Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Day 123: Exploring Hanover, NH!

July 8: It didn't rain during the night, but the morning was dark and cloudy. I had a big day ahead of me today and wanted an early 6:00 AM start, but because it was so dark, I didn't get moving until 7:00 when it became light enough for me to start getting photos of the trail. The delay was enormously frustrating for me!

Notice the grasshopper on the flower? The grasshoppers were everywhere but getting a photo of one isn't easy!

When Caroline (Banana Bread) woke up, she got out of her tent and made breakfast in the shelter, so we chatted a bit more before it was light enough for me to go. It was a little sad splitting up again. I'd known her for less than a day but after chatting one-on-one for six hours the day before and another hour this morning, I felt like we'd been friends for years. But it was time for me to continue north and for her to continue south, our paths likely to never cross again.

The day's hiking was remarkably easy, almost entirely downhill or flat down to the Connecticut River which marked the Vermont-Hew Hampshire state line.

There's a fair amount of road walking as the trail approaches the state line. Although the day started dark and dreary, eventually warm blue skies prevailed and temperatures grew quite warm, and along many of the roads, there wasn't even any shade. Ugh!

One road the trail goes down had three different homes with trail magic set out in front for passing thru-hikers. Talk about a friendly neighborhood! I ate some cold watermelon from an ice chest which really hit the spot.

The friendliness was undone, however, by a driver who slowed down as he approached me and rolled down his window.

"Walk on the other side of the road!" he told me.

"Umm... okay.... why?" I asked. It was a small, quiet road. Not busy at all busy, through a residential area. I didn't see any obvious reason why it mattered where I walked, but maybe he knew something ahead on the trail that I didn't know.

"So you'll see if any cars are coming. It's a safety thing. Even our 1st graders know that."

Seriously? I was stunned at the insult, but he drove off before I could think of a snappy comeback. Yeah, well, where I'm from, we have this neat invention called a sidewalk and teach our kids out west not to play in the street at all. And really, whether a car hits me from the front or the back, it's gonna hurt either way.

Not to mention that the road is so narrow it didn't even have a center divider. If a car is going to hit someone, they could be coming from either direction because they more-or-less drive down the center of the road then slow down and squeeze to the edge whenever two cars need to pass each other. That's the kind of road it is.

I chose to walk on the right side of the road because that's where the shade was on this warm and sunny day. I don't listen to my iPod while I'm walking on the street so I can hear cars that are coming regardless of the direction. And if the road had been a particularly busy one, I'd have walked on the left side where I could step off the road whenever a car approached. But on this road? It was a waste of time.

The guy managed to really annoy me and I hoped he ran off the trail and crashed. Then I could rush up to him and say, "You know, driving is perhaps the most dangerous things you can do. Far more people die in car crashes every year than pedestrians being hit by cars."

But, alas, I never heard any car crashes so presumably, the man got home safely.

It hadn't actually rained, but the day started dark, gloomy and wet.

The trail meandered through the small town of Norwich then over the Connecticut River and into New Hampshire. Vermont was done! Two states to go!

Just over the border is the small town of Hanover, NH, probably best known for being the home of Dartmouth College. The trail runs right through the downtown core. My first stop was at the post office since I had my mom send my cold-weather gear here. I'd be entering the White Mountains soon, and I knew from my 2003 thru-hike, I'd want all of my cold weather gear again. Those Whites can be brutal and cold! It was time to switch out my warm-weather gear with my cold-weather gear.

Except when I tried to pick up my maildrop, I was told that it wasn't there. What do you mean it's not there?! *#&@! I froze my butt off in the Whites during my first thru-hike and swore I wouldn't let it happen again this time around, and now I have to let it again happen?! What the heck happened to my gear?!

I called my mom, who assured me that she did send it long before and it should definitely have arrived by then. She had a tracking number for the package as well, although it wasn't readily available when I called her, so she said she'd send it to me as soon as she got back home and could look it up. If it was at the post office here in town but they had just misplaced it or put it in the wrong bin, I wanted to know it and say, "Look, your own records show it's in THIS post office RIGHT NOW. It's somewhere here and go back and keep looking for it until you find it!"

But for now, I had none of my cold-weather gear. Not my cold-weather sleeping bag, not my warm gloves.... nothing! I could freeze to death in the mountains up ahead!

I walked further into town where I stopped at the Brick and Brew Pizzeria. Pizza sounded good, but my guidebook also said that thru-hikers can get a free slice of pizza there which really sold me. =) I took the free slice of cheese pizza, as well as a drink and a slice of the supreme pizza. I also plugged my smartphone into an outlet to let it recharge.

Later, I would learn that my maildrop with cold-weather gear was at a post office in New Jersey, going to a zip code that was off by one digit. I'm not sure why the zip code was off. Maybe I told my mom the wrong one by accident, or maybe she misunderstood the zip code I read off. Maybe the person at the post office who took the package typed in the number wrong. I don't know, but it meant that for the time being, I'd still have none of my cold-weather gear because it was hundreds of miles away in another state. I gave my mom a new maildrop asking if she could get it forwarded to another location along the trail for me.

At the edge of town, just before the trail leaves Hanover and re-enters the woods, there's a co-op where thru-hikers typically go to resupply. It was undergoing a huge remodel and one aisle was so narrow, they installed signs for people to go through in one direction only. The place was a wreck! But I bought enough food to get me through the next several days on the trail.

I repacked it all into ZipLocks at the front of the store, then headed back onto the trail. I'd stopped for several hours in Hanover and it was a wonderful place to stop and rest, but I had no intention of quitting for the day. Nope, I still had more miles to hike!

I wound up cowboy camping a little ways behind the Velvet Rocks Shelter, after completing 17.6 miles. Which is an extraordinary distance when you consider my one-hour delay in the morning due to the darkness and the several hours I spent in Hanover. A good, solid day!

However.... I was about to walk into the fearsome White Mountains without my cold-weather gear. I was a little concerned about that....

We can only hope!

I'm totally sick and tired of those invisible cows getting in the way!

Along this road, three different houses had trail magic set out for thru-hikers! I ate some of the watermelon that I found in this ice chest. Yum, watermelon! =)

I was so disappointed that I'd be missing the puppet show!!!!

Lots of road walking today!

The Connecticut River marks the boundary of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Twelve states done, two to go!

Lunch! Thru-hikers got a slice of cheese pizza for free. =)

Velvet Rocks Shelter

Monday, December 28, 2015

Day 122: Places to see, things to do!

July 7: While I had enjoyed the nice weather the last couple of days on the trail, it didn't seem destined to last. Weather forecasts called for rain later that afternoon, and the clouds looked ominous in the morning. I woke up and got an early 6:00 AM start in the hopes of beating the afternoon rain.

This chipmunk is giving me the evil eye!

The trail was uneventful. I was amused at one point when I caught up with a hiker who was surprised to see me.

"I heard you had quit the trail!" she exclaimed. "That you left all of your gear in a shelter and just quit!"

"Nope, I'm still here," I replied. "That was the other Tortuga on the trail who quit and left his gear in a shelter back in New York."

Clearly, somebody had gotten the Tortuga confused with Green Tortuga and assumed I was the one who quit the trail. She said she was surprised when she had heard that because she knew I was taking photos for Walking 4 Fun and had done the trail before already--I didn't seem like the kind of person who'd just quit and leave all of their gear in the shelter.

"Even if I did quit the trail, I certainly wouldn't leave my gear behind in the shelter. What would I use for my next hike?" Then I pointed to my pack, "And I sewed this pack myself. It's a beautiful, one-of-a-kind masterpiece that took countless hours to create. I'd never leave that behind in a shelter!"

By 2:30 in the afternoon, I had covered a respectable 16.6 miles--not a huge mileage day by any stretch, but enough that I didn't feel like it was a wasted day either. That landed me at the Thistle Hill Shelter. It hadn't started to rain yet, but the air was thick with wetness and felt like it could start up at any time so I decided to call it quits while the quitting was good. I was dry and warm in the shelter, and it was a good way to end the day.

The only other person at the shelter was a young woman named Caroline. She was planning to thru-hike Vermont along the AT from the New Hampshire border to the Massachusetts border. It was her first time backpacking and she'd been a little nervous at the prospect. She didn't like the idea of sleeping in the shelter so she set up her tent just outside of it, but then spent all of her time sitting in the shelter chatting with me and reading her book. The tent was just for sleeping, I guess. She also admitted that she needed practice at setting it up. In fact, when she arrived at the trailhead, she had never set it up before. Ever.

When one of her friends had asked if she knew what she was doing, Caroline assured her that she had practiced setting up the tent at home. "But I lied," she said. "I'd never set it up before."

I'd have probably recommended setting it up before taking it on the trail myself, but I was glad to see that she was so excited to try this adventure despite this lack of experience--and without a hiking partner no less. It must have been a little scary for her, but she did it anyhow.

She had started hiking only the day before and didn't have a trail name yet so I told her to tell me a little about herself. We'll figure out a trailname for her! What kind of hobbies did she enjoy, what's her occupation, amusing anecdotes from childhood, etc.

And eventually, we settled on Banana Bread. She had a story about loving Banana Bread ever since she was a child and I suggested that that could be a trail name, and she seemed to like it. For all I know, she could have ditched the trailname the next day when we went our separate ways, but she seemed genuinely interested in using it.

As the afternoon turned into dusk, the rain never materialized and I was a little disappointed at the fact. I stopped early in the day to avoid the rain. I could have easily have gotten more miles in but chose not to. What happened to the rain?!

I expected more thru-hikers to drop in as the afternoon progressed, but by sunset, it was still just Carolina and myself at the shelter. What the heck happened to everyone else? I didn't exactly put in a big miles that would outpace everyone.

After the sun set and darkness descended, Carlina went back to her tent to sleep and I had the shelter to myself.

The Lookout had this private cabin that was open for thru-hikers to use. The observation deck at the top was irresistible!

View from the observation deck

The problem was that once you were at the top, there was only one way down! And it looks like a long way down!

Bzzz! Bzzz!

This line was stretched across the creek to help people cross safely, but I rock-hopped across a bit further downstream where I wouldn't have to get my feet wet. =)

Good advice. Very good advice. *nodding*

The Thistle Hill Shelter. That's Caroline in the shelter, which is where she spent most of her time except when she went to sleep at which point she moved into her tent.
This shelter had one of the cutest privies of the trail! My only complaint, however, is that it was located slightly downhill between the trail and the shelter so anyone walking by might get a "view in" if anyone is doing any business here--it's a rather exposed privy!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Day 121: Out of Rutland and back on the trail

July 6: I spent the morning continuing to work on these blog posts, but it was time to get back on the trail so near noon, I headed to the post office to mail my laptop ahead, ate a quick lunch, then jumped on a bus that would take me back to the trail.

Just before I left the hostel, I ran into Olive who had just arrived. I almost didn't recognize her, all cleaned up and wearing a small dress--loaner clothes from the hostel while she was washing her dirty ones. I'd only seen her a few times on the trail and was surprised at the long days she was putting in, sometimes over 20 miles in a day--which is more than incredible for someone who was only thru-hiking the Long Trail and still had "soft" feet. She had gotten about a day beyond Sherburne Pass, past where the Long Trail split off from the Appalachian Trail, and she had reported that as soon as the trail split, she saw absolutely nobody on the trail. She was lonely and therefore decided to quit the trail. It wasn't fun anymore. I was a little sad to hear that--I felt sure she'd make it to the end--but I could understand it too. Who wants to do something that they're not enjoying?

So of all the Long Trail hikers I met, she's the only one whose status I know. The other Long Trail hikers I met I passed like they were standing still and never saw them again. I never learned which if them made it the whole way to Canada or not, but I like to think that they all did. =)

I arrived at Sherburne Pass at around 1:00 in the afternoon--a late start to the day's hiking, but not too late to get in several miles of hiking. Before I started, though, I dropped into the Inn at Long Trail to check out the hiker box and discovered a can of fuel. I poured some of it into my fuel bottle, but immediately noticed that the liquid formed a separate layer of fuel from what was already in there. I read the small print on the can and realized that it did not appear to be denatured alcohol. I wasn't entirely sure what kind of fuel it was, actually--it wasn't entirely clear from the labeling saying something generic like "stove fuel."

I guessed it was probably white gas and tried pouring out the top part of my fuel. I got most of it out, but some had mixed in with my denatured alcohol and I really wasn't sure how that would affect it. I might be going hungry on the trail if it wasn't suitable for a soda can stove!

Then I hit the trail, hiking hard to make up for my late start.

The Sherburne Pass Trail reconnected with the Appalachian Trail a couple of miles into the hike and I was back to following the white blazes.

The trail was moderately difficult, and I pulled out 13.5 miles by 7:00 in the evening. I stopped between shelters, wanting to put some distance between myself and the large crowd of hikers immediately behind me. I didn't want to stop at the one shelter I passed--too early for that!--but I couldn't make it to the next shelter before dark. It wasn't supposed to rain during the night, though, so I decided to cowboy camp between shelters.

I skipped making dinner, mostly because I stopped hiking so late in the day and didn't want to fumble around with cooking and cleaning dishes in the dwindling light. Not to mention that I wasn't entirely sure how well my fuel would work with my accidentally mixing some other substance into it. I didn't want to mess around with that if it become a problem. So I ate a few snacks for dinner and called it a night.

Kent Pond

Still Kent Pond (it's a big "pond"!)

Thundering Brook Rd

Artwork in the Stony Brook Shelter--love it! =)

Hope y'all aren't scared of heights! =)

Trail magic!