The Appalachian Trail has sometimes been referred to as ” a footpath through the woods.” After having hiked for almost four months and over 1700 miles, this afternoon I finally found that footpath. Unfortunately, the AT only took this appearance for less than a mile. Yep, just as suddenly as the beauteous trail had appeared, it was gone. From a wide bed of soft, rockless, pine straw, the trail took a sharp right turn into the roots, rocks, and mud that we have been experiencing for most of Vermont. Still it sure was nice while it lasted.
Our day began with a stop at a country store for breakfast and a visit to an outfitter in Woodstock for a couple of items. Then at 9:20 Banzai, Pilgrim, and I headed back into the woods. With a shorter 13.9 mile day scheduled, we decided to take the later start and enjoy the day. As usual I hiked behind Banzai from the outset. Pilgrim followed, mumbling “ah, damn,” as we were immediately faced with an almost “straight up” ascent. Even with the climb Banzai talked. I listened until we crested the mountain. Then I contributed to the conversation.
As usual, the conversation, like the trail, travelled in many directions. Before long I found myself in a literary discussion. Banzai asked what novels I felt were most significant in AP classes. After mentioning a few, I found myself offering an analysis of Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening.” I’m not quite sure how we got there. I also suggested he read “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving. We talked of other writers and books for a few miles before he disappeared into the distance. The discussion did make the time go by more quickly and the climbs a little more tolerable. This helped me because I was hiking rather sluggishly from the start.
After Banzai pulled away I waited for Pilgrim to catch me which didn’t take long. When he did I commented that I felt like I had been walking uphill for the past two days. Pilgrim replied, “That’s because you have.” At the top of one of those hills Mike was waiting to warn us of some serious boggy mud. All of us tried to circumvent the swamp; however, it was downright impossible to avoid getting our shoes wet. With ankle deep mud and water, as well as head high foliage, we had no choice but to slosh ahead. Finally we again found the woods.
When we reached Pomfret Rd., Mike called it a day. My buddies and I hiked on to the Thistle Hill Shelter where we stopped for lunch. A few mosquitoes made their annoying presence known while we ate. Still we enjoyed the sandwiches and beverages we had brought with us. From the shelter Banzai hiked on alone, hoping to reach the road before his shuttling brother got there. I suddenly felt re-energized, so I also picked up the pace throughout the afternoon.
The trail at least provided me with some variety. From open fields to pine straw ups and downs, nothing seemed too difficult. Unlike yesterday, I didn’t feel lonely despite hiking by myself the last three hours. I thought about Owen Meany and his baseball card collection. Tomorrow I’ll walk into Owen’s state. Owen Meany certainly knew what the White Mountains were all about. I hope I can handle them with the same fortitude that Owen Meany displayed when faced with adversity. The mind goes to many places while walking solitarily through the woods.
When I reached Quechee West Hartford Rd., I stopped to wait for Pilgrim. We walked together up the highway to VT 14 where we saw a kayaker getting ready to put in at the White River. I borrowed his kayak for a pic, hoping I would see Steady again soon. Across the road from the river Mike and Banzai were waiting. Apparently Mike had thought this was a better ending location for today’s hike. So our day officially became a 13.0 which leaves a 9.9 to Hanover for tomorrow.
And tomorrow begins a new chapter of the DBP (Don’s Brother’s Plan, formerly the DBM). Susquehanna Slim has arrived in White River Junction and will join the caravan tomorrow. Pilgrim, Slim, and I got better acquainted over dinner at a Chinese buffet tonight. In the morning the journey continues as Susquehanna Slim adopts the DBP for the hike toward Katahdin on the Appalachian Trail.