Nice Surprises (July 20-31)

July 20.  Today the trail crosses a road that leads either west to Williamstown, MA or east to North Adams, MA.  Either way it is about 2.5 miles into town, so I am not expecting to make those trips.  I have about a quarter mile left to get to the road when I see signs stapled up by the trail.  This is almost always a good sign- usually some good offer for hikers approaching town.  In this case, I read about “Bikes for Hikes”.  Joshua, North Adams City Councilor, has donated several bicycles for hikers to use as they wish.  The sign reads, “Come and explore our city, refuel at one of our many markets, enjoy the emerging art scene” at the contemporary art museum in town.  Very tempting.  I wasn’t necessarily planning on going into town, but this unexpected surprise makes it so easy.  I hike over to the designated house and find the bikes and a shed on the edge of the yard.  I leave my pack behind the shed, hop on a bike and start pedaling toward North Adams.  I spend the rest of the day biking around town, eating, spending time at the library.  It is a good, spontaneous break from the trail for me.  I really appreciate the Bikes for Hikes project- what a neat idea for hikers.

July 21.  The next day I meet thru hiker “Singer” and his dog Ike.  We keep passing one another all morning, and then eventually I come out to a clearing and view.  Singer is talking to two section hikers about his dog Ike, who is lapping up attention from all the hikers.  I learn the story of Ike- apparently he was left wandering around at a hostel in TN.  He followed the first group of hikers to hit the trail, and each day he would follow the first group of hikers to leave the shelter.  Hikers took pity on the dog and fed him scraps, until Singer took him in to the next town to see if he was missing from somewhere.  Nothing came up, so Singer adopted him.  Singer said, “I had been wanting a dog for on the trail, and even considered stopping at a Humane League to adopt a dog!”  So this was kind of perfect.  As some like to say, “The trail provides”.
July 25.  A friend from Warren Doyle’s Appalachian Trail class contacted me, asking how she could help me now that I’m hiking closer to her home state.  Ruthe Anne is planning for her own thru hike next spring 2018.  I had such a nice stay at her home, and she even helped me slack pack one rainy day over a mountainous part of Vermont.  One of the things I most loved though, was talking to Ruthe Anne again and seeing her excitement and planning for her own trip.  It was so inspiring- it made me remember how excited I was when I was preparing for this trip, and now I’m actually in the midst of that trip.  Sometimes I forget how amazing it is that I was able to come out here and that I’ve been out here for so long.  Ruthe Anne thanked me for answering her questions about thru hiking and easing some of her anxieties, but I also got such a valuable reminder and perspective from her.
July 26.  When I took the Appalachian Trail Institute class in March, Warren asked each of us, “How many hours a day will you spend not hiking or sleeping?” What he was really getting at was, “How many hours a day will you spend socializing?”  In that setting, I took a lot of pride in being independent and socializing at times, but mostly sticking to hiking on my own.
This week was a change of pace for me.  After months of mostly hiking alone, it was nice to spend a couple days hiking with a group of friends.  They’ve been a group for a while, but after weeks of bumping into one another now and again, I think they are half adopting me.  I went to “The Yellow Deli”, a hostel in Rutland, with them.  Skills and Super are a couple, coincidentally also from my home area.  One Sock is a very friendly thru hiker from GA.  The four of us took full advantage of our time in town, even spontaneously going to the local movie theater one evening.  I was seeing a different movie than the three of them, so I said, “I’ll just see you back at the hostel”.  But Super heard and cried out, “What?!  No, we like you!  We’ll wait for you!”  I thought that was really nice, and it made me laugh.  I’m not used to being part of a group, but there was something really nice about hanging out together.  We all resupplied at the local grocery store, this group of grungy happy hikers just putting loads of junk food in a cart.  I even convinced Super to include a box of cookies in her resupply.  You might as well treat yourself and get what you’re not sick of, at this point.  We can eat anything now, entire meals of cookies and candy!
So these are some of the surprises I’ve had in late July.
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