Appalachian Trail – August 13, 2013
Breakfast was ginormous – with even the waitress raising an eyebrow as I continued to peruse the menu, and thoughtfully read each item to myself while she placed plates in front of me. I was not actually going to order anything else, but just enjoyed reading menus like good books. Once I had finished eating, she began to gather my empty plates, commenting on the amount of food I had eaten. I glanced up and smiled. It was only slightly more than what I would have eaten at home, and I knew she was really just jealous. After 35, I could only dream of eating food like this, unless I hiked hard. One of the many reasons for my wandering. I blame my appetite on my father. It is clearly a genetic pass along, in addition to my jowls and bird legs.
I slowly ambled back up the hill to my hotel, letting my swollen belly shift and settle, moving slowly. Everything was packed and ready to go, and Sandman was there waiting on me. I asked Sandman to step away from the road, as I stuck out my thumb. It was less intimidating for a motorist to pick up a female hiker. They would pull over before noticing Sandman, and then probably not say no. It took about 15 minutes to get a hitch with a school teacher who was also an avid hiker. I tried to give her some money since it was an 18 mile round trip, but she would have none of it, commenting on her own hitches in the past. “Just pass it forward,” she said, smiling at us as we got out of the car.
The cloud cover was low, and the skies steely grey, and soon enough it started raining consistently with the temperatures dropping quickly. I stopped to put on my rain jacket for warmth and to shed the water from the thick bushes, and also put up my umbrella. Sandman shook his head at the umbrella, I'm sure very frustrated that he had not thought to bring one of his own. You don't see many umbrellas out here. Brush is dense at times, and it can be irritating to constantly have it snag and tear. I did not hike without one though. It rained more than out west, and I did not like the claustrophobic feeling of a hood.
We passed Hercules and Hobbit in the early afternoon. They were a SOBO couple, and were headed for Sabbath Day lean-to just ahead. They were interesting. They were about my age, and had sold everything to hike the trail and then “WOOF” around the world. They explained this was a system that allowed them to offer their services for room and board. Once they finished hiking the trail, they were going to WOOF around for a while, using a WOOF website to locate jobs. Hercules seemed very excited, with Hobbit maybe a tad less so, but willing to do whatever Hercules wanted to do.
We stopped at Sabbath Day Lean-to for lunch, and Sandman made coffee. I could tell he wanted to stay, dry out, and get out of the rain – commenting on how cold it was getting, and how dry the shelter seemed to be. It was early though, and I announced I was going further, so after finishing our coffee and snacks, we packed up and headed back out into a light drizzle.
We only met two NOBO's that day. I have never seen two hikers more excited to see me. Their faces lit up when they saw me, and they said they had seen nobody else all day. I experienced the same thing climbing down Mahoosuc Arm. For many long distance hikers, the social aspect of the AT becomes it's greatest appeal. I enjoy meeting people on occasion, but actually prefer solitude. This is why I generally camp between shelters or sometimes near them for water. I would have to say that over the years, the main reason many hikers have told me they leave the trails is because of the solitude and loneliness.
We crossed over route 17 later in the day and headed down to the river. We had been told there were good camp sites, and upon arriving met two other men also camping there. If not for Sandman I would have hiked on and found another location, but it is tough to find late sites that will hold more than one tent, so we chatted with them briefly and then left to go set up our own shelters at the other end of the clearing. The two men came over to chat a little later, but I feigned sleepiness, and climbed under my tarp, leaving them to chat with Sandman.
I was done for the day. I was cold and wet. All I wanted was to wrap my quilt around me, and curl up for the evening.