Making Friends on the Trail: Long Trail Day 7
Unfortunately, day seven begins with me locking both Dobby and myself out of our hotel room when I take him for a walk. The door locks automatically when I pull it shut, the key and my just-poured cup of Green Mountain coffee inconveniently inside. I am wearing a short-sleeve shirt and shorts and Dobby has on no jacket at all while the temperature hovers around 40 degrees. We go sit by the dryer vent next to the front office of the Sunrise Motor Inn until it opens, thankfully, 15 minutes later.
I pay for a taxi to take us back to the trail head, a $40 ride. The driver tells me there is a $10 additional base fee for the ride, that he apologizes and his boss should have told me when I called. While I could have called the owner of the company to confirm, I choose to believe the driver is truthful while internally griping over the outlandish cab fare.
The day is crisp and cloudy; I am well-rested and Dobby is no longer limping. I have a spring in my step as I anticipate the second section of my thru-hike.
The first few miles take us up a forest road. I can’t get over the colors of the leaves and make slow progress, finding a photo opportunity around every bend in the trail. We cross a few bridges and then begin the ascent up Whiteface Mountain. The climb is another scramble; we earn our way to the summit.
As we approach the top of the mountain, Dobby surges ahead. I hear a surprised exclamation from through the trees up ahead and yell, “He’s friendly!” to the unsuspecting hiker.
Once I catch up, I introduce myself to Jon, another southbounder who I learn started the trail the day after I did. We decide to hike together, though I experience some trepidation over whether I will be able to keep up. Instead, I lead the way, quickly discovering talking is effortless, and we have much in common. The day flies by as we descend Whiteface, go up and over Madonna Peak, and arrive at Sterling Pond Shelter by 3 p.m.
Shortly before reaching the shelter, Jon’s friend Sarah meets us traveling in the opposite direction. She has come to spend the weekend on trail. Jon drops his pack off in the shelter and they head back up the mountain so she can take in the view from the peak.
Sterling Pond Shelter sits atop a bluff overlooking Sterling Pond. I meet Steve, an older northbounder with an affable presence. We sit at the picnic table talking until John and Sarah return some time later. Some of the Long Trail shelters have caretakers. These shelters charge a small fee, usually $5, to spend the night. We meet Sterling Pond’s GMC caretaker, Michael. He spent the first part of his summer building a new shelter and privy farther south along the trail.
We all sit at the picnic table in the shelter, shoulder to shoulder in the nippy evening air. The nights are noticeably chillier than when I started the trail. We cook our dinners. There is little room on the table between all of our stoves, fuel, and food bags that have seemingly exploded. The conversations are entertaining and unbelievably easy.
There is a magic in the trail. People of different ages and backgrounds meet randomly in a place and time and almost immediately find kinship. This will not be the first time I witness such mystical meetings, but this became one of my absolute favorite memories from the trail.
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