I was not expecting to hear that!
And "Darwin" was not expecting to see me. He thought I would be ahead of him
on the Trail.
He was one of about twenty hikers who enjoyed Jim's trail magic at Gifford
State Park on Wednesday, and he assumed I was on up the Trail by now. He didn't
know I took yesterday off.
Darwin was off the Trail yesterday, too, so we were both starting about the
same place today.
I caught up to Darwin after we'd climbed about 1,400 feet up Quimby Mountain
this morning. We hadn't met previously. Darwin was off the Trail for several
weeks after he reached Catawba, VA for an illness, one or more injuries, and a
household move. I believe it was then that he did a Google search for AT hikers
and found our website. Darwin's also a Virginia resident; he lives in
When he returned to the Trail he decided to start again farther north so he
could get to Katahdin before it closes (early to mid-October). Then he'll return
to do the mid-Atlantic states and the rest of Virginia. He said, "I hope to be
in the 2005 group of finishers."
So instead of doing a flip-flop, Darwin's doing a triple flip! I hope he
makes it. An introspective man, he seems to be enjoying the Trail and learning a
lot about himself in the process. His trail name derived from a comment he made
about the flora and fauna he inspected while getting water at a spring near a
shelter ("it seemed Darwin-esque").
WHAT'S FOR BREAKFAST?
I messed up our schedule by taking Monday off to rest. Poor Jim had to take
me all the way back to Gifford State Park this morning so I could resume my run
there (about a 45-minute drive). We went into the park so I could use the
bathroom in the campground area. We noticed another camper in the spot we
vacated yesterday morning, site #27. Jim parked nearby where the Trail cuts over
to VT 100 and Kent Pond.
And who should be walking past us at 7 AM on the way to site #27 but Santa
and Bigfoot. I introduced them to Jim, and Santa spotted Cody and Tater in the
back seat. He remembered seeing Cody the first couple times we saw each other
on the Trail - that was a long time ago!
Seems the new folks in site #27 are also doing trail magic - they invited
Santa, Bigfoot, and two other hikers we saw to come over for breakfast. What a
great idea. I don't know who they are, if they know someone on the Trail, if
they saw Jim's trail magic and sign the other day, or what. After Jim left I
should have walked over to say hi and talk to the hikers more, but I decided to
get moving on over to Kent Pond.
The pond was really pretty that early, with ducks and geese swimming around
and mist rising from the surface into the cold morning air. It has been in the
30s and 40s in this area (depending on how high up we are) the last two
mornings, quite a change from the warmer temperatures to which we've been
subjected all summer. I hope the hikers have their warm gear by now. This was
the first morning since May, probably, that I've started out with a lightweight
jacket on for a couple miles.
I love it! It's so much more pleasant to run and hike when it's cooler. Maybe
I can start carrying less water now.
This is my last full day on the Trail in Vermont. Tomorrow I'll cross over
into New Hampshire! Do you know what that means?
Only two more states to go!!!
I still get excited to be out on the Trail every day but I'm ready to be
done. Like many of the backpackers, I've got ambivalent feelings about
finishing this monumental task. It's tiring to climb up and down mountains every
day for months on end, and part of me wants to rest and get back to "normal
life." The other part of me loves the solitude and beauty of the Trail, and
wants nothing to do with "normal life."
When I'm on the Trail, that seems normal.
I really enjoyed this 24-mile section. The AT guide book says it is "seldom
used except by thru-hikers, so it provides greater opportunity for solitude."
describes the terrain as "rugged, with steep ascents and descents."
The book got it right, but I have to say that this section had more runnable
miles than any section I've been on since the Cumberland Valley in Pennsylvania!
From the above description, I wouldn't have guessed how much smooth trail I'd
find today. Boy, was I happy! Yes, most of the climbs were too steep for me to
run but I ran a lot of the ridges and almost all the descents. None were as
gnarly as the guide suggests.
I found a great spot for Jim to run tomorrow after he drops me off - south
from VT 12, as far as he wants to go. He's about given up on finding runnable
trail on the AT so I hope he enjoys this part.
The elevation profile didn't look too bad for today, but the numerous ascents
and descents wore on me by the time I got to the last three hills. The
second-toughest climb was at mile 21, going up Dana Hill about 800 feet from VT
12. It was moderately steep, had several false summits, and seemed interminable.
I'm sure that had something to do with it coming in mid-afternoon, when I was
already getting tired.
Today's elevation gain was about 5,600 feet up ten or eleven mountains and
hills; the loss was about 5,800 feet. The highest elevation was only about 2,600
feet - but I kept going up and down all day, with no miles that could be
You don't have to have 5,000- or 10,000-foot mountains to have a considerable
amount of elevation change! I'm not complaining. I need all the training
possible before I hit the Whites in a few days. I'm getting really nervous about
And that's my excuse for having such a slow time today (25 minutes per mile,
with all stops included). I swear there must have been some "Horton miles" in
there! I mean, I was running for probably eight or nine miles today. Both feet
were in the air at the same time, however briefly. That's running,
What killed my time was the slow climbing and the intermittent areas of rocks
and roots. I did better after my massage and spinal adjustment, but the fact
remains that I am SLOW. <sigh>
I'm happy to be catching up to the "bubble" of thru-hikers again and hope to
see more of them tomorrow. I'm delighted to still find a few blackberries and red
raspberries along the Trail (in fields and under power lines). I love all the
pretty rocks Vermont has, including the shiny silver ones I saw today. I missed
not being higher up in the sub-alpine zone today, but loved all the birch trees
Here are a couple photos of interesting birch bark (I take a lot of photos of
plants, mushrooms, and fungus, but don't often put them in the journal):
Time for bed. Come back tomorrow to see how I fared hiking/running through
Dartmouth College . . .