I woke up to the sound of my alarm at 6:20. I hit snooze, but I know how slow I am to eat, so I didn’t actually wait for the next alarm to go off. I crept into the kitchen and made coffee. Only drank about half of it while I ate breakfast. Rejected by my body, which knows it has to head back into the woods today. After breakfast, I poured the rest of my coffee into my friend’s cup and went about rounding up all of my gear. I managed to cut about three quarters of a pound by sending a few things home, but I gained 6oz because my new phone charger is bigger. It hurts to carry something twice the weight of the old one, but I know it will be easier in some ways. We will see.
Sciacca drove me to the intersection where cotton and I left the trail. We hugged goodbye and she offered her assistance once again. I feel so grateful for how much she helped me. This morning she even put together a needle and thread for me so I can try to sew my old shorts. (I decided as I was walking today that I’m going to attempt to sew on a duct tape patch. I think it will work.) Sciacca drove away, and I crossed the busy street with my fully loaded pack. It’s too heavy for my feet, which are still tender.
The mud began almost immediately and I spent a lot of effort trying to keep my feet dry. Little did I know what a waste of energy that would be. I stood admiring the raging brook and realized as the mosquitoes buzzed around me that I’d forgotten to buy more bug spray at Walmart. Guess I’ll be walking all naturale until I get to my next resupply in Manchester center, VT. The trail eventually led me west and the sound of the stream faded behind me. The mountain laurel alongside the trail were on their way to full bloom. It took a lot of effort to remind myself to keep walking and wait for better light to take a zillion pictures. The woods were on the dark side at that point and the pictures were coming out flat. Here is a shot from higher elevation with better light:
Then came a steep rocky climb upwards that must have been what a cranky southbound gentleman described the other day as a scrambling miserable section.
Heading north, up the rocky mess, didn’t take much more than a few uncomfortably large steps and a hand hold or two. At the top, I saw a different mountain laurel with dark pink blooms about the size of my thumb nail.
I also came to what’s called the rock garden in my guthook app. Funny enough it just looks like the northern half of Pennsylvania, so I’m not sure why it gets a special name. I took a break in the “garden” and ate a snack. An older gentleman passed me and we lamented the climb. I was also passed by an ultralight hiker who complained about the climb, which made me feel good because I hadn’t found it that bad. But maybe my legs are fresher than his.
After my break, the trail transitioned from rocks to subtle rolling hills consisting mostly of dirt and leaves. My left foot remains unhappy. I think walking around my friend’s apartment really aggravated it for whatever reason. I bought metatarsal inserts at the grocery store, so maybe those will help.
About a mile past the rock garden, I hit the Vermont state line. My stepfather sent me a text saying the woman at the post office can’t believe I’ve gotten so far and that she’s following along. I found this both comforting and frightening because of the pressure to succeed. Whatever that means. Anyway, I said goodbye to MA and hello to even more mud. Granted, after the rainfall we had yesterday, just about anywhere on the trail would be muddy. But VT has a special shoe eating quality of mud that I have yet to see thus far. I nearly lost my shoe a dozen times today as I tried to make it through the muck.
Tuna special, once again, with thin mints for dessert. I realized the other day that maybe I shouldn’t be eating so much tuna fish because of the mercury. Is that a real thing? Should I spread it out more? After lunch, I started thinking about how far to walk. If I stopped at the first shelter, I would be done at like 130. If I kept going, my estimation would be finishing around 430 after doubling the mileage. I know the answer is to stop short. But I arrived at the turn off for the shelter and felt too cagey to stop. I also wasn’t in the mood to be caught by a certain chatty older gentleman who is sadly traveling with halfway whom I really want to see again.
I sat on a log by the shelter trail and debated my options. I didn’t feel rushed or manic and my feet felt a little better than when I started, so I pushed on. I felt bad about missing halfway another day, but it seemed like the right choice at the time. Little did I know I was in for some of the most tedious miles yet. They never got steep, but the next 7 miles felt like one giant mud pit with brief relief in the form of wooden planks and the odd dry section. I regretted my choice almost immediately, but I also knew that if not today, then tomorrow. Flawed logic because if I wait until tomorrow my legs will be less beaten down and I will have more mental and physical endurance for the task at hand.
After awhile, I gave up on trying to keep my feet dry. It wasn’t working and it slowed me down so much that I was making horrible time. It also involved a lot of long steps and root/rock hopping, which aggravated my feet. So I sloshed and squelched my way through the miles, laughing every time I nearly lost my shoe. Towards the end of the day, I lost my patience and the laughing turned to cursing. But before that I passed two beautiful ponds and another giant stream that roared off to my right for about three tenths of a mile.
I know the distance along the stream because I was obsessively checking my end point at that point with about a half mile to go. I really wanted to stop at a stealth campsite that also happened to be in the exact spot I turned 600 miles (top picture).
But I didn’t have enough water to stop for the day. I sat at the site eating a snack while trying to figure out if I could stop anyway. but I’d already skimped on drinking water more than I should have throughout the day, and it seemed unwise to eek through the night with not quite half a liter.
I can’t seem to keep this entry very linear. Forgive me, I think I dropped my brain in the mud and can’t seem to get it clean. I got to the congdon shelter around 630, which is FAR later than I had hoped. The area in front of the shelter was a sloppy mess and the tent sites were spread all over the place. There was a large group of tents dotting the area to the left and right of the trail. I found a mediocre spot right next to the shelter and could not be bothered to look harder because it started to sprinkle. I set up my tent while wondering if my feet would ever feel dry again. One of the guys at the shelter came over to ask me questions about my tent. I was about 20 seconds away from telling him to leave me alone before I have a hunger meltdown, but he stopped of his own accord. I dropped my food bag and cooking stuff at the shelter and went to the stream for water. The one upside to this place is that it’s very compact and it’s literally right on the trail. I didn’t have to wander all over the place to get my chores done. As I filtered water, I got to meet Ozzie, a white pitbull mix with the most pathetic resting face and ears I’ve ever seen. He broke my heart. he also leaned into me trying to play up the pathetic card to get closer to my trailmix later when we were hanging out at the shelter during dinner. Sneaky dog, but I know that trick and I resisted.
While my food “cooked” I set up my sleeping pad and washed my legs, socks, and feet in the stream. My socks had clumps of mud in them and my feet were a white wrinkly mess. Today would be a good day to have camp shoes. Then I ate my chili Mac next to Ozzie’s owner, Free, and tried to recover from the near meltdown. Free said that he had taken a break at the previous shelter with a few older women, which I found out were the same crowd that I spent time with at the cookie lady’s. I was sad to miss out on more people that I know, especially after such a lonely day of hiking. My phone signal was shit for most of the day, which combined with the muddy tunnel made for a very claustrophobic hike.
As I ate, who came walking up but disco and moss! The dogs greeted each other and then got themselves going barking at nothing. Hopefully they will keep the bears away because my food bag is poorly situated on a low branch after having fussed with it for nearly 40 minutes. The first branch I picked broke under the strain of my 4.5 days worth of food. Then I couldn’t get a good toss on my next choice and when I finally got it, it seemed like it was too close to the trunk of another tree so I pulled it down. Then I got my tossing bag stuck in a smaller tree while trying to get to a branch above it. I finally spied a lower branch on a different tree and said F THIS. If the bear can get my food, fine. What a shit show.
Now I’m finishing this to the sound of rushing water and the occasional snapping sound that makes me think my food bag is definitely a goner.
Mile 1592.2 to mile 1606.3 (14.1)
Total miles: 603.1
Creature feature: a little slate gray bird with a light grey underside chirped and followed me from tree to tree for a few minutes. He looked as if his underside had been dipped in light paint. Heard a short sharp caw that came from a woodpecker. Getting to the point where I can hear that call and actually know what it is. Those 2 silly dogs. Oh and a hummingbird landed on a branch while I was brushing my teeth before bed. I still find their presence out here confusing and magical.