422 miles in – Gorham, NH (part 1)

100 different people will climb the same mountain 100 different ways. Going to the same summit, they will take different trails, go up opposite sides of the mountain, choose to put their feet in different places, and encourage themselves mentally in unique ways.

This post is going to be a little different from my previous posts. Because I don’t have access to a computer, I’m writing from my phone, and I won’t be able to add pictures. I’m going to upload a separate post as soon as possible with the pictures to accompany this post.

Starting from where I left off last time, in Rutland/Killington, Vermont, I will do my best to provide an in-depth but interesting recount of my time.

While staying at the Yellow Deli in Rutland, I observed something I didn’t become aware of until just a couple days ago, weeks after my stay. Leading up to my visit, I had been (mostly jokingly)  warned not to get sucked in. Buffalo, Mumble, and I told each other that no one would get left behind. This is because the Yellow Deli has been known in the past to have trapped a few hikers. They come to stay for the night or for a couple nights and end up never leaving! I met a man who proudly announced to me while we were being introduced that he was an ex-hiker.

The hostel consisted of a men’s and a women’s bunk room and a common area. One night, I was sitting in the common room and was half-listening to a conversation between a hiker called Hot Mess Express and a member of the Yellow Deli. They were having an argument over their differences in theological and political beliefs. I was surprised because throughout my stay, while I understood that the community was of particular beliefs, I had heard anything of the members discussing it. The conversation I was eavesdropping on evolved and I stopped paying attention. Just 3 days ago, I was talking to a hiker about the Yellow Deli and my stay there, and he mentioned that a hiker had been sucked into the community this year. I asked if he knew who, and he told me it was Hot Mess Express.

The day before I hiked out of the Rutland area, Buffalo, Mumble, Blue, and Bruiser hiked 4 miles, with plans to go 14 miles the day after that. I decided to instead, do 18 miles that day. I didn’t get an early start but I didn’t get a late start, and I arrived at the destination with plenty of time to spare. The destination that night was a Lookout cabin. Different from the normal shelters, the structure had 4 walls instead of 3, 2 levels of floor space, and a door. What luxury! The night there was well enjoyed, surrounded by good friends and fun. The cabin had a ladder up to a small balcony on the roof, and from that spot there were views for 360 degrees. The sunset was beautiful.

The good luck did not last long, however. When we awoke the next morning, the sky was gray and the air was cold. Rain was pouring down. Some  might describe the weather that day as miserable. The rest of the crew decided on a whim that they would stay warm and cozy at this lovely cabin, and hike on when the weather cleared up. I, however, enjoy hiking in the rain, abs decided that I would give 15 miles that day. I calculated that if I left the cabin at 10am I would still arrive at a reasonable time. At 10, I donned my pack and said goodbye to my friends, and hiked on.

Around noon, I arrived at a road. There was a sign advertising a farm just 0.2 miles west that sold food and welcomed hikers, so I decided that I would take a lunch break there. As I was eating, a woman came in and we struck up a conversation. Hearing I was a hiker, she offered to pay for my lunch! People’s kindness continues to amaze me. However, that was not the most amazing thing to happen that day.

I arrived at the campsite around 5:30, planning to sleep in the shelter. I did not want to set up my tent in the rain. It was almost full when I arrived. Everyone was just about ready for bed, even though it was early. We were tired of the rain and eager for our warm, dry sleeping bags. At 7:30, however, something awesome happened. Out of the woods popped a man with a pack. At first I thought he was an average hiker, but then I noticed his pack was full of dry firewood. It was a local Trail Angel who knew that hikers would appreciate a warm fire after the day! He built a fire, whipped out some root beer, cooked some sausages and hotdogs on the fire, and when the embers were low, he put his pack back on and hiked home. He lives about a mile from the shelter we were staying at, and had never done anything like that before, but had thought of it and decided it was a better alternative to going to the gym. I later found out that he was there again the next night.

I did the 15 miles from our little shelter to Hanover, NH the next day in less than 7 hours. The others at the shelter the night before we’re arriving around the same time as me. This was the first time that my speed was even slightly comparable to the speed NOBOs were hiking at. I credit it to the fact that when I left the shelter, I had accidentally put my music on repeat and was too lazy to fix it, so I had been listening to the same song over and over for about 5 hours. On my hike that day, I went through a town called West Hartford, where there was supposedly a bridge that was safe to jump off of into the river below. Unfortunately, I walked right past it that day, and didn’t realize until it was too late.

Certain hikers become legends on the trail, for one reason or another. For example, Knots was legendary for breaking the Fastest Known Time record this year (unsupported). One Gallon, known for eating a gallon of ice cream in one sitting, has also thruhiked the AT, PCT, and CDT three times each, making him a triple-triple crowned (a triple-crowner is someone who has thruhiked all 3 of those trails). Legend has it he hiked the entire state of New York in one day (that’s 90 miles).

On my hike into Hanover, I met one such celebrity, along with her support system. A family decided to do a thruhike with their 1 year old daughter. Roo, her mom Kanga, and her dad Sherpa, were hiking out of Hanover the day I was hiking in. Roo was the happiest baby I have ever seen, having taken her first steps on the trail.

The group I had met at the shelter the night before has a friend who is a student at Dartmouth College in Hanover. When we got into town, he let us stay in a room at his frat house. We went to karaoke in town and then watched Mean Girls before squeezing all 9 of us into a room and going to sleep. The next day, we walked down to the community center, where they allow hikers to take showers and do laundry. We spent the day there, resting, grocery shopping, and doing what ever else needed to be done.

Hanover has a network of Trail Angels that will host hikers overnight, shuttle them to and from town, etc. They are not advertised publicly so in order to stay with them you have to get the list of phone numbers. I was the only one in that group with the list, so I shared it with them and we found a house to stay together. The group was Mantis, Cash, Songbird, Tea Leaves, Peanut Pan, and Family Size. Pineapple also joined us.

Ill be doing a second post today, updating from Hanover to Gorham. Over halfway to Katahdin!

-Shiver

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