Stealthing near Ascutney Mountain [mile 1484.9; SOBO 466.5]
Holy crap. Have I really come nearly 500 miles southbound? That kind of blows my mind. It’s all so day-to-day out here. Just taking care of business, one day at a time.
I saw six salamanders today! Six! I was afraid to walk after a while for fear of inadvertently crushing one. They’re so cute and miniature and orange; and they plod along just like tiny tiny dinosaurs. With little fingers.
I’m not happy with where I’m stealthed. It’s not at all stealthy; rather, it’s one of those spots that had a fire ring here already—a previously used site. Well used, I’d say. But tonight was really a safety issue. I was soaking wet and the wind picked up and I was freezing. The trail between here and the next shelter is a big climb, which means 1 mph for me, and I couldn’t manage it before dark. I didn’t like that collection of circumstances, so when I saw the spot I grabbed it. I hope no ridgerunner comes along and tells me to move!
But look! I’m all ahead of myself again!
It stormed again last night, torrentially. I didn’t stay quite as dry as the night before, but overall the tent’s doing well. But waking up was a chore. It’s one thing to listen to the driving rain when you’re going to sleep; it’s another thing when it’s 5:00 in the morning, you’re warm and dry, it’s pitch dark outside, and you know you have to pack up a lot of soaked gear then haul it in that downpour for eight hours. I kept waiting for the rain to stop.
It didn’t, not really; but it did die down to a slow simmer. I finally hit the trail at 7:45 AM. I made it maybe an hour before the simmer went back to a full wrathful boil, and I stopped to put on my raingear. Raingear’s next to useless out here, but at least it gave me the illusion of staying dry. Nothing wrong with a little illusion.
Vermont’s rolling hills continued today: up and down, up and down, like waves of forest and field. Sometimes the ups are quite steep… but there are switchbacks! Halleluia, switchbacks! I could kiss you, you zig-zaggy little things, you! I’ve gotten so used to the linear method of climbing that I’d forgotten how wonderful switchbacks are. And I laugh now to think about how much I complained about them down south. You should have slapped me.
So around 9:00 I came to a road crossing. The guide said there was a market 2/10 of a mile west. A passing NOBO (yes, NOBO; saw… two of them today? No, four) said the place didn’t open until 10:00, but I went up the hill anyway, on the off chance that they might have a soda machine or something.
They didn’t. And it turned out that ‘market’ was kind of a misnomer. It was really a farm with an artisanal restaurant that’s only open a few days a week, serving food made with ingredients from the farm. The only things they have for sale are some meats from the farm, and a few Vermont-made artesanal foods like some specialty cheeses. Quite ritzy, and pretty useless for a hiker, unless the restaurant happens to be open.
How do I know all this? Well, the guy who runs the farm showed up and let me in and gave me the skinny. He’s a bit of a trail angel; he told me about somebody he met… Freebird, a guy? He’s on TJ. Freebird’s apparently on the AT now, his second or third thru. He’s also done the PCT a couple of times and the CDT, so a triple crowner. But he’s done the Te Aurora (forgive the mangled spelling) in New Zealand! I lust after that trail, let me tell you. I’d need to win the lottery to walk it, but there you go. 🙂
I was leaving when a van pulled up. “Want a ride back to the trail?” asked the driver. He looked vaguely familiar. I said it was only two tenths of a mile, and he said he was going that way anyway, so what the heck. It was pouring. I jumped in, even though it felt decadent.
He recognized me; as soon as he said, “We’ve met before,” I realized where I’d seen him: at the last shelter in Maine. He was flipflopping then, heading back to Pennsylvania, only he got injured and here he was in Vermont slackpacking the guy in his passenger seat. The driver’s trailname was Glacier. I’d love to know the geography of his hike; he must have an interesting story.
The passenger asked me my trailname, and when I said Karma, he laughed and smacked his forehead. “I kept seeing you in the registers, and it made me stop saying one of my favorite things: ‘Karma’s a bitch’. I thought, I don’t even know Karma, I better stop saying that!” It was pretty funny. Barter, his name was. NOBO.
After that, well… the day kind of went into the privy. There are no easy days on the trail, but some are harder than others. Today was just a beast. Water-heavy pack, soaked to the skin, climbing and climbing… I rolled my ankle once badly, just on the verge of a real injury. But oddly, I wrenched my hand with the pole while I was course-correcting. I’d much raher have sore fingers than a sore ankle! But little stuff like that, all day long.
But now I’m warm in my tent while the wind howls. No more rain, I hope! I’ll get an early start tomorrow.
Tomorrow night: Have to map out this Rutland expedition, which goes down the day after tomorrow, I suppose. I hope that bus runs on Sundays!