300 miles in – Hanover, NH

You have to hike your own hike.

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Rock found somewhere in VT

Since my last post, over 150 miles ago, a lot has happened (a whole state in fact)! Unfortunately, that means that I have had fewer opportunities to update y’all back home.

The day after I stayed with Naps and Blaze in Williamstown, I met two women hiking for a month together, Blue and Bruiser. Somehow, BOTH of them reminded me of one of my favorite people in the world. Even though I had just spent the night in town, when they offered for me to crash on the floor of their hotel room for free, I jumped at the chance.

The next day, we hiked into Bennington, VT, about 15 miles past the VT border, which is also where the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail (VT to Canada) begin to share about 100 miles. At that point, VT had really been living up to it’s reputation. Vermud. By the time we reached Bennington, we were all covered from the knees down.

Our time in Bennington was well spent. In fact, I had enough free time to join the Bennington Ukulele Club for one of their rehearsals. I am now the youngest member by about 50 years.

Hiking out of Bennington, I had planned to do 15 miles, but, as happens often, only made it 10. It was cold and all 10 miles had been uphill in the fog. I am very glad that I ended up there, however, because that was where I met people who would become good friends. There were four boys there do a section together, and as the night progressed, more people showed up. To my delight, Blue and Bruiser were not far behind me! Then appeared Sherpa and Schoolbus, the only hikers I’ve met so far who brought a cat! I had no problems with mice that night! Following them were Buffalo and Mumble, a couple in their mid 20s from Tampa, Florida. Then, Pineapple, who, true to form, was carrying a pineapple, and The Chick-fil-a Rooster (who we all call Chair). Since that night almost 2 weeks ago, I have been hiking with Pineapple, Buffalo and Mumble, Chair, and Blue and Bruiser. That night was legendary, everyone got along so well and was having such a good time that even hikers who weren’t there had heard about that night. IMG_1038

The following night, I dared to stealth camp at the base of Stratton mountain, and slept soundly because Pineapple, Buffalo, and Mumble were all very close by. When I got into my tent that night, I heard Pineapple walking around for about 30 minutes. The next morning, when I asked him about it, he said he thought I had been walking around! To this day, the mystery is unsolved.

The next day, we all climbed Stratton mountain, which reached elevation 3950 ft. We all climbed the fire tower at the top though, so we counted it as a 4000 footer, and then hiked into Manchester the next day. In Manchester, after my resupply, I was sitting outside the Price Chopper when around the corner came Cheese and Einstein, friends I hadn’t seen since Sheffield, MA. I had planned to hike out of Manchester that day, but after eating lunch with them and knowing all my friends were spending the night there, I ended up spending the night too. Manchester is where I met Feeder.

Feeder, a 33 year old chef from Boston, is hiking the Long Trail. After meeting, he and I ended up hiking together for 3 days straight.

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Feeder’s panorama from the top of Bromley

In the afternoon on the second day, we arrived at the beach of Little Rock Pond, a gorgeous spot with a campsite, and lo and behold, there were Blue, Bruiser, Chair, Buffalo, and Mumble, all staying for the night. We decided to stay there too. Across the pond from the beach, there were 2 rocks, which Buffalo informed me were safe to jump from. Buffalo, Feeder and I swam across the pond, and even though I  had boasted about jumping off the big rock, we all only jumped off the little rock. What had looked like no more that 10 ft from across the pond was more like 20. The big rock must have been at least 40 ft. The pond was wider across than it looked, so even though I swam back, Feeder and Buffalo opted to walk around the edge of the pond.

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Me, on the beach of Little Rock pond after swimming, eating Doritos with a spoon, with Chair in the foreground and Feeder’s head just barely visible.

The beach was where I learned of the wonders that lay ahead. Less than 13 miles from the pond was a road that went into Rutland, VT. Rutland is home of the Yellow Deli. Aside from being a hiker hostel and a restaurant, the Yellow Deli is essentially a cult. A sect of Christianity, the members host hikers for either a donation or a work-for-stay, give hikers 15% off at the restaurant, and will slack-pack you over Mt Killington. Slack-packing is hiking, just with fewer items in your pack. At the end of the day, they bring you back to the hostel, where most of your stuff is, and you stay a second night.

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I was wary of the Yellow Deli, after hearing stories of hikers staying there and deciding that they would like to stay forever, however the members were nothing but friendly, accommodating, and I even was able to experience the Friday-night celebration there! I did meet a former hiker convert, but he seemed happy!

I’ll have to finish updating later, but I made it to NH this morning! Here come the White Mountains!

– Shiver

146 miles in – Williamstown, MA

Green River in Williamstown, MA. Even on my days off beauty manages to find me.

Magic is real and it is abundant.

On the Appalachian trail, magic refers to the random acts of kindness from strangers, ranging from a pile of sodas lying at the base of a tree to a full-blow van full of goodies for hikers passing through. In the last couple days, I have come across magic at least 5 times. It’s awesome.

When I last posted, I had gone about half as far as I have now. Sheffield was an incredible town. Tasty, Olive, and I hiked 8 miles to the road that led into town, but they were going to Great Barrington, a town 3 miles west of the trail, and Sheffield was 3 miles east. They got picked up immediately and I didn’t expect to see them again. I walked for about 5 minutes before a woman driving a sedan with car seats in it offered to take me into town. I arrived at the post office and while I was collecting my package (containing my sleeping bag – a blessing!), another woman asked if I was hiking the trail. A few minutes later, she chased me down on the sidewalk and handed me 20 bucks for lunch!

That night, I tented in the yard of a woman named Jess Treat. Two other hikers were also tenting in the yard, Braid and Chopsticks, and two hikers, Einstein and Cheese, paid to stay in a room in the house. Braid and Chopsticks are brother and sister, and Einstein and Cheese are brothers. We decided to share a couple pizzas between us, and ordered them to be delivered. They didn’t arrive for 2 hours and we were starving, so when they did, we ate the food in about 10 minutes.

The hiker hunger has finally started to set in. I’m burning so many calories during the day that I can eat tons more than I’m used to. The other night, I arrived at a shelter and ate 2 packages of oatmeal, 3 tortillas rolled up with pepperoni inside, ramen noodles, a lot of skittles, and a granola bar. I think I just about ate for 3 hours straight before I finally felt full. I’ve also decided that tortillas and peanut butter are the best trail foods and I think I need to start buying twice as much as I have been of those foods.

The morning after tenting in Jess’ yard, Braid and Chopsticks told me about Upper Goose Pond Cabin. It’s a cabin about a half mile off the trail, 30 miles from any trail towns. The word on the trail was that the cabin had bunks with mattresses, free canoes, and blueberry pancakes in the morning. They were planning to spend the night there and had decided to stutter their hike and slow down for it. That meant that I would be able to keep up with them. They offered for me to hike with them for the next couple days until we reached the cabin, which would be 14 miles each day for the next two days. I had never done more than 10 miles a day 2 days in a row, but I decided to see if I would be able to do it.

We got a late start the first day, so I didn’t get to the shelter until around 7:30 pm, but I decided I would be able to make it to the cabin the next day. I’m glad I did! I  got there around 4pm, and arrived to see Braid and Chopsticks, along with some other hikers I had met, Swagger, Hawaii, Pumba, First Aid, and Bunyan, all playing scrabble. The caretaker of the cabin introduced herself and told us there would be pancakes at 6 the next morning

Moon rise over Upper Goose Pond.

By the time we went to bed, there were about 20 hikers staying the bunk room. It just so happened that although it is rare to find a hiker carrying an instrument, we had 3 of them staying with us, so they played the same 5 songs for a couple of hours before we went to bed.

I got a late start the next morning, because I only wanted to hike 9 miles that day. It rained pretty hard and I was glad I hadn’t decided to go much farther. I arrived at the shelter around 3:30pm, and there were 2 groups of section hikers there, 2 men together, and 4 women. Later that day some more thru hikers came in, Man-eater, Jaws, and Shaggy, and following them, Tasty and Olive! I was surprised at how excited I was to see them again. Before going to bed, Olive checked in with me about the last few days to see how I had been holding up. She and Tasty have been hiking with Jaws for a few weeks now.

The next morning, we all set off together. I was surprising myself, easily keeping up with the group. They planned to eat lunch in Dalton and keep hiking, and I planned to stay overnight in Dalton. We went the 12 miles into Dalton, arriving at 1:30. Along the way we came across Casper. Casper is “the A.T. friendly van,” run by Rob and his adopted nephew Dom. Casper was filled with fruit, bagels and cream cheese, and other goodies. Rob hinted that we should talk to Shaggy when we saw him in Dalton.

Jaws talked to Shaggy in Dalton, and found out that Rob had a cabin with mattresses, pizza, wifi, showers, and power in Cheshire (8 miles from Dalton) with 6 places. Shaggy and Man-eater had 2 of the spaces, and Shaggy had told Rob that he had 4 friends to fill the other spots. I was included in that group. To get to that cabin, I would have to do a 21 mile day, 5 miles longer than my biggest day at that point, 16 miles. There was a campsite in between Dalton and Cheshire, so I decided to do the 4 miles to the campsite and see how I felt then. When I met Jaws, Tasty, and Olive at the campsite, the idea of a shower overwhelmed me and I decided to hike on to the cabin.

The plan was to meet at the trail head in Cheshire, and walk to Casper, which would take us to the cabin. Over the last 4 miles, I walked so slowly. I went the wrong way twice, and it turns out going downhill is slower than going uphill. The last 4 miles were all downhill. When I got to the road, the group was gone. Apparently, Rob was a little peeved that we had taken so long to get to the road and had left without me. So long, shower.

Fortunately, there’s a church in Cheshire that allows hikers to stay there for free. I slept there, and met a couple long section hikers, Ranger and Burps. When I arrived at the church, I started crying from frustration and exhaustion. They were nice and didn’t give me a hard time, and within a few minutes I felt better.

The next day, the three of us went to Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast before setting out on the trail. That day’s agenda was to climb Mt Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts. A mile into the 13 mile day, I slipped crossing a stream, and hit my face on a rock. And Burps and Ranger got to see me cry for a second time in the last 24 hours.

Here I can be seen pretending not to cry, and filling up my water in the offending stream.

Climbing Greylock was not as difficult as I expected. I think I’ve developed a technique for going uphill. If I walk super slow, I never get out of breath and I never have to stop. Slow and steady wins the race! At the top of Greylock, there was a restaurant where the three of us ate lunch together.

Random pond and shed .5 miles from the summit of Greylock

Summit of Greylock!

Going down Greylock, I fell again and scraped up my knee.

Then, I went past the shelter I was going to stay at and had to backtrack.

Last night, the guy next to me in the shelter provided a nice variety of different snores all night.

Also, a porcupine started eating the shelter in the middle of the night, which was quite noisy.

So, I decided to only hike 4 miles today! I’m splitting a motel room with Blaze and Naps, who were also at the shelter last night. Hopefully this day off will break the bad mojo!

Beautiful building on the campus of Williams College.

Here’s to better luck next time!

72 miles in – Sheffield, MA

You live and you learn… I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of learning the last couple days.

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1500 miles done! … Just kidding, that’s only if you started at Springer Mountain, which I did not!

I’ve been back on the trail for just about 2 days now, and have hiked a little over 20 miles.

Full disclaimer, to my parents and everyone else this story might concern, I am in no danger, and if I was I would be well equipped to handle it. However, my first night back on the trail, I realized that I didn’t have time to get to a shelter or designated campsite before the sun went down. I decided I would try stealth camping. Stealth camping is when you pretty much just pick a spot of the trail a little bit and set your tent up there. I was pretty close to town and went down a side trail a little ways and set up my tent. At around 8pm, a guy walked past. In his 50s or 60s, he was obviously local, not carrying anything with him other than his cell phone. He seemed surprised to see me there, and stopped for a few seconds. Being a friendly person, we chatted for about 30 seconds and then I went back to setting up my tent site and getting ready for bed. I got into my tent, curled up in my sleeping bag liner, popped in my earbuds to block out the sounds of animals nearby, and went to sleep.

About 2 and a half hours later, I wake up to my name being whispered (incorrectly) from the darkness. I opened my eyes and yelped at the sight of the same man standing above my tent, shining the light of his cell phone on me. Instantly on guard, I said “What are you doing here?” He answered that he was walking home. Then he said to me, “Do you want to come to my house?” I said no thank you. He offered again a couple more times and I insisted more heavily each time that I was perfectly fine sleeping outside. I also lied and told him my boyfriend would be showing up shortly, and that I was waiting for him. I said “Have a good night,” and turned away from him. I heard him walk off.

That night I got maybe one hour all together of sleep after that. I was physically shaking for at least an hour after the encounter. I’m really glad that I sleep with my pepper spray and knife right by my hand. I considered getting up and moving to another place, but it was so dark I fully doubted being able to find another spot to sent up the tent, no to mention it was really cold. Had I been without the pepper spray, I definitely would’ve left. I didn’t see him again after that.

I don’t know what the intentions of this man were. He could’ve been dangerous, but he also could’ve just thought he was being helpful. I assumed the worst, which I’m glad I did. Also, what grown man thinks it is acceptable to approach a young, sleeping girl, wake her up, and ask her to come to his house? The fact that he thought this was a good idea baffles and angers me. I lost valuable sleep because of him.

I know that this story is going to scare the people who read this and care about me, and to those people, I’m sorry. I definitely and not going to be stealth camping alone for a very long time, if ever. I just am comforted, and I hope you are too, by the fact that, had anything gone wrong, I would have been able to defend myself.

Since that night, things have been going really well! Yesterday, I had climbed 2 mountains by 10am. It’s a funny feeling when you’ve hiked miles and miles and realize that it is still before noon.

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Smiling at the summit of the first mountain of the day, still in a long sleeve shirt to keep out the cold. The lookout was a nice balance to the night before. 

By noon, it was really warm and I was sweating hard, so I went for a swim in the river nearby. The water was incredibly clear!

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Frog, spotted along the bank of the swimming hole.

About halfway into my miles for the day, I came across a pair of thruhikers, the first ones I’ve met since getting back on the trail. Olive, and 49 year old woman from Canada, and Tasty a 42 year old hiker from Vegas, met on the trail about a month ago and have been hiking together since. I told them about my experience the night before, and we hiked together the rest of the day. I really enjoyed hiking and talking with them, and although they were faster than me, they took frequent breaks and always waited for me to catch up and gave me time to rest before taking off again.

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The view from Race Brook Falls. The steep ascent was worth it.

I noticed that after joining them, the miles seemed to go by twice as fast. Last night, we all camped out together at a shelter, and they were really understanding in the fact that I was nervous after the previous night. We hiked the 8 miles into town this morning together. I’m really grateful to have met them.

I had my sleeping bag waiting for me in Sheffield (thanks Mom and Dad!!!!!!!!), and they had made reservations for a hotel in Great Barrington, two towns both 3 miles off the trail in opposite directions, so we went our separate ways when we reached the road.

Everyone in Sheffield is incredibly friendly, all eager to offer rides, directions, one woman even gave me $20 for lunch! Life is good. With every uphill, there is a downhill right after!

-Shiver