Thursday, July 26, 2007

Next to last state

Hello from Glencliff, New Hampshire. Thats right I am in to the next to last state of my journey. Fortunately, the upcoming terrain is bound to make this one last a bit longer. Tomorrow morning I have to climb about 3500 up the side of Mt. Moosilauke. The following 250 or so miles are going to be similar. Fortunately, the views should be worth it. Enough about that though, its time to talk about the past week.
To say that the day I left Killington was beautiful would be such an understatement as to be almost criminal. The sky was bright blue and there were enormous puffy white clouds all over. The temperature was perfect too. It was probably 75 degrees and it stayed that way the whole day. All of this was made better by the fact that I left from a wonderful breakfast with my Mom's friend Ellen Wallace Buchanan. It was really great to see her and have a chance to talk.
Also that day I started to see my first South Bound hikers. From Surge who I met just outside of town to the three exceedingly inconsiderate folks I camped with that night. I had been planning on going 16 or so miles to a shelter to stop for the night. Fortunately for me I decided to check out an overlook that was .2 miles off the trail and discovered a usable cabin that I didn't even know existed. The view was completely unreal. There was a fantastic sunset and a sunrise that was just as good. I also got some great stars when I got up to pee in the middle of the night. I must admit I was somewhat put out with my bunkmates however. They seemed really cool at first, but then they decided to cook dinner pretty late and very loudly inside the cabin while another hiker was trying to sleep. They then decided to all get up around 3 in the morning to look at stars (making lots of noise in the process) and instead of coming back in and going back to sleep they built a fire with much breaking of twigs. It was as though they didn't realize there were people trying to sleep in the same building. Even with that thought, it was an awesome place to spend the night.
The next day was fairly lame. All of the terrain was fairly boring and it was hot. In truth the only unusual thing that happened (and granted it was fairly unusual) was coming across the a south bound female hiker named Rambo sunbathing without a stitch of clothing in the MIDDLE of the trail. I can't say I really have an idea what she looks like since I exchanged pleasantries with my eyes averted. That night there was a large camp group at the shelter so I ended up camped with Green Hornet and Michael instead.
I rolled through Hanover the next day, hoping to meet back up with Mystery Chicken who I had bid goodbye back in Killington. I was going to do what business I had in town and then head on out for another ten miles. However, the new Harry Potter and my desire to see if Chicken would show up said otherwise. Thus after a couple of hundred pages and several wasted hours later I went only a mile out of town to the Velvet Rocks Shelter with Green Hornet, Gator Girl, and Walking Cowboy. Still no sign of Chicken.
Due to the fact that no one was able to find the water at the shelter I left without liquid in the morning. As a result my mornings walk mostly focused on me thinking about finding a drink. I was unable to find one until two miles before I was going to stop for lunch, which totaled about seven dry miles. I was a bit thirsty. That night I stopped at Trapper John. I started out the night in the shelter but the mosquitoes quickly convinced my tent was a far superior option.
The next day was pretty tough. I had two big climbs over Smarts Mtn. and Mt. Cube. Actually, only Smarts was all that bad. I also took a really long lunch break in which I ate two days worth of lunch; a mistake I have made before. It always makes me feel kind of sluggish when I do that. You'd think I'd have figured that out by now. Anyway, the mosquitoes were so bad heading to the shelter that evening I wasn't even going to bother with the shelter, but then there were no available tent sites so I ended up putting the tent in the shelter. It was definitely a first.
This morning I only had a few miles to go which I tried to stretch out for as long as possible by getting lost for about an hour after about two miles. Go me and my amazing sense of direction. Since arriving at the totally awesome Hiker's Welcome Hostel here in Glencliff I've been mostly eating and watching movies. It's been pretty great. I also sent home my warm weather sleeping bag. Since it's hot as blazes right now I have a feeling I have a few sweaty nights ahead of me. If the weather turns though I'll be glad to have it. I'm leaving pics of me and Chicken in the Bar at the Long Trail Inn and one of the sunset views from the cabin I stayed at coming out of Killington.

Good Evening,
The Breadless Horseman

Friday, July 20, 2007

Don't even know what to say...

I'm going to have to try and make this fast. The library I'm posting from is limiting me to a half hour and I don't know if I'll get another chance. Those of you keeping up with the blog may have noted a fairly significant time gap between this post and the last. There have been a few factors that have been slowing me down, but I'll get to that in a minute.

I left Great Barrington on an exceedingly hot day. It had to be in the mid 90's and it was really buggy to boot. Even with that though, it was a good day. I felt strong and the hiking was not too difficult. That being said I was very glad to reach my destination that night, the Upper Goose Pond Cabin. I was even more glad when I discovered how awesome a place it was. It was a two-story, enclosed, honest-to-god building with a working kitchen and a bunk room upstairs. This was kind of cool since rain was expected. The pond itself was even better however. Almost immediatly upon arrival I stripped to my boxers and went for a swim. The water felt amazing. I don't think I have ever been quite so refreshed. I wish I could do that after every hot, sweaty day.

It was raining when I woke the next morning, but that broke just before I left for the day. It was not a particularly interesting day. I walked through some fairly nice territory, including a brief section overlooking a lake, but there wasn't a whole lot to set it apart; sort of a run of the mill kind of day.

I had to pass through two towns the next day on the way to my goal of 15.5 miles. I was going to pick up some powerade in the second to replenish me before a pretty big climb up Mt. Greylock, but just as I arrived at the store, most of the power in town went off. I was unable to make a transaction. It was rather disheartening. The climb up Greylock was tough, but it wasn't quite as bad as I was expecting, although in truth I didn't go quite all the way to the summit that evening. The shelter I stopped at that night had quite a few people including Lily (a flip-flopping thru-hiker) and Diesel as well as numerous section hikers. We had some good, if fairly nerdy conversation that produced a lot of laughter. One kind of weird note on the evening though, was that two of the sectioners tried to teach Lily to play cribbage, WITH DIRTY PLAYING CARDS! It was so strange, the guys didn't seem even a little bit uncomfortable with having them right out in public (there were also a couple of pre-teen boyscouts at the shelter.) Also that evening I discovered that there was a sizeable rip in my pack and my Steripen stopped working. Hooray for gear malfunctions!

Next day we headed into Williamstown. I had been wanting to get what I needed and keep rolling, or at the most spend the night there. Unfortunately, with my gear dilemmas that did not appear to be in the cards. Fortunately for me, Lily was staying in town with friends who turned out to be unbelievingly gracious and put me up too. Thus to Dave Weimer and his family I say an enormous thank you. So while I was waiting in Williamstown I got a loaner pack from Gregory and managed to wrangle a new Steripen as well. So after an unexpected zero it was back into the woods for me.

Even though it was not in my plans, that extra day off might have been a gift from God because just as I was coming to the Vermont border I ran into MYSTERY CHICKEN. I'm not sure if I have ever mentioned Chicken on this board but hes a guy I know from way back but haven't seen in ages. It was an awesome surprise to see one of the old faces again. Anyhow, we met there at the border and discussed the lamentable lack of signs actually saying, "Welcome to, (name of state)". This made us decide to make our own sign so we got a handful of mud and scrawled a big VT on the sign about entering the Green Mountains. Incidentally, that makes state #12.

Chicken and I got going early the next morning, it was like 6:30 and hauled about 11 miles by 11 o' clock. Along the way we passed a beaver dam that I thought had to be manmade because of its effectiveness. It was only later that I was disabused of this idea. Chicken was trying to get to a road so he could try and call some of our other old compatriots to maybe come pick him up for a party in a nearby town. I was in no hurry so I hung out with him there more or less all day. By 3:30 we had pretty much given up hope of telephone contact so we headed on back into the woods. We had been planning on doing another 7 miles that day but ended up stopping after 2 just cause we felt like being lazy. Hanging around for 4 hours in the middle of the day tends to kind of suck your will to move. That night we also participated in the Bear Bag Follies where all 5 of us at the shelter tried to hang our mostly full food bags from a clearly dead limb. Needless to say we brought the limb down immediatly and actually managed to whack Old Graceful in the head.

Chicken and I left togethor again the next morning. We had pretty much just decided to walk togethor by mutual assumption. We had some good walking and checked out one of the first good observation towers in some time. Unfortunately, we also got caught in a wicked thunderstorm just before lunch. While waiting the storm out we actually ended up falling asleep in the shelter for awhile. Walk, eat, sleep. If we aren't doing one we're doing one of the others. There were a bunch of people at the shelter that night but oddly everyone kept saying they were going to tent to avoid the full shelter, until in the end there were only two guys in the shelter! I joined them later in the evening when I was unable to fall asleep on the slant I had pitched my tent on. Another sidenote about tenting in Vermont, there are slugs everywhere. They come in force during the night. Flicking slugs off ones stuff before packing is a fairly gross job. kingdom for a salt shaker.

I'd been planning to do 18 to the shelter just before Manchester but in an attempt to stay with Chicken (I've been getting used to hiking with someone again) I decided to go on into town. During the day we summited Stratton Mountain which had a tower that provided what was arguably the best view we have had thus far. A full 360 degrees. Amazing. Also that day Chicken and I were greeted by the most fearless chipmunk in history as we ate lunch by Stratton Pond. It kept coming right up to Chicken in order to check out his food. Eventually it was actually sitting on his foot! Anyway, that night I ended up splitting a room with Chicken and the Walking Cowboy. We ate a lot, but Manchester was really just a stop over. We were out the next day which just so happened to be my 4 MONTH ANNIVERSARY! I've been out here for 1/4 year. It is astounding. It took us a while to get out of Manchester than expected becuase Chicken had some errands that ended up taking longer than they should have thanks to an incompetent employee at the picture store. Even so we got going around noon and were still able to do sixteen miles to Big Branch Shelter before we needed to camp for the night. Incidentally, Big Branch was a really nice place for a shelter, with a big stream running right next to it. It was a very pretty spot.
The next day started Rain Fest '07. It was raining when we left and we only got a brief respite all day long. During that respite we just happened to be at this really weird spot where someone had taken a bunch of stones and formed a bunch of little standing figures. It was such an odd thing to come across. Shortly thereafter however, the rain began again in earnest and any part of us that had managed to stay only damp became completely soaked through.
It had been such a nasty day that Chicken and I decided we were going to call it at this shelter that was 16 miles from where we started. Unfortunately, when we got there a single group of boyscouts had taken over the entire shelter. Incidentally, it is very poor etiquette to take a group this large out and use the shelter. If you have that many you need to be tenting. Anyhow, it was still actively raining so Chicken and I didn't particularly want to pitch our tents in the rain so we decided to push on another five to a secret shelter we had heard existed. When we got to where we thought the directions were supposed to be located and couldn't find them, we were highly displeased. Fortunately, the directions to the shelter showed up a bit further down the trail. In about the last mile we walked that day we had to ford a stream that was seriously swollen. The water was up to my knees. Fortunately, my boots were already soaked through, so there wasn't much more the stream could do to them. Of course, when we got to the secret shelter, we discovered it wasn't all that secret. It was full too, so we ended up tenting anyway. Quite a day.
The next day began kind of dry. Everything was still wet, but the rain at least held off until we had climbed Killington. It came back with a vengeance around 12 however, and the remaining miles we walked that day were once again in the pouring rain. Fortunately, that was the day I was getting off in Killington for a break, and Chicken and I had a really good time warming up and hanging out in the bar at the Long Trail Inn.
We spent the night there and Chicken headed out yesterday and I will be gone in about an hour. Hopefully I'll be able to catch him up in a few days around Hanover. It actually looks kind of sunny out, so hopefully my boots which are still waterlogged will dry out a bit as I walk.

The Breadless Horseman

PS - Sorry, this computer isn't allowing me to upload pictures. I swear I will get some more up as soon as I can.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Nice Week Back

I'm not going to lie. It was tough to leave New York. I had a really good time hanging out there. It was unbelievably relaxing. Thus, once arriving back at the trail, everything was a little tougher. The most difficult thing was the fact that I had developed city feet. They felt really heavy and clumsy. I was tripping over stuff all the time. I only did about a half day that first day back and I camped at a public campsite with some people who were out section hiking. It was a nice easy day to reaquaint myself with the trail.
It rained that night so I kind of took my time in the morning to give my stuff a chance to dry out a bit. Honestly, there isn't a whole lot to say about this day. I did some good hiking and I came up on some more thru-hikers. I met the Riders on the Storm (Running Wolf and Farenheit) and discovered that a few other new folks were only a little bit ahead.
The next day I think was the point at which I fully re-adjusted to being back on the trail. I didn't feel rushed or hurried by any kind of schedule. It was just good to be out and about. I got approached by some kind of school group while I was eating lunch who asked a bunch of the standard questions about hiking. Its a little annoying to be disturbed from one's lunch, but on the other hand I like talking to people about what I'm doing, and they were very nice folks. I walked the second half of the day pretty much togethor with the Riders and another guy named Marked. I like hiking with people sometimes. Something about it really makes me push myself to hike harder. This may not sound all that great, but it adds a little something like competition into the whole thing. I can't really describe it, but it makes a nice change. Anyhow, the shelter the Riders and I were aiming at for that afternoon ended up being full of a family, so we ended up camped a little further up the trail instead, really close to the Ten Mile River. Camped right next to us was a large local camp group. Once again I was reminded to Grier and I got a bit nostalgic. I can't seem to quite get away from missing camp. I probably never will.
The next day put me in Kent around noon and I took full advantage of being in town around meal time with a bunless double cheeseburger, and a bunch of other stuff I won't go into. I liked Kent it was sort of like a really upscale small town; very different from a lot of the places I've been through. My pack felt like it weighed about 800 pounds when I left which was unfortunate when I was descending from Caleb's Peak. Whoever decided that straight down a bunch of rocks was the best way to route the trail needs to have something violent done to them. I about killed myself on several occasions.
The following day was one of the wettest in living memory. I woke to a gray dawn in my tent (having been driven there from the shelter by mosquitoes). I felt pretty sluggish hiking that morning. However, I did have the cool experience of seeing a baby vulture. It was really ugly. It looked like a furry chicken. I know no other way to describe it. It started raining more or less right after lunch and it didn't really stop. I had been thinking I might do a short day so I could watch fireworks over Paul Newman's racetrack (the trail overlooks it). Instead it rained, so I kept walking with Ninja who I had met the previous evening. It kept raining, which is a shame because there were some pretty nice places along the way I would have liked to check out. The last few miles before the shelter were mostly up hill. This wasn't too bad until I got to the shelter turnoff and discovered that it was located .5 miles back down the same hill. To the builders of the Limestone Spring Shelter, I hate you from the bottom of my soul.
In spite of my frustration I slept like a stone that night and began, by contrast to the previous day, one of the nicest days I have had on the trail. It started out kind of dreary but the day brightened up and the mornings hike was very pleasant. The temperature was good and I felt good. I had a nice lunch at a shelter, felt a bit tired and took a nap. The nap was kind of a big deal for me because it didn't really fit in with a "schedule". It slowed me down, but it was needed so I didn't care. That afternoon I headed down into Sages Ravine which is without doubt in the top three most beautiful areas I've seen on the trip. It was phenomenol. I only wish there was some way I could show you all through photograph, but it was really more of an all-encompassing beauty than any one thing. Also while there I took a little impromptu swim in the stream that ran through the gorge. It was cold but it felt wonderful. I had some pretty good climbs that afternoon but I was feeling good and as a result the climbs were really more of a challenge than a grind. I arrived at the shelter to discover it packed. I love full shelters and I hadn't seen one that full in a very long time. There were probably 11 or 12 people there including Lily, Spence, Ninja, Aquaman, Old Graceful, and Sister Act (two sisters). I had a great night there and then left this morning to knock out the 16 miles to Great Barrington where I currently reside. It wasn't a bad hike, but the mosquitoes were swarming something fierce and I got stung by a bee behind my knee early in the day. Damn the bees. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, and I got a really easy hitch into town. I am now at the home of Kathy Duhon and her husband who offered me a place to stay while I was picking up a package at the post office. They are absolutely amazing people and I have had a wonderful evening with them as well as Spence and Ninja who were also offered lodging. Thats all for now. I hope you are all well.

The Breadless Horseman