Your pace doesnt have to be fast if you can do the time.
Almost 12 hours of hiking.
Do the time.
I can’t seem to get the legs moving into their usual groove. I have a steady 3mph pace, but that speed was impossible in the northern two states as you literally have to pick your way carefully through the rocks to go anywhere. It’s as if my body got used to that slower canter, and I can only reasonably, not quickly, move down the trail. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a destination or ultimate goal. Maybe I’m not trying to beat winter, or finish by Thanksgiving (those factors usually put the fire under other sobo’s toes). So I guess it doesn’t matter that I’m moving slower than normal…or maybe this is normal now?
I listen to music and podcasts all day…it’s an internal day. For NEMO’s visit I was very external, telling stories and absorbing hers….I barely talk today, and that’s ok, I need this too.
One of the podcasts that sparked some deep thoughts today was Tim Ferriss’s interview of Will MacAskill. In the face of so much change and potential for disaster, he has a very uplifting world view…and a compelling call to action.
Dare I say I am choosing hope and action in place of despair and immobilization? On day 48 I am. If you have a couple of hours give it a listen.
I take long breaks and read my spy book. The trail is mostly green tunnel today, but that fits my slow, meditative, and thoughtful walking.
Before anything notable happens, I’m at camp. Oops, something notable did happen…I passed the 500 mile mark. Well, I actually reached 500 miles yesterday, but this marked the AT miles I’ve hiked.
The rain fell hard all night, which is good for all the dry little creeks and streams out there. I decided to splurge on a morning shower and stood under the warm water for several quarters worth of time. State parks have it going on with all these amenities…if you can put up with the traffic and people.
We took it slow this morning; Retread was heading home, Anonymous was flying out tomorrow, and the two nobos were getting dropped off for their Katadhin quest. It’s strange just having hiked what they have left to do. I refrain from saying too much about what they have ahead…I don’t always like it when others do that to me…regardless, they will get a ton of advice from all the others coming south too. It’s hard, they wanna know what they are in store for, but I don’t think you really can prepare yourself for New Hampshire and Maine, you just have to experience it.
The hype around the trail south of here is: “so flat, you can do big days, it’s nothing like what you experienced in the north.” The challenges down here are more like: ticks, heat, and…hmmm, what else??? Maybe not so much the heat anymore. The sobos got hammered by long periods of really hot (like in the 90s AND incredibly humid hot. No thank you.)
I walked out of camp and to the trail. A short up got the blood flowing. Solo again. I would be solo through my last 100ish miles when I made it to, hmmm, not sure yet. I can get off trail and to Albany, NY from any number of places in the next week. When I looked at a map, Albany sat to the east, and a wagon wheel of roads burst into the mountains of Vermont and Massachusetts. I could hop off the trail and to the airport from just about anywhere.
And then I was on the Long Trail. About 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail share the same tread south of here…the northern portion of the 200ish mile trail traverses the spine of mountains north of here to Canada. Also the Long Trail is the first long distance trail in country. Respect!
The big feature of the day would be to climb Killington, Vermont’s second highest peak. It also has the region’s biggest ski resort. I passed on the climb to the top (via a steep 0.2 side trail) and snack bar because the forest was in a cloud, and I had too much food on my back. I remember racing up there with Average Joe in 2002 and snacking hard. The views were great too.
The rain had stopped shortly after I had started hiking yesterday, but the dense and thick greenery made for a drenched walk all the same. It was beautiful.
I ambled to a stop early. I had already made a reservation at a nice hotel in Manchester Center, a three+ day hike from my zero. I had plenty of time to hike there, too much food once again, and another book that was getting interesting – this one a British spy novel set in the 1970s.
Today was truly relaxing. I didn’t have any chores to do, so I could just sit. Retread made sure we were well fed, and I just sat.
Arm pain update: not using my arm has helped a lot. I still feel that something isn’t right, but I’m not in as much pain as before. I will contine to not use my left hiking pole and see what happens.
Bee sting update: the swelling has gone down and I’ve all but forgotten the event, but a mosquito stung the sting area, and that’s not cool.
Foot gash update: the cut is in the crease of my toe, so hard to see. Hope it’s doing OK.
Legs update: legs are ripped and ready to go!
I made the coffee so strong this morning that I was jittery for the first mile of the trail…which probably helped me get up the big climb of the day. The day, though, would be short. We had places to be! Things to wash!
We walked by the beautiful Ethan Pond and into the state park after the quick morning and there was Carrie! She met us on the trail with a zip lock for each of us: small bar of soap, small shampoo and conditioner bottles, and enough quarters for a 10 minute shower. What a fabulous welcome, but even better, it was so good to see my friend again.
We walked into a campsite where Retread, the amazing trail angel that made this rendezvous happen, is parked with his camper, and I met the nobo slack packers of the hour: #2 Pencil and Nightingale.
So, let’s see if I get the story right: #2 and Nightingale met Retread last year when another hiker held a gathering to talk about prepping for the trail. Retread has been following the two hiker’s progress as they made their way north (hiking separately I believe) and offered to angel them when they got north. Well, they got north, so the three decided on a 4-day slack pack session where Retread would hold down the fort at the campground and drive them up and back to the trail each day. They would hike 10-20 miles and come back to the campground for rest and pampering each night. Carrie had just gotten off trail, but since meeting #2 (and the two of them hitting it off) had wanted us all to meet, and we thought when #2 and I crossed paths would be the chance. Sooooo, here we are! Our paths converge, Carrie and Retread connected and he brought her here. The two nobos will get some miles in, NEMO will get picked up tomorrow, and I get to see Carrie again and meet #2! It’s amazing all these moving parts came together 😃
We walk in, I make a beeline for the showers and emerge fresh as a dew drop. I was wearing some loner clothes so I didn’t have to put my stanky ones back on and soon we were lunching on a picnic table with a table cloth on it. Classy! Retread is an amazing host and has thought of everything. I’m grateful they have welcomed us into their well orchestrated camping trip.
After lunch we decide its laundry time and all load up into Retread’s truck. We find a place in Rutland called Washbucklers (I chose it for the name). Once we accomplished that mission it was food time, both for consuming and resuppling.
Mountain Spice, a 2015 CDT hiker I met and hiked through some of northern Montana with, joined us for dinner at the Yellow Deli, an infamous restaurant run by a religious community. We feast, and then do a haphazard resupply (I hadn’t figured out where I was going next or what I needed) where I basically just tossed things I like to eat in the cart.
Back at camp we managed a short hang out sesch before hiker midnight struck, and we were all tucked in, lulled to sleep by the two busy highways rumbling almost next to our ears.
Your mission should you choose to accept it: savor the day.
Today was NEMO’s last full day of hiking with me, and we decided to take the path least traveled (well, not really…) and have fun with the day and do what we want. Oh sure, we would still hike our miles, but with a different attitude.
Tomorrow we would reach Gifford State Park where we would find Carrie along with #2 Pencil, another hiker friend of theirs, and Rewind, a hiker that is off trail, lives nearby, and would be slack packing #2 and the other hiker for a few days. This is where our paths cross as nobos and sobos. Carrie has been off trail for about a week, and wanted stick around until we were all nearby so we could hang out. NEMO would meet the crew before she gets picked up for home the next day, and I had arranged for Mountain Spice, a hiker I met on the CDT (and hiked through the Bob Marshall Wilderness and part of Glacier with) lives nearby and will stop in and say hello as well. It would be a party! But the event heavy on our minds for the state park? A shower. A long hot shower, and doing laundry somewhere near by. Visions of soap a shampoo danced through our heads. We hadn’t truly bathed or washed our clothes in 10 days, and we are rank. It wasn’t for lack of trying! Weekends, full hotels, closed hotels (no staff) and lack of hotels thwarted our attempts at cleaning ourselves, but the run of rank would soon be over…word on the street is a laundromat/pub combo awaits us ahead.
The first decision on “savor the day” was a trip to Teagos, a store/deli a mile off the trail that is rumored to have breakfast sandwiches. We arrived at a paved road soon after leaving camp and walking through a thick patch of poison ivy (doh!) The walk was pleasant and we passed a small ski hill that was very charming. Town was a well-manicured historical place with the community theater advertising a rendition of “Nunsense” on stage this fall. Whoa Vermont, you are coming on strong! The store was about as picturesque as you could get, with regulars chatting over coffee, a well-provisioned deli, all sorts of fun snacks and treats, and a fully stocked beer fridge. We both ordered a breakfast sandwich and grabbed a beer from the case (the beer that Laurie gave us the other day…very tasty!). We ate our sandwiches on the porch after trying to wash off the poison ivy oils from our legs in the bathroom 🤞
Then we started to walk the mile back, but stuck out our thumbs just as a pickup turned onto our road. Success! We hopped in the back (a second pick-up hitch??? So lucky!) and we were back on trail lickity-split.
We had some climbing and descending…nothing too extreme. We laughed and reminisced about our years of hiking together, it was a good day.
I needed water around lunch time so we hiked a quarter mile into a shelter and took over the shelter with our shenanigans. We cracked our beers and ate our sandwiches, playing some of our favorite songs for each other.
We weren’t too tipsy for the afternoon hike, and managed to make some respectable miles before finding a camp spot near the next creek, although I did cut my foot open while hiking in my chacos, and really started to fatigue with the incessant roots – some hikers call Vermont Vermud, but with this drought I’d call it Verroot.
We splashed off in the cold creek and had a lovely evening with the serenade of rushing water in the background.
Tired nobos are sleeping everywhere down here.
Sleeping in shelters always seems like a delicate thing. It can be so quiet in there that any sounds made from rustling about or turning in the night are amplified…I don’t sleep well in them, and don’t imagine others do either, yet I spent almost every night of my 5-month hike in them 20 years ago.
I’m up early as usual, and move a short distance away to make my coffee and stay as quiet as I can while I write.
Nemo eventually wakes and we are both packed and ready to hike before the other hiker in the shelter stirs…what a sound sleeper!
The trail continues to lay down a path of easy dirt before us, and we glide through the miles. On a short road walk we stop in a trail angel’s house where hikers can get water from a hose. There are cold sodas too and we both drink one as we hear stories from the other nobos that just arrived. It’s a short stop, and soon we are climbing the next hill (a lot of the features in this part of Vermont are called hills…that gives you some perspective on the terrain here).
Late morning I feel a hot sharp pain on my left ankle, I’ve been stung! Now normally this might not be a big deal to you, but I was in fact hiking on the PCT in the Glacier Peak Wilderness when I was stung on the ankle twice by a ground wasp and went into anaphylactic shock. NEMO was there and watched me blow up like a balloon and develop breathing problems and hives all over my body. Another hiker had me take a bunch of Benedryl…I didn’t know I was allergic, so didn’t carry an epi-pen, and no one else had one either. After a few minutes (I was on the ground wrapped in an emergency blanket by this time) I remember NEMO saying, “She-ra, if you were gonna die, you would have died by now.” I guess I didn’t realize death was an option, but was glad to hear that it was taken off the table. After about an hour the hikers split up my gear and we hiked up, looking for a campsite…there were none at the bottom of the drainage where I had been stung. And then 16 years passed and I was stung on the ankle again on a long distance trail with NEMO there.
I stopped, yelled for NEMO, chewed a Benedryl, swallowed another whole, and dug the stinger out (which means it was a bee we think, and has different venom from a wasp…good for me). I was having some PTSD, but overall kept my calm. (Now I carry Benedryl in my pocket, an epi in my phanny pack and one in my backpack). We slowly walked away from the area, and nothing more happened, so continued another 10 minutes to the next gravel road where we sat down and surveyed the damage.
My ankle was swelling a lot, but that was all. We put wet mud on the ballooning area (the cool felt good) and I lay down to eat lunch.
I was ok!
We walked on that afternoon, and I was surprised I wasn’t more sleepy from the Benedryl. We had one more instance of trail magic when we came upon a bucket at a creek that had some cold sodas in it (I just can’t with all this trail magic! Wow!).
Camp is a open hemlock forest, and NEMO and I tuck ourselves out of sight down a small swell in the earth.
I didn’t die today!
Our sleep in the woods outside of town was quite good. I was nervous about it when I heard the town clock gong 8 times the night before, but I didn’t hear the bell again until 7am, so at least they were considerate of the outdoor dwellers.
I packed up and walked to my massage appointment, about a mile south of the co-op. Wendy the masseuse (Hanover Massage) was wonderful, and when I learned she was actually on vacation but wanted to make sure I got my gift certificate massage, that made it all the more special. We chatted about my arm issue as she worked on that area and on the knots in my back. She thinks my aches aren’t a pinched nerve, but tendon problems. (I had started to worry about a torn rotator cuff, but she was fairly certain that wasn’t it.) Rest was her suggestion; I had already been hiking without my left hiking pole, decided to continue to do so in hopes of relief. Wendy even drove me back to the co-op and saved me another mile of walking. Thanks so much Wendy and Cindy for getting me the perfect gift!
When I got back, NEMO slid me some arnica massage oil for my arm and I talked to Kirk again who had some advice too. I do have to say I think all of it is helping, throughout the day I did feel better. 🥰
We did our resupply, packed up, bought a few more things, and were walking out of town by noon. The first few miles were road, and we walked over the bridge separating New Hampshire and Vermont.
Then we walked through the little town of Norwich…a fair was in full swing, but all the rides looked like they would make me vomit and we already had too much in our packs (again! The post office closed right before I got there, so I will now be hiking with my Dartmouth t-shirt) so we continued on and up a steep little road to the trailhead.
Water would be scarce in this section again, so we filled up at the next creek and met a nobo and his dog who seemed very happy and told us about some trail magic ahead. After he walked on I looked at NEMO and said, “I think he was drunk.” His stumble gave him away. That must be some trail magic! More nobos passed us with glowing reports of the magic, so when we finally found Laurie and her dog Harry we were anticipating a good spread, but what we found blew us away.
This was Laurie’s first time doing trail magic and she researched what hikers would like, then she picked a beautiful spot in the woods (she had to carry everything in) that had a view of the last three big mountains we climbed: Moosilauke, Smarts, and Cube. Then she sourced everything locally (we are in Vermot after all) and wrote up a menu of all she was offering. A menu!!!
She welcomed us and gave us each a tupperware with watermelon salad (watermelon, feta, and basil….amazing). We sat on a bench admiring the view, and she brought us a cracker with some kind of delicious soft cheese and blueberry preserves. Then she brought us three different sausages to try and gave each of us a very tasty (and stong) local IPA to drink (apparently the hiker we saw drank three of these strong beers!)
But best of all we the conversation. We sat with her pup Harry for a good long while having the best time. It was such a wonderful experience, and we encouraged Laurie to continue her good deeds in the future. Best trail magic ever! She even gave me a ripe peach for the road. Yum!
We didn’t have long to go to reach our destination, the Happy Hill shelter. We walked down the side trail and found a very cute stone building and decided to sleep in the shelter for once…we seemed to be the only ones stopping. One nobo did pass through and we had a great time chatting with Mango (we were helped along in our chattyness by the IPAs). We tried to eat a bunch of our food (again a heavy food carry…we like to eat), and I closed my eyes before dark.
What a great day!
I’ve been having a pain that I haven’t been telling you about. My left arm hurts and I think a nerve in my shoulder is getting pinched by my pack. I’ve been playing with different strap combinations and have a pair of socks that I use to diffuse the pack strap pressure, but it’s still an issue. I did get a confirmation of my massage happening tomorrow morning, and I hope, hope, hope it will bring me some relief. If anything I’ll live with it for another two weeks of the hike and then I won’t have to wear the pack again for a while. We’ll see.
There are always aches and pains on the trail. This time it has been a mystery rash and arm nerve pain. In 2002 it was a brown recluse spider bite and infected blister that made my whole leg swell up. Both required medical help…so I guess I’m getting off easier this time around…so far.
To the day….it rained again during the night. For a drought-striken land I sure have been getting rained on alot! The storm passed by morning, and we were walking in the cool, chill aftermath. Blissful.
The hiking was mild and the day milder. The miles ticked by and when we emerged on one of the many road crossings we would have today, found more trail magic! NEMO must be my lucky charm because I’ve had more magic since she joined me than all the rest of the trail…then again, I am out of the Whites and there are a ton of roads now. And fields! We walked through some beautiful fields today.
Ok, so we popped out on a road and find Bacon Wrapped, a trail angel, cooking up some pancakes. He has fed over 300 hikers this season and I happily accepted a plate and had a seat in a camp chair. The trail angels love these meetings almost as much as the hikers…the expense, time, and effort it takes to set up a feast and cook for us over and over is pretty incredible. The passion and inspiration the AT provides people up and down the east coast is really astounding. I love it.
Thank you Bacon Wrapped!
The last little bit before Hanover went steeply up and down a few times, and they threw in some rocks and roots to make sure we weren’t getting too comfortable with cruisy terrain.
We popped out at the Dartmouth sports fields and found a few hikers…since there are essentially no places to stay in town (pretty much ever, unless you want to spend big bucks on a fancy hotel room) most hikers camp at the edge of the woods…a large and beautiful food co-op is on the other side of the soccer field and I imagine hikers drop many thousands of dollars there each year.
NEMO and I wander the floor of the co-op adding things to our lunch baskets. I emerge with an artichoke salad, cold sesame chicken and rice frim the deli, and terrimisue (that spelling can’t be right). NEMO comes out with pickles, sushi, and watermelon. We chat with some nobos who are sitting outside as we eat our way through the treats.
I really want a shower. No, scratch that, I need a shower. I try a variety of tactics: going to the rec center that used to let hikers shower and do laundry (nope, not enough staff to offer that service), texting some Dartmouth outdoor club students who offer assistance to hikers (nope, no one responds), booking an expensive hotel room (nope, all booked up for three weddings, is $400 dollars, or is $275 in the next town and a $25 cab there and back). I even try chatting up a couple who talked to us while they were walking their dog, but no go, they ate going to the fair in Norwich tonight. I’d have to bathe in the woods.
I purchased some shampoo and filled my water containers with hot water at the pizza place where we had dinner, and then we walked back into the woods where we had emerged. Because the laundromat wasn’t open today either (are you kidding? What kind of college town is this?) I also bought a Dartmouth t-shirt at CVS so I had clean non-hiker stank shirt to put on….the goal was to be as fresh as possible for my massage tomorrow morning.
My time in the peace corps prepared me well for bucket baths where I would literally bathe by using a cup that I dipped into a bucket of water and poured over my head. Getting hot water was pure genius, and I got a decent washing in.
I do feel ragged and and I’m waaaaaay overdue for some tlc in a real hotel room with running water and pillows, but there haven’t been opportunities. The next time off I’ve got coming up this week with Carrie will be camping at a state park. I’ll have to keep my eyes out for a lodging opportunity before it gets too close to the end. I’m sure I can find something…
I set my tent up after the bath and then called Kirk to find that it’s going to be over 100 degrees again at home; I sure hope it cools down in September! Summers are a great time for me to take off work because it’s simply too hot to hike or lead volunteer trips in the summer. But 100? That’s next level.
I’m glad to be out here.
We had a lot of climbing today. We still climb over the tallest mountains they can find out here.
The first climb took us to a fire tower and we got some great views and snacked on the stairs until I felt too nervous that I would drop something important.
There was minimal water today too, southern New Hampshire must be part of the drought cycle, because there ended up being a 15-mile waterless stretch this afternoon. Folks weren’t sure how to handle it, but with my desert background I just smiled and loaded up four liters of water on my back. We desert rats just grin and bear it.
We got down to a road crossing and I was dragging. I stuck a tumb out just to see, and a car pulled over immediately! We are going to town! I had her drop us off at the store in Lyme, and we both ate and got some treats to pack out. I needed a little pick me up today…the humidy was back and I am still tired. I believe I am overdue for some time off!
The same thing happened on the hitch back to the trail. As soon as I had a thumb out a pickup pulls over and we jumped in back. Yes! AT experience complete now that I’ve had a ride in the bed of a pickup! Lyme NH: 3 stars.
We had two more sizable climbs after that and before making camp. We are within striking distance of Hanover…still don’t know where we will stay, but we’ll do our best to make friends and see what happens.