Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
August - familiar territory
Day 138 - Cookies and Blueberries, Pittsfield Road, Becket, MA (tent) - 9.4 miles (slack) - 1534.6 total
We were woken up by a loud siren a bit earlier than we had wanted to get up. The siren and an annoying dog at the site next to ours kept us up. It was just as well, by the time we got going, Lori did not drop Bruce and me off for our hike until 8:30. A late start for what was going to be a hot day. While I stopped to bathe in DEET, Ma and Pa caught up to us. We would leapfrog with them all day.
We took a few breaks during the day, the first on top of Becket Mountain, the only significant climb of the day. Then we had others at the very beautiful Finerty Pond where we saw hundreds of frogs, and at October Mountain Shelter. We made our way to the Cookie Lady’s house by 2:00pm. The Cookie Lady was not there but her husband, Roy, handed out a few cookies to the thruhikers. Lori and Bruce picked high bush blueberries at Roy’s Blueberry Patch while I figured out what supplies I needed to get to the next maildrop.
An AYCE dinner at Bonanza and a tour of the "art" at the Allendale Shopping Center rounded out the day. Back at the Cookie Lady’s house where I was camping, I said good-bye to Lori and Bruce as some patrons of the Blueberry Patch were leaving. They stopped and talked with us for a while and gave me their business card for the Blue Angels Powered Parachutes. They said to look them up the next day as I passed through Dalton. They would be happy to let me take a shower. Cool. I took their card and they went on their way. That evening, I met up with three southbounders also spending the night there.
Day 139 - Crystal Mountain Campsite (tent) - 14.3 miles - 1548.9 total
Woke up cold a couple of times last night. What a concept. The weather pattern has broken and we are expecting a few days of clear skies with highs in the 70s.
After talking with some customers of Roy’s last night, the Blue Angels, I realized that there was a windsock on one of the barns. This fit right in with the long grassy area that I had described as "looking like a runway" the night before. Upon further inspection, there appeared to be a tiny ultra-light type helicopter there. When Roy came out, I found out it is a gyro (?), i.e. The craft is driven forward which causes the rotors to turn, which provide the lift. In a conventional helicopter, the motor drives the rotor, which provides the lift directly. The gyro is Roy's friend's and is currently under construction but with Roy’s rough landing strip, his land is a convenient place to store the craft.
I finally got to the trail at 8:00 and expected to make good time. I would have except that I kept meeting southbounders, most of who seemed very chatty today. By the time I passed Jacques duBois, Step-by-step, and recognized him as the dancer teaching a jig to groups along the way, I no longer wanted any real delays so I did not talk with him about dancing. I had passed his son a few minutes earlier. His son was moving well and enjoying himself. I caught site of Step-by-step before he saw me, and it looked like he was struggling. As soon as he saw me, though, he brightened up and put on a happy face but he still seemed anxious to catch up with his son. I then met up with Crouton and Panda who had been trying to catch Step-by-step and were now likely to do so. Just before reaching town, I saw two deer bounding out of my path. Beautiful.
Once in Dalton, I had lunch at the Juice and Java, where my sister had bought some Fresh Samantha the day before. Then, almost across the street, I found the Blue Angels, the trail angels who had offered me a shower the day before. They were home and made good on their offer. It was great to feel clean even if I did have to put the same filthy clothes back on. Oh well.
Blue Angel is the name of Al’s business - Powered Parachutes. They are ultra-light craft that take off and land like a plane but use a parachute for a wing. They only need 30’ to take off and as little as 10’ if there’s a little headwind. On the off chance the engine quits, it can be controlled just like a parachute and will land like one, too.
I checked me email at the library and then had a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Then I made my way up to the campsite. There are a great many blowdowns at this site. Obviously a wind from the north blew them down. I can hear some of the trees squeaking as the breezes blow. Other that that, there’s nothing special about this site. Once again however, I find myself alone here. I commented in the register that it seemed kind of strange to find myself alone while in my home state.
Day 140 - Emergency Shelter, Mt. Greylock - 12.3 miles - 1561.2 total
Awoke in the middle of the night to a chorus of owls and listened as they approached my tent area and then moved past.
Gore Pond in the morning was beautiful. The twang of frogs croaking. The dragon’s breath floating across the glassy surface of the pond. The peaceful surroundings.
It was apparent that the area was a series of beaver ponds. There were chewed trees in the shape of an hourglass as the beavers slowly bring them down. So far, the trail has not yet been flooded. A few more inches of water and a major reroute will be in order.
The view of Cheshire and Mt. Greylock was quite nice from the Cobbles. Then it was a quick walk down into the town. The post office gave me a U.S. Government pen to replace my other, which ran dry the night before. Across from the post office, there was an interesting monument to the Big Cheese that had been made here in town and shipped to the President in DC. They apparently ate from that cheese for well over a month.
I walked on and then hitched to the Lakeside restaurant for breakfast. I’m still on my French toast kick.
Walking up Greylock, I took more pictures of the summit. I wonder if these pictures will make an interesting series. Once on top, I finally got a chance to go up the tower. I had been there twice before and the tower had always been closed. This time, I got to see the great views.
I talked with Glen, the manager about some work-for-stay, a program which allows thruhikers to stay for free in AMC facilities in exchange for a couple of hours work. As usual, he wanted some work done that required some manual labor. Normally, that would not be a problem for me but having strained my back a couple of days earlier, I did not want to do anything to stress my back. I declined the work-for-stay position and was then offered the position of Assistant Manager for the lodge. Seeing as how I am committed to continuing to Maine and the job ends in mid-October, it just was not going to work out. Glenn even offered to drive me to Maine if I wanted to go there… We both knew he was just kidding and laughed. Well, he was not kidding but understood why I laughed.
On the spur of the moment, I made some calls to some friends who live "down the road" from a town I was going through the next day." I said "meet me for lunch tomorrow" and to my surprise, they said OK. I now had something unusual to look forward to the next day.
I met GrizzWaldo at the lodge. He had been "following" me all of the way from Georgia and just caught up with me. He was committed to seeing the sunset from the summit but like me, did not want to pay the $22 just to stay in a bunk. He scouted the area and found a shelter that was for "emergency use only for overnights" so we ended up staying there. The sunset from the summit was quite spectacular and the tower with its lit globe was surprisingly bright.
The emergency shelter was a beautiful building with a huge, four-sided, fireplace in the middle. From each corner a knee-high platform, approximately 3’ x 8’, emanated. Each platform was easily big enough to stretch out our sleeping pads and bags.
Day 141 - Seth Warner Shelter - 13.2 miles - 1574.4 total
I set me alarm to wake up in time for sunrise. Waking GrizzWaldo was another story. He finally stirred and we made our way to the summit for the sunrise which was just as colorful as the sunset had been. I got on the trail by 6:00 and felt like the early bird getting the worm. GrizzWaldo went back to sleep.
I heard something large rustling in the brush near the trail but it was not moving away from me. Upon further examination, I spotted a porcupine in a tree just a few feet away and even got a picture of it. I saw a flock of what was probably pheasant. They were too big for grouse and too small for turkey. Then I saw a couple of grouse, too.
The going was steep and with just one short break at one overly well-marked trail junction (five signs all saying the same thing), it took four hours to go the 6.5 miles.
I was meeting my friends Kathy and MaryAnne at the Stop and Shop. While waiting for them, I had a snack at the store and started planning for the next four days. Once we met, we went into the town of Williamstown, a college town. There was obviously a health conscious population there as it was difficult to find a suitably fatty lunch for me. We ate at the Purple Pub (MaryAnne’s favorite color) and then had dessert at Lickety Split, a place with a Boston flavor (they served Herrell’s ice cream). My Dutch Orange Chocolate milkshake was delicious. It was great catching up on news and happenings of my friends in Massachusetts.
They gave me some freshly baked brownies as they dropped me back off at the store. I thought I was going to be shopping for a few days but when I called Mrs. Gorp (a friend from the at-l list), she decided to meet me for lunch in Bennington the next day. I now only needed one day’s worth of food.
I talked with my sister, Sharon, too. We had hoped to meet Friday as they made their way up to Burlington, Vermont but I will not be near any roads then. We are now planning to meet as they return to Connecticut.
Finally, I got back on the trail. I caught up with GrizzWaldo who had passed me while I was spending time in town, as he was just finishing a break at the Massachusetts/Vermont state line. Just THREE more states to go!!! We walked the rest of the way to the shelter together where, for the first time in quite a while, there were quite a few of us northbound thruhikers; Smiley, Too Obtuse, and Ma and Pa.
There is an interesting fellow (not a thruhiker) here at the shelter, a man who is planning on making the outdoors part of his career. He supposedly has some backcountry experience but a few things made us wonder… he spilled boiling water all over… he was boiling water to purify it… he did not know to cover the pot while boiling the water. I cannot imagine where he would have gotten any experience and still made this many mistakes.
I was really glad to have the crowd at the shelter. It was fun sharing the brownies and everyone enjoyed. They were delicious (Thanks MaryAnne and Kathy). While we sometimes get baked goods in the mail, those must wait for us at the post office and just are not absolutely fresh. These were baked fresh in the last 24 hours. What a treat! Yum!
There’s another “ATC” sign here. This one says “No Elvis Impersonators.”
Day 142 - Little Pond Lookout (tent) - 17.3 miles - 1591.7 total
Knowing I had to do 11.5 miles by noon provided incentive for me to set my alarm for 6:00am. I wanted to be walking by 7:00. GrizzWaldo also had to be at the trailhead by noon to meet his girlfriend, so I woke him up too. It had rained during the night so I was glad to have stayed at the shelter and kept my tent dry. There were six of us in there. I had not seen that many people in a shelter in a very long time.
You can crave some strange things on the trail. Every now and then, I eat a bag of Cracker Jacks for breakfast. Today was one of those days.
Even though the rain had stopped, everything was wet and dripping so the packcover went on and we all left prepared to get soaked. It rained on and off a few times during the morning but never enough to break into the understory of the forest.
I met Clivus, a southbounder, so named because of an academic interest in Clivus (composting) toilets. He clued me in to the situation on the summit of Stratton Mountain. Basically, the ski patrol building and all of its amenities is open to thruhikers. The gondola is also free of charge to thruhikers. You can go down to the base at Stratton Village where, among other things, there is a $10 AYCE restaurant. Now I wonder if I can get there…
I met Mrs. Gorp (AT ’79) at the trailhead after a grueling descent down Harmon Hill. (The trail work there is amazing. Hundreds of stone steps.) We went into Bennington for lunch at Blue Benn’s, an amazing diner with an eclectic mix of foods. My southwest turkey wrap with sweet potato fries hit the spot. We made plans for me to stay with them for a few days starting two days hence. She will pick me up in Manchester Center and then slackpack me for three days. By then, I hope to be meeting my sister Sharon and her family. I will probably spend one day hiking (and slackpacking) with Ari, my other brother-in-law.
We went shopping so I could get food for a couple of days. Mrs. Gorp was incredibly patient as I waffled about my breakfast and dinner menus.
Back at the trailhead, I met Wharf Rat and we hiked together to this lookout. I had met Wharf Rat on an AT mailing list and we had passed each other a number of times along the trail but this was the first time we had a chance to walk and talk. It’s always great to put a face with an email address.
It promises to be a cold, breezy night. I must plan on getting my sleeping bag back in Hanover.
Day 143 - Ski Patrol Warming Hut, Stratton Mountain - 20.6 miles - 1612.3 total
Fog obscured our view again this morning and dampened my tent which I packed wet. One bagel for breakfast left me hungry by the time we got to Goddard Shelter so we stopped for a water and food break. Just a few minutes later, we stopped again when we got to the old fire tower on Glastenbury Mountain. It was windy and cold as we climbed up, a big change from the hot weather that predominated in June and July.
By the next shelter, Wharf Rat had gone ahead. I stopped just long enough to find out from some other hikers that the water to the restrooms on Stratton Mountain where we were heading might have been turned off. Then I realized I should try to catch Wharf Rat so he would not end up with no water on the top of the mountain. I did the next eight miles as fast as I could, practically running in the smoother sections, only slowing down when I came to an interesting series of beaver ponds just before the Story Brook Shelter. I caught up with Wharf Rat there only because he had stopped for a break.
Moving on, we passed two hikers who confirmed the existence of a spring just .5 mile from the summit. They also knew for sure that it was flowing so we did not have to carry too much water up the mountain. We could get enough water at the spring to get us down the gondola in the morning. We stopped for a bit of water at Black Brook and then made our way up. It started raining but never got particularly heavy and we did not get very wet.
The spring was easy to find so we loaded up there and then made out way to the summit where we met the GMC caretakers, Jean and her husband. We climbed the fire tower for a good view. The rain had ended but from the tower, we could see more headed our way. By the time we climbed down and headed for the warming hut, it had started to rain again. Kingfisher who we had met at the tower was right behind us.
We were surprised to find the gondola running when we got there. Had we known earlier that it ran until 7:00, we would have taken a shorter break and gone down the gondola for water instead of carrying it up the mountain. It was too late to go down and ensure we could get a ride back up.
So, we settled into the luxury of the warming hut. It was a solidly built building with windows that did not have drafts. There was electricity and many appliances that required electricity. We immediately started making dinner, using the electric stove. I knew I needed to clean my pot but I could not see exactly how dirty it was. It was getting dark outside. Then Wharf Rat thought to turn ON the lights. What a revelation! Lights!?! We also had the use of a heater, dryer (but no washer), microwave, fridge, and toaster.
The six of us who had made it up here had a grand time reveling in the luxury, especially since the weather had turned bad again. It is now really raining.
Day 144 - Ski Patrol Warming Hut, Stratton Mountain - 0 miles - 1612.3 total
My first truly zero mile day since Wind Gap in Pennsylvania started with fog. Perhaps morning fog is the theme of Vermont's Green Mountains. The gondola was not scheduled to start until 10:00 so we all slept as late as we could. Both Wharf Rat and I were up by 6:30 though we stayed quiet just reading. Others woke up anywhere from 7:00 to 9:30. As usual, the fog cleared around 10:00.
The gondolas started late because they had to restart the generator. We knew the power had stopped at 10:00 last night but thought that might have been a regularly scheduled event. It turns out that this was the first time it had ever just shut down like that. They did not even know it was down until thy tried to start the gondola in the morning.
The generator also runs the water pump so we had hot and cold water in the bathrooms as soon as the generator was up and running again.
We hopped on the gondola (free to thruhikers) and made our way down to Grizzly’s for the AYCE lunch buffet we had been hearing about for so long. For once, I was able to eat a lot of food and made a good dent in the buffet. Then we shopped for enough food to get us to Manchester Center and made our way back up the mountain for a relaxing day.
I caught up on my journal and spent much of the afternoon on the phone talking with friends, especially those that I might be seeing while hiking in New Hampshire. The phone in the warming hut allowed us to dial long distance without a calling card.
I went back down to Stratton village to get some bread and fruit to go with some cheese that had been given to some other thruhikers. That made a wonderful dinner.
Sometime during the day, we finally got around to renaming Kingfisher. Her new name is Giggles.
Day 145 - Vt. 11, Manchester Center - 13.7 miles - 1626.0 total
We woke up just as the rain started. None of us were in a rush to go out into the raw elements and it soon became obvious that I was not going to make my scheduled meeting time at the trailhead with Cindy (Mrs. Gorp). Knowing we had daylight until 8:00, we delayed our start until the rain abated some just before noon. I was able to keep Cindy informed of those changes in our plans with the phone in the hut.
In the meantime, Paddler was regaling the crowd in the shelter with the story line from one of the books he is writing. Paddler also kept us thinking with his own theories on particle physics/metaphysics/whatever especially with regards to the Egyptian and Mayan cultures.
Wharf Rat and I hiked together but given the cool, foggy, wet forest, we only stopped once for a break. The Withal River was a beautiful place and the bridge over it made a nice stopping point. There were fewer trees overhead to drip on us.
While there are still quite a few dry streams and springs, it is great to be back in an area with comparatively more running water than the drought stricken mid-Atlantic and southern New England states.
We passed just one group of hikers today, a Sierra Club trip heading south.
There were eight cars at the trailhead parking lot with license plates from eight different states. Almost immediately, someone walked out of the woods and gave Wharf Rat a ride to town. I settled down to wait for Cindy, eating my Doritos and drinking some Coke that a trail angel left at the trailhead. I had barely time to start munching when Cindy showed up, 30 minutes early. Once again, it was great to see her. It’s also amazing how accommodating she is. (Thank you Cindy). I had changed our potential meeting times a few times because of the weather.
At Cindy and Larry’s beautiful house, I met their three cats and two house dogs, a couple of German Short-haired Pointers. I was even able to check email.
Day 146 - Wallingford, VT - 11.3 miles (slack) - 1637.3 total
Today I started three days of southbound slackpacking. I figured it would give me a chance to see people who are both ahead of me and behind me.
I came across some trail magic that Hiking Gnome left (thanks Hiking Gnome). It was great to see something other than Coca-Cola in the stream.
I met an AT ’96 hiker doing the Long Trail, passed over Beacon Hill, and met my first AT hikers at the Clarendon Shelter. Time Out and Nitrox were headed north.
Running late, I hurried past Clarendon Gorge and ended up meeting Cindy on the trail. Together we ran into Baltimore Jack and Too Obtuse. It slowly dawned on me as we were talking that I was the only one of the four of use who was not a 2000 miler. I hope and expect to change that within the next couple of months.
Day 147 - Danby, VT - 9.1 miles (slack) - 1646.4 total
I’m finding these southbound hikes go very slowly. This morning, after an excellent breakfast of French toast, I started my hike and within a mile or so, got distracted by a hawk. It flew from a tree near me to a branch high up but still in full view. Then it started whistling - just a long single pitched whistle. If I whistled back, it would turn and look at me, and then whistle again.
I found Giggles, formerly Kingfisher, at the Greenwall Shelter and also met two southbounders there. They had brought in a dozen eggs and a few squash that had been given to them by a local farmer. There were still a couple of untouched squash and I cannot imagine having to carry them. They were heavy!
From White Rocks Cliff, I knew Cindy and Larry’s house was visible but could not pick it out.
Little Rock Pond was beautiful but it was much too cold for swimming. When I got to the road, I had time to do the road walk before Cindy arrived.
Dinner at the Sweet Tomato in Rutland was delicious. We also stopped by Ben and Jerry’s so I could stock up Cindy and Larry’s freezer.
Day 148 - Manchester Center - 17.3 miles (slack) - 1663.7 total
Today’s hike had very few "geo-physical" points of interest. With four peaks to climb, it was a day with perhaps more elevation gain than I have had in months. We went over Baker, Peru, Styles, and Bromley Mountains. We also walked past Griffith Lake, which was notable for the puncheons (bog bridges). I believe we walked on puncheons for at least a quarter of a mile. It was like walking on a sidewalk.
Today’s hike was notable for the people. First of all, Cindy came with me. We parked her car at the Danby trailhead in the morning and called Larry from the top of Bromley to come pick us up to shuttle us back to the car in the afternoon. It was great fun hiking with Cindy. She knows a great deal about the local flora and fauna and could name the mountains surrounding us easily.
Together, we saw over 60 other hikers, most of whom were thruhikers. The "lull" I’ve been hiking in is being followed very closely by a couple of large groups of hikers. On the trail, they were spread out but many were heading for the same shelters. We probably never went more than .5 hour without meeting or passing other hikers.
After Larry shuttled us back to the Jeep, we picked up a hitchhiker heading for Sherburne pass. We got her as far as Wallingford. Turns out she is the Long Trail patrol Volunteer Supervisor and we had a great conversation about the trail relocations about to open in Vermont, as well as the PCT through her home state of Oregon.
Day 149 - The Inn at the Long Trail - 10.9 miles (slack) - 1674.6 total
I had my last luxurious morning at Cindy and Larry’s house. Purposefully getting a late start in order to meet my sister Sharon’s family at the Rutland McDonald’s. My brother-in-law, Ari, and I had plans to hike together today.
After nearly losing their bicycles off their incomplete bike rack on the way to the trailhead, we found the trailhead easily as we could see hikers crossing the road ahead of us as we approached the trailhead. Wild Chicago was there as we stopped.
The other hikers who crossed the road were Paddler and Black Bear but we did not know that until Ari and I arrived at the Governor Clement Shelter.
We found the going slippery as all of the rocks were condensing and wet. Going up was not much of a problem though. As usual, we were slowed down each time we passed a southbounder. At one point, Ari and I were talking about the lack of "news" on the trail and when the subject of the "real" world came up with a southbounder, he, unprompted, said basically what I had said earlier. There is very little newspaper news that makes it to the trail. We do not seek it out. There is very little "negative" information floating out here along the trail.
On top of Killington, we met my sister and nephews who had taken the gondola up with a cooler of lunch stuffs. We visited with them and some southbounders, including one I had met the ALDHA Gathering in Pipestem, James (Soccerball).
We took it easy on the way down. I checked in at the Inn and then we had dinner at the Weathervane. For once this week, my appetite failed me and I could not eat much of my meal.
Day 150 - Lookout Farm - 14.9 miles - 1689.5 total
Friday, the 13th
Only time would tell if the day would prove unlucky. Breakfast at the Inn was delicious. Fruit, French toast, ham, and more.
Ma, Pa, and I were all headed for Wintturi Shelter, 17 miles from the Inn. We ended up spending the day together. Our first bit of bad luck became apparent when the first 3.8 miles turned into 4.2 miles, a relocation not counted in our data books (or miles shown above). Then we had to carry a lot of water as there were no sources listed in the 10 miles between shelters.
Our bad luck turned positive when some southbounders let us know that the Lookout Farm was a great place to stay. We would have to carry water up but at least it would shorten our day.
We knew to expect a rough day, up and down hills, and the trail met our expectations. We tired early and plodded for much of the day. It turns out there were two water sources closer to our destination than the one we knew about. We ended up carrying water further than necessary but better safe than sorry.
The forecast called for rain and during the afternoon it sprinkled on and off. It was after 6:00 when we arrived at the side trail to Lookout Farm. We were very happy to see signs welcoming hikers. The guidebooks had indicated or implied no camping in the area. The cabin is beautiful and rustic with a loft area. There are no furnishings here. We made our dinners on the porch and are now thankful that we have the use of a nice dry shelter on what has turned into a stormy evening.
Day 151 - Thistle Hill Shelter - 14.2 miles - 1703.7 total
We were very happy to have been in a clean, cozy, and enclosed cabin last night. This morning, though there were many clouds obscuring the far peaks, the view from the roof deck was nevertheless amazing.
At Wintturi Shelter, we got water after having been told there was none. One source there was indeed dry. The other source was great. We passed the word about the water all day.
At the first road to Pomfret, we tried unsuccessfully to hitch into town for .5 hour. We ate lunch there at the trailhead and moved on. At the next paved road to Pomfret, we got a ride to town with Miles’ mother. We bought sandwiches, cookies, ice cream, and more at the Teago General Store and brought it back to the trailhead when we got a ride with one of the people who works at the store.
A front moved in while we socialized at the trailhead and we thought we were going to get wet but hoped we would luck out when the worst of the wind seemed to pass as we were gearing up to start hiking again. Unfortunately, once we started walking, we quickly got soaked in a downpour but it was warm so we just kept moving.
At the shelter, we changed into our dry clothes and enjoyed the remaining treats from town. Met Moosburger here. He’s names, not for the large mammals roaming the nearby woods, but because he’s from Moos in Germany.
Day 152 - Dartmouth, Hanover, NH - 14.6 miles - 1718.3 total
Had a great breakfast at the General Store just a couple of hours after starting out - French toast and a chocolate milkshake. What more could you ask for?
The walk into Hanover entailed our longest road walk yet. I was meeting some friends, David and Janet at the Coop there. Then I found that there was more than one Coop in town. I went to the food Coop, left a message there and got a ride back to the Dartmouth Coop where I ended up meeting my parents and friends at the same time. I finally got to congratulate David and Janet on their engagement.
We started at Ben and Jerry’s, drove Ma and Pa to the hospital (Ma was not feeling well), and then had dinner at the Panda House/Bamboo Café. I had some great sushi there and thought it ironic that the last sushi I had before starting on the AT was with David and Janet in January.
My parents and I said "good-bye" to David and Janet and then we went back to my parent’s hotel in White River Junction.
Day 153 - Dartmouth, Hanover, NH - 0 miles - 1718.3 total
Made a huge breakfast out of the "continental" breakfast at the hotel - bagel, muffin, donut, apple, cereal, and more. Brought my boots to a cobbler only to find out they that can not be resoled. Spent time at Alpha Theta house doing laundry and catching up with friends.
Lunch at Lou’s restaurant with Mom and Dad and Ma and Pa was delicious. A quick visit to the League of New Hampshire Craftsman store just to look, the Grand Union for food, and Ben and Jerry’s rounded out the shopping.
I organized my stuff back at the Alpha Theta house where I would be spending the night and then got a ride back to town. I said good-bye to my parents and then joined Paddler at Mai Thai’s for some delicious Pad Thai.
A delicious canoli from the café and a stop to read and send some email rounded out my trip back to the frat house.
Hmm, this town has great food.
Day 154 - Trapper John Shelter - 16.7 miles - 1735.0 total
Had my standard French toast breakfast at Lou’s and was sorry I did not get the omelet when I saw Ma and Pa’s omelet. Oh well, at least I got to check my email before breakfast. On the way out of the restaurant, I got a double fudge brownie, which was one of the best brownies I have ever eaten. It was a shorter walk to the Coop that I thought so I stopped hitching and just walked. I stopped for my now nearly ritual quart of Gatorade and got back on the trail.
I was walking in the general vicinity of Ma and Pa and Paddler. It was an uneventful but slow day to the shelter where Gentleman Jim showed up with a case of Budweiser and a couple of oranges for us non-drinkers.
There was a frog resident in our water supply. We tried to teach it one of the Bud-wei-ser syllables but did not really succeed. It could almost say "er" but not quite "ser." Perhaps if we had left a can in the water overnight…
Day 155 - Hexacuba Shelter - 12 miles - 1747.0 total
We had an interesting discussion around the campfire last night… A number of hikers are depressed and wondering why they are still on the trail. Some are thinking seriously about getting off of the trail. For them, it seems the New Hampshire blues have hit. A couple of us are still gung-ho. I just hope none of their negative thoughts invade my thoughts as I hike.
Today I saw a dead mole, hundreds of tiny tree toads hopping all over the place, a loon calling laughingly as it passed overhead, and a beautiful red-tailed hawk that would not sit still long enough for me to get its picture.
We went over Smarts Mountain, a mountain I had attempted this past winter with my friend David. This time, instead of kicking myself for leaving my crampons in the car and needing to turn around just 100’ shy of the summit, we were able to slowly make our way to the top. The firetower on top afforded us with our first good view of the Whites and the storm clouds building nearby. We ate lunch at the fire warden’s cabin, which is scheduled to be closed to the public after renovations are completed. Then we moved on down the mountain.
There was a noteworthy "suspension" bridge in the col between Smarts Mountain and Cube Mountain. It was very narrow with no real guardrails. It was only about 20’ long. Suspended from the overhead on two wire ropes angling out to either side was one wood beam on which the middle of the bridge rested.
Once again, we had some rain today. On and off showers just enough to make you put your packcover on but not enough to soak your feet inside your boots. So far, the rain has been quite manageable.
This shelter is a challenge when is came to trying to fit everyone in. It is six sided and there are at least 12 of us staying in it - somehow! It will be interesting.
Day 156 - Hikers Welcome Hostel - 14.7 miles (~7 slack) - 1761.7 total
Getting ready to hike from this odd-shaped shelter was just as awkward as the sleeping arrangements. Others were up and about so that made some room to move.
The early morning walk up Cube Mountain rewarded me with spectacular views of mountain summits in clear blue skies and valleys blanketed in fog. I did not dawdle too much as I was looking forward to finally meeting Mother Hen, a local trail angel who was planning on taking me home for the night. I was also looking forward to meeting my friend Sharon who was going to hike with me for the day.
Mother Hen was at the trailhead but Sharon was not. Mother Hen and I visited for a while and all of us who were walking through this morning enjoyed the treats she brought us (cookies, lemonade, apples, and cucumber). Thanks Mother Hen. Paddler, Ma and Pa, and T-Roy continued on while I stayed on hoping Sharon would eventually show up. At 11:00 (we were to meet at 9:30), I gave up, left a message for Sharon at the trailhead, and continued on my way. Mother Hen, unfortunately, was unable to take me home tonight but was able to slackpack most of us thruhikers (T-Roy opted out) to the hostel in Glencliff.
I passed a couple of southbounders who had just been stung by hornets from a nest that had fallen on the rail. The told me where to find the nest so I would be aware of it before I got there. I was quite apprehensive but managed to spot the nest from a safe distance. There were only a few hornets buzzing around the nest and bushwhacking around would have been difficult through the marsh so I decided to just walk by. I put both poles in one hand and did not use them. I kept my bandana in the other to brush them away if they approached me. I then walked slowly, steadily, and quietly past the nest. Thankfully, I did not get stung. At the next trailhead just .2 mile away, an interesting story unfolded. Apparently, the two southbounders I had seen had waged war on the nest with a can or Raid (for hornets). That had angered the hornets and they got stung eight times, collectively. When T-Roy walked through, the hornets were swarming and he had to bushwhack around the nest through the marsh. Ma and Pa and Paddler had gotten through unscathed before the war was waged. Hopefully the Raid will discourage the remaining hornets and other hikers will not suffer. We had heard about the nest a couple of days before we had gotten here.
As I started up Mist Mountain, people walking towards me started asking who I was. There was someone looking for me. Sharon had gotten a late start and had decided to just find me by walking south from where she knew I was ending my day. She brought her dog Bitsy and together we walked back over Mist Mountain. It was so good to see a hiking buddy from home.
Back at her car, we went to the hostel to get me settled. The we found a place for dinner down the road a ways (30 minutes). A pint of Ben and Jerry’s and some cookies rounded out my meal. Sharon helped me organize my day tomorrow. My friend Jen will be meeting me and helping me slackpack over Mooselauke.
Day 157 - Woodstock, NH - 9.5 miles (slack) - 1771.2 total
Upsetting news this morning as Ma and Pa have decided to get off of the trail. It is the first time that I have been with friends as they have decided to get off the trail. It was so difficult to say good-bye. Ma has been struggling with kidney stones and has just gotten too uncomfortable to continue hiking.
Jen and her new dog of two weeks, Maggie, showed up at 9:00 with Pietro, another SkiWheelers member. Fancy Free, the hostel owner, shuttled us to the north side of Mooselauke. We walked southbound for the day. As we walked southbound for the day, Jen (aka Pooh) had an opportunity to meet Paddler. She too knew him from on-line.
Once again, I find that my pace really has changed since before I started the thruhike. Jen no longer blows me away on the trail. We had a great hike together. Maggie, her chocolate lab, must have hiked the entire mountain three times to our once. We spent quite a bit of time discussing ways to get her conserve energy.
After the hike, we stopped by the hostel to settle up and say bye to Ma and Pa one more time. Then we went to Woodstock where I checked into a cheap B&B (that does not serve breakfast) and then we went to dinner at the Woodstock Depot, a familiar restaurant from my earlier hikes with Jen, Sharon, and other friends. My pasta dinner was appealing but I was not very hungry.
Day 158 - Woodstock, NH - 16.3 miles (slack) - 1787.5 total
A Hungry Man’s breakfast at Peg’s early the next morning with Single Malt and Gentleman Jim was sure to get me a few miles down the road. Three eggs, toast, home fires, and pancakes made a very filling breakfast. Then I bought a sandwich at the Citgo convenience store.
I shared a shuttle up to the trailhead with Single Malt and Gentleman Jim. Almost immediately, I wished I had brought my hat and gloves. It was beginning to rain and it looked liked we were going to get wet. We ended up hiking the day together. It was a long hard climb to Eliza Brook Shelter, which was crowded with people who never saw fit to make room for a few more hikers, but the weather was breaking as we arrived so we had a quick lunch and moved on. As we climbed over the Kinsman’s, we had some spectacular and dramatic views of the mountains around us. It was marvelous seeing the entire Franconia Ridge, framed in clouds, and totally clear itself.
We took short breaks at both Kinsman Pond Shelter and Lonesome Lake hut on the way down. Gentleman Jim and Single Malt took a blue blaze down to the campground to pick up a maildrop. I continued down the trail. I found the worst blazed section of trail going down from Lonesome Lake. At one stream crossing, the blaze on the far side of the stream was painted on a birch tree and was basically invisible until you crossed the stream. At one trail junction (Pemi), there was no apparent blaze at all. Only after going well past the junction was there an obvious blaze.
Only when taking the side trail towards the Flume Visitor Center did I remember that there was a trailhead parking lot in addition to the Flume center lot. I realized that there might be some confusion about which lot to meet in. I took the trailhead trail to avoid the long walk on the paved bicycle path. When I realized that Sharon and Jen were not there, I made my way to the Flume Center lot. They were not there either. It was starting to rain and neither lot had any cover and the visitor center was closed. I walked out towards the street and was relieved when Sharon and Jen pulled up. Back at the B&B, I showered, changed, and got my dirty clothes into a load with Gentleman Jim’s and Single Malt’s. Then, Sharon, Jen, Paddler, and I went to dinner at Truant’s, another good food place in Woodstock.
Back at the B&B, I found out that I now had a roommate. Earthworm had arrived.
Day 159 - Galehead Hut - 13 miles - 1800.5 total
This morning was a repeat of yesterday, breakfast at Peg’s and lunch from the convenience store. This time though, we were in the second wave heading for the trailhead and got there by 7:30. The day started well with a quick, 600 foot climb. It got a bit foggy and we wondered whether or not we would get a view from the ridge.
From Lincoln, we could see the fog just overhead. The nearby peaks were in the clouds though. The day ended up being very long and slow. By the time we got to the hut, both Single Malt and Gentleman Jim had given up on the idea of doing work-for-stay so I offered to do the evening program and was enthusiastically accepted. This would mean that I would not eat with everyone else but would eat with the croo after the dinner dishes had been washed. In the morning, I would only get to eat after the breakfast dishes had been washed.
After eating, I gave a presentation, which for only six or seven people turned mostly into a discussion. I talked mostly about thruhiking the AT, trekking in Nepal, and some comparisons between the two.
Day 160 - Crawford Notch - 14.7 miles - 1815.2 total
It was so strange this morning when I tried to sleep late. Because I could not eat until the croo ate after breakfast, I tried to stay in bed and stay out of the hubbub of people getting ready for breakfast. That worked for a few minutes but I was soon up and packed myself. While the crowd ate, I worked on my journal a bit. I had gotten a bit behind with all the visits with friends from home.
My patience while waiting for breakfast was rewarded with delicious pancakes laced with vanilla and cinnamon, a trick I will have to remember for home.
I started around out around 8:45 and had an easy hike up South Twin. On the way up, I could hear and finally see a fighter doing some aerial maneuvers. It occurred to me that they have thread the needle through Zealand Notch in the past. I wondered if perhaps they were still doing that and if I would be there today when they did.
The view from South Twin was incredible. I attempted to get a five frame panoramic image of Franconia Ridge. It will be interesting to see if they come out. I also took a picture of Mt. Washington in clear skies. What a treat.
At the turn to Zealand on Guyot, I put a Band-Aid on an already popped blister just to keep the rubbing from irritating it. Earthworm caught up with me on the way to Zealand and we leapfrogged all the way past Zealand Hut.
I met up with Single Malt and Gentleman Jim at Zealand Hut. They went ahead again as I took a break. The walk out from there was quick and easy. A major relocation between Shoal Pond Trail and Ethan Pond made the footing soft. Rain threatened but did not amount to much.
I was so pleasantly surprised to find Jen at the trailhead waiting for me. I was not expecting her and did not even recognize her at first. We packed my stuff into her car and went back to the hostel (she had already been there) to pick up Single Malt and Gentleman Jim. Jen brought us back to North Conway to stay with her at the SkiWheelers house, do laundry, eat "real" food (thanks Single Malt), and sleep in a "private" room.
After dinner, Jen and Pietro marveled as I ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Day 161 - Lakes of the Clouds Hut - 11.2 miles - 1826.4 total
Woke up planning on slackpacking to the summit of Mt. Washington. Changed my plans and ended up carrying my pack. The weather was supposed to be great for three days and there was no need to rush through the Presidentials.
Had a somewhat less rushed breakfast than earlier anticipated and got to the trailhead around 7:40. Crash was there looking for a ride back to Gorham. Jen ended up giving her a ride back to Route 16.
The climb up Webster Cliff was rough but beautiful. We could easily measure our progress by watching the relative position of known places below us in Crawford Notch.
A stop at Mizpah Hut netted us no leftovers but a meeting with a Greenleaf ’98 and one other ‘98 thruhiker. They knew some of the same people that I’ve come to know through various email lists. They gave us hungry hikers some apples. THANKS!
At Eisenhower, a mountain I’ve climbed a few times, I followed the Crawford Path on the AT around the summit. It was a route I had never taken before. Single Malt and Gentleman Jim went over. At Monroe, we all went around. I told them it would be a lot easier to run up from Lakes without their packs.
At Lakes, we all got work-for-stay. Once again, I presented the evening program. This time, I was rushed through dinner ahead of the other work-for-stay and croo members, as I needed to start the program before they could eat. There really were not enough leftovers so I made do and used the pasta as filler. After the program, they found me some dessert but I really could have eaten a lot more of both dinner and dessert.
The evening program started out with just a few people but a large crowd of about 30 soon gathered. For over an hour, I talked about thruhiking. There were some great questions from the crowd including one from a 12-year-old kid who asked if I had ever thought of leaving the trail. That was probably the most difficult to answer question of the night.
Hiking in the familiar territory of the Whites has brought back a flood of memories of my previous hikes in the area with good friends. Even the hikes that had been difficult at the time, I now remember fondly. Vivid memories of some of the bad weather I’ve hiked through have made me very happy to have mostly good weather along the way.
Day 162 - Madison Spring Hut - 7.0 miles - 1833.4 total
As usual, for work-for-stay, we eat after the paying guests so we got a late start. At least this morning, we got enough food to eat. Hanging out in the hut this morning was strange. Everyone wished me well and some had questions. Both starting out from the hut and along the trail to the summit, there were lots of greetings by name "Hi Stitches" and more good wishes along with a few comments on our relative hiking speed (we were moving considerably faster than most going up the summit cone.) The recognition continued on the summit of the mountain as well. Single Malt and Gentleman Jim were giving me grief all morning about my "fame."
Once on the summit, I ate the typical overpriced, substandard food for a second breakfast. Then I watched the "Breakfast of Champions" video which is always good for a few laughs.
It was strange to see so many modes of transportation today. The cog railroad was very active, as was the auto road. There was a tow plane and glider releasing the glider overhead all afternoon.
The trail was rough today and required mostly boulder-hopping all afternoon. The weather for the second day in a row was absolutely phenomenal. There were highs on the summits in the 60s under bright blue skies. It is so special to be able to spend so much time above treeline in such good weather.
Once at the hut, I once again got work-for-stay but this time I thought I would have had to present a different talk. There were quite a few people here who had been at Lakes the night before. One thing led to another and I presented the AT thruhiker talk again.
Day 163 - Pinkham Notch - 7.8 miles - 1841.2 total
Said good-bye to yet another great croo after a breakfast of peach coffeecake and eggs. The last bit of the climb up Madison was not too tough but the descent was tough, rocky, and gave me knee problems. It took six hours to get down to Pinkham Notch.
At Pinkham Notch, I ran into some friends from the Boston area, Christine and John. They’ve had a busy summer - traveling, getting married, and moving and will now head back to school after a hike up Mount Washington. I bought yet another map bandana to add to the collection of map bandanas I have of places I’ve hiked. The new AMC bandana is great except that it is made out of polyester. YUCK! I will probably never use it as a bandana. Oh well.
As I was leaving the visitor center to go hitch along the road, I was offered some watermelon and a bagel by some picnicking families. They were a lot of fun to talk with and were having a lot of fun keeping track of their kids with the use of four walkie-talkies. Turns out they were very religious Jews. We were talking about celebrating various holidays on the trail and they pulled out a shofar so I could hear it. The High Holidays (New Years) are next week and I’m unlikely to be able to hear a shofar then. It was special for them to share that with me. Such a difference from when I was down south and could not find anyone with whom to spend Passover.
As I once again turned to head for the road, someone called out my name. I turned to see one of the croo members from the Madison Hut heading towards me. His Mom was there to pick him up and we started talking about hiking. He was heading for a three month NOLS workshop after which he would take a couple of months off and then start a thruhike. I started talking with his Mom about the thruhike. She was incredibly supportive of all of his plans but did have some concerns about the hike. They gave me a ride to Gorham and we had a great discussion along the way. I hope I was able to alleviate some of her concerns.
They brought me directly to the Hiker’s Paradise hostel. I checked in, took a shower, and then went out to eat with Single Malt and Gentleman Jim as well as an Israeli section hiker staying at the hostel. The Chinese AYCE was pretty good. As we were leaving, another group of thruhikers walked in with Time Out so we introduced the two Israelis and soon made our way back to the hostel.
Day 164 - Wildcat Mountain - 3 miles (slack) - 1844.2 total
Not feeling too great this morning. I started out late in order to make some phone calls in the morning. With my knees still hurting from yesterday’s grinding descent from Madison, I just hiked up the three miles from Pinkham Notch to the gondola on Wildcat. I’m so glad I was not carrying my pack. It was a huge steep climb.
The weather got worse as I climbed so I was glad to be able to take the gondola down. I had just walked across the ski area parking lot to the road and stuck my thumb out when a family who had also been up the gondola stopped and offered me a ride. I’ve noticed that it’s often easier to hitch just as it is starting to rain. Perhaps that’s why they stopped. They took me all of the way back to the hostel. Along the way, I realized that they were a couple of grandparents watching their grandchildren for the day. The grandfather was so happy to be able to introduce the kids to a real thruhiker.
At the hostel, I "bought" a bike for $1 (eliminates liability) and went to Burger King for lunch. Hung out at the hostel and ended up at Pizza Hut for dinner. As I was leaving to go to the pizza place, a southbounder asked if she could join me so the two of us rode down.
She was having a few problems being a solo woman on the trail heading south. There was nothing dangerous but just a situation that ended up being uncomfortable and awkward. So we talked about what had happened and discussed the likely miscommunication and how it might be prevented in the future, especially as the ranks of the southbounders continue to inevitably thin. Women are still a minority on the trail and while she has traveled with other hikers, she had not traveled with other female hikers with whom she could feel comfortable talking.
Day 165 - Boston - 0 miles - 1844.2 total
Boring bus to Boston. Got to Davis Sq. around noon and finding Lori and Bruce’s place locked, I dropped my stuff on their porch and went to see Barbara. It was great to catch up with her a bit and then go back to Lori’s to do laundry and a bit of maildrop planning. "Maildrop Central" in the basement of my sister’s place was a sight to behold. The work she’s been doing for me is amazing and I’m so grateful to have such a patient and organized "partner" helping me along the trail. She coordinates all of the efforts of my brother-in-law and other friends, too. It’s great to have so much support.
I spent the evening at a friend’s party where I even got a lead on an apartment for October. It was fun catching up with lots of friends but a little frustrating to constantly explain that I was just taking the weekend off and would be going back to finish the last month’s worth of hiking.
Back at Barbara’s place (a cat free place to sleep), I met her new roommate, Don, and another friend of hers before I excused myself to go to sleep.
Day 166 - Boston - 0 miles - 1844.2 total
Just because I’m in a city does not mean I can sleep late. I’m just glad my favorite bakery was open early enough to provide a nice place to hang out until it was time to go to Lori’s place.
There, I was finally able to treat my boots again. It’s the first time they’ve been waterproofed since before I had bought the midweight boots in southern Virginia.
Finally, we left for Douglas State Park where Lori was celebrating her 39 364/365 birthday. It was a great day. There was swimming, hiking, and all manner of sports in the available fields. I enjoyed the day just staying off of my feet and eating great food. Once again, it was wonderful to visit with friends I had not seen since last winter.
We stayed at the park until it closed and then went back to Barbara’s to say "hi" to Reed, another friend who was just moving back to Boston from California and would once again be sharing an apartment with Barbara.
Day 167 - Gorham, NH - 0 miles - 1844.2 total
Breakfast at Au Bon Pain today to kill time before going back to Lori’s to prepare to go back to New Hampshire. At Lori’s, I spent a good deal of the morning on the phone. Among other things, I arranged for a loaner backpack to be delivered to my maildrop in Stratton. One of the stays in my pack is poking through and I’m concerned about it making it through Maine. I will be getting a brand new pack to use until mine can be repaired. It will take about four weeks to finish repairs so I now expect to finish with the loaner pack.
I went to lunch with Reed and ate at the Blue Ribbon Barbecue in Arlington. It might have been the first pulled pork I’ve had since before the Mason-Dixon line. We ran some errands and then we enjoyed leftover birthday cheesecake at my sister’s place. Finally, after a bit of rearranging, I was on my way back to New Hampshire. The T experience was the same as always. I got dinner for the road at South Station and needed help finding the bus terminal. Construction in the area and two conflicting signs would have confused even the current city savvy people.
The bus to Concord was crowded and full of commuters. Beyond that, there was room to stretch out.
Day 168 - US route 2 and Gorham - 18.1 miles (slack) - 1862.3 total
Less than 300 miles to go…
A big day and a late start meant I put my headlamp and extra batteries in my fanny pack today. Having done the three miles to the gondola last week, I knew it did not start up until 9:00am. I was there plenty early as I did not want to waste any time. Of course, the gondola would be broken and in need of repair this morning. That meant a 15-20 minute delay while they got the quad chair lift running. By the time I started hiking, it was nearly 10:00am, an hour later than expected.
The Wildcat ridge was easier than I remembered and the descent down to Carter Notch, though steep, was a good trail with lots of rock steps that were small enough to be as easy on the knees as could be expected. One small area crossed a relatively new (for New Hampshire) slide area. A quick stop at Carter Notch Hut reminded me of a winter hike with a friend where we went skating and sliding on the frozen pond.
From a Carter’s backpack years earlier, I remembered the descent from the Dome into the Notch as being relatively easy as well given the slope but it seemed to take so long to climb this time. The view from Mt. Hight was phenomenal. Without much haze, I think the visibility must have approached 100 miles today.
The rest of the Carters passed quickly but the descent off of North Carter was long and slow. It was there that I started figuring my possible bail points if I decided not to hike after dark. I was only considering this because the trail was so rough. I knew that if I could get over and down from Moriah, the walk out would be a nice one, even in the dark.
Sure enough, the descent from Moriah while still light was rough but after sunset, it got more gradual. I walked on without my headlamp until dusk was nearly over. I came upon the Rattle River Shelter and probably surprised a few people as I was walking without my headlamp. There I met Mike Lowell (now Plantar) again and a couple of other short distance hikers. I did not linger much longer than to hear from Plantar that he thought Walking Home had perhaps gotten off the trail. That really bummed me out.
I walked out and got to the Wildberry B&B where I made a call for a shuttle with the cordless phone they leave outside and available to thruhikers. MaryAnne came and kindly drove through McDonalds for me on the way to the hostel.
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