When I finally woke up today it was 7:30. I had slept very well on the tent platform at the Wilbur Clearing shelter. I checked in the direction of Tandem’s hammock, and she was gone like she’d said she would be. I packed quickly since Jukebox and Mio were almost ready to go.
It was a beautiful, crisp, cool morning, and they had left by the time I got started. Our plan was to rendezvous in North Adams at the Chinese AYCE buffet for lunch, which is only a few miles up the trail. I caught up with Jukebox and we hiked to the Friendlys in North Adams. Mio was already there. I had a small breakfast of Coke and an everything bagel to save room for Chinese. I also downloaded about 20 Podcacher podcasts over the store’s wi-fi. I hadn’t listened to the podcast since I hit the trail on March 16.
At 11:00, we grabbed our packs and walked across the parking lot to the Chinese Buffet. The buffet was fantastic and there were tubs of ice cream to scoop from for dessert! We ate for several plates for an hour or so and agreed that we had eaten too much.
We swung through Price Cutter next door, and I got snacking stuff only. We hiked back down the road and turned right up onto the AT at mile 1,589. We met the mother of SOBO hiker Spoons as she was putting out a cooler full of snacks for trail magic. She said to take as much as we needed. I grabbed two of everything and a big Snickers.
Now it was time to climb 2,400 feet over seven miles. Two of the “ups” were steep, with smaller rolling-hill climbs in between. I fell behind immediately and started listening to my podcasts. On the way up the mountain, I met Spoons who was slack packing due to her mom’s support. I crossed the MA/VT state line and rejoiced in knowing that there were only three states and fewer than 600 miles to go.
What I didn’t rejoice about was how wet and muddy the trail became in VT. It was almost like they found every spring and stream and routed the trail through them. I did pass a couple of pretty ponds today, though, which surprised me as I was above 2,000 feet. I made great time over the eight miles that followed the top of the earlier climb, considering that I was randomly rock stepping to avoid the mud. There were times when I missed rocks and stepped right in three inches of wet black mud. Later in the afternoon I passed a couple of unusual balanced rock formations.
Our destination for the day was a spring 1.3 miles from Bennington, Vermont, so that we could arrive in town early on Saturday morning. I got to the top of Harmon Hill around 19:45 and signed the log book in the box there. Tandem had signed it at 13:30.
Mio caught up with me, which surprised me, and said he’d gotten lost by going about 1.5 miles down a road. Two other hikers had followed him! We hiked together to the spring and caught up with Jukebox who was not happy with the camping area.
We made the group decision to go into Bennington and find cheap camping or lodging. The last half mile to VT 9 was very steep and rocky. Most of the drops were down rocks placed as steps, which was tough on my knees. We hitched at the road and were soon picked up by a Trailblazer driven by Rich who was heading into town to buy his pot. Mio had picked the Catamount Motel due to the price, so Rich took us there.
We thanked Rich for the ride, and Mio went in to book a room. The manager had seen us unload, so he knew there were three hikers and gave Mio a deal on the larger room #1, which had two beds and a pullout couch. While they got milk and Cokes at the Shell convenience store .3 miles down the street, I ordered two large pizzas from Dominos Pizza and showered.
We ate and watched the movie 40 Year Old Virgin. We enjoyed the time, and Jukebox had a load of our laundry done as well. I pulled out the couch bed and threw my sleeping bag on it. It was lights out by 23:00, but I caught up on my blog updates.
The last few days of worrying about everyone else’s plans and desires had finally worn me out. How am I supposed to hold together a group of people who have such different paces? I could tell I was reaching my limit by how snappy I was becoming with people. I was tired of stressing over everyone else’s needs for 4 months. It was time I took a few days to hike how I wanted, when I wanted, and as far as I wanted, even if that upset anyone else. Over the last month I’d come to realize the only way to do this was to just leave. So, finally, I quietly packed up, ate a quick breakfast, and I left.
The morning was cool and calm. I made great time while listening to RadioLab podcasts and reached town by 7 am. Here I hesitated. This was where the boys would be going for AYCE, and this was the point of no return. Once I hiked past this town, I would really be by myself for the first time in 4 months. I stopped and started a few times, before finally crossing the bridge and heading up the next hill. I’d made my choice and I was going to make the most of it.