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
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.
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.
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!
Here’s to better luck next time!