Tick and I got a shuttle ride back south to where we had started the 19 mile slackpack yesterday and started north. It was a bit of a late start after a fitful night. There was a steep rocky up and steeper down with thunderstorms predicted for the afternoon. I just wasn’t feeling it so camped after a shortish day, a lovely spot next to the river. In the morning a local dog trotted down the little side path I was on, seemed like he had a regular patrol he did. I told him he was a good dog and he wagged his tail as I packed up and followed him across the suspension bridge. He turned to his house but I crossed the road and continued up the trail. He followed and I had to tell him to go home. Which he did. Good dog.
I was glad I waited to do the climb up Priest. Sometime in the morning I heard a buzz then a zap on my forearm. Bee? Horsefly? My arm started swelling and itching but no anaphylactic shock. Haven’t had a bee sting since I was a kid playing in the grass and stepped on one. Same reaction now. My arm is swollen from hand to elbow. Dr. Google says it will be fine in 5-10 days. Wish I had some steroids to take the swelling down. I camped near a road, cooler at last.
The trail tread in Virginia is actually quite good. The lush vegetation kind of overlaps a bit so I sashay to avoid berry bush stickers, poison ivy and stinging nettles as much as possible. Probably should buy some pants instead of shorts but it’s too hot! A 19 mile day put me in good shape for tomorrow’s hostel shuttle into the Glasgow, VA Stanimals. I camped in a little mossy tent site before a road and water source. No hikers came by, we’re kind of sparse out here now.
Charlie got me promptly the next day and I got an outstandingly comfy and affordable bed upstairs in the hostel. And Tick and Paisley are here along with a few other hikers. Shower, laundry and dinner at Scotto’s (the only restaurant) after getting what I could from the general store and Dollar General for resupply. No freeze dried dinners but I’ll make do.
Charlie knows what he’s doing so the 3 of us did 2 back to back days of slackpacking, just 14.9 and 13.7 miles each, with dinner in Glasgow so I really don’t need freeze dried dinners, I’ve got one for dinner between Glasgow and Daleville, my next resupply town. I decided to zero, and said goodbye to Tick and Paisley when Charlie met us and delivered our big packs. I haven’t taken a day off since Harper’s Ferry, just near-o’s (short mile days). I’m tired. I’m not the only one. I got back to the hostel with Charlie and told another hiker that I hoped it would rain so I wouldn’t feel guilty. And so it rained most of the night, sorry Tick and Paisley for wishing that on you!
Crossword turned up the next morning with Charlie. I knew he would, we stay in touch. He saw me in the hostel, much to his surprise. I told Charlie to keep it a secret! It was good to catch up again although he will start 30 miles behind as I hike just one night out and get to Daleville.
A 17.5 mile day and comfy tent site with 10.7 to Daleville the next day. Shower, grocery store, and outfitters for freeze dried dinners for the next 100 miles. That’s going to weigh me down! I had dinner at a Mexican restaurant next to the motel. I feel like I could eat forever. But I’m really sick of walking every day. Think I’ll take another zero and catch up the blog. Yup. Why not?
Good trail into Shenandoah National Park. I got rained on a couple times but since I made a reservation at Big Meadow Lodge in the park in a couple more nights, I know I can dry out. And I’m doing stints on Skyline Drive, where the original AT ran before they turned it into a National Park road in the 1930’s. The trail criss crosses the road frequently. The road walking is brisk, the grade gentle, the views clear and I’m out of the green tunnel for a bit. The mileage is about the same. I’m no AT purist. Lessons learned on the CDT.
Night 3 I was in Big Meadows Lodge. Strange to be with regular tourists who don’t really talk to strangers (me, am I so weird?), but I enjoyed a late lunch, dinner and breakfast, and took a shower and what a beautiful old building.
I didn’t start walking till after breakfast, 9 am, and went up to the store to get some resupply, then back on trail. The next water source was Lewis Mountain Campground. I saw they had cabins too. I said to myself, “If…then yes” and they did, so I got myself a beautiful little room, way nicer than Big Meadow Lodge and spent a very happy afternoon reading and eating after a mere 9 mile hike. Bad Catwater.
I met Tick in the morning on the way out of the campground. He was getting water and chatting with the campground hosts. Also a Flip Flopper. I confessed all—staying in a cabin, road walking, everything. Because he is more a purist and a quick walker, we wound up at the same shelters (me in my tent though) the next 2 nights before getting the Stanimals Hostel shuttle into Waynesboro for 2 nights. There’s a Walmart and outfitter here. And some chain restaurants nearby. Now out of the Park, Tick and I slack packed about 19 miles rather than take a day off before spending the second night here. That worked.
Kind of a weird hostel setup. The manager has long term renters in private rooms upstairs and several guests who are doing I don’t know what. Right outside the entrance is the smokers area and the manager and her long term renters spend a lot of time there in chairs with overflowing ashtrays. This is not a busy time for hikers coming through but I wonder if this is the same when the NOBOs are in full force. But otherwise a quietish, clean, comfortable place to stay near all the town amenities a hiker wants.
But first a little catching up. After scrambling and hiking back to the ranger station in Baxter State Park where the 2 hostels an hour away in Millinocket pickup hikers around 4pm, Survivor and I waited an hour. The Appalachian Trail Inn shuttle had been on time but we were going to stay at the other one. No cell service but the rangers have radio contact and told us that our shuttle was on the other side of the park. So Survivor hitched us a ride to Millinocket, yay, arriving at 6 pm. I eventually found out our scheduled shuttle had to wait on the other guests and wouldn’t have got us until 6 pm anyway. Unacceptable. The AT Inn was comfy, plenty of bunks.
Slingshot, his wife Julie and the other twin daughter, had breakfast with me! I’m going to miss him on the trail—when he summited Katahdin 2 days ahead of me, he completed the AT, congrats!!
After breakfast, a group of us got the AT Inn shuttle to the Medway bus stop. From there I bused to Bangor, walked a mile to the airport, waited around till the evening and caught a Delta flight back to DC via JFK. They didn’t bother to transfer my luggage (backpack) so the next day I had to get back to the airport to pluck my pack off the luggage carousel from the morning flight before taking an Uber to Union Station and getting on Amtrak back to Harper’s Ferry. But there was a Whole Foods within walking distance of my hotel so I got my resupply for the first stretch southbound (SOBO)! Really nice folks at the DC motel, my second stay there at Hampton Inn Arlington Crystal City.
It took some mental refocusing to deal with the change in latitude, loss of daylight hours, loss of hikers and trying to calculate miles going south not north. I hung around Harper’s Ferry for a couple days since I’d been too stressed the last time I was here to explore the history.
My first day was a short one. I headed the 12 miles to the Blackburn Trail Center. I’ve been planning on it since Crocs called out to me at the Flip Flop Festival in April. Colleen invited me to dinner, I was the only hiker there, and it was absolutely wonderful to talk with them. So grateful.
I did an even shorter hike the next day. On impulse I decided to check out the Bears Den Hostel. Lovely but again no other thru hikers. Just a short walk away I got dinner and a beer at Bear Chase Brewery.
I “stealth camped” the next night, actually it was a true stealth site—hidden from the trail, leave no trace. People on the AT call any tent site or campsite “stealth” sites even if they are established and right next to the trail. Annoying.
My hiking buddy, Crossword, is taking some time off trail, and started his Flip Flop further south than I did anyway. He drove out to the trail with some special Berry Sour, took me to the grocery store and outfitter (new shoes!) in Front Royal and then to the Stumble Inn hostel where I’ll spend the night. It was good to catch up, he summited Katahdin a couple days after me and I think maybe Stratton, ME was the last time we saw each other?
I got dropped off at the trailhead and hiked to the other road that goes to Front Royal. It started to rain so I stuck out my thumb and after half an hour got a ride back to town with “Mongo.” Happy to give this guy gas money, thank you! 972 miles to go and tomorrow I’m heading into Shenandoah National Park.
Shaw’s Hostel in Monson is a great place. I picked up my box but didn’t really need to have sent one. The gear shop had everything—dehydrated dinners, Stinger energy gels, even Starbucks Via instant coffee which I haven’t seen in hundreds of miles. Plus I brought my Black Diamond hiking sticks in and before I could get the words out of my mouth, Poet grabbed a hex head screw driver and tightened up the flick locks for me! I got some more Picardin bug dope out of the hiker box. Best of all—you know what’s coming—a cat in the shop, purring in the sunshine while I got to pet her.
I took a zero and mostly sat around talking with all kinds of hikers—SOBOs just starting out, NOBOs I hadn’t met yet, section hikers and even some of my buddies who were ahead, like Tyvek, and behind who caught up the second day, like Crossword. There’s an honesty and trust amongst hikers (or travelers) that makes for deeply emotional and raw conversations sometimes, confessions. Connection. Like I’ve said before, I like people, and their stories. I tell some of my own.
Crappy pictures of Thing 1 and 2, brothers who hiked the PCT with parents resupplying and supporting them because of the pandemic. I put them here because while talking with these guys it turns out they know exactly where I camped with my high school friends on the North Fork of the North Fork of the American River in the Sierra east of Sacramento, CA. Minds blown.
This was quite an interesting stretch! Poet from Shaw’s dropped a bunch of us off. It continued to be quite hot and humid for 4 more nights. I camped the first night solo on an abandoned logging road, I love these old roads, the next night I had a campsite near Chairback Mountain shelter all to myself followed by a marginal solo spot off trail about 11 miles before my arranged Shaw’s food drop 51 miles from where Poet dropped us off.
I got my food, and the bonus PBR, and continued on, kinda drunk walking, but on perfect tread to the Falls shelter. Wonderful swimming hole! I camped away from the shelter after cleaning up with a bunch of others swimming in the pool and continuing my talk with NOBO Trotter and his dog Blaze. It rained that night and continued all the next day. At every shelter were people who hadn’t moved since the day before. I slipped off a “bog board,” kind of like what we call a boardwalk laid through muskeg, right on my back so my pack went under. But for the second day in a row, all I said when I fell was “Whoa.” Am I losing my mind? Where’s the automatic 4 letter word?
I camped at a lake after 19 miles, that’s how good the tread is, even in the rain. But it never stopped raining and it was kind of cold. So I stayed in my tent, myself contemplating an on-trail zero, till 9:30 am when it finally let up.
Just a couple miles in, I ran into a youth group I’d seen the day before. They all spoke French although most spoke unaccented English too. Maine is just below the Canadian border after all. The guy in the photo was at the front of the group. His co-leader was bringing up the rear somewhere. Leader says to me,”The stream ahead is uncrossable, we’re going down where it feeds into the lake and cross there. But check out the stream for yourself.” Which I did, and it was horrendous. I followed them down about a hundred yards to the same lake I’d camped by and saw how shallow and sandy the bottom was. We all crossed, then bushwhacked back to the AT, a short distance. Later in the day I was taking a break and they passed me. I said thank you again and made sure the boys heard me tell the leader that that was a brilliant plan. Seriously, I’ve got a lot of experience with sketchy crossings but don’t know how long I would have taken to come up with the same idea. To repay him a bit, I quietly mentioned about undoing your waist and chest straps when walking through hazardous fords. So if you fall, you can slip out of your pack easily and get your head above water without the pack holding you down. I camped near a shelter, listening to the boys laugh and joke and play. Joy in the outdoors.
Sometimes my weird brainstorms work. I noticed on the FarOut app that one of the two campgrounds listed for Abol Bridge, just outside Baxter State Park, had indoor space. So I called from the top of something and reserved a dry cabin, no electricity or plumbing, but who cares? A shower (after 7 days, 6 nights), breakfast, and most of all, a place to dry out my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, rain jacket, and shoes. And I charged my battery charger in the shower house while the generator was on during the day.
I woke up in my little cabin, stress about the Katahdin logistics gone. I had the guest breakfast that started at 7:35, then walked to the park entrance to sign up for the Birches thru hiker campsite just below the hike up Katahdin. Park Ranger trail name Bear, a recent AT thru hiker, gave me spot #3 of the 12 allowed at 8:45 am. It wasn’t a far hike to Katahdin Stream Ranger Station where you check in and get some instructions and paperwork from the Ranger. I waited awhile, congratulating hikers on their descent as they rolled in to catch shuttles out of the park and off trail, and greeting others who would head up the next day like me.
It rained that night on the 12 of us in Birches campsite, but we had a good day to climb up Katahdin, and back down. There was scrambling. And it was amazing. Not the mountain, especially, but the accomplishment.
1168 miles hiked. Part 1 done. Now back to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, where the journey began. 1026 miles to Springer Mountain, Georgia. Part 2. To Be Continued.
The zero helped my ankle so I hiked out, walking very carefully past the little root that took me out two days ago. The trail got worse from there until it climbed into the alpine and the lovely, sticky rock slabs. I managed a hard fall later on anyway, I have a new bump and hematoma on my right knee cap. I camped with 4 guys near the first lean-to/shelter: Shaggy (31), Tech Support (73), and Crossword (62) laid out their pads and bags in the open front shelter, Agony (62) was in his hammock and I pitched my tent—a good crew.
It was better tread the next day, but who knows what tomorrow will bring? Tech Support and I wound up camping together at an established campsite. Why do hikers call any camp or tent site a “stealth” site on the AT? Nothing stealthy about camping next to the trail in an already impacted site. Stealth implies you’re hidden from view. Sigh.
There was a wonderful place in Stratton, ME, the Maine Roadhouse, owned and operated by two women named Jen. As I got to the trailhead, one Jen was already picking up hikers. Me and Reece opted to get dropped off at the White Wolf Inn for food and beverages before going on to the hostel. The “pandemic” cat roaming the bar area let me pick her up and pet her for a few minutes. That was even better than the IPA!
I arranged a slackpack shuttle 17 trail miles out. It was expensive since no other hiker at the hostel wanted to do it. It took 11 hours to day hike 16.6 miles SOBO over “the Bigelows,” but the other hikers only made 10 miles that day and had to carry all their regular gear. I felt great all day, still clambering over rocks and tripping over roots, but with just a daypack, I was reminded that I actually do know how to hike. I got back to the trailhead outside Stratton and Jen took me back to the super comfy hostel. Memory foam mattresses in the bunk house with curtains, reading lights and outlets for each bunk!
Got a shuttle the next morning back out to where I’d been dropped the day before for the SOBO slack, and started NOBO. Because of that good slackpack day, the next three days went well, I met my mileage goals, averaging 16 mile days. The weather has been so hot and muggy. I got into Monson, a day and a half ahead of the people who didn’t choose the slackpack. Going to zero while I figure out the 100 Mile Wilderness food haul and Katahdin permit situation.
Wow, I’m never going to get there. Shit keeps happening. I got a ride out of Gorham with Ziggy. It was not a hard day but took me some time anyway. I camped on my own platform at the shelter near Slingshot and B. Good to catch up with them. I gave them each a Covid test kit since I’d been given 4. They kind of kept mum at Paul’s hostel about knowing Crossword and me because there definitely is a stigma attached to catching Covid. B needs to do bigger miles so I didn’t expect to see him today, glad I got to!
Made it to Full Goose Shelter the next day, shared a tent platform with Slingshot. We’re both dreading “the Notch” tomorrow, it’s apparently a ravine with giant rocks that you have to leap across, tunnel under and otherwise boulder your way through followed by a steep uphill on slab rock.
Yup, it was exhausting! Fun through the Notch mostly though, but the uphill was awful. We both took a short day.
I need to pick up a prescription refill mailed to me a couple towns ahead and now I’m behind schedule. As is my norm I concocted several solutions to the problem. Plan A came off without a hitch! The Bethel Village Inn had a room. Ziggy could get me from the trailhead in 5 miles, take me to Andover to get my package, then back to Bethel. It was 3 hours of his life, since he had to drive to snd from Gorham, but only 1 hour of mine, great driver and only cost $50 to simplify everything for me. I’m wearing a mask whenever I’m not on trail now in case I’m carrying Covid, and actually, so I don’t possibly get it from someone else. After all the time I’ve been on the AT, this is the first time Covid has become real. Very few wear masks in towns, but nobody remarks on me wearing one, no stigma I guess. Good.
When I got back on trail, I had a pretty good day, there were some stretches of cruiser tread, amazingly, and I camped by a stream as it was sprinkling just enough to help all us hikers cool off—no rain gear in the heat. I pitched my tent where water would drain and it started pouring.
The next day I was drying out my tent at a shelter while eating lunch and Tyvek and a couple others caught up. I’m enjoying being solo, especially since I’m not fit to be around, still angry over the Covid situation, misplaced anger. It’ll fade, I’m going to avoid hostel bunkhouses or sharing a room as much as possible from now on. Lots of ups and downs but a lovely campsite at the end of the day where most other hikers were planning on going into the Human Nature hostel in Andover. My last day before Rangeley was lovely and the water sources were running better since the rain. The trail still sucks, creek beds and roots, so slow of course. I arranged a ride to town with a plan to slackpack the following day 13 miles between 2 highways with the shuttle support.
Not only did the slackpack day make me happy thinking about it, but when I checked in to a motel by the lake just before noon, my next door neighbors struck up a conversation on the back deck while we were watching ducks and floatplanes, and whisked me off to lunch at Saddleback Ski Resort. Mainers are friendly!
The slackpack day felt great and there were 2 groups working on the trail so I got to thank them for their work on the hot, hot day. I checked out of the motel in the morning but 2 miles in I rolled my ankle, it’s happened many times before. After yelling bad words and waiting for the pain to ease up, I hobbled back to the road and got back to town, because I could. It will probably not hurt in the morning but will just be all kinds of ugly and swollen, but stable. I’m never going to get there.
“Platinum blazing” is when you use your credit card to stay comfortable. It’s rare to find younger hikers platinum blazing, they are generally on very tight budgets. The older crowd has more resources. I pretty much platinum blazed my way through the beautiful yet difficult White Mountains.
Since the caretakers at Hikers Welcome Hostel discouraged us from slackpacking to Lincoln, NH, the next town, we did 2 low mile days. I got to see Uber, Patience and the best dog, Skeeter, both days!
Crossword and I got a shuttle into Lincoln 7/2, walked to a brewery and then to another for another beer and second dinner. Kevin and Leigh drove by as we were walking back to the motel and gave us a ride. 7/3, a zero day, they drove us to lunch and stores. Kevin will hike out with us to an Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) campsite that has a caretaker and a fee.
It was weird to pitch my tent on a platform, tight to other tents on the 4th of July. I love the people though, hikers on long or short hikes this busy weekend. It was a brutal 10.8 miles in 10 hours, hard!
Since the great tip from the old guy at Hikers Welcome made it seem possible to book huts last minute, I booked my first at Zealand Falls Hut. There were too many kids but also Slingshot, B, Crossword and Scott from yesterday, a nice guy out for the weekend. The Croo (not Crew) that works at the hut does a bunch of skits to explain Leave No Trace (LNT) procedures like packing out trash. 4 of us had a bunk room to ourselves, away from kids. Nah, the kids were fine. I saw Little Cave from the CDT last year!! He’s SOBO (southbound), wow! All in all it was a better day than yesterday, I don’t have to carry much food since the huts give us dinner and breakfast. Plus Crossword yogi-ed an IPA for me, glad he doesn’t like them!
Slingshot is having some injury issues and B is sticking close. He doesn’t have to, he’s just a good guy, a professor, former gymnast, skate shop owner and more. They’re going to stay at an AMC lodge in 7 miles. I’ve corrupted Crossword with my “lessons learned on the CDT” philosophy, which involves taking alternate (blue blazed) routes off the white blazed AT if they are better tread or a better route, so we are heading to Mispah Hut via another trail to link with the AT, cutting 7 miles.
Mispah was lovely, another great Croo and excellent food. The weather came in and it’s still raining with more to come so we’re changing our plan and going another short day to Lake of the Clouds Hut just 1.5 miles south of Mt Washington. That way we can get to the summit on a good, clear day!
It was a super short day with plenty of time to chat with other hikers, long haulers going SOBO or NOBO, casual short haulers enjoying the views, wind protection and food. Kevin, Crossword, B, Slingshot, Poncho and Pep, along with others whose names I didn’t get or forgot. I had a great little nook in the 10-12 person bunk room. The whole hut held 60 I think?
I went up Mt Washington the next day, fantastic views, food and a museum. A road and a cog railway also go up here. Why did I walk? The observatory dates back to the 1930’s and claims to have the worst weather in the world with wind speed of 241 recorded back then. The best part about this place is that there has been a series of cats living in the observatory since then too. I talked to the museum volunteers who said the current cat had caught a flying squirrel the day before. His words, flying squirrel.
The naturalist program at Madison Spring Hut by Andrew was fascinating! He described the history of the AMC trail building program since the 1880’s—it was broken into 3 distinct phases, starting with trails straight up to the peaks and building huts for people to stay in.
The 4 of us dropped down (literally in Slingshot’s case as he took a header about 1/2 mile from the end) to the road and Joe Dodge Lodge. The shower was heavenly, the bed as hard as a rock. Crossword says he’s coming down with a cold.
Slingshot and B stayed a second night at the lodge but CW and I continued to Carter Notch Hut after a straight up through rocks that briefly plateaued at Top Cat gondola from the Wildcat Ski Resort. Another great Croo and food. I think this is the last AMC hut and we’re near the end of the Whites. CW snored all night in the bunk room, his cold isn’t any better. Had to use a buff to hold my bundled up puffy over my earplugs to down out the symphony of my hiker roomies. The huts have been great but the group sleeping arrangements are getting to me. I’d like some solitude.
On the last night before Gorham, my own sweet tent on my own platform at the far end of the campsite. Bliss!
Got the Barn Hostel shuttle into Gorham. On the front door was a list of reasons why you would not be allowed in—Covid protocols for the first time since I started the AT April 24. And they worked. Crossword was honest and said that yes he had symptoms, cough, congestion, etc and was told he had to stay outside. He could pitch a tent. He should go to the fire station a mile away and get Covid tested.
I figured if he had Covid, I’d either have it asymptomatically or the other hikers at the hostel would be paranoid that I did since we came in together and they heard the discussion. I picked up my pack, didn’t ask for my money back and went to the Quality Inn while poor Crossword went and got tested. Positive. He’ll isolate in a different motel for 5 days.
Got my solitude. Not the way I’d imagined.
Any readers that know me will get my anxiety about this situation. I spent the first night in Gorham at the Quality Inn, rather than stay at the hostel I paid for. I struggled with a moral dilemma. I had no Covid symptoms. If I tested positive and was asymptomatic I’m supposed to isolate 5 days and test negative. I just don’t want to hang around a motel for 5 days when I have no symptoms. I knew I should cross my fingers, get the test and go from there. That’s the right thing to do. The wrong thing is to pretend I wasn’t exposed and so can’t possibly have Covid and spread it to the immunocompromised humans in my vicinity.
I went to the fire station and got tested. Negative. I went to the hostel to tell the owner that and see about shuttles I’d paid for as part of the 2 nights I was supposed to stay there. He said that since I’d left he sold my bed to another hiker. He handed me my money back and said that “the county” said I had to get out since I wasn’t a paid guest. How rude. I slammed the door on my way out without saying another word. So much for doing the right thing. Virtue is its own reward.
I walked back to the Quality Inn, contacted Ziggy who does shuttles and got a round trip to Walmart for resupply—the last Walmart for 300 miles. In the car when I got back was Tyvek Shaman who I hadn’t seen since a great talk at Greylock Lodge in Mass ages ago. Cool! I walked back into my room and heard a knock. SOBO Frosty and I had waved across the street earlier in the day, hikers recognizing hikers. He invited me to a chat and a beer and to dinner with some other SOBOs who I’ll never see again. His act of comradeship came at the exact time I needed it. Slam the door closed on one person and open it to a kind face. Thank you Frosty from Florida!
The Inn at Long Trail was fun, and so cool to zero and not have to go anywhere— laundry, meals, beer, and good company, both locals and hikers.
The hike out had too many hills and too many expectations. I warned Crossword and T that I might camp out before “The Lookout” which only had indoor space, not tent sites, anyway. I prefer my tent. I camped, stealth camped, all by myself, in the quiet, by water.
That left me with more miles the next day, 17.6, to get to a shelter/campsite, so that I could make it to my first town in New Hampshire on day 3 from The Inn at Long Trail with the food I packed. I look at the trail profile each night to rally my energy for the climbs the following day. There were 10 separate climbs, which I counted down as the day wore on. Good thing it was pretty mostly, lush, green, quiet, although that means no views. Because it was tiring. I have to say it’s pretty nice to roll into a shelter/campsite and get to visit with other hikers while cooking dinner and setting up my tent.
Seven of us wound up at the hostel the next night. Crossword and I walked into Hanover, NH, where Dartmouth College is, did some grocery shopping and ate a meal. I’ve been absolutely raging over the Supreme Court overturning a woman’s right to choose, and was happy to see the protesters in the park. Really happy.
The shuttle picked us up for a quiet night with T, Straps and Chatterbox (from Ontario, Canada), Boston, Float and Crossword.
An uneventful day followed by a tough day in heat climbing up Smart Mountain. I fell and bruised the heel of my left hand catching myself. Then I passed Crossword flaked out on his pad in the sun, with heat illness. He’s sensitive to heat he’d said before, so when he turned up at camp on the top of the mountain I paid attention. I did not know heat exhaustion could manifest as bitchiness though, ha ha!
The next day he was low energy although he started hiking way early as usual. It started to sprinkle then poured. I got my rain gear on and went off trail to the Hexacube Shelter to wait it out a couple of hours. Crossword was there, then Uber, Patience and Skeeter arrived. Skeeter is service dog Mary’s trail name! She’s a Cairn Terrier and Bichon mix and is the smartest and cutest dog I’ve ever met on trail. She came into the shelter drenched and scooted along the log walls first rubbing the rain off her left side, then her right. Then she rolled on the floor trying off her tummy.
Then 2 SOBOs (southbound hikers) came in, older guys, 1 with a swollen, split elbow, that the other patched up with a butterfly bandage, before they continued on to the cabin at Smart Mountain, near where I’d pitched my tent last night
The rain stopped and we all continued on, leaving less than 10 miles to the Hikers Welcome Hostel at Glencliff, NH where I have a box waiting with a replacement shirt, socks and some dinners.
Hikers Welcome Hostel is a great place with 2 caretakers/shuttle drivers currently—Acadicus and (can’t remember his name!). Stayed 2 nights with a slackpack shuttle to the far side of Mt Mousilauke on the day between. They gave us hikers great advice and information about “The Whites” or I should say the dreaded, challenging, beautiful, White Mountain Range in New Hampshire. These AT hostels are a huge mood lifter for me since they are gathering spots—the fast NOBOs will blast by on the trail, never to be seen again, the SOBOs the same. But at the hostels people will sit and stay for a few hours and I can learn more from and about them. ￼
We hiked Mt Mousilauke on a perfect day. The slackpack crew from the day before had been in a cloud or cloudburst at the top and missed this first big treat of a view in NH. We hit it just right and going south back to the hostel it was only 4 miles straight up and a long 6 mile run out down. Lovely day with food and a bunk at the end of the day. Every day is hard out here but some have bigger rewards than others. Plus I wore my new shirt!
A couple days into this stretch, I kind of wandered off trail—no ubiquitous white blazes to be seen showing me the AT—following footprints in the mud. I looked at my maps and sure enough this abandoned forest road connected to others and reconnected back to the trail in about the same mileage. So I didn’t sweat it. The roads were massively potholed, filled with water, mud, 4WD and ATV gouges and decorated with fenders and other car parts. Actually, it was a rather fun adventure. I saw nobody else, even when I went by a couple of cabins. After awhile I got back to the official AT and made it to the shelter camp for the night. I knew a couple hikers were shuttling into and back from a brewery but I was never going to make the pickup time so I hung out at the shelter. All kinds of hikers rolled in and Crossword brought me a beer and Bug Net brought Sofia a beer. Score!
A few days later, Paul Kelly, another USASA colleague picked me up and hosted me at his house a mile from the AT. His family has been in the Manchester Center, Vermont for a long time and he knows everybody. I got a tour and learned some history. Walking through endless trees and stone wall remnants, I had no inkling that Vermont was clear cut and the stone walls were sheep fences. And there’s marble mining, every single headstone at Arlington National Cemetery is from a still operating marble quarry near here, Danby Quarry, currently excavated 3 miles into a mountain. I met wife, Lisa, 2 (of 3) kids—Katie and Connor, and Baxter the silly, sweet doodle dog who licked the salt off me before settling in for a cuddle. Paul and I talked about our snowboarding world, catching up a bit since USASA Nationals in April at Copper Mountain. Colorado.
Walking up Bromley wasn’t horrible when he dropped me off at the trailhead st 6:30 am, except for the cold, relentless wind that nearly froze me to death. For the second time only, I set up my sleeping bag inside a regular, 3-sided shelter. I needed to get warm and avoid soaking my tent with the all night rain event.
I think because I’d used up so much energy being cold the day before, I had my first truly crabby day afterwords. I barely remember what I saw. It was still windy but not quite as cold. I’ll say it again—I hate wind! But Crossword had walked from a road crossing to a deli and brought me back a turkey dinner sandwich, chips and Vitaminwater. That made the last 1.6 miles to the shelter/campsite not too bad.
And then the last day of this stretch was, of course, perfect! A lot of up to a lot of down. There’s a new piece of AT supposedly, but the old AT is just fine, there was some kind of property lease issue, not the trail itself, that caused the reroute. So I took the old route right down to the Inn at Long Trail at Route 4, which also incorporates McGrath’s Irish Pub, which has some historic snowboards. Sounds like a zero to me, with more rain in the forecast for today.
This almost instant blog post is thanks to a text I got from my hiking pal Papa Raven. “The last blog you posted ended 16 days ago, so I’m not sure where you are.” My bad. Here ya go, Ravens! Thanks to the spreadsheet from your 2019 thru hike (and Triple Crown finish for Mama, Papa, Bling and Whisper) notes and conversation about the AT, it’s not that bad.
Sometimes zero days are just boring, probably when you don’t need them but have to wait for your box with replacement shoes. I walked around town, went to an outdoor store that sold fashion wear and lucked out getting a pair of lightweight plastic Birkenstock Arizonas for camp shoes. Deluxe. Walked the other way and got groceries. Walked back downtown for dinner.
I got my box when the post office opened Monday, went back to the motel, packed up and got a ride by Joe so was hiking by 10:30. I pitched my tent at the furthest spot from the Tom Leonard shelter with a beautiful view. Unfortunately a loud NOBO hiker “Tramily” of 9 trickled in, the Peacocks they call themselves. I only met 3 who were nice but man they sat up late yell talking at each other like they had to be heard over music and noise at a bar.
Just for the quiet I stealth camped (a no-no) after seeing a turkey and a porcupine. No cell service and my camp site was quiet in a gentle rain. Ahh.
Crossword turned up after being off trail and behind for a few weeks. Because it was going to rain again, all night, we stayed at the Berkshire Lake Lodge motel and got pizza delivered. While hanging around outside watching my tent dry on the picnic table, I met a hiker whose blog I followed in 2014 in anticipation of doing the PCT the next year. SloBro!! One of the other bloggers I followed that year, I met on the PNT—Not A Chance. So cool these encounters.
I lucked into a family reunion of sorts. Crossword’s 2 sisters, Patty and Jean, are spending a few nights with him. I got transported up to Greylock Lodge, along with Slingshot who is a bit further along the trail. We had a wonderful dinner and I managed to get a room in this beautiful historic building.
The next day I walked the wrong way, south, to cover the miles I’d missed. USASA friend Noah Cermak picked me up from Dalton, MA and I got to spend 2 nights with his family—Lindsay, Ella (7), Otis (3), and cuddly dog Tucker. It made me so happy to spend time with his family and get treated like royalty.
Then back to the trail at the top of Mt. Greylock and good weather.