I woke in my tent near the Happy Hill shelter to the sound of Mio packing up his tent. I packed things together in my tent and by the time that I got out, Mio was loaded up and making a beeline for Starbucks in Hanover, NH. I packed quickly and left 20 minutes after he did at 7:30. Tandem and Jukebox hung back and made coffee with Mio’s new coffee press.
I hiked briskly up and down over about a dozen rolls in the mountain, passing a couple of the section hiker trainees and a few SOBO thru hikers. After 3.5 miles I reached Elm Street in Norwich, VT, where a few houses had coolers with trail magic at the end of their driveways. The first ones were full of cold drinks, cookies, Ramen, and other treats.
I hiked Elm for a mile down to Main Street in Norwich and turned right toward Hanover, NH. I crossed the road to the north side and was surprised to see a historic sign commemorating the founding of my fraternity, Theta Chi! I knew that it was established in Norwich, VT, but not right there on the AT.
After taking a picture, I was joined by a walker who stayed with me until Hanover. We enjoyed talking about her experiences as one of the Norwich Trail Angels network. She walks this route a lot, and I was the first thru hiker she had “hiked” with. We arrived at the Connecticut River and the NH state line, where you can see the Dartmouth College rowing docks and western campus edge. She kindly took my iPhone and took my picture, with instructions, at the state line.
We walked up the hill to the top of what was now Wheelock Street and parted ways at the intersection with Main. I headed east to Starbucks, dropped my pack, and found Mio inside at the center bar charging his phone. I plugged in and went to the busy counter to order a venti strawberry and cream frappachino with whip cream, my favorite, and an everything bagel with double cream cheese.
Mio and I chatted, and I mentioned the desire to have gone to a Mass that morning. Another patron overheard me and told me that the Saint Denis Catholic Church around the corner had a mass at 11:30. I was happy to hear that and made my plans to attend.
Tandem and Jukebox came in 45 minutes later and reminded us about the free doughnut at Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery two doors back. Mio and I made a beeline to the store and were happy to find a larger doughnut wrap being handed out. There were four SOBO hikers also there for their free confectionery treat. We chatted, and Mio and I returned to Starbucks.
We made plans to get the free slice of pizza at Ramuntos Brick Oven Pizza after I get out of Mass. We also decided to spend the afternoon in the beautiful and fun college town of Hanover celebrating Mio’s 23rd birthday.
I grabbed my pack and walked a few blocks to St. Denis. On the way, I passed a Bank of America building that I thought was large for Hanover. I dropped my pack outside the church and sat toward the right back. The Mass was fairly full of parishioners, so I thought about whether or not I stunk. After Mass, I was putting my pack on and the priest came over to me to talk about my hike and give me his blessing. I was content.
I went back to Starbucks and found everyone there. Jukebox was working on one of his equipment exchanges and needed to print his UPS return label at the library when it opened at noon. A few of us headed to Ramuntos for our free slice of cheese pizza. We added another slice of barbecue chicken pizza and a refillable fountain soda.
Mio and Tandem joined us later, and Mio said that Key Lime was on her way to town. She and her dog Ozzie had caught up! Mio then made arrangements with Warren, who is one if the Norwich trail angels, to put the five of us up at his house for the night with a 17:30 pick up in town. After pizza, we went around the block to the Salt Hill Pub for beers. We sat on the patio and each bought a round for Mio for his birthday. As our phones were dying, we moved inside to a four top and plugged in as the party continued.
We were surprised mid-afternoon by the appearance of Hoss! He had “heard on the street” that it was Mio ‘a birthday and that we were there. We moved to a six top, and he bought a beer for Mio and told us his hike stories. Jukebox hadn’t known Hoss before this. Eventually Key Lime showed up with Ozzie and we partied on.
It was a good group of NOBO hikers. Mio stepped outside and called Warren to get the pick up time extended to later in the evening and when he came back in we all sang happy birthday to him and embarrassed him.
We were getting hungry, so we used our phones to look for a decently priced, good restaurant. We chose Molly’s Restaurant and Bar, which was crowded for a Sunday night, but we found six seats at the bar. We had good food, beer, and conversations. It was 20:00 when Tandem called Warren for the ride to their house in Norwich. Hoss made plans to go to a hotel.
The five of us were able to fit ourselves, our packs, and Ozzie in Warren’s four person car. We drove back across the state line and down to Dan and Whit’s General Store where we all bought something for restock, and Jukebox bought beer for the night.
We loaded back up and drive up Elm St to their house, which was the one at the top of the hill near the AT with the trail magic coolers I had first stopped at in the morning. We were taken to the room beside the garage, which had five mattresses, a flat screen tv, and plenty of plugs for our phones.
We got a tour of the house, saw where we could wash clothes and take a shower, and met his wife Toni. Their daughter ENT had started her AT thru hike on the same day that we did on March 16 but didn’t finish. I remembered that a short redhead girl had been at the Amicalola Falls State Park office before us looking for a ride to the top of Springer Mountain, and that was her! Small world!
In the kitchen they had items to make s’mores and a fire burning in the back yard. After we donned extra hiker clothes and started our load of laundry, we went to the backyard to enjoy s’mores and beer. Tandem took a shower and joined the group later.
We thanked Warren and Toni for their kind hospitality and retired to our floor mattresses in the basement. It had been a good nero day of six miles hiked and a great celebration of Mio’s birthday.