Week 13: (June 24 – June 30) Searching for Hallelujah While Slip Sliding Away

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” ~  Brene Brown

June 24 we hike from Mark Noepel Shelter (1587.8) in the rain to Bascom Lodge (1591.1) for a night of jazz and 3 course meal.  We hiked from there to Goddard Shelter (1625.9)  Total miles for the week = 38.1 wet miles

Dessert Queen’s earworm:  Annie Lennox singing “Here Comes the Rain Again,” Paul Simon singing “Slip Sliding Away,” and a reprise La La Land’s “Here Comes the Sun” to “Here Comes the Rain”

Mr. Rook’s earworm: Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah 


  • Beauty.  1) Yes, it rained.  But there is beauty in the rain that I can’t share in print.  I can talk about the fog and its spooky qualities, and the rain drops making consecutive circles in a pond, but what is missing is the entire sensory experience.  Missing are the sounds of secondary rain falling from the leaves when the wind blows.  Missing are the birds who perk up when it stops raining.  Missing are the fresh and earthy smells the rain stirs up, and walking within the conifers, the rain seems to make it smell like Christmas.   Missing is how the moss feels like a lush green shag carpet or how the fog feels cool on my face.  2)  Sunny breaks (Scottish Term).  We experienced this teasing weather numerous times this week, and fifteen minutes later we’d pull up our rain hoods for a downpour.  3) Trees that exhibit human-like qualities.  4) Once again, we saw beaver dams and each time I called out, not one beaver came out to greet me.  Smart beavers probably are on a cozy sofa reading as it rains.  5) Moose poop.  Yes, we have seen moose poop.  They are between boulder and jumbo marble size.  The ones we have seen are in a neat little pile resembling a mountain.  6) Sitting in the shelter and hearing the distant rumble then a flash and a louder rumble.  The wind picks up and the rain begins with a couple of drops and then it roars. 7) Mushrooms and Canadian Lilies.                    
  • Red Eft Weekly Count: 6.  Total for the Hike: 77.

malchus stafa, b. Canadian lilies. Author’s personal collection, June 2023

malchus stafa, b. One out six Red Eft sightings. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.

  • Hiker Tourists.  Team Ohio has been accepted into an honorary society on the trail.  We have been self-knighted as AT Hiker Tourists.  Reading this blog, you will note our trail town experiences have included impromptu visits to places for pleasure and interest.  In Dalton, the Owner of Kelly’s Diner suggested “a must see and do” since we would be up on Mt. Greylock. The owner said we should time it right for Saturday’s Jazz Night and Three Course Dinner at Bascom Lodge.  Team Ohio couldn’t pass this up and was able to sit by the fire while it rained outside listening to live Jazz.  In North Adams, we spent another day out of the rain at the MASS MoCA (NOTE: kelli rae adams  exhibit on student debt was impactful and to sit in James Turrell’s sculpture C.A.C.U. when it was raining outside provided interesting sounds), Coffee at Tunnel City, and perusing The Bear & Bee Bookshop. Finally in Bennington, we visited the Bennington Museum to view Grandma Moses’ art and an Abenaki artists’ (from the Lake Champlain and Connecticut River valleys) exhibit:  Nebizun: Water is Life.  Afterwards, we went to the Coffee Bar for a cappuccino and to view the Cow Portraits and local artists’ watercolors.  We also perused the Bennington Bookshop.  (NOTE:  Most of these points of interest are not identified in the AT Travel Guides.  And, this is a fictional AT honorary society we made up.)        

malchus stafa, b. kelli rae adams exhibit on student debt at MASS MoCA. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.

malchus stafa, b. Twenty minutes of a sunny break on Mt. Graylock. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.

  • Twenty Minutes.  There was a sunny break on top of Mt. Greylock.  When we arrived, the mountain was shrouded in either fog or rain clouds.  Then for a brief moment it was sunny.   We joined the masses exiting the lodge to bask in the sun.  For twenty minutes the view was spectacular and then the rain clouds with booming thunder rolled in.  

malchus stafa, b. Hike up to Mt. Greylock in the off and on rain. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.

  • Geisha Girl.  We had the pleasure of hiking with Geisha Girl on our hike down Glastonbury Mountain into Bennington.  We met her crossing a flooded stream by a beaver dam.  We stuck around after crossing for the several hikers in our momentary group.  The crossing rocks were underwater; so we each clung to a fallen tree clinging to the branches.  Geisha Girl was one of those hikers.  She is a memorable hiker by the way she dressed: a sports kilt, gray braids, and a big smile.  But she is also a memorable hiker with her heart.  The afternoon was filled with off and on rains and fog.  We all were keenly aware of the trail news about a hiker who was gurneyed out by EMTs due a broken leg on the boulder climb down to VT 9 the previous week.  Geisha Girl was ahead of me during our descent.  I placed my hiking stick onto what I thought was a rock.  How wrong I was with that.  My stick sank into the hidden crack camouflaged by leaves, and I felt like Fred Flinstone capsizing to the right and then turtling onto my backpack.  Geisha Girl came back to help me back up.  When I thanked her and she said something that really stuck to my heart:  “We help each other on the trail.  No matter what, that’s what hikers do.”  Her words carry much wisdom and I wish this would happen more frequently in the cubical world.  To read about her thru-hike 2023 Appalachian Trail | kellyhikes4god (kellyhikesforgod.com)

malchus stafa, b. Tree striking a pose during a non-rainy moment. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.

  • AZ Eagle. AZ Eagle flying east and will meet up with us in Manchester Center.  We will be hiking for some days together.  
  • Compactor Bag.  The compactor bag was extra protection for everything stored in our sea to summit bag.  Our sleeping quilts, extra socks and sleepwear kept dry.  (Everything else can be wet, but dry socks help me put my foot into a wet, cold, and soggy shoe.)

malchus stafa, b. What this picture doesn’t show is this is straight down. And the rocks were slippery. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.

  • All Women’s Crew. There is a “New” Seth Warner Shelter in VT, if you peel back the layers of mud.  Team Ohio slipped and slid into camp with the grace of an elementary school hockey team.  There they were: an all women AMC trail crew.  WOW!!!  These women were completing the construction for this new shelter and privy during the deluge rain and ankle deep mud.  While we listened to jazz and toured North Adams out of the rain, these women were on location for seven days straight.  WOW!! You Rock!!! Thank you for your hospitality and conversations around American Chestnut Trees, trail erosion due to the rain, and what it is like to work on trail maintenance and building a new shelter.    A song comes to mind seeing them: Redesigning Women by The Highwomen.  

malchus stafa, b. Ghost pipes. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.

  • Family and Friends.  We are thankful for all the prayers and concerns shown to us about the weather.  Thank you for your texts and IMs identifying where the green, yellow and red colors were on the weather map.  Rev. Judy and Chuck and the Alexander Family thank you for your weather updates from Maine.  Rev. Debbie, thank you for your weather updates from NH.  
  • Book carried this week: Grief: Life in a Tiny Vermont Village by Vermonter, Ellen Stimson.

malchus stafa, b. Trail magic. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.

  • Memorable People: 1) The churches and community members who left trail magic at Down Street sign (I think that was the name) near North Adams.  The fruit was much appreciated.  2) AMC All Women Crew. 3) Geisha Girl. 4) Thank you, Lasher, for giving us a ride and a coke from VT 9 to Catamount Motel and back again.  
  • Memorable Food: 1) Bakery, three course dinner and jazz (Reservations are needed in advance to eat and to stay), and breakfast at Bascom Lodge, Mt. Greylock.  2) Breakfast at Brewhahah Cafe, North Adams. 3) Tunnel City Coffee, North Adams 4) Jack’s Hotdog, North Adams. 5) Passing by it looks like just a storefront.  Appearances are deceiving.  Jerk Chicken and rice.  The food was yummy and a break from trail food – nice spicy.  Jamaican Cafe, Bennington. 6) Angry Egg 2, Bennington. 7) Coffee Bar, Bennington

malchus stafa, b. Rain has to go somewhere, and the AT makes it easy. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.

Thorns and Tender Spots

  • Rain – Mud – Cricks.  1) It rained and it was different from our PA and NY experience.  The difference was in the amount of rain coming down.  Often, we felt like someone had a giant bucket and emptied it on our head.  2) The well-worn trail provides the rainwater an easy pathway to get downhill.  As a result, the trail is now a stream for hikers to slog through.  3) Our raincoats and pants have lost their waterproof resistance.  Our clothing is constantly damp.  And our shoes are muddy and wet.  There is nothing like putting on our cold and damp “uniform” shirts the next morning. (It is only tolerable because I have dry socks).  4) Mud can become icy and slick.  We are reminded of walking on Ohio’s icy sidewalks in the winter.  The worst place was walking down the hill into North Adams.  5) The VT sign was in a mud pit making it hard to take a picture.  6) Both Mr. Rook and I wiped out on the bog boardwalks.  These are slick.  Often, they are not over the wet places of the trail, and they lead into a swamp.  Team Ohio is wondering if this is VT humor.  7) Stream crossings are precarious.  You can see rocks submerged under water and you know that they were intended to be used in this crossing.  You either put on your crocs or keep your shoes on.  The water comes up above your calves and you force your way forward praying you don’t fall in and be swept downstream.  8) Fear at the pit of my stomach is how I describe the beaver crossing.  I clung to the fallen tree branches to cross.  Keeping my eyes ahead and not looking down.  I feared if I fell in, I’d be swept away.      

malchus stafa, b. Welcome to VT. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.

  • Canadian Fires.  The air quality has plummeted again.  We felt really off climbing up Glastonbury Mountain.  At a view, the valley looked hazy and our conclusion was another rain cloud rolling in.  A hiker passed us and told us that the area is experiencing smoke from the Canadian Fires.  “Rain and smoke?  What else can the Gods throw at us?”  He said.  I didn’t want to know. 

malchus stafa, b. Random Rock in the VT woods. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.

  • Attack of the Flies.  Goddard Shelter is infested with flies.  OMG.  The flies feasted on my neck to the point I looked like I was a victim in a bad B horror movie.  We hid in our tent.  Mr. Rook and I purposefully timed our hike in VT to be after fly season.  The rain has prolonged the season a long trail hiker told us.   
  • Moose.  A member of the AMC all women crew told me about the decreasing population of moose in VT.  Many have become infected with either a tick-borne illness or a parasitic brain worm carried in gastropods.  Scientists believe as a result of VT’s warmer winters, populations of ticks and gastropods (i.e., snails and slugs the moose inadvertently eat grazing) have increased.  Moose infected with either is fatal.  The moose suffers weight loss, hair-loss and decreases reproductive rates.  (NOTE:  As a gardener I rely on the cold winter freezes to reduce the population of bugs that like my veggies.  As I wrote before, this year Ohio’s growing regions were modified due to climate changes. We now have a longer growing season.  Meaning our winters are getting shorter and warmer.)    


Malchus Stafa, b. Mr. Rook slogging through the mud. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.

  • Weather Angst and Saltiness. This week we’ve observed an uptick in grumpiness and saltiness on the trail.  We’ve blamed it on the deluge of rain.  Hikers this week have been limited to exposure to the feel-good chemicals associated with the sun.  Yes, even Mr. Rook and I have been salty by grumbling about how many times we have slipped on our bums (we lost count after five) and slogged in ankle-deep bogs.  And, yes, we’ve observed hikers reverting to middle school behaviors that included: 1) keeping people out of the shelter so they have to tent in the rain.  2) Interviewing shelter dwellers to see if they snore, and complaining because someone kept them up all night…and they end up being the culprit, the one who snores.  3) Trash talking about their hiking partners when they are standing next to them.  4) Venting about the housekeeping and hospitality service they’re receiving and not considering these people who are also dealing with soggy hikers who carry the perfume of a smelly, wet dog.  5)  Grumbling about the rain and falling.   Ohio writer, Bryan Heckenberg put together a Saltiness Scale for gamers.  I’ve reworked the scale with his permission for hikers.  Maybe, the scale can help us be better towards each other and ourselves when things get rough on the trail.

Salt Level




Mild frustration

Slight or light grumbling


Moderate annoyance

Venting or cursing softly


Intense anger

Slamming backpacks, throwing hiking sticks or trash talking


  • Healing Thoughts.  AT Hiker who spent the last several days at a hospital in North Adams for a tick-borne illness.  We hiked with her to the New Seth Warner shelter and out to VT 9.  She was heading home to recover.    
  • Healing Thoughts for Our Niece.  Hiking on the AT, you discover many folks are working out grief and mental health issues.  We are grateful that many shelters list the new crisis hotline and the Veteran’s crisisline.  Depression and anxiety weave through our family.  Team Ohio is working to destigmatize mental illness by talking about it.  Having mental illness is as real as having high blood pressure or diabetes.  Mr. Rook and I find many still believe the person is faking it or it is a sign of weakness one needs to get over.  We hope for a day when this is a different line of thought; and it starts with each of us being present for another and learning to listen, and not be afraid to ask if someone is okay.  If you or someone you know is struggling, or in crisis help is available 24/7.  Call or text 988.  

malchus stafa, b. Please no more rain.. Enough already. Author’s personal collection.

Opportunities and Other Thoughts

Psyched Someone Out, definition: 1) to behave in a very confident or forceful way in order to make a competitor, especially in a sports event, feel less confident.  2) to cause someone to lose confidence in dealing with a difficult situation.  (Cambridge Dictionary)

This past week my hiking confidence has sunk.  It hasn’t been about the rain and not having the gumption to put up with this weather.  It has been more about discussions centering on upcoming peaks and rock climbs in VT, NH, and ME. “Oh you’re a flip-flopper,” said in a derogatory tone; or said with a tone implying I don’t have what it takes to get up these mountains (NOTE: This is my projection).  Then, there’s a lot of tales about the toughness acquired from the southern peaks; and somehow, I don’t have the grit to face high peaks because I’m just starting out (NOTE:  550+ miles are just starting out?).

The problem is when these picnic table conversations get into my head, and I internalize them, resulting in my second guessing my hiking ability.   I first saw my confidence sag going up Mt. Greylock.  In my mind, I believed it would take eight hours, whereas it took less, even in the rain.  It happened to me again, facing the flood stage streams and hiking up Glastonbury and thinking about future mountains ahead.  Stepping back, I asked myself: why do I believe what others say?  Why am I doubting my abilities?

I had a Ted Lasso and Brene Brown’s Life Skills moment while lying awake at Goddard Shelter listening to “that hiker’s” snoring.  1) Slinging on my backpack and moving forward on the trail these 13 weeks takes grit and courage.  Similarly, being a hiker one week or one day on the trail takes moxie.  2) Vulnerability is a strength not a weakness.  No one, unless they are psychic, knows what will happen each day on the trail (i.e., fall, rain, snakes, bears).  Each time I show up means I have both grit and courage to take on these feats.  3) Not knowing what the day will bring is an opportunity for self-growth and an opportunity to help others be their best self.  4) I know what is best for me, not others.  I am unique and my approach to the trail matters most to me, not others.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is a place to be vulnerable because it is challenging.  Following Bene Brown’s recommendation, the AT can also be a space to look at stories that hold you back and conduct a reality check of these stories.  

malchus stafa, b. Hiking in the fog. Author’s personal collection. June 2023.


Cohen, Leonard. “Hallelujah.” Various Positions. Columbia, 1983.   Hear Leonard Cohen perform this piece in London Live on official video.  https://youtu.be/YrLk4vdY28Q?si=SilYpoPuWFMq6QjR

Eurythmics. “Here Comes the Rain Again,” Touch. RCA Labels, 1983.  Official video https://youtu.be/TzFnYcIqj6I?si=rj-ORTVG-1jVNFBp 

Hanna, William and Barbera, Joseph.  The Flintstones.  Hanna-Barbera Productions, 1960-1966.

Heckenberg, Bryan. Gamer’s Saltiness Scale. 2023 What is Salt or Salt Score in MTG Magic: the Gathering? – Mono Color Magic 

Hemby, Natalie and Clanson, Rodney.  “Redesigning Women,” The Highwomen. Electra, 2019.  Official channel: https://youtu.be/5aSRpbLOfo0?si=dBsnpHGXbeACWPHO

Hurwitz, Justin, Pasek, Benj and Paul, Justin.  “Another Day of Sun,” La La Land Motion Picture Soundtrack.  Interscope, 2016.  You can dance along carefully on the trail to this clip https://youtu.be/7CVfTd-_qbc?si=biRkb5-wx4iJslg

Simon, Paul. “Slip Sliding Away,” Paul Simon’s Greatest Hits. Columbia, 1977.  Official video  https://youtu.be/iUODdPpnxcA?si=A8iHf6Th9tm4Bap9 


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