See Those Mountains in the Distance?
The choices we make lead up to actual experiences. It is one thing to decide to climb a mountain. It is quite another to be on top of it.
-Herbert A. Simon
Whoops! It’s been over a month since my last update. I’m going to try to bring you guys up to speed without boring you to death!
I have to say, I received so much “trail magic” (really town magic) and love from the locals in every little town I passed through in Massachusetts. It was one of my favorite states, despite constantly dealing with dried up water sources and fighting mosquitoes and heat. When we left off, I’d recently left Lee, MA after returning from my adventure to Connecticut. I did an 11 and a 10 mile day the next two days, pretty good for me at this point (if you’ve been following along, you know that I am NOT one of those hikers that can do big miles every day). The 10 mile day was into Dalton, and I did that 10 miles in just over 4 hours, a personal best for me! I was able to get a shower at the rec center in Dalton (I really love when these little towns let you use their facilities like this) and then meet up with Longspoon at a restaurant called Jacobs, which turned out to have great drinks, a fun bartender, good food, and be pretty hiker friendly! Ms. Janet met us here and drove me one town over to do some laundry, and we all ended up camping just up the trail right outside of town. Trail Tip: There’s a fellow here that will also let you camp in his yard for free; however, due to misbehavior of hikers in the past, he’s had his name removed from the AT guidebooks. He does still provide this service, but you’ll have to get his information from a local or hope you run into him on the street — the AT does go right by his house.
The next stop was Cheshire, which is a super small little town. The catholic church here used to let hikers sleep there, then stopped so I believe they were taken out of the guidebooks. However, the churchgoers convinced their new priest to re-open the church to hikers and they are very friendly. I found out about this before getting to town and booked it over to the church to check out the situation. Sure enough, they allow hikers to stay there. They even had a box of canned goods for you to use and a nice hiker box, as well as an AT Passport stamp and had recently installed an outdoor shower. Trail tip: If you plan on staying at the church, know that it involves sleeping on the floor, which is concrete. Have a good sleeping pad, and don’t count on being able to set up your hammock if you’re a tree-dweller — I was able to jerry-rig mine over the handicap railings but it was a little precarious.
The following day we awoke to a torrential downpour (thank goodness because we really needed it). Now, I don’t really mind hiking in the rain too much… but it’s always so difficult to get going in the mornings when its raining, and especially when you are INDOORS and warm and dry. So, I packed up and waited for a small break in the downpour and booked it over to the only place in town I found that served alcohol to get lunch. As I was walking down the sidewalk toward this restaurant, in the rain and with all my rain gear on, a fellow in a blue car suddenly stops on the street next to me and yells out, “Hey! Are you Tinkerbell?” Hesitantly, I responded that I was, and he said he followed me on Instagram and asked if I needed a ride to anywhere. Since I was just a couple hundred feet from the restaurant, I responded that no, I was almost there, but thanked him and continued on my way. A bit later, while I’m sitting in the restaurant trying to figure out my next move (and it’s still flooding outside), I get a notification that someone has sent me a message on IG… it was the guy in the blue car (who’s name is Josh, I soon found out). He was messaging to say that he and his fiance would like to host me for the evening if I wanted to get indoors out of the rain. Heck yeah! He was passing back through Cheshire on his way home to North Adams and stopped by to pick me up from the restaurant. I spent a fun evening watching TV and napping and NOT hiking in the rain with Josh and his fiance Chantelle and their son Tom, and also got some slobbery loving from their Boxer. Trail tip: I’d recommend having an Instagram account that you update frequently with photos from your hike… and start it BEFORE you begin your hike. Document your preparation and excitement about the trip and start to gain a following by using appropriate hashtags (#appalachiantrials is a good one!). This can help you earn sponsorships and donations, but also puts you in front of a large audience of trail enthusiasts and trail angels that may be willing to help you out!
The next day, Josh dropped me back off in Cheshire and I headed up Greylock. It was still rainy, but at least it was just a drizzle and not the monsoon of the day before. The climb up Greylock is long, but not terribly steep or strenuous and I quite enjoyed the ethereal feel of the forest being shrouded in mist. However, by the time I got to the top I was hungry, tired, and pretty chilled from being soaked all day. I entered the lodge at the top and that was probably a mistake, because once I was indoors I definitely did NOT want to go back out in the cruddy weather. I ended up paying for a bunk for the night and stayed at the lodge until morning. I had a bit of an annoying experience here, because the lodge rented out the rest of the bunks to two family groups that ended up being noisy and being awake until really late at night. I’m going to elaborate on this in a future post about hostel and bunkroom etiquette.
I awoke the next morning to a wall of fog so thick, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, so I definitely didn’t have a view off of Greylock. I headed down the trail that was now a river and hiked into North Adams. I’d been messaging back and forth with a guy who invited me to go to Mass MOCA with him, an art museum in North Adams, so he scooped me up at the trailhead and we headed into town. Turns out, Mass MOCA is the largest contemporary art museum in the country or something like that, and it was massive. It’s basically an old industrial building that’s being re-purposed. A lot of it is finished, but there’s still a ton more to come. I really enjoyed visiting the museum, and it’s turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip! Trail tip: just go here! You won’t regret it.
Silly was getting back on trail this same day in Bennington, VT so I got a ride to Bennington to see her for a few minutes. I hung out at the brewery there for the afternoon, and later that evening, Josh and Chantelle came to pick me up and I ended up back in North Adams at their place for a second night. I’m so eternally grateful for all of their kindness and generosity. Josh once again got me back to the trailhead the next morning so that I could head out for…. VERMONT. Josh, if you’re reading this, I really hope you get to thru-hike yourself someday, and I hope that when you come through the south I can be there to be your own personal trail angel like you were for me!
Vermonting, the wrong way
Crossing into Vermont is an interesting moment. As soon as you cross the state line, you are on the Long Trail, which follows the same path as the AT for something like 100 miles. Everyone talks about how amazing Vermont is and it’s so beautiful and this and that. Well, I’m sure the first half of Vermont is pretty, but I wouldn’t know because I spent the entire time looking at my feet trying not to break a foot or an ankle. The trail was an absolute wreck. Literally the moment you cross the state line you are introduced to Vermont’s famous black mud. Well, that isn’t so bad because at least it’s soft underfoot. However, because the soil is so soft it washes away which has lead to a serious erosion problem. The trail for the entirety of the combined AT/LT portion had blowdowns all over the place, exposed roots and rocks on pretty much every inch of trail, and in some places was fairly poorly marked. In an attempt, I’m assuming, to minimize erosion, the trail has been routed through streambeds and over rockslides in many areas, which makes for treacherous and painful footing.
On my second day in Vermont, I awoke and left the Seth Warner Shelter with my sights set on an 11 mile day into Bennington, where I’d meet up with Silly and Longspoon again. About 4 miles out from the shelter, I took a wrong turn. In reality, I didn’t turn, the AT did, and I kept going straight down an ATV trail without realizing it. About an hour later, I did realize I was on the wrong path, and Guthooks confirmed it (trail tip: I’ve probably mentioned this before but spend the money on this app, it is SO worth it in moments like this). Any logical thru-hiker would have (and should have)
sucked it up and walked the two miles back uphill to find the intersection they’d missed. Well, my stubbornness decided that we should just keep going. Besides, this path had to eventually lead SOMEWHERE right? Right?? Well… sort of. I was able to use Guthooks to track my location and keep making right hand turns when given the opportunity to move somewhat in the direction of the AT. At one point, I came to a river I had to cross to get to that right hand turn I needed to make. The ATV trail was basically just a rough path, mostly stones and rocks interspersed with massive bog holes that I had to skirt by on the edges of the path OR bushwhack through the neighboring woods to get around. I fell into these holes no less than 3 times during the traverse… each time sinking up to my knees in mud and goop and stagnant water. I eventually, and quite startlingly, popped out of the woods into a clearing with a small wooden cabin. It was a bit odd finding a cabin here, where there was basically no road access. The cabin sat on the edge of a pond and there were a couple of canoes and small boats sitting around, which I’m assuming is the method by which whoever owns it accesses the cabin. Honestly it looked to me like the kind of place a serial killer takes his victims to hold them hostage and torture them… I high-tailed it out of there. Guthooks told me that if I continued down the path on the other side of the clearing, I’d eventually reach a better woods road and could turn right and walk that road back to the AT. I was almost in the clear. This path that left the cabin was totally flooded with bog holes everywhere, so I spent most of the next half mile bushwhacking. This path finally afforded me an opportunity to turn right… but it definitely wasn’t a better road than the one I was on. In fact, about a quarter of a mile down, it wasn’t a road at all. The pond had flooded and everything was underwater, so now a body of water stood between me and getting back on the AT. Without much choice, I hiked up my skirt, tightened my trailrunners, and started wading out into the water. It took me about 10 minutes to wade across the pond, which at it’s deepest point was about hip deep on me, and I emerged on the other side soaked and muddy, but at least close to the trail. Ten minutes later, I jumped for joy when I saw a white blaze peeking through the trees where the AT crossed the “woods road” I was travelling on. I checked Guthooks and I was a whole two miles from where I’d gone off trail south of Consultation Peak… I’d been walking on these ATV trails for over three hours, adding at least 5 additional miles to my hike. I still had 6 and a half miles to go to Bennington and my spirits were tanked, but I pushed onward in soggy shoes and finally made it to the road to Bennington.
Once at the road, I had zero cell signal and zero energy to do much of anything. I was able to hold my phone in the air and twist my arm the correct way and hold my mouth just the right way to get one bar to text Silly and ask her to call me a cab. She did, and said they’d be about 15 minutes. An hour later, they still hadn’t shown up despite multiple callbacks. I bicyclist came zooming by and pulled into the trailhead parking. A few minutes later he waved to me and offered me a ride to Bennington. I felt TERRIBLE leaving after calling the cab. I am absolutely not the kind of person to do that, however at this point I’d been waiting nearly an hour and a half on a cab to take me 4 miles down the road. I took the ride and went into town.
Weeks earlier I had talked to a guy who invited me to go to Maine with him to a music festival. He and his brother were supposed to go, and the brother bailed, so since we’d been chatting he invited me. It was a bit odd to take off with someone who was almost a stranger to spend a weekend in Maine, but I thought why the hell not and decided to go anyway. He picked me up the next day in Bennington and we struck out for Bangor. We spent the night in a campground near the ocean in southern Maine and got into Bangor the following day. I have never been much into metal music, which is what kind of festival this was, but I honestly had quite a good time. The music is a lot more interesting in person, and the people-watching was spectacular. It was a nice vacation from my vacation, especially after the day I’d had in Vermont prior to this trip.
The rest of Vermont
He dropped me back at the trail on Sunday and I continued north. I got to summit Stratton within a couple of days, which is one of the highlights of Vermont, and also the first view I’d had in a while since all of the other times I’d sumitted recently had been in fog or rain. It was beautiful up there, and then I got to hike down to Stratton Pond, which is also gorgeous. It was in general just a beautiful day to be on trail. Trail Tip: many of the campgrounds and shelters managed by the Green Mountain Club in Vermont are pay sites during the summer. This is because they receive such high use during this time: the NOBO and SOBO Appalachian Trail bubbles both hit this area at the same time, and August is the most popular month for people to attempt Long Trail thru-hikes, so you end up with three massive groups of people trying to share the same spots. For this reason, the GMC stations caretakers at these locations to maintain the sites and keep the privies in decent shape. Please don’t bad-mouth them behind their back and always be kind and respectful to their faces; these people are the ones that make this experience possible for you. If you don’t want to pay, camp somewhere else. I was able to find free campsites during this whole part of the trail and never once payed to stay at one of the pay sites, so you can too if you choose to do that.
At this point, I was separated from Silly and Spoon again. I continued hiking and made it to Manchester Center, an odd little resort town. In town, I met up with Avalon, who I hadn’t seen since Troutville, VA! She was traveling with Tsehai and Little Sister and we all shared a room in town for the night. Tippy Toes, who I hadn’t seen since SNP, was also in town and we all got together and had a few beers and watched the Olympics. I’d been pretty down in the dumps lately and this was a real boost to my morale. It was good to see friends and be among company again.
The next day Silly and Spoon made it into town and we were finally reunited. At this point, I’d been having pretty severe foot pain for a week or two and decided it was time for new shoes. I opted, for the first time in three years, to switch out of my trusty Brooks Cascadias and into something a little more sturdy in anticipation of the rough terrain ahead. I ended up with an Oboz hiking shoe (which I’m liking so far) and we headed out of town up
Bromley. The intention was to watch the meteor shower that everyone had been all hyped up about. However, I was so exhausted for some reason that I ended up setting up my shelter and going to sleep almost immediately upon arriving. The next morning, we awoke in a cloud. Everything, and I do mean everything was soaked. I don’t even think it rained, but there was so much moisture in the air that it just clung to everything. I awoke and packed up to get moving. I made 11 miles that day, a big day for me at this point with my feet hurting like they had been, and ended up camping at a shelter with a SOBO section hiker… we were the only two people there which was pretty weird considering the traffic on the trail lately.
When I made it into Rutland, a local had tipped me off to the fact that there was a massage place in town that did discounted student massages on Sundays. I always struggle with nerve pain in my back on long distance hiking trips, and my feet had been aching so a massage sounded wonderful. It turned out to be the best $20 I think I’ve spent on trail… for an hour long full body massage. I felt wonderful afterward, but the masseuse advised me not to hike out that day so I headed over to the Yellow Deli to see if I could get lodging for the night.
… I drank the Mate
The Yellow Deli is run by a Twelve Tribes community. These folks get talked about a lot and a certain shroud of mystery surrounds them, since they are a religious organization and don’t exactly conform to societal norms. I’ve heard mixed reviews about their hiker services, but I must say the Yellow Deli Hostel in Rutland is a place to visit. They hosts are very kind and are not pushy about their religious views, nor are they persistent in trying to sway you to join their community (as I’ve heard some people say). I felt welcome and accepted just as I was. It’s donation/WFS based, so that makes for inexpensive accommodations. They have separate male and female bunkrooms, which was actually kind of nice because men are more smelly and fart more than women. They have showers and laundry, and delicious breakfast served every morning. Due to the foot pain I’d been having, I called and made an appointment with a podiatrist for Thursday morning, so I actually ended up staying from Sunday to Thursday. My feet needed the break, but I was getting a bit restless. Silly and I got so bored that we dyed my hair and bought supplies to make friendship bracelets for everyone. I met SOBO Mr. Clean and NOBO Bow Fire who also stayed for several days. Mr. Clean was recovering from a concussion from falling on top of some mountain, which was a pretty bizarre story.
While here I met a ton of hikers, and I can’t begin to remember all of their names. However, one of them was The Bobcat, a super cool gal who has already hiked the PCT and written a book called Crazy Free which is now on my reading list. Trail tip: plan to stay here, at least for a night. Do, however, respect that this is their place of business and for some of them, their home. They have rules such as a 10pm curfew and no drinking or smoking (and no coming “home” drunk). If you don’t like the rules, don’t stay here, and absolutely don’t try to break them. That’s disrespectful and is the kind of thing that causes us to lose places like this as a resource for future hikers.
Longspoon jumped ahead to Glencliff to hike SOBO for a few days and give Silly the chance to hike her own hike by herself for a bit. She and I have been on and off hiking together since, and have made it to Hanover! We’ve had some beautiful hiking, spent a fun evening at The Barn in Woodstock, VT, and got to spend an afternoon hanging out with my friend Lisa and her three standard poodles who came to visit us in Woodstock to do some trail magic (Thanks Lisa!)
The podiatrist gave me the go-ahead to keep hiking despite the fact that my feet feel like they are breaking. I have to do a lot of stretches and massages during the day because my problem apparently is that my muscles are too tight and causing my feet not to work right, which is leading to the pain. She assured me that I have no stress fractures and have not done any permanent damage (yet) but that I could seriously injure myself if I’m not careful. Armed with this knowledge and the fact that I’m running lower and lower on funds (and time to beat winter to Katahdin), I’ve devised a new plan. I’m resigned to the fact that I may never be a thru-hiker. This is the second year in a row that I’ve attempted this feat, and the second year that failure seems inevitable. However, I have at this point hiked a significant portion of the trail and will continue to knock out those sections I’ve missed until I achieve 2000-miler status. My new plan is to hike through the Whites, then jump up to Maine and spend a week slackpacking with my mom and sister, who are driving up from Georgia to meet me for the grand finale. I’ll miss doing most of Maine, but skipping the southern section especially will help keep me from doing any more harm to my feet. We will summit Katahdin on September 15th to
complete this year’s thru-hike attempt turned Long Ass Section Hike. This will leave me with most of Maine, a couple of different two-day sections of Vermont, most of Connecticut, and all of West Virginia north to CT to finish later, a total of about 700 miles in all. I may be looking at jobs working on a couple of different ski resorts in either Vermont or Maine for the winter, and if that pans out then as soon as I get home to Georgia, I’ll be gathering my things (and MY DOG) and heading north right back to New England, in which case I’ll make up another 100 or so of those miles then (probably the 100 mile wilderness) before winter sets in and I get to work. I’ve got several work opportunities on the table for next year that will allow me to do some traveling and also afford me some time off to hopefully complete another big chunk of the trail next summer or fall.
I’m writing this sitting in the library of Hanover, NH. I crossed the state line yesterday and stayed with trail angel Betsy in Norwich, VT last night. These two little towns are super friendly, and if I didn’t love the south so much, Hanover might just replace Franklin as my favorite trail town. There are so many hiker services in this town, and many restaurants that offer free food to hikers, in addition to having an list of trail angels that give hikers a free place to sleep and free rides! It’s also a college town, so there are lots of amenities and it has that charming college-town feel. The trail over the last couple of days getting out of Vermont has been gorgeous, walking through forests and across fields over smooth, soft trail covered in a blanket of pine needles. Since leaving the Long Trail behind, the AT in Vermont has been a lot nicer… I can look around a bit and not worry about breaking a leg. I want to come back to Vermont and hike some of the sections I ended up skipping to make up for lost time, and to re-hike some of the mountains I did in the rain and didn’t get a view from, like Bromley. I do believe this is a beautiful, enjoyable state to hike, even though for the most part that wasn’t my experience on this trip. Even though my feet are killing me and I’m not as strong as I wish I was, I cannot WAIT for the whites next week. They are going to kick my ass but I’m ready to be up over 5000 feet again. Trail tip: if you haven’t already by this point, having your winter gear shipped to Hanover is wise, and at least to Glencliffe before the whites. It’s August but it’s already been down into the 40’s at night a couple times up here.
- Total AT Miles Hiked: 1120.3 total unique Appalachian Trail miles (with about 250 repeated miles, and 575 miles hiked so far this trip)
- Mileage Breakdown: (this is more for me and my records than for you guys) 469 miles from Springer Mountain to Damascus VA (2015) + 468.4 miles from Marion, VA to Bear’s Den Hostel in VA (2015, 2016) + 111.8 miles from Salisbury CT to Bennington, VT (2016) + 35.1 miles from Stratton/Arlington Rd to Danby, VT (2016) + 36 miles from Stoneybrook Rd, VT to Hanover, NH (2016)
- What state I’m in: New Hampshire!
- Wildlife seen: actually the only thing that matters is wildlife NOT seen and that is a moose. I really want to see a moose.
- Highlights: watching the Olympics with Tsehai, Avalon, and Little Sister, going to Maine for Rise Above fest, Stratton Mountain, getting to spend a couple of days hiking alone with Silly, building a fire at a little campsite in Vermont with Silly and Tippy Toes, spending 4 days at the Yellow Deli Hostel, Lisa bringing the poodles to visit, dyeing my hair purple!
- What I’ve been listening to: podcasts! Why didn’t someone tell me about podcasts sooner??? TRAIL TIP: download all the free podcasts. My favorites so far are TED radio hour, RadioLab, Snap Judgment, and StarTalk
- What I’ve been reading: The Einstein Prophecy by Robert Masello… it hasn’t got me hooked yet. We will see if I finish it.
- Trials I’m facing: have you heard enough about my foot pain yet? Because they really really hurt. Trail tip: stretch stretch stretch because all of this pain is from not stretching enough! I’m also still dealing with some loneliness and in general being bummed about not feeling like I really have a trail family. The last several days hiking with Silly and Tippy Toes have been great, but now Tippy Toes is gone and I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be with Silly and Longspoon since I’m going to have to jump up to the end of Maine in a couple of weeks. Not becoming part of a group or finding a trail family has by and far been the most disappointing part of the journey this year for me. The third trial that I’m starting to try and conquer is dwindling financial resources. I don’t want to drain my bank account dry, hence setting my summit date for the 15th and doing what it takes to make that happen, even though it means skipping a significant chunk of Maine.
Whew! So there it is. Over a month of updates squeezed into one ridiculously long blog post. If you stuck with me this far, you’re a rock star! My next update will most likely be after summitting Katahdin. I doubt I’ll have signal or access to a computer before then, but I’ll try to keep good notes so I can update everyone again. Also, be on the lookout for a writer post by me concerning hiker etiquette when staying in hostels or bunkrooms. As always, you can get more frequent updates and photos by following me on instagram @travelswithtink
In the meantime…
I’M LOOKING FOR JOBS
I’m literally down to do just about anything just about anywhere. I’m looking for seasonal work, 3-6 months preferred, that is interesting and where I can potentially gain skills and knowledge. Outdoor industry jobs such as state and national parks, campgrounds, pr ski resorts would be great! Waitressing or bartending in really cool towns would also be great! I’m mobile and willing to travel to pretty much anywhere in the US. If you know of anything available in your area, let me know! Until next time, here are a few more pictures for you enjoyment.
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