A Trail of Magic: Day Five on the Long Trail
It’s a town day!
My first thought when I wake up. Followed quickly by less than four miles and I will be back in civilization. Four miles is nothing! I did 15 yesterday! I pack slowly and take my time making breakfast. We have all the time in the world. Town is the solution to all potential problems. Sleeping pad popped? Purchase another in town. Fall in a river and soak all your gear? Dry it all in town. Yay town! Nothing can get me down today, not even the perpetually gray sky.
I walk a mile and a half, preoccupied thinking about my to-do list for my impending arrival in Johnson, VT. Abruptly, the forest opens up to this view.
Prospect Rock takes my breath away. People use the phrase “takes my breath away” often, maybe too often, but in this moment I am so surprised I actually forget to breathe. I feel like I am looking into a giant painting. The scene is too picturesque to be real. I have unknowingly stepped into a fantastical canvas created by some brilliant artistic mind. I stand and stare for a few moments more before I remember town and the food it will inevitably offer. My hiker hunger, the insatiable and unending appetite hikers are renowned for, has not yet kicked in. Nonetheless, I tire of my freeze-dried Mountain House meals and am excited for fresh foods. I see no blazes and head toward the trodden path leading left from the overlook. This proves to be the wrong way.
Oh Hello Lost, Old Friend
Only once I descend Prospect Rock, sliding down a rock face and abrading my butt, does a quick check of Guthooks inform me I have gone down the wrong side.I’m sorry LNT, I’m so off trail. What follows is a series of bushwhacking, cursing, and checking Guthooks every few feet to ascertain just where the trail is. Town, town, town becomes the mantra in my head. It doesn’t matter if we’re lost, we’re going to town. Eventually I see a white blaze, and then another. I begin to descend and I hope this is indicative of my close proximity to the Lamoille River and VT 15, the road to Johnson.
Why I Hike
As I descend the switchbacks, a rarity on the trail so far, I pull up short. I find this next part beyond my depth to explain, but I will do my best. Dobby stops as well and looks back at me.
My dad is here.
He can’t be, of course; he died almost four years ago. I don’t mean a spirit appears in front of me, or that I hear his voice.
He is just… here.
I know it the way I know the sun is behind the gray clouds above and the roots of the trees exist under the dirt beneath my feet. The sun breaks through the clouds and shines through a gap in the tree branches, turning the tears cascading down my cheeks into glittering diamonds.
“Hi dad,” I murmur with a smile.
There is now a sobbing, smiling thru-hiker where I once stood, and luckily no one is nearby to observe my insanity. While I continue walking down the trail, I try to make sense of the feeling in my chest. I feel as if the sun emerged from my torso, not the clouds. It rose from my belly, up through my head to shine into the trees above. As lost as I have felt in the last four years, I have never felt so completely sure that I am capable of pursuing my dreams. I felt like he was insistently whispering in my ear.
“OK, I get it. I’ll write,” I say into the stillness of the woods.
This feeling accompanies me for the next few miles. Certainly no harm can come to me. I am invincible.
We cross VT 15 and then the Lamoille River. A walking bridge spans most of the river, but there is a small ford on the south side. Multiple northbound hikers warned us yesterday that the ford had been almost impassable due to the recent days of rain. They cautioned me the water was up to their waists, fast-flowing, and that only their trekking poles prevented their downfall the day before. With little rain the previous day, though, the ford is back to being a gentle brook and I have no problem crossing the stepping-stones without getting wet.
After a brief walk through an agricultural field, Dobby and I reach the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, which is a ten-minute walk from Johnson Hardware. Johnson Hardware is a large store with a fairly decent camping supply selection. It is also where I pick up my first resupply box. Read more information about my resupply boxes here.
I meet Walker, who runs the camping section of the store. He greets me excitedly and lets me bring Dobby and all my gear inside, effectively taking over a set of camping chairs. I peruse all the gear and am mildly overwhelmed: I want all of it. I try to remember what I need, not what I want, and that whatever I buy I will have to carry on my back for the next 220 miles.
Walker suggests a child’s rash guard for Dobby to prevent chafing. I get the shirt on him and he looks like Spider-Man. I also purchase a Kelty camp blanket for him to keep warm in the coming weeks as well as a few other items.
Walker takes a picture of me and Dobby for his “hiker wall,” a collection of thru-hiker photos from this year that will eventually become a collage as well as a means to raffle off prizes. As I am checking out Lynn, one of the store owners, gives me a complimentary bag of Zuke’s dog treats and blaze orange buff for Dobby to make him more visible to hunters. If you are a hiker passing through, I highly recommend stopping into Johnson Hardware.
Walker to the Rescue
Walker gives me a ride into Johnson proper and drops me off at the Dream Cafe. As he begins to pull back into the road I realize I don’t have my trekking poles. I flag him down, apologizing profusely for my forgetfulness, and he offers to run back to the store and bring them to me. Now that’s customer service.
I order a delicious turkey sandwich and latte per the recommendation of the man working behind the counter, then call the number Walker gave me for a trail angel in town named Mark, who lets hikers sleep in his barn. Mark pulls up to the cafe just as Walker returns with my trekking poles, both of them arriving simultaneously with my sandwich. Consequently, I politely ask for my sandwich to-go, collect Dobby, and load everything up into Mark’s Subaru.
Mark turns out to be an author. What a coincidence that on the day I make a promise to myself to begin writing, I end up staying in the abode of a published writer. Mark has written two books, Take Me For a Ride and The Monkey Bible. Both have been added to my reading list for the near future.
Mark shows me around his property and we have many conversations. I help him clear wood out of the basement of the barn, feeling better about imposing on his hospitality if I at least work for it.
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