Day 191- Wednesday, 9/19- Hexacuba Shelter, NH- (14.6 miles) (1863.5 total) I learned today that just because I’m done with southern Maine and the Whites, doesn’t mean that the trail now becomes a Sunday walk in the park with your grandmother. The AT is still the AT. I got a really nice 10 mile section of very smooth trail to start the day. Ups and downs, but smooth dirt trail for the first time in ages, very easy to hike on and could make great time. At the end of the day tho, I had to climb up and over Mt. Cube. I figured it would be a good climb, but with the same easy trail. Nope. More rocks and roots and slow areas. Still gotta grind through some hard stuff from time to time, although it’s definitely easier than what we’ve been through before. Lots of people tell me that it gets progressively easier as I go south and that Vermont is lots of rolling hills, so looking forward to that. Tonight’s Shelter is a unique one. Instead of the usual 3 sided box shape, they built this one in a hexagon shape. Hence the name, Hexacuba Shelter. Roomier than the usual ones. And I have the whole place to myself tonight. Seems like now that I’m done with the Whites where there were so many day hikers, and this late in the hiking season when most of the NOBOs are past here, it’s gonna be very quiet. Just the few SOBOs and last straggler NOBOs right now. Kind of a weird feeling. Nice in a way not to have the crowds and bubbles of hikers out here. Peaceful that way, like it’s all your own. But when it’s just me alone in the shelter like this, it does feel a bit lonely. Would be nice to have just 1 or 2 other hikers here to chat with over dinner. I’m sure that will be the case moving forward, but it is getting quiet out here now. Day 192- Thursday, 9/20- Trapper John Shelter- (12.0 miles) (1875.5 total) Yesterday as I was hiking along, I passed this guy going in the opposite direction. We stopped and chatted for a bit and as I was walking on, he tells me to watch out for this nest of yellow jacket bees coming up. He said it was right after a view point and that some people had been stung pretty badly. So I paid attention after every view point for the rest of the day, but saw nothing and got to the shelter without incident. I figured I’d passed it without noticing. Well this morning I realized I hadn’t. Hiking along again and suddenly I notice a loud buzzing sound. I start moving faster, but it was too late. I started feeling them stinging me on the back of my lower legs, through my pants. I brushed a couple off that were crawling on me and then ran until I got away from them. One looked like it was trying to burrow under my sock. I think I got stung 3-5 times. 1-2 on each leg, and one on the back of my shoulder, through my shirt. Wasn’t too bad luckily, but just kind of freaked me out. The stings haven’t reacted much, just a slight burning but no swelling or itching, thankfully. Quite a way to start my day. Later I was walking along and I see something walking up the trail ahead of me. It was fairly big and I couldn’t figure out what it was at first. After a bit I realized it was a porcupine. My first time ever to see one. They are a lot bigger than I imagined! At least this one was. It didn’t hear me coming, so after taking a couple photos, I talked to it to let it know I was there. It turned and saw me and then took off running. The problem was, it kept running down the trail, not turning off. It would stop every so often and put up all its quills, then keep running. I followed it for a good ways before the trail turned and it ran off into the bushes. It stopped to watch me walk by and then waddled off. Cool to see one finally. The fear-mongering exaggeration of the day was about a big bog up the mountain that was super deep with mud. I’ve been hearing about it for a few days. There are planks built across it, but they sink when you walk on them, several people sank in above their knees. Taco showed me a picture of her in the bog up to her mid thigh, so I knew it was true. People said there is no way around it and that some people had broken their legs in there. So I was keeping my eyes open for it, wondering how I would fare. I did see one bog coming up the mountain that might have been it, but there was a super easy pathway around the side that I took with no problem at all. Totally dry. And then I was suddenly at the top. I thought it might have been down the other side of the mountain, but when I descended, nothing. The usual. A big to-do about nothing. Soon after getting over the peak, I ran into a guy and we chatted for a while. He asked my trail name and I told him “Imua.” He said that it sounded Hawaiian and I told him it was. Turns out he lives in Waikoloa Village on the Big Island, and used to run a fishing supply store near Honokahau Harbor in Kona. Small little world. One more long hiking day to get into Hanover tomorrow. Excited to get there and see a couple of old friends! Day 193- Friday, 9/21- East Thetford, VT- (16.1 miles) (1891.6 total) Woke up to strong winds up high this morning. Was calm in the campsite tho. 2nd straight night alone in the campsite, which is a first out here. It’s definitely getting much quieter out here. Will be newsworthy now when there is actually another hiker in camp from now on I think. I summited the first peak in the blowing wind, fog, and damp drizzle. Pretty miserable weather. Hiked up the second peak in the same weather and met another solo hiker at a shelter who had stayed there alone overnight, a woman named Butter Bear. Another solo woman passed through while we were sitting there having a break. Her name is Dorothy and technically she is not hiking alone. She is with her dog Toto. I have been seeing her on trail and at the last hostel. So there are a couple people around at least. Once I dropped off the 3rd peak, the weather cleared up a lot and the terrain got much easier. Was able to make some good time into Hanover. Coming in to Hanover, the trail suddenly comes out of the forest and drops you right on the edge of the Dartmouth College athletic complex. It was such a sudden and surprising transition. I had seen several athletes jogging up the AT, so I figured I was getting close, but was still surprised. I walked over to the local grocery store and waited for my buddy Adam to come pick me up. Adam was a close friend at the East-West Center back at University of Hawaii. We overlapped there for a year back in 2004, and I haven’t seen him since. 14 years. I had messaged him back in December about this hike, but he never checks Facebook so he never saw it. He just randomly happened to check his Messenger for the first time ever just 4 days or so before I arrived. Something tickled his spidey-sense. Makes you wonder what is going on out there that we don’t see. Some things are just too strange to be pure coincidence. Anyway, I got to meet his wife and kids tonight and catch up. Will take 2 zeros here to spend time with them. Day 194- Saturday, 9/22- East Thetford, VT- (0) (1891.6 total) Officially the first day of fall today. This means this journey has officially spanned all 4 seasons now. Had about 9 days of winter when I started, all of spring, all of summer, and now starting fall. Crazy. Had to spend the morning waiting on an overnight package from my mom to arrive. She sent me my new debit card. I’m pretty sure First Hawaiian Bank was the last bank on the planet to finally issue cards with the chip. Other banks have had them for years! Slow bastards. The mail man finally came just before noon, just in time. Today’s big plan was to meet my old high school classmate Pilar in town. Graduated with here back in 1992 and haven’t seen her since. 26 years. We have talked a few times over the years, so it seemed like we had seen each other since then, but we hadn’t. Was awesome to catch up and reconnect. Pilar has always been one of those people I can really talk to on that deep personal level, so our conversations are always really recharging for me. Nice of her to drive down here to meet up. After a great lunch, she headed off and Adam came and picked me up. Got my resupply done with Adam. Bought my last supply of Permethrin to spray my clothes down one more time for ticks. This area is supposed to be pretty rife with ticks, so one last dousing to hopefully ward them off. Went to dinner with the whole family at a local restaurant, and then I treated everyone to ice cream afterwards. Great time getting to know Adam’s family. I quoted a funny line from the old TV show “The Wonder Years” where Wayne is calling Kevin a butthead, and Adam’s 6 year old son just died laughing. And of course now that’s the big inside joke of the visit. Everyone is a butthead. I’m sure Adam and his wife will be getting a call from the teacher on Monday, complaining about their son calling someone at school a butthead. Lol! Day 195- Sunday, 9/23- East Thetford, VT- (0) (1891.6 total) Nice chill day with Adam and his family after getting most of the chores done yesterday. The last thing I had to get done was spraying down all my clothes and pack with Permethrin this morning for the ticks. That should be the last time I have to do that for the remainder of the trip. Feels safer now as I am hiking through this supposedly heavy tick zone. Otherwise we just hung out at the house in the morning and then I joined them for an after church potluck at someone’s house. We didn’t go to the church service, but they told me they sometimes attend quite a liberal and inclusive Christian church. Adam is Buddhist and the couple of churches that I saw as we were driving around town had rainbow signs out front, as they are gay friendly. Quite different and surprising to see. Interesting how different things are in the different parts of the country that I have walked through. One of the interesting things from the visit was talking with Adam’s wife Kim. Kim works as a therapist and you only have to spend a couple of hours around her to understand that it is her total passion. It’s not something that she does for a living and leaves at work. She is truly passionate about understanding how people around her tick. She asked me some questions about myself and I was happy to share and talk. I also enjoy understand myself and others better, and we had a couple of interesting talks. She shared a couple of new therapy techniques with me that she has learned involving musical frequency and brain physiology. Really fascinating stuff. Nice to see someone so passionate about their work. Her patients are lucky. Wish I lived in the area. Spent the evening barbecuing in the yard and hanging out with the family, watching the kids play. Great ending to a very relaxing and rejuvenating weekend. Back to reality tomorrow. Day 196- Monday, 9/24- Thistle Hill Shelter, VT- (15.3 miles) (1907.1 total) Adam drove me back in to Hanover this morning and he and I had breakfast at a local diner. Good chance for the 2 of us to catch up a little more as I fueled up for the coming day. Broccoli and swiss omelette, home fries, and a Belgium waffle later I was ready to get back to it. There was a surprising amount of street and town walking today. A lot in Hanover to get through and out of town, and then more later on the trail as we passed through West Hartford, VT. That does help the miles go faster, but somehow it feels so much harder on my feet walking on pavement. Don’t think my boots were designed for that kind of walking. The first 3 miles of the day were all through town. Crossed a bridge at one point that was the boarder between New Hampshire and Vermont, so I am officially in a new state now, #11 of 14. And later in the day I crossed the 1900 mile mark. Couple of big milestones today. The hiking is amazingly pleasant in Vermont so far. Nice smooth dirt trails after all the stuff in the Whites. This is so appreciated. I do think my body is adjusting to the new terrain tho. 10 miles of slow hard stuff is quite different on the body to 15 miles of faster moving. I’ve been sore recently. The trail is still super quiet these days. I think I only passed 2 groups of hikers all day. Got to camp and of course no one was here, but while I was filtering my water by the spring, a lady did show up. Ended up sitting and having dinner with her. So nice to have some human interaction after a long day of hiking alone. That used to be easy when there were so many hikers out here, but a rare treat now. Her name is Rachel from Texas. She’s a dental hygienist back home and has a husband and 2 kids, a junior and a senior in high school. This has long been a bucket list item for her and everyone was supportive. Her boss even gave her time off and bought some of her gear for her. Pretty cool. While I was eating my dinner, she had finished up and was making some tea. Just as she was done, her stove ran out of fuel, meaning that tomorrow she couldn’t have tea or cook her meals. She was kind of bummed since the weather has been getting cold, and she started making plans to hike 27 miles tomorrow to the next town to get more fuel. After she left to go back to her tent, I was cleaning up my stuff and suddenly saw a canister of fuel someone had left on a shelf in the shelter. I checked it and it was over half full! Not sure why or how it got left here, but it was perfect for her. I took it up to her tent and she was really stoked. Now she can hike a more reasonable amount of miles tomorrow and be able to eat and drink hot food. Well time to get to bed and warm up. It’s definitely been cold the last few days, and the weather report is calling for rain all day tomorrow. Fun times. Day 197- Tuesday, 9/25- Chateauguay Rd., VT- (17.3 miles) (1924.4 total) Rain, rain, rain today. Pretty miserable. Luckily it wasn’t raining yet when I woke up and packed up all my stuff, but about an hour and 45 minutes into the hike I started to feel the first raindrops. Just like the website predicted. The sky wasn’t looking very menacing before the rain came, so I was wishful thinking that it might have missed us. But the radar I looked at last night showed a pretty huge mass of rain, so I wasn’t holding my breath. The Vermont terrain continues to be quite nice, with smooth dirt trail despite the ups and downs. But doing it all day in the rain and cold was tough. That was the hardest part. The cold. I was wearing my rain jacket all day, fully zipped up, which usually keeps me overly warm when I’m hiking and I need to remove it. Also it makes me wet from the sweat, so is not worth wearing in the rain. But today I needed it just to keep me warm enough to hike. It leaked through some after a while and combined with my sweat I was just soaked and a bit cold all day. As long as I kept moving I was ok, but any time I stopped for a break I got chilly again. Kind of a no-win situation, because I didn’t want to take out any of my warmer layers and get them wet in the rain, as these are what I change into when I get to camp. Having those warm dry clothes waiting for me is important. When I stopped for my lunch break today, I huddled under a little bulletin board thing that they put at the trail entrances by parking areas. They have information about hiking the trail, and sometimes have a little A-frame roof over the top of them. That was just barely enough for me to stay dry under and eat my lunch. When it is gloomy, wet, and cold like today, it certainly affects mood. I’m way too close to quit, but on days like today my mind does flirt with the idea a little bit. Especially now that I have been hiking so long. I can feel myself mentally wearing out as I get closer and weather like today’s does not help. But then I just talk to myself and remind myself that there is a good reason that 75-80% of people don’t finish this thing. For many of them it’s because of days like this where it would be so easy to throw in the towel. To earn that thru-hiker status, these are the ones you have to fight through. And so I trudged on. Was still raining when I got to camp, which makes it tough to set up the tent and keep the inside dry. Since it is an ultralight tent, the tent itself is mostly mesh. So if it’s raining when I’m trying to set it up, the rain pours straight in before I have a chance to get the rain fly on. I have a small camp towel to wipe the water out of the tent, but everything is still very damp. I’m just hanging all my wet hiking clothes on a tree outside, since they won’t dry in my tent in this weather, and would just bring more dampness inside. After I took off all my wet stuff, I put my wet rain jacket back on without a shirt, just to keep things dry, and ran down to the nearby stream in the rain to fill up water. Cooked my dinner inside the vestibule of my tent to keep out of the weather. It’s still coming down right now, but last I checked is supposed to stop by 10 or 11pm. Tomorrow may have thunder showers at some point, but hopefully not this all day rain. Well, time to brave this rain one final time to pee before bed, then climb into my warm sleeping bag and be warm and dry all night! Day 198- Wednesday, 9/26- Placid Lake, NY- (14.6 miles) (1939.0 total) Fortunately the rain stopped overnight and it was clear when I woke up this morning. It also warmed up quite a bit and so the day was easier to face, especially after 9.5 hours of sleep. Of course everything was still totally soaked when I packed up, including my hiking clothes, but with the warmer weather they were bearable to put back on. I ran into Rachel again around lunch time today. She had stayed in this cabin to get out of the elements last night and was incredulous that I didn’t stay there too. But I knew that I was getting off the trail and meeting a friend today, so I wanted to do a couple extra miles and make tomorrow a bit shorter. She will be getting off trail this weekend to see her husband, so hopefully I will be back in step with her soon. She’s a nice lady and a rare fellow hiker these days. When I got to the roadway, my old friend from grad school at UH, Meredith, picked me up. I hadn’t seen Meredith in 7 years, but she has been following my hike closely through this blog, has donated to my cause, and suggested a while back that we get together when I was in the area. Originally, I had planned to stay 2 days with her, as she wanted me to visit her school and share my hike and fundraiser with her middle school students. But thinking about it on the trail, I started to change my mind. Maybe just one day would be better. Get back on the trail sooner and get this hike done sooner. That is always a big fight in my own mind when meeting friends or getting off the trail for different stuff. Always sounds fun, but also sets me back time-wise. And I am getting burned out mentally from having been out here for so long. But then again, in the grand scheme of things one year from now, what will I remember more? That I took a few extra days to finish the hike, or that I met old friends who I hadn’t seen in years and reconnected with them? Of course the latter. Anyway, after Meredith picked me up, we talked about it and it turns out it’s impossible with her schedule for me to go back after only one day. What I didn’t realize at all was that Meredith lives in NY state! Like 2.5 hours from the trail! But this spot in Vermont was still the closest place for her to meet me as she lives in the northern part of the state. I thought she lived in the town close by where I got off, like 10 miles away. I was blown away that she took the time and effort to drive that far to come and get me, and also drop me off again afterwards. I was telling her how this whole trip would not have been possible without so much help from so many people willing to go out of their way to help us hikers. Friends along the way, shuttle drivers, volunteers, hostels, all kinds of people. It’s overwhelming sometimes. So in the end, I’m very happy that it works out this way. So what if it takes me an extra day to finish. I get to hang out and catch up with some old friends and that is way more important. “Patient” perseverance. Another grad school classmate and friend in this area is Ying from China. She is doing her PhD in this area in educational psychology and technology, and has also been following along and has donated to my cause. So Meredith and Ying planned for us to meet for dinner tonight. Turns out Ying also had to drive an hour. I feel bad for making all these people drive so far! I envisioned going back to Meredith’s place and being able to shower and do laundry before the dinner, but with such a long drive there was no time. Well, they gotta suffer then! Because after 3 days of hiking and all that heavy rain, I smell like a wet dog. Sorry, guys! Lol! We found a Thai restaurant in this town and had a really nice time catching up. Ying brought along her fiancé Mark to join us, so it was great to be able to meet him too. Mark was very patient as the conversation drifted to the usual reunion talk about old people, professors, classes, etc. It was a nice time and I really appreciated the effort everyone made. We still had an hour and a half to go after dinner, so Meredith drove and I dozed off. Lol! I tried to stay awake and keep her company for the long drive but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. She lives in this big house provided for free by her school, so I have my own nice big bedroom upstairs. I’m exhausted. Goodnight! Day 199- Thursday, 9/27- Placid Lake, NY- (0) (1939.0 total) Headed over to Meredith’s school first thing this morning, North Country School. North Country School is a small boarding school of only 79 students out in the countryside of upstate New York. It’s quite an alternative type of school, with the students growing food in their garden and raising animals on their farm. Much of the food in their cafeteria comes from their own garden, and they get some of their meat from the animals they raise. I walked around the farm area and saw horses, chickens, pigs, goats, and sheep, among others. In the art room they have wool from their sheep that they turn into thread for their weaving looms. It was really a fascinating environment and set in such a beautiful mountainous area. It’s fall now, so the leaves are all changing in the hills around the school, painting a very scenic landscape. The boarding students come from several countries around the world, along with American boarding and day students. No cell phones are allowed at school at all, and all social media is blocked on school computers. All students are required to do certain chores to help keep the school running, including cleaning the school, tending to the animals, working in the garden, and collecting the manure (called the “honey wagon” Lol!). On the weekends the teachers and staff all run activities for the students, including overnight backpacking trips. If students will be away on a trip, they need to go around themselves and find a substitute who will handle their chores while they are away. The vibe at the school was a really special one, a very close and family style feeling. I was really impressed with the organization of the whole thing and how smoothly it seemed to run. I joined Meredith for 3 of her classes today. She asked me to present on my hike and charity fundraiser. She had assigned the students to think of questions to ask me for the Q&A section. The classes were only 40 minutes long, so a fairly short time to get through it all. In the first period class breakfast let out a bit late so we lost 10 minutes of that period, and so the Q&A got cut a little short. But otherwise the lessons went really well. I talked about my hike and why I was doing it, gave some facts and figures about the AT and human trafficking worldwide, and showed some short video clips from the AT and Friends of Thai Daughters. The students were great and it really felt good to get back into the classroom again and teach. I felt like I was back in my element again working with students, and it definitely gave me that “teacher’s high.” It’s been ages since I’ve taught. The school is kind enough to let me join them for all meals while I am here. I guess normal guests only get 1 meal free, but because I am doing some teaching and contributing something, they are allowing me to eat with them for all meals. The cafeteria is set up where around 5 students sit at each table with one adult. Food is served family style and one student is designated as the waiter who will go and get more food for the table. After the meal, students are assigned to clear different dishes, wipe the table and sweep the floor, etc. Again, very well run and well organized. After lunch Meredith had some free time and so took me into town to do my resupply. The town of Placid Lake is actually quite famous it turns out. The Winter Olympics were held there in I think 1932 and 1980. The famous “Miracle on Ice” hockey game in which the US beat the heavily favored Russian team during the Cold War war took place here. All the old Olympic stadiums, ski jumps, Olympic flame tower, etc. are all still here and quite prominent. All very impressive. After we came back to the campus, Meredith had to go back to teach and do other jobs until 8pm, so I got some time to relax and take care of a few things of my own back at her place. Teachers at this school definitely put in the hours. It is more of a lifestyle than just an ordinary teaching job. Definitely not an 8am-2:30pm job. They stay late for study halls, work as house parents for the boarding students, lead trips on the weekends, etc, all in addition to their regular teaching load. It’s a lot, but all the teachers seemed very dedicated to the culture of the school and what they were providing to the students. Very interesting and impressive day for me. Day 200- Friday, 9/28- Rutland, VT- (0) (1939.0 total) Had breakfast at the school this morning with everyone and then went back to Meredith’s place to chill out and get a few last things done. Had lunch at the school and then at 2pm Meredith had some time off to drive me back to Vermont. The drive there 2 days ago was mostly in the dark, so it was nice to see all the beautiful countryside in the daylight, especially with all these leaves changing. It was over 2 hours to drive, and Meredith dropped me off at a place called the Yellow Deli in Rutland, VT. This place is quite famous on the AT, and I’ve been hearing about it for months. Everyone said it is this awesome restaurant and hostel. The interesting thing tho is that it is run by the 12 Tribes of Israel, something of a religious cult. They are set up in different towns along the AT, PCT, and CDT, and also all around the world. The word was that they are super welcoming and friendly and not pushy at all, although they are set up on the trails purposely to attract lost-soul hikers. Unfortunately, I got here on their Yom-Kipper holiday, so the restaurant was closed. But the hostel was open and it’s donation based. Just pay whatever you feel is fair. Pretty nice hostel and I got a bunk and started to get settled in. That’s when I suddenly realized. I had forgotten my hiking boots back at Meredith’s place, 2 hours away. Damn! I called her and we discussed different options. Mailing them was a problem because it is a Friday and they wouldn’t arrive until sometime on Monday- too long to wait, plus probably expensive for overnight shipping. Buying a new pair is too expensive, if I can even find my shoe and size here. So I finally decided that I just need to rent a car tomorrow and go retrieve them myself. What a pain in the ass. Sets me back another day too. But you gotta just go with the flow sometimes. And sometimes things like that happen for a reason. You connect the dots backwards later on and realize that certain good things wouldn’t have happened if you had been a day earlier. Blessing in disguise sometimes. The people here invited us to their Yom Kipper festival at their land near the hostel which included dinner, so a few of us went over there with them. It was interesting and weird all at once. Coincidentally, an AT blog I subscribe to had an article on these guys just today. Not the most flattering account- a lot of sexist and racist allegations. According to the article women have quite a subservient role, interracial marriage is not allowed, and slavery is justified. Pretty heavy stuff, but here I am so I just figured I’d observe and see what was what. The festival was interesting. Lots of people dancing in circles, spinning, singing, etc. People offering prayers and reading scripture. Saying what they were thankful for and how they could be better people. Then an amazing dinner of salmon, mashed potatoes, salad, and cooked veggies. Everyone was ultra friendly and helpful- seemingly trying to project this ultra loving vibe of brother and sisterhood as a draw to us. I talked to some of them over dinner and around the campfire afterwards. Some shared their stories of how they discovered the group. Definitely some lost souls. One guy that had been through an ugly divorce, another young guy who had lived in 20-some foster homes growing up. A lot of people who seemed to be lost and searching and found a community to belong to here. Somewhere that will fully accept them and give them something to belong to as long as they accepted and followed a set of rules and customs. It is what it is. Well-intentioned people with good hearts who are mixed up in something a bit strange. I didn’t ask about the sexist and racist allegations, but I am curious how they would have responded. Anyway, a great meal and interesting evening. Day 201- Saturday, 9/29- Rutland, VT- (0) (1939 total) They offer a free breakfast here with a lot of their homemade breads and cereals. Then I walked across town to the rental car place to get my car. Was about a 2.5 hour drive back to Lake Placid to retrieve my boots. I haven’t driven for over 6 months since I’ve been out here. Felt a little weird at first. I stopped by the school and said hi to Meredith and some of the students. They were tending to the greenhouse as their Saturday activity. Was nice to see everyone one more time, albeit unexpectedly. Drove into town after that for some lunch and then made the long drive back. Did solve one problem today. I will be getting off the trail again on October 6th to go watch the Broncos play the Jets at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey with Jack and his family and have been trying to figure out the best way to get down there. I asked Jack if he felt like picking me up, but he already drove me all the way to Maine and didn’t seem too excited for another long road trip to pick me up and drop me off. Can’t blame him. There was also the public transportation option, but that involved 2 busses and 2 trains and would have taken 6.5 hours each way. Anyway, I was talking to one of the students at the school today and told him about the plan for the game, and he says “Oh, so are you going to rent a car again and drive there?” Not sure why I never considered that option before, but that’s the perfect solution. Don’t have to inconvenience anyone and can get there quickly and on my own schedule. Sweet! Back at the Yellow Deli cult hostel again tonight. Just ran into Swiss Chris, Canoe, and Kayak, SOBO thru-hikers who I haven’t seen in a while. Glad to see they are still out here. There is another festival thing with the 12 Tribes people tonight which we are all invited to, but I think we are all going to skip it and go to a restaurant tonight. Once was interesting, twice might be a bit much. Then back on the trail tomorrow morning finally. Had no idea I was getting off for 3 days here. Anxious to start making miles again, but again these experiences and friends have been awesome and well worth it. Day 202- Sunday, 9/30- Clarendon Shelter, NH- (16.7 miles) (1955.7 total) Right behind the Yellow Deli was the town bus terminal, and I was able to get a 7:15am bus 10 miles out to the trailhead this morning. The Yellow Deli people were cooking up a special breakfast, but it didn’t start until 7:30 and I didn’t want to get that late of a start, so I just bought some breakfast stuff from the supermarket and got out early. The trail started off with a bang today. Right away started climbing up Mt. Killington, a famous ski area in the winter apparently, and a rare 4000 foot peak on the AT here in Vermont. After that tho it chilled out a lot and I was able to make good miles. Was frustrated to find today that I forgot to empty my garbage bag back at the shelter. There are no trash cans out here- you gotta pack out what you pack in. So now I’m carrying 3 days worth of old trash when I’m starting a new 6 day stretch. Grrrr. Got to this shelter around 5pm. No one was here except one tent down by the river. I passed near the tent on my way down to get my water, but didn’t see anyone. Was going to just say hi as I passed the tent, but then I noticed a large empty plastic vodka bottle sitting near the tent, and a big pile of empty beer cans near that. Decided to quietly skirt the tent after that and leave whoever it was in peace. Had the shelter all to myself as I was making dinner, but around 7 another hiker showed up. He is the second person I’ve met in the last couple of days who told me that they just finished the Pacific Creat Trail on the west coast (2700 miles), and just weren’t ready to be done hiking yet, so they are doing the Long Trail- 250 miles or so through Vermont and America’s oldest trail. The Long Trail and the AT are the same trail for part of that trail. Seeing a few more people on the trail recently because of how popular the Long Trail is. Just insane tho that these guys have already hiked another trail that is 500 miles longer than the AT and still want more. Anyway, nice to have another person around to talk with tonight. Day 203- Monday, October 1st- Big Branch Shelter, VT- (16.9 miles) (1972.6 total) Another rainy and cold one today, and the last weather report I saw said it’s gonna be like this for the next few days. Hopefully that changes- it is so much easier to hike when it’s dry out here. I had set my tent up inside the shelter last night, so my tent was totally dry this morning and I could get ready inside the dry shelter. The rain started overnight. Now that the shelters are pretty much empty and I have them to myself, I can set up my tent inside like this. The tent keeps any bugs, insects, or mice off of me while the shelter keeps my tent nice and dry, so at least I don’t have to pack up and carry a heavy, wet tent all day. Vermont is nicknamed Ver-mud on the AT, and today I found out why. With all this rain, there were tons of puddles of muddy water all along the trail in certain parts. Had to navigate my way around them to keep my shoes somewhat dry. That along with the return of some Maine-style rocks and roots conspired to slow my pace a bit today. But there were some nice smooth sections as well where I could make quite good time. I’m alone again tonight in this shelter. I am glad no one else showed up because I have completely taken it over with my tent set up inside again and all my wet clothes hanging from every available spot. Would have been a pain to move it all if someone had showed up. Not that anything is going to dry at all in this damp weather, but at least it’s not in my tent and can air out some. Day 204- Tuesday, 10/2- Bromley Mountain- (13.5 miles) (1986.1 total) Rain was forecast for the entire day today, starting around 9am or so. It was clear the first couple hours as predicted, and I was wishful thinking that the rain just might not show up. But nope. Right on schedule and all day long. So another day of slogging through the cold and wet. With this much rain, the trail is pretty much a continuous stretch of muddy ponds and streams. It just gets miserable. The few other hikers I met today were all feeling the same way. I sat and had my lunch in a gravel parking lot off of a dirt road that I passed. Just sat there in the rain with no shelter available, getting soaked. And at that point I just kind of hit a wall. Just so sick of being wet and cold. So tired of hiking this trail. So sick of the constant mental grind to keep myself going out here. Plus the wet and cold have given me a bit of a head cold, so fighting thru that too. Just over all of it. So for the first time on this entire trip, I started to seriously consider quitting. I’ll hit the 2000 mile mark in 2 days, and that’s a pretty nice round number. Good accomplishment. I’ve done what I set out to do in terms of the charity fundraising. I know it would be weird to stop so close to the finish line, and it may be something I regret for years to come. But my mental state today was just bleak. Just bottoming out. The trail has always been a grind, but now it’s becoming miserable. Shitty, cold, wet weather, very few people out here to meet and talk with, and too much time in my own head. I’m just at that point all of a sudden where I’m ready to say fuck it and just throw in the towel already. Was planning to hike another mile further today, but when I got on top of Bromley Mountain I found the warming lodge for the skiers in winter is left open all year for hikers. When I arrived, it was cold and windy and rainy, and was so nice inside and out of the elements, so I decided to stay here. Hung all my wet stuff (pretty much everything) around the cabin to maybe somewhat dry. The only problem up here is that there is no water, but with all the rain I figured I could find something. I hiked back down the trail in the rain and found a place where the water running down the trail was cascading down a rock step and easy to collect. When I filled up my bottles tho, the water was dark brown with trail mud. I put double doses of chlorine in each one, which hopefully will do the trick. Not the best water, but no choice. 3 other hikers showed up at different times, also looking wet, cold, and over it. 2 of them decided to stay, while the other guy chose to push on the last mile to the regular shelter. Was good to be able to hang out and talk with a couple other hikers for the evening. That boosted my spirits somewhat. Also have ended up having really good internet signal up here so could watch the most recent Broncos game, a sorely needed break from reality. Talked with the other guys about my thoughts of quitting the trail, and of course their advice was to keep pushing since I’m so close. Never quit on a bad day, as they say. So I don’t know. Being done still sounds like a very nice idea, but it would be nice to compete the whole thing too. We will see. For now, I’m gonna push on the next 3 days to where I was planning to get off next for a town stop, get my 2000 mile marker in the process, and then reevaluate and see. I’ll be renting a car and heading in to NYC this weekend to watch the Broncos game with Jack, and I’ll see how I feel after that. Day 205- Wednesday, 10/3- Stratton Pond Shelter, VT- (13.6 miles) (1999.7 total) The rain passed last night and today was just cloudy all day. When we woke up this morning, it was heavy fog on top of the mountain we were staying on. I saw the path to the privy yesterday, but in the fog and dark this morning I just couldn’t find it at all, so I had to do a quick brown-blaze behind the shed. One of the other hikers last night found a big water puddle near the cabin that was a lot clearer than what I had collected yesterday. I drank some of mine last night and had a rumbling stomach and huge farts all night. Not sure if it was the water or not, but to be safe I dumped out the rest and recollected the clearer water this morning. Thought more again this morning about whether or not to get off the trail soon. Went back and forth in my head about it a couple times before I left, and then have been thinking about it all day today while hiking. Now I’m thinking that I’m too close to the finish line to quit, and need to push on and finish. Feel like I just had a very low moment yesterday. It still is hard to keep going, but I think I’ll be happier that I did the whole thing in the end. Nice shelter tonight. Quite big with several bunks and a loft. Popular too. I think we have at least 6 of us here tonight, which is a crowd for this time of year. Most of them are Long Trail hikers. Just one guy doing a section of the AT. I enjoyed sitting around talking to some folks when I got here and having dinner all together. Big difference mentally from 2 straight nights by myself at shelters earlier this week. Day 206- Thursday, 10/4- Kid Gore Shelter, VT- (15.1 miles) (2014.8 total) Well, I finally hit my 2000 mile mark today! That’s a crazy number. Very hard to believe that I have hiked that far. Amazing what you can accomplish when you just do a bit everyday and keep stacking the days. No rain today thankfully, although it was overcast all day, and the usual crazy mud puddles, rocks, and roots that are so characteristic of the AT in Vermont. Some hikers have abandoned trying to find ways around the mud and water and are just going straight through it to be able to hike faster. I’m still working my way around the puddles, but as wet and muddy as my feet are, it’s probably a waste of time. I’m thinking now that it’s probably best for me just to get indoors somewhere and sit out any rainy and cold days. They just destroy my mood and make this whole experience so miserable, and have even driven me recently to think about quitting the trail. Just not worth it. Plus everyone is saying this type of weather is hypothermia weather. I need my warm dry clothes to change into when I get to camp, so can’t wear them in the cold rain. But then I get cold and wet while hiking, which is not so safe. Hard to know what to do when it’s like this. Hopefully it will dry out and give me a break the rest of the way, but I think I’m gonna bail indoors somewhere and wait it out if more comes. Just 2 of us at the shelter tonight, me and Pup. I met Pup last night at the shelter. Really great guy. He just retired and is fulfilling a bucket list item by thru-hiking the Long Trail. Real grandfatherly type of guy who is easy to talk to. Glad he is here tonight. The weather is supposed to clear up and be sunny for the next several days, but also get quite cold tonight. It says around 36 degrees when I wake up tomorrow morning. Sounds chilly, but I’ll take that over the rain any day. Day 207- Friday, 10/5- Bennington, VT- (14.4 miles) (2029.2 total) Surprisingly it wasn’t that cold last night. Stayed warmer than I expected in my sleeping bag. Got up in the night to pee and the clouds had finally left, giving me an awesome view of the stars. This shelter was very unique in that it was on a hillside, and for some reason all the trees and foliage below us is cleared, so we have this great view from where we are sleeping. Also the shelter is facing east, so the sunrise this morning was spectacular. I woke up at 5am when it was still dark and about 36 degrees, and watched as the first faint light started in the sky. As I was getting ready, it got progressively more orange- was really beautiful. The hike was fine today- just more of the usual mud puddles. Mentally I was bolstered by knowing that it was Aloha Friday and I would be getting off the trail for a few days today! I got picked up at the trailhead by the owner of the motel I’m staying at tonight and am now finally cozy and warm in my motel room bed after a nice hot shower and a good dinner. I found a burrito counter place here where they roll the burrito right in front of you. A burrito the size of your head. I was starving, so it was just what I needed. Tomorrow morning Enterprise will pick me up and I will head down to NYC for the game on Sunday. So excited!!!