Katahdin Will Be There Next Year
Katahdin Isn’t Going Anywhere
As I headed north, it became clear that I wasn’t going to make Katahdin before my second grandchild was born. I have to be there to meet the dumpling! Afer all, I’m going to be taking care of the little shumi after my daughter’s maternity leave is over. My wife got a job, one that she loves, in Maine and I will be staying in North Carolina to help take care of the new baby. While the trail has taught us that we can feel connected even when we aren’t physically close, she leaves for Maine in early August and if I’m going to spend some quality time with her before then, now is the time. On top of all that I had a fall coming down to Clarendon Gorge, twisted my ankle and bent my left knee a bit more than it was comfortable with. I knew it wasn’t anything major, but by day’s end it was uncomfortable. A day off in Rutland helped, but when I returned to the trail, the discomfort came back. So I decided to come home…Katahdin isn’t going anywhere!
There may be a silver lining. I made it Hanover and the Whites are looming. When I return to the trail, I’m going to be able to estimate when a night in one of the huts would be helpful. As one of the slowest hikers out there, I will never get work-for-stay and for me, it’s better to have a slot your sure of than simply taking a shot. I like the idea of being able to reduce my food weight through the Whites.
I left Great Barrington on a beautiful morning much refreshed by my zero there. I passed a beautiful trailside farm and thought about how nice it would be to live near the trail. I camped at the Shaker Camp site the first night and near the Upper Goose Pond Cabin the second. The caretaker at the cabin and his wife were incredible and made pancakes for the masses the next morning. They have been caretakers at the pond for a couple of weeks a year for over 30 years. Scads of people were camped near the cabin and as we were sharing stories over dinner, someone recognized my rotator cuff story from my blog. Nice meeting a reader who’s not my mother!
After leaving the pond, I met a group of fellow boomers taking a break at a shelter. Had a nice talk with Grateful Dad as we walked north. Nick, another Trek blogger I mention in my last post had walked with Grateful Dad for a while. The other geezers went looking for the cookie lady; I went looking for a stealth spot just north of the Washington Mountain Road
Dalton and the Bascom Lodge
The next day I went into Dalton to resupply. The Shamrock Inn was full and I wanted to get into town to take care of business. It was a long, hot walk to the Walmart. (Couldn’t Guthook’s app have mentioned the bus to Pittsfield which is where the Walmart really is?). Turns out there is an Econolodge in Pittsfield near the Walmart where I happily crashed after hitting 5 Guys and resupplied at a grocery store nearby. I didn’t really need much. I was planning to stay at the Bascom Lodge on the top of Mt. Greylock two easy days to the north and I would get to Williamstown the day after that. Food accounts for about a third of the weight I carry. I’m learning to look for more frequent resupply options to cut down on the weight I carry. The boomers I walked with were all flying and I couldn’t help but notice that their packs were lighter than mine. They were a lot fitter too, but that’s another story. I averaged a little more than 10 miles a day. My longest day was 15. They were doing up to 20. I will confess that my tendency to linger in my bag in the morning may have had something to do with it too. This section of the trail seemed to be on continuous trip hazard and I found it difficult to consistently walk even 2 miles an hour. Is this one of those things that I can change or one that I have to accept? This will take some thought.
I walked back to Dalton the next morning and had an excellent breakfast at the Dalton Restaurant and a hot apple turnover at the bakery next door. Hiker hunger is real, folks! I enjoyed a pleasant up and down to Cheshire, Mass., stopped for ice cream and looked for another stealth spot north of town. (In my mind, this is a tent sized area with no vegetation. Tough to come by in this stretch.) While I was able to find one, the mosquitoes chased me into my tent where I was able to eat a cold supper consisting of a tuna and cheese burrito in peace rather than the chili I planned to cook.
I pulled into the Bascom Lodge at about 3:00 the next afternoon. It was a little strange to be around so many tourists. A couple took pictures of me eating ice cream outside. The “civilians” there seemed to appreciate the local color hiker trash added to the ambiance. After I shower, I had a burger in the grill and settled into the bunk room. Grateful Dad showed up along with a serious beast with the trial name of Ultra. Ultra was a boomer who regularly runs ultra marathons (50 and 100 mile races). Ultra was doing 30 mile days. I was never going to see him again, so I followed him on Instagram.
After eating every muffin sight with Ultra and another boomer thru hiker named Red Goat, I headed into Williamstown. Grateful Dad hit the trail early and missed out. With only 7 miles to cover and all of I think down hill, I would have all afternoon to resupply. I stayed at the Willows Motel. It is within easy walking distance to most services in town with the possible exception of the Stop and Shop, but the grocery store is an easy walk from the trail and the motel sent someone to pick me up there after I finished my resupply. I got everything taken care of and had a nice pizza from the restaurant next door and visited with Mrs. Joy, a hiker I’ve been running into occasionally for a couple of weeks. While I had an early breakfast at a diner down the street from the motel, the generous variety of the motel’s breakfast buffet blew me away. Sometimes one breakfast isn’t enough. The motel manager took me back to the trail. The Willows is a great, hiker friendly place. I highly recommended it.
On to Vermont
Mid-June may not be the best time of year to hike through Vermont. The trail was muddy and whenever I stopped clouds of gnats and mosquitoes feasted on me. The gnats were a royal pain. They would land on my eyes and getting them out was almost impossible. My shoes were causing problems too. The souls were in good shape, but I had gaping holes in the toes. Open toed shoes don’t work well in Vermud! Roots had a way of perfectly nestling in the open toes of my shoes giving me several opportunities to kiss trail. Something to take care of in Great Barrington. As I walked through Vermont, it rained almost every day. Shelters were packed, but I kept to my tent. (My Zpacks Altaplex rocks!) Does anything look more pitiful than soaking wet backpackers huddled shoulder to shoulder in a shelter?
Coming into Manchester Center it rained like it was the end of the world. It started slowly. I just put on my rain jacket and left my rain skirt in my pack. I just didn’t want to take the time to put it on. I stopped to get water and had a fall right out of the Three Stooges. Hurt like hell! So I get the road about 2:00 pm. There is a card on the bulletin board in the parking lot with the phone number of a trail angel who’ll pick you up, but when it rains, it is impossible to unlock my phone. I just started walking into town. A couple of former thru hikers picked me up after just few minutes. I must have looked incredibly pitiful. I didn’t realize until I was my motel room that when I fell I managed to open up the seat of my shorts. This realization elevated the angels that picked me up to sainthood. My thumb wasn’t the only thing I was flashing. Cue Moonlight in Vermont.
I should have posted an update from Manchester Center, but I had a lot to take care of. New shoes and shorts at The Mountain Goat, laundry, resupply… The Mummy showing at the theater. I had to see that, since Wonder Woman wasn’t available. The Wonder Woman trailer would have to do.
Bob’s Diner, next to my motel was a great find. I had a spectacular breakfast before the long walk into town. Because it was such a long walk into town, I planned to make a day of it. The Mountain Goat is full service outfitter with knowledgeable staff. I went with Saloman trail runners. The toe box was definitely beefier than that of my Sauconys. After a quick lunch and a visit to Ben and Jerry’s, I did my laundry before heading to the movie. I picked up Chinese and resupplied at the grocery and headed back to motel with my inner dialogue harangueing me about my decision to get the Chinese food to go the whole trek back to my motel.
Jeff from the Green Mountain Hostel picked up the next morning to take me back to trail with a German thru hiker, the fourth one I’d met this section. Would have liked to chat, but she walked me into the ground.
It took four and a half days to get to Rutland. I camped near the Peru Peak, Greenwall, Minerva Hinchey and Clarendon shelters. The most significant thing that happened on this stretch was a bad fall going down to Clarendon Gorge. I twisted my ankle and my left knee bent a bit more than it wanted to. Initially it didn’t feel like a big deal, but that night, it was very uncomfortable to straighten my leg. I knew nothing was seriously wrong with it. While it didn’t hurt to walk on it, I wasn’t able to cover my usual mileage. I walked down Killington with a family from New York. They gave me a ride into town. Thru hiking was on their bucket list and they had lots of questions. Nobody thru hikes without random acts of kindness like this. I don’t think I will ever be able to pass a hiker looking for a hitch again. That’s the only way to pay back the people that helped me.
I didn’t initially intend to take another zero in Rutland, but the knee was bugging me. Wonder Woman was playing and it didn’t disappoint! I took it easy. I picked up enough food to get me to West Hartford where old family friends were going to put me up for a couple of days. Rutland is a great trail town. The breakfast burritos at the Speakeasy Cafe were incredible! The best thing about Rutland is the Diamond Bus which took me back to the trail for $2. I wish more trail towns could figure out ways to make this happen!
The knee felt a lot better after the zero, but by day’s end it was irritated again. I was sure that rest was all I needed, but my daughter’s due date was looming. I spent a lot of time thinking about my options before deciding to come home.
I had done this section before; my son went to Dartmouth and we walked to campus from Rutland before his freshman year, but none of it really looked familiar. I liked this section. The trail alternates between verdant forest and scenic alpine meadows.
Final day on the trail (this year)
My friends dropped me off at the library in West Hartford and I headed for Hanover. The shoulder of the road was washed out in several places. Aleve, who I haven’t seen since New York, caught up to me. He had just returned to the trail after taking a week off. It was good to see him. I had several trail families this hike, but since I’m slower than most I end up lagging behind only to make other connections. There are scads of nice people out there.
Stream crossings took a lot more thought than usual. On the AT you can usually avoid getting your feet wet, but not this day! On this day, crossings were almost PCT like.
I had a reservation at the 6 South Street Hotel. After checking in and taking a shower, I headed for Lou’s only to find it was closed. While I initially disappointed at missing out on a meal at one of my all time favorite diners, the burrito place across the street assuaged my despair. I caught the Dartmouth Bus to New York at the crack of dawn and the train at Penn Station that home. Thus ended the longest hike of my lifetime…725 miles in two and a half months. Learned a lot which I’ll share next time.
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