900 Miles: Showers. Thunderstorms. Bubbles.
Flip Flop 2016: SNP to ME; SNP to GA
The time and the miles are flying by and this update is long overdue. Part of the problem is remembering what has transpired within those last hundred miles as I approach the 1000-mile mark well into New Hampshire and the Whites. This far into the journey, I have definite routines and definite highs and lows—both figuratively and physically.
The low points are primarily associated with long days, humidity and feeling gross. I’m starting to feel obsessive about prioritizing showers over almost everything else. Twice now, after hours of hiking, I’ve taken the time to sit or soak in an icy brook that the trail crosses—once in all my clothes and another time skinny dipping by a stealth site. In town or while visiting friends I can’t wait to rid myself of this hiking “uniform.” Sorry, but I still don’t get what kind of thru-hiking competition takes pride in hiking the trail with few showers as possible.
Even though I’ve been relatively successful staying with friends during threatening weather, I have had my days of hiking in the rain and racing against thunderstorms. I was more than half way up Mt. Killington in Vermont, trapped on a narrow switchback when I heard the first peals of thunder. The summit was another mile ahead and the shelter 1.6 miles beyond that. A passing hiker told me the summit wasn’t exposed and speculated that we had another thirty minutes to an hour before the storm would hit. Ten minutes later the rain started. I was booking it when the thunder boomed overhead and the skies really opened up. By this time I was off the mountain side and by a trail junction where there was room to hunker down under my umbrella and wait it out. Fifteen minutes later the rain subsided and the trail had become a stream. Ah, now I understand the spaced boulders in the middle of the path—stepping stones amidst the waterlogged trail.
The Cooper Lodge Shelter atop Mt. Killington hit a new low and probably not too many steps removed from condemnation. Except this is the AT, and a roofed structure in the middle of the woods, out of the rain, is still considered to be an oasis.
Except for expensive gear, finding me in this decaying Poe-like “House of Usher,” you would swear I was homeless. And I felt homeless—wearing the same unwashed clothes for four straight days, smelling bad, feeling damp and sticky. I slept in a place that was falling apart. The timbers rotted, the roof leaking. There was broken glass and graffiti. The four bunk beds tilted every which direction with missing boards.
At one time, this four-sided stone building was probably a CCC-built jewel. The composting toilet isn’t the worst one on the trail and there are new tent platforms and signage here so I’m guessing this shelter is up for renovation or repairs, eventually. It is listed in the guidebook to house sixteen people, but in its current state, it can barely manage to house two of us. But the post-storm sunset streaming through the pane-less Cooper Lodge Hovel windows was beautiful.
The end of Vermont also meant the beginning of the Southbound (SOBO) hiker bubble. Shelters and campsites are now being shared nightly with NOBOs and SOBOs, as well as Flip Floppers and sectional hikers. The SOBOs like to scare us about the difficulty Maine presents. Meanwhile we are like, meh, you only have 300 hundred miles underfoot. Talk to me again after Rocksylvania, will ya? See you on the flip side.
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