Sunday, September 10, 2017 (Day 131)
Though early to bed, I was not so early to rise. I began to hear people pass. I burrowed deep within my sleeping bag. Then, heavy panting and rapid sniffing and hot breath surrounded my head. A dog had come to greet me. I stayed hidden. Finally, the loving little beast heeded its owners calls, and off he went. It was time to get going.
I packed up my things.
I took a break by the first little stream I came across. As I was sitting, trying to hydrate, boiling water for coffee, a hiker came by that I had not seen since New York. They stopped and we chatted. It felt good to see another familiar face.
We hiked together briefly, and took a short spur trail to take in the view from Mt Wolf.
I passed Harrington Pond, and in the early evening, began the climb up South Kinsman Mountain.
The ascent was challenging. There was hopping and crawling and climbing and scooting and root grabbing. It was terrifically enjoyable.
Reflexes of a cat.
By the time I reached the first peak it was dark and windy. There was a shallow descent, and another short climb up North Kinsman.
After that, the true descent began.
It was steep, with long, sheer faced, slanted slabs of stone. I moved slowly, sometimes stopping all together in search of the best way down. It is times like these that make me realize that hiking is a skill. I was thankful for my experience, and my ability to stay vertical.
By the time I was nearly to the bottom, I was exhausted. It seemed the descent was more mentally draining than anything. The amount of focus traversing the rocks and roots at a downward slope demanded, was quite taxing.
Shortly after passing the Kinsman Pond Shelter, I collected water from a stream and began to scan for a suitable place to sleep as I continued down the mountain. The descent became significantly less steep, and I found a space to the side of the trail where I could sleep comfortably.
I had only travelled around 11 miles. The reality of the difficulty of the White Mountains were sinking in. These mountains take time. I must get started earlier. There is no other option.
Saturday, September 9, 2017 (Day 130)
I did not want to rise. It was extremely cold and foggy out there, in the world outside of my sleeping bag. With long underwear, wool socks that I found abandoned at a shelter, a fleece pullover I found at the Yellow Deli Hiker Hostel, my puffy, beanie, and gloves all tucked within my 22 degree down sleeping bag, I slept quite comfortably on the windy, wet, fog shrouded mountain top. It was the rising I was afraid of.
I sat up, lower half still tucked away, and boiled water for coffee and oatmeal. I used a prong of my metal spork to open a vacuum sealed package of dehydrated bananas I had found in a hiker box. I successfully liberated the banana chunks, but not without sacrifice. The metal Sea to Summit spork snapped in half in the process. Darn my spoon luck! The bananas were quite delicious, however, which provided some consolation.
At around 9 am I deemed it warm enough to pull myself from the heated, downy embrace. I proceeded to wipe off my things, all dripping with moisture, and one by one, pack them away.
The mountain was beautiful. The sweet smell of pine made me swoon. As the morning turned to afternoon, and I dropped to lower elevation, the fog dissipated, the sun shining through.
I considered hitching in to Lincoln at the next crossing. There was a Price Chopper and a laundry mat and a Family Dollar, all conveniently located in the same center. I could wash and dry everything.
As I neared the bottom of the descent, a hiker I knew came up behind me. I let them pass. We chatted as we made the mile per hour rocky and stream-filled trek down the mountainside.
He mentioned that he was meeting his cousin at the Kinsman Notch parking area, and that I could get a ride in to town with them, if I wanted.
I did just that. I was dropped of at the Price Chopper parking lot. I bought tofu and grapefruit and beets and acquired a black plastic spoon, and ate in the laundry mat as I washed my things. I put practically everything through the drier, including my sleeping bag and tent.
When I was through with laundry, and had purchased a bit more food for the trail, I walked west along Route 112. I stopped at a gas station for coffee, then stood at the corner and stuck out my thumb.
It was not long until a nice lady named Amy picked me up. She had two middle-school aged boys as passengers. She dropped them at some school sporting event, and then took me to the trail head. She was a runner. She was going to be running in a relay race that involved car camping and running trails in the middle of the night, a race that continued through multiple days. It sounded intriguing. She said that she always picked up women hikers when she could. We arrived at the parking lot, I thanked her, and we both were on our way.
Unfortunately, my way did not lead me far. I had only travelled a mile and a half before it grew dark and my motivation disappeared like the rays of the sun. I found a nice tent site off of a short spur trail, got cozy, and fell fast asleep; warm and dry.
Sunday, September 8, 2017 (Day 129)
I woke early. It had not rained, but my things were damp, as expected. I made coffee and packed up. I was uncertain if the Omelette Guy planned to set up in my sleeping place. I sat to the side and waited a bit. I decided to be productive. I pulled out a needle and thread and a patch and stitched up my pack.
At around 9 am, I decided that I had to move.
Not long after crossing the road and reetering the woods, I came to a makeshift shelter with counter space and foldable chairs and a chase lounge, complete with reclined hiker.
“Oh. It’s here, on trail!” I said to the hiker.
“Yeah. I slept here last night. He should be coming soon.”
Minutes later a man came lumbering up the trail, boxes of goods in tow. He was assisted by a southbound hiker who had been waiting for him as well. I asked if he needed further assistance. He said he did not. He pulled out a stove and began to perculate a pot of coffee. He turned to face us.
“How long have you been doing this”, I asked.
“Since last June.”
“You are infamous on trail!”
Another hiker arrived. The Omelette Guy placed a greased pan on the stove and pulled out eggs and meat and veggies. “The record for most amount of eggs eaten in a sitting was 30” he proclaimed. “Guy couldn’t move after. Drove him down the road to a hostel and he zeroed the next day.”
We all chuckled in amazement. He went down the row taking orders. The hiker who had slept there ordered six eggs with all the fixin’s. I asked if I might just have some of the onion and bell pepper, no need to fry them up. He quickly provided me with some chopped raw veggies and brought my attention to multiple bunches of bananas on the counter, urging me to help myself. We all sipped hot coffee and ate fresh food and chatted. What great kindness! I departed first. He told me to take a banana or two for the road, and wanted to make sure I signed his log book. I did both, and was on my way.
I was not moving too quickly. I broke momentarily at the top of Mt Mist, ate some wild berries, and continued on my way.
As I was descending to where the trail crosses Route 25, it began raining–hard.
When I came to the road, I decided to head .3 miles east to the Hikers Welcome Hostel to take shelter. There I saw the northbounders that had been at the Omelette Guy’s that morning. They were all sitting around a large table chatting, charging phones, drinking soda, and watching some Borat movie on the ginormous flat screen TV. They were all taking cover from the rain.
The hostel had a very low-key and welcoming vibe. I was told that I could hang out as long as I wished. I drank cup after cup of coffee and charged my headlamp and battery pack. I found vegan protein powder and noodles and oatmeal in the hiker box.
My plan was to wait out the rain and night hike up Mt Moosilauke.
Moosilauke was one of those mountains that had a reputation on trail. Southbounders often said it was the mountain that will “prepare you for the rest of the Whites”. The climb was long, the descent– dangerously steep and rocky.
I was ready to see what I was dealing with.
At around 7 pm, when I was satisfied with the state of the sky, I departed the hostel to climb the mountain.
Before the climb began I crossed streams and walked along roads and crossed parking lots and an open field. While crossing the field, I glanced up. I beamed, I laughed, so pleased with the clarity of night, the bright shining of stars.
I began the climb. Halfway up I took a break beside a stream and gathered water.
The climb was not terribly challenging, but felt positively endless.
As I neared the summit, the trail smoothed and flattened. The wind whipped and howled and spat tiny bits of moisture. The fog had grown thick. The night sky was no longer clear. It was cold.
I hid from the wind, in between trees, in a small, narrow clearing designed to drain water from the trail. I was .4 from the summit. I slept there for the night.
Saturday, September 7, 2017 (Day 128)
Oh, how I love sleep! But rise, I must!
Five miles in to my hike, I reached the summit of Smart Mountain. I climbed the lookout tower. The sun was shining. Puffy clouds cast shadows over the tree covered mountain tops. The wind whipped through the metal tower. The view was amazing.
I descended the mountain. The descent was far less steep than the climb. The trail crossed brooks and ledges before it ascended, yet again, up Cube Mountain. As I was nearing the junction for the Hexacuba Shelter, there was a sudden downpour. I was still 1.6 miles from the summit. I decided to take the side trail uphill to the shelter, and let the rain pass.
After 15 minutes or so, the rain diminished. I hurried back to the trail and up the mountain.
The climb was full of slanted ledges and wide expanses of overlapping stone. I gazed out below in awe. The views were captivating.
As I neared the summit, I saw the hiker from Moose Mountain, tucked away in their tent. I commented on the beauty of the climb. They said that they had not seen it. They had climbed the stone slabs in the fog and rain. It seemed ducking in to the shelter to let the rain pass was a good decision after all. I bid them a good night and moved quickly towards the mountain top, in hopes of catching the sunset.
I reached the top, bathed in the beautiful afterglow of the suns departure.
Now to face the descent. I had yet to think that far ahead. I hoped it would not prove as steep or challenging as the climb. It was dark, as I reentered the woods. The descent was gradual, with a trail of mostly earth and pine, solid and unmoving.
I stopped beside a stream to collect water and break for a moment. The water flowed freely, murmuring as it passed over smooth silver stones. I looked to the sky. I spotted a bright star, and another. I was thrilled. With starlight came the promise of a clear night. I was motivated to continue.
I came to Cape Moonshine Road. I had heard of the “Omelette Guy” long ago. A man who posts up on trail and makes unlimited omelettes for hikers. It was said that he stationed himself near this road crossing. I do not eat omelettes, but I had heard rumor of juice and bananas. The Omelette Guy was quite a big deal amongst hikers. Needless to say, I was curious.
I decided to sleep in the dirt parking area by the road. I did not set up my tent. I gazed at the giant orange moon and stars in the distance. Moisture fell from the limbs of trees. I trusted that it would not rain from the sky.
Thursday, September 5, 2017 (Day 126)
Oh, how joyous it was to wake to a wispy clouded sky, a pale pink and blue! It had not rained, after all! I continued through the little town, and back in to the woods.
Within a few hours, I crossed the Connecticut River on a large bridge. I was officially in the state of New Hampshire!
I followed the trail through the town of Hanover. I passed many familiar faces. Hikers and students of Dartmouth filled the streets and sidewalks of the college town. All was a bustle with youthful energy.
The trail passes right in front of the Hanover Food Co-op. I stopped in for lunch and ressuply and to charge my phone. While I enjoyed my tofu and bagel, it began to pour outside. Through the large glass window, I watched the people scatter, running through the parking lot, jackets pulled over their heads.
I let the rain calm, and decided it was time I left. It was likely to rain through the evening, with the chance of thunderstorms after night fall. I wanted to set up my tent before dark.
The trail weaved behind the school of Dartmouth and back up in to the mountains.
It is hot and muggy, moisture hangs in the air, every once in a while gathering to form a drop.
Soon I crossed a beautiful marsh on a boardwalk.
Then I crossed Trescott Road and a grassy meadow, before coming to Monahan Brook.
There was a small flat space near the trail just south of the brook. I wandered around the area, and peered just beyond, before determining that it would be the best choice for the night.
With the thick cover of clouds, it grew dark quickly. I used my headlamp to set up my tent and crawled in side, just before the heavy rain began.
Monday, September 4, 2017 (Day 125)
The day was clear and bright. I was cheerful and rested. I tried not to beat myself up about staying in my tent all day yesterday. Rest is productive. Yes, rest is productive.
My guide mentioned a spring that could be found following a rough trail behind the Winturri Shelter. I decided to collect water there. I spent too much time in search of the spring. I continued passed a trickling water source, hoping that a stronger spring lay beyond. Unfortunately that was not the case. When I decided to turn back, I turned to realize that my path was not clear. I had not been paying much attention and could have easily become lost. Fortunately, I found my way back without struggle. I came to the source I had passed and followed it downstream. I was somewhat disappointed, until I managed to place a leaf in just the right position, facilitating rapid collection. The water was cold clear and tasty. I did not break beside it, due to bothersome mosquitos. I collected a fair bit, and headed back to the trail. When I did break beside trail, I saw familiar faces pass. There are still many of us out here.
I crossed paths with an older couple heading south. The conversation that followed was brief and discouraging. I was told that it would be extremely difficult to cover 15 miles a day in the White Mountains. That, sure, it was still possible to make it to Katahdin; their tone revealing their doubt. I left the conversation with excess moisture gathering behind my eyelids. I wanted to cry.
I will make it.
I continued along rolling hills. I found a green jolly rancher on trail. I smiled at its discovery. I unwrapped it and placed it on my tongue. It made me feel better.
Then I discovered sweet crab apples.
Night fell, and I continued on.
The moon was bright and beautiful and reassuring.
I finally crossed over the White River and in to the little town of Hartford, VT.
The weather forecast called for more rain tonight. I found a small covered space behind the public library. There I charged my things, tried in vain to use the wifi, and slept.
I will not give up.
Sunday, September 3, 2017 (Day 124)
I cowboy camped and woke to the first light spritzing of rain at 4 am. I rushed to set up my tent, collected water from the stream, and took cover. I intended on just a couple more hours of sleep. There was a brief period of cessation in rainfall. I did not take proper advantage. I hoped the rain would pause once more…it did not. Thus, I slept and slept. This is far better rest than I would get in a hostel, I told myself. It is surprising how much one can truly sleep; through the day and through the night, even through the earliest parts of the morning.
Saturday, September 2, 2017 (Day 123)
I woke with a sinking feeling of disappointment. I had moved only two miles yesterday. I did not get much rest. I had hardly written a word.
…alas, nothing will come of negative thinking.
I packed up, moved through the hostel, and descended the stairs to the hall where free breakfast was being served. I did not have an appetite, but coffee was certainly on my mind. Unfortunately the coffee was out. I was quickly greeted by the manager of last night’s conversation. “Coffee is no good for you, anyway. Have Matte.” I sighed. Declined the offer for breakfast, and ascended the stairs.
As I was gathering my food stuffs from the kitchen area, I felt watched. Every time I looked behind, the manager was there. He smiled and made small talk and asked question after question. I felt uncomfortable. I left quickly.
I walked with my pack to the Wal-Mart to see about acquiring a new battery pack.
While in the parking lot, a kind man asked me about my hike. He had hiked the AT years ago. He offered to give me a ride back to the trailhead. I told him I was headed to the coffee shop and needed to do some writing. He gave me his number on the back of a torn slip of paper, and told me to call should I want a ride within the hour. I thanked him, pocketed the paper, and we both continued on our way.
At the coffee shop I ordered a large black cup of coffee and sat at a bar stool. They were not especially kind at the coffee shop. I considered the situation at hand. It never seems wise to refuse a ride. Plus, I need to keep moving.
I phoned Will, and he told me that he would be happy to give me a ride. That I should meet him back at the Wal-Mart parking lot.
The ride back to the trail was very pleasant. Will had many interesting stories. He had hitch-hiked all over the United States, and is an incredible artist. He gifted me two postcards of his artwork, and many well-wishes.
Then, I was on my way to Maine once more.
Back on trail, I soon ran in to someone who I hitched in to Bennington with. It was comforting to see him. He had taken quite a few days off trail as well. We chatted for six miles or so. We spoke of the PCT and trail maintenence and development, and our feelings on shelters, and the silliness of the term “stealth camping” in reference to the trail. The miles passed quickly.
During a steep ascent I stopped for a break…and a nap. It was supposed to begin raining early tomorrow and continue through the day. It was the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. I had to keep moving.
I hiked in to the early parts of the night.
There was a tentsite just across a stream on the southern side of Chateauguay Road. I decided to stay there for the night. I did not set up my tent, determined to rise before the rain falls.
Friday, September 1, 2017 (Day 122)
I began at 9 am. It was so very cold. I had just enough fuel to make a hot cup of coffee. I clutched the hot pot with my glove covered hands and sipped, warming my body from the inside.
I began my hike. I was happy, motivated; I felt the miles I covered yesterday pushing me forward. I felt the momentum. I felt high with accomplishment, with freshness, with the simplicity and gratitude of being. I began to overflow with happiness, eyes watering, so grateful for life.
I made it to Route 4 quickly. I crossed the road and walked a little ways east to a home with a gravel parking space. I stood between the road and the parking area and stuck out my thumb. I got a hitch quickly. The driver was in the area for a wedding and took me four miles out of his way to drop me off at the front steps of the Yellow Deli Hostel. I thanked him kindly, and made my way up the stairs of the building.
The hostel was very nice. The dorms, assigned by gender, were clean and cozy and warm. I was greeted by a kind man who showed me around. I told him that I did not plan on staying. He said I could choose a bed to rest in even if I don’t stay the night. He said that I would want to stay, however, as they were holding their Sabbath festival that evening. At that, he left me to get situated. I felt extremely welcome! The hostel was buzzing with positivity.
I opened the wooden wardrobe that stood at the corner of the dorm room. It was filled with peasant tops and long skirts with floral patterns and loose linen pants that bunched at the waste and ankles. I selected a top and bottom combination, based on comfort. I removed my filthy garb and stepped in to one of the two showers in the clean and airy and well-stocked bathroom.
After bathing I put my clothes in the wash, and assisted in folding some of the hostel laundry. I dried and gathered my clothes and walked down the street to the Wal-Mart to resupply. Upon my return, the man who had greeted me was asking the hikers, variously sprawled about the living room, if anyone would be willing to help with dishes in the deli. I agreed to help. At that point, it did appear that I was staying after all.
I was led down the stairs and in to the Yellow Deli Cafe. There, a manager directed me to “work with the women”. I proceeded to help with the cafe’s closing tasks. I worked closely with a young women who had been hiking southbound this year. When she reached the Yellow Deli Hostel, she got off trail and joined the community. She said it was exactly what she was looking for. The Yellow Deli is run by the 12 Tribes, a Christian community that lives communally. I was curious. I asked her how it worked. She said that they all work and live together and share a communal wallet. She went home shortly after our conversation. She seemed very happy.
Then a lady led me to where they were preparing the meal for that nights Sabbath. How long would they keep me here? I peeled garlic and marinated some almonds and helped with some other random tasks, all the while watching the time. I had yet to write at all. Finally, I excused myself and returned to the hostel.
It was not long before the Sabbath commenced. I was very curious. I went down stairs to the large hall where all had gathered. There was live music and singing and Israeli Circle Dancing. The dancing was spectacular and raised great amounts of energy. Following the dancing, was informal liturgy and praise by any who wanted to speak. Then, dinner. Before I could make my exit I was offered a seat at a table and felt I could not refuse. I nibbled on bread made by the young girl who sat beside me, and ate salad with the provided chopsticks. The breadmakers younger sister, who sat at my left, was very inquisitive. She asked me about my favorite desserts as she slid an open bible across the table and proclaimed “read!”. I refused the main course, and soon excused myself. I stated that I was very tired. This was true, I was exhausted. I also felt over-questioned and over-socialized with an overwhelming urge to retreat.
I returned to the hostel living room, and chatted with the other hikers. I was procrastinating. I was fighting sleep. The hostel manager entered the room and sat in the arm chair beside me. He began asking me about myself. He told me of the many other locations where the 12 Tribes community had hostels and farms. He smirked “I think it’s nice that you labeled your drink with your name. People don’t normally listen. Obedience is a good trait.”
At this last statement, I was taken aback.
“If it is logical, sure. But I don’t just blindly obey”, I responded.
The conversation continued, in a broken matter. I was not interested in talking. Eventually he retired. I should have done the same. Instead I sat, and listened, and talked with other hikers until long after midnight.
I finally stumbled in to the female dorm and collapsed in to a sleep.
Thursday, August 31, 2017 (Day 121)
I woke at 5:30 am. My phone had been on silent. No alarm sounded. Darn it! That’s alright. I will get an early start nonetheless.
As I enjoyed the sight of the bright and valiant sunshine streaming through the pines, I jammed the side of my left knee in to a protruding limb of a tree. F#@%! The pain was sharp. I slowed, but did not stop. I cursed to myself softly, beating both of my trekking poles in to the dirt in unison– once to release the frustration, and again to release tension and pain. I glanced down. It had only taken a small piece of skin. The red that had risen in place of flesh was quite beautiful. A deep crimson. I smeared the trickle across my leg. It was a badge.
I stopped for breakfast at a brook. It looked like rain may come. I pulled my stiff, dirty socks from beneath the elastic that affixed them to the outside of my pack, and removed my puffy. I stuffed them both within a heavy-duty plastic bag, rolled down the top, and stuffed them in my pack to keep them safe from the potential rain.
I crossed a bridge over the beautiful Clarendon Gorge.
I came to a parking area at Route 103. A southbounder sat at the trailhead eating a peanut-butter filled tortilla. “You trying to get to Rutland? You hitch to the left. It was a pretty easy hitch.”
I told him that I planned on making it over the mountain first, and hitching from US Route 4. Though it was terrifically tempting to hitch early, I pressed on.
On the other side of the road, was a beautiful expanse of wildflowers!
The trail then climbed. I stopped for a quick lunch break at the Clarendon Lookout.
I contemplated the psychology of motivation. Which played a stronger role, the body or mind? Surely, as a team, they are unstoppable. I should work on that. I continued on.
I crossed Keiffer road. I strolled through another field of wildflowers, and picked rosy apples from a lovely tree. Birds chirped, loose-limbed evergreens waving their pine draped arms, swayed gently in the breeze.
I was ready to climb Mt Killington! The climb was not difficult. Leaves of red and orange and gold and taupe and brown and deep purple float from the tips of trees to the dirt of the earth, decorating my path. I smile at the shimmer of a brook in the sunlight. Though there were many roots and rocks and tight spaces on the ascending pathway, it was not steep. I stopped a mile from the top to enjoy a lovely spring on the side of the trail. I reached the top as the sun was setting.
I had many miles to go, yet. I continued the descent under nightfall.
My legs were growing tired. The pads of my feet, sore. I stopped and drank from a lovely spring. The sweet, fresh taste lifted my spirits. It was cold. I stopped and put on my puffy and gloves and hat. This helped. I continued on comfortably. To hike comfortably in such attire was a sign of the coming seasons. The year was turning cold.
I came to the Churchill Scott Shelter trail junction. It was just under 2 miles from Route 4. My body was tired. There was a flat space suitable for sleeping, just accross from the trail junction. I have travelled a reasonable distance, I thought. I unpacked my pack, ate a hot meal, and drifted in to sleep.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 (Day 120)
I opened my eyes, pleased with the decision not to set up my tent.
It seems the clouds sit directly above, like a frosted lid to a clear glass mixing bowl. Through the trees I see clear blue. Wisps of cloud gather at the mountain tops. I feel percipitation from above. It is slight. I ignore it and continue with my morning routine.
I expected only to encounter brooks and small streams today, but came across an unexpected spring about a mile after I began. Delightful! I sat and drank, in thanks.
I crossed paths with a southbounder. We both said “hello”, smiling. “No more spider-webs”, he said. I was the first person they had seen. I had cleared their path. Though, I had not seen many spider webs lately. I wondered why. Part of me missed them. Is this strange? My winged friends of the night, my starlight consorts and their insessant flitting about my face…they were all but gone. I especially miss the fireflies.
I took a break for lunch just after Baker’s Peak. I had not travelled far at all, just over four miles. It was a rock scramble to the peak, and I was feeling rather tired.
The sun was shining gloriously. The trail is changing; the pines, the smells, the moss. My break spot was perfect…save for the flies. They bother me more than the moths. Why in the world are there so many darn flies? Buzz-buzz-buzzing. Large ones, small ones. One in particilar, the fat one, flies so sporadically, hovering and twirling in intimate proximity to my face. They do not land on me, though. For that, I am thankful.
Despite the sun, the air is crisp and cool. I pull on my puffy down jacket, and sip my afternoon coffee, admiring the soft vibrant moss that encircles the base of each pine.
I continued on. The trail weaved alongside Big Branch River. There was a lovely campsite along the river just out of sight of the trail. It was late afternoon. There, I decided to nap. After a half hour or so, I pulled myself from slumber. I repeatedly told myself that I shouldn’t be so tired, that I must keep going. On I went.
I passed Little Rock Pond, and then began the ascent toward White Rocks.
Near the top of the climb, I break once more at a small campsite. It is only 8:30 pm, but the deepness of night fools my body in to thinking it is far later. It is not nearly as cold as last night.
I tell myself that I will just take a quick break. Then, then I pull out my sleeping bag. What a slippery slope! What if I just rise very, very early? I want to make it in to Rutland tomorrow. There is a donation based hostel there that I would like to stay the night at. If I arrive in the evening I can do all my chores and hit the trail the next morning. It is just over 27 miles away, over Mt Killington. I set my alarm for 3 am, ate dinner, and resigned to sleep.