Remember "Santa?" He was one of the first NOBO thru-hikers I met in the
spring. I saw him at least three times, and posted a photo of him with two younger
hikers at a shelter in this journal (Day
13). I haven't seen
him since the end of May.
Santa (AKA Jim from Pennsylvania) was one of many hikers who got ahead of me
in July when I was off the Trail so many days. Since I last saw him he
partnered up with another retired fella, "Bigfoot," and I've been seeing their
comments in the trail registers for several weeks. It was fun to finally catch
up to him today!
(This is a different "Bigfoot" than I mentioned back in May in this journal;
he was a younger section-hiker whose feet keep getting bigger the more he hiked.
I can relate to that! My running shoe size has increased from a women's 9 to a
men's 10.5 - much larger - since I started running almost 26 years ago.)
Santa was at the last shelter I passed, right along the Trail. Two shelters were
practically sitting on the Trail today, making it very easy to sign the
registers without doing bonus mileage. Since I've been finding registers on
trees in recent states I seldom go off-trail to shelters any more.
Santa knew I was coming behind him; two other hikers I'd walked with today
had been with him at the shelter last night. They beat me to the Story Spring
shelter and told Santa I'd be there shortly. I got a hearty welcome hug from the
now-skinny Santa. Not that he was overweight before; he's just really toned now
and looks great, not gaunt like some of the younger hikers who need more
And he's lovin' the Trail. Like many other thru-hikers he's got his routine
down pat and is putting in 17-18 miles a day now. He's happy to see his family
every few weeks and calls his wife almost daily (I remember him telling me the
first time I met him that she worries about him and wants a daily call). Santa
and his bride recently celebrated their 30th anniversary along the Trail.
Santa was thrilled yesterday afternoon when his two young grandsons, age four
and six, hiked about two miles up from VT 9 to see him at the Nauheim shelter.
The kids are totally fascinated with all of Grand-dad's trail stories. What a great
role model he is for his family!
CONQUERING THE FEAR
You know, today I almost didn't even get on the Trail. It took more courage
for me to get out of bed and ready to run/hike today than any previous day of
this adventure run.
I was facing a 22-mile roadless stretch of Vermont wilderness with no bail-out
options in case of an emergency.
I knew what yesterday's section was like, with all the rocks, roots,
boulder climbs, tough descents, and bogs with dilapidated puncheon. Horton's
account of today's section indicated it was "trashy," a term he used to indicate
slow, difficult running. The section also includes a lot of elevation gain and
loss (about 5,000 feet of climb and 4,300 feet of loss).
What really worried me, though, was the torrential downpour we got this
morning between 1 and 2 AM. The thunder and loud, hard rain on the camper roof woke me
up despite the ear plugs I always wear. I could even see the lightning through
my closed eyelids! Two inches of rain fell, according to the news.
In my sleepy state, when obstacles seem bigger than they really are, I
conjured up all kinds of worst-case scenarios about the dangers of wet rocks,
possible vertical rock climbs or descents, slick roots and mud, swollen creeks
where I couldn't see the bottom, more broken and badly-canted bog bridges I
would surely slide off.
I remembered tales of flooded creeks that I've read about in hikers' trail
journals and the difficulty Andrew Thompson had in the aftermath of one of last
year's hurricanes - he stopped in his second attempt at the Trail record because
of impassible creeks in Vermont.
I was awful-izing big time in my sleepy state!
When the alarm went off at 5:30, those thoughts were still in my mind. And it was
I got up and re-read the information about the section, didn't see anything
more alarming than possible problems because of beaver dams, and decided, "You
weenie, just do it." I carried a second trekking pole for stability and
took extra supplies in case the day turned into night on the Trail - Marmot rain
jacket, flashlight, extra gel and water - in addition to the emergency supplies
I carry daily.
I hope it was my sense of adventure and desire to keep moving that propelled
me out the door and not the non-refundable deposit on the next campsite that
we'd reserved for tonight!
I'm glad I battled my demons and they didn't win. Today turned out to be one
of my best days on the Trail.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH
It had stopped raining but was very foggy when I started up the long incline
to Maple Hill (about 2,200 feet), Porcupine Ridge, and Glastenbury Mountain
(3,748 feet, today's high point). I stopped to write some notes part way up, and
a large tree limb cracked and fell about thirty feet behind me! One more thing
to worry about, as the day was fairly windy.
The morning fog reminded me of my first day on the Trail. You can tell from
the Springer Mountain photo on each journal page that it was foggy there. Gosh,
that seems so very looong ago! (Jim agrees.) I'm still excited to be out here,
but I think I'll be relieved when I'm done. I'm three-fourths there now.
I knew I was on Glastenbury Mountain when the trees changed around 3,200 feet
from deciduous to spruce and balsam. Ahh, that lovely pine fragrance again! There was a
tower on top that I climbed to get a 360-degree view, but even though the sun
was out then, fog completely covered everything below me. Hence, no photo.
The first eighteen miles of this section from VT 9 to the Story Brook shelter
were absolutely gorgeous, even without views. Forests don't come any prettier
than these, rivaling any I've seen out West. Much of it was above 3,000 feet.
Although it was too rocky and rooty for me to run much, those who are less
rock-challenged would love it. And it makes for a great hike if you're not in a
There were two pretty ponds in this section and several large creeks with
real bridges over them (City Stream, Hell Hollow Brook, South Alder Brook, Black
Brook, and Deerfield River), as well as several tiny creeks that were easy to
cross. There were muddy spots, especially in the last four miles, but only a
couple bogs with puncheon. Although I saw moose tracks and poop, I didn't see
any more moose.
I'm glad I had the nerve to get out there on the Trail today. I enjoy foggy
trails; it's kind of dream-like then. I did slip and fall on a slick rock and
had many near-misses, but hopefully no great harm was done. It was a fun day.
Besides a beautiful course, the other great part of the day was seeing more
thru-hikers than on any one previous day on the AT. What a bonanza. I also met
several Long Trail hikers.
SOBO AT thru-hikers included "Strider," "Superfeet," "Yeti," "Dub," "Sock,"
"Charlie Tuna," and "Ragman." Ragman is doing a flip-flop; he hiked north from
Georgia to Virginia, and now is hiking Maine to Virginia. I remember seeing him
Superfeet has seen about twelve moose in NH and ME, but none all the way
through VT. I feel privileged to have seen one yesterday. None of the NOBO
thru-hikers I talked to today have seen any yet.
Sock is a teacher from Indiana; he's on leave the coming school year. His
friend, Charlie Tuna, lives in Asheville and does mountain bike races. They plan
to hike the whole way together.
Charlie asked about my Hammergel flask, always a good opportunity for me to
speak up about my sponsor! He's gotten Hammergel in race packets before and
likes it, but hasn't ordered any or tried any of Hammer Nurtition's other
products. I told him how I'm using Perpetuem and Sustained Energy on my run,
gave both men my card, and encouraged them to try the products. (Don't forget,
you can get a 15% discount on your first order using the link to the left of
each journal page.)
When I talk with SOBOs, we exchange trail information like good spots to get
water, trail conditions each direction, and where trail magic can be found -
important stuff, you know!
Two NOBO Long Trail hikers I talked with briefly are Bob and Sandra, a
retired couple "practicing" on the LT to decide if they want to do an AT
thru-hike someday. When I came up on them from behind I thought they might be
"Buffet" and "Goat," another retired couple ahead of me on the AT that I met
several weeks ago. Hopefully I'll see them again soon.
NOBO thru-hikers included the afore-mentioned "Santa" and "Bigfoot," "Mother"
(young fella whose trail name comes from the movie "Sneaker"), "Magic Touch,"
"Vogue," "Aslan," and "Godspeed." Jim met Vogue
back in Harper's Ferry on the C&O Canal Path, but I don't think I've seen her
Mother, Magic, Vogue, Aslan, and Godspeed were sitting next to an inviting
campfire beside the torn-down Goddard shelter. The Green Mountain Club is
apparently going to start rebuilding this shelter next week.
I had the opportunity to hike with Aslan and his father, Godspeed (pictured
above) and talked with them several other times when they stopped to rest or
take photos. They have a great story!
They began their thru-hike in Georgia in 2002 but had to stop in Virginia
when they discovered Aslan, then only eighteen, had a brain tumor. He wasn't
expected to live but he has recovered and is back out on the Trail with his
dad. They began in Virginia (we remembered seeing each other on Dragon's Tooth,
near my home town of Roanoke) and they will finish in a few weeks at Katahdin.
Speaking of sponsors, three other hikers today were wearing Montrail Hardrock
shoes like me - Aslan, Santa, and one of the Long Trail hikers. They are
becoming very popular with backpackers who don't like hiking boots. Santa said
he put 800 miles on one pair of Hardrocks.
Jim had a good day. He slept some more after taking me to the trail head,
went to the library in Bennington, and
saw many of the fifty-plus Moose Fest moose displayed around town
(see Day 108). He moved the camper from
that great boon-docking site off Vermont 9 and found another great one
for tomorrow night on up the road. He also checked out the area around
Arlington, where we are camped tonight, and found another pretty covered bridge.
There are loads of those in Vermont.
Tonight we got to enjoy about 30 minutes of patriotic songs played by a local
fife and drum corps who are practicing for a large parade tomorrow in
Bennington. We are camped around a large grassy area where the band played. I
could hear them while I typed this entry and Jim sat outside and enjoyed the cool Vermont
evening with our camper neighbors.
Perfect end to a near-perfect day! Sure glad I didn't stay in bed this
morning . . .