Back on the trail, I left Killington VT and headed uphill. Not long into the hike I came to a place called Maine junction. This is where the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail split apart. The Long Trail continues north through Vermont and will end in another hundred miles or so at the Canadian border. The AT turns hard east and makes a bee line for the state border. I wished all Long Trailers good luck, even though no one was standing there, and resumed walking.
The temperature slowly rose as the day progressed and the trail was surprisingly difficult. I was not climbing large mountains, but was instead going up and down a ton of little ones. Of course, I was drenched in sweat, because that is what I do. If there was a way to bottle and sell sweat I would be a zillionaire. Maybe I could market it as some kind of health tonic, "Drink sweat, it'll make your teeth shiny". Someone once told me that sweating is healthy, so I must be really healthy, and fat people must be really healthy too.
By the end of the day I ran into "Magpie", I'd been running into her off and on since North Carolina, we hiked the last few miles together catching up on trail gossip. We went to a cabin that had a rickety old lookout platform on top. The ladder leading up was probably twice as old as me, and I am not that young. On top though was a beautiful view of the fading day with clouds rapidly closing in.
I stayed in a shelter for the night with a bunch of thru hikers I had never met before, it was a reminder of why I like sleeping in my tent, that is all I'll say about it.
By late morning the heat and humidity was making progress difficult. I came to a little dirt road with a sign indicating that there was a farm stand nearby. Not about to pass up an opportunity to indulge in the local cuisine I hoofed it on over there. Cloudland Farms was basically a little store attached to a dairy farm. It was neat and clean and closed. Crap! I stood in the empty driveway looking at my map and soaked in my health elixir. I was formulating what I was going to do next when I hear "Yoo-hoooooo!". I turn and see someone coming towards me from the farm house. She says "Give me one second and I'll open up the store for you." I love Vermont. I sat at a picnic table and had some organic vanilla ice cream with local maple soda.
Refreshed and back on the trail the terrain was no easier. It wasn't long before the heat was sapping my energy again. I stopped at a shelter a few miles in for another break. Sitting in the shelter was a binder filled with little brochures from a local forth grade class. The brochures were about the wildlife one might encounter while hiking the Appalachian Trail in Vermont. This immediately grabbed my attention because I have never seen a moose before and am so excited to see one. I pulled out the brochure about the moose and tried to absorb as much information as possible. They evidently like to be around boggy lakes in the summer to eat underwater vegetation. There was also a handy picture so I know what to look for.
Late in the day I came to the town of West Hartford VT. I stopped at the country store, ate a big fat sandwich and sat in the air conditioning. It was still oppressively hot outside, but I could see dark clouds in the west creeping closer. I still had a few miles to go before I reached the shelter I was trying to make it to so I didn't linger too long. Out of West Hartford the trail again went steeply straight uphill. As I trudged along the wind picked up and the sound of thunder crept closer. Before long it was upon me. The wind was gusting violently and it was raining a solid sheet of water. The lightning seemed liked it was going to strike me down at any moment. You might think I am exaggerating, but I actually stopped using my trekking poles because I thought that it might transmit electricity from a nearby strike into my flesh. I quickened my pace and made it to the shelter just in time for the storm to pass. I was soaked to the bone, but at least it wasn't raining anymore. I set up my tent nearby and hung my clothes out to dry. The daylight was quickly fading so I crawled into my tent and went to sleep.
In the middle of the night I was awakened by lights illuminating my tent walls. At first I thought it was some hiker with their flashlight stumbling around having to use the rest facili-trees. It was different though, almost like a strobe light. It would flash real bright a few times, stop, and then start again. I convinced myself it was aliens. Martians flew across the vast emptiness of space to this spot in Vermont directly above this vacant mountain to have a disco light show. It made sense in my sleepiness, but I was too tired to worry what their intentions were. I rolled over and went back to sleep.
In the morning I asked another hiker if they saw the alien light show last night, they looked at me like I was a moron and said, "Yeah I saw the heat lightning".
I was out and moving again at sunup. It was a short hike into the town of Norwich VT. The trail was actually on a residential street for about a mile. A few houses along the way put out fresh food for the hikers who passed by. How cool is that, I love Vermont. The trail went along main street and then over a bridge.
Grab Bilbo, Gandalf and your pipe weed, because I just entered "The Shire!"
I was sad to see Vermont go, it had been so nice to me. I strolled along the length of the bridge when I heard someone shout to me from a passing car. I looked over and a man was pointing out the window yelling "Boobblebadda Mooffa!" I smiled and waved back, Booblebadda Mooffa to you to. The car pulled into a driveway on the other side of the bridge directly in front of me. As I approached he and his wife got out with a container filled with blueberry muffins. Oh, silly me. We stood and talked for a while and they gave me two amazingly warm gooey muffins. This was some welcoming to New Hampshire. I said goodbye to the awesome couple and continued down the road. The trail went directly through the town of Hanover NH. I stopped at a little diner and ordered some breakfast. The food was delicious. I think I might really like New Hampshire. How could I not, there was an advertisement on the place mat at the diner for a guy selling 'Organic, Free Range, Hand Fed, Hand Massaged, Cage Free fire wood. I would buy from the guy just for his sense of humor.
I stopped into the post office to check on a package I was expecting. Merrell, the company that makes my shoes, were sending me a replacement pair just because they are awesome. As I was waiting in line another hiker making a transaction at the desk. I suddenly became aware of an odor in the air. It took a second to realize what it was, but soon I placed it as the stink of feet. The other hiker reeked. I gagged every time a whoft of stink penetrated my nose. Then I became self conscious. "Do I smell that bad?!" Oh no, have I been making people sick to their stomachs because I can't smell my own funk anymore? The other hiker left and I went to the counter. My package had not arrived yet so I got it sent up to next town I would be in. I quickly left fearing that I too was a vile mass of putrid stench. On the edge of town was a rec center that let hikers use their shower and laundry facilities for five bucks. I scrubbed myself clean and washed the heck out of my clothes, hopefully that would take care of it.
I left the rec center and made my way to where the trail re enters the woods. I hear a man yelling to me from a passing car and turn to see a familiar face yelling and waving "Booblebadda Mooffa!" I got a huge smile on my face and hollered back "Booblebadda Mooffa!" then back in the woods I went.
I hiked to shelter about ten miles out of town perched high up on a place called Moose Mountain. No moose though, I thought for sure I'd see one, after all I learned from the picture on the brochure that moose like to stand directly on top of mountains. As the light faded the temperature slowly dropped and a gentle breeze started blowing. I set up my tent and fell directly asleep.
I woke up and started moving before sunrise again. The morning air was chilly for a change and I started out with a long sleeve shirt and hat. The mountains in New Hampshire have abruptly gotten very large. I hiked with a girl named "Nutter Butter" throughout the day. It is nice to have someone to talk to on occasion, but eventually I end up hiking alone. We spent the majority of the day climbing Smart Mountain that seemed like it was endless. About a mile before the peak the trail shot straight up. It was some of the hardest hiking I have done to that point. I've been up steeper ascents and longer ones, but it was the combination of steepness and length that made this particularly difficult. When I reached the top I came to a fire tower and there were a bunch of south bounders hanging about. I breathlessly mumbled something incoherent and plopped down on a rock to compose myself.
I stayed up on Smart Mountain for a good long while recovering before setting off. The trail going down the other side was a nice easy grade and not difficult at all. As the day got later I came to the base of another mountain called Cube Mountain. Compared to what I went through climbing the last one, this mountain was a cinch. The sun was slowly making it's way towards the horizon as I crested the peak and started down the other side. I met my father at the base a mile or so from the trail head and we hiked out together.
I am resupplying for the next leg of the journey which will take me through White Mountain National Forrest or "The Whites". I have been looking forward to this section for a very long time. You hear about certain spots on the trail long before you get there, like the Smokies, Shenandoah, the rocks of Pennsylvania, but "The Whites" people have reverently been whispering about the whole time. This next section is famed to be the most difficult part, filled with extremely large mountains and crazy steep climbs and descents. It is home to Mount Washington which is said to be so daunting that it creates it's own weather. There are stories of hikers setting out on a sunny calm eighty degree day only to be overtaken by snow and howling winds. People regularly perish on this peak, maybe not everyday, but often enough to be unsettling.
I can't wait!!!