Manchester Center, VT - Hanover, NH [Mile 1,651 - 1,748]
Manchester Center, VT
Double zero! My friend Jukebox invited a bunch of us to her family friends’ home on Stratton Mountain near Manchester Center, VT. It was an incredibly generous offer. Having a free place to stay is such a blessing at this point in the trip. Everyone’s bank accounts are dwindling.
The rain came down for two days. We were only planning on staying for one day, but when the rain was forecasted for the entire next day, we decided to stay again.
The home is an A-frame lodge with a living room and kitchen upstairs and extra bedrooms in the basement. We spent the days watching movies, eating food, resupplying, drinking beer. I read a lot and did some writing. I also was able to focus on the growing list of audio files I’ve collected.
I now have the list organized and file names in a spreadsheet. This type of organization will help me continue to work on this project when I get home.
First hiccup in awhile: I went to the Post Office hoping that my shoes had arrived. I forwarded them from Cheshire, MA. The box was not there. Since it was Saturday I was not able to call the Cheshire post office and confirm that they still had the package. I’m at a loss. I hope that they only forgot to forward the package and that it is not lost. The Manchester P.O. employee said that according the tracking number it is still in Cheshire. I hope so. I won’t know until Monday morning.
These shoes are in rough shape. Holes all over and the tread is wearing thin.
Manchester Center - Stealth site at Homer Stone Brook
Our final morning in the ski house. We planned to get people to the trailhead in two shifts. Mama Juke was kind enough to drive everyone. We ate breakfast casserole, croissants and coffee before leaving. We’d all helped clean up a bit the night before.
The sun was shining first thing this morning. I stepped out onto the back porch to make a phone call and looked up. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I felt ready to get walking again.
Mama Juke dropped us off at the trailhead with encouraging words. She told us to call her if we needed anything on the trail. That morning she told me that if it wasn’t Sunday she would have been willing to drive me all the way to Massachusetts to get my shoe box.
Climbed up Bromley Mtn first and got a view. Had a second climb before lunch. Everyone was reunited at the shelter for lunch. I walked out with Walkman and Brü.
The trail was muddy in the morning but improved as the day went on. There is so much water everywhere after the rain. The creeks are swollen and small streams flow across the trail.
It is hard not to daydream about the end. I think about being on top of Katahdin. I think ahead to the logistics of traveling home. I think about walking into Camino and surprising everyone.
Tomorrow we will hit the 500 Miles left point.
The trail was crowded the closer we got to Little Rock Pond Shelter. The pond is gorgeous. The water is clear and surrounded by evergreen covered mountains. Unfortunately we could not stay, or chose not to stay. There is a $5 fee to camp or sleep in the shelter.
The Green Mtn Club of Vermont says the fee is to “mitigate crowds”. Seems discriminatory on a socio economic level. Also, as a thru hiker it is frustrating to be hit with fees in the woods: the one place we don’t have to pay for anything. I’ve hiked almost 1,700 miles to get to this point. I’m not paying to set up my tent.
Feels good to be out here and moving again. Grateful for the time off during the rain.
Stealth site - Cooper Lodge
Getting up was difficult this morning. I could have slept for hours longer. More frequently I find myself with the waking thought: I have to hike again...
There were multiple climbs again We haven’t climbs like this since Virginia. Distinct mountains, long climbs that you can point out on the elevation map. There were four today. Climb out of camp, then a climb up to the lunch shelter. A climb out of Clarendon Gorge after lunch and then thee big climb up to Mt. Killington.
The day was beautiful but hotter than it has been in a week or so. That made the climbing more difficult for me.
I found myself full of stressful thoughts about my diminishing funds and bank account. My thoughts turned to home and working again.
The biggest moment of today was hitting thee 500 miles to Katahdin sign. I was alone. I wasn’t as moved as I expected, but it was already at about 18 miles for the day so I was tired.
I met Bru, Walkman and Cruise at a shelter to cook dinner. We all decided to eat before climbing 4 miles to Cooper Lodge, at the top of Mt. Killington. The climb was the best of the day. The trail was fairly gradual and came up the side of the mountain, rather than straight up. The air cooled quickly, there was a breeze and the mossy pines of 4K elevation were a gorgeous backdrop.
This is the highest shelter on the AT in Vermont. I threw my stuff on a bunk and got ready to hike 0.2 to the summit to watch the sunset. We all went. It is an extremely steep trail. I stopped a couple times to turn around and caught a bit of vertigo. The view was worth the climb. It makes a difficult day of hiking so much more satisfying if it ends like this.
Cooper Lodge - Killington VT - Stony Brook Shelter
Didn’t get a very early start this morning. Hiking out at 7:40am. I feel anxious to get home, now that I’ve passed the 500 Miles left point. I tried to stay present this morning.
Walking down the mountain I noticed some ferns I had not seen before. Instead of a vibrant green they were striated with brown.
I hiked to the road alone. Brü and Cruise headed into Rutland, Walkman, Prime and I headed into Killington, VT. I had second breakfast and lunch at the Killington Deli. I got some emails sent, posted to Instagram an moved the last of my money around. Financially this is stressful, but worth it.
Walkman and I swam at Kent Pond on the way out of town. We enjoyed the grass, fresh water, sun and beers. While we sat, storm clouds piled over the mountains across the pond. Wehn the wind picked up we made a dash for our packs. The 6 mile hike to the shelter was entirely in rain.
the rain has stopped. There’s a decent crowd at this shelter. I sort of wished I had hiked 4 miles farther to make today a 20 mile day. It would have put me ahead of this bubble a bit, made for a shorter day in town on Thursday. But here i am. I’m finding it difficult to balance my desired end date with the rest of the group. Prime did buy his plan ticket home though. It’s for September 5.
Stony Brook Shelter - Thistle Hill Shelter [22 Miles]
Great morning. I listened to a calming album and worked on re-memorizing Wordsworth’s poem.
Then I got chaffing from my shorts, between my legs and the rest of the morning was spent mitigating that painful problem. I’ve never dealt with this before so it was an emotional shock as well as physical.
I needed up cutting the liner out of my shorts, which was the cause, then cutting the shorts completely to form a crude version of a skirt. The open air felt good on the raw spots on my leg.
The day was broken up by a stop at the Edge Farm Market. Coffee, chocolate milk, soda and a fresh apple. I put my feet up to drain them before hiking out.
I’ve made it to the shelter but not until after 7p. Today felt long. Tomorrow town, and leaving Vermont.
Thistle Hill Shelter - Norwich, VT / Hanover, NH
I got up at 5:30a to get out of camp at 7a. I like to get an early start on town days. I was the first person in my group to get out of camp and the first in town, which is a first.
The morning was cool and the miles went quickly. The terrain was fairly relaxed going into town. Norwich and Hanover are on either side of the Connecticut River, so the elevation is low.
When I got to the Post Office they did not have my package with my new shoes. This is incredibly frustrating. I called two weeks ago and asked them to forward the package. The package was not forwarded. So I called again a week later, and now it has been forwarded but has not arrived. The Post Office employee said she thought it would have arrived by now. If it doesn’t tomorrow she also has no comment.
I feel helpless and upset. I have already hiked over 1,000 miles in these shoes and cannot go any farther. My friends will hike out tomorrow and I’ll be behind once again. The (unproductive) and additionally frustrating aspect of all this is that I forwarded the package originally so I could keep up with my hiking friends. I don’t want to leave town until I know where this package is. I could buy new shoes here but that’s another financial hit I cannot handle and I don’t want to deal with the logistics of then trying to send the original package home.
Trying to breathe and stay present and focused on what I can control. I can only control where I am and how I react. I am here, in Norwich. I am waiting on this package. My hike is still meaningful and enjoyable even if my friends are miles ahead.
I am also eager to finish this hike, and delays like this are more painful now.
I spent the entire afternoon working through the logistics of this issue. Primarily, where can i stay for cheap or free so I can remain in town to wait for the package.
Norwich and Hanover have an impressively organized network of trail angels. I came across a trail angel on the way to the Black Community Rec Center in town (shower and laundry). She sent me a list of all the trail angels.
The list includes names, phone numbers, texting/call preference, and smoking preference. I called and texted the entire list. Finally someone got back to me. Betsy and her husband host hikers. By this time I was in Hanover — across the river from Norwich — and their home is in Norwich. Not a far walk and very worth it. I finished up some errands and had dinner with the trail family. Then Betsy’s husband drove to pick me up.
Turns out that Betsy started the trail angel network. Her son hiked a few years ago. During his hike he developed an infected blister. The doctor told him to stay off trail for a week. A family in Tennessee took him in for the entire time. They incorporated him into their family and shared their space and food. Betsy mailed them a package in gratitude. The family told her that they were happy to help and that the best thing for her to do was pay the action toward.
So Betsy developed the network. It’s unique, incredibly so. There is no list like it in any other trail town. The network is helpful because both Norwich and Hanover are expensive towns. The college of Dartmouth is in Hanover — it’s not a market that caters to hikers with dwindling bank accounts.
I am grateful for a place to stay. Betsy told her story to me and five other hikers while we sat on the back screened in porch in the fading light. I used to find such moments of gratitude full of calmness and peace, but now I struggle to find that same experience. Now, I feel anxious, because I am so close to the end.
I’ve been speaking to hikers about the end; what they feel they’ve learned, and will take home. I expressed my anxiousness to Walkman the other day. He feels much more at ease when contemplating the end. I think he doesn’t consider it very much, which is wise. He looked at me and said, “It will come