Monson on Our Minds
Today was our earliest day on trail. We started hiking around 7:30AM. We knew it was going to rain in the late afternoon and through the night. The tail end of a tropical storm was passing through. Discussing the weather on trail is not small talk like it is at the office but a necessity for the hikers on trail. Everyone we passed shared a new bit of information or expected timing of the storm. Based on the information we gathered, it was going to start raining around 4PM. This was going to be Hayley’s first night in a shelter.
We passed over several summits with great views including Third Mountain, Monument Cliff, and Barren Mountain. The AT is always changing thanks to the tireless effort of volunteer crew members. We walked through the new section that re-routed around Fourth Mountain and passed debris of an old small plane crash.
We arrived at Long Pond Stream Lean-to around 2PM. The bugs continued to be a nuisance and decided to have a fire before the storm to keep them at bay. Our friends Inferno and Honey Bullet showed up a little over an hour later with a similar strategy to duck our the rain which started to fall lightly at 4pm. Around 7PM the heavy stuff came and lasted all night. In true thru-hiker fashion, it’s never too late to finish a hike and a NOBO hiker straggled into the Lean-to later into the night. A major difference from Eric’s 2011 thru-hike is how technology how allowed for flexibility during down time at camp. We have downloaded dozens of movies to our devices and enjoyed watching Wedding Crashers while the rain fell outside. This is will be a luxury to get through some of the rainy nights we expect on trail.
We waited for rain to clear and left the shelter a little after 9AM. We had expected more to arrive at the Lean-to the previous night as it is close to town for a thru-hiker, for example Inferno and Honey Bullet will be completing the 15 mile section into Monson today but we decided to split this up into 2 days as part of our ease into thru-hiking strategy. A short half-mile from the shelter we hit 100 miles on trail! Only 2094.3 left to go.
This section of trail had had several river fords mentioned in the guidebook. NOBOs we talked to yesterday said they were just rock-hop sections, however, due to the heavy rain overnight the fords became more challenging. Eric was a little overambitious and tried to rock hop across the first ford but fell in immediately. Woops – no need to change into crocs in order to preserve the hiking shoe dryness going forward. Hayley was much smarter and changed into her crocs keeping her shoes dry, although it may have been for nothing after her foot slipped on a rock at the next ford. Wet feet for remainder of the day… Passed a few more NOBOs who kept talking up how great the town of Monson and the hiker hostel are. Since we have been moving much slower than we normally would, we are very excited for town and town food especially. Today’s conversation on trail were all food related.
Got to the closest lean-to near Monson and ended up staying in it again as camping was very limited. This shelter experience much buggier than our previous once. We had to get creative and slept with our bug nets. Cooler temps came in over night which seemed to reduce their activity. Finished up the last of our food supply today, looking forward to real food and beers tomorrow.
We were both too excited to sleep in. Heading into our first town felt like Christmas morning and we were on trail before 7AM. We cruised through the 3 miles of easy terrain. At the trailhead we met several NOBOs also heading to the famous Shaw’s Hiker Hostel and informed us that the shuttle should be here soon. Our timing could not have been more perfect. A few moments later we heading down the road into Monson.
Arrived at the hostel a little before 9AM, where Poet, one of the owners, provided our first trail magic in form of a complimentary beer or soda. The obvious choice for us was beer. We enjoyed, quite possibly, the best PBR ever drank.
After a taking our first shower in 10 days, we changed into some trendy loaner clothes (Hayley found an Endicott sweatshirt in the loaner bin!) while our dirties were in the wash and headed out to lunch.
Our first “real meal” since Millinocket was at the Lakeshore House, we ate a massive steak and cheese sub, fries, and grilled chicken salad (yes we are being responsible and eating our veggies too) along with cold sprite. Hayley vowed to order dessert at every restaurant she ate at while thru-hiking and enjoyed the Key Lime Pie.
Back at the hostel, Pretty Boy, a fellow SOBO hiker, bought a fuel adaptor and was able to fill several empty cans. He gave us a couple which was a major score as we often cook hot meals on our camp stove. We likely don’t need to worry about fuel until Gorham, NH.
Shaw’s Hiker Hostel has a great energy to it as well as an adorable dog, Indigo who will clean your legs for you! NOBO hikers have this excitement about nearing the end of their journey. SOBO hikers are excited to be in their first town. It’s a great opportunity to connect with SOBOs and learn from NOBOs. Several shared their favorite hostels and towns as well as the ones to avoid. We spent the rest of the evening playing corn hole and even got more dinner and dessert (Four Berry Cobbler) at Lakeshore House.
We decided to take a zero in Monson to accomplish several tasks and enjoy the hiker paradise. First on the list was the massive breakfast at Shaw’s, excellent home fries, bacon, eggs and unlimited blueberry pancakes. Once full, we went the ATC Visitor center to receive our AT thru-hiker hang tags which we will carry on our backpacks to identify our thru-hiking adventure. We then spent time doing laundry, cleaning our camp stove, raiding the hiker box (gear, food, and other items hikers no longer want to carry), re-supplying food (but not fuel thanks to Pretty Boy), updating our blog, eating, kayaking, talking to parents, eating again, drinking beer, and finally packing up all gear.
The hiker-box was deemed a success. We found a few meals, duct tape, and a light-weight hammock which we exchanged for the one we have been carrying (which we later found out Inferno had placed in the Shaw’s hiker box after he had gotten it from a previous hiker box), this will save over a half-pound in weight.
We have enjoyed our time in Monson, especially at Shaw’s but are already looking to catch the early morning shuttle back to the trail to continue our amazing adventure!
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