Day 39: Better Days…

So, yesterday ended on a bad note; crashing into the mud, only one wipe left…and then this morning I woke up to those same damp and muddy clothes. I couldn’t bring myself to put them back on. Damp is bad enough, but damp AND muddy? I have my limits.

Instead, I left my bright yellow long sleeve tech shirt on, which turned out to be way too warm, and hiked in my underwear (my underwear is the length of my shorts). I also put on a clean pair of socks even though my right shoe was still totally saturated; I was starting to get a hot spot on the inside of my right heel.

The strangest part? I’d jokingly mentioned just hiking in my underwear before, but I acted totally normal and people treated me totally normal. To me, this was like giving up some of my final social vestiges — pants…and nobody cared. It was kinda cool.

I hiked the last four miles into town and arrived at the Hanover Community Center just prior to them beginning their hiker services. It was a good thing I was first to shower and do laundry because that place was filled when it came time for me to leave.

While my clothes were washing, I went to the grocery store to resupply and ran into Marshmallow again. She gave me a tumeric pill which is supposed to help with inflammation as her knees are just as badly inflamed as my left knee has begun to be. No pain, just stiff. I upped my ibuprofen intake today and will continue for a few days to maintain the anti-inflammatory effects and see if that improves the flexibility.

After my clothes were cleaned, I left feeling like a new man. I went to the post office and mailed home my tent. Dropping pack weight! Yes, I have no tent. Yes, this could end very badly. But for today, it was nice.

Then I got pizza at the same place as last night before leaving town. Life’s good.

Leaving Hanover, I crossed the Connecticut River and entered Vermont. Immediately upon entering the trails, I went half a mile and took a wrong turn, which I only realized as I happened upon the same trail signs as when I entered the woods. Oops, bonus mile!

After that, it was cruising through Vermont. I had these ambitions of doing a high teen mileage day despite five hours in town and was well on track until I ran into Camel in West Hartford. We went to check out a house known for trail magic — I was looking for a cold soda, and it had that and so much more! The first thing Ms. Linda told us was to go look at BEDS in the barn AND we could get pizza or Chinese delivered. Being after 6pm already, we both decided we’d hiked enough for today. Then we enjoyed sodas and watermelon on the porch until our Domino’s delivery arrived. Man, I have way too much food in my pack, again (good problem to have!).

Again, I’m floored by the kindness of strangers and happy to accept their generosity. Put in thirteen or fourteen miles despite the atrocious start and resupply in town. That’s a good day. Looking for an early start tomorrow with dry shoes and, hopefully, big miles!

The last few days are the only time in my life I wanted to get to Dartmouth. Good landmark and pretty town.
Two states down!

Day 40: Frustration!

Had a great night of sleep and got breakfast courtesy of our trail angel. Normally, these things are a recipe for success. And Vermont was supposed to be easy…

Well, that went out the window quickly. A lot of effort, but it just seemed like we spent 75 percent of the day ascending. I was initially happy to have switchbacks, but it made the climbs way longer. I was leap frogging with Marshmallow all day who was equally struggling. Seemed like the weather, particularly the humidity, was the winner of the day (and, surprisingly, we did more than 6000′ of elevation changes).

There were some pretty parts going through fields of wild flowers, although at times you had to battle through them all strown across the trail. Every time I’d pass through a cluster, I’d look at my legs and try to make sure there were no ticks. One field was just a cow pasture; there were no cows but you did need to watch your foot placement as they had been there recently!

At one point, I was shuffling down a hill a short distance behind Marshmallow and face planted. Fortunately, it was pine needles that I landed on rather than the rocks of Maine or New Hampshire. Ironically, I had also just started listening to music. Next song? Tubthumping by Chumba Wumba (“I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down”). One of those things that are too convenient to just be a coincidence — especially the way things happen on the trail.

The last few miles it felt like I had blown up my left quad, and then a few miles later, my left knee started buckling painfully every time I’d try to push off it. Camel passed me for the first time of the day and I cut my day 2.5 miles short to the same shelter rather than the nice cabin with roof access to views that I intended. However, I may not have made that anyways prior to getting hit by an incoming rain storm. We’ll see, maybe I was fortunate.

I hope my knee is better tomorrow for the final 17 miles to Rutland. Really, I just want to feel healthy for a day on the trail. If it’s not one thing it’s another — hopefully, I can pick up the pace.

Day 41: I get up again!

It turned out very fortunate that I was in a solid shelter. We got a nasty rainstorm that lasted most of the night and would’ve made a Florida storm proud. We were all a little cramped in the shelter and everyone admitted to kicking, smacking, or touching their neighbors accidentally through the night. It was so dark at one point that I forgot I was in the shelter and kept crawling forward to find a comfy spot like I was in the woods…until I encroached a wall or someone else’s sleeping pad. Oops.

Knee felt normally when I woke up, or the same stiffness that it has the last several days, anyhow. However, it quickly became apparent hiking that the issue from yesterday was going to continue. Camel left the shelter a few minutes before I did and I caught him when he had a snack, but after he passed me back while I was refilling water, I did not see him again until town. I tried to shorten my stride and do my best Dusty Hardman impression (WWDD?). I tried lots of short steps instead of long loping ones. It seemed like it helped, but I was still way slower than Dusty.

Most of the hiking today was a grind. The trails in Vermont are the best maintained or easily passable that I’ve traveled yet, but the terrain is a little monotonous up and down the green tunnel. It is pretty, but similarly pretty monotonous.

Nearing the 12 mile point, I lucked upon a little bit of trail magic and had a fresh orange out of a bag someone put out there. It was delicious. Then there was a nice boardwalk area leading to Thunder Falls. That was awesome! Easily the highlight of the day.

As I continued on, I passed an older couple. The man was out there doing trail maintenance and was responsible for putting the oranges out. He was feeding his wife dehydrated apricots and generously offered me some, too (never pass up food!). He also gave me some advice about taking the Sherburne Pass, which is the old AT trail, to the Long Trail Inn and the trail eventually links back up with the new AT. It might have also cut off three “pointless hills” (his words, not mine! And it sounds like the old AT guys were clearly smarter than us).

So, I continued on, and out of “historical curiosity,” I took the alternate route. It was some of the most primitive trail I’d experienced in Vermont, reminding me of NH or Maine, but it was direct (and maybe a mile shorter). As I exited the woods, a bus was passing by. I thought Rutland was the opposite way — nope, I just missed the bus to town. Next one was an hour away. So, I did what any respectable hiker would do, and went to the Irish Pub inside the Inn. A few Smithwicks, potato skins, and bantering with other hikers at the bar made the hour go quickly.

I got to Rutland and checked in at the Yellow Deli which has a nice restaurant and hostel run off of donations. And, they’re kind of a cult. But, they’re very nice people with an ideology built around God and love (twelvetribes.org). You can donate to stay (or not), assist around the hostel or restaurant, or, if you’re really bold, go work for the day at their farm. I’ll probably just leave a donation.

I gave Peeps his bag that I’d carried 90 miles and then he, Camel, Homer, and I went to the Bowling Alley stopping at Wendy’s on the way. That may have been be my first fast food since I had Wendy’s on the day I flew out of Orlando. And it was good.

When we got to the bowling alley, Homer was actually the only one that wanted to bowl. And the poor guy was terrible. Camel joined in for the second game, crushed Homer, and then called it a night. Camel and I walked by to the hostel while Peeps and Homer continued to play terrible arcade games providing them minimal amounts of tickets in the bowling alley.

Getting back to the hostel, my left knee gave a few good pops and feels light years better. Anyhow, 90 miles in the last five days along with the progressive worsening of the knee since I came barrelling down Franconia Notch like a crazy drunk more than a week and 120+ miles ago has me leaning towards a zero tomorrow. We’ll see.

Thundering Falls — the photo does not do it justice.
Kent Pond

Day 42: Yellow Deli

Listened to my body and took a zero today. Knee doesn’t hurt; but it’s not right. Ibuprofen and Icy Hot have not made much difference. I probably need an extended rest, but I know I have three days off in a few weeks for my cousin’s wedding, if I can just hold it together.

Anyhow, I had the breakfast that is offered to hostel guests; delicious and free. Afterwards, I went back to bed for a few hours. In an effort at normalcy, I grabbed a sandwich at Subway, saw the Dark Tower in the theater next door, and casually resupplied at Walmart. Easy day.

A little socializing around the hostel and then I went to dinner with Firefly at the Yellow Deli restaurant (although she’d eaten, she just kept me company). Root beer on tap and the food was out of this world with many of the fresh ingredients coming directly from their farm. I had a sandwich that was just bursting with flavors (and their secret sauce).

Firefly’s friends have all now moved on; she’s likely going to continue hiking south with me, but she doesn’t know if she’s going to come back to Rutland tomorrow or stay on the trail. I’m going to slack pack 17ish miles and hope that goes well, then get another good night of rest. Oh, and the Yellow Deli closes tomorrow for their religious practices that run through Sunday. Tomorrow night is their celebration with dancing and music that, although I’m not interested in joining anything, seems like too interesting of a cultural experience to pass up. If that’s the last you hear of me, I wish you farewell!

Day 43: Slacking

Breakfast at the Yellow Deli and off to slack-pack. Firefly decided she needed to escape the Rutland vortex so she had a full pack with the intent to stay on trail. Then, Homer jumped on the bus, and they had the realization that I was going back to the blue-blazed trail (finishing my “retro-blaze”) rather than the AT. They both jumped off at the AT stop while I continued on the bus.

In distances, both trails were similar, but by the time my trail connected with the new (official) AT, I had done nearly three miles in the first hour, and continued blazing ahead. My goal was to catch the other two, but I inadvertently blew by them. I spent the whole day hiking alone.

Going up Killington Mountain was pretty easy, especially with the light pack. Today was far and away the most running I’d done yet. The problem, not a new one, either, is that over the last several years I’ve dramatically shortened my stride and barely lift my foot off the ground to decrease the impact of landing and wasted energy. Great on the road, I feel like I can shuffle forever.

Unfortunately, that does not bode well for trails, particularly in concert with my knees that have no desire (or much current ability) to raise/kick my feet up any higher than necessary and sometimes even that is a challenge. The result is a lot of tripping and falling. Today was a smooth day in terms of trails and yet I still nearly took a half dozen spills. The worst had me crash to the ground, scrape my hand, and launch my phone and both water bottles, one of which went a at least ten feet ahead on the trail. Either this problem will get figured out or I’m going to end up really hurting myself. Hopefully, the former.

I finished my 17-18 miles in 6:35, a good pace, and if not for a killer boulder descent, would’ve been quite a success. The descent, literally at the end of the day, left my knees in agony, again.

I caught a quick hitch from John, a British immigrant and formerly a pilot in the Royal Air Force. He now teaches the Civil Air Patrol and even built his own experimental plane on his patio which he said led to “interesting” first flight when you build a plane that will be going 280 mph. He called himself one of the old, bold pilots joking that the bold ones usually don’t become old ones.

Getting back to the Yellow Deli, the deli was closed for their Sabbath celebration. The party started at six pm and all the hikers remaining at the hostel attended. All the tribe members at this location and some visiting representatives were there.

The first hour was filled with dancing and singing, capped off by several members spontaneously sharing out their thoughts as well as some biblical references. Their philosophy is all about living in unity with love through members that come from near and far. It was very joyful and they referenced the need for celebration after all of their labors for the week. I think society would be a much happier place if we all could actually enjoy a Sabbath with friends and separate ourselves from our labors for a day. They were quick to point out they are far from perfect or great, but seeing the happiness among the families as everyone was celebrating definitely raises some thoughts as to how life should be.

A fantastic dinner followed. Apparently, they eat a community style breakfast and dinner every day. That is one of their key tenets in maintaining their unity. I can definitely respect that, too.

Afterwards there was more dancing. Hummus, a girl from Harvard, tried to rally a few hikers to go dance, but then she too chickened out as it seemed the easy dances progressed into harder ones (granted, they weren’t that hard or serious with all the little kids out there). The remaining hikers quickly dissipated upstairs back to the hostel.

500 miles down and back out onto the trails without any major town for the next couple days. Well, I guess I am out here for the trail…

Progress?
Rutland is a neat town — lots of murals on buildings.

About Scott

Writer. Teacher. Learner. Keen on process and individual improvement. And running really, really far.

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