Appalachian Trail Mile 1659.5

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 (Day 119)

It is 6:30 am. I sit at a 90 degree angle and watch the mist rise from Stratton Pond, an ethereal white smoke drifting on its still surface; unmoving save for the small ripples of the dancing bugs.

I see someone rising from their tent, just across the clearing. I assumed they were a thru-hiker. They came over to say “hello”. As it were, they were the caretaker of the area.

I began to apologize for my camping spot. They did not seem to mind much. We chatted briefly. I was curious about their job, and how they liked it. They said it did not feel like much of a job at all. We came to find out that we had a mutual friend in Seattle. The world is so small.

I sett off. It was a little later than hoped, due to conversation…but that was alright. As I lifted my pack I noticed a damp streak in the earth, leading to a moist puddle near the ponds edge. I pressed down on my water bladder. Darn It! I had positioned my pack on top of my bladder hose and mouthpiece. I did not rotate the mouthpiece to lock it. Thus, the entire contents of my water bladder had escaped. It seems I have made this mistake countless times. It was delicious spring water, as well! I have managed to drink only spring water this past day or two. I long to keep it that way.

I passed a cluster of streams. I propped myself beneath a tree over looking the center of the three, and ate my breakfast of oatmeal and powders.

As I continued on, a fellow Northbounder came up from behind. He was quick and blonde and tan. He asked my name. “I’m Giggles!”.

“I thought I recognized you! We met at Neels Gap in Georgia.  I took that bag you put in the hiker-box!” he proclaimed.

Wow. That was so very long ago. It feels good to see people again after such a long stretch. It is comforting, in a way. He also started the first week of May. He was headed in to town, had a package of winter gear sent there. I told him I was debating weather or not I needed to make the trip, but that maybe I would see him there.

I took the .1 side trail to Spruce Spring Shelter and collected water from a delectable piped spring. It made me oh so happy. It always makes me happy.

As I left the shelter and began the descent to VT Route 11/30 I had a maddening debate in my head as to whether or not I needed to go in to town. I tried to observe the argument as a third party. Did I have enough food to make it to Killington? Would it just result in more money spent, more weight to carry, and wasted time? I recalled running out of food on my way in to Dalton. I recalled the low morale and the foraging and the extreme lack of energy. As I crossed the road, I saw two other hikers on the other side, arms out stretched, thumbs upward. I joined them.

We got a hitch quickly. It was a truck. We all jumped in the bed with our packs and poles, and off it roared. It was terribly cold but, as all truck-bed rides are, invigorating.

We were dropped of at the Price Chopper. I purchased grapefruit and tofu and oatmeal. I exited the store in search of coffee and a bit of electricity before I hit the trail again. I looked at my options. There was a cafe, and then a McDonald’s. The cafe seemed the better choice. The McDonalds had a row of hiker packs leaned against the front of the building, however, and was likely cheaper, and would have a more casual setting…as I hoped to eat my own food inside. I leaned my pack outside of the McDonalds beside the others and headed in. There was a row of plastic booths at the perfect right angle (out of line of sight) to the counter, and employees, and majority of guests. These plastic boots were fringed with an uncommon abundance of electrical outlets, and filled with hikers. I joined them. I charged my things, ate a bit, and went to order a coffee. The nice man gave me the coffee for free. How splendid!

The hitch back was easy. Three of us got a hitch from a lady and her dog. The lady was very kind, originally from California as well. She dropped the two hikers off at a hotel. When she saw that I was not joining them, that I wanted to head back to the trail, she was surprised.

“You are hiking by yourself!?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t ever get afraid!?”

“No. Nothing out there wants to hurt you.”

“You are one gutsy chick!”

We made our way to the trailhead and chatted and chatted. We got on very well. Then we stopped short and turned around, as she was sure she had passed the trailhead. Then we turned around again, because we had not.

She called herself stupid and an idiot, for not getting the directions right. I told her not to say that. It hurts me when people make such casual habit of calling themselves such things. I suppose they don’t realize how harmful and untrue it is.

I began the climb up Bromley Mountain just after 5 pm. I was energized and pleases with my decision to stop in town.

By 7:30 pm, it was dark beneath tree cover. I took a short break and continued on.

I climbed over Styles Peak. My legs were growing tired. I wavered, both in my conviction to continue and in body…side to side with exhaustion.

Waves of fog came and left. It danced and whirled and blew from the trail in curly wisps. Or it sat, thick and unmoving in my line of sight, obscuring my vision. The air was moist.

I settled on a spot in the mountain in a clearing of trees. And now, now trickles of rain. I just can’t set up my tent. I employ the drape method, spreading the limp body of my tent over the top of me and my gear.

It is cold. At 3,425 ft, it smells of pine needles, of mountains, of evergreen fog…and the mustiness of my tent. I am terrifically happy.

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