Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 22: My Dirty Little Secret

Dscn6577September 25: Cindy left to go to work at the crack of dawn. I slept in a bit later. I wasn’t on a schedule. =)

At least I didn’t used to be on a schedule. I gave Amanda a call, though, and started planning my big finish. At this point, I figured I had less than a week before I’d reach the end of the trail and I needed to start thinking about how I’d get back home. It would be awfully convenient if Amanda had time to come out and just pick me up at the end of the trail.

So we discussed her schedule, comparing it to when I thought I’d finish the trail. I thought September 30th was a definitely maybe, but if the trail turned out to be more difficult than anticipated or the weather slowed me down, I might not make the date, so we agreed on an October 1st pickup. If I was ahead of schedule, I could always slow down easily enough. If I was behind schedule, though, it’s really hard to make up the miles.

So now I was on an official schedule: Canada and the end of the trail on October 1st! This also meant I knew exactly how much food I would need to carry—enough for seven days (including today) and six nights. And I’d eat every last bit of it.

I packed up my gear, and as I started putting away my toiletry bag, I remembered that I was running low on toilet paper. Toilet paper is kind of an inconvenient thing to resupply. Grocery stores typically sell them in large packs with anywhere from a few rolls to a dozen or more! I just want one roll. And even then, an entire roll is more than overkill. I need to carry this stuff on my back!

So I started doing something shameful: I started stealing toilet paper. I’m not proud of this habit. It started with hotel rooms. I’d get a hotel room, and there would be this absolutely perfect partially-used roll right there next to the toilet! So I’d take it. Ideally, it would already be about 80% used so I could just grab the little bit I’d need to get me to the next resupply point. In practice, the roll was often half full and I’d carry it for several hundred miles before using it up.

Dscn6585So I went to the bathroom to check out Cindy’s selection of toilet paper. First, to see how much was left on the “active” roll—which looked like at least half the roll was still there. Too much toilet paper. On the other hand, it was undoubtedly less than anything I’d find at the local grocery store. I also made sure that there was still another roll of toilet paper nearby. I’d hate to steal the very last roll! That could turn into a nasty surprise for Cindy! But I did see at least one other roll so I knew I wouldn’t be leaving her completely high and dry. Or not dry, as the case may be…

Then I stole the half-used roll. Confessions of the thru-hiker. I left a note, though, because—you know, I’m not a total monster. =) And I owe her now!

With my gear packed up, I left Cindy’s place and first headed to the grocery store. I needed groceries. Seven days and six nights worth of groceries to be exact, which wound up costing me over $100. It was more expensive than I had expected—when I bought ten days of food (nine nights), the bill came out to about $90. I wasn’t too bothered by the discrepancy—just a little surprised. At less than $15/day for food, thru-hiking is still a relatively cheap hobby. =)

I repacked all of my newly acquired food into ZipLocks in front of the store and disposed of the now empty boxes and packaging in a nearby trash can. A couple of locals entering the store looked at me suspiciously but didn’t say anything. Most trail towns I’ve been in usually have locals that are excited to see a thru-hiker, but none of these people did. Maybe there weren’t even locals. Maybe they were just tourists in for a little leaf-peeping? Or maybe not many hikers used Stowe as a resupply town? Absolutely none of the other hikers on the trail I talked to planned on coming into Stowe except for Purgy No More—and that’s only because his dad offered to pay for a room at a hotel.

My pack now felt painfully heavy again. Getting off the trail, I had eaten nearly every last bit of food I had so my pack felt like it was all but empty. No more… Seven day and six nights of food is a lot of weight.

Before I left town, I dropped by the post office where I mailed my laptop to the end of the trail along with some powdered milk. The only powdered milk I could find at the grocery store was a gigantic box of it—far more than I could ever use in a week, but I did need powdered milk so I grudgingly bought it anyhow. I divided it into three quart-sized ZipLock bags. One of the bags I packed away in my pack, but the other two weren’t really necessary so I packed them in with my laptop. I didn’t need powdered milk at the end of the trail, but I hated the idea of throwing it away and wasting it. I had to mail my laptop ahead anyhow—maybe as well send the milk along with it. It could even act as padding for the laptop. =)

Dscn6591And finally I headed to the edge of town to hitch a ride back to the trail. I stuck out my thumb and counted the numbers of cars that passed me. One… two… three…

After about 10 minutes, I noticed a couple of suspicious-looking people poking around a covered pedestrian bridge where I was trying to hitch a ride from, and I had a hunch I knew what they were doing.

“So what are you guys up to?” I asked.

The guy looked startled for a moment, trying to think of an answer, but then admitted that he was looking for a geocache. There was a break in the traffic, and I went over and looked for a couple of minutes myself but didn’t see anything obvious and quickly gave up. “I need to hitch a ride back to the Long Trail,” I explained to them. To be perfectly honest, I had absolutely no interest in finding a geocache, but I figured it didn’t hurt to introduce myself or at least do a cursory look. Maybe if I found it they’d offer me a ride back to the trail? That’s what I was hoping for, but nothing panned out on that.

They continued looking for the geocache, and I went back to trying to hitch my way out of town.

After about a half hour and 30 cars later, a large, dark vehicle pulled over. I said I was going to the Long Trail and the guy waved me his vehicle and off we were headed. My driver was Frank, who owned a small plane nearby where he was learning to fly. Which kind of amused me—I figured most people bought planes after they had learned how to fly, but he decided to buy the plane first then get an instructor to teach him on his own plane. I was a little envious too. I want to learn how to fly. I’d love to own my own plane to putter around in. If the lessons weren’t just so darned expensive I’d have done it years ago!

Dscn6593So we talked about planes for a while, and I told him about my hike on the Long Trail and that I was taking photo of the hike for http://www.walking4fun.com which he thought was a brilliant idea. Hiking and working—at the same time! Yes, I’m rather fond of the concept myself. =) Though admittedly, it doesn’t pay very well at the moment. “I only started the website earlier this year,” I told him. “All of the other websites I built took a few years to really ramp up, and I expect this one will be the same.”

In our discussion, I almost forgot to watch out for the trail, and when I realized I had stopped paying attention to the road, I briefly panicked that we had already passed it, but we hadn’t. I saw the trail come up seconds later, though, and Frank pulled over to let me out.

I took my time getting back to the trail so it was already well into the afternoon by the time I got started hiking again, so I decided just to go to the next shelter at Sterling Pond—a mere 3.8 miles away. I figured it was okay to do such a short day, though, since Amanda wasn’t expecting me at the end of the trail until October 1st. That wasn’t a very ambitious schedule!

The trail up from Smugglers Notch was steep but otherwise uneventful. With a pack loaded down from food (and more toilet paper than I really wanted), each step required a lot more effort. The weather was cloudy and overcast, but at least it wasn’t raining. It was a little chilly, though, so I went to pull out my buff to put it on and... I couldn't find it. It wasn't in the pocket where I usually left it. It wasn't in any of the mesh pockets of my pack where I often stored stuff like that. I hoped it was in my clothes bag, deep in my pack, but I had a bad feeling that the buff was gone. I couldn't know for certain until I emptied my pack and searched the clothes bag, though, and I wasn't going to do that on the middle of the trail.

I passed nobody on the trail until I reached Sterling Pond where I saw two day hikers on the shore admiring the view. I stopped only long enough for a few photos then pushed on to the shelter just beyond it.

The first thing I did was take a photo of the shelter. The second thing I did was throw out my ground sheet. And the third thing I did was empty my pack to search for my buff. I so wanted my buff. I wanted it to keep my ears warm and my nose covered. I emptied my clothes bag but found nothing, so I emptied it again and checked every article of clothing. Maybe it got stuck in a sleeve when I laundered it?  But again, I came up empty. The buff was gone.

Dscn6598
I tried to remember the last time I saw it. I knew I used it going over Mount Mansfield the day before, and I knew I took it off before I reached the road after the sun came out and the temperature started warming up, but what did I do with it? I put it in the front pocket of my pants. Then what?

And I drew a complete blank. I had absolutely no recollection of ever seeing that buff after I stuffed it in the front pocket of my pants. Did it fall out onto the trail? Did it fall out of my pocket when I was at the library? Or at the diner Cindy took me out to? Or maybe I left it at Cindy's place? That would be ideal--I could still get it back someday if I left it there, but I was pretty certain I had packed everything up before I left. Wouldn't I have noticed a buff sitting all by itself on the floor?

I was a little sad and mourned the loss of my buff. I didn't have it long, but I was already missing it.

The shelter has a caretaker assigned to it but for whatever reason, the caretaker wasn’t there so I wasn’t charged $5 for staying there. In fact, absolutely nobody was at the shelter. Not when I arrived, and not after the sun went down and things got dark. It was a shelter I would have completely to myself. =)

While writing in the shelter register, I sat on a bench in front of the shelter when I saw a fast-moving animal run behind the shelter in the corner of my eye. I looked up, but the animal was already gone. It seemed like it could have been a cat. Perhaps a little larger than a house cat, but it seemed to move like a cat. A bobcat? A lynx? What the heck is the difference between the two anyhow? I had absolutely no confidence in my identification of the mysterious animal, though, except that it seemed to moved in a “cat-like” manner. Very quiet—I hadn’t heard a thing—and very quick and agile.

I was intrigued enough to put down the register and see if the animal was still hidden behind the shelter. It could have run off into the trees once it was out of my view. I had no reason to think that it had stopped behind the shelter—I just hoped that whatever it was was still there.

When I walked up the side of the shelter then poked my head around it to the back and a small animal dashed off to the other side of the shelter and out of view. Damn it was fast! I still couldn’t figure out what the heck I had seen except that it confirmed the original cat-like movements I had seen. I didn’t even hear any of the leaves on the ground rustle. This animal knew how to move quietly despite its speed! I only saw a blur. I ran to the other side of the shelter in the hopes of spotting the animal again, but I only caught a small blur far in the distance before it disappeared into the trees for good. Shoot. What the heck was that thing?!

Some questions, alas, may never be answered, and this will likely be one of them.

Dscn6601
Looking down towards Smugglers Notch.

Dscn6613
Moose prints!

Dscn6617
A couple of day hikers admiring Sterling Pond.

Dscn6622
We’re in another ski area?! Seems like we’re passing
through a lot of them!

Dscn6629
The Sterling Pond Shelter was the locale of the
Great Mystery Animal Sighting. =)

3 comments:

The V's said...

I know for a fact that Cindy can "Spare a Square". Yup... There's a stamp for that....

tiggermama said...

we used to go there for dinner on a regular basis. Both the Malt Shoppe and Sterling Pond - much to the delight of our vizslas.

lou p otter said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisher_(animal)
migh have been a fisher cat lurking around the shelter
Love seeing the trail sign for Thomke's. He was a friend of mine when I worked at Smuggs.