Monday, August 31, 2009

Puking in the Bushes Tends to Put a Damper on Things

8-9-09 day 68
start: The White Birches Hostel @ Goram, NH from Rt. 2
end: Trident Col Tensite, NH
daily mileage: 6.9
total mileage: 874.8

I woke up still feeling sick so that’s awesome. We all slept in and hung around the hostel all day. We kept catching movies on TV and watched Big, Jaws, and Tommy Boy before finally leaving at around 2:30. Fly-By, Hardcore, Porkchop, Disney and I finally hit the trail around 3 o’clock. Porkchop took some girl clothes from the hostel and took off hiking in a sweet cotton mini-skirt. We had planned on 12 miles and getting in after dark, but as soon as we started hiking I could tell I was gonna be miserable all day. I quickly stepped off the trail and let everyone pass and thinking it might help I puked in the bushes before continuing on. I felt a little better and moving slowly I met up with Disney much later. We both felt really out of it and decided to cut our 12 miles down to 6 and just camp at a closer site. I don’t know what the deal is but I hope we get our vigor back soon, because today was not fun.

Feeling Sick, and a Long Slow Slack

8-8-09 day 67
start: The White Birches Hostel @ Goram, NH from Pinkam Notch
end: The White Birches Hostel @ Goram, NH from Rt. 2
daily mileage: 21.1
total mileage: 867.9

We took advantage of the fact that there are two roads leading to Goram by slackpacking the 21 miles in between. We got up at 6 and hostel owner drove us out to Pinkam Notch at 7. A guy and girl, “Fly-By” and “Hardcore” respectively, joined us on our slackpack We stopped off at the Pinkam Notch visitor center for a bite of breakfast. First thing was to make up the elevation we lost decending into notch by climbing 2000ft up Wildcat Mountain. During the climb I began to notice that I wasn’t feeling great for some reason hoped it would pass as I hiked. Well, it didn’t and I eventually let everyone ahead while I plodded slowly in the back. The already long day drug on and on but eventually I met up with the other three at a shelter 2 miles south of Rt. 2. Thank God, 2 flat easy miles to the road and back to Goram.

I felt totally wiped and was looking forward to sleep. The cute daughter, who’s name escapes me, was headed back to Wal-Mart and we wanted more food so we decided to go along. After throwing our manky hiking clothes into the wash we dug though the hiker box and me and Fly-By found it stocked with old clothes from the cute daughters closet. I donned a Mary-Kate and Ashley label tank-top and some killer cut offs. We accompanied her to the store making sure she was totally embarrassed. Wiped out and still feeling sick, I really hope I feel better tomorrow.

Somtimes Getting Lost Works in Your Favor

8-7-09 day 66
start: Madison Hut, NH
end: The White Birches Hostel @ Goram, NH from Pinkam Notch
daily mileage: 7.8
total mileage: 846.8

We planned on a short day out of the Whites into Goram, NH. In order to stay at Madison Hut for free we bartered our skit and song that we performed yesterday as a sort of work for stay. Admittedly the performance was not as good the second time around, however we still got outta there without having to pay so no complaints. We climbed over Mt. Madison, the last of our “Presidentials” and then down off the ridge and into the shelter of the tree line. There are two roads leading to Goram that cross the AT and we planned on stopping at the southern one that runs through Pinkam Notch. We accidentally took a wrong turn which happily worked out to our advantage, cutting off ~3 trail miles, and dumping us five or six miles closer to town along the road. While purists would say we cheated, we aren’t so worried about it.

We hit up the library and updated the blog for you fine people at a nominal fee of a dollar/ half hour. After calling the White Birches, our hostel, the lady told us, “Bruce can come pick yoos up and drive ya to da Wal-maat…”. We enjoy the accents up here. We took the offer and after re-supply we checked into the Birches, which is great and run by super nice people, and their daughter’s not bad to look at either. They have a pool so we swam, it was cold. There are bunch of hikers here and we got some beers from the local general store and Connor and I stayed up watching “Raising Helen” with the girls.

Washington, Washington, 20 Stories Tall Made of Radiation...

8-6-09 day 65
start: Mizpah Hut, NH
end: Madison Hut, NH
daily mileage: 11.8
total mileage: 839

After all the hard work from the night before, it was finally time this morning to perform our highly anticipated skit and song. Our skit explained the three rules of the huts and was titled "Goldilocks and the Three Huts". The song was the coup de grace and re-stated all the rules to the tune of "Afternoon Delight". The performance was a rousing success and immediately lifted us to trail super-stardom. We had a nice, if cloudy, day to tackle the Presidential Ridge. We were above tree line the entire day and had an awesome hike along the ridge leading to the big one, Mt. Washington. In all we summited Munroe, Washington, Clay, Jefferson, and Adams. For some reason the AT doesn't go over most of the summits so at certain points we branched off on blue blaze trails that actually went to the tops instead of skirting around. The whole ridge was super rocky with lots of bouldering up the peaks, which seemed mostly like big rock piles. Once we finally got to Washington the clouds had blown in and obscured the peak. We climbed the mountain and summited to find a zoo of tourists. Crowds of people who drove to the top or rode the cog train formed a line to wait and stand on the actual summit. You're telling me I just climbed this rock pile and have to wait behind these tourists to summit? Forget that, we didn't even care to go up there at that point. With an auto road, snack bar, and gift shop, Washington was super disenchanting and honestly pretty lame.

On the way down, the trail passes right by the cog train track. The thru-hiker tradition is to moon the passengers riding up. Not wanting to leave any hiker achievement un-tested Disney and I waited until the trail was passing and mooned those goofers good. We made our way to Madison Hut with little hope for a work for stay but were willing to give it a shot anyway. They told us there wasn't any more work but we ended up bartering our skit and song from this morning and they went for it. The Croo was really cool. Madison was also the highest place we've ever slept at 4882 feet.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Awesome Trail Magic

8-5-09 day 64
start: Zeacliff, NH
end: Mizpah Hut, NH
daily mileage: 15.3
total mileage: 827.2

Despite our beautiful weather the night before, it clouded up just before sunrise and we missed the hoped-for spectacle. The weather looked like it could go either way. We climbed WAY down off the ridge into Crawford Notch, and hiked about 8 miles over some very uncharacteristically flat, easy terrain for NH (turns out, much of it was once an old railroad bed). Gentle slopes and dirt trails for a few miles were a really nice break from all the rocks and mountains!

When we crossed US 302, we found a former thru-hiker called Rock Dancer giving out trail magic! It was our first trail magic in a while, and it was one of the best we've enjoyed. He had a big cooler with beer, sodas, snacks, and even stuff for sandwiches! Apparently he just sits out there by the trail for days at a time, stealth camping in the woods in the evening, and driving into town when he runs out of supplies to get more! We chatted with him for awhile, and when Rabbit joined us, we found that we'd cleaned him out! We all decided to ride with him into town and grab some snacks. We went to the dollar store, and bought materials for an invention of Sea Monster's (basically a series of mouse traps one clips onto our bear-bags, and which is hilarious) and went to Dairy Queen. We got back on the trail, climbed the beautiful Webster Cliffs, Mt. Webster, and Mt. Jackson. It was a great day - I specifically remember thinking how beautiful the views were.

We were planning on stealth camping but we decided we'd ask at Mizpah Hut anyway, just for laughs. When we got there, there were another 6 thru-hikers already there (and another 4 arrived just shortly after we did), but they were incredibly cool and let us all do work for stays anyway! We enjoyed their food for dinner, and got assigned to do a skit in the morning explaining the 3 Hut Rules to the day hikers (aka Goofers). Awesome!

Cowboy Camping Out Under the Stars

8-4-09 day 63
start: Greenleaf Hut, NH
end: Zeacliff, NH
daily mileage: 12.4
total mileage: 811.9

Woke up early at Greenleaf as the Croo started stirring around making breakfast. We stuck around until after the meal to get left overs as well as finish our work for stay, sweeping up the hut. Before we could put down any trail miles we had to climb back up a mile onto the ridge we came off of yesterday. The weather looked great in the morning and we ended up having another fantastic day. Around 2 o'clock we came up on Galehead Hut and cooked our lunch. After lunch we felt super lazy as we always do and, against our better judgment, decided to ask if we could do work for stay there. As it was only about 3 they said no, which was fortunate...somebody needs to keep us on track. We hiked on and knowing we wouldn't make it to Zealand Hut in time to snag a work for stay we planned on stealth camping somewhere. We had heard that the rocks at the Zeacliff overlook were fantastic so we stopped there a mile or so before the Hut. The short trial over to he rocks included a number of 'bog bridges' spanning some swampy stuff. Two of the bridges were almost like booby traps because the ends weren't sitting on the ground and were instead floating on the surface, a nice surprise when you step on it. After a couple of flying leaps we made it across. The rocks were awesome. We had a 180 degree view of a spectacular clear valley. There was not a cloud in the sky so after setting up an emergency shelter in the woods we slept out under the stars. The rocks face east so we have the phone alarm set for 5:30 with the hopes we will catch a nice sunrise.

Franconia Ridge: Major Trail Highlight

8-3-09 day 62
start: Lonesome Lake Hut, NH
end: Green Leaf Hut, NH
daily mileage: 9.3
total mileage: 799.5

We were woken up a little early in the huts by the staff (we sleep on the dining room floor of the huts, so we get up around 6 when the staff start making breakfast) which was annoying given how late the day hikers all left for bed to let us go to sleep the night before. We put on our wet boots and expected the trail to be wet from the night before, but it was actually OK. Our moods began rapidly improving as we saw that the weather was actually looking like it would be gorgeous, and that we were soon to be hiking over the fabled Franconia Ridge. We took a while figuring out how the trail went over 93 (it goes under the highway by the river, BTW) and started our ascent above treeline.

We got up to a beautiful rock overlook for lunch (I mean, one of the best we've seen on the whole trail) and ate lunch there while we dried out our boots. When they were all dry and lunch was all eaten, we packed up, turned a corner, emerged from treeline, and faced one of the most beautiful views I've ever seen.

Franconia Ridge is incredible. It offers a 360 degree view along the whole ridge, which goes over Little Haystack Mountain, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Lafeyette. By now, it was a beautifully clear day and we could see for miles and miles in every direction. We could see Lonesome Lake Hut, the ridge we followed under tree line all the way around to meet up with Franconia Ridge, and we could see the trail that we had to follow to get to Greenleaf Hut (which was also clearly visible). It was breathtaking, and we literally could not have hoped for a better day to see it. The only downside (this will be the case for most of our days in the beautiful Whites) was the sheer volume of day hikers and other people everywhere.

After lingering on the ridge for several hours, we descended the 1.1 mile side trail to Greenleaf Hut. It was nice and early in the afternoon, and the hut is a mile off the AT along a side trail, so we got the Work For Stay with no trouble. The Croo (the staff) there was really great, and we just had to move some lumber for their log bridge and sweep up the cabin after breakfast in the morning. For this, we got lodging for the night and food for dinner and breakfast! Awesome!

Appalachian "Money" Club

8-2-09 day 61
start: Chet's Place in Lincoln, NH (via NH 112)
end: Lonesome Lake Hut, NH
daily mileage: 13.4
total mileage: 790.2

We got out of Chet's via shuttle around 9, and were disappointed to encounter a pretty overcast day. We were a little worried that we'd have another day like Moosilauke (which was awesome, but would only be awesome so many times). Right off the bat, we had a steep climb up Mt. Wolf. It started raining, and the day turned out to be pretty much exactly like our Moosilauke day. The climb up Kinsman Peak was awesome though, with giant sheer rock faces that you just had to throw your poles over and rock-climb straight up. The climb back down was pretty wet and steep.

We got to our destination around 6 that night, our first AMC Hut. The AMC Huts are all through the Whites (which is a big tourist area) and they charge day hikers around $100 a night for food and a nice place to sleep. They're extremely commercial feeling, which kind of ruins the whole A.T. vibe we've been experiencing. Particularly because the only alternative shelters in the whites all charge $8 a night for thru-hikers. We'd heard that the Huts allowed work-for-stay for a few hikers if they could, so we thought we'd try our luck... but by the time we got to Lonesome Lake, 3 other hikers had already taken up all the work-for-stay slots. We had to pay $10 each just to sleep on the floor, which was pretty lame, and made both of us pretty bitter towards the whole Hut system for the night.

Chet -- our hero

8-1-09 day 60
start: Chet's Place in Lincoln, NH (via NH 112)
end: Chet's Place in Lincoln, NH (via NH 112)
daily mileage: 0
total mileage: 776.8

We meant to update the blog in the morning in the library and then be on our merry way, slackpacking the 16 miles from NH 112 (into Lincoln) to I-93 (into Lincoln)... this way, we could stay at Chet's again that night. Unfortunately, the library didn't open until 10 AM. We wandered over to the Internet Cafe -- it also didn't open until 10. The internet cafe was expensive, so we wandered back over to the library. It still charged $4 an hour for computer time! New Hampshire's whole "no sales tax" thing is awesome (Live Free or Die) but it does make for somewhat crappier public services.

We didn't get done updating the blog until after noon, and figured that hiking would be tough. So we zeroed. We did decide to fix one of Chet's bikes for him (it was missing it's rear derailer, so we had it fixed at a local bike store). It wasn't even too expensive, since everyone in town seems to know and love Chet.

Speaking of, Chet is awesome. Once a big time backpacker himself, he was horribly injured when his backpacking stove exploded on him. The explosion caught him on fire, and he barely put himself out by the time he lost consciousness... for nine months. They put him in a medically induced coma, and thought he'd never come back out of it. When he did, he had lost use of both of his legs (he's now in a wheelchair) and most of his vision in both eyes. They told him he'd never walk again, but he's slowly surpassing all expectations and hopes to hike again someday. He's incredibly good-natured about it; he just has an amazing attitude towards life. He's really chill, and very fun and interesting to talk to. Anyway, he runs this hostel for donation or work-for-stay (pretty much whatever you feel like doing for him), so we got one of the bikes he lets his guests use fixed up for him.

Otherwise, we bought stuff for grilled ham and cheese and made a delicious lunch and dinner! A nice day off, for sure. Double Vision, Jukebox Hero, Whisp, and Gromet met up with us later in the evening. We're about to really enter into the Whites!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Men, Doing Manly Things That Men Do! RAHH!!

7-31-09 day 59
start: Hikers Welcome Hostel @ Glencliff, NH
end: Chet's Place @ Lincoln, NH
daily mileage: 9.5
total mileage: 793.1

We left the hostel in the rain this morning and road walked a detour to avoid a flooded river crossing. I guess we did it to avoid soaking our feet, which became laughable as the day, and rain wore on. First order of business was to climb Mt. Moosilauke. This was easily the biggest mountain we have had, and will be one of the biggest on the trail. we climbed 3500 ft up to an elevation of 4800 ft in the driving cold rain. It made you want to give a beastly animal roar and tear down the mountain with ever step. We felt like wild men, MOUNTAIN MEN! I got up ahead and once I hit tree line the weather was insane. It wasn't so much raining anymore because I was inside the cloud but, cold wet mist and sleet were blowing horizontally. Visibility was about 30ft. I came this far up shirtless and felt massively pumped so I decided to make the summit half naked. The barren cold summit was wild and I felt incredible. I touched the sign and gave a Tarzan yell...OK everyone I know that was intense, but now we need to settle down.

After waiting for a minute for Disney I decided I was cold after all and put some clothes on and headed toward the treeline to wait. After 30min I was very curious as to what was taking so long to I popped back up to the summit in case he was waiting there. Well he wasn't and I was freezing so I decided to head down for good and hope he caught up. After a while of descending and seeing no sign of Disney I had a feeling I might not be on the AT. The fact that there were no white blazes was also a clue. Though, I figured whatever trail I was on was going down the mountain anyway so it had to lead to something. Toward the bottom I hit a sign that pointed to "Ravine Lodge" and I said, "Great, people!" After that, and a sign pointing to "Parking", I now had budding hope that I would not freeze to death out in the woods. The people at the lodge showed me a map and what trail I had gotten on coming down the summit and that I was about 4 miles around the base from the AT. I wasn't about to hike back up and over to the AT so I called the phone that Disney had with him and left a message saying I was headed straight into Lincoln, NH, where we planned to go that day anyway.

I got a quick hitch and after asking directions at a tattoo parlor I made my way through town to Chet's Hiker Hostel. After a shower and dry clothes Disney came walking in still soaked and cold. While I was waiting a little off the summit on the wrong trail, he had passed by and went down the AT. Figuring he was still behind me he went all the way down to the road, and was extremely confused when I wasn't there either. He had no cell reception so he couldn't get my message, and not knowing what else to do waited by the road for 2 and a half hours, in the rain...ugg sorry man. He finally hitched in and we reunited. Chet is awesome and super chill. Micha, Rabbit, and Shenanigans are all here, we even got guitars and had a jam session. Good stuff after a hard day.

Aquatrekking... hooray!

7-30-09 day 58
start: Hexacuba Shelter, NH
end: Hiker's Welcome Hostel in Glencliff, NH
daily mileage: 14.6
total mileage: 767.3

It poured all night as we slept in our weirdly hexagon-shaped shelter (freaking Dartmouth kids) and the trail was absolutely flooded. There were huge puddles everywhere (the whole trail, really) and we soon bowed to the inevitable and just started slogging straight through the water. Yeah aquatrekking! If any of you want advice on whether or not to get waterproof hiking boots, don't... the Goretex stops keeping water out after a few weeks of hiking, but it NEVER stops keeping water in! With my new boots from Hanover, though, they get your feet soaked and then squish the water out quickly, so you have a chance to dry out. All told, it wasn't too bad... I just hope we get a chance to really dry out our socks soon!

The whole day was a bit of a rush, as we had to get a full 15 miles in over two small mountains before the post office in Glencliff closed at 5. We climbed Mount Cube, which was a pretty decent ascent (but nothing too tough) and found absolutely no view from the top, due to the fog everywhere. We hurried on, taking a half hour lunch (instead of our traditional hour-and-a-half), and were rewarded by getting in to Glencliff at 3. Sea Monster got his new camera battery, and we met up with several of our friends at the hostel across the street (Micha and Rabbit, for example). We decided to hang out there for a while... then got sucked into watching a movie with them there... then heard there was lasagna for dinner... and decided to stay, rather than moving on to the next shelter. We showered, ate, and watched DVDs of Mission Impossible III and Monty Python's "The Life of Brian." A great evening.

Moosilauke tomorrow... our first Real Mountain, and our indoctrination to the Whites. We're pumped!

Hot Nasty Day to Climb a Mountain

7-29-09 day 57
start: Moose Mountain Shelter, NH
end: Hexacube Shelter, NH
daily mileage: 17.7
total mileage: 752.7

We got up really early, 6:00. We both kinda liked it actually, we made good morning miles. We had a pretty stout climb early on but it came with the promise of popsicles on the other side. We found the popsicle house but there was no one home to hand out the treats. Lame. We hung out with Whisp and snacked from our own supply for a while anyway before pushing on. We climbed Smarts Mountain before lunch, and it was a beast. It was a hot, steamy, humid day to climb but we made it up the huge rock. It was defiantly our biggest climb in a while. It was so humid all a the views were obscured by big clouds of hazy mist, yuck. We ate at the summit with our Dutch friend Micha (prncd, 'Mee-sha') under the fire tower. The only water supply at the top was basically a mud puddle, but you got to go with what you got I suppose. Giardiah, bring it on! From the top we only had 5.3 to the shelter and all down hill. I stopped about a mile out to bathe in the river. I found a natural pool and eased into the cold water. Washing the nasty salt off was great and the cold water on tired muscles was better. It started sprinkling as I got moving again and after my cool down I was moving slow. I met back up with Disney at Hexacuba Shelter, which is in fact hexagonal, and the privy is pentagonal.

Dumas was the man!

7-28-09 day 56
start: Phi Tau at Dartmouth in Hanover, NH
end: Moose Mountain Shelter, NH
daily mileage: 11.0
total mileage: 735.0

Having been up late last night hanging out with the Phi Taus, we woke up quite late this morning and didn't really get out until noon. We stopped by the post office again on our way out for me to mail off a letter, and then went to the library to download some more audiobooks for my Kindle and Sea Monster's newly reacquired iRiver. This took much longer than expected, and Whisp got bored and left without us. Sea Monster got most of the 3 Musketeers, and I got more of the book I've been listening to, The Count of Monte Cristo. Yay Dumas!

We left Hanover and started listening to a song that's been in both of our head's for a while, "I wanna be like you" from the Jungle Book (it was on Sea Monster's iRiver). The iRiver has 2 headphone jacks, but it wasn't long before we decided that we couldn't actually hike that close together for long.

We climbed Moose Mountain (a pretty good climb!) and met a guy named Robo at the top, who followed us into the shelter that night. He's what we call a talker... man, that guy could hold both ends of a conversation himself. There were some pretty awesome section hikers there though who had built a nice fire, and had some whiskey that they were sharing! Yay!

Back On Campus

7-27-09 day 55
start: Storage Barn @ West Hartford, VT
end: Phi Tau Fraternity @ Hanover, NH/ Dartmouth College
daily mileage: 9.8
total mileage: 724

We left the hot stinky barn and met Double Vision and Jukebox Hero at the General Store for a tasty breakfast. After a little bit, Whisp came rolling in too. As soon as we left town we climbed over Happy Hill and hit the road leading into Hanover, NH home of Dartmouth College. Before we hit town there was a bit of trail magic consisting of watermelon and fantastic Rice Krispie treats. VT didn't seem to want to let go but sure enough we finally crossed the Connecticut River into NH. We went straigt away to the Dartmouth Outing Club HQ. The maintain the trail for the upcoming section and are one of the biggest outing clubs of their kind in the nation. We met back up with DV and JBH then went to the Post Office to get our waiting packages. In anticipation for the Whites I got some more cold weather gear and some tasty snacks from Dad, and Disney got a shipment of cookies! We were already snack heavy but decided to buy more at the local grocery co-op in addition to our resupply. Disney was in desperate need of new boots and after hitting up the outfitter, more magic happened. The hiker swap box at the outfitter had a basically new pair of Merrel trail shoes for free! The fit, so he nabbed those babies up, as well as bought new insoles and some trekking poles. For dinner we hit up the $7 pizza buffet. There was a Sox game on TV so there were dollar drafts as well...the perfect storm! After asking at the pizza place we found we could stay at Phi Tau Fraternity for the night. They are a local co-ed fraternity and are really cool about taking in hikers for a night or two. They also had just finished a bake sale and had MASSIVE amounts of cookies left over...tasty.

Pie, BBQ, and a very unproductive slackpack

7-26-09 day 54
start: Wintturi Shelter, VT
end: Storage Barn in West Hartford, VT
daily mileage: 16.4
total mileage: 714.2

Today was a day of rapidly changing plans... as our readers may have noticed, we often alter our plans when new opportunities arise. We had originally planned to hike 20.4 miles today to the Happy Hill Shelter. As it turned out, this would have been very tough. Our guidebook doesn't have an elevation profile, just sporadic waypoints with their elevations. So we thought it would be much flatter than it really was... it was a rollercoaster sort of day. But that wasn't even the problem.

Early on in the day (just 4 or 5 miles in), we got to "On the Edge Farm," a farm right off the trail selling homemade pies and other delectables. This, incidentally, was right after I touched an electric fence, thinking it wouldn't be that painful... and being decidedly wrong. Anyway, we bought an entire large, warm pie and met up with Double Vision and Jukebox Hero. We'd heard about a Trail Angel around the area who offered to take our packs and drive down to Hanover with them, and meet us that night. Never one to refuse a slackpack, we called her and paid $5 each for the convenience.

With no weight on our backs, we were sure we could get all the way into Hanover (a 27 mile, very hilly day). Indeed, we might have made it (probably after dark, but whatever) except for a sign we passed... "Free Food, Beer, and Swimming." Our friend Gritty lives right off the trail, and had apparently gotten off on his birthday and was hosting a hiker barbeque for free! Naturally, we got off for about an hour and a half. We met up with several other friends there, including Whisp, and were beginning to realize after an exorbitant amount of food and a few beers that we weren't going to hike another 17 miles after 3 pm.

So, we tried calling this trail angel who had our packs, "Bug Bite." She doesn't pick up. We start joking that she probably just stole our stuff (imagine filing a police report against some girl named "Bug Bite") but were now in a legitimate fix: we can't improvise and not go to Hanover if she thinks we'll be there, but we're definitely not getting there by the time she said she'd meet us!

We finally got a hold of her on the trail and decided to meet her in West Hartford. We (thankfully) got all our stuff back, and paid her $5 each to hike less miles than we were originally planning on. We found a barn in town that some guy let us stay in for the night... this barn was incredible, it was just strewn all over with random crap, with dust everywhere! But there were two beds and a few matresses, so we were happy! We each took turns going to the bathroom inside the guys house, which was (very awkwardly) right next to where his daughter was breaking up with her boyfriend over the phone.

I made a few phone calls while Sea Monster, Jukebox Hero, and Double Vision went on a walk to get out of the barn. They came across a guy who offered them beers, so they were just hanging out on his porch for an hour or so. While they were there, they were served beer, cereal, and a cheese platter while watching his dog chase his tail whenever a car passed by! When they got back, we chatted in the barn for a while before hitting the hay.

Where Does the Time Go?

7-25-09 day 53
start: Tucker Johnson Shelter, VT
end: Winturi Shelter, VT
daily mileage: 18.9
total mileage: 697.8

Early on in the day we hit Willard Gap, point at which the Long Trail (runs from s. VT boarder to Canada) and the AT finally split. We are both extremely happy to get away from all the dirty Long Trail hikers and back to pure AT : ). As is our custom we took a long lunch, and read while our socks and shoes dried on the sun baked tin roof. I don't know if it was lunch or what but we seemed to move unnaturally slow and ate dinner on the trail also. We ate at The Lookout. It is a cool cabin 1/4 mile off the AT with a massively high observation deck built on top of the roof. Were a little dubious of the safety of this crazy platform, especially if the lack of shingles and holes in the roof are any sign of the place's upkeep. We again hiked until dark and when we got to the shelter we scared the heck out of Double Vision and Jukebox Hero. JBH said he was ready to Mace us. Also we met Huck Finn on the trail who is from Hamilton, OH...the closest real town to my school Miami U. Small world!

Alpine Slide Madness (kind of)

7-24-09 day 52
start: Back Home Again Cafe/Hostel in Rutland, VT
end: Back Home Again Cafe/Hostel in Rutland, VT
daily mileage: 1.0
total mileage: 678.9

OK, we promise, we're not joining the Twelve Tribes. After 3 nights here, we're finally leaving today. But we're not going far. Part of the reason we zeroed yesterday and only hiked a mile today was because we have a package waiting for us in Hanover, and need to get there on Monday to pick it up (we were originally going to get there Saturday afternoon, when it would be closed until Monday morning).

My ankle has been bothering me, and after our intense slackpack yesterday I woke up to it hurting very sharply this morning. So I decided to go down to the walk-in clinic, where I waited around for several hours for them to tell me nothing. It's either tendinitis or a stress fracture, but as they didn't have the bone-scan machine to tell if it's the latter, we'll assume it's the former. The doctor was very nice, though, and she gave me some free anti-inflammitorys to help.

When I got back Sea Monster had eaten an entire rotisserie chicken for lunch and we were ready to leave. One of the Twelve Tribers was heading in the direction of the trail head anyway, and dropped us off there. Just a few hundred yards down the road was the Pico Ski Resort, where they had an alpine slide running! We decided to get a half-day pass for $24 each (our crisp new $50's were burning holes in our pockets!) and jumped on the alpine slide. We each got just one ride, and then it started gently raining. It only sprinkled for a few minutes, but then they had to dry the tracks, and it was taking forever. We waited about an hour, and when they still thought it would be another half hour or so we decided to get a refund. Fortunately, the guy behind the counter was nice, and gave us partial refunds and some free Snicker's bars for our trouble.

Turbo Slackpackers!

7-23-09 day 51
start: VT 140, VT
end: U.S. 4, VT
daily mileage: 23.7
total mileage: 677.9

So, without being too confusing our original plan was to leave Rutland today, hitch back to Wallingford along rt. 140, pick up Disney's package, and hike ~14 miles north from rt. 140 back toward Rutland. After looking in the book however, I discovered it was only 24 miles between VT 140 and US 4 (the next road into Rutland). Since our gear was already here we decided we could slackpack the whole distance and stay another night with the 12 Tribes. Cool! The only problem is that we didn't start hitching until 10, and after an hour of no luck we finally got a ride, and after the PO and a trip back to the trail head it was almost noon. 24 miles after 12 o'clock? No problem! Knowing we were not going to get in until after dark already, we tore up the miles. Around the Clarendon Shelter I got turned down the wrong road and Disney unwittingly got ahead of me. After not seeing me for a long time he began to hustle to catch me, while I, still behind, was literally running to catch him. After reuniting we climbed Mt. Killington as it was getting dark. The mountain was ominous. The terrain was not too steep but the edge of the trail was a sheer cliff and the road was covered with tree roots and rocks. It was dim under the canopy and mist was literally swirling around through the thick undergrowth. Dead moss covered trees were all over the place, if there was a lone raven cawing it would have been perfect. We hiked in true darkness for about an hour, trying to see how far we could go without flashlights. We got to the road at around 9:30 and waited for one of the guys from the hostel to come get us. Sitting on the side of the interstate in the dark was fun...we ate cookies.

Transformers 2 Sucks!

7-22-09 day 50
start: Back Home Again Cafe/Hostel in Rutland, VT
end: Back Home Again Cafe/Hostel in Rutland, VT
daily mileage: 0
total mileage: 654.2

The Back Home Again Cafe is run by a Christian denomination known as the Twelve Tribes. Some have called them a cult -- they give up all their worldly possessions to live together in a commune -- but we thought they were mostly just nice folks who take their faith very, very seriously. The Twelve Tribes have these communities all over the world (about 60 of them) and share all their resources between them. This community runs a cafe to make some money, which is distributed between all the communities. Other communities, like the one in Brazil, grow food which is shared with (and sold by) the cafes. It's really pretty interesting. I generally liked them, though I do think they're depriving their kids of a broader education by home schooling them and not encouraging them to come to their own conclusions about stuff. We stayed in their adjoining hostel, and paid our way by helping sweep and mop the cafe up after the day was over last night, and by helping them dice vegetables and make their salsa tonight.

To make the most of our zero day, however, we went to Walmart (several times, actually), to a delicious Chinese Buffet, and to see two movies! The Chinese Buffet was our first All You Can Eat experience out here on the trail, and it was as good as we'd hoped for. The movies were surprisingly disappointing. We paid for a matinee showing of Public Enemies, which was OK, and then decided to sneak in to see Transformers 2. I think I need a new paragraph for this monstrosity.

It was atrocious. We both agreed. I don't even understand how a movie with so large a budget could have so many gaping plot holes! It's like all the writers were replaced with CG people. And the characters were awful! "The Twins" were two new autobots that were there only to annoy the audience, with their Larry-the-Cable-Guy humor and giant buck teeth. I was actually almost relieved when the movie got messed up in the theater and the sound cut out for 5 minutes, because the dialogue was so trite and predictable. I wish I was a movie critic, so I could invent a new grade below "F" for it. Even the explosions and Megan Fox's hotness can get such a movie so far. I wanted a refund, even though I didn't pay to see it.

We met a pretty weird guy at the hostel, who kept talking about how he ate dandelions. Weird.


7-21-09 day 49
start: Big Branch Shelter, VT
end: Back home Again Cafe @ Rutland, VT
daily mileage: 9.4
total mileage: 654.2

We had good weather starting out the day but around lunch it started raining. The rain made us slow to leave the shelter, but we had to get into Wallingford today to go to the Post Office. Disney had forgotten a bunch of his clothes at Tom's in Dalton and they were waiting here. Unfortunately we waited around too long at lunch, and by the time we got to the PO it was what? After re-working our plans we found we could hitch into the town of Rutland, VT from here, a few days earlier than we would have. Rutland has a work for stay hostel we planned on going to anyway so we figured on going there for the night and hitching back to Wallingford tomorrow. After one hitch to the edge of town, we got a second from a guy leaving the Tractor Supply. After being told not to worry about it we tossed our wet gear and bodies onto the leather seats of his Porsche. He asked all about the trail and our story and drove us all the way up to the hostel. As we thanked him and got out he goes, "Here guys, lemme get your dinner..." and handed us...$100!!! We both about pooped ourselves. This guy, a random stranger just handed us, two wet, dirty, smelly, hikers, $100! Absolutely unreal, talk about Trail Magic!

Contraband Ski Lift Activities

7-20-09 day 48
start: Green Mountain House in Manchester Center, VT
end: Big Branch Shelter, VT
daily mileage: 16.5
total mileage: 644.6

We got a later start than expected (no one woke us up!), but enjoyed some tasty cereal and were soon on our way. We set out with Whisp and Pork Chop, all four of us hiking in a big group. Though we soon split up, we kept running into them all day.

At the top of Bromley Peak was a beautiful view (one of the best we've seen) and several ski slopes. We met up with Gritty and Gromet and Whisp and Pork Chop. Being July, all the ski lift equipment looked pretty deserted... so Sea Monster decided to climb up some of it! I got a good picture of him up on a platform that it looked like he probably shouldn't be on. He came down and talked me into going up with him, and we discovered (to our amazement) that the trap door he had just climbed up was now locked with a padlock... a guy in an ATV had seen him up there and locked it!

We hiked with Whisp all day, and towards the end the three of us saw the Lost Pond Shelter... a shelter, under construction, that is being built for the third time after it's burned down twice in the last 8 years! The crazy part is, there are two other shelters within 2 miles of it! When there are parts of the trail where shelters are 30 miles apart, it seems bizarre to spend so much time on an obviously doomed one... but hey, they don't pay me to think about these things, they pay me to walk.

The Green Mountain House

7-19-09 day 47
start: Spruce Peak Shelter, VT
end: Green Mountain Hostel @ Manchester Center
daily mileage: 2.8
total mileage: 628.1

We have decided on another near'o today into Manchester Center, VT. The Green Mountain Hostel sounds like the place to be and it's only $15. We walked the three miles to the road in our Crocs and then hitched into town. First order of business was to get some breakfast. "Up for Breakfast" is the place to go in town so we popped over there to find huge bustling Sunday crowds. I had the "Hiker's Breakfast" consisting of two pancakes, two eggs, two sausage, two bacon, home fries, and toast. The pancakes were literally the best I had ever eaten, on or off trail...seriously amazing. We heard a lot about the bookstore in town so we poked around there for a few hours. It was a neat place, lots of books and a really cool, chill atmosphere. After our re-supply we have Jeff, the owner of the hostel, a call and he came to pick us up. Green Mountain House is fantastic. It's really new and nice inside; it was basically a full blown house set aside just for hikers. We had Internet, showers, laundry, and a full kitchen in which we cooked Chicken Parmesan. We enjoyed our tasty meal and watched Wedding Crashers. Both of us are going to bed uncomfortably full.

Our first romantic sunset

7-18-09 day 46
start: Story Spring Shelter, VT
end: Spruce Peak Shelter, VT
daily mileage: 18.3
total mileage: 625.3

As we set off this morning, we quickly got to the base of Stratton Mountain. We weren't too worried, as it had a big parking lot full of cars at it's base -- a tourist mountain, ha! At the top, there was a pretty nice view and a whole mess of people. We got to talk to the kindly caretaker for a little while, which was fun.

Just two miles before the end our day, we encountered the beautiful Prospect Rock (a rock jutting out of the ridge to the west). The sun was getting low in the sky, so we decided to have dinner there while watching the sun set. Our friend Solo met up with us there and joined in our romantic experience! After the sun set we had yet to get in to the shelter, so we did our first hiking in the dark - our first of several!

When we got into the shelter, we met up with our friend Whisp and his old hiking buddy from '06, Fire. She only drove out to meet him at the shelter, so she had all kinds of treats for us - bratwursts AND cookies! The shelter was really cool too - four walls with a sliding door to keep out the bugs! A great end to the day.