7/12 Churchill Scott Shelter to Stony Brook Shelter (12.0 miles)
A few miles into our hike today we reached the Maine Junction. At this point the AT turns east towards NH and ME, while the Long Trail continues north thru Vermont until Canada. I suspect the trail will become less busy for awhile since there were a lot of LT thru hikers.
Since today was a short day, Garfield and I decided to do two blue blazes off the AT. While both were reasonably short they added an extra 2 miles of distance and nearly 1000 ft of elevation gain. The first was to Deer Leap Overlook, which was supposed to be 0.3 miles off the trail, but turned out to be about 0.5. It was an OK view, but not worth walking so far off trail. The giant parking lots for the ski hill along with the loud highway definitely detracted from the view.
We also did 0.5 off to the Long Trail Inn. I feel sympathetic towards the owners since it used to be located on the AT and LT, but both have since been rerouted so it is .5 from the AT and 1 mile from the LT. We got on the wifi, charged my phone there and hung out on their lawn for a few hours to pass the time before heading out. The climb from there back to the trail was very steep and I probably wouldn’t do either of them again, but at least it was on a short day.
We walked across a pretty boardwalk in the afternoon. It was a shorter version of the one we saw in NJ.
We got to the shelter and we’re looking around for spots when some other hikers told us about a great spot next to the river (the nearest water source). We went down and decided to stay there for the night. It was another sweet spot where you can hear the running water.
7/13 Stony Brook Shelter to Pomfert Road Campsite (17.7 miles)
Garfield and I got off to an early start today. In the morning I was waking very quickly because the slow pace of the last few days had been getting to me and I just felt I needed to crank out some miles. About halfway through the morning we got to a private cabin that the owners allow hikers to stay at. It had a lookout on the roof that had great views. It was a little too hot up there for me at the peak so I went down and hung out in the shade on the porch. We stayed there for about 30 minutes and allowed our shirts to dry off. It has been very hot over the last few miles.
There were a few more hills before our campsite. They were very representative of the PUDs that we had all day. The brook we stayed next to was a good place to swim so I went in for a rinse. It felt great.
One plus side of going slow is seeing a bunch of people who were behind us. We have seen numerous people that I hadn’t seen since VA or TN, so it was cool to talk to them and hear about the other people that I knew around them.
7/14 Pomfert Road Campsite to West Hartford, VT (8.9 miles)
This morning was pretty boring hiking with lots of PUDs as has been the MO of VT. We came down into town and as we crossed a large river we were waved over to a house with a large AT sign on their barn. We had been told about a family here that feeds hikers and let them stay the night by Sobos so we headed over.
We were greeted by the owner asking if we were hungry, which of course we were and he treated us to a delicious breakfast/lunch. We hung out on the porch talking with him and some fellow thruhikers before heading over to the library and using their wifi and computer.
We came back over around 4. They had just come back from the store with hamburgers and beer, a combo that is hard to beat with thruhikers. By this time there were probably 15 hikers here, many of whom we haven’t seen before. A lot of people were staying here for the night to avoid the rain was supposed to come in the early evening. It proved to be a good choice since it started pouring around 5.
We had a delicious dinner. It is amazing how quickly thruhikers can consume food.
This family is a great example of the community that has developed around the AT. They just have a house along the trail and treat hikers to soda, beer, food, and shelter out of the kindness of their heart. They don’t ask for donations (although they accepted them). I will really miss these types of people and this type of interactions once I finish the trail.
7/16 West Hartford, VT to Hanover, NH (9.9 miles)
Today was another day blessed with incredible people and more trail magic. We started the day with about 8 miles through the woods and I was brought up to speed on a book Garfield has been reading. It is very complex so it has taken several hours over the last few days.
When we hit the road (there was about 2 miles of road waking at the end) we were treated to banana bread and watermelon in a cooler for hikers. It really hit the spot on a hot day. Just after that we arrived in Norwich we took a slight detour to a General Store that gives thruhikers free day old sandwiches. When we got there they didn’t have any, but gave us some breakfast sandwiches for free. It was an awesome way to be welcomed into town.
After that we headed another mile across the Connecticut River into Hanover, NH. Another state down and only 2 left.
We then hung out in Hanover for the afternoon. We grabbed lunch at a Nepalese restaurant. Garfield is a big fan of trying food for other countries, and they also ended up having great food. After lunch we headed to a local restaurant that gives thruhikers free donuts. It was the perfect dessert and another great piece of trail magic.
The best trail magic of the day came from Greg Cook. He is one of several trail angels in Hanover/Norwich who provide hikers with either lodging or transport. He picked us in Hanover and drove us to his house. He welcomed us into his beautiful home. He even let us shower, do laundry, and gave us a ride to the grocery store. It was an awesome relaxing afternoon and evening.
We are the 33rd and 34th hikers he had hosted this year. He has hosted over 400 since he started doing this several years ago. He takes a picture of each hiker and writes a blurb about them, which his sons compile into a “yearbook” at the end of every year. It was very cool to read through his old ones as we waited for our laundry.
Hanover/Norwich is probably the best trail town we have been to yet. With all of the well organized trail angels who will host you, to the business that provide free food, it has been a wonderful place to stay. It will be fun spending a semi zero here tomorrow (a friend is coming up and we are going on a day hike of a nearby mountain that isn’t on the AT).
Garfield and I ate and entire 5 pound 10 ounce lasagna (3500 calories) in about 20 minutes. Garfield definitely ate more than me, but we throughly impressed our host.
7/16 Zero in Hanover
Garfield and I both woke up very full from our large late night meal. Thankfully we had some time before my friend and his wife (Lee and Melissa) came for breakfast, which I spent going through more of Greg’s books. While we were waiting I exchanged some texts with my coworker/mentor/boss (Kathleen), and we arranged for her to meet up with all of us in the afternoon.
We went and all had breakfast, and then dropped up Garfield in Hanover and I went to do a day hike with Lee and Melissa that had been recommended by Greg. Another local described it as “the best ratio of hike to view”. We were not disappointed. The views from the top were spectacular, far better than we usually get on the AT for comparable hike.
After the hike the three of us went out to lunch, after which we we went to the Dartmouth College campus and hung out on a big field with Kathleen, her kids, Garfield, Lee, and Melissa. It was a ton of fun to hang out and catch up with all of them. I feel very lucky to have friends who would drive so far to see me for the day, it was really nice of them!
They headed out around 5:30 and Garfield had arranged for us to stay with another trail angle back in Norwich (2 miles away), where Stitch had stopped in to shower. We waited about 20 minutes for her to reach town and our little family was Stitched back together!
We went out to dinner and it was great to catch up with her and hear all about her adventures! I really missed have her around.
After dinner we still had to walk back to the trail angel’s house. We were resigned to walk ing the whole way back, but I figured I would try to hitch a ride anyway. To our luck, about 0.25 miles in a man pulled over and gave us a ride all the way there. It was a great way to end the day.
These trail angels had hosting hikers down to a science, including signs with instructions. They were incredibly nice and generous to us (and the 5 other hikers staying with us).
They told us the story about why they started hosting hikers (and are responsible for organizing all the trail angels in this area). A family in TN took in their son and let him stay with them for a week while he recovered from down foot problems. All they asked for in return was for them to pay the kindness forward. They do that by hosting hikers and asking them to do pay it forward as well. It is a great example of what the community around the AT is all about.
Gear update: One of my pole tips finally broke about a week ago. Since most other people had already broken one, I was hoping to make it the whole way without replacing them, but I wasn’t able to. Lee was nice enough to bring me a new pair.