It poured all night long. The rain woke me up throughout the night as it drummed on the tin roof of the shelter. Around 5am, I saw the red beams of people moving around in the shelter. I had intentions to get the 10.5 miles for the day out of the way in time to have lunch in Manchester and get to the hostel in the early afternoon to work through a backlog of blog posts and get off my feet. With that in mind, I forced myself to get out of my sleeping bag and retrieve my food bag from the rain. It’s comforting to watch other people teeter and hobble with their first few steps. We all look like weebles for the first few minutes of being upright.
I sat on the bench under the shelter porch and put my breakfast together through half open eyes. I have to do something about the amount of sleep I’m getting. It’s an hour or two short nearly every night. As I ate, the couple from Tennessee (Lewis & Clark) squished and folded and squished their air mattresses some more to get them packed away. Then they joined me in eating silent breakfast. The stratton pond shelter has a huge porch with a picnic table and two benches along the length of each side. so many surfaces for hikers to spread their gear and their butts. After breakfast, I went through the task of changing into my shorts in my sleeping bag, which is easier said than done when you’re clammy from all the rain, sweating through the night and covered in borrowed bug spray. I’ve managed to bum spray from 2-3 people every day. Thank goodness. I think i would have gone even more mad without it. It’s like everything with wings in VT bites. One bite on the outside of my ankle got angry and swollen with a red circle around it. Not to worry, it’s not a tick, but my body definitely does not like whatever creature attacked me.
I was on the trail around 615. Trail may be a strong word for much of what I walked through for the first two hours. There were mud pits scattered throughout much of the morning and small seasonal sources of water were transformed into streams that spilled onto the trail in many places. I managed to keep my feet from being submerged in muddy water for about 20 minutes. As I tried to cling to the edge of one gnarly spot, my right foot slid into the heart of the puddle and i nearly fell trying to prevent the other foot from going in too. There’s a spectrum of wet feet ranging from clammy to actively gushing water from your shoes. It may seem futile, but even after they get submerged, I try really hard to stay out of the deepest part of puddles to avoid the feeling of water filling my shoes.
I gave up on my raincoat after about two miles. It felt like a greenhouse and the rain had slowed to a drizzle. It’s so much easier to walk in warm rain, but at a certain point it started pouring so back on the raincoat went until the sun came out around 11. I felt rushed and preoccupied most of the morning. I was talking myself down from the anxiety ledge over something personal, which sort of helped, but I kept getting stuck in a loop of playing out conversations. Such a pointless exercise. I should have put on music, but I ruminated instead. My second career. The elevation changes were pretty mild today. The terrain ranged from 12 foot wide mud pits to 3 foot wide root-filled tunnels. Around the halfway mark, the trail took us down a woods road, which was a nice break from feeling closed in by a wall of green.
At the intersection where the trail turns back into the woods, there’s an overlook called Prospect Rock (a popular name for viewpoints that look down on towns) (too picture for today). I love sunny days more than anything, but there’s also something to be said for the mysterious feeling of clouds hanging over the ridges. Weezy and her new hiking partner got to the viewpoint right behind me. She has friends lined up to join her for all 12 of her days that she’s out section hiking the Long Trail. I attempted to engage, but they were somewhat insular, so I turned inward and ate a snack in silence. Then I made my way back across the dirt road and into the woods where the trail finally rolled up and down in such a way that made for far few mud flats. Weezy and her friend (whose name I think is Wyoming) passed me as I stopped to filter water. About an hour later, I passed them as they finished up a snack break. It felt awkward to walk by in total silence, so I said “that’s a nice rock” as I passed and Weezy said “yep” looking away from and continued talking to her friend. Something about the distant response pushed me over the edge and I started to cry as I walked away. It’s hard to even explain why because who is Weezy to me anyway? But it pushed all of my lonely insecure buttons that were already half depressed. I definitely should have put music on at that point, but I think I was too dazed and sad to realize what would help. The last 3 miles were numb and listless. I was still somewhat able to appreciate my surroundings, especially the many streams that weren’t on my map. the amount of water felt like I was somewhere.
I made it to the road crossing around 1215 where I met a guy in his late twenties named Kick Step who was also hitching into town. We stood with our thumbs out and I tried to look pleasant, which was not easy to do given my mood and the amount of mud caked to my legs. They looked like a pollock painting. As we stood there, an older gentleman named shutterbug (for obvious reasons), arrived. We had been assured by the caretaker at the top of Stratton Mountain than it would be a cinch to get a ride at that parking lot, and she was right. About 5 minutes after I arrived, we had a ride with a guy whose car smelled like stale beer from what I think was a keg bucket in the trunk area. All 3 of us squished into the beermobile and made small talk for the 10 minute drive to the Price Chopper. I wandered around the store with my pack in the lower part of my mini-cart, trying hard to stick to my list because I knew I had a box of food waiting for me at the shelter. so far I haven’t really run into the problem of not liking my mailed food. The only thing i’m getting tired of are tuna packets, so I’m going to switch to the trusty peanut butter frito wrap for awhile. I also didn’t realize the tuna packets weigh 3 oz a piece, so maybe the transition can save me a bit of weight too. (Are all of these details getting old? I can’t say that I have the ability to omit them, but I do wonder how much people skim over them. but that’s fine. this is partially for me too). I bought fixings for dinner and yogurt for breakfast because the hostel has a full kitchen. Salad! in a bag, with avocado and lemon juice. Oh avocado, how I miss you.
As I bagged my groceries into a stuff sack dedicated for the odd carrying of things, I heard my name called out in a drawl. I looked up to find Clark heading out of the store. He and Lewis had already eaten lunch and were finishing up their shopping. We all had separate plans to stay at the same hostel this evening with the exception of kickstart who was heading back to the trail. As I wheeled my cart outside, I realized my mistake in food shopping first beacuse now I had to carry my groceries around while I walked to the outfitters and lunch. Speaking of lunch, it was already over an hour past eating time for me. I ate a banana and dithered over where to get food. I decided on the burrito place because it was in the same direction as the outfitter and there’s no backtracking in town, if it can be helped. the walk to the outfitters was in full sun, which felt draining even though it was all of 10 minutes. As I approached the store, I saw the pot smoking duo from the glastenbury firetower. then when I went inside, I saw a couple named beaver and llama that stayed at the shelter the night before (also at the same hostel tonight) and peregrina, who I last saw in Dalton. She was her enthusiastic self and gave me a hug when she saw me. When I said I was heading down the street to eat, she invited herself a long. I was happy for company at the time, but quickly regretted my decision because she took another 30 minutes to get out of the store. Then she wanted to go say goodbye to Ozzie (the white dog I met a couple of days ago). I finally had to say, hey I’m going to go start eating because I’m about to lose it. Regarding Ozzie, he is heading home early because he had terrible chaffing from his harness. I noticed it the night I met him. I asked his owner about the chaffing, but he seemed nonplussed because Ozzie hadn’t complained. Our dog Red came away from a porcupine with quills covering his face and never made a peep, so I feel skeptical about the idea of dogs reliably forecasting their pain. But I let it go, because I figured he knows his dog better than I do. So no more Ozzie pictures.
At lunch (aka 2p meltdown time), Peregrina talked nonstop, which meant she wasn’t really eating her food. I finally had to say hey, eat your food because I want to go get ice cream and get to the hostel. Yes, that’s right. I got ice cream again. Chocolate cookie something or other and cookie dough. Not the most exciting, but it was cold and that felt good. Manchester feels like a shiny mountain town, which is an image that is solidified by the presence of factory outlets and gaggles of tourists. A strange but useful little place. I called the hostel owner as I finished my ice cream and he arrived about 10 minutes later. I bid Peregrina farewell and was finally on my way to the Green Mountain House hostel, about two hours later than I had hoped.
this place is incredible. It’s an entire single family home dedicated as the hostel with a smaller adjacent building where the owners live during the hostel season. The downstairs has a fully stocked kitchen and dining area, a computer (from which I’m typing this entry. SO MUCH EASIER than my phone), and a large living room full of couches. Upstairs there are 3 large bedrooms with twin beds, sleeping a total of 7 people, 2 bathrooms, and a laundry room. It’s by far the nicest place I’ve stayed and I wish I could take a zero day here tomorrow, but there’s no room at the inn. Not that I really need a zero, but the mud has sucked my soul these last few days. I’m finishing this up to the sound of a quiet house because the other hikers have wisely gone to bed before me. I meant to write this earlier, but there were interesting conversations to be had and chores to be done. I got a few tips on where to stay in NH. I aired out my sleeping bag on the clothesline after yet another night of sweating profusely. Did some laundry. Cooked myself dinner while the rest of the people waited for over an hour for their pizza delivery. Talked to a guy named tornado about loneliness and hiking alone. He’s hiked with the same woman for over 600 miles and they parted ways, so he feels afloat. He also has experience with trenchfoot (and a subsequent infection), which I am now frightened of because I don’t have camp shoes and there’s just no way to keep your feet dry in this mud. Now on to editing and posting old entries because there’s no telling what kind of cell signal I will have in the coming weeks. In all likelihood I will have to post them in chunks when I stay at hostels.
Mile 1640.1 to mile 1650.7 (10.6)
Total miles: 647.5
Creature feature: pretty quiet day in the woods. can’t remember seeing anything of note but I did catch some great sunset clouds and another newt