19: Schaghticoke tent site to Hoyt Rd

I woke up early to give myself plenty of time for the last few miles. Did I ever really sleep? I’m not sure. 

Once I got moving, things were easier. I’d tried to pop and drain my blisters last night but I hadn’t really been successful. Oh well. Walk on. 
I caught the last edge of sunrise. 

I stopped for breakfast– I crammed as many wheat thins into my mouth as I could. 

Some of the walk was downright gorgeous. I knew I had a few miles of flat today, and it was nice. I cruised. 

And then I … Well, I made it up to the top of ten mile hill. It’s only 1000ft over 1 mile and I started off strong but I faded a little. I found a reserve tank and pounded out the rest though. 

And then down, and Connecticut was over. That was it. I walked to Hoyt road looking for the sign, then back to where I’d arranged for my friend Catherine to meet me. In a fortuitous turn of events, my best friend since I was 2 was now living in Connecticut, so I imposed on her for a ride from the trail head and a chance to catch up. I had needed to see her recently, and as usual, the trail provided. 

I finished a few minutes early, and had time to dry out my tent and organize my trash and such. 
I can’t believe it’s all over. My longest trip yet. I can tell a difference in my hiking ability. I’m stronger. I feel like I fit into the rhythm of trail life, and it’ll be hard to switch back. 
I found myself holding on to the generosity of the trail, though. At the train station, a man asked me for $2.50 for his train to make it to work. I pulled out a $5 and gave it to him. Usually I’d say sorry, I don’t carry cash, whether or not that’s true. On the trail, I’d offer whatever I have to anyone. Food? Insoles? Water? Fuel? Clothes? So what’s $5 to a man in a train station? 

He looked at the $5 and asked if I was sure. I shrugged and said yeah. Told him to have a good day, and good luck. I refrained from telling him happy trails, but that’s what I meant. Have a good journey, wherever you’re going. If it’s work or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I hope you get there safely. 
Miles: 8.3

Trip total: 281.7

MVP: a happy ride with Catherine 

LVP: n/a
Thanks for joining me on this trip, friends. It’s been one of the most amazing journeys of my life. The best news is: there are more hikes to come. Happy trails 🙂

17: the hemlocks to limestone spring shelter

A section hiker came in late last night. She insisted that we wake up to speak to her and asked a million questions. She stayed up late to cook, then, when she finally went to bed, she made a phone call. In the shelter. “Yeah, everyone’s asleep already. It’s so early! Just 9:30.” That’s past hiker midnight. 
The NOBO without a name (or a shirt) started hacking around actual midnight, coughing up a lung above me. 
Clearly, it was not the best sleep of my life. 
But Bent and I headed out early and finished the climb up Mt Everett. It was the first of several gorgeous climbs today. 

Next came Mt Race, with an incredible ridge walk. The climb up was interesting; it was pretty nice, interspersed with steep rock scrambles. We were on top before we knew it though. 

Down we went, for a few miles of gorgeous woods and Sage’s Ravine. We left Massachusetts here, too. The sign for the border is actually in the wrong place, so you think you’re in Connecticut but you’re actually still in Massachusetts. Sage’s Ravine was beautiful, with a large brook and moss covered rocks and waterfalls…and at least one deep swimming hole. Bent and I took advantage. We’d been hiking with Wilson Wilson for a while, but he hiked on while I jumped in and Bent dipped his feet in the water. 

And then up Bear Mountain, the highest peak in Connecticut. Now THIS was a boulder scramble. I felt like I was actually rock climbing as some points. It was fun and challenging and a great workout. 

Then off to Lion’s Head

And the rest of the day was pretty boring. We had a road walk, though, and just as we started getting hot and sweaty, a car rolled down the window and said, “I have cold drinks if you can cross the road!!” Well for a cold drink, we could cross the road on our hands! The driver turned out to be a section hiker with a cooler full of cokes and waters and gatorades. We chatted for a minute, took a Coke each, and hiked on, thankful for trail magic. 

The trail floor was full of needles that were all different colors. It was like confetti. 

But the last few miles to the shelter were slow and long and I wasn’t really pleased with Connecticut. I just wanted to get there. And we did, finally, meeting back up with Wilson Wilson. 

We all hiked the steep .5 down to the shelter (and I mean STEEP) and started eating. Shelter to ourselves, so far.  

They say the trail provides. I’ve needed baskets on my trekking poles for a week now. I found one in a trail register box. I found a second at the hemlocks shelter. Every time I’m miserably hot and think “wow I need some trail magic water” something appears. And somehow, I’ve found Bent and Wilson Wilson. 

Maybe I’m just forced to wait for the trail to provide instead of providing for myself. But it sure is nice, to have these moments of fortune and serendipity and great pleasure of receiving the thing you really need. 

I wonder how often that trail angel drives around with a cooler of drinks, waiting to run into hikers. He had his baby in the car. He was willing to put in the effort to create a moment of trail magic, even though SOBOs are a trickle instead of a steady stream, and the NOBOs are mostly gone. He passed us, pulled over, and waited for us to get close enough. Just to give us something cold to drink. 

Obviously, you know how much that drink means to me. But what a simple gesture. What a lot of effort to go through for a small gesture. All of the trail Angels go through a lot of effort for small gestures that mean so much. Some make huge gestures, like hiker feeds, but the little ones, like a pack of peanut butter crackers when I haven’t had breakfast, mean just as much. Even a jug of warm water *that I don’t have to filter* means a lot. 
I don’t have much else to say about it. Bent and I have just been talking about how we wish we could take the kindness and generosity and trust from the trail into our everyday lives. If you think about how I became friends with Honeybuns (found a dirty, smelly man with a pack and said “NOBO or SOBO?”) well…that’s perhaps something that requires a bit of trust. And Bent- I met him once at Peru Peak shelter but we didn’t talk. We became friends when I saw him again and we happened to be going to the same place. That’s it. And now, we know the pass codes to each others’ phones (there was one particularly frightening ridge walk that we weren’t sure we would survive). 

It’s just nice, to be able to know people and trust them and talk to them about your life and fears and hopes. 
Miles: 17.1

Trip total: 241.4
MVP: Coca Cola!

LVP: leaving mass. It was such a beautiful state!!

16: great Barrington to the hemlocks shelter 

Maureen made us pancakes this morning. I slept like the dead in a soft bed with the sound of a thunderstorm outside. I wake up every time I turn over, of course, because my muscles are too stiff and sore to do it while I’m still asleep, but otherwise I slept like the dead. 
We ate our pancakes, I took one last shower, and then we packed up and headed out. A quick stop at a gas station for a little more fuel for me (and I’m not sure I actually needed this; I might be able to squeeze by on what I have buuuuut also I want to eat) and then we were at the trail head. Warm goodbyes and we started walking. 

The first few miles were gorgeous, like the rest of Massachusetts. Farmlands and meadows and sun and bogs. I don’t want this state to end. 

Eventually we started the climb up Mt Everett. We won’t summit until tomorrow, but we did get spectacular views at Jug End. We sat and had a long chat about how lucky we were to be here, seeing this, one this trail, experiencing everything we had already. 

I write my blog because I know there are some people who can’t hike, or don’t have the opportunity to leave on the weekends or take 3 weeks to live on the trail, or are just overwhelmed by the idea of backpacking. But I cannot express how lucky I feel to be one of the people who can do these things, who can climb mountains and meet trail angels and make friends in a day and find watermelon in a cooler on the side of the road. 

We climbed more, and made it to glen brook shelter by 12:30. We sat for a minute, but weren’t terribly pleased with the shelter. The hemlocks was just .1 miles down the trail, so we walked over to check it out. It was a much better situation, so we got water at glen brook and then set ourselves up at hemlocks, a nice Massachusetts bunk and loft shelter. 

We ate and read and talked and listened to music and around 3:30 Wilson Wilson, a SOBO, came in. We chatted until another guy came, a guy who had just started in the past few days and was new to backpacking. 

It’s nice to have a slow day like this, but I’m ready to cover miles tomorrow. It’ll be rough going, I think, especially with this MASSIVE bruise I have on my backside that’s really pretty painful especially on the uphills, but tomorrow we’ll be in Connecticut and my trip will be winding down. Goodbye, Massachusetts. I’ll miss you. 
Miles: 8.0

Trip total: 224.3

MVP: strawberries on the pancakes

LVP: forgot to buy jalapeño chips 

15: south Wilcox shelter to Great Barrington

Last night, as dark was settling in, Joanne arrived. We heard her heavy footsteps and then a sonorous voice asked, in serious monotone, “well how many’s in this one?” Bent and I looked at each other, and Aquaman peered down from the loft. There are two shelters at this turnoff, so we assumed she had stopped at the other one first. 
“Just three of us,” Bent replied. 
“Huh.” She said. “Well I guess it’s all full.” 
“Oh no,” Bent said, “there are two upper bunks left and plenty of space in the loft.” 
“Well I can’t get up there,” she replied, sounding a bit like eeyore. Bent offered to move to an upper bunk and let her have his lower bunk, and she accepted. She explained that she was a (and here she paused to read her name tag, as she wasn’t quite sure what she was) shelter caretaker with the Massachusetts ATC, that she used to be a caretaker at Upper Goose pond Cabin, and for a while she was even a Ridge Runner. But just now she was trying to get back into backpacking. 
There are some people of whom it can be said that they are made of heavy New England stock. Joanne is one of those people. Every step she took shook the giant timber frame of the shelter; when she finally fell asleep, she woke me with her snores. Her deep voice carried across the woods. Her questions were direct and to the point, and she did not joke. When we asked about Great Barrington, where she lived, she considered the question and replied with a list of every restaurant, including those that were closed, and every business we might consider stepping into. And then she started on Kent, Connecticut! 
A large tree limb fell near the shelter. Joanne lamented that she didn’t have her saw with her. In the morning, on my way to the privy, I saw her steadily tearing the branch apart with her bare hands. 
Joanne managed to stomp around in Crocs, generally a very quiet shoe. 
Joanne is now legend. 
Bent and I woke and decided to hike the 12 miles to Great Barrington as quickly as we could. I was continually struck by what a beautiful morning it was. The light filtered through the trees like something in a film. I mean, it did that because of the excessive humidity, but it was still absolutely stunning. I am in love with Massachusetts. 

Perhaps we should have slowed down, too. There were several large slabs of rock, and on one, my feet just slid right out from under me. It looked like a cartoon banana peel slip. I landed hard on my rump. The hike became a little more difficult. 

And then bent fell. 

And then we both fell a few more times. 

We contemplated Icy Gulch but there was no ice and it was not particularly icy. 

We slid on our bottoms down an entire rock face. A happy face blaze awaited us. 

The longest meadow walk ever happened. 

And then we hitched into town. It was actually two hitches– the first only took us a mile or two, so we went to the coldest gas station of my life and got cokes and a quick snack. Then we hitched again to McDonald’s. We’d spent the last 8 miles alternating between making up a theme song for Joanne and talking about McDonald’s, so we ordered a lot of food. 

We ate it all. 
My friend Maureen and her son River came and picked us up soon after. I knew Maureen back when I lived in Nashville, and she’s been a great friend to me for a long time. She lives in Great Barrington now, and switching my section to go SOBO meant that I’d get to see her, which was a huge motivating factor in my decision. 
We drove out to her house on a pond, and showered and did laundry. After some time, we went back to town for resupply and Chinese takeout, and we spent the rest of the night enjoying a huge storm dry and full and comfortable in her house. It was a good night. I mean, I can’t sit comfortably, but I ate a lot and I got to see Maureen and River and rest quite a bit and rehydrate a little and feel clean for a few hours. And that’s certainly worth a lot. 

Tomorrow Bent and I are aiming for an 8 mile day. The heat wave is still brutal, so we don’t really want to push it. 
But here’s a surprising fact: I’ll be out of Massachusetts the day after that. 
Miles: 11.7

Trip total: 216.3

MVP: gas station cherry Coke

LVP: slippery rock #1 

14: upper goose pond to south Wilcox shelter

Bent woke me up at 12:45am. We picked our way down to the dock, and sat chatting as we watched the sky. In twenty minutes the clouds started rolling in, but we’d also seen an incredible number of meteors over the pond. We walked back to the cabin and I fell fast asleep. 
I woke up and went down for breakfast, seeing that Peggy, the caretaker had just started. Bent and I offered to help and were immediately put to work cleaning blueberries and delivering pancakes and coffee to the other hikers. We ate last, and it was still delicious. 

We hiked out around 9. 

The day was miserably hot. I started thinking “wow, I could really go for some trail magic right about now.” What do you imagine happened?

That’s right. Trail magic. And I’ll be damned if if wasn’t the best watermelon I’ve ever had. 

There was also a little roadside stand where I bought a packet of Oreos. They were out of cokes and gatorades. Evidently two young kids raise chickens and sell fresh eggs and other items to hikers, and also provide a free library. They let hikers sign their names in chalk, too. Hikers love to sign their names. 

There are all sorts of chances for hikers to rip each other off. I could have eaten that entire cooler of watermelon. I could have stolen all of that money. Any hiker could have, and probably has at some point. But if happens rarely enough that people keep on providing trail magic and keep operating on the honor system. I like that. I like that we can still trust each other. 

Bent and I hiked the last several miles together, chatting about nothing much in particular. We hoped to outrun the storm we could feel pressing down on us in the air; we were practically swimming through the humidity. But the bottom fell out when we were a mile and a half short of the shelter. I let the rain wash the sweat and bug spray and dead mosquitos off of me. Salt ran into my eyes. We began to question if the shelter even existed, it felt like such a long mile and a half. 

But as you know, all hills crest and all shelters eventually have a turn off, and we made it. The sun was popping out, so I set out my wet things to dry and got down to the business of eating. Tomorrow is great barrington, and I aim to travel with an empty food bag. 
I’d love to have some tidy little lesson for you on this entry, but here’s the truth: I don’t think everything I experience can really be summed up in these entries. The misery and elation and joy; the little interactions with passing hikers; the stupid conversations over eight miles of trail; the way every single meadow with wild flowers still makes me feel. And laying in the shelter while a thunderstorm moves out, my tired muscles aching, belly full, and a good book waiting for me and my head lamp. 
Yesterday, I passed a NOBO who said, “hey! You look familiar! Were you doing sections down in Tennessee earlier this year?” He turned out to be Turtle, who id camped with on a section. I’m hundreds of miles away from home and I still find people I know up here. 
Miles: 15.6

Trip total: 204.6

MVP: watermelon 

LVP: last 1.8 miles 

13: Kay wood to upper goose pond cabin 

Last night, the NOBOs were talking about how SOBOs are good for nothing, except maybe some information, and then they’re worse than insects, just vermin on the trail. 
I closed my eyes and put in my earplugs and slept. 
And this morning I left without eating breakfast. I stopped about three miles later, at Harmon hill. I picked a few blackberries to go with my breakfast bars and beef jerky. 

Gonzo had told me, back in January, that I would love hiking Massachusetts. He was right. The miles slipped by. 

Soon I was at Washington Road, where the cookie lady lives. I decided to wait for Bent, the south bounder from Kay Wood who I’d met back at Peru Peak when I was going NOBO with carpenter. 

I sat and waited, and eventually Bent and Tater, a NOBO, walked out of the woods at the same time. We all three headed down the road to the cookie lady’s house. 
I bought a coke and a snickers and we started picking blueberries. Despite the fact that some NOBOs think SOBOs are vermin, when you go to upper goose pond cabin, it is the duty of the SOBOs to stop at the cookie lady’s house and pick and buy blueberries. You then carry them the 11 miles to the cabin so that everyone can have blueberry pancakes the next morning. The cabin has a caretaker who makes pancakes, but there are only blueberry pancakes if there are SOBOs who pick blueberries. 

We had a nice time together, and then headed out for the last 11 miles. The day got hotter. Much hotter. Sweat dripped…everywhere. 

I crossed the turnpike and made the last climb, telling myself I’d be in the water by 4:30. 

Well, I was. I made it to the cabin, claimed a bunk, spoke to the caretaker, and headed for the pond. It started raining as I stood in the water but I didn’t care. I scrubbed my hair and my body and felt the sweat start to un cake. Ugh I was so disgusting. 
Bent showed up as I was drying off on the porch. We cooked dinner with some other folks and a sectioning family, then went back on the dock and did some dockside yoga. 

I read on the porch, and we made plans to wake up for the meteor shower. 
It’s hot and stuffy and humid and the mosquitos up here are AGGRESSIVE. I smell absolutely terrible. My toes are numb. But I have no idea what day it is or if I’ll finish on time and I don’t care. I know I can make it to Boston from anywhere. Tomorrow I’ll just walk south. And the next day I’ll do the same thing. I’m slowly learning to give up stressing, a little, and just embrace everything that’s going on now. 

Tomorrow I’ll have blueberry pancakes and then I’ll walk south. 
Miles: 17.6

Trip total: 189

MVP: coke (coca cola)

LVP: so much sweat

12: Wilbur clearing to Kay wood shelter 

It was raining when I woke up. Sunshine and Skye had told me it would rain all morning, so I figured I might as well get going. 

I made the climb up Mt Greylock in the rain. I sat in the Thubderbolt warming shelter for a while, warming up. 

Rain jacket was clearly effective. 

There wasn’t much to see. 
I hiked on, and on, and on. It eventually stopped raining. The day warmed up…rather dramatically. I stopped in a gas station for some food and batteries (for what I thought was a dead headlamp but it turns out it wasn’t; thanks headlamp). I had a nice chat with a NOBO and then headed out. 

It was hot and sweaty and I wasn’t quite sure of where I was going to end up tonight. I sat down to look at the numbers. And then I hiked on. 

I made it to Kay Woods shelter around 7. One SOBO here- I’d met him with carpenter at Peru peak. The rest of the shelter is full of NOBOs. Tomorrow is the cookie lady and upper goose pond cabin. 
I love Massachusetts. I would write more, but New England has tons of little free libraries and I picked up a GOOD book today that I’m dying to read. So I’m going to read it. Thanks for being so generous, New England!
Miles: 23.5

Trip total: 171.4

MVP: phone call to my older sister. My nephew is loving kindergarten!!

LVP: fell down today and rolled ankles a few times. Pretty clumsy. 

11: Congdon shelter to wilbur clearing shelter

Somehow it got cold. I woke up shivering, wishing I’d put on my leggings. It motivated me to get moving quicker. I said goodbye to Mississippi and headed out. 

I’d asked around at the shelter last night if anyone knew Danger, Brew, or Red Dragon, my trail family from Virginia in May. I knew from what Stormtrooper had told me that they should be right around this area, but I wondered if they were just north of Bennington. Tapeworm had told me that he knew red dragon, but he thought they were a day ahead. That would mean I’d missed them. I thought he was wrong, but had no basis for that. 
I though about texting Danger and asking, but decided to see what the trail had in store for me. 

I hiked on. 
Beaver ponds and a long lunch break later, the day was shaping up to be warm, but nice. 

I was headed down a hill, lost in my thoughts about who knows what, when a NOBO stepped aside for me. I started to say thanks, then stopped. 

For months, I’ve envisioned the moment I run into my friends on the trail. Would they be happy to see me? Would they recognize me? I knew I would run up to them, and hug them, and probably cry. 
The moment I recognized Brew, I stopped and bounced on the balls of my feet, jumping in place. “BREW!!” I yelled. I ran to him and we hugged around our packs. 
We sat and he ate while we waited for danger and red dragon. He filled me in on the past few months, and I drank in every moment. 
An hour passed, and they didn’t come. We asked another NOBO where they were. “Just chilling at the state line.” 
Eventually we heard red dragon’s laugh. Brew gave a hooty-hoo and RD answered. I heard Danger talking. I popped around the corner yelling “well y’all sure are slow!!” And they came running to me. 
It was everything I’d ever imagined. The excitement of seeing them, the relief that they’d missed you too, the joy of seeing for yourself how beautiful and healthy and strong they look. And they DO look beautiful and healthy and strong! All three of them. Brew looks like a Viking pirate. Danger should probably start a fitness channel. And RD is ready for leading man opera parts. No wasting away for this crew– the trail agrees with them. 
We had our joyful reunion, and every scenario I’d imagined was exceeded. I only wish stick and Stormtrooper could have been there too. 

Eventually I had to go south, though, and they had to go north. We said our goodbyes and promised to see each other, and hiked on. 
I hiked with the biggest smile on my face. And crossed into Massachusetts. That moment just convinced me, more than ever, that my flip flop was the right decision. 

A rock garden, a road walk, and a climb up Mt Williams put me to the shelter. I had dinner with Sunshine and Skye, a flip flopper and a LASHer, and am ready for bed with a huge grin on my face. 

Miles: 17.1

Trip total: 147.9

MVP: dangers Rangers (danger, brew, and RD)

LVP: heading south (but I have more adventure awaiting me!!)

10: Hanover, NH TO Bennington, VT to Congdon Shelter (SOBO)

Honeybuns and I both started waking up as the sun came in through the small windows in the church library. We were a little slow moving, but we eventually found motivation to pack up. We left a note for the church and stood outside for a hitch back in to town.

We were fortunately in a school zone, so everyone had to slow down and stare at our lovely, innocent faces and long, stuck out thumbs. We got a ride quickly. An older woman, probably in her mid 70s, pulled over. She had neat, tidy grey hair and was listening to NPR in her neat, tidy sedan. We explained that we had stayed at the church and just needed a ride back into town. She let us in and we drove off.
She asked us about the trail, and told us that she hadn’t picked up hitchhikers since her kids were in college. Back then, she said, it had been safer, and everyone had done it. Her son had hitchhiked from British Columbia back to New England. We had a lovely ride, and she dropped us off right in town.
A quick stop in CVS for more alcohol swabs ended up with the pharmacist giving them to me for free. More kindness.
Back to Lou’s for another breakfast and more story swapping with Honeybuns.

And then off to the Hop for one last tour of the art before my bus.

We said goodbye, and promised to meet up for a section this fall.
I caught the (free!) bus to White River Junction. Once there, I waited for my train.

$17 later, I was on the Vermonter 55. From Brattleboro to the Brattleboro bus station where I spent a tense few hours waiting for another bus with a different section of New England. I learned about different DCF caseworkers, Crazy Sue, sis’s new stroller, and the man across from me had a huge hole in the crotch of his pants. They all somehow knew each other (two of them were sisters?).

The (free!) bus came. From there I transferred to a different (free!) bus at a grocery store. And on this last bus, I asked the bus driver if he could drop me off at the trail head. He said sure, no problem.
15 minutes later, he pulled off at the Bennington trail head, and I stepped off with a thanks and my backpack, crossed the road, and headed south. My flip flop section had started.
I walked up the stone steps, grateful for every minute I’d ever done on a stair stepper.

And then smooth sailing. I considered tenting on a mountain, to watch the meteor shower again, but decided I wanted at least another mile or two, so I pushed on to the shelter.
And I’m glad I did. I had fun talking to joyride and Mississippi. Joyride had a great backstory for his trail name, involving a hitch in Erwin, TN, a stolen car, an arrest, and white supremacists in jail. Mississippi gave me a contact at the southern end of Connecticut.
The trail is full of surprises. Who knew that carpenter’s tempter tantrum (and the more I consider it, the more I think it was a temper tantrum) would have given me a great zero with the NOBOs, and this incredible flip? I learned to navigate the public transportation system on New England (sort of). I sat in a terrifying bus station for hours with people I never would have encountered in any other way.
Back when I worked at the church, the pastors there first really taught me grace for people in circumstances I couldn’t imagine. Beyond pity or judgement. Sitting in the bus station, I was grateful for those lessons; here I was, smelling worse than anyone else. I am still privileged in many ways– the nutrition and care I had growing up will always be reflected in my bones and face, in my height, and in my skin; I looked different in some ways. But in other ways, I was somehow transient. We were connected by our dependence on the public transportation system (although, again, there is a system of trail angels and shuttles I could have called if I needed to, and I retained privilege).
Endless grace and comfort for the people who wait hours in hot, tiny boxes for a bus. Endless grace for the bus drivers who joke on the radios and turn around for a late passenger and know all the gravel driveways by heart. Endless grace for the DCF caseworkers who are talked about. Endless grace for the police officers canvassing the area for someone; cell phones came out as soon as the cops drove up and everyone started calling people. “I don’t know who they’re looking for! They’re showing everyone some picture.”
There was a little girl with her mother, and her school project, in the bus station. They bought a Pepsi and a Sunkist and they talked about school and she watched me read and they talked about Crazy Sue and Sis with the new stroller asking for a cigarette and then they left when the police came, wanting to get out before the cops came inside the bus station. She pushed her hair out of her eyes like my little sister used to, when she was a little girl who liked to wear dresses with pockets. And Sis came in with her new yellow stroller and her boy, he’s two now, and he put his chubby little arm up over his eyes to keep the sun out of them while she smoked outside with Pop. Jess left earlier because someone was going to come by looking for rent money that she didn’t have, so she and her boyfriend were going to the shelter, she guessed, is what she told Pop when he loaned her a dollar for a soda. When the woman came by asking for Jess, Pop lied and said he hadn’t seen her. Maybe she was up at the bar?
And Sis and the boy and I got on the same bus, along with the man who talked to himself and said the bus station was like the Wild Wild West. The boy ate cheese its and Sis got frustrated, but a man was at a gravel driveway to help her with the stroller.
And the man who talked to himself fell asleep.
And as I’m laying here on my foam sleeping pad in the woods, thinking about all of these lives I heard so much about today, I wonder what they thought about me– that stranger, on the bench, with the backpack. The one who got off the bus and disappeared into the woods. Or did they even spare a thought for me, when they were going about their lives?
Miles: 4.3

Trip total: 130.8

MVP: breakfast sandwich

LVP: right knee

9: a zero in hanover

I woke up and headed out of the woods, back in to town. I had arranged to meet Honeybuns at the art center for breakfast, so we walked over to Lou’s a cafe that has free donuts for hikers. We sat at the counter with our packs and stared at the menu. I ordered all the foods that popped into my head.
I started with my free crueler (aka a twist donut)– maple glazed. Honeybuns informed me that the crazy tubes I’d seen tied around trees along the AT were for maple syrup. I’d figured it was ridiculous property boundaries that made no logical sense.

The donut was top 3, maybe top 2. It was delicious.
Next came my muffin, warm and fluffy with giant fresh blueberries bursting inside of it. I died.
And finally, an omelette and a pancake and home fries. I stuffed my face and we shared trail stores and food stories and laughed while we ate.
Full and sated, we walked over to the DOC and waited while our electronics charged. the Count and Sunny came in, and we exchanged stories about last night. We laughed at the awards along the wall, and sat around lazy. Eventually Honeybuns and I walked down to CVS for me to buy bug spray and itch eraser and snacks.
We waited for my bus…and waited and waited and waited. A consultation with the Hanover Inn valets confirmed there was no weekend bus. Thanks google. Back to the DOC and an official zero for me!

Wok man, Sunny, Count, and Honeybuns were all taking a zero too. We decided to try to watch Dead and Breakfast, a terrible slasher flick they’d seen at trail angel Ljnda’s house. While Honeybuns and I called every trail angel listed to try and find somewhere to stay, the other guys went to brunch and set up an impromptu movie theater in the DOC.
The movie started (when we pressed play), and as the horrible acting went on and on, two important things happened: 1. Honeybuns had a former coworker, a travel nurse, message him and say that she and her husband were in the area and could she grab him (and he invited me) for dinner and a swim in the extended stay hotel pool and 2. One trail angel came through in a place to stay!
Honeybuns and I left for dinner with Nancy and Pete- clam chowder and then brats and macaroni salad when Honeybuns and I proved bottomless pits. There was wine and tequila and the Olympics and a riotous good time.
They dropped us off at St Barnabus Episcopal Church in Norwich, VT. The priest (?) was out, but a parishioner let us in and showed us around. He was tall and kind, with grey hair and the kind of jokes that faithful church goers love to tell. I could see in him so many of my favorite church members.

We’re joined by two SOBOs, the disciple and powderpuff.
I’m sleeping tonight on a couch in the library of a small New England church, with Honeybuns on the floor. It makes me think about my church families, and how they would welcome hikers if they were in hiker towns. There are lots of ways to show hospitality. I bet this church wouldn’t expect that one hiker staying here would be a section hiker with a billion clergy friends.
I needed the zero. My knees feel better. I found an ice pack in the freezer so I’m taking advantage of that. Honeybuns popped a blister for me, a big deep one that was right on the ball of my foot. Hopefully it will finish draining and healing tomorrow while I ride to Bennington. I’d like to hike in to a shelter tomorrow night. We shall see.

I’m going to miss my NOBO friends. I’m a little tempted to continue on north with them, but I want to see Maureen and the beautiful state of Massachusetts. I think y’all will enjoy this one. Just wait for upper goose pond.
Miles: 0

Trip total: 126.5

MVP: muffin? There was so much!

LVP: blister