Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 13: Hiking In the Buff

Dscn5668September 16: The day before I started my hike, Amanda and I dropped into an EMS store. The primary reason for the visit was to buy a couple of pairs of socks. The ones I had were either made with cotton (absolutely awful stuff for backpackers!) or completely worn through from previous hikes. So off to the EMS we headed.

At the EMS, we saw a buff. I’ve never used a buff before, but I’ve been fascinated by them. For a simple piece of a cloth, it seems ridiculously expensive. About $20 expensive in this case. The part that fascinates me most is that there are no seams where a flat piece of fabric was sewn together. How do they make these things?! The fact that these things have no seams apparently is a big selling point, but to be honest, I’m not sure what the big deal is. A misplaced seam on a sock can cause blisters and all sorts of problems, but I don’t know of anyone that wears a buff as sock replacements.

But still, I’m a little fascinated by them—but I had no intention of paying $20 for a stupid little piece of fabric.

But this buff was special. It had the Appalachian Trail on it. How can you not like a piece of fabric with the Appalachian Trail on it?!

But still, I shook my head no. Nope, I wasn’t going to buy it. Until Amanda egged me into it. “You have to buy it!” she insisted. “It has the AT on it!”

I think she had more sinister motives, though. I think she was fascinated by them too. I think she also didn’t want to pay $20 for a little piece of fabric. But I also think she had no qualms about me spending $20 on a little piece of fabric and if I bought it, she would be able to check it out closer. Maybe even borrow it for her own diabolical purposes. So she pushed me into buying it. “You know you want it,” she insisted. “All the cool kids have them.”

And I bought it.

So all this time, I’ve been carrying around a buff, but not really entirely sure what to do with it. I sometimes played around with it in my hands like a toy, but most of the time, it just stayed in a pocket of my backpack rarely seeing the light of day.

Dscn5671Until today. Today, my relationship with the buff would change forever. Like the weather forecasts predicted, the rain started pounding the shelter roof around 2:00 in the morning. By sunrise, the rain had lightened but continued to fall in a light sprinkle.

The weather forecast, if correct, said that the rain would tapper off and eventually stop, and I decided that I could wait it out.

Except… it was kind of cold out. Not so cold that everything outside was frozen or that snow was about to fall, but uncomfortably cold for just sitting around while not exerting oneself. I could lay around in my sleeping bag which was toasty warm, but I had already been laying around all night and I wanted to get up. Sit upright. Outside of my sleeping bag. And at some point during this chilly morning, my ears started feeling cold. In fact, my whole face was a little cold, and I got the idea to fashion the buff as a balaclava of sorts that covered my ears (which felt coldest of all) and covering the lower half of my face.

And wow, what a difference it made!

By 11:00, the rain had finally stopped and most of the tree snot had been squeezed out of the trees, so I started hiking. The temperatures never really warmed up much and I kept the buff on most of the day. Now that I was exerting myself, I wasn’t as cold as before, although my ears stayed persistently cold so I wore it around my head like a hat low enough to cover my ears then wore my regular hat on top of it.

A strange thing happened during the day—I finally “got” the buff concept. It was flexible. I could use it to cover just my ears. Or my ears and the lower half of my face. Or around my neck. In this one day, I became a fan of the buff!

The day’s hiking was largely uneventful. I passed just one hiker the entire day, a fellow hiking southbound where we stopped only long enough to say hi and get around each other on the muddy trail. And the trail was especially muddy today—but the fact that it rained all night was probably a contributing factor. The mud might have even been worse than that first day on the trail.

At the end of the day, I wound up at the Sucker Brook Shelter—a named I loved to say. Say it ten times fast. Sucker Brook. Sucker Brook. Sucker Brook!

Dscn5677I’d share the shelter with In Between, Tenderfoot, and Grubbs. Grubbs was their dog, an adorable little thing that never once barked nor jumped up on me or my gear. He sniffed around a bit to check me out—at least he did so after he figured out that there was no exit at the bottom of In Between’s sleeping bag. When I arrived, Grubbs was taking a nap inside In Between’s sleeping bag and when I arrived, the large lump in the bag started moving deeper into the bag. “Not that way,” In Between told him, chuckling. “There’s no exit that way!” But eventually the dog figured out how to get out of the sleeping bag and came over to give me a sniff test. He sniffed at me a big then moseyed back to In Between and Tenderfoot. I guess I passed his sniff test—shocking, I know!

Tenderfoot asked me all sorts of questions about my Camino hike having thought about doing one herself with her mom but heard about the horrible road walks which scared her off. And sure, there are road walks, but they generally aren’t that bad. Most of the worst sections that people complain about are actually optional since better alternative routes exist. (Although most Camino walkers don’t take them because they’re usually a smidgen longer.)

The trio were hiking southbound, thru-hiking the Long Trail and had all sorts of suggestions about the best places to stay each night. I tried to remember it all, but I didn’t take notes and much of it started blending together. In Between used to work at EMS and I told him about my buff, and he wanted to know which store I got it and explained that they were already big fans of the buff—he carried several!

And I really liked these people. Nice, friendly, helpful. So I told them about the secret shelter. “If you were planning to camp at the Governor Clement Shelter, it would be well worth your effort to push onward a couple of extra miles and head for the secret shelter instead.” They hadn’t heard of the secret shelter before, but I figured they had another good use for it: Many hikers don’t like dogs in the shelter. They’d be all but guaranteed to have a shelter to themselves and not have to worry about how others felt about a dog in their midst. (I like and dislike dogs on an individual basis. I like well-behaved dogs that don’t bark at everything that moves. I’d rather not share a shelter with dogs that do bark at everything that moves, though!)

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What really made me laugh at this bridge were the directional
yellow-and-black striped signs to make sure people
made it onto the bridge okay!

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The fall colors are really starting to show up a lot more.
It used to look universally green everywhere. There’s
a distinct yellow to many of the leaves now, though.

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Brandon Gap on Vt. 73

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View from the Great Cliffs over Brandon Gap.

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The mud was pretty bad on this section of the trail.

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Mushrooms on the trail.

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In Between, Tenderfoot and Grubbs.

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Sucker Brook Shelter. Grubbs, I think, is trying to figure
out what I’m doing out here and why I’m taking photos. =)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Even though September 16th is not the ummer Solstice I think you should change the title of this blog entry to "Hiking in the Buff"!

PI Joe

tiggermama said...

that section of the trail is basically always muddy. Now you're walking towards "home." i'm hoping you REALLY liked Mansfield. ;-)

Wisconsin Hiker said...

I remembered how much you liked your Buff when I read this blog last year, so we finally bought some ourselves a few weeks ago. They came in VERY handy while hiking in Arizona earlier this month and these "bits of fabric" will now always be with us when hiking. Thanks for the tip!