Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vermuck: July 30th-August 3rd

Pants and I milked our check-out time, finally packed up and made our way down to the Price Chopper to resupply.  We managed to hitch a ride, which was nice since it was a two mile walk.  We got distracted by the AYCE Chinese buffet next to it, but finally got our food and headed back to the trail.  We had gotten about two miles, right in front of Sherman Brook campsite, when Pants realized he had left his phone at the hotel.  Since we were only two miles out he decided to turn around and go back. We called from my phone to make sure they had it, then he turned around to retrace his steps back to North Adams. It would end up taking forever, as he had to hike two miles back, then hitch the two miles back to the hotel. By the time it was all done he only made it back to the campsite where he realized his phone was gone. I continued on my way, and crossed into Vermont on my own.

Vermont has 150 miles of trail, and the first 105 of it is concurrent with The Long Trail, another long distance trail that goes into Canada. The two things that were most apparent throughout Vermont were the crowds and the mud. VT was where us NoBos really started running into SoBos. The mashing up of the NoBos and SoBos, the Long Trailers and all the Boy Scout troops made for a crowded and muddy trail. The second I stepped into VT I stepped into a pile of mud, and that is what I walked in for the next few weeks.  Luckily that first night I didn't hit the crowds.  I walked past Seth Warner Shelter, hoping to make it another seven to Cogdon, when I saw something very bizarre. A herd of what I swear to God were slate grey horses ran across the trail. The section of trail I was on was extremely dense and overgrown, I wasn't on private land. That coupled with the fact that they seemed very scared of me and ran away at first sight told me they weren't domestic. But as far as I know there are no wild horses in Vermont? I later found out that Warrior saw them also, so I'm not the only one at least, but I've yet to talk to another since her who has seen them.
Sunset over the pond

 After my random wild horse stampede, I made my way down to Roaring Branch pond to get water. I walked over to the outlet and noticed a perfectly lovely campsite right by the water. There was a cool breeze blowing through it and I would be able to watch the sunset across the pond. I hung a clothesline, set up my tent and watched the sky darken while being serenaded by the bullfrogs in the pond (who I later wanted to kill when they didn't realize the curtain had closed and the show was over). I got up early the next day hoping to put in some decent miles to catch up with Gribley and DS. It wasn't long before I came to another pond, a very swampy one for which the ATC had built a boardwalk for us to walk on. The only problem was the grass was so overgrown making it hard to see the boards, and one misstep would land you neck deep in murky swamp water. I was slowly making my way when I heard something make a sort of hissing, clicking noise at me.

I turned towards the pond and saw an otter swimming violently towards me. For a brief moment I stopped to watch the cute little otter, until I realized she was angry at me and wanted me away from her home. That crazy otter bitch jumped up on the wooden planks and started chasing me. "I'm going! I'm going!" I yelled at her, but I could only go so fast for fear I would fall into the swamp. This was a trap! Why would the ATC lead me here? They were probably in cahoots with this otter to keep the thru-hike finish rate low. The swamp was probably full of all her hiker victims, who she chased into the swamp, captured and murdered to feed to her crazy otter children. I finally made my way off the boards and far enough away from the pond and away from the lunatic otter. It should be made clear that the bears and snakes are not what you should be worried about out here. It's the turkeys and otters. Those are the only two creatures that have aggressively attacked and CHASED me down the trail. I just think the order of threatening and dangerous species needs to be reorganized is all I'm saying.

After my encounter with Otterzilla, I kept my head down to avoid making eye contact with any other psychotic creatures and hiked. I made my way over Harmon Hill and started the rocky descent down to VT 9. Going down the hill I probably passed nine SoBos. It is so weird running into SoBos (they start in Maine, typically late June or July as its too cold in ME to start any earlier, and finish in winter down south). The SoBos are still in the beginning of their journey, and look fresh, clean and plump. Their gear and their feet aren't being held together with duct tape. While we look at them in awe, trying to remember back to the days when we were still wide eyed and excited, they look at us with a sort of horrified fascination. We NoBos are scrawny, weathered, dirty and exhausted. We have been out here five months to their one, and they view us with an apprehensive curiosity that says "Is that what I'm gonna look like?" The SoBos running into the VT NoBos had the misfortune of meeting us at our crabbiest. We were ready to get to Maine. It was getting closer, but still just out of our reach. Instead, we were in this muddy, viewless state full of PUDS and people ( PUD: Pointless Up and Down). We were concerned with nothing but cranking out miles and getting to Katadhin. One SoBo even wrote in a shelter register "Remember NoBos, it's smiles not miles." yeah yeah

The one good thing about having SoBos around is the exchange of information. It's nice to get a heads up on what we have coming up, town info etc... and vice versa. We also got a lot of info on The Whites. It's the hardest part of the trail, and something most NoBos have been nervous about. But the SoBos fresh off them got us excited (with the exception of one dickbag at Cogdon who was all cocky about being done with them, telling me in some snot tone "Yeah the Whites were really fucking hard, so good luck girl." Well the last 1700 miles were really fucking hard so good luck ass). But for the most part SoBos are a pleasant bunch, even if they are going the wrong way.

I continued past the SoBos and right before the road some angel had left a 6-pack of Long Trail Ale as trail magic. That, or someone lost a 6-pack.  Either way I grabbed a bottle and made my way across the road to enjoy it by the river. I found DS and Gribley lounging and the three of us shared my beer and had a long lunch. We chatted with other NoBos as they passed and played with a chipmunk I named Alvin. Eventually we figured it was time to join our cohorts and make our way up to the ridge. We passed Melville Nauheim Shelter, and crossed over Hell Hollow Brook, where we ran into some kids out hiking with their mom and were passing the late afternoon catching frogs. We finally got up onto Porcupine Ridge and mentally prepared ourselves for the long 6 mile stretch of absolutely nothing. We made it about halfway when we found a flat spot and the 3 of us decided we would just camp there. Gribley was coming down with a nasty cold and I was really bored with the trail and sick of looking at it. I was totally zoning out and slipping into la la land.... (Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for choosing the Appalachian Trail. If you would kindly start moving towards your packs the captain has turned on the fasten hip belt sign. All portable electronic devices should be stowed in their plastic baggies at this time. Please keep all hands and feet inside the trail at all times. Emergency exits are located once every five days. In the event of turbulent weather, DO hike faster. There will be a beverage service provided throughout your hike, simply follow the steep blue blaze path .3 off the trail where you will be led to a trickle of water coming out of a rock. There is no meal service. Our current heading is set for north, approximate in-hike time: 6 months, 5 days, 4 hours and 22 minutes. Today's in-hike movie will be: "Boring Endless Trail" starring a tree, a rock, and another tree. We hope you enjoy your time with us at Appalachian Trail, and good luck staying dry....)

Needless to say I was ready to stop. We set up camp, made a fire, dinner and some tea and supported Gribley as he coughed his way into the night. We got a late start the next morning, which gave Pants time to magically appear. Gribley was sounding a bit better, but we were still only shooting for Story Spring Shelter, a mere 12 miles away. We took some time at Glastenbury Mountain, where there was a lookout tower you could climb to get a view of the surrounding mountains. The three of them stayed there to have lunch, but I moved on to have a more peaceful lunch away from the billion flies and boy scouts swarming the tower. I found a flat spot a mile down the trail. I can't say much for the flies, but the boy scout situation was improved dramatically. We all plodded along, took a break at a view after Kid Gore Shelter, where Pants decided he would stay and cowboy camp. Gribley, DS and I moved on to South Adler Brook, got water and were hoping to find a stealth spot before the shelter, but we were hiking in some crazy dense jungle and there was hardly a trail let alone a flat clear spot to camp. We got to the shelter and the entire world was there. I mean WHERE were all these people coming from??? The three of us set up our tents in a corner, cooked dinner and went to bed.

View from Glastenbury Mt.

Pants arrived the next morning before we had packed up, he and Gribley took off before DS and I and we didn't see them all day. Her and I made it to Stratton Mountain for lunch. There was another lookout tower to catch a view, and CheeseTowel were there along with WhiffleChicken, Xango and PeterPan. WhiffleChicken and co. challenged the 4 of us to come up with the 10 body parts with only 3 letters (ex. leg). We in turn challenged them to name the 10 countries with only 4 letters. We continued this game all the way down the mountain to Stratton Pond, which turned out to be an amazing swimming hole. The 7 of us laid in the sun as a few other hikers came and went . Around 3pm we all decided to get hiking and Peter Pan had another game to pass the time, Contact ( if you want to know how to play, it's hard to explain and I don't feel like it, but it's fun).  We flew 5 miles and finally stopped to take a break at a stream where I impressed everyone with my pack-on limbo skills followed by a Whiffleball lesson from WhiffleChicken (note that Whiffleball is best played in open spaces where there are no trees for the ball to bounce off and hit someone in the face).

Not long after the stream we came across William B Douglas Shelter, one we were set on ignoring as it was a half mile off the trail. But at the side trail was a note from Gribley that he and Pants were down there, and that considering how crowded the trail was, this might be a nice, quiet option. And he was right. The rest wanted to keep moving (to the insanely crowded Spruce Peak Shelter) while DS and I headed the .5 to William. The four of us had the entire site to ourselves and had a nice quiet night sitting around the giant fire Gribley had going and playing Contact, which DS and I quickly taught them. The next day was a town day, we were all headed into Manchester Center. Pants had started hiking before I was even up. DS, Gribley and I didn't get started till around 9. We had an easy six miles down to the road and the three of us managed a hitch pretty easily. A thru-hiker from last year picked us up, a really nice guy who gave us some tips on the upcoming section, and $20 to put towards breakfast. We got dropped off in the center of town (M. C. was pop. 2,000 so most everything was in the center) and immediately walked across the street to get bagels and coffee.

Sunset from Bromley
Afterwards we all went our separate ways to do various chores. Pants had already eaten and was at the outfitter. Gribley still wasn't feeling amazing so he and DS were going to stay in town and went about trying to locate a room. I headed over to the laundry mat, which was as fun as a laundry mat can be, stopped into EMS to grab some fuel and headed next door to the Price Chopper. There were hikers lurking everywhere, packaging up their food and charging phones. I ran into WhiffleChicken dozing off in the cereal aisle, and the two of us finished packing up our food with the Georgia Boys out front. Running out of things to do, we decided we should start hiking. It was already almost 5pm, so the goal was Bromley Shelter only two miles out of town. The uphill passed quickly as we chatted. We ran into a local day hiker who recommended we go another mile to the top of Bromley Mountain. You couldn't tent, but there was a ski cabin left unlocked you could sleep in, and the sunset was suppose to be beautiful from up there. We took his advice and finished our climb up the mountain after getting water at the shelter. Pants and Warrior were already there, and the four of us made dinner on the quiet mountaintop while watching the sunset. Pants gave a wake up call at 5am exclaiming the sun was rising, and we proceeded to do the same thing over breakfast. Even though it was a muddy, crowded start, Vermont was turning out to be not so bad....
Pants and Warrior watching the sunset while WhiffleChicken plays Whiffleball

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