Days 85-99: musical interlude edition 

I’ve decided to keep my personal life more personal, so I will just share a few pictures from my time off the trail. There were drastic ups and downs with ripple effects that I’m still feeling. I’m incredibly grateful for all the wonderful humans I had a chance to see and for the trip back into the land of music. I miss my banjo daily, so it felt good to be immersed in learning. It’s highly likely that I will need to buy a mandolin when I return to muggle world because the class I took had me practicing in nearly every spare moment at camp. Stay tuned for hiking posts. For now, I leave you with pictures: 

An incredible NYC sunset:

A foggy morning quasi-run on Warren Wilson land: 

Crazy evening light amongst singing and dancing: 

A few of my favorite people at an afternoon gay old time jam: 

Post camp waterfall hike with friends and a satisfying light glitch: 

Post camp silliness with new and old friends and an amazing view: 

Yet another bittersweet goodbye with this face: 

Day 77: eggcellent trail magic edition 

Woke up around 515 and went back to sleep for about 40 min. I felt so sore from yesterday and my knees felt stiff. I eventually got up because I was too hungry, and I wanted to leave an abundance of of time to be slow over the kinsmans. I hobbled from my tent up an annoying hill to the privy. Then I sat by the bear box and ate breakfast. Cosmo was there, which I didn’t expect, and a little while later, floater emerged from the shelter. I assumed she and the guys had kept going because the snoring person behind my tent turned out to be a rangy fellow I’d never met. Floater and I remarked on the efforts of yesterday, and I tried to work out some of the stiffness in my angry right knee. 
After breakfast, I put on my sweaty clothes from yesterday and deconstructed my tent. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to muster the energy to climb another mountain as I stuffed things into their designated places in my pack. I went back to the eating area to find that guy and mantis awake and talking about how their bodies managed yesterday. They’re all planning to make a town stop, which will likely result in the lure of staying in a hostel for the night, so this will likely be the last I see of them for who knows how long. I hung out a bit. Then Walden and I went down to the stream to get water. She was equally tired from our nearly 17 mile haul. The stream met up with the trail slightly north of the shelter turn off, so after filtering, we both crossed the stream rather than go back towards the shelter to get on trail at the exact point from which we departed. Little omissions like that are fine with me. I’m pretty sure I will still be a thru hiker if I miss a few yards here and there. 
The trail followed Eliza brook for awhile. I felt anxious about the “tricky rock hop” that my app forecasted, so I peered around every corner waiting for the crossing. When it finally came, it was your run of the mill effort. Maybe it’s harder when the water is higher? I don’t know why I get so worked up about these things. It doesn’t help me get through the scary thing any more than worrying ever helps. 

Eventually the trail began to climb South Kinsman. Walden and I ended up hiking together nearly all day again. We crossed through a boggy area with interesting cliffs in the distance. Then more climbing that became incredibly steep. Here are a few shots heading up the mountain. In the first one you can just make out a teeny tiny Walden sitting at the top of the frame. 

The rocks wound up and around every corner with no apparent end in sight. Around 1030 I stopped to take a break and eat a snack in the middle of the “trail.” Walden continued on but we met each other again not that long after my break because she sat on the rocks waiting for me to come around the bend so she could take my picture. I did my best not to look behind me for most of the climb because it made wobbly to see steepness of the grade from above. Best to just look one step ahead. 
We eventually came to area near treeline that gave us incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Here’s Walden on a couple of the exposed boulders we had to climb. 

The view from the peak was similar to what we’d seen for the last 20 minutes (today’s top pic), so we didn’t stick around for long. On to north kinsman we went, which was a mercifully easier climb than south kinsman. I dropped my pack at the intersection for the short side trail to the view because I didn’t feel like taking it down the short climb. A family of 4 and their dog sat at the edge of the boulder facing Franconia ridge. 

Walden and I sat down beside them and took in the expansive view. I ate the fruit leather I’d grabbed from my bag and asked the mother of the family about the ridge and tomorrow’s weather. They’re out working on the 48 peaks over 4K in NH. I think north kinsman made number 21 for them. Walden took their picture with a sign naming the mountain. Then the mother offered us hard boiled eggs, which I accepted with glee because it’s one of my favorite hiking snacks and I happened to have a babybel cheese left to accompany it.

 I ate my trail magic and basked in the sunshine feeling excited for the ridge and apprehensive about the predicted chance of thunderstorms for tomorrow. I started formulating a plan to take a zero at liberty springs campsite as a backup option to racing bad weather. After about twenty minutes of lounging, I forced myself to get back to walking. I dreaded the long descent from north kinsman. The family said the trail wasn’t sheer boulders and that there were steps cut into the rocks. Of course, we came to open faced rocks with no apparent steps almost immediately. I made a sarcastic remark about asking people from NH about terrain, but we did eventually come to a few places where there were steps and assistance for navigating the steeper sections. 

The egg snack buoyed my energy level for awhile as we picked our way down the mountain. My intention had been to eat lunch at the hut to stretch my lunch food another day. As time went by, I got hungrier and felt increasingly harried. I should have stopped and eaten, but I stubbornly stuck to my plan. This resulted in being nearly inconsolable by the time I got to lonesome lake hut around 2pm. 
I dropped my pack at the foot of the stairs, grabbed my wallet, phone, and water bottle and rushed inside. The huts cook a different soup everyday for hikers to buy for $2 a bowl during the daytime hours. I asked for the day’s offering of split pea soup. Walden and cosmo arrived a few minutes later. I kept my head in my bowl and ate with a singular goal: return to human form before biting someone’s head off. Walden began deliberating about where to stay the night. She needed to get to town in order to buy food, but she had missed the shuttle for a nearby hostel. I didn’t have the patience to weigh in on her ambivalence. I felt dedicated to my plan to continue on to liberty springs, so I spent my time bouncing the idea off of some of the hut staff. With nearly 6 more miles to go and the hour approaching 3p, I left Walden to make her decision and continued on alone. Ominous clouds hovered over the nearby mountains, which made me feel even more intent on leaving as soon as possible. 

I left the hut feeling torn about not sticking with Walden. I didn’t feel like spending the money to stay in town, and I wanted to get more miles out of the way with decent weather, both of which conflicted with her options. I felt okay being alone, but disappointed to not know when we might meet again. 

The trail led me down to lonesome lake, which is surrounded by incredible mountain views. A lone woman swam in the middle of the lake as others sat by the dock gawking at a family of ducks. I followed the boardwalk around the edge of the lake and took a right towards liberty springs. I felt anxious about the unknown climb ahead of me (will it be boulders that slow me down to a crawl? will I get to camp at 8p??) and the potential for rain, so I walked as fast as I could. The trail followed alongside cascade brook with one major crossing of it that required a rock hop. A woman sitting at the brook shrugged and said it would be fine when I commented on the dark clouds overhead. I said, “you must be from NH!” She laughed and said that she was indeed. After the brook, the trail evened out to easy footing and fast walking on a gradual downhill to the interstate. I got a little confused at the road, but finally figured out that the trail goes under the overpass and continues straight. At first I thought I was somehow supposed to cross back over cascade brook which was rather wide at that point. Glad I was wrong about that. 

The trip up from the road consisted of an actual trail for the first mile and a half. I felt so relieved to not be inching up and over boulders. I continued to walk as quickly as I could, making decent time and sweating bullets in the humidity. I took one short break to eat a snack and rest my feet. The trail steepened and became rockier about a mile south of the campsite. I sighed to myself and just kept inching my way up the mountain. 

I made it to the campsite about an hour faster than the info sheet at lonesome lake predicted. Liberty springs is one of the AMC run campsites that has an onsite caretaker and costs $5-10 depending on several factors. The site straddles the trail, with tent platforms to the left and the spring and cooking area/bearboxes to the right. The caretaker for liberty springs turned out to be incredibly helpful and approachable. When she showed me to my wooden tent platform, I asked for advice on effective knots to tie off my guylines since I don’t have a freestanding tent. As she went through a few useful knots, she professed her perfectionism, and I professed my ineptitude, which resulted into her basically setting up my tent for me. I have good spatial reasoning in a lot of contexts, but when it comes to knots, my brain goes haywire. They just don’t compute. I felt sheepish asking for so much help, but I also didn’t want to have my tent collapse on me in the middle of the night, especially a night that may involve rain. As we (she) set up my tent, we talked a bit about her experience as a wilderness therapist. She laughed and seemed excited when I told her I am a therapist. 

The caretaker left to continue overseeing arriving campers,and I grabbed my food to eat dinner in the cooking area. Because of pesky and aggressive bears, campers are required to only cook by the bear boxes. I felt unenthused by the forced socialization, but followed the rules and muddled through dinner conversation with a couple of SOBOs while two different youth groups milled about making a ton of noise as they went through their dinner routine. One of the SOBOs seemed quiet and intriguing. The other one was boisterous and way too energetic for my desired output at the moment. Of course the quiet retreated as soon as he finished eating, leaving me to be the primary receptor of the outsized personality of the other SOBO. Another hiker out for a several-day loop offered me trail mix in the hopes of lightening his pack. I happily agreed to take some to assist in my goal of not resupplying the entire way through the whites. 

The caretaker mentioned at my setup that walking up to mount liberty for sunset was a popular option for people who stay at the site. I considered doing it, but I felt exhausted by the time dinner was over and couldn’t fathom walking 1.1 miles roundtrip on top of what I’d already done for the day. I regretted my decision as the evening light went from orange to the blazing pink of an insane sunset. At that point it was too late to head up, so I cursed myself and gawked through the trees while I filled my water back at the spring. I heard my name, and turned to see that guy frantically searching for the caretaker. He, mantis and floater had just arrived after a frantic hike up from the road. I assumed they would get caught in the vortex of town food and a hostel, but they got a late afternoon hitch back to the trail after their town stop and rushed up the mountain to camp at liberty springs. Floater seemed exhausted and out of sorts, hurrying through her tent set up because she was so tired and hungry. I can relate. We talked while she set up, and I took a dozen terrible pictures of the incredible sunset through the trees. I could make out the Kinsmans in the distance, which felt crazy because I had been standing on those mountains just a few hours before. 

As I settled into my tent, I heard the caretaker giving a demo of how the privy composting system works to the older of the two kids groups. The boys made fake puking noises and were thoroughly disgusted by the system, which of course meant it was their favorite part of staying at the camp according to what the caretaker told me the next day. I’m finishing this to sound of kids goofing off and getting shushed every 5 minutes and the woman next to me shifting around so much that my tent is moving. We have 2 tents crammed onto 1 platform. I don’t know what to expect with the weather tomorrow. I have my mind set on a zero to give my knees a rest and wait for better conditions across the exposed ridge, but if it doesn’t rain, do I keep going? Or do I zero anyway? Oh, in yesterday’s post, I forgot to mention the coincidence of hiking Mt Moosilauke on the same day as seeing a moose. Pretty amoosing, wouldn’t you say? (Sorry, I had to) 

Mile 1807.9 to mile 1819.4 (11.5) 

Total miles: 816.2 

Creature feature: little red squirrels sneaking up to my tent platform trying to get a peek in my food bag 

Day 70: good company edition 

**just kidding. now that most of the hikers have left the hostel, the internet is serviceable for picture uploading. will see what kind of backlog I can get through and still do the chores I need to get done before I leave**

We slept in and made coffee using the chemex and beans that megan brought from home and my camp stove setup. Megan also brought me a baggie of her dry homemade oatmeal mixture that I heated on my stove and added a banana to. So good. We took our stuff down to the dining hall and had breakfast there while the parents of an ambiguously 7 year old kid negotiated not going to an expensive adventure park with her. 

The rest of the day involved a walk to thundering falls, a sunset canoe ride, and eating all the food. The walk to the falls was buggy and humid, but they did not disappoint. We sat by the water and talked until my back hurt from sitting. Then we walked up towards the top of the falls and stood mesmerized by the water until my stomach warned me that the bad place was coming soon. We scrambled back down the roots and pine needles and took a walk over part of the boardwalk that leads to the road on the other side of the falls. So many wildflowers. Megan also noticed this funny little guy that my fancy new app said was Indian cucumber root: 

After lunch we went to the outfitter nearby so I could get more bug spray. So toxic and so necessary for sanity. Then we lounged around and eventually got takeout dinner from a place called the Lookout with the worst logo ever (a busty woman looking through binoculars). But their burger was good, albeit a little painful. Then we took the lodge’s canoe for a spin around the lake. We confirmed that I am too controlling to not sit in the steering position of the canoe. No real surprise there. Megan was a good sport about my front seat driving and I tried my best to moderate myself with varying degrees of success. 

We paddled towards a little island where I though there might be loons based on the direction of the calls we heard earlier. As we edged around the island, we saw a couple of duck-looking creatures a short distance off to the right of the island. Their coloring wasn’t like any duck I’d ever seen, and a little internetting confirmed that they were actually loons! As we got closer, one of them kept looking frantically side to side. I saw a little brown blob near it that looked like a piece of driftwood. Then I realized it was a baby loon, hence the protective scanning from the parent. We decided not to get any closer to avoid stressing them out further even though it was doubly tempting for me because of the chick. 

As we turned the boat around, I noticed something flopping around by my feet. I thought it might be a leaf or a stick until I looked closer and realized it was a writhing snake. Just a little garter, but still: a snake. at my feet. I pulled my legs up and did a little freak out noise. The snake slithered back into the covered tip of the canoe. He continued to poke his head out periodically on the ride back to the lodge’s dock. I tried paddling with my feet up on the side of the canoe, but it hurt my butt too much, so I had to settle for stomping my foot whenever mr snake considered coming out. 

We caught a hint of pink in the sky as we pulled the canoe out of the water. Said goodbye to the snake and the pond and went back to our room where we went to sleep to the unsettling sound of fireworks (again). 

Miles: 0 that count and about 2 bonus miles to the falls and back 

Total miles: 725.8 

Creature feature: that persistent little snake, the loons, and day hikers gawking the falls. 

Day 69: visitor edition 

I slept horribly last night. Moss snores as if someone is choking him. I tossed and turned and woke up nearly every two hours until my alarm went off at 445. I managed to cut it off after about 4 revolutions of beeping. No one else seemed to notice it. I snuck a peak out the eastern window of the cabin and saw a band of pastel pink just below a ceiling of clouds. That was enough to get me moving. I grabbed my puffy coat, my zseat pad (purchased somewhere in northern PA and I’ve finally decided it is worth the 2 ounces), and my bathroom supplies for some post sunrise necessities. Slipping my feet into damp shoes has to be one of my least favorite feelings, second only to putting on cold, damp spandex. 

The view from the roof deck started out like this and slowly progressed to today’s top picture. I can’t believe no one else decided to get up for sunrise given the rare 360 degree view above treeline. But everybody has their priorities. Here’s a view of the cabin in the morning light:

 I had thoughts of going back to sleep once I got back inside, but it wasn’t meant to be. I stared at the ceiling and daydreamed about owning this little place. Ketchup started to pack his things in the sleeping loft. That was my cue to eat breakfast, which I did half laying in my sleeping bag with a very focused disco staring at my peanut butter covered probar. Of course I gave him a bite because I am weaaaak. 

My goal for today is the pomfret road crossing, which is only 11 miles away. No need to rush out of the cabin, so when I saw moss put his wet stuff on the porch in the sun, I followed suit. I took everything out of my bag and strapped it to the porch railing upside down. I also put my rank, sodden shoes out there with the insoles pulled out. Then I laid in my sleeping bag talking and zoning out until about 745. Halfway and I whined to each other about likely having to wade through puddles today. It was so hard to leave this little place, but it had to be done. I shimmied into my damp shorts under the cover of my sleeping bag and proceeded to repack my now completely dry bag. 

After one more trip to the roof, I was on trail by about 830. The walk was surprisingly not muddy. It started with a rocky descent to a wide, leafy lane with easy footing. That lasted for all of ten minutes until the AT took a right into the woods and became a squirrelly, narrower path. Wet dog smell emanated from somewhere on my person, and it’s not because I spent the night near a wet dog. if you ever run across a thru hiker who smells putrid, keep in mind it’s not necessarily because they’re lazy and don’t do their laundry. Moisture does terrible things to cloth. 

I made remarkably good time for me. Apparently I thrive on primarily little ups and downs because that’s what the trail was for the first 4 miles, which I covered in under 2 hours. Then it transitioned to a wide pine forest that had a lot of my favorite fern, which reminds me of a pinwheel. As I stopped to get water from a little rain fed stream, I found a brick of cheese laying on the ground in its wrapper. I didn’t want it and smiley, who passed me as I was stopped, didn’t want it. It seemed irresponsible to leave it there. I reluctantly packed it in my side pocket to throw out at the farm stand 2 miles away. I asked everyone I knew if they wanted it, but no one was desperate enough for unlabeled ground cheese. Can’t say I blame them. 

I came to the view of ascutney mountain and thought about the hike FP And I did there last summer (?) and how I can see that same mountain from the family room window of a friend’s childhood home. It’s so strange to see it from here after having walked this far. After the viewpoint, I went through a field with sweet smelling tall wildflowers that i now know are milkweed.

There was a gradual downhill from the viewpoint to route 12. I met a woman who lives in Woodstock walking her 3 dogs on the way down. This goober is the only one who came over to say hi. 

At route 12, I hung a left and made the sunny walk to On the edge farm stand, which sells homemade pies, local smoked meats, honey and all kinds of things I wanted but couldn’t carry. I bought a small mixed berry pie (maybe 5-6 inch diameter?) with a brown sugar crumble topping and proceeded to eat the whole thing sitting out at the picnic table. 

I wish I had grabbed a cold drink or a Gatorade because I was so thirsty halfway up the gigantic climb from route 12. On my way back to trail after lingering a bit too long in my pie coma, a man from the trailhead parking lot says “hey! Are northbound??” I called back that I was, and he said “come over here!” I should have waved him off after that kind of command, but I thought maybe he had trail magic. As it turned out, he wanted to mansplain to me all of my shelter options coming up in the next 20 miles even after I told him I wasn’t sleeping on trail that night. Then he told me he was a hiker who had hurt his knee. All I could think was that if he was a true thru hiker, he wouldn’t be asking me to stand here in the blazing sun on the side of the road to hear his BS. he would be opening the trunk of his car to offer me a soda and a seat in the shade. I left the conversation aggravated about the lost time and for letting myself get sucked into a pointless conversation out of politeness. 

After the horrible climb from the road, during which I got a stitch in my side probably because of the pie, the trail transitioned to an enjoyable down hill. It crossed a stream and then popped out into the field with buttery yellow flowers and a loud cricket. 

Halfway caught up with me in the field, but then fell behind again. I saw him at a stream while I was getting much needed water. I also dumped water on the back of my neck, which felt incredible after the sweaty climb. Halfway took a step down from the trail to the stream and launched forward about 15 feet, nearly going headfirst into the raised rocks by the stream. His toe apparently caught a root, which made him lose his balance and pitch forward. So frightening how close he came to the rock wall. I left him as he started to get water after being dazed and in pain for a couple of minutes. 

There were so many hills today. Short, steep ups with long downhills all over the place. I also saw what I believe is maple syrup tubing off to my left with about a mile to go. Eventually I came to the last twenty yards of my day, which looked like this: 

It’s a little hard to tell what’s happening, but basically this is a swollen creek with a steel cord stretched across the middle for this exact situation. Or so I assume. I stared at the water and felt thwarted. There was absolutely no way for me to rock hop across. I took off my shoes and slung them over my neck. I went to a section upstream from the cord thinking maybe I could ford it at a shallow point before the rocks. I took a couple of steps in the water and stuck my pole into the rushing middle. It went about two feet down. Negative. That’s above my knees. there’s no way I’m walking through water that deep and moving that fast. So I went back and stared at the cord. It’s there. It must be usable. I grabbed the cord and held my poles above the water because it was moving too quickly for them to be of any use. Then I walked across the rocks in water up to my shins focusing on taking fully planted steps. It took all of 30 seconds to make it to the other side. Relieved, I dried off my shins with my socks and put my shoes back on. Then I walked up to the road and sat to wait for my steady. Her name is Megan, which I shall now use because it will be easier. 

As I waited, I ate a hard boiled egg with the pepperoni I bought at the farm stand. So salty and so good with egg. A father and daughter arrived to put sodas as trail magic in a bucket down by the creek. I snagged an orange one and was in hiker heaven on the side of the road. As I ate, I saw halfway approach the far side of the creek down below. I went down to see how he planned to cross. I told him my way, but he refused because he didn’t want to get his feet wet. Instead he wandered up and down the creek for 20 minutes looking for a rock hopping option. he finally found a way because he can take longer steps. So stubborn. 

I stood with halfway while he drank his soda. Megan arrived while halfway was still around so she got to meet him and flip phone who showed up shortly after she did. Halfway asked for a picture of the 3 of us (hikers). Then he and flip phone went on their way. I showed megan the crazy creek crossing, and as we went down to the water’s edge, disco and moss arrived. Disco bit at the water and then hesitated to cross it, but he swam towards me anyway. I was ready to catch him if needed, but he’s a pro and walked right to the rocks beside me. Megan held him so he wouldn’t head up trail and cross the semi busy road. From the opposite bank, Moss asked how I crossed. Without hesitating, he tromped through the water and said “I just washed my shoes” with a smile. So funny to see how different people deal with each situation. 

Before halfway left, I offered to take his trash with us back to the lodge, which is a different kind of trail magic. Anything to help lighten someone’s load. I was sad to see him go, having no clue when I would catch up with him. Then Megan and I went to the killington deli and brought food back to the lodge. It was hard for me to transition from the trail to vacation space and hard for her to transition from the end of an intense dance program to being far away after an exhausting drive. But we finally found a mutual space and settled into our pond view room. 
Mile 1718.1 to mile 1729.0 (11.1) 
Total miles 725.8
Creature feature: I honestly don’t remember because I’m finishing this 3 days after the fact. 

Day 68: flash flood edition 

I woke up at 530 this morning. Then again at 6 and again at 630 when I gave up and started packing my gear. I was basically ready to go by 7, but breakfast didn’t start until 8, so I laid back in bed and downloaded a bird app and a plant identifying app. Been meaning to do that for about 3 town stops now. Let the nerdiness continue. As I lay in bed, I heard the trill of loons calling from the pond. Such a chortle of a sound. Then I heard halfway from his room say “loons!” He texted me around 730 to say breakfast was open early. I ate my granola breakfast and deli banana with the yogurt from the kitchen. Strawberry. Bleh. But it did the trick. I packed out an English muffin and a hard boiled egg for later in the day. 
I was back on trail around 815. The air was thick with moisture and mosquitoes, which kept biting me on my shoulders through my damn tshirt. The trail was soggy, but not passable, and I made good time to thundering falls. They definitely earned their name, as I could hear the crash of water from the road crossing a quarter mile away. After the falls came a neverending climb. Sweat dripped off my nose as I looked down at my phone texting with a music friend making plans for a little post-band camp extended social time. By the time I reached the top of the climb, I was drenched. I heard thunder in the distance and hoped it would roll on by. I came to the power lines and tripped on a rock, which sent a dog into a barking fit. Which dog? Disco! He ran towards me through the tall grass.

 I found moss hanging out on a good rock checking out his map. He whined about the climb, which I appreciated. We had a brief discussion about where we were headed for the day. I’m hoping to get to a place called the lookout, which is a privately owned unfurnished cabin that hikers are allowed to sleep in on Lookout Farm. The beauty of it is that there is a rooftop 360 degree view, which means: SUNRISE. 
The rain began as soon as I left moss and disco. It quickly went from a light drizzle to a downpour. My brain kept saying rush! Get under a roof! But there was no point in rushing because the nearest roof was about 3 miles away, and I was already soaked. About 30 minutes into the rain, I heard a noise behind me and turned around to find halfway and a woman named smiley on my ass. We were basically nose to nose when I looked behind me. This made me cranky, as did watching halfway nearly sprint down the trail. I plodded along, thinking to myself that I couldn’t possibly rush or else I would fall. What happened in that exact moment? I totally ate in on a muddy, flat rock and went down in a semi-controlled fall. I wrenched my left thumb and got a muddy right butt cheek, but no permanent damage done. Trail slapped again. 
I got to the closest shelter about an hour later. Moss, smiley and halfway sat at the edge of the platform looking bedraggled and a soggy disco lay in the back of the shelter. I unloaded my sopping pack, hung up my rain coat on a nail, and immediately stripped off my socks with thoughts of trench foot in my head. I plopped down next to halfway and made myself an open faced peanut butter frito honey English muffin. I have to say, it’s better in wrap form. I couldn’t handle disco’s begging face so I gave him a small bite of peanut butter muffin. I started to get cold and the rain had finally let up, so I left before everyone else. 
I expected halfway to catch me at any moment, but I didn’t see him again for many hours. Hours which were spent in rain that ranged from steady to torrential downpour accompanied by thunderstorms. The first hour after the shelter actually wasn’t bad. There was no hope of dry feet because of puddles, but it wasn’t actively raining. The trail wound around and did the usual rollercoaster of middle ground where we aren’t climbing mountains, but it’s not flat pasture land either. I kept seeing moose poop, simultaneously hoping to see a moose while being scared shitless that one would be standing in the trail ahead of me. My vigilant scanning ahead slowed down my pace, but still no halfway. 
Then came the rain. Again. And it didn’t stop until well after I reached my destination 5 miles down the trail. At some point in the middle of afternoon, I heard a large rustle and flapping noise about 4 feet to my left. A tan speckled bird about the size of a chicken went half running, half flying away from me making an awful mournful screeching noise. I heard what I think was the sound of baby birds and realized that I must have disturbed their nest with my noisy walking. I’m pretty sure the bird was some sort of grouse. It put up a huge fuss and I was worried it would fly at me, but I needed to get around it, so I kept walking. It finally flew off, screeching at me a little more for good measure. How do birds like that survive snakes? I hoped it would go back to its nest as soon as possible. 
During the height of one thunderstorm, I happened to be climbing towards the top of a ridge. As the tree cover thinned, the rain pelted me. By this point, I was walking in several inches of water and leaves. I couldn’t decide what to do. If the highest point of the ridge was exposed, it would be foolish to head there in a thunderstorm. But standing still would just make me colder (no chance of being wetter: I was soaked to the skin and hadn’t bothered to put on my raincoat because it couldn’t stand up to that kind of rain anyway). I huddled near the edge of a low pine tree, which afforded me a tiny break in rainfall, but not enough to warrant sticking around. I figured I would be better off to just keep moving. 

The slopes turned into rivers. Puddles grew to wading pools in the middle of the path. My feet sloshed around in my shoes, and I worried about the abilities of my theoretically waterproof bag.* I keep my sleeping bag, pad and clothes in a trash compactor bag to cover just such situations. I felt a buzzing in my hip pocket where I’d relocated my phone. Flash flood alert for the area until 630p. It just gets better! 
The rain let up a fraction as I made my way closer to the Lookout. I had about a mile to go when I heard more rumbling off in the distance. I picked up the pace as best I could, but at least one step out of 10 ended with my heel sliding three or four inches through leaf strewn mud. The rain intensified, and I gave up on rushing. 

The turn off for the shelter led me to a steep rocky drive, at the end of which stood the lookout cabin. I tried to take pictures of the inside, but it’s hard to make sense of the space. It’s a one room cabin with a sleeping loft, a theoretically working fireplace, and enough floor space to fit a dozen hikers. The owners of lookout farm allow us to sleep here, and I really hope it stays that way for a long time because the view is incredible. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

I opened the door to find flip phone reading in his hammock and a guy named ketchup reading upstairs. They’d been here since noon. Ketchup actually beat most of the rain, but flip phone got soaked. His clothes hung on a bear line slash clothes line across the room. I picked a spot by a non leaking window and put my pack down. Then I stood on the porch and changed into dry clothes, hoping I would be able to hear someone coming and warn them to wait because I was basically half naked at any given moment. I wrung out my clothes and hung them on the line even though there’s little chance of them drying overnight. Then I set up my sleeping pad, laid my sleeping bag on it and proceeded to lay there like a zombie for a few minutes. 
A couple of hikers dropped their bags on the porch and climbed up to the viewing deck. Then they came inside and said something about testing out their new tent. We all balked at the idea and I said, “wait, are you from Vermont??” Thinking only someone who grew up in this environment would be willing to set up a tent right now. I was close: they’re from New Hampshire. They were good sports about the ribbing and did indeed set up their tent. Crazy fools. 
A soaked and ragged halfway appeared about 20 minutes later. He looked wrecked, and it took him awhile to settle in. Then came moss, disco, smiley, and eventually a woman they’re hiking with named picnic (who I had lunch with on top of bromley mountain). They decided to stay here instead of continuing on 2 miles to the an official shelter up the trail. 7 people and 2 clotheslines and it feels barely half full. 
The sun decided to peek out while we all made our dinners. I abandoned my food and went up to the deck to this view: 

During the second half of dinner, moss fried cured ham that he got from a friend and has been trying to figure out when to cook for nearly a month. He just kept sending it to himself farther up the trail.

 He shared pieces of it with all of us. I don’t normally eat or care about ham, but it was so salty and so good. Sorry pig, I won’t eat you again for a long time. A new thunderstorm rolled in while we ate. Lightning flashes brightened the windows for a second at a time. halfway and I looked at the sight and found ourselves in the middle of a red and yellow blob on the radar. A giant clap of thunder made us all exclaim like children witnessing their first storm. 
We all settled into our respective areas and I began to write. I happened to look out the window a few minutes later see that the sun had come back out, casting a bright glow on the fog rolling through the mountains. I couldn’t resist, so I put on my soggy shoes and climbed back up the ladder to watch the sky (top picture for today is the western view). The eastern view had periodic rainbows, which are sadly hard to see in the picture, and giant cloud mountains: 

Moss and his hiking buddies stood on the deck with flip phone and enjoyed a green nightcap. I stood on the roof wishing I could sit down and hoping the sun would stick around long enough to see it set. Sadly a wall of fog consumed the view, so I went back down to my sleeping bag. Standing still makes my legs stiffen more than I’ve ever experienced before. Moss came inside and began giving disco a mini leg massage that broke my heart with cuteness and made me miss my dog. 

Later on, he patted disco’s little dog bed, motioning for him to lay down and disco promptly laid in between moss’s legs on top of his sleeping bag. I’m finishing this to the waning light and the rustle of hikers shifting in their bags. I’m about to be one of those noisy shifters because these long johns are way too hot to sleep in. 
Mile 1704.8 to mile 1718.1 (13.3) 
Total miles: 715.1 
Creature feature: In the middle of one of the storms, heard a noise like a horse chuffing off to my left that freaked me out, but I never saw the source of it. Caught sight of a black and white warbler during one of the 2 hours that it wasn’t raining. that silly disco dog. And whatever kind of bird it was that I scared. Likely a grouse. 

*i did some searching on the zpacks website this morning. as it turns out, my pack is made from dyneema, which is highly water resistant, but not waterproof. I forgot that I chose it over cuben fiber (waterproof) because of the durability. Not the best choice for the soggy green tunnel. Oh well. 

Day 63: Little Rock pond edition 

I tossed and turned for the second half of the night. Snow White and fearless tented right next to me and Snow White kept mumbling in her sleep. Fearless would call out “Paula” (snow white’s actual name) over and over until she stopped mumbling. I woke up for good around 530. My sights were set on either another shorter day or a day of almost 15 miles. I tried not to get too attached to the longer mileage because as I told fearless when I left camp, the feet will decide. I have more than enough time to get to my Friday destination with shorter mileage, so I just have to deal with my own antsiness and fear that I’m being lazy. I’ve realized that the shorter days don’t feel hard enough and are too close to “vacation,” which somehow seems wrong. I’m so bad at “relaxing.” See, I can’t even say the word like it’s a real thing. 
It was cold enough to warrant a puffy coat and my fleece hat during breakfast. Fearless drank her coffee from her tent, refusing to leave the warmth of her sleeping bag. She eventually emerged and we gathered the others’ food bags from the trees. I had already eaten and was nearly ready to go at that point. We exchanged contact info because fearless worries that her hiking partners will mutiny soon and she joked about needing me as a backup.  

The trail started out with an easy walk alongside Griffith lake that consisted primarily of boardwalk. Here’s a view of the lake: 

There were wrinkled and fading lady slippers in clumps below the wooden planks. I worked on my resupply list while I walked, hoping I would get enough service to let it sync with my mom’s phone. That’s the main way we communicate food info. About a half mile past the lake my phone started to buzz, but it was another few minutes before service was good enough to respond. Buzzcut and I have been talking the last day or so about the potential for her to join me on the trail so we both have company and she can continue to chip away at the trail. Sadly, I’m not sure it will work out because she’s in a lot of knee pain even with minimal activity. Then there’s more planning to be done for the visit from my steady. It’s frustrating how expensive rental cars are and I’m just far enough away from New York to make it a long drive. I have to somehow figure out a shuttle situation for Sunday if we are going to make things work. This is easier said than done when I can’t make phone calls, and every time I stop to work on something, I get bombarded with mosquitoes chomping through my clothes. While I sat in my little pocket of civilized air waves, I got the list out to my mom, confirmed a couple of things and promptly lost service as soon as I started walking. 

The trail began to climb and eventually led me to baker peak which consists of exposed ledges that seemed to just kept going. 

Here’s the view of the surrounding mountains: 

The ledges gave way to pine forest and the trail descended gradually. I was preoccupied by guilt about how far the drive might be for such a short visit from my steady. My forehead slammed against a tree that had fallen over the trail some time ago. I yelled DAMN IT out loud, and I turned around and said “honestly” to the log, like it was somehow it’s fault for my distraction. I saw my service dwindling, and I knew the trail would continue to descend, so I plopped down off to one side and started trying to figure out a shuttle. I tried calling someone who works out of Hanover, but he couldn’t hear me on the other end of the line. I had just enough service to send him an email, which helped with my preoccupation. 
The trail continued to descend over the next 3 miles. It was gradual with flat, soft sections, which made for comfortable walking. I could hear the sound of a stream in the distance off to my left and the sunlight warmed me. The trail eventually transitioned to muddier rockier terrain that slowed me down and made me question the longer option for today. I could feel the cold swipe of mud against the inside of my shins as I fumbled around the rocks. 

The trail took a left turn and ran alongside big branch stream (brook? I don’t know what distinguishes these things). It’s a wide body of water with giant slabs of rocks breaking up the flow. I stopped at the bridge and ate a snack. 

Shutterbug caught up to me and we both admired the bridge. We leap frogged for much of today, taking breaks in different spots at different times. On the other side of the bridge, I got distracted by the intense flow of water over the boulders: 

After the brook, I walked past big branch shelter, which is right on the trail facing the stream. Quite the spot, but I couldn’t see much of a tenting area. The woods became dreary as the trees thinned and the clouds rolled in. I came to a registry point, so I stopped to sign myself in. Shutterbug was right behind me. We came to the road crossing together, but I stopped for lunch because I didn’t feel like walking another hour to eat at the next shelter. 
I made my lunch wrap on a rock while being thwarted by cell service that dropped and came back constantly. A woman with a baby on her back emerged from the southbound side of the trail on her way to the parking lot. We said hello. The kid toddled around like a little monkey while her mother got their lunch from the car. She asked me questions about my hike and said she couldn’t do it right now because of the toddler and a 4 year old. I dallied on my rock, sending a few texts and generally being lazy. As I put my pack on, I saw a hiker walking down the road with a dog. At first I thought it was another grungy twenty something dude.  Then I realized it was an androgynous looking queer person. I nearly jumped up and down in my spot. Instead, I waited under the guise of saying hello to their dog. I have seen exactly zero people who present the way I do (physically), so I made an unreasonable effort to keep up with them. We talked for a bit, but then they went silent and didn’t ask any questions, so I followed suit because I had been driving the conversation before that. We pulled off to let some day hikers with a dog pass by. The people asked about what we were hiking and assumed we knew each other. I said “oh no we just ran into each other around the corner.” The people were flabbergasted that we didn’t know each other. This kind of thing happens all the time. Depending on the day, I talk with at least half a dozen people who I just met but it looks (and smells) like we’ve hiked all the way from Georgia together. 
After about twenty minutes of silence, the potential queer (not to make assumptions), stopped to have a snack. I didn’t want to invade their space, so I kept going even though I was dying to stay and talk. I did however stop after a few feet and ask them what their pronouns are. This was sort of a secret handshake move, but I couldn’t help myself. When the person said “I prefer they” I felt so relieved. Finally! Someone who gets it. We talked for a minute about how it’s sometimes easier to go by she around people who are clueless. Then they made a joke about how “they” might have become my trail name if I had tried to get the seemingly predominant straight hiker community to use that pronoun. To be honest, I don’t really care for “they” either so I’m kind of screwed in the pronoun department because none of them fit. I said goodbye and kept walking, assuming I would see them at the next shelter where they were thinking about taking a swim break in the pond. 

The rest of the walk to Little Rock pond was not memorable. Rocky, flat, and kind of aggravating. I got there around 130 to find shutterbug dithering over whether to keep going. I had intentions of going to the next shelter (as did the queer*), but I wanted to wait to confirm that they were headed that way before I made the effort. Shutterbug decided to stay because he doesn’t often get to camp by a beautiful pond. I went down to the water to wait for the arrival of the queer. Time passed. I got antsy. I filtered water. The mother of some kids who were already camped out at the shelter arrived and I asked her if she’d seen a woman (sorry, queer person, it was the most straightforward descriptor) with a black dog. She said no. I was so perplexed and disappointed. I guess the queer took the side trail around the opposite side of the pond? That’s the only thing I can make out. When fearless arrived I asked if she’d seen them. Again, no. I finally gave up, but then I couldn’t decide whether to go chasing after them to the next shelter. This might seem ridiculous, but they’re honestly like the 3rd queer person I’ve seen in the last 61 days. I live in Brooklyn. I’m surrounded by queer people all the time. It’s comforting and it makes me feel reflected. Being surrounded by non-queer people is yet another way of feeling alone. Those of you who fit in all the boxes might find this hard to relate to because it’s not often that you enter a space where some part of you isn’t reflected in those around you. 
Anyway, I didn’t put my tent up as Snow White and fearless went about choosing their spots. I decided to give them my reasons for being ambivalent, which resulted in a short conversation about what it means to be gender queer and how it’s different from sexuality and it’s not necessarily about not having decided or being uncertain, etc. I was in an educating generous place with them because I like them and they seemed open to being contradicted. By that point it was 315, and I decided to just stay put even though I felt weak for only going 10 miles again. 

I pitched my tent in a somewhat lopsided spot by the shelter. Then I went down to the water and waded around while Snow White rinsed her clothes and fearless sat on a rock in the water. I thought hard about swimming, but there was just enough breeze to make it too cold. Once I get damp and cold there’s no going back. We laughed and had a good time ribbing each other. Then they went back up to camp. I stayed in the sun on a rock writing the beginning of this post and letting my feet dry out. The sun eventually went away making it too cold to be without my puffy jacket, so I went back up to camp. I sat with snow white and drank a cup of her tea to warm up. She told me about how she ended up out here. Her son bought her a backpack for Christmas and said, hey mom you should hike the Appalachian trail. She said okay why not, and here she is 600 miles later. 
Fearless came to the picnic table and we all sat around talking until we heard a distant rumble. Then came the scramble to heat water for food before the rain hit. We could have gone to the covered porch of the shelter, but the family was sprawled out and none of us felt much like integrating. I thought it would blow over, but the thunder got louder and the sky darkened. After I set up my dinner to cook, I grabbed my bear line and rock bag hoping to set up my rope before it rained. No dice. As soon as I got back to the table, it started pouring. Fearless ran for her tent. Snow White, shutterbug and I ran for the shelter where we sat and sort of talked to the parents of the family. I ran back out to get my water bottle and noticed that little balls of hail were also falling. The sound of the hail was deafening under the tin roof. After about 10 minutes, it slowed to a steady rain and then a drizzle. I did my dishes and hung a bear line closer to my tent than I’d like, but I didn’t have the energy to go searching in the rain for something better. 

I walked down to the water to see if I could pick up service. A mist had formed on the surface of the pond, and I watched it as I stood in the rain writing texts. I spend large chunks of the day not looking at my phone other than to take pictures (or obsessively check mileage) but when I’m done for the day, it’s comforting to have access to people I know. Not having service at night on a good day can create space and feel okay. On a bad day, it makes me claustrophobic. Today was somewhere in the middle. I have good company, but the rain drove us all into our tents. There’s a good chance I will be asleep by 8 because there’s just nothing else to do. I’m finishing this to the sound of rain plopping on my tent, a bird with a mechanical short burst of a chirp, and the odd scuffles and shifting from the shelter. My hands are so cold because of the rain. 
Mile 1660.8 to mile 1670.5 (9.7)

Total miles: 667.3 
Creature feature: the pond is full of salamanders and the minnows nibbled on my toes as I stood in the water. 

*regarding the use of the word queer for those of who you are less familiar with it: it’s not pejorative when used in a context such as this. we’ve reclaimed it; don’t be horrified. 

Day 62: bromley edition 

Woke up around 545 and felt like a pile of rocks, but I managed to fall back asleep until about 7. As I lay there debating whether to stay somewhere else to take a zero day to sleep, tornado crept in to finish packing his bag. He’s on the early bird shuttle back to the trail. I opted for the 9am so I could finish the blog editing I didn’t get to last night, and so I could be a lazy blob a little longer. I gave my calves and feet their morning massage to help return some semblance of range of motion before I stood up. Then I went downstairs in my sweet loaner clothes outfit (cat pajama pants and a striped men’s tshirt that’s about 4 sizes too big) and put together my yogurt granola banana breakfast. I passed on the folgers coffee brewing in the drip machine. Pretty tough choice though (said me, never). Lewis and Clark sat drinking their steaming cups of brown water and talked to me while I ate. They’re a funny bunch, and I’m sad we’re going to be a day off of each other for the foreseeable future. They’ve been married for 43 years and you can tell how well they manage conflict and the small abrasions of everyday life. When Clark found out that I’m a therapist he said “oh noooo, does that mean you’ve figured out what’s wrong with me already?” On his way to bed last night he popped his head into the computer area and said he had enjoyed getting to know me, which felt genuine and warm. He’s constantly whining about being out here, but I’m pretty sure he secretly loves it. His wife Lewis is the one who pushed for the goal and he’s out here because she didn’t want to do it alone. 
I had to rip myself away from the table to pack up my gear and get one more post out. I weighed my food bag on the bathroom scale and it came in at exactly 10 pounds. This is why my pack is so damn heavy. The whole thing, with 5 days of food, the gifted poptarts, and a little over a liter of water weighed 29 pounds. That’s about 7 more than I wanted when I first started planning. After getting my gear straight, I laid on the floor in the living room lounge and iced my feet while I setup yesterday’s post. I wish I had known there were ice packs sooner because I would have done it all afternoon. 
Shutterbug and I left around 9 with Jeff, the owner of the hostel who sounds like Casey Casem and knew just how much space to take up in the house. It might be the first time I didn’t feel suffocated by a hostel owner. We were on trail by about 915 and were met with an immediate climb up bromley mountain. I texted with a few people, which slowed me down even more than my heavy pack. I asked my mom and stepdad to mail me the footbed from my old shoes so I could put them on top of my current ones for extra cushion. I think it’s going to help as long as my pinky toes don’t get too squished. The grade of the climb felt steeper than stratton, which made my right Achilles’ tendon protest. I took a short break to eat poptarts while sweat dripped in my eyes at this viewpoint. 

Then I resumed the slog. The trail opened up to a field that’s a ski slope in winter. It was a nice change in surface and view, but the hill was deceptively steep. 

Here’s the view south behind me: 

There’s a 360 degree view at the top and I felt a little sad about not having camped here, but not sad enough to wish I had skipped the hostel. 

I sat on the ski lift bench for another break with flip phone and shutterbug. Flip phone actually lost his phone at the yoga festival. He must have been drunk off of all the free granola bars he was handed, which he later made into a Nutella wrap. By the time I made moves to leave it was about 1130, which was just late enough to justify staying in the sun to eat lunch on the summit instead on a rock somewhere in the woods. A woman named picnic also ate with us. We were actually at upper goose pond at the same time, but I didn’t remember her. Oops. None of us had much to talk about so it was a somewhat silent but congenial lunch. Here’s flip phone making his organic hiker trash special:

A gaggle of day hikers showed up as I was preparing my pb Frito wrap. A kid of about 12 was there with his grandparents (they had adorable brown bag sandwich lunches). he stared and smiled at me while I made my food. 

The descent from bromley was much like that of Stratton and Glastenbury in terms of grade and terrain. It’s interesting to see the patterns between mountains. Vermont seems to have a lot of super green forest with pines and moss for the first mile from each summit. It smells like Christmas. Then it switches to drier vegetation with a bit more brown and far less moss. Near the bottom of bromley, I ran into a family of 3 repainting the white blazes on trees. I felt so excited to see this in action, which I told them as they approached. I thanked them for helping and then they gave me a peanut butter cup as trail magic. I walked away thinking about how great it would be to share this small encounter with you guys and realized I should have gotten their picture. I debated the effort and the anxiety of asking for a few seconds, but decided it was worth it. I dumped my pack on the ground and went back up the hill a few yards to take this: 

The trail continued down to Mad Tom Notch rd, which seemed like a popular place to park. I ran into shutterbug taking the end of his lunch break on a good rock. He said something about how we had to climb after this, so I took the opportunity for yet another break on his rock. Flip phone passed through and we lamented the lack of water today. Yesterday there had been numerous streams that weren’t on my map, so I loaded the minimum amount of water when I left the hostel. It’s good that it wasn’t hotter or I would have been painfully dehydrated versus mildly so. The weather was in fact perfect for hiking. There was a cloudy stint over styles peak that included a passing drizzle, but otherwise it was a sunny day with a generous breeze. 

After my break, I made the climb up to styles peak. It felt endless with several false summits. In other words, I climbed and the trail flattened out to what seemed like the top, but then it continued to climb yet again. I finally reached the summit with a small viewpoint where I intended to take a break. However, a massive swarm of flies descended upon me as I took the first bite of my snack. I cursed and slapped and hurried back into my pack. I had to scarf my food while picking my way down the rocky descent that was steeper than my knees cared for with a full pack. 

The trail climbed to yet another ridge that allowed for partial views of mountains to either side of me. Then it took a sharp left and headed down the hillside at an unfortunate angle that let me know my legs were tired. Somewhere in there I was passed by moss and disco. 

Moss must think I’m ridiculous because every time he approaches I’m taking pictures of his dog like I’ve never seen one before. About a mile and a half later, I was at my campsite for the night. 415pm! This is what moderation looks like. Getting to camp early enough that you have to wait for dinner. My feet were sore throughout the day, but markedly less so than they have been. 

When I got to camp, shutterbug was swatting at the air. Not a good sign for the bug quotient. I surveyed the tenting options and found a nice spot on pine needles that I meant to take a picture of and forgot. I set up my bed and filtered water immediately so I could try to catch up on hydrating. As I sat at the picnic table reminding myself of the rough sketch I had mapped out for the week, I heard a hiker approach saying well, well, look who’s here. I turned to find fearless with her neon pink gaiters heading into camp. She’s part of the group of women that I met at the cookie lady’s. She said Snow White and peregrina were somewhere far behind her. Then she set about filtering water for both of them so they would have less work to do when they arrived. She told me a bit about peregrina’s story. Apparently she’s not thru hiking. She’s simply walking from PA to a book group retreat in VT in July. 
I decided to build a fire to help with the bugs and to keep me from eating dinner at 5p. Shutterbug was a good sport and helped me collect firewood. Then we tried to start a fire in the ring by the picnic table, but he kept overstacking the kindling teepee I had made. I finally had to ask him to stop because it was driving me crazy. The fire took forever to get started and then was anemic at best until the wind kicked up and snow white piled on more wood than I would have expected to be functional (top picture). She arrived around 6, immediately plopped down at the table and started shoving food in her face, which she did for the next 40 minutes. We had an amusing dinner together with fearless and Snow White picking at each other as old friends do. We were all a bit worried about peregrina, but her pattern is to arrive pretty late. She gets distracted easily and doesn’t walk very quickly. 
After dinner we threw our bear lines. Fearless made fun of how heavy my food bag is and I made her show me what she eats. I’m pretty sure I eat about twice the amount she does. But you should see her stockpile of mini payday bars. I think she had like 20 of them. As we wound down and started to retreat to our tents, two NOBOs arrived. I thought for sure they would keep walking because there was at least another hour of daylight to be had, but they stopped for the night. One of them has a prosthetic leg from the knee down. I felt horrified by the way fearless pointed and said “what is that? What happened?” The kid joked that he’d been attacked by a bear, but then he gave the real answer which is that he was born without a fibula. 
I went over to the shelter to sign the register while the NOBOs settled in. They were chatty and amusing. The one named bumblebee kept pulling stuff out of his bag, including foot balm and a novel. I couldn’t help but remark that he carried more than any NOBO I’d seen so far. He joked that he was actually a heavyweight hiker and loathed the self righteous ultralight people. They mocked our bear lines and gave the typical NOBO response that goes something like: I haven’t hung a bear bag since (insert many, many miles) ago and I’ve never had a problem. I think I’ll stick with my system even if it’s possibly pointless. 
Peregrina strolled in around 730. She had apparently carried like 7 pounds of water from a stream about a mile south of camp because she was worried the water source would be running at the shelter. I busied myself with getting ready for bed to avoid her conversation vortex, which I felt guilty about but being polite conflicted with my sleep campaign. Now I’m finishing this to the sound of Snow White snoring, the stream running just below the shelter (which I forgot to mention is right on the trail – my favorite because it involves less walking), and the NOBOs shooting the shit in the shelter. My eyes burn from the smoke and my legs are on fire from the newest batch of bug bites. There’s no cell service here, which I know is one of the reasons I’m about to go to sleep at 9p instead of 10 or later. 
Mile 1650.7 to mile 1660.8 (10.1) 

Total miles: 657.6
Creature feature: another quiet day in the woods BUT I saw many, many piles of poop with giant hoof tracks nearby. I wondered if they might actually be moose, because treebeard had mentioned seeing moosetracks. Fearless confirmed later that they were indeed moose droppings. So that’s exciting. I doubt I’ll get to see an actual moose, but this means there’s a remote possibility.