Mio, Jukebox, and I woke up in room 1 of the Catamount Motel at 7:30 and packed our packs then got our morning caffeine fix from Mag’s Market next door. Mio and Jukebox left their packs in the room and headed out to hitch to Walmart.
I showered again and left with my pack to find a couple of Geocaches and pick up a box from home at the Bennington USPS office. The box was full of cookies, cards, and the last section of my AT Guidebook!
Mio let me know that he couldn’t find a fuel canister for me at Walmart. I went to Greenburgs Hardware and out to Tractor Supply Company, but neither had any Isopro fuel. I did see a pair of beautiful Airedales being walked, which is a breed we used to have.
It was 10:40, so I headed up VT 9, hitching along the way. I was surprised to see Mombo, who being transported to the trail, pull in beside me. His driver was picking up charcoal, ice, and chips, so we went into the store with him, and he bought us drinks, too! The group sponsoring the hiker 2014 barbecue was the VT Long Trail Club.
They served burgers and hotdogs with veggies, chips, cold drinks, and cookies. It was so filling! After I had been there an hour, I left at noon to start hiking for the day. Basically the rest of the afternoon was spent hiking up 1,400 feet over 10 miles. There were a few sharp climbs.
I mixed it up with NOBO hikers all afternoon, and once Jukebox caught up with me he gave me his half-full fuel canister so that I can cook. He will share with Mio, who has a new, full fuel canister. I hiked on to the piped water stream by the Goddard shelter, and Mombo and I filled up water.
While filling water, I discovered that the new Platypus bag I’d ordered from Amazon doesn’t fit the Sawyer filter well, though it will work until I can get a new bag from Walmart. We said our hellos to the hikers at the shelter and then hiked straight uphill for .3 miles to the top of Glastenbury Mountain and the fire tower.
I set up my tent in a prime spot before anyone else came up then made dinner, which was half of the Mountain House Chili Mac bag we had also ordered from Amazon and brownies from the trail magic earlier.
Murphy, Joe Hawk, 50/50, Mombo, and I climbed the fire tower to view the mountains that we had already hiked over and those we were going to hike over. It began to get chilly in the wind, so we headed back down. I met the pair of NOBO hikers known as Half Moon and Wrong Leg.
I checked for any nearby Geocaches and was surprised that there was one 50 feet from my tent. I headed over to it and found a large orange container pinned down with a rock. It was a great cache.
Tandem and I texted updates to each other and wished each other a good night. She is close to Manchester Center, VT. I turned in early after writing this blog update at 21:30 and will be rising at 5:00 for sunrise on the tower.
I woke to everyone around me stirring. It was only a few minutes before sunrise, so we rushed up the tall tower to catch the sight. I thought back on my trip to try to remember if I’d seen a sunrise yet. Even if I had, it was nothing compared to this one.
After enjoying the beautiful start to the day, I packed and ate before setting out. The morning passed quickly, and I stopped for a snack at a shelter 8.5 miles in. A couple SOBOs asked me about the mud, and I sadly informed them it would still continue.
Hiking onwards, I anticipated the 1700 ft climb ahead to the top of Stratton Mountain. The climb was hard, but rewarding, as always, with a great view on top. I sat to rest up after the 16 miles so far and ate lunch while listening to a Long Trail hiker about my age chat on the phone. He said he’d thought there was resupply there, but since there wasn’t he’d have to make the 14 miles ahead on two meals. To me, this seemed normal. But I thought back to my days as a new hiker in Georgia and remembered how daunting those 14 miles would have seemed. When the guy got off the phone, I offered him a bag of Chex Mix I’d randomly purchased the day before and knew I wouldn’t need. He refused to take it despite my insistence and hiked on.
After an hour break, I continued my hike. I’d expected the guys to have caught me by then, but they hadn’t. I had run into ‘Right Here’ though, who I hadn’t seen since taking his picture at mile 100. It was funny to see someone I hadn’t seen in 1500 miles, and we exchanged a few stories before I hiked ahead. My goal was to make it 11 more miles so I would have only three in the morning, but my body was beginning to feel weaker.
The three miles downhill were easy, but when I reached Stratton Pond I needed another break. I sat looking at this beautiful pond and was a mix of tired and lonely. I’d loved my days to myself, but now it seemed sad to not have anyone to swim with (not that I felt like getting wet). I needed a nap and felt the urge to stop, but my mind also told me it was too early in the day. What was I going to do with hours of sun left? Just sit in my hammock? In a way this sounded nice, but I also knew I should use those hours to keep walking — even if it was slowly.
I kept on the next five miles to another shelter. The terrain was generally flat, but my body and feet were mad at me from the day before. I ignored my body’s desire to stop, reminding myself I’d be happier camped near people that evening and closer to town the next day. After what felt like an eternity, I made it to the shelter turn off. There I found another Long Trail hiker and a sign that said ‘0.5 mile to shelter’.
“No way am I walking .5,” I said.
“Yeah, that’s why I’m sitting here,” replied the LT hiker.
Seemed he was exhausted and didn’t think he could push on any further, just like me. He asked how far I’d come, and when I told him 24 miles, he couldn’t believe it. “You started this morning where I stayed two nights ago,” he said. We chatted for a bit and, as it was 5 pm, both decided to try for the shelter three miles from there. I walked slowly to try to keep a pace he could follow, and we talked to distract ourselves from the hiking. When we successfully arrived, he told me that was the fastest he’d hiked all day.
I was in pain, but I didn’t realize how much until I took off my shoes. On the bottom of my foot were a line of blisters from the rubbing of my muddy socks. I winced at the lightest touch. For a second I regretted having pushed myself as far as I had the last two days. I knew I’d only done the 59 miles because I was alone. I had no one to dictate my hike, or slow me down, or distract me. I also had no one to convince me to take side trips or a long lunch or to stop early to play cards or go swimming. I’m extremely proud of myself for doing those miles. But now that I know that I CAN, I also don’t think I need to. I want to go slow(er) and enjoy the views and enjoy the company. Without people to hike with, all I do is hike myself out. I’m looking forward to seeing Mio and Jukebox in town for the soccer match tomorrow, but I’m also looking forward to a few quiet hours to myself in a coffee shop.