A Moose, Four Pigs, And A Porcupine

A fellow guest at the Yellow Deli offers me a ride to the trail head. He is not a hiker but the deli is not exclusive to hikers. A girl named Zoe is hiking the Long Trail to Canada. She asks if she can get a ride as well to a different trail head. After he drops Zoe off, my ride decides he is done driving for the day and offers to take me back to the hostel. I feel like I’m in one of those horror movies where you keep trying to escape but end up back at the killers grasp. I decline and ask to be dropped off at the gas station instead. I walk to Taco bell and get a burrito and loot the sauce packet bin. I get a hitch from an off duty cop. He buys me a smart water and candy. I take the next section very slowly as I’m attempting to time my arrival into town with the arrival of a package. I decide to not listen to music for this section as well so that I am more present in the moment. I’m glad that I do because one morning as I’m hiking I hear a *humph*. Within one moment my mind goes from ‘Oh gosh I’ve disturbed someone relieving themselves!!’ to ‘Oh no its a bear!!’ Then my eyes discover a moose!! I am terrified but so excited! My heart has dropped into my stomach and I am frozen in my tracks. We just stare at one another for what seems like an eternity. I decide he’s not going to charge me so I slowly take off my back and grab my phone and take a picture and a short video. I had thought I was too far south to see a moose this late in the game. I’m so happy I’m wrong! Eventually young moose sir decides he’s bored staring at the strange animal that is me and decides to move onward. The rest of the day I excitedly tell everyone I meet about my moose sighting.

 I see my friend Skip at a shelter. Skip is one of my absolute favorite people on trail. I’ve noticed I say that more and more as I meet people along the trail but they are all so beautiful inside and out! Skip is 74 years old. He started the same week as I did. I remember the first time I met him. It was my birthday and I was having a rough time. I came up to the shelter and he was taking a dip in the swimming hole at the bottom of the waterfall. He dried off, took a nap, and kept on hiking. He’s had bypass surgery and heart attacks and he’s out here doing the same as me. Believe me, this is hard work!! I’m amazed and inspired by him. He’s always up for a good conversation and tells the best stories. He’s got four grandchildren! I hope that if I live to see my 70’s that I’m still out and about chasing my dreams. I started with a 50 lb, 90 liter pack that eventually falls apart. The company Wenzel agrees to replace it at a super discounted rate but they send me a 35 liter instead of the 50 I ordered. I hike for  week in the tiny pack and finally get my 50 liter and it’s perfect! It’s down to 35lbs too and I am so much more comfortable. I see my friends Crazyhorse and Honeybee in the log book. They had gotten off trail due to some injuries and illness between the two of them, but I see they are just a day ahead of me now! As I’m climbing Mount Greylock I stop to take a break as anther hiker approaches I go to politely say hello and I see that it’s Crazyhorse! Honeybee catches up shortly after and we are all glad to be reunited. We hike to the top where we all indulge in a hot meal. We hike down to the town of Cheshire to stay at a church that opens its doors to hikers for a warm place to sleep. We arrive and there is one other hiker there. She introduces herself as Weebles. We hike together the next day into the town of Dalton where the community center offers showers to hikers. She has a package to collect so I continue on alone but not before stopping for some baked goods and sorbet. I hike into the night using my new headlamp. I am worried I’ll be walking into a shelter full of sleeping hikers but on the contrary, I’m welcomed by a warm campfire, and my friends Honeybee and Crazyhorse. There are 3 day hikers there as well. Shortly after I arrive I see a headlamp and it’s Weebles! “The gang is  all here” I say. It’s a great evening and the fire is nice. The next day everyone hikes out early except for me and one day hiker. He’s a younger kid I’d guess about 19. He’s a dishwasher out for 3 days to get some practice backpacking. We talk about gear and what it’s really like long distance backpacking and I enjoy gaining and giving perspective. I hike out to Upper Goose Pond. The caretakers are a husband and wife with their young boy and their old dog. I’m offered a nice cup of tea upon arrival and Weebles is there! Two other hikers stay there that night, one southbounder and a flip flopper. Flip flopping is when  you start at one end of the trail and then halfway through you stop, find a way to the opposite end of the trail and hike back to the midpoint. I go for a dip in the pond and giggle when the fish ‘nibble’ on my feet!  In the morning the mother, Susan, makes us coffee and pancakes. Susan knows that I’m vegan so she makes me steel cut oats with soy milk, agave nectar, and fruit. It’s so nice to be taken care of so well. Everyone hikes out but Weebles and I. They have lit the fireplace and we are stuck for the day! It’s a much needed day of relaxation and deep conversation. Weebles, Susan, Foster (the boy), and I take the canoes out to gather water from the spring. Gathering water is a daily chore for me but this is an exceptional adventure! After gathering the water Weebles and I take our canoe out to an island covered in carins. Carins are beautiful stacks of rocks that generally show hikers where the path goes but they are stacked other places of serenity as well. We also paddle over to a group of abandoned cabins. It’s an overcast day but the sun peaks out for a moment and we bask in its light. When we return to the dock we look at all of the heavy jugs of water we need to haul up to the cabin. I see if the handles will fit around the paddles and they do! Weebles comes up with the idea to carry them side by side and we make the haul in one trip. It feels good to work together and problem solve! 

That night the husband, Matt, makes us dinner. He’s worked as a chef and makes a delicious Thai coconut tofu dish. Susan and I share some wine left by previous caretakers. We all play a game called Dixit. It feels so good to have family time. Skip arrives that evening as well! The next day is Foster’s birthday. He’s turning 7! Skip gives him $15 and plays a board game with him. I make him a birthday card. I’m the last one to hike out after breakfast. I hike 21 miles to a shelter, the last 2 in the dark. As the sun begins to set I see something staring at me. I pause for a moment before exclaiming, ” Why, you’re a pig!!!” The pig responds with a grunt and all of the sudden the pig and three of its buddies are all grunting and walking towards me. “I’ve never met a pig!!” I say, completely ok with the fact that I’m having a full on conversation with four swine. They’re much larger than I would have thought! They seem very friendly and eager to meet me but I keep my distance not knowing their temperament. Eventually I bid them good day and continue on.  I’m the only one at the shelter which is a first. It’s not as scary as I thought it would be but I do hear some crazy noises in the night which I cannot identify. I wake up to a gnawing sound and turn on my lamp to see a porcupine eating the shelter! He knows he’s been spotted and moves in a way as if to say, “Oh my appologies, didn’t know anyone was here, ermm I’ll be leaving now…” and slowly climbs down from the shelter and hobbles away. He returns once more in the night and we repeat this scenario. Awfully cute things, porcupines! The next day I see Skip and he informs me he’s having his wife pick him up at the next town and he’s going home. I’m so sad as I love running into him but I know he will be back to finish the trail one day. The trail is changing with the season. I see fewer and fewer hikers everyday. It’s a different trail. At times its lonely but I keep on moving. 

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