Hanover to Rutland
After an enjoyable two days in Hanover, it was time to hit the road again. Unfortunately, the first few miles of the trail in Vermont are actually on road. Road walks are bad for a hiker for a few reasons. For one thing, you are taken out of the wilderness experience whenever you see the road. For another, the hard surface tends to hurt your feet far more quickly than trail. While there were times during the hike that I was glad to be walking on road (mainly after hiking the rocky trails of Pennsylvania), a good trail is almost always preferable.
Rain started around lunch time, and by the time I arrived at the shelter, it was a downpour. I was still not comfortable sleeping in shelters at this point of the hike, so I set up my hammock anyway. However, I went to the shelter to cook supper and found that sleeping there would not have been an option anyway. It was full of northbounders – roughly the end of the wave of northbounders that happens every year on the trail.
The rain brought out some red efts from their hiding places. These are juvenile newts that look somewhat like plastic toys. I was never able to get a great photo of them, but this is one of the better ones:
The weather was better the next day, and I made good time. During the day, I met up with Just Jill, who had been staying at the same shelter as me. (Just X is a common trail name for people named X who can't decide on a trail name.) She had started the trail much earlier than me, but had family near Hanover and was just getting back on the trail. We chatted a bit about people that I only knew from reading log books at shelters and then went on. Late in the day, I got some pretty bad chafing from the previous day's moisture and had to knock off before I got to my intended destination.
The following day was only notable because it marked the junction of the AT with the Long Trail, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the US. I caught up with Just Jill again at the end of the day, at a shelter near the top of Mount Killington. We agreed that we would get up early the next day to go to the top and take pictures.
I did get up early the next morning, but didn't wake Just Jill. However, I did get some very nice pictures.
From there, the day was all downhill (literally, not metaphorically). I crossed 500 miles and saw an owl.
That night, I got to a road and decided to go to Rutland, VT. My sister was playing in a musical competition that weekend, and I was able to take the train up to Montreal to see her. But not before I stayed at a hostel run by the Twelve Tribes – a sort of religious commune that some characterize as a cult, but who were very nice to me. And they had great food and smoothies.
Rutland to the Massachusetts border
After the trip to Montreal, I was back to Rutland to start where I left off. Since I got back to the trail late in the evening, I only walked to the first shelter a couple of miles down the trail. I saw in the log book that Picker and Grinner had been there the day before, meaning that they were now ahead of me (I had been ahead of them since we split up at the beginning of the Whites).
I was so excited at the prospect of catching back up with Picker and Grinner that I woke up at about 3:30 the next morning and, since I couldn't get back to sleep, I packed up and started walking. I was undeterred by darkness, hills, rain, lightning, and trail re-routes and just kept walking all day. Later in the day, after I had walked at least 20 miles, I started hearing about "the best hostel on the trail". I decided to make that my destination, even though it was another 10 miles or so. I borrowed a mobile phone and called ahead to reserve a bunk. I asked whether Picker and Grinner were there, and was given even more motivation to keep going when I found out that they were.
The last few miles of the day were down a ski run, and when I got to the bottom I was just about as tired as I'd ever been. However, I did my shopping and waited to get picked up by the guy who runs the hostel. When I got to the hostel, it was as nice as it had been hyped to be. It was clean and had trail memorabilia decorating the whole place. On top of that, you get a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream as part of the low fee for staying there.
Besides Picker and Grinner, there were two other couples staying at the hostel – Lucky and Charm as well as Sherpa and Boss Lady. One fun way we passed the time that evening was to have everyone weigh their packs. As you might expect, Sherpa's pack weight more than Boss Lady's, but Charm was a bit miffed to find out that her pack weighed at least 10 pounds more than Lucky's. Plus, she was carrying a big camera, as she was (is?) an aspiring photographer.
The next day, I was rather sore, but after the effort that I had put in to catch Picker and Grinner, I was not going to sit around and let them get ahead of me again. Thankfully, they didn't want to go too far either, so we found a nice river about ten miles down the trail and set up an early camp. I hung up a bear bag comically low to the ground, and people took pictures standing next to it.
I don't remember much from the next day, but the day after that we went to Bennington, VT to resupply. It was there where we had our easiest hitch – before we even stuck our thumbs out, an old gent pulled over and offered us a ride back to the trail. He was an entertaining guy – a veteran from the Korean War who was going skydiving for his eightieth birthday the following week.
We slept near a shelter that night where there was a gaggle of northbounders, some of whom were roasting marshmallows over a camp fire (neither of which is a common occurrence for me – I'm usually too tired to have a camp fire at the end of the day, and marshmallows just waste space in the pack, but they sure were tasty that night), and I joined them for a little while. One of them had a violin and was trying to learn to play as she was on her hike, so I borrowed it and played a little. All in all, it was a great day.
That night, it rained, and a dead branch fell near Picker and Grinner's tent – a good reminder that Mother Nature doesn't care if you just had a great day; she'll still try to mess it up for you. Luckily, though, no one was hurt.
The next morning, we made it to the border and completed our third state.
Massachusetts, flat and short. Also large parties of college kids on orientation.