Being Flexible on the Appalachian Trail – AT Flip Flop

Every plan is a tiny prayer to father time

It’s a bit of a heady and intense song, but if you click on and listen to What Sarah Said from which that line comes by Death Cab for Cutie you might enjoy. Also, It’s a fitting choice I think as the title of the album is Plans

And I love the description of what a plan is – I have used this many times. So the big plan is to complete the AT. But each day on the trail brings so many instances to make plans – how far to go, where to take a break, should you stop now or go on and get water or hope the next stream is not dry, etc. What I am learning is the need to make plans, be flexible, adjust, make or change the daily plan, and see if there are any lessons to be learned for next time.

Here’s some examples from the last few days.

Day eighteen was going to be a long day, about twenty miles. This would see me climbing up and over Stratton Mountain at thirty-nine hundred feet to drop down to Stratton Pond shelter on the north side of the mountain. There were no shelters or campsites on the top of Stratton and Stratton Pond shelter was on a 1/2 mile side trail off the AT. As I’m climbing up the mountain, I realized I’m in Vermont, and dispersed camping, otherwise known as stealth camping, is allowable. I found a great stealth site right off the summit and had an awesome night of sleep in the cool mountain breezes. And only needed to do about 16 miles – not the 20 miles I didn’t want to do!

Day 19 saw me up and out early for a great morning of hiking. The trail was great, the weather nice as could be, and I was cruising along. With the quicker than anticipated pace, I realized I would probably make it to Vermont RT 11/30 by around noon or 1:00. This would bring me very close to Manchester, VT, and lots of good food – certainly better than was in my backpack. I looked on the FarOut app and saw there was a great deli not far from the trail and I was off!

By 1:00 pm, I’m at the road. A nice person gave me a ride down to town and I had an awesome lunch. Rain was in the forecast and no sooner had I gotten back to the trailhead, then the downpours started. Flexibility again came into play and rather than going on to the top of Bromley Mountain, I stopped at the beautiful Bromley shelter 1 mile below the summit. It had a porch. Lots of bunk space and was completely dry. Home for the night!

Day twenty continued the stream of flexibility. Once I settled into the shelter for the night it stopped raining. It didn’t start again until I was fully packed in the morning and about to head out. It didn’t just rain, it poured. The forecast called for heavy downpours for about an hour and a 1/2. I made a quick audible, unpacked my sleeping mat, took out my book, and waited out the rain. With the rain over, I quickly packed up and headed up to the top of Bromley. 

Another change of plans, On the top of Bromley is a ski hut that thru-hikers can use. It has electricity, a working clothes dryer, a place for trash, and a warm, dry place to hang out in. One mile later I’m in the ski hut drying my now very wet clothes, charging my phone, having a snack, and thinking flexibility is pretty important.

With the late start and unexpected delay at the ski hut, I continue to adjust my plans. What was planned as either a twelve, fifteen, or eighteen-mile day became a very short 8.1-mile day. I came to the Peru Peak Shelter around 3 in the afternoon. It’s empty, it’s right on a river. It’s dry, it’s supposed to rain again overnight. I’m flexible, I’m here, it’s home for the night.

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Comments 2

  • thetentman : Jul 11th

    PBR nice

    Way to go


  • Carol : Jul 11th

    That lunch looks so good! Better than snacks and lasts longer too. Making good progress. So happy for you…realizing your dream


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