Greetings from Great Barrington

Sorry, yeah that title is a little hokey but I was tired of hello and hi. Might have to switch the format up altogether. Anyway, I’m sitting on a rock about 4 miles outside of Great Barrington MA and just wanted to give a quick update via phone since we’ll be in CT in a couple of days. I don’t have a lot of time, but it’s ok because honestly there hasn’t been that much to MA besides loads of mosquitoes and humidity.  We climbed the highest mountain in the state, Mt.Greylock, but it was so cloudy we couldn’t see anything. So I just took a picture with the plaque.

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Not many views otherwise because of the clouds and rain. Really I’ve just been missing home a lot and thinking how nice it will be to get home in the middle of football season. Because nothing sounds as nice in the middle of a hot day on the trail as sitting on the couch all day with a spread of snacks and cold drinks.

Speaking of food, quick shoutout to my two new heroes:

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These things are both soooo easy and fast. They just take a lil butter (or a lot), maybe some dates and raisins or vegetable chips in the potatoes and sun dtied tomatoes in the cous cous, and you’ve got yourself a hot brick of hiker filling food. Oh yeah, the taters take some powdered milk but that’s no problem for us trail chefs.

That’s all for now! Keep an eye out for a bigger post from NY sometime next week. Til then,

ATown

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Hello from Bennington, VT!!!!!

Sneaky little sign.

Sneaky little sign.

Can you tell I’m excited? I’m actually not sure why.  We still have over 1600 miles and 11 states to go.  But we are in Bennington, our last stop in Vermont.  In a couple of days we’ll be in Massachusetts, and we’ll be in Connecticut in a week.  So we’re almost through New England, and that’s exciting in its own way.  Maybe people will be less surprised to see an Atlanta Braves hat once we get to the mid-Atlantic, although it causes a bit of excitement when I do meet other Georgians up here.  Today some hikers pulled over in their car as we were standing by the road just to yell at us that they were from Savannah.  And I met a NOBO a couple of days ago who lives in Grant Park and got his master’s in industrial design at Tech.  Cheers, Lightning! Best of luck and weather as you get to the Whites this next week.

You may notice that we hit Bennington kind of early compared to the scheduled I put in the last post – 3 days early, actually.  Sorry that schedule was trash.  I’m never quite sure whether we’ll be stopping in a town or just picking up a few things or moving on, and Dad isn’t either.  We spent about 2 hours in Killington, still getting a good 16 or 17 miles that day; and we spent the morning in Rutland, just long enough to resupply for the next 70 miles, eat 2 meals, take a bath in the creek, and still get 8 miles in.  But it’s been 136 miles since my post last week, which means, including the short days like today (only 6 or 7 miles), we’re still hitting just at or over 17 miles a day.  On full days, more like 18 to 19.  We really picked up the pace more than I expected since leaving New Hampshire.  Dad said he wanted to get 15 miles a day at least, but there is also a kind of unspoken rule I think that we also don’t quit walking before 5 unless the weather is crud.

Judy, thanks for asking how long it takes to get those 17 miles.  I’ll go ahead and take this chance to outline what a typical day looks like.  We usually get up between 6 and 6:30 and boil a little water for some coffee, eat our breakfast, and break camp by 7:30 or 8.  We’ll walk at least a couple of hours and then start looking for a good place to stop for a snack.  This could be a shelter, a brook where Dad can wash his socks, a nice viewpoint, or a rock on the side of a giant hill when we get tired of a long climb.  After a short snack we’ll walk a couple of hours more, usually looking to stop for lunch around 12:30.  Dad really likes big, sunny rocks where he can dry out his socks while we eat, or else shelters which have good water sources and flat surfaces to sit and eat.

Lunch lasts about 30-45 minutes. A lot of times after breaks or lunch I will sit and write, whittle, or talk to other hikers while Dad heads off; then I’ll go catch him.  I like to bask on the peaks a little bit. It’s also nice to be able to go at my own pace sometimes, and it’s a different experience when you’re on your own as opposed to being right behind someone, so I like to get some of both.  Anyway, we walk until around 4, maybe stop for another break, fill up with camp water around 5:30 and start looking to find a campsite sometime after 5:30 or 6. Dad likes to walk about 8 hours a day aside from breaks.  His pace I think varies between 2 to 2.5 miles an hour, which gives our recent average of around 17 to 18 miles a day.

All that to say, we spend about 10 or 11 hours out on the trail a day, walking 8 or 9 of them.  If everything goes smoothly, we set up camp, cook, and get in our tents in less than an hour and a half.  I’ll write for a bit, be asleep by 8:30 or 9, and do it all again the next day.

Vermont is way different than the other states.  I learned some cool stuff about it the other day – for instance, it used to be 75% pasture, but now it is the opposite – 75% wooded.  Early on, before reaching Killington, we very often came across old stone fences in the woods and would parallel them down old farm roads.  In fact we cut through a number of farms in eastern Vermont, which was my favorite part of the state.

The trail follows road for about 2 miles in West Hartford

The trail follows these roads for about 2 miles in West Hartford

Once we joined the Long Trail and entered Green Mountain National Forest, it just started looking like woods again.  But in the east, we were constantly walking through meadows, cow pastures, down roads, past old mills and houses from the 1800’s, and perhaps best of all, into raspberry patches.  One day we spent our morning break picking raspberries for 20 minutes, which I later put on our PB sandwiches for a DELICIOUS lunch.

Now where do I put these?

Now where do I put these?

After passing the town of Killington, the AT joins the Long Trail, which runs the length of Vermont from Massachusetts to Quebec.  The Long Trail was sort of the original AT, built in the early 1900’s by James Taylor (double take).  Once we were on the LT, we started meeting a lot more section and day-hikers, much like in the Whites.  But the terrain is incomparable.  Vermont is much smoother, with the exception of some sticky mud here and there.  We’ve climbed only a few bald mountains here – Killington, which was crowded with flip-flop-shod tourists fresh off the ski lift, and Bromley, where the trail follows a ski slope for a while.  Vermont is much more relaxing though.  I’d get anxious in New Hampshire from all the giant mountains and people everywhere, and I’d get anxious in Maine from all the giant mountains and being the only soul in the woods for mile and miles.  I think this bench, which as under an apple tree on a mountain in West Hartford, sums up the trail here pretty well.

And I did.  Thanks, Vermont.

And I did. Thanks, Vermont.

Best of all, we only got rained on once during our entire tenure in Vermont.  Sadly, it was going over Stratton Mtn., on top of which Benton MacKaye is said to have been inspired with the idea of the Appalachian Trail.

I know I’m leaving so much out here, let’s see….  Rutland was a pretty town and home of one of the two Wal-Marts in Vermont, according to the woman who gave us a hitch.  In fact, she didn’t even mention it when telling us where to shop because she was upset by its presence.  We honored her by going to the local co-op and the Price Chopper instead.  The only downside I found with Rutland is that the KFC is not as good as the ones down here, but then, what was I expecting?  So we escaped the town without drinking the kool-aid/mate at the Yellow Deli and went for a swim in Clarendon Gorge – our first swim on the trail.  Man, I could have swam there for hours.

Still hoping I get to see a full moose – we camped by some moose signs, if you will, last night.  Once we get out of New England I’ll do a full wildlife report.  Until then, the library is about to close, and as usual, I’m getting hungry.  Thanks for all the prayers and comments! We’ll be passing through Cheshire, MA, Sunday or Monday. To those who have offered to send packages: many many thanks and I am so sorry that my scheduling has been terrible!  The best thing to do would be to mail stuff to the Kent, Connecticut, or Pawling, NY post offices, c/o general delivery, and send me a comment or text message telling me to go pick it up so I know something is there.  Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure!

Peace up, A-Town down.

(Shout out to Peace Dog, the first person on the trail to say this to me.  Thank you for being culturally informed.)

On top of Bromley Mtn. You know what song was stuck in my head that day.

On top of Bromley Mtn. You know what song was stuck in my head that day.

Camp, day 43, on Little Pond Mtn. in Glastenbury Wilderness.

Camp, day 43, on Little Pond Mtn. in Glastenbury Wilderness.

Awwww shoot! Look who's getting in the selfie game!

Awwww shoot! Look who’s getting in the selfie game! (Everyone on Mt. Killington was doing it)

Howdy from Hanover

Well my friends, we are nearly 2 states down and 440 miles in.  We camped just outside of Hanover last night and have been doing the usual errands in town today, although instead of a normal grocery store (or convenient store, as is sometimes the case) we did most of our resupplying at Hanover’s food co-op.  Pretty cool place, lots of bulk dry goods, very few instant mashed potatoes though so that was disappointing.  Most exciting about it was dehydrated refried bean flakes, which I read about in Backpacker mag, but the ones they advertised were a little pricy and had to be ordered.  These were in bulk and just take a little hot water to prepare, so we’ll be eating some bean wraps for lunch this next week interspersed with our usual PB and dried fruit wraps.  New menu item, woohoo!

But I should probably talk about what we’ve actually done so far.  In Lincoln we were staying at the home of a guy named Chet, fairly well known among thru-hikers due to his unofficial hostel being the only one in the middle of the Whites, between Gorham to the north and Glencliff to the south.  Chet has lived in Lincoln, has been a member of the hiking community all of his life, and knows the Whites better than anyone we’ve met, but is unable to hike due to a camp stove explosion in his home that burned a large part of his body, left him legally but not totally blind, and put him in a coma that led to other complications.  Anyway, now Chet takes thru hikers into his home in exchange for barter, donation, or work, and he loves to talk with everyone who comes through. You know he hears the same stuff every time someone tells him about the rain and mud in Maine or how point the rocks are in Pennsylvania, but he just sits there and listens and says “right on” with a smile.

The hiking community really is extraordinary.  Two nights ago Dad and I camped in the backyard/croquet field of a man named Bill Ackerly, known along the trail as the Ice Cream Man.  Bill’s house is about 20 yards off the trail, and he’s put a sign on the trail inviting all hikers to stop by for free water, ice cream, and a game of croquet.  He looks to be about 80 years old but apparently croquet skill only increases with age.  When I walked up at the end of the day, he was officiating a game involving his sister and 3 other hikers; he said later that he likes to just watch sometimes to give other people a chance to win.  Then he laughed and admitted he doesn’t always win.  When I arrived, he shook my hand and, rather than letting go, pulled me along to his porch, saying “Take off your pack, sign the red book, then come back around to the screened porch and get an ice cream.” Let me tell you, that orange cream popsicle was delicious after 18.5 miles.   A very polite man, Bill will talk about pretty much anything when the conversation goes dry but is a great listener too.  He told us about bluebird nesting habits, the origins of croquet, and the Tibetan belief that prayers are carried up through the cosmos by “wind horses” (his whole porch is adorned with prayer flags).  He sat and talked with us on his porch until it was time for bed, and offered that if it started raining too hard just to come in and sleep on his living room floor.  He even has a porta-john in his backyard specifically for hikers.  In the morning, as Dad and I were eating breakfast, he came outside and got the paper, read us the weather forecast, and offered us some coffee, which we gratefully accepted.  Bills sons are hikers and were the inspiration for his incredible kindness.  The hiking community was good to them, so he wants to return the favor.  Plus he gets an endless stream of friends stopping by on summer afternoons, just for the price of some popsicles and water.

Myself and the wonderful AT ice cream man, Bill Ackerly

Myself and the wonderful AT ice cream man, Bill Ackerly, in front of his croquet wickets

Upon arriving at the Hanover food co-op, complete with backpacks and sweat, we were greeted by another customer just outside the door.  He asked if we were going north or south, and said that he had a friend going north somewhere in Pennsylvania now.  Just before he left he said, “Do me a favor,” pulling a twenty dollar bill out of his wallet, ” and go get yourselves some cold local brews.”  And let me tell you, we did just that.  We each got a free slice of pizza for thru-hikers from the local from the local joint, and then chased those down with a 16 inch pizza and a couple of salads and some cold brews.  This is truly that thing that people refer to as “the dream.”

Other than that, the trail has calmed down quite a bit.  We left our Maine trail mates behind in the Whites and, since leaving those, haved upped our mileage again to an average 17 a day since Lincoln.  Mt. Moosilauke was the last 4000 ft. peak we’ll get on the trail until somewhere in Virginia, so it’s we’ll really be cranking up the pace as long as the sun stays out an dries up some of the famous Vermont mud.  We had 7 days of no rain in a row up until today! That’s a record for the trip so far.

Last one of these 4000's we'll get for a while.

Last one of these 4000’s we’ll get for a while.

Looking back at the summit of Moosilauke and bidding a bittersweet goodbye-for-now to the Whites

Looking back at the summit of Moosilauke and bidding a bittersweet goodbye-for-now to the Whites.

In the past few days the flora and fauna changed dramatically.  Wildflowers suddenly sprung up as we passed through our first fields, and we finally found some blueberries and raspberries ripe enough to eat.  I only got a small handful, but man they made for a great PB wrap.

Hanover is interesting, because it’s a college town but it’s a super classy college town.  The only fast food restaurant is a Subway, and as I mentioned before the only grocery is the co-op.  It’s the first town we’ve passed through where the trail actually goes down the sidewalk, and so of course it was the first town we got lost in.  Sidewalks are confusing after 5 weeks in the woods, where there is pretty much 1 obvious path and everything else is trees and bushes.  But we found our way to the Dartmouth Outing Club HQ, where I am currently typing this blog.  The club manages the 53 miles we just covered from Lincoln as well as some in Vermont, I’m not sure how much.  We’ll be sleeping in a Vermont shelter tonight about 5 miles away.  Which leads me to our schedule – a few people have asked about it, so I am going to throw out some rough dates of when we’ll be resupplying in certain towns.

Saturday, 7/11 – Killington, VT
Tuesday, 7/14 – Rutland, VT
Sunday, 7/19 – Bennington, VT
Tuesday, 7/21 – Cheshire, MA

I think a state away is as far as I’ll estimate. It was a lot easier to know where we’d resupply in Maine and New Hampshire, because there were so few options, but now that towns are more frequent it gets a little dicier to plan.  Not to mention that when Vanilla Thunder starts thinking about town food, all previous plans go out the window.  Anyway, Killington and Cheshire we’ll definitely be passing through because they’re so close.

Thanks again for reading and even more for commenting.  I love hearing your comments and answering questions, so if there’s anything you want to read definitely throw it out. Now that I’ve gotten to use a computer, here are more pictures that weren’t taken with a phone.

Presidential ridge from Mt. Moriah, a couple hours before sunset

Presidential ridge from Mt. Moriah, a couple hours before sunset

Vanilla Thunder ascending into his cloudy domain.  Just kidding it was Mt. Madison.

Vanilla Thunder ascending into his cloudy domain. Just kidding it was Mt. Madison.

Here's an old one, to commemorate our 2 week stint in NH.

Here’s an old one, to commemorate our 2 week stint in NH.

Well, the weather kind of comes with the territory I guess.

Well the weather kind of comes with the territory, I guess.

The next morning was better though.

The next morning was better though.

Like way better.  Finally saw where we had been walking all the day before.

Like way better. Finally saw where we had been walking all the day before.  That’s the cog railway and auto road up to Mt. Washington’s summit.

But this is why they call them the Whites, right?

But this is why they call them the Whites, right?

Franconia RIdge (Mt. Lafayette, Little Haystack, Mt. Lincoln) later that day

Franconia Ridge (Mt. Lafayette, Little Haystack, Mt. Lincoln) later that day.

The man, the legend, Vanilla Thunder.

The man, the legend, Vanilla Thunder.

Sorry if some of the pictures are a little hazy.  With a wet pack and camera it gets hard to get that little lens dry.  Anyway, have a good weekend and look for another post next week!

A-town

Hi from Lincoln, NH

Howdy everyone. Just wanted to check in and say we’ve just about made it through the Whites. All I can say is, indescribable. I will definitely be coming back here. Plus I haven’t gotten to try McDonald’s lobster roll yet so if I don’t manage to do that, well that’s just another reason to return to NH.

The AMC hut system was also a fun experience. We met so many people in the Whites, as popular as they are, and many were staying at these little chalets along the trail that house and cook for hikers. If you reserve and pay. We thru hikers don’t typically pay to sleep on the trail. But, the hut staff are really nice about throwing us leftover scraps or allowing us to sleep there if we do a little work. When you’re hiking, cold who-knows-how-old black bean enchilada filling really hits the spot.

Unfortunately, though, I am again computer-less and now wifi-less, and doing this on the phone is already giving me fits. So I’m cutting it short but trying to respond to some comments instead.  Tomorrow morning we’re heading out for 53 miles to Hanover, where we’ll be partying with the Dartmouth kids on Wednesday.  Thanks for reading and happy 4th! Here’s a pic.

Looking northeast from Mt. Lincoln. Lafayette at the far left, Garfield to the right of that. Then a bunch o mountains I'd never heard of.

Looking northeast from Mt. Lincoln. Lafayette at the far left, Garfield to the right of that. Then a bunch o mountains I’d never heard of.

One more note I forgot to put in the last post. I had an alternative trail name suggested to me instead of A-Town: Denice, because Dad is always asking me where his stuff is. “Have you seen the butter?” “Where’d I put my spork?” etc. But I didn’t want to encourage that behavior, so I’m sticking with A-Town.