My Walk in the Woods, Ch 13

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Thirteen (July 3rd-12th)

Day 87: (CT)  10 miles to Silver Hill campsite

Early coffee with Joe then a fabulous breakfast with Joe and Lee. They are a happy affluent retired couple living a comfortable life in a quiet New England town. I enjoy staying in the childhood room of their eldest son. There are animal skulls, crude weaponry and school banners on the walls. Lee takes me to the grocery store then back home for lunch with the two tight couples. Lee and Nancy take me for a history tour of the town then drop me at the trail by 2 pm.

Easy walking along a lazy river in a steady light rain. Suddenly I meet my first ‘SOBO’ (Southbound) hiker. He is relieved to be hiking easy trail after taking a beating in Maine and New Hampshire to start his journey. I stop at a nice campsite with a pavilion and cooking area where I meet morose young man SAILBOAT and his dog. The pavilion is a handy hangout as it continues to drizzle. Later the rain stops and it is a dry, rosy sunset.

Day 88:  23 miles from Silver Hill to campsite near Salisburg

It is a cloudy Independence Day. I ponder the definition of independence as I carry my life on my back and walk towards unending novelty. I reach a tiny tourist spot called Falls Village and luckily find a café open on the holiday. I devour a freshly made Reuben sandwich, big peanut butter cookie and gulp soda while the employee finishes closing.

I take a long, refreshing break at the great falls and watch young people swim and cliff jump. Later I see an owl near a strange rock protrusion called Giant’s Thumb. I do not see any hikers all day.

Day 89: (MA)  13 miles to Hemlocks Lean-to

It starts to rain as I break camp and it continues to rain all morning. At some point I cross into Massachusetts. The trail becomes steep and rocky and the rain makes the hiking treacherous. Paradoxically, groups of high-spirited day hikers go blazing past me.

I am completely soaked when I arrive at Hemlock Lean-to at 1:30 and I decide to call it a day and dry out in the empty lean-to (aka a shelter in other states). I take a nap and am awaken by the arrival of a Ridgerunner (volunteer trail care-taker) and two section hikers. My spirits are lifted by a long evening of fellowship around the fire.

Day 90:  23 miles from Hemlocks to camp past Beertown Mtn Rd

I am grumpy this morning but still leave the lean-to before any of the others. The foggy morning does not help my mood as I climb up and down viewless viewpoints.

At a road crossing I make a sidetrip along the shoulder of the road to a farm/feedstore. I greet a large woman with torn shirt, dirty jeans and muck boots and I nearly choke on the smell of animal feed. She points to a small commercial freezer in the corner which contains locally made peach soda and ice cream.

In the afternoon I stop at Benedict Pond for a swim and chance to dry out gear. While walking through waist high brush I am startled by bear #17 (the last bear of this trek as it turns out). We both quickly go our separate ways and I eventually crash after a tiring day next to a creek below a dirt road.

Day 91:  25 miles to camp between Wash Mtn Rd and Blotz Rd

Today is a tough day mentally and physically. I feel okay in the morning but by lunch the plug is pulled and I struggle. The only relief is an energizing swim at Upper Goose Pond. The trail is monotonous into the evening. I stop at a flat rock to cook dinner then crank out a few more boring miles. I need to get close to Dalton because I am low on food.

Day 92:  17 miles to camp above gas station

I get my usual early start and push to get the eight miles into Dalton. I stop at the first café I come to near the old town ironworks and have a long awaited breakfast. I find a Laundromat and decide to wash my sleeping bag. Drying becomes a problem due to a machine malfunction and the bag takes much too long to dry in the sun. I waste time and energy walking to a country store which is closed.

I am hungry again and stop at a fantastic sandwich shop called Angelina’s. Their sandwiches are huge! I order a philly cheesesteak for lunch and greasy Italian sub to go for dinner.

I stroll through the town of Cheshire looking for more treats. As I walk the sidewalk along the road out of town, I see where the trail continues into the woods there is a bright, busy convenience store. I slug various cold drinks and carry more with me into the cover of trees. As soon as I find a nice flat spot I stop to camp. When I open my bear canister I discover all of my food is oily from the Italian sub.

Day 93: (VT)  21 miles to Seth Warner Shelter

When I get up I walk back to the convenience store for breakfast drinks and apples. This morning’s hike is a taxing climb to the highest point in MA — Mt Greylock. There is an interesting war monument at the top which is swarming with the tourists who drove up on the road I crossed several times while walking to the summit. Unfortunately, it is a hazy day so there are no views and the vending machine has no Mtn Dew.

Near lunch time I walk through the town of North Adams and run into several hikers sitting in the shade outside of a large box grocery. My cravings are overwhelming inside this air-conditioned oasis and I end up with copious amounts of Mtn Dew, ice cream and watermelon. Rapidly ingesting this combination gives me bad gas and I try to walk it off through the maze of side streets and alleys to where the trail continues along a creek at the end of a quiet street.

It begins to rain just as I step off pavement and I stop to put on raingear. Nevertheless I am drenched by the time I arrive at the crowded shelter (in Vermont). I am reluctantly allowed a small space to lay my sleeping pad but I have to leave my pack covered outside of the shelter.

Day 94: (VT)  26 miles from Warner Shelter to Kid Gore Shelter

Not much to say except it is a long hard day. The hike is boring until the expansive views at the crowded Glastonbury Fire Tower. The flies are obnoxious at the base of the tower due to all the day hikers eating lunch there so I do not linger to socialize. Fortunately, the day is cooler and I make it to a less crowded shelter for the night.

Day 95: (VT)  24 miles from Kid Gore to camp near road to Manchester Center

Another long day on the trail as I begin to anticipate the final leg of this journey. Today involves a climb to Stratton Mtn then a descent to Stratton Pond. In the afternoon the cool weather and easier terrain allows me to push past Spruce Peak so I can camp close to the road to Manchester Center, my next mail drop.

Day 96: (VT)  early hitch to Manchester Center

I am up early and quickly motor the two miles to the road. Even though it is before 6 am I get a ride from a guy headed to work. I am dropped off in downtown Manchester Center but not much is open so I get a soda from a spotless Mobile station (after washing up in their nice restroom) and wait on a bench outside of a restaurant appropriately called ‘Up for Breakfast’.

While waiting, an old guy with a newspaper walks up and we start chatting. When he learns that I graduated from the University of Texas he gets very excited and offers to buy me breakfast. We swap southern stories and become a loud nuisance to the other patrons.

I spend the morning doing my usual town chores: laundry, grocery shopping, take my camera to a photo processing center. The post office is across town and I send photos to my wife after I pick up my packages. I am not ready to head back to the trail so I find a quiet pub for a leisurely lunch and a few beers.

I sit in the dark pub until late in the afternoon. Finally, an old surfer dude enters and we chat. He is in town for a horse show. After a few more beers he agrees to give me a ride back to the trail. In the evening I haul my full pack up to the Bromley Peak ski lift, take a break then drop down to Styles Peak Camp.

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