The text message at 6:15 this morning said, “Banzai asks do you really want to hike in this rain?” My response without even consulting Pilgrim and Slim was, “Yes.” With only a 9.9 mile day planned into Hanover, I wasn’t about to let a little rain interfere with reaching New Hampshire. It was only moderate rain. OK, the rain was coming down pretty hard. Regardless, I just couldn’t see forfeiting a day to weather. Slim agreed. When Pilgrim and Banzai finally bought in, we were off to a morning of slogging up the Appalachian Trail.
The trail today began and concluded with road walks. As soon as the four of us emerged from Mike’s car we were greeted with a steady drizzle. I wore my rain jacket with a light poncho that also served as a pack cover. Despite both, I got pretty wet as the rain fell with varying degrees of intensity for the almost four hour duration of our hike. Some of the trail was already saturated; however, the mud didn’t seem to be any more severe than other recent days. We did encounter two swollen streams. At the second I just walked through rather than risking falling on a wet rock.
The order in which we hiked varied with Banzai and I alternating in the lead. To take our minds off of the dismal weather I proposed that we sing rain songs. I offered up a verse of “I Wish it Would Rain.” Slim crooned CCR’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and then Pilgrim chimed in with “Davy Crockett.” Not quite sure where rain fit in with Pilgrim’s selection. It did lead me to bellowing out a little of “Rawhide.” Rolling, rolling, rolling, keep them doggies rolling, rawhide; through rain, wind, and weather, hell bent for leather, wishing my girl were by my side. Head ’em up, mov’em out, rawhide—-or something like that. Such is life on the AT, especially on a rainy day.
Alter my rendition of the theme song from the popular early 60’s western, I decided to put some distance between myself and the others. As I hiked ahead, however, I could hear an ongoing conversation between Banzai and Susquehanna Slim. With a new audience of one, Banzai was on a roll. I only heard bits and pieces of his discourse, but it also seemed that Slim was getting in his two cents worth as well. So on I sloshed through the standing water and mud up a quagmire of a trail toward New Hampshire. With minimal rocks and negligible climbs, I pounded out the miles in near record time. Eventually Banzai and Slim caught me. When we reached Elm St., which began a 2.5 road walk into Hanover, we waited for Pilgrim to catch up. Then we walked together as the rain increased.
As “Raindrops kept falling on my head,” I thought of another cold, rainy 21 mile day and a green poncho. That was over two months and 1000 miles ago. It could have been yesterday or in another lifetime. I hiked on toward the Connecticut River and the 13th state of the AT. When I reached the western edge of the bridge I noticed several rowing teams. We stopped briefly for the perfunctory picture of the etched VT/NH on the bridge. Even though a steady drizzle continued, I was determined to have this photo memory. After the pics we made our way on up the road into Hanover and onto the campus of Dartmouth College. The trail then makes a right turn onto Main St., moving through the center of the popular New England town.
Within minutes we had connected with Mike and the car. After a trip to the motel for a shower and dry clothes, we headed back to Hanover for lunch. Tonight we’ve been invited for dinner at the home of Short ‘n Sweet, a section hiker whose son, The Brain, thru hiked in 2007. Over dinner I hope to gain some knowledge of what lies ahead from Short ‘n Sweet and her husband, Graybeard. So tonight, July 23, I’ll celebrate my 4 month anniversary as I enjoy a meal and good company in a home directly on the Appalachian Trail.