I packed up everything, slung my pack over my shoulder, and headed out for breakfast. “Up for Breakfast” had been recommended several times, and ever the breakfast fan, or just most any food fan, I eagerly set out to find this little recommended eatery. Moving quickly down the sidewalk, in the crisp early morning air, I spotted a couple at the bus stop. Thru-hikers can spot thru-hikers immediately. We have that slightly worn, tattered appearance. They were both Japanese and lived in New Zealand (Bear & Kiwi). They spotted my pack and grinned up at me, huddled around their coffee cups as I approached. They had done a flip flop hike, and finished up in Manchester Center. They were now headed to NJ before heading home. We chatted for just a few minutes before my stomach growled angrily. We wished each other luck in our travels, and I turned quickly to gain speed and generate some heat. It was definitely a chilly morning.
Breakfast was good and I had fun chatting with the waitresses, but “Flapjacks” in Lincoln, NH still has the number one spot, hands down. I do believe it is the best breakfast spot I’ve had on any of the long distance trails.
After breakfast, I walked down the sidewalk for just a few minutes, with my thumb out. I watched a truck approach me, pass, and do a sharp U-turn. I man pulled up, rolled down his window, and introduced himself as “251 Big Dog.” I thought he was giving me his CB handle, but it was his trail name. He was a really nice man, retired with his family in Manchester, and seemed excited to give me a ride back to the trailhead. Upon arrival at the trail, he came around the truck to shake my hand and wish me well. It was like being back down south, to experience such cordial manners.
The meteorologist had apparently missed the course on “Mountain Weather.” The beautiful warm, sunny day was overcast, cloudy, and I even got sprinkled on as a little extra icing on the cake. I frowned up at the steely grey sky as small hard ice pellets pelted me in the face. Hopefully, it would clear up.
I passed several section hikers that asked me the weather for the next few days. I just said “Take what is occurring and assume the forecast is the opposite.” This answer did not seem to be a well received response, which was surprising since it was sleeting on us, but I’m sure vagueness is not welcome when you only have a few days to take advantage of hiking.
I was surprised at the number of hikers I met with dogs. I am a dog owner and lover, and I will get yelled at I’m sure, but I love to meet them on the trails, and don’t mind them off leash if the owner can control them and they are friendly. Most of the dogs were on leashes, and in several instances that was probably a good thing. Most appeared to have their owners out for a walk. One large mixed breed was growling and showing off his canines as he lunged towards me. The owner told me to “Walk on by. He is friendly.” I said that I was not until Mr. Happy quit smiling at me. The owner became irritated and circled around me through the woods huffing and puffing as fluffy continued to lunge and bark. Some dog owners really should not be dog owners.
About an hour later I met another pack of singing Viezlas. They all three had on their packs, and coming towards me on the dirt road looked like a pack of spindly legged goats. When their owners stopped to chat they became restless and began whining and singing to keep moving. They were all really sweet, and very vocal. They were clearly enjoying their journey with their pack.
The climb up Stratton from north to south was a nice moderate climb. There was a fire tower at the top so there were good views. There was also a very small cabin where two maintainers supposedly lived. They must have had a very close relationship because that was a very tiny cabin. I was not up top long. It was cold and misty, and I needed to keep moving to stay warm. I stopped and bundled up when I reached Stratton pond. I was stopping for lunch, and wanted to stay warm while I ate. Now that I was in shape, and had lost another 20 pounds, it was much harder to warm up without practically jogging, and this was dangerous in the thick trail leaves. The pond was gorgeous. Fall colors were really starting to come out, and the pond was reflecting the vibrant leaves.
The rest of the afternoon was nice, uneventful hiking up over Stratton and down to Black Brook, where I stopped for the night. I met Drifter who was camped on the other side of the Brook. There were nice sites around the little stream, but I debated setting up. I knew I would have a wet tarp the next morning. I finally relented to my fatigue. It was getting late, and well past dusk, so I crossed the brook and set up for the evening.
Drifter was on the other side of the creek, and there is always a certain sense of comfort when another hiker is nearby. I avoided groups, roads, and shady folks, but my intuition and Spidey sense had not let me down yet, and in the time I had chatted with Drifter, I had determined he was another backpacker that loved being outdoors, and was a generally good guy. I would sleep well next to the rushing water.