Woke up around 510 and then again at 5:22 and again at 540 when I decided I should just get up for good. My goal for today is somewhat long (16.8), but manageable if I get a good start. My eyes felt heavy. I switched into my spandex and opened the valve of my sleeping pad so that I wouldn’t be tempted to lay in bed while eating breakfast. I packed what I could and then made the wobbly walk over to my food bag which hung securely from its perch. As I sat down to eat at the fire pit in front of the shelter, pretzel asked me if I wanted a piece of cranberry walnut bread with cream cheese. That’s like asking me if I want peanut butter. She gave me a substantial piece with just the right amount of cream cheese. Apparently she bought it at the yellow deli hostile even though she only needed to carry two days of food. Influx and pretzel were whingeing about how much more food they had carried than they needed given their impending pit stop in Hanover. I can relate.
We had an enjoyable breakfast. Then everyone went about breaking down their respective camps. Pretzel stood up and turned around to survey her gear. She laughed and remarked that having shelter to herself is dangerous because her stuff just explodes and she made a yawning gesture with her arms. Her Australian accent made me ache for the company of my good friends, but I will get to see him in a few short weeks! At an old time music camp in Swannanoa, NC.
I put in my contacts, brushed my teeth and packed away my tent. I love sleeping on pine needles because they make for such a clean surface. I filtered the extra water I’d brought up from the stream so that I could deal with my cup & handwashing BS on my way out. As I went to unscrew the filter from the squeeze bag, my thumb punctured the side of the bag just below the plastic threading. I guess this is why I carry an extra bag. I’m glad I didn’t skimp on the wait and send it home like I had considered. Now the question is, do I buy another bag so that I can carry a new extra?
I left camp around 720, which is later than I had hoped, but there’s nothing to be done. The weather was sunny and seemed like it might get hot, but it was quite comfortable at the start. After about five minutes of walking, I rounded the corner to a beautiful glow on the puddle water running down the middle of the trail.
There were several aggravating spots like this right off the bat, but they diminished as I continued walking. The sun was to my left and the birds seemed as if they were calling to each other from one side of me to the other. The trail transitioned to consist mostly of PUDs, as they’re called, which stands for pointless ups and downs. They don’t really bother me, but they aggravate the NOBOS to no end. I’m sure after I have 1000 more miles on my feet it might start to wear on me a bit more.
I went through a pine forest with little to no groundcover, daydreaming about catching up with halfway and also about owning a cabin like the lookout. I was also daydreaming about donuts and trying to figure out whether I should stop somewhere in Hanover for an hour to see about Wi-Fi and catching up on a blog post or two. It’s super time consuming to post them in large batches because I have to weed through pictures, and I get tired of writing so the details drop off (maybe that’s a relief for you??).
I came upon this sign as I crossed a set of powerlines. I thought it was a joke, but there was actually construction down the gravel road, which must have been the source of the industrial noises I’d heard earlier. The woods were unremarkable and easy walking for awhile. I eventually came to a spot where two streams came down the hillside and converged with sunlight glinting off the moving water. Little moments like that often don’t photograph well, especially in the high contrast of midday light. So I took it in with a few deep breaths and moved on.
There was a long road work through Norwich,VT and into Hanover. At a stoplight near the highway interchange, I watched a watched a young mother (I assume?) and small child dance to a song as they waited for the light to turn green. After nearly a mile of walking, I came to the Connecticut river bridge with the VT/NH border (too picture). The water was high and muddy with pine needles floating on the surface. I crossed over to the shady side of the street and walked on the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the road. Dartmouth students ambled up the hill past me on their way to class. I felt like a crusty troll with my muddy legs and sticky skin boasting two days of bug spray residue. I took a right at the main intersection by the campus and walked past a strip of shiny cafes and shops. I saw a hiker pack outside of a coffee shop and nearly went inside to get wifi and see who it was, but I didn’t feel like paying for anything, so I kept walking. I held to my goal of not spending money at any of the restaurants and made my way to the community center slash senior center. It’s a small building that looks more like a house than a community center. I sat at the wooden bench on the small front porch and plugged in my phone. Just as I began to edit some writing, an older woman walked out the front door. I looked up to find Snow White. I called out hellooo and she turned around just as surprised to see me. She is converting to section hiking because her knee is stiff and swollen and she can’t put much weight on it. We sat and talked on the bench for a bit. I saw a couple of hikers across the street and realized that it was Lewis and Clark. I whistled to them and they waved, but I don’t think they knew who or where the noise was coming from.
Snow White and I decided to check out the food coop across the street. I had my mind on yogurt and banana, which I got and it was perfect. I also bought a seltzer to make a bigger water scoop so my new water bottles will nest in it. Snow White went crazy buying little samples of cheese. I came VERY close to buying a blueberry donut, but I managed to walk away from it. I have enough sugar in my life right now. I plugged my phone in at the seating area inside and Snow White and I camped out at an outdoor table. She was like a happy little squirrel with all of her goodies. I ate my strange combination of early lunch food and we talked about her injury, whether fearless would continue on without her, and general life questions we hadn’t gotten around to yet.
I finally hit the trail around 11:45a. After a couple more blocks of road walking, the trail took a left past community ballfields and into the woods. I was met with a steep climb that made me regret my choice to eat yogurt and drink seltzer in the same sitting.
And then it got steeper. It’s hard to see, but there’s a rope on that slab of granite, which I assume is mostly used by southbound people because it wasn’t really necessary going up. At the top of the steep climb, the terrain flattened out to a somewhat rocky, forgettable section. Then it wound down hills and eventually lead to a muddy mess. My feet slipped as I was trying to jujitsu my way through a root filled muddy part and I yelled the word that rhymes with duck at the top of my lungs. About a minute later, I looked up to see a woman coming towards me. I laughed to myself and said did you hear me yell? She replied “yeah.” I apologized and explained that I was just trying to keep my feet dry. She said “it’s OK, it’s really hard.” I felt sheepish about having lost my temper, but the roots had been making me cranky for the last hour. I continued on, still feeling a little embarrassed by my yelling.
The mud bogs and roots returned on the other side of the boardwalk and didn’t let up until after crossing the road and entering a strange little section with dense undergrowth and bare trees above. The red pine floor and the green bounced off each other in a strange way that isn’t quite evident in the picture.
I flopped down on the pine needles and took a break right on the side of the trail to eat a snack and rest my sore feet for a few minutes. I would’ve stayed longer, but the bugs were aggravating. Mosquitoes were actually not getting me because of my super toxic bug spray, but the flies seem immune to such frivolities and were catapaulting towards my face. Then I went through a couple of fields that transitioned to a polkadotted forest with a green cast to it. A lot of strange light today.
Then came a nice change in footing with some pine needles instead of rock jumping. There were the occasional mud bogs that had good logs near enough to walk over instead of rocks. Balancing on the logs reminded me of when I was a kid, and I used the walk across the wooden beam that ran the length of the park swing set (sorry mom).
The trail crossed a pretty little brook twice. After the second time, it rounded behind a small cemetery. Thick stands of ferns hugged both sides of the trail until I hit the road crossing.
Then I went through a grassy lane with a gradual uphill climb. I kept getting waves of cool and warm air that made me think of swimming in the ocean. Saw a few new wildflowers that of course slowed me down.
Eventually, I came to the stream that I planned to stock up on water for the night because there’s an unreliable source at the shelter. The user comments in guthook weren’t promising, so I filtered 3 liters of water and had a snack while dreading the climb up moose mountain with that much extra weight (about 7 pounds of water).
As I started to walk, it felt like my feet were magnetically stuck to the ground. The 1.5 mile climb felt eternal. About 3/4 of the way up, influx caught up with me. He and pretzel had showered and done laundry at the Rec center and had a meal at the Indian place. We whined about water weight because he had also stocked up. As he passed me, I mockingly said you smell like a day hiker! He smirked back at me and continued on his way up the hill making it look way easier than I did. I finally reached the peak, which had a decent view that I wasn’t expecting. Influx and I talked a bit while we rested and had a snack. I forced myself to put my lead pack back on and made it through the last .7 miles faster than I expected. I’d put on a collection of banjo tunes earlier in the day, which I proceeded to listen to as nauseum because the tempo of most of the songs is nearly perfect for a brisk walk and it gave the illusion of having music friend company.
I found a decent tent site to the right behind the shelter and set up there while pretzel arrived and selected her spot down the trail a bit. Then we all cooked dinner with the company of two section hikers that I’d met at Stratton pond. I like in flux and pretzel a lot. They have mellow, funny energy and we get along well. Sadly, I don’t know how long I can keep up with them. They do about 5 miles a day more than I usually do. I made Annie’s Mac and cheese and added pepperoni and coconut powder to it. The pepperoni for salt and the coconut powder partially because I need to get rid of it (been carrying it for about two weeks) and partially for good fats. A pushy flip flop hiker showed up ready to educate us all about the whites. Something about his tone turned me off, but I asked him questions anyway because it’s good to have lots of intell. Here’s pretzel with her namesake giant bag of pretzel sticks.
I wandered off after dinner to brush my teeth, deal with cup rinsing stuff and hang my food bag. Another shit show of a bear line throwing. The first branch I picked was just not good. I should have seen it and not bothered to use it. Too many small saplings below the branch making it easy for a small creature to access it. So I wandered down to the privy and found a better option. 30 minutes later. What a time suck.
The privy for this shelter doesn’t have any walls. Just a roof and a platform. Pretzel balked at it as she came down the path. I offered to stand guard as she used it. On her way back up she said, “bet a man thought of that.” I laughed and heartily agreed. Then I sat on the edge of the shelter with pretzel and in flux shooting the shit a bit with the pastel light of sunset in the distance.
In flux is excited to see sunrise and also couldn’t believe other people had skipped out on the lookout sunrise a few days ago. Yet another reason I like him. I tore myself away around 830 to see if I could catch up on writing Sunday’s post. Now I’m finishing this one to the sound of the wind in the trees and some heavy duty moths throwing themselves at my tent.
Mile 1741.8 to mile 1758.6 (16.8)
Total miles: 755.4
Creature feature: not much happening besides chipmunks and frogs today. I also had my head in my banjo music, which takes focus away from forest noises because my brain gets caught up in listening for melody lines and trying to think about how to play them.