AT- Days 208-219

October 18, 2018

Day 208- Saturday, 10/6- Massepequa, NY- (0) (2029.2 total)

The Enterprise guy picked me up from the motel this morning and I went and got my rental car. They upgraded me to a Dodge van which was much roomier and nicer to drive for me. It was a long drive down to the city. Took about 4 hours and 15 minutes to get to Jack’s house in Long Island. The drive went smoothly. The only weird part was when I got into the city and was supposed to pay a toll. I was waiting for a toll booth, but never saw one. I did see some sign saying what the penalties were if you didn’t pay. These days everybody has the easy-pass system where everything is scanned and charged electronically as you drive through. I guess there was some kind of special pull over area for those of us without it, but I never saw it. Or they just mail you the bill. I’m not sure. It was confusing for me, being my first time driving in NYC. Otherwise it was fine. I gotta say that Google Maps is still the most awesome invention ever. In the old days, I would have had the maps out, stressing out about getting lost, stopping to ask directions, etc. it would have been a mess. Now, I simply follow Google Maps, right to Jack’s front door. Amazing.

Grabbed some food with Jack when I arrived, and now just chilling out at his house. Tomorrow is the big game and we are taking the train down to the stadium in New Jersey, so I think we have to leave by 9am. We want to get to the stadium 2 hours early for when it opens, just to check it out and get some food, etc. Get in game mode.

Day 209- Sunday, 10/7- Massepequa, NY- (0) (2029.2)

The big day finally arrived. We had to take 3 different trains from Long Island to New Jersey. Was fun for me to be on the trains here and just observe all the people and how things work around here. As we got on the last train, I was amazed at how many Broncos fans there were. Tons of orange jerseys everywhere I looked. One thing I love about sports is how it unites perfect strangers. I was talking to people on the train who I would have never had the chance to meet if we weren’t wearing the same jersey. It was fun.

The stadium was amazing. Fairly new venue and we had some really nice club level seats thanks to Jack’s dad. Gone are the old days of crappy hotdog stands in these places. It’s like full on restaurant food now. Beautiful lounge right behind the seats where you can get some amazing food. Before we ate, Jack and I tried to walk down to the first section seats just to get close to the players warming up and get a good view. The security guard was cool and let us go down there. Got to see a lot of the players close up, which was fun. The highlight moment for me tho was when I got to shake hands with one of my childhood heroes, Steve Atwater, and check out his 1998 Super Bowl ring! He does tv and internet media stuff for the Broncos these days, and after doing his pre-game tv spot, he came over and said hi to some fans. If I could go back in time and tell my 14 year old self that story, his head would have exploded.

Unfortunately, the fun and excitement ended there. My Broncos picked that day to play their worst football in recent memory. Just awful. Record setting bad it turns out. I tried to just enjoy the moment of being in the stadium and all that, but I got pretty bummed out the worse it got. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. I was 2-0 seeing the Broncos live. I’m still 2-0 watching in Denver, but had to endure my first in-person loss today. It felt like the football gods should have pulled a few more strings to let me see a win on my big trip to see the game, but I guess every fan feels that way when they go watch the games live. I’ll be watching the Broncos play the Texans on Nov. 4 in Denver, so hopefully better luck then.

Day 210- Monday, 10/8- Bennington, VT- (0) (2029.2 total)

Had breakfast with Jack and then did my grocery shopping and resupply in Long Island before heading back. The nice thing was getting the resupply done at REI. That rain and cold last week that almost made me quit the trail really kind of worried me. I just felt like I didn’t have the right gear for it and was risking hypothermia. Other people said the same. So I picked up another warm Smart Wool layer that can get wet and still stay warm while hiking. That way my other fleece can stay dry in my pack for night time. The lady at REI also asked me what kind of outer shell jacket I was wearing that was allowing me to get so wet. My outer shell was the only piece of gear that I didn’t go all out on when I bought all my gear for this trip. Instead I decided just to use my cheaper Colombia rain jacket that I bought in Seattle a couple years ago. And mostly it has worked just fine. But in this weather now, I don’t think it is enough. It’s not very breathable or waterproof at all. So I decided to go all in and get a nice GoreTex jacket that will protect me and breathe a lot better. Wasn’t cheap but now I feel much better prepared for whatever weather comes up these next couple of weeks. And I have a quality jacket going forward for whatever else I do.

Long drive back to Vermont but I enjoyed it. Cars and driving are a novelty to me again. Amazing how far and fast they go without the driver having to expend any energy. Incredible inventions. I returned the car and told the guy about the toll issue. He gave me a number to call and told me that I would probably just have to pay the toll rate. Well, it was another nice break from the trail. Time to get back on the grind tomorrow again. I just did the planning going forward, and it looks like I only have 12 more days until the end. Hope to be done on the 20th. Not long now.

Day 211- Tuesday, 10/9- Sherman Brook Campsite, MA- (16.7 miles) (2045.9 total)

Got dropped off at the trailhead by the motel owner this morning. Little bit of a later start than I would have liked, but that’s how it is when you come out of town and need to get a ride. Started at 8:30am. Not too long into the hike I passed Canoe, Kayak, and Swiss Chris stealth camping alongside the trail. Hadn’t seen that crew since the Yellow Deli. I hiked a bit with Chris, kind of leap-frogging with him for a while. Later I got on pace with Kayak and we hiked together for a lot of the day. Nice to have some good conversation on the trail instead of the usual podcasts, etc. We were supposed to stop at a shelter and meet up with the others for a break, but we got to talking and didn’t pay attention and missed the turn-off. Oops. When we finally realized it, we just decided to push on and meet them at the Massachusetts border, a few miles ahead. Was awesome to finally finish Vermont and enter Massachusetts. My 13th state out of 14. Border crossings always give me a boost and make me feel like I am making progress. These last 2 states are fairly short as well. 90 miles in Massachusetts and 51 in Connecticut. The the final 7 miles in New York and I’m done. Getting there.

With the later start and the wet and muddy terrain today, we didn’t get to camp until right at dark. The final drop down to camp from the border was a big Pennsylvania-style boulder field going downhill and all wet and slippery. That sucked at the end of a long day with tired legs. Good camping spot tho. I ate dinner with the other guys and now am ready for bed.

Day 212- Wednesday, 10/10- North Adams, MA- (15.7 miles) (2061.6 total)

Talked to the guys I camped with last night and they were talking about trying to get up early and making an earlier start than usual. They often don’t get going until 9:30am or so. But when I left at 7am this morning, they were all fast asleep in their tents. Lol! I just can’t stand starting late if I know I have a chunk of miles to do in a day. Would much rather start early and finish a bit earlier and have some time to chill in the evening. To each their own tho. Hike your own hike.

Today’s big challenge was Mt. Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts. I guess every year they have what they call the “ramble,” where tons of people hike it. It was just a few days before I got there this year and all the signs were still up for it. It was about a 3000 foot up- nothing too crazy, but still a good climb. The best part was the restaurant on top. There is a road where people can drive up, and a big war memorial tower on top. Was nice to get a good lunch and eat something different from my usual peanut butter tortilla before I headed down. That was the last big peak to go over on my hike.

I had an AirBnb reserved for tonight. Since the trail was going right through a town, I figured I might as well stay indoors and get a hot shower, etc. I had reserved it a couple of days before, and the lady took quite a while to respond. I thought maybe I would show up and not be able to stay, but she finally got back to me and said everything was all good. I made a mistake on the location tho, so that when I arrived at the road crossing, I was one town ahead of where my AirBnb was located. I figured I’d try hitchhiking first, and was lucky enough to get a ride in like 30 seconds. The girl who picked me up was really nice and said she’d take me all the way to the house, even tho it was a bit out of her way. While we were driving, she volunteered the information that she was 6 months clean off of heroin. I told her how I had grown up around the 12-step program and that my dad worked with addicts and ran meetings for years. When she dropped me off, I gave her some money for her efforts- she is a single mom- and asked her if she wanted to drive me back to the trail head in the morning. I said I’d pay and would rather pay her than a taxi or something. She agreed, saying that she had to pick up her methadone at 6:30am anyways, and we made plans for her to pick me up at 7am.

The owner of the AirBnb was a woman originally from Hungary, living with her mother and 10 year old son. She showed me to my room- very nice and clean, and with my own bathroom. I had texted prior and asked the lady if she could give me a ride to the store to quickly grab a couple things for dinner and breakfast tomorrow morning. She said sure no problem. So I dropped my pack in the room and off we went. When we get there, she starts telling me directions for how to walk back to the house. Ok. Kind of weird. Usually when you give someone a ride to the store, that includes a return trip. Keep in mind I just walked over 15 miles today. I told her I would be 10 minutes max and so she said if it was that quick, she would wait for me. I jam through the supermarket as fast as possible and get back to the parking lot in 10 mins or less. And she is no where to be found. I can’t decide if I just can’t find her car, or if she is not there. I walk like 5 times all around the parking lot looking for her. Then I text her. No reply. I try Uber. No luck. I call 2 taxi companies. No answer. So finally I have to walk, carrying my groceries, through the woods and through some park and down some road. Takes around 15 mins back to her place. Just as I’m arriving, I finally get a text back from her saying, “Sorry I deserted you. I just realized I still might be able to make it to the very end of my son’s baseball practice.” Didn’t text me, didn’t let me know. Just left and made me walk and search for her place. The worst part was walking around the parking lot looking for her, not knowing if I was just in the wrong area and she was waiting for me, or if she left. So confusing and worrying. Can’t believe she just left without telling me. Well, I’ll be out of here early tomorrow morning. It’s just one night. Not gonna leave the nicest review online for her tho.

Day 213- Thursday, 10/11- Kay Wood Shelter, MA- (12.5 miles) (2074.1 total)

Got up early this morning. First thing I saw on my phone was that I got a $50 donation last night, and now am at $17,000 even. Sweet! Always gives me a nice boost when I see that total hit another milestone! I met the lady who donated last night as I was walking back with my groceries. She was walking her dog and I was telling her my saga. Ended up having a nice conversation with her. I was a little flustered at the whole thing and having to find my way back to the AirBnb in the near dark, and meeting this lady helped me settle down and relax. Really nice of her to donate. Settled my OCD as well. $17,000 looks so much better than $16,950. Lol!

I got ready and waited until 7:15am for the girl from yesterday to pick me up. But she was a no-show. Surprise, surprise. Never trust an addict, as they say. The host lady still wasn’t anywhere to be seen. I didn’t see her at all last night after I got back. I think she was avoiding me out of embarrassment. I didn’t want to ask her for a ride anyways. So I just went outside and hitchhiked. Got a quick ride again from a lady, but just as far as the first town. She dropped me on the road I needed to be on to get back to the trail and I tried hitching again, but no luck. So I finally called a cab and they drove me out to the trail. Quite a saga these last couple of days.

The trail passed right through the town of Dalton today. I got there around 1pm and found a place for lunch. It rained all day today, and was raining especially hard as I walked through town. I wasn’t sure what the reception would be like when I walked into a restaurant totally dripping wet, but the lady at the sub shop welcomed me right in with no problems. I immediately walked out the front door after dropping my pack, took off my shirt, and rang about 5 gallons of water out of it, and put it back on. Didn’t want to be dripping water all over. I wasn’t wearing my rain jacket outside, as it was warm enough today that I would have been sweating like crazy under it and getting just as wet. But when I entered the restaurant, they had the AC on and it was cold, so I put my rain jacket on to keep warm. The lady behind the counter was funny. She asks me, “Can you take a joke?” I say sure. She then asks, “How about some constructive criticism?” I say ok. Then she says, “I think you’re supposed to wear your rain jacket outside in the rain, and take it off when you come in. You just did the opposite.” I laughed and explained why I did it. She was interested to learn something new about hiking. I sat down to a huge, warm chicken cheese steak and a cookie and typed a not very flattering review of the AirBnb experience on the app. I felt a little bad doing that since she is a single mom with a 10 year old son, and my negative review may cost her some business. But you can’t treat people like that, and I don’t want that to happen to the next guy. She has to know that doing something like that is going to come back and bite her in the ass on the reviews.

Just had 3 miles left in the day after lunch. Got to the shelter around 4pm, expecting to be the only one here- weekday and it’s raining. But 2 ladies were here before me- sisters originally from Pennsylvania, both retired. They had planned to thru-hike the AT, and got through the first 9 weeks, but got too exhausted after that and decided to get off and continue in smaller sections when they had time. So right now they are doing a week-long section and hope to someday piece together the whole trail. Had a nice chat with them and ate dinner together. Always nice to have some company in the shelter. And happy to be at a shelter tonight and out of the rain.

Day 214- Friday, 10/12- Lee, MA- (16.0 miles) (2090.1 total)

My 7 month anniversary on the trail today. No rain today, but the temperature dropped to around 50 degrees all day. Cloudy all morning, and then the sun peaked through just a few times in the afternoon. Thought it would be a fairly easy day, as the elevation profile showed it being pretty flat all day. But the Vermont-style water and mud returned to the trail today, to where I was often just hiking through a small stream and dancing around bogs. What’s toughest right now is just the constant wet feet. Even when it is not raining, the trail water gets the shoes wet and they never have a chance to dry out. I do my best to keep some dry socks, but as soon as I put them on with the wet shoes, then everything is quickly soaked again. I have been very lucky with blisters and hot spots all trail, but today a spot on my right big toe was killing me. I probably should have stopped and taped it up, but I just wanted to push. Made for a long and tough day today, just having to really fight and force myself to keep hiking. As a result, I decided to take a zero tomorrow here in Lee. Wasn’t planned, but tomorrow is raining, and I’m just hitting the wall again. I really think the only way I’m gonna finish this thing at this point is to just baby myself along, with smaller chunks of days and more zeros. I only have 7 more hiking days, but it feels like 7 years. I will finish this trail, but I just need to really manage my mental state at this point and not try to push too hard just to finish sooner. I’m running on fumes at this point.

Day 215- Saturday, 10/13- Lee, MA- (0) (2090.1 total)

Rainy and cold day today, so a good day for a zero. The morning started out like any other normal zero day- just doing the usual laundry and shopping routine. Then around noon I checked and saw that I had gotten a message from Bear Claw’s husband, Scott. If you don’t remember, Bear Claw is the woman from Thailand who I met hiking the trail. Her husband and 2 kids were supporting her in their camper/trailer along the way. She and I bonded over the Thailand connection, and I used to see her here and there along the trail with her family. They had messaged me last week saying that Bear Claw has finished the hike, but was missing the trail. Also she saw that I was getting close but struggling mentally to finish. So they were suggesting that she could join me for the last few days. I replied and said I was open to the idea, but then I didn’t hear back from them so I figured it wasn’t happening. But today they messaged and were staying only 20 miles from where I was. They came to Lee and we had lunch together and discussed the plan. She has twin 6 year olds, a boy and a girl, and they are hilarious. I had a blast goofing around with them as well. Anyway, in the end, we decided that Bear Claw will join me for my last 8 days or so into NY. This is a very welcome boost for me mentally to have someone with me out here. We likely will hike at different paces and therefore still hike alone most of the time, but will get to the same campsites and be able to talk about the day over dinner, etc. And she gets to return to the trail for a few more days as she wanted to do. So win-win. Quite unexpected for me, but I’ll take it for sure. I was actually kind of wishing I had a friend to hike with for the last part recently. It’s so quiet out here nowadays. Well, request granted!

Day 216- Sunday- 10/14- North Mt. Wilcox Shelter, MA- (15.9 miles) (2105.7 total)

Left the motel room this morning early to hitch back to the trail head. It was cold this morning- in the high 30s I think. And not much luck hitching. I stood out there for about 45 minutes before I got a ride. I tried calling the taxi service and Uber but no answer early on a Sunday. Finally a truck with a big camper on it stopped for me and got me out of the cold. Thank god. Turns out 2 of them were hiking the AT as well. The wife and another guy were hiking, and the husband was driving the camper in support. Awesome people. They were actually 4 miles ahead of me on the trail, so we dropped them off first, and then he took me to my spot next.

About 10 miles into my hike today, I passed the 2100 mile mark. I remember being up north in Maine and seeing the 2100 mile mark for north bound hikers. The guy I was with saw it and said wow, I only have 90.9 miles to go. I remember being in awe of that. Like I couldn’t imagine being that close. I had so much further to go, but I was happy for him and his moment. And today I got the same moment finally. 90.9 to go. Amazing.

Bear Claw got on the trail much later in the day, as they had errands to run as a family first. As a result, she just got dropped off further up the trail so that she would reach this shelter near the same time as me. Turned out she got here just 5 minutes after I arrived. One other guy is here as well- Noteworthy. Bear Claw is pretty active as soon as she gets into camp. She immediately swept out the shelter and then started collecting wood and building a fire. I haven’t seen anyone make a fire in months. Early on the trail we had fires nightly, but people were just too tired after a while and so they stopped making them. Bear Claw just likes to have a fire tho and says she builds one every night. No complaints here. And it certainly was a very nice change to have 2 people in camp to chat and eat with around that fire. Made all the difference for me. Very appreciative of her for joining me like this.

Day 217- Monday, 10/15- Great Barrington, MA- (13.7 miles) (2119.2 total)

Got out of camp at 7:30am with Bear Claw. The weather report called for rain right around the time we were going to leave, and just like clockwork, it started about 6:45am. Luckily tho, it wasn’t a heavy rain- just light rain and fog. Plus hiking under the canopy of trees all day acts as somewhat of an umbrella. After mostly drying my boots next to Bear Claw’s fire last night, they were quickly wet again. Oh well. Had my toes taped up this time to avoid the rubbing and raw spots from the last day I hiked in the rain and my wet socks were rubbing my toes so much. The tape helped a ton and I wasn’t limping at all as I hiked today.

The nice thing about hiking with Bear Claw is that she is so independent and competent on the trail. Since she has already finished the whole thing, she obviously can handle herself out here, so I don’t have to worry about her. We hiked part of the day together and talked, but a lot of the day we got separated by our different paces and hiked alone. One time today I thought she was ahead of me and suddenly Noteworthy caught up to me and said he had just seen Bear Claw- behind me. I was so confused. Turns out that she had stopped at one of the shelters we had passed to use their privy, so got behind me. She said she had left her pack and poles next to the trail to let me know she was there, but in the rain and just looking at my feet the whole time, I didn’t see her stuff.

Tonight we are staying at the house of a fellow thru hiker named Energy, a girl I met for a couple of days on the trail way back. Then when I flip-flopped and was coming south I saw her again and she told me to be sure to look her up when I got to Great Barrington in Massachusetts. We came off the trail onto a road that was about 5 miles from the town. Bear Claw said she had never hitchhiked before in her life, so I said there is no time like the present for a first new experience. I stuck my thumb out and we got a ride in like 10 seconds. It always helps so much if there is a girl with me. The guy was kind of weird l- like he wanted to be friendly and talk with us, but didn’t quite have the social skills to know how. But he was very nice and drove us right to Energy’s house. Energy and her boyfriend were both at work, but told us to go in. They have the sweetest dog ever, but the worst guard dog ever. We opened the door and she was super excited to see us. Didn’t bark or anything. Lol! We got hot showers and used their drier to get our wet hiking clothes dry.

The bad thing was that Bear Claw left her trekking poles in the guy’s car that we hitched with. Trekking poles are really important for hiking out here so we needed to get her some new ones. The only problem was that the nearest outfitter was 30 minutes away. Fortunately, Energy’s boyfriend Marco offered to drive us and we were able to get her some. I paid for the poles for her just as a thank you for joining me and helping me finish the trail. Energy finished work soon after and we all met for dinner at a local Greek restaurant and then hung out at their place for a while afterwards. Fun day and great to see Energy again and meet Marco.

Day 218- Tuesday, 10/16- Sage’s Ravine Campsite, MA- (14.2 miles) (2133.4 total)

Packed up this morning, and then got a nice massage from Energy before leaving the house. She’s a masseuse and currently taking a class to learn a new method, so needs practice hours as part of her homework. I was glad to be of service. Lol! Energy took us to a nice bagel shop for breakfast this morning to fuel up for the day’s hike and then dropped us off at the trail head. A lot of climbing today as we hiked over both Mt. Everett and Mt. Race. I understood that the campsite we are staying at tonight was just before the border between Massachusetts and Connecticut, so we would get into my last state first thing tomorrow morning. However, right at the end of the day, we suddenly passed a sign announcing that the north-bounders were entering Massachusetts. Up ahead was a river and on the other side of it, the sign said welcome to Connecticut, for us south-boulders. So I guess the river itself was the border. Bear Claw said that the river had been pretty low when she crossed it before, but with all the rain we have been having, it was pretty high today. High enough that there was no way to dry cross it. No bridge either. I thought I had finished all my river fording back in Maine, but at the very end of this long day, here we went again. Off with the boots, on with the Crocks. The water at this time of year is so cold that it hurt. It kind of felt good at first just to get the cold, fresh water on my tired and sore feet, kind of like an ice bath to revive them. But by the time I got to the other side, the cold was pretty painful. Hopefully that was the last ford of the hike.
Nice campsite tonight. Pretty big established campsite and there are surprisingly several people camping here tonight. I don’t expect to see other people on a weekday in such cold weather. Guess we are not the only crazy ones. Bear Claw made her fire as usual, which has been great for drying out my wet boots and keeping warm in the evenings. I walked over and collected water from the spring for both of us. Nice deep spring to get the water from. When I looked in it, there was a big green frog just chilling out in there, with just its eyes sticking above water. I thought it would run, but it just sat there the whole time as I collected the water, not fussed at all. Around the fire as we had our dinner tonight, the conversation turned to deep life topics, as often happens at a campfire under the stars. Definitely appreciating the company. Gonna be a cold one tonight. Fortunately I have plenty of layers to wear inside of my sleeping bag.

Day 219- Wednesday- 10/17- Falls Village, CT- (14.0 miles) (2147.4 total)

Cold morning this morning. Was tough to climb out of the sleeping bag and get ready. Damn, I ate this spicy Thai curry last night for dinner and it gave me some serious gas last night. It stunk so bad, and I was all mummied up in my sleeping bag with the hood on for the cold night. It was like a hillbilly gas chamber. That was brutal. We left camp at 7:40am and hit the trail. Rain was forecast for the afternoon today, maybe the last 2 hours of our hike. As we were about to leave camp, I suddenly realized that I left my rain cover for my pack at Energy’s house. I had hung it out on her front porch to dry and left it there. Luckily we weren’t too far from her place. I texted her and she said she’d bring it and meet us at a road crossing we planned to get to around lunch time. I told her if she brought it, lunch was on me if she knew of a good place in the nearby town. She picked us up around 11:30 and took us to a little lunch place that was quite good. My hiker hunger has kicked into overdrive this past month and it’s hard for me to get full. Places like this one drive me crazy now, with such delicious food, but smaller portions. Well, just had to get dessert in that case. Was good to see Energy one more time and catch up a little more. Like many hikers after the trail, she is feeling a bit lost for what to do next in life. We discussed school options among others. Post-trail depression is a very common thing for hikers for a variety of reasons. Loss of daily endorphins, no more daily attainable yet challenging goal, huge lifestyle change, body adjusting, etc. Makes me wonder how I will fare after the hike. Don’t really see myself going through a depressive phase, but neither does anybody else. We shall see.

Met another hiker named Will on the trail later in the day. Turned out he was heading for the same hostel that we were going to for tonight. He was quite fast, so he blazed ahead of both of us, but we met him again at the road crossing where the hostel owner was picking us all up. Fortunately, the rain held off this afternoon despite some menacing clouds. The owner drove us a different route to his place because he had seen 2 bald eagles on the way to get us and wanted to show us, if they were still there. Sure enough they were- just hanging out in some trees. Really cool to see them, and the first ones I have seen since Alaska back in 1996. We got to the house and did laundry first before going out for dinner. For some reason, the washer took an hour to finish its cycle, so we were sitting here starving for quite a while waiting. We were all washing most of the clothes we have, and it’s cold outside tonight, so we needed them first. Walked over and had a huge pasta meal at the local Italian place all together. Right at the end of the meal, I just crashed. Energy level dropped and I got super sleepy. Gonna sleep very well tonight I think.
 

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