Coming into NH I experienced a density of trail magic heretofore unseen as of yet on trail. I was called off the roadwalk for a second breakfast, found coolers and snacks along the roadwalk into NH. This burst of trail magic culminated in a homestay that was far more luxurious than I had any right to expect. Hanover has a veritable army of trail angels operating, and many of the business in town have deals or freebies for hikers, easily making it one of the most comfortable points on the trail. Met Biscuit on my way out of Hanover, He’s a thru hiker and attending Dartmouth in the coming fall, (at time of publication he should’ve just finished his freshman year) he’d be one of a few leapfrogging cohorts I would keep till Katahdin.
Between Smarts Mountain and Mount Cube I found the first of the worst kind of “trail improvement,” bog boards floating atop muddy puddles. I’ll let that one sink in, bog boards, floating on water. One moment you’re on solid ground, trucking along at a fast clip the next you’ll be thigh deep in thin mud, with no idea where you went wrong and all trust in bog boards forever shattered. That night I met up with Ox, and quite a few others at the Hexacube Shelter, a hexagonal shelter on Mount Cube, (and also the home of the Pentaprivy) where we got word that Scott Jurek would pass us that night. Someone had gotten a text from a hiker staying on Smarts Mountain that he’d just passed. We guessed he’d be passing soon so a few of us headed out to the trail crossing to wait, (The shelter is up a spur trail a ways) and wait we did, about 3 or 4 (I think it was Biscuit, and Smasher.) of us out at the crossing for about 2 hours, he never made it though. My guess is he got thrown for a bit of a loop by those floating bog boards, later we got word that he didn’t make it to his sag wagon until 2am the following morning.
For those unaware, Scott Jurek is the current holder of the fastest known time on the Appalachian Trail, and was on his record making run at this point. (His time ended up being 46 days, 8 hours, 7 minutes, narrowly beating Jennifer Pharr Davis by about 3 hours) While I was disappointed that I didn’t get to meet him, I couldn’t feel too bad, at the next road crossing he’d left a big box full of cliff bar stuff as trail magic and I grabbed a fair amount of high value food.
A few miles past that box I made it to another ration, and the Hiker’s Welcome Hostel. I zero’d there a couple days, both waiting to spend the 4th of July there, doing logistics planning for the remaining AT rations and routing how I would get from Katahdin to Crown Point and the North Country Trail. It was a good respite before arguably the hardest section of the AT, met the Odie and Neema of Hiker Yearbook fame, swam, and watched a lot of movies. (Hiker’s Welcome has an extensive collection of dvds.)
Finished up the NCT on tuesday (June21) at about 8pm. Met my father at Lake Sakakawea State Park in ND just in time to dodge the big storm that came through that night! We’ll be hanging out together for a little while so I can slack pack a bit, get some logistics work done, and maybe not even have to slow my pace.
Golden Birthday in a nice enclosure at mile 100. Me and Nemo still had an excessive amount of some stuff here, namely gas cannisters. (Can you spot them all?) Also first back pack is off to the side.
Sunset at high rocks overlooking Big bald, right before Nemo jumped off trail in TN. Rescue is set up outta the frame to the left.
The Dover Oak, biggest tree on the AT, makin my pack look small. RIP green pack, your time came too early.
South shore of Lake Superior. My current pack about as big as it gets these days, maybe barring some food, I don’t remember how deep into the ration this was. Without the snowshoes you’d hardly know the full winter kit is in there.
Last shelter I hit in VT, I was coming in a bit late, even though I had taken a shorter day. The night before sitting around the a shelter we had been been discussing the kind of wild trail magic thru-hikers in the bubble experience in the south, and how we had maybe missed out by starting early. Taking some issue with this, both in that I supremely enjoyed starting early, but also wanting fancy food on trail, I had gone down a road crossing to a little farm store and bought a pie to pack out. This was also a logical conclusion of sorts to an inside joke Nemo and I had, about a friend of his joining us for a couple of days and offering to only carry pies as a comical personal challenge. Much to my surprise and despite a full shelter only one thru-hiker took me up on my offer of pie, (I think it was either Not Yet, or Ox…) what is the world coming to when hikers don’t want pie someone else carried…
Another miscellaneous but synchronous string was tied up conveniently before NH. In the first VT shelter I passed on grabbing a copy of ‘The Hobbit’ instead opting to grab a collection of letters by Seneca, which had been deposited there sometime before by a hiker named Librarian, no doubt because he had an assortment of books to shed. Once again coming to the final VT shelter, had just dropped ‘Your Erroneous Zones’ and was considering grabbing another book, and there was ‘The Hobbit’ the very same copy, I had previously lamented passing. It had just been left by Transplant, a LASHer (Long Ass Section Hiker) who had planned to thru, but ended up skipping ahead so he could make Katahdin before a deadline, and took a new name when he picked up in the north. Also around here I caught a hiker whom I’d been following in the registers going by the name Red Swagger, I was a little disappointed that it was because he wore a stylish red hat, and not because he was a really fly communist.
Summer Solstice came for me the day I went over Killington Peak, and I had resolved to start near the sunrise, and go till sundown. I got a little side tracked early on and went a little off trail to a train themed cafe on the recommendation of another thru-hiker. They were pretty full so a little after getting seated I accepted an offer for an older fella to join my little table, we had an odd discussion and I regret not writing more about it in my journal as my memory of the exact details are a bit hazy. My new companion may have been messing with me, but he claimed to be a shaman of some sort, that I shared the name of his son, who died at birth, and looked similar to how he expected his son would look at my age. I think he also said his son would’ve been around my age, it was a a bit unsettling to listen to, and I already have a dad. There is a cult in the area that frequently interacts with AT hikers, they offer a free hostel stay. Although I dodged staying with them or get any real concrete details on them, maybe they’re related? I am probably just grossly conflating two new age religions.
I spooked bambi and its mother a few days ago, (May 27th) the mother fled but the fawn either tripped or tried to hide, right in the middle of the trail!
One of many turtles that I’ve moved outta the middle of the road, hope I put you on the side you wanted little buddy.
One of the infamous ponies in the Grayson Highlands on the AT, he (she? Didn’t check.) was really interested in the contents of my hip pouches.
Nemo and I spent a good bit of time watching what we thought was a stare down between the raptor and the little blackbird. In a perfect anticlimax the little guy just flew away and the raptor didn’t even bat its eyes.