Long Trails, and Road Walks

The first of the road-walks between the AT and the NCT was mostly uneventful, I set myself up to cross NH in a day (up at the skinny point) and it worked pretty well. I even got a sort of pseudo homestay just inside VT, a guy I met at a pizza place pointed me to his cabin and I hitched out to it from near the NH/VT border. Got a little lost and tried to hitch to somewhere I knew where was, and got even more lost. (I wasn’t carrying very good maps for this bit, and no tablet or GPS enabled device yet either) then got righted by some college age kids. (maybe younger?) Even with that misadventure though I put down the road mileage pretty fast.

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From the LT’s northern terminus, you can see this ten-foot wide swath cut into the woods as the only thing separating the Canada from the US, there are some pylons noting the Treaty of Washington, which without googling, I would guess is the document that formally specifies the border’s location geographically, maybe some other stuff too. Heading south, the LT is about as tough as anything the AT had to offer, save the notches. I was lucky in that I saw little rainfall, which drastically helped the mud situation, even so there were a few deep mud pits. (I was able to stick a trekking pole down to my wrist, and I didn’t try for much farther…) Overall however only one day dropped me below 20 miles per day, and that was because I happened upon a mountaintop wedding, and decided to stick around and watch,which then turned into cowboy camping on the deck of a ski chalet. In a bit of a moment where worlds collide, the wedding was for a friend of a friend of Dosu Kinuta, an AT thru-hiker I had brushed elbows with. (My parents gave him trail magic while they were slack packing me.) I got his contact info and was told he was gonna finish the LT NoBo starting in a week or so. We missed one another, (and pretty narrowly I think) as he was getting back on really close to when I was getting off.

Overall the LT was really pleasant, a nice change of pace from the relative hustle and bustle of the AT, I had a lot of nice simple interactions with folks on trail. Even got a homestay from a couple, Root and Woven, who were almost done with their NoBo and happened to live on a homestead really close to my route, and at a really convenient midway point, enabling me to make it between the LT and NCT without any  stealth camping, which is a plus. Most nights on the LT had a few people around, there were some college outdoor clubs out in force, and my last night I got to spend some campfire time with a few people, including two musical vagabonds, and someone involved in the administration of the LT. Which lent an additional positive light to my memories of VT, and maybe elevated it to my favorite of the eastern states. On my little bit of road-walk between the LT and NCT I also ran into Transplant’s father, whom I had briefly met on Katahdin, I had to decline his offer of a ride, but he gave me some advice on where to find food in Middlebury. I also ate many Maple Creemees on the way, and was able to make Crown Point without too much trouble, though I did have to hurry a bit going forwards.

Green Mountain Mysticism

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.

Vermud and Health Insurance

Coming off Greylock I had my first boot change, they had been mailed to Williamstown, MA. It was mostly a mistake, I should’ve stayed with my first pair longer. The construction of the new boots had more mesh for weight savings and breathability, but there wasn’t enough structure to them, the toes would begin to detach near the end of the AT. (only about 500 miles away, I would end up wearing them far past broken for about 1200 miles.) I had begun to slip about and across rocks, thinking it had been the soles of my boots wearing out after around 1850 miles, I looked into replacements. Turns out the rocks had just gotten more slippery, and I just kept on sliding.

Back in the mountains, where the AT runs with the Long Trail (LT) Vermont was earning its epithet, Vermud, with lots of trail being engulfed by a deep, thick, foot-eating muck. Add the sludge to the recently rediscovered elevation gains and losses in the trail and you have a recipe for legendary thru-hiker complaints, the kind not seen since Rocksylvania. (Mostly got thru PA scott free, heavier boots have some advantages on trail runners it seems.) Despite getting bogged down VT was one of my favorite states of the AT. Getting back into the hills, seeing the LT thru-hikers starting out, running into Ox again, reading a self help book from the 70s with a silly title, (“Your Erroneous Zones” found it in a church hostel and thought it was title “your errogenous zones” and just had to pick it up. VT has a lot going for it.

There is one big knock against it however, ration troubles… I was moving fast coming into VT so I opted to skip a resupply in Bennington, VT. Luckily I skipped one that either never got mailed or never showed up, so no easy forwarding. The next and larger ration problem, Rutland, VT, came late, quite late, 4 days after I showed up there late. This wouldn’t have been a problem but it had an updated health insurance card in it. So I had to wait, because who knew when it would show up and and thus where it make sense to forward it. Now for the kicker, it didn’t even have my health insurance card. That had gone with the next ration to NH in a mix up, and many deep sighs were had. I got a good deal on a headlamp with a usb rechargeable battery (and for the rest of the trip, goodbye triple A batteries) there though, so that’s a plus.

Of course I was frustrated at the time, but without this long pause I almost certainly wouldn’t have ran into Ox again, as shortly into NH he took a long break for a family event. Nor would I have gotten as much reading in, or decided to chill out and call home for as long. So it was hard to be too unhappy with Nemo, he was really busy reacclimating to city life.