held its fourth annual Sock Sale last weekend, donating a pair to local homeless shelters with every pair sold. In addition, Lenny’s committed to making a monetary donation for each pair sold. The organizations receiving the donations include the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) in Williston, the Samaritan House in St. Albans, and the Good Samaritan Haven in Barre. To date, Lenny’s has donated more than $44,000 worth of socks and support to these shelters.

Musgrave promoted to global director

Husky Injection Molding Systems, Inc. recently announced that Williston resident Richard J. Musgrave has been promoted to the position of global director, legal and intellectual property. In this role, he will lead Husky’s combined global legal and intellectual property teams.
Musgrave joined Husky in 2004 and, since that time, has held a number of leadership positions within Husky’s legal department including, most recently, director of intellectual property. He has over 15 years of legal experience in law firm and corporate environments. Prior to joining Husky, Rick was in private practice as an intellectual property attorney.

Growler Garage opens in South Burlington
The Growler Garage opened its doors on Sept. 6, offering 21 taps of beers by local breweries and selections from around the world. The craft beer filling station will be outfitted with a full service tasting bar, featuring a diverse line up available to take home in 1/2 gallon growler and 1/4 gallon howler fillups. The business will also offer bottled craft beers, wines, meads and ciders.
Brian Stone, who owns the Garden of Eatin’ greenhouse café in Williston, and Liam O’Farrell partnered to open the Growler Garage.
“There are all these amazing microbreweries popping up,” said Stone. “We want to be there for them, to spread the good word and bring them on tap.”
The Growler Garage is located at 10 Dorset Street in South Burlington.

CCTA employees recognized
This Chittenden County Transportation Authority Board of Commissioners and its management staff recently recognized three employees who have reached significant milestones.
Red King is a driver with CCTA and has been an employee for 30 years, dedicating his career to being as helpful, courteous and knowledgeable to his passengers as possible. He greets his passengers with a friendly smile and a kind word, and is happy to assist them in any way he can. He is always punctual and has an excellent safety record.

Shawn Riley is the second shift foreman with CCTA and has been a long-standing employee for 30 years.
His father was the first mechanic at CCTA. Riley is responsible for roll out every morning, keeping schedules on time and moving. At the crack of dawn in the winter, he’ll be plowing sidewalks and cleaning shelters
Mike Slingerland is a master mechanic and has been the “go to guy” at CCTA for 25 years. Slingerland not only makes sure the drivers are ready to make roll out in the morning, he is also one of the best technicians when it comes to troubleshooting brake systems. Despite being a fixture for 25 years in the garage, some of his longer-serving coworkers still consider him their son.

Shelburne Vineyard Wins ‘Best in Show’ for 2012 Marquette Reserve
For the fourth consecutive year, a Shelburne Vineyard Marquette wine, the 2012 Marquette Reserve, won “Best Red Wine in Show” at the 6th International Cold Climate Wine Competition (ICCWC). Additional Shelburne Vineyard ICCWC winners this year include 2013 Marquette, 2013 Harvest Widow’s Revenge, LaCrescent, Whimsey Meadow Rosé and Louise Swenson. The ICCWC is America’s only competition that judges wines made from grapes developed to thrive in cold climates.

Mills joins Make-a-Wish
Allison D. Mills recently became the director of development for Make-A-Wish® Vermont. She has experience in donor relations, marketing, volunteer coordination and special events. Mills is a member of the Burlington Young Professionals Steering Committee through the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and has a certificate in nonprofit management from Marlboro College.

Winooski Valley Parks District appoints executive director
Nick Warner has been appointed executive director of the Winooski Valley Park District, a nonprofit agency operating 18 parks and managing over 1,750 acres of conservation lands for seven member municipalities.
Tim Larned has been promoted from parks manager to parks superintendant of the Winooski Valley Park District. Larned is responsible for the operations and maintenance of park assets, supervises the field crew and also serves as deputy director for the district.

VRGA announces Person of the Year Award winners
The Vermont Retail and Grocers Association (VRGA) recently announced the co-winners of the 2014 VRGA Person of the Year Award: Marcel Marquis with Shaw’s Supermarkets and Bonnie Hawley, owner of Hawley’s Florist in Rutland.
Marcel Marquis has worked in the retail supermarket industry for over 35 years. Since May, 2010 he has served as store director for Shaw’s Supermarkets, overseeing 150 associates and responsible for the overall operation of various volume supermarkets in Vermont. Prior to that, he was district manager for Shaw’s in Connecticut and Vermont until restructuring occurred in 2010.
Bonnie Hawley has owned and operated Hawley’s Florist in Rutland for 37 years. A graduate of Otter Valley Union High School and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she taught middle school science before launching her own business, one of the most successful and lasting of its kind in New England.

Hickok & Boardman hires Bode
Hickok & Boardman Insurance Group recently hired Barbara Bode as its client advisor for home and auto group sales.
Bode holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio and brings 22 years of experience in the insurance industry. Bode recently relocated from the North Shore of Massachusetts, where she was an agency owner/producer with the Horace Mann Insurance Companies.

Murphy Sullivan Kronk lawyers honored
Murphy Sullivan Kronk recently announced the inclusion of its attorneys, Liam Murphy, Brian Sullivan and Catherine Dingle (formerly Catherine Kronk) in the 2015 The Best Lawyers in America, 21st edition. In addition, Brian Sullivan was also named Best Lawyers 2015 Lawyer of the Year for Land Use and Zoning Law in Burlington, Vermont.
Liam Murphy has been included in The Best Lawyers in America for every year of its 21 years of publication.

Turning Point Center welcomes board members, weekend manager
The Turning Point Center of Chittenden County Board of Directors recently announced the appointment of new board members: James Sinkula, professor of marketing at the University of Vermont; Inge Schaefer, former legislator; Jim Boger, international human resources consultant; and Lara Heath Allen, owner of Ecco Clothes.
Turning Point also announced the appointment of Matt Combs as weekend operations manager.

Pho K&K Restaurant opens in Maple Tree Place

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Pho K&K Restaurant owner Khanh Le prepares his new Vietnamese restaurant for Monday’s lunch rush. The eatery opened in Maple Tree Place on Aug. 31. (Observer photo by Matt Sutkoski)

Pho K&K Restaurant owner Khanh Le prepares his new Vietnamese restaurant for Monday’s lunch rush. The eatery opened in Maple Tree Place on Aug. 31. (Observer photo by Matt Sutkoski)

By Matt Sutkoski
Observer correspondent
Pho K&K Restaurant just opened in Maple Tree Place on Aug. 31, and owner Khanh Le said he is happy to report the place is already a hit.
The storefront eatery, on Conor Way, next to The Paper Peddler, is clean but simple, with little clutter and few decorations, save for some intricate, colorful paintings and artwork depicting beautiful Vietnamese scenes, such as a sunrise on the Mekong Delta.
Most of the lunchtime light in the place comes through large, crystal clean storefront windows.
Le said the focus is on the food.
After one week in business, Le said he’s already gotten a feel for which menu items seem to be the biggest hits with customers.
Among the popular items are Pho Tai, which has thinly sliced flank steak with rice, noodles and beef broth, and Pho Tai Nam, which includes rice and noodle soup and beef.
The mango smoothie, for $3.50, is also very popular, Le said.
Another bonus: Pho K&K menu items aren’t expensive. Appetizers cost $3.50 and most of the main items on the menu are at or a little above $8.
The name of the restaurant comes from the initial of his first name and that of his wife.
This is the first foray into the restaurant business for Le, though he has a number of relatives who own or work in eateries, so he has a lot of people to lean on if he needs advice.
Pho K&K is open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., though he might adjust the hours slightly in the coming weeks or months.
Sundays are slow, so he might cut back on hours on that day. Weekdays are much busier, as Le is trying to attract workers in various businesses in Maple Tree Place who are taking their lunch breaks.
While Williston has a number of restaurants with a variety of styles and ethnicities, the town up until now lacked a Vietnamese restaurant, Le said. He wanted to step in and fill the void.
The place is informal. You go up to the counter, select from the menu and either sit at one of the dozen or so wooden tables in the restaurant or take out your lunch once it’s ready.
“It’s small but it’s cozy,” Le said.
On Monday, the lunch hour got off to a slow start, as it always seems to, Le said. Business typically picks up after noon and reaches a crescendo before 1 p.m.
He said he’s pleased by the amount of business he’s gotten so far, and hopes that means he’ll be in Maple Tree Place for a long time.

Brick Church Music series announces lineup

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The Blue Gardenias sing at a previous Brick Church Music Series concert. Organizers recently announced the lineup for this year’s series. (Observer file photo by David Yandell)

The Blue Gardenias sing at a previous Brick Church Music Series concert. Organizers recently announced the lineup for this year’s series. (Observer file photo by David Yandell)

Observer staff report

The Brick Church Music Series is returning for its sixth season with its first concert set for Oct. 17. The series has gotten increasingly popular, attracting more than 100 people for each concert.
After the first event, concerts are held the second Friday of each month through April. The doors open at 6 p.m. for an art display featuring a different artist each month. Williston artist Nancy Stone coordinates this effort and introduces the artist during the concert.
The music begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 dollars in advance and $14 at the door; for seniors it is $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Children under six get in for free. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at town.williston.vt.us/BrickChurchMusic and at the Williston Town Hall.
A season’s pass is available for $72 for adults ($10 a concert) and $60 for seniors ($8 a concert). Season passes can be purchased online or at the Town Hall.

Oct. 17: Dissipated 8
An all-male a cappella octet from Middlebury College.
Nov. 14: Patti Casey and Colin McCaffrey
Two of Vermont’s most popular artists
Dec. 12: Karen Kevra and Rebecca Kaufman
A flutist and a harpist perform seasonal music ending with a community sing
Jan. 9: Paul Asbell
An acoustic guitar master
Feb. 13: Bruce Sklar Trio
A superb jazz combo
March 13: Heliand Consort/ Benjamin Kulp
Classical chamber music including Williston cellist Ben Kulp
April 10: Bob Amos and Catamount Crossing
A Vermont-based high energy bluegrass group from the Northeast Kingdom

Boright inducted into second Hall of Fame

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By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
The Williston Observer’s sports correspondent Mal Boright has a second Hall of Fame membership to add to his list of journalism honors.
Boright was inducted into the Orleans-Northern Essex County Athletic Hall of Fame in a Sept. 6 ceremony. He was honored as an athlete and as a lifelong sports reporter at the sixth annual event, held at the Newport Country Club, one of 22 new members inducted.
Boright’s journalism career has spanned more than 40 years, much of it in sports coverage. In 2012, he was inducted into the Vermont Principals’ Association Hall of Fame. Boright’s high school and local sports coverage has been featured in the Williston Observer since 2004.
His sports reporting awards from the Vermont Press Association take up a sizeable chunk of wall space in the Observer’s offices, and The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association named him the Vermont Sportswriter of the Year in 1967.
After playing baseball and basketball at Newport High School, Boright served as a medic in the U.S. Air Force from 1953 to 1957. He studied at the University of Maryland, the U.S. Armed Forces Institute and Nathaniel Hawthorne College.
After returning home to Vermont in 1958, he became the sports editor at the Newport Express. He has covered sports for the Rutland Herald, Burlington Free Press, Valley News in Lebanon, N.H. and Channel 22, the local ABC affiliate.
For nearly 30 years, Boright has voiced morning sports commentary on radio station WDEV as “The Swami” and is one of the members of “The Kid and The Geezer” radio show.

Williston hiker completes Appalachian Trail

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Ellie Beckett perches on the trail sign at the top of Mount Katahdin after completing the Appalachian Trail.

Ellie Beckett perches on the trail sign at the top of Mount Katahdin after completing the Appalachian Trail.

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff

After 145 days and 2,180 miles on the trail, a Williston resident has joined the small and hardy group of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers.
Ellie Beckett set off from Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia on March 23 and completed the trail on Aug. 15 on Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Altogether, nearly 14,500 people have completed the hike—whether in sections or in one go—since the 1930s. According to the Appalachian Trail conservancy, women make up about 25 percent of the hikers.
Now in Edinburgh, Scotland to earn her master’s degree in health systems and public policy, Beckett said she misses the trail—though she is certainly enjoying regular showers, real food and an actual bed.
“The hiker lifestyle is addicting though, very simple and very fulfilling,” she wrote in an email from Scotland. “It’s nice knowing when you wake up the only thing you have to do is walk north via the white blazes.”
She also misses her fellow Appalachian Trail hikers.
“The AT community is unique and wonderful, people are so kind and you really see that on the trail whether it’s someone giving you a hitch into town, trail magic on the side of the trail (gifts—often food or cold drinks—left on the trail for thru-hikers), or a stranger letting you borrow a piece of gear,” she said. “It just feels as though everyone you encounter is on-board with your plan and genuinely wants to help you reach Katahdin.”
Beckett made a goal to hike the Appalachian Trail after she and her brother hiked Vermont’s Long Trail—which runs the length of Vermont and shares about 100 miles with the AT—four years ago.
“I really enjoyed it, it was really hard but beautiful and I felt so accomplished afterwards,” she said.
She also encountered some Appalachian Trail hikers.
“They blew my mind,” Beckett said. “I wanted to be them and decided I would hike the whole AT someday; If I felt that strong and confident after just 280 miles, imagine 2200!”
After her college graduation seemed like a natural point to hike the trail, so she set aside this summer to reach her goal.
Although Beckett left Vermont alone, she made friends quickly.
“I met people at the Atlanta airport who became some of my best friends on the trail,” she said. “There were five guys that I hiked the whole trail with, the group split and reconfigured frequently, but I was almost always with some combination of the same people.”
Beckett said she began to hit her stride about 500 miles into the hike, in Virginia. She began regularly putting in 20-mile or more days.
“I loved Virginia, which is good…because it’s about a quarter of the length of the trail at around 550 miles,” she said. “When we were walking through Virginia the mountain laurel and rhododendrons were all in bloom, so we were walking through a tunnel of flowers.”
It was also early enough in the hike, she said, that her deadline—mid-August, leaving enough time to prepare for grad school departure—wasn’t looming and she could take spontaneous detours.
“Virginia also had bears in the Shenandoahs and ponies in the Grayson Highlands, so all of that considered, I’d say Virginia was my favorite state,” she said.
She said her favorite day, though, was a 27.7-mile slack-pack day—comparatively luxurious days when you leave your backpack at a hotel or have it driven ahead for you—from Crawford Notch to Franconia Notch in New Hampshire.
“The Whites were so beautiful and we got to Franconia Ridge in the early evening when the light was just gorgeous,” she said. “Overall it was a really fun, full, and beautiful day—and knowing I was headed back to a hotel with a shower and bed helped too!”
Her worst day was her longest, she said. After walking 24 miles, she reached a shelter at 7 p.m., just as rain began to fall.
“Instead of making the rational choice to stay there for the evening, one of my hiking buddies and I decided to see if we could hike through the night and make it into Harper’s Ferry for the sunrise—which would mean doing a 54 mile day.”
They hiked in the dark and the rain over a feature called “the roller coaster”—densely packed steep hills—until they reached the West Virginia border just after 3 a.m. After four hours of sleep, they hiked the last 16 miles to Harper’s Ferry on the northern border of West Virginia.
“Heading into Harper’s the terrain was mild and the weather was perfect, but for me after that huge day and very little sleep it was the most miserable 16 miles of the trip!” she said.
Southern Maine was a tough stretch as well.
“It’s just a much more rugged stretch of trail than most of the rest of it and mentally I was pretty ready to be done. It was frustrating being so close but still so far away—yes, when there’s 280 miles left of a 2,185 mile trail you are ‘close,’ but 280 miles is still a long ways to walk!”
She also learned some lessons from the experience, applicable in distance trail hiking and life in general.
“When a challenge seems too large and impossible it’s important to just take one step at a time,” she said. “The whole thing might seem daunting, but no single step is too difficult.”
She also referenced two common trail sayings. The first—“the trail provides”—taught her to “trust that everything will work out and to really appreciate what’s around you.”
The second saying was “hike your own hike.”
“No matter how you hike your hike there’s always someone who thinks you’re doing it wrong—you’re either going too fast or too slow, or they think slack-packing is cheating, or you stay in town too much or too little, or whatever. Whatever way you choose to do your hike is your own, and no one needs your approval and you don’t need theirs,” she said. “I guess the larger lesson to apply to real life here is that it’s important to ask yourself why you’re doing things the way you’re doing them, if it’s for you or for someone else, and if you’re doing it for someone else it’s important to know why.”

Town looks at conserving 40 acres

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By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
Williston could soon gain nearly 40 acres of conserved land, along with an established trail system.
At its Sept. 2 meeting, the Selectboard mulled a request to allocate up to $160,000 from the Environmental Reserve Fund to aid in purchasing 39 acres of land in southeastern Williston.
Earlier this summer, the board approved the use of the fund to help pay for an appraisal of the land, owned by David and Christiane Herskowitz on Christmas Lane. After reviewing the appraisal, the Conservation Commission voted unanimously to request that the town allocate money from the Environmental Reserve Fund to purchase the land and add it to Mud Pond County Park. The land would then be conserved through a perpetual conservation easement held by Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
The Herskowitz parcel abuts the Mud Pond County Park, and its addition would increase the size of the park by 50 percent. Currently, the Fellowship of the Wheel—a mountain biking organization—maintains more than a mile of trails on the Herskowitz property. In addition to mountain bikers, the trails are used by walkers and cross country skiers.
A report prepared by the Conservation Commission said the land also provides a key habitat link from Mud Pond to what’s called the Richmond Ridge to the east.
The Herskowitzes have already received growth management allocation for a five-unit development on their property—a crucial step in the town’s permitting process—but David Herskowitz said he would rather see the land conserved.
“I would like to see the land conserved if possible so it will always be enjoyed uninterrupted by all the bikers, hikers and skiers that make so much use out of it,” he wrote in an email to the Observer. “As part of an existing trail system, it makes a lot of sense to sell it to the town for this future use and to allow a potential trailway connecting to Lake Iroquois. The neighbors also are in support of this alternative to development so it makes a beneficial situation for everyone.”
The property was appraised for $320,000. The Environmental Reserve Fund would cover half of that cost, and Conservation Commission members seem confident they can raise the remaining funds required through a variety of sources.
Bob Heiser of the Vermont Land Trust said the total project cost would likely be between $345-350,000 once legal and stewardship costs are factored in, but that the Land Trust would be willing to help secure funding.
“I think its’ a great project and if the town looks at it as something they want to participate in, we’d be happy to help out,” he said at the Sept. 2 meeting, as recorded by CCTV.
The allocation would mean the fund would drop to its lowest levels in several years. The board recently approved a $218,320 expenditure to purchase development rights on the Bruce Farm, though the money has yet to be removed from the fund. Once it is removed, approximately $257,000 will remain in the fund. If money is allocated for the Herskowitz property, the fund will have a balance of $97,000.
While Conservation Commission member Gary Hawley allowed that the figure was relatively low, he told the Selectboard the money is there to be spent on quality projects.
“It’s bringing it down, but all of our wish, including you guys and the Planning Commission has been to spend that money and use it wisely, but let’s use it,” he said.
The board put off making a decision until its next meeting, set for Sept. 22.