Days 165 + 166
Day 165: Mile 1695.6 | Cooper Lodge @ Killington, VT
We got up for breakfast around 7am. I arranged a free shuttle for myself back to the trail. Miles didn't want to take the shuttle. He wanted to hitch back to the trail. He wanted to meet more people and experience something most hikers do, but we had rarely had to do, by hitch hiking. I got upset with him at first. I wanted him to just come with me in the shuttle. I didn't understand why he had to do something different. It felt like he was just doing it to shove it in my face, that we didn't have to do everything together. It felt, at first, like it was my fault. As if my little irritability freak out about his shorts and us spending the day apart yesterday is what 'caused' him to want to hitch hike. I was too selfish and caught up in my own insecurity about going back to the trail from town by myself that I didn't see his want for an experience. I had only ever gone back to the trail from town by myself one time. It was crazy to think that I'd made it so far without having this experience, even though I essentially started this journey that way.
I began to cry as he left me. He went to the WalMart to get a few things for his resupply and figured he'd get a ride there. I stayed by the Yellow Deli and waited for my shuttle. From the car on the way back to the trail, I saw Miles sitting in front of the WalMart waiting for a ride while I went back to trail with four southbound hikers. It felt horrible, like we were being separated for good, even though I knew we weren't. I was having some pretty serious separation anxiety.
I listened to the girls around me in the car complain about the durability of women's hiking clothing and how none of their clothes had held up that well. They were about 500 miles in and they had no idea how much you could ruin something in 500 miles. They were just replacing their shoes for the first time and all of them lamented how quickly their new shoes were being ruined. It all seemed silly and trivial and dramatic to me in that moment. I realized that I was most certainly that way when I started, at least I think I was in retrospect. It didn't make it all any less annoying to be around.
I left the negative energy of the car and stepped out into a gray sky covered trailhead. One of the girls tried to tell me what was up ahead on trail for me. "It's much like Maine in this section," she claimed. She was not the first to do this. So many hikers, mostly southbound, have tried to tell me what's ahead on trail: elevation profiles, terrain difficulty, views, etc. The trail is different for everyone because perspective and experience are so subject. I know I've done this before: told someone a mountain was up ahead or noted how many miles we had left. At this point in my journey, though I really didn't want to hear about how steep that one part was or how rocky the trail is. It's the AT... it goes up, it comes down, it has rocks, occasional mud, it goes on... that's how it is. I told the girl this, she looked at me, horrified, and went back to trying to tell me about the climb up Killington, my next summit and the high point of Vermont.
I said goodbye before she could tell me more, she offered me a beer for the road from her stash. It was really nice of her but I decided to pass. I crossed the street and some train tracks and was on my way. Back on the trail, without Miles. I tried to walk in silence, but it was difficult, to be honest. I started listening to a podcast and eventually found my groove. Up and over a dark, rocky hill with the wet leaves from last nights rain brushing my arms as I motored up the hill with my trekking poles. I came across moose tracks and saw a large female moose escaping silently into the woods:
Eventually the sun came out a bit. At the next road crossing, about 4 miles in, I found trail magic and some southbound hikers! We shared sodas and talked about how great Vermont has been. While I sat on the side of the trail drinking my soda, Krafty, Blackbird, Big Bunny, and Sherpa showed up! I was so excited to see them! We'd lost them in Delaware Water Gap and hadn't seen them since. They'd gotten off trail for a week for a wedding and had already caught up to us.
I walked with them to the next shelter. The boys pacing in the front while Blackbird and I pulled up the rear. We walked and talked and caught up on the states we'd missed. It was amazing how long it had been but it also felt like not much time had really passed. Like we were still in the same place and time as the last time we'd seen each other. On our way to the next shelter we found the sign we'd all been waiting for: 500 Miles to Katahdin.
Blackbird + Crafty
Me + Krafty
Big Bunny, Blackbird, me, + Krafty
I celebrated with my friends. One of the happiest moments I'd had in Trail yet. We kept going to the shelter where we stopped and ate lunch. There, I met a girl hiking the Long Trail, which the AT followed for most of Vermont. Her name was Chairlift and she was moving to Boston, right near where I used to live. We talked for a while and we exchanged Instagrams, as us hikers often do, to keep in touch.
After lunch, the five of us set out again for Killington's Peak. I set out first, Big Bunny and Sherpa quickly passed me. At the next spring I found, I stopped for water and Krafty sped past me. Blackbird stopped for water with me and we both made some caffeinated drinks with Mio. I motored up the hill behind Blackbird. We both put our headphones in and I put on some music to hype me up on this rocky path. Blackbird proved to be faster than me and she dropped me shortly after the water source.
I kept hiking my own pace and when I reached the top of the mountain I found the shelter and some tent platforms. I left my pack on a tent platform and took only poles and my fanny pack up the Blue Blaze that lead to the actual summit of the mountain. The Blue Blaze was insanely steep. Going up it was really fine but in my mind, the whole way up, I thought yikes, this will be scary to go down! At the top, I found Blackbird, Krafty, Big Bunny, and Sherpa again. It was Sherpa's birthday!! They'd gotten cookies, brownies, and ciders at the summit restaurant (Killington is a ski resort mountain. They have a summit restaurant, chairlift, and small lodge at the top) which they shared with me.
I sat up there enjoying the good company and taking in the incredible views. After about half an hour, the four of them left me on my own on the summit. They hadn't been into Rutland yet and wanted to get there tonight to celebrate Sherpa's birthday. The next road into the city was about 14 more miles ahead on trail, it was almost 2pm.
I sat on top of that mountain and meditated for a few minutes. I looked out at the amazing place I had WALKED to and couldn't believe that I was here. I finally felt calm and content. I thought about the past couple of days and my attitude. I realized how okay I was without Miles there. It wasn't that I didn't want him there anymore but it felt good to know that I could do all of this ON MY OWN. BY MYSELF. He wasn't going to just leave me behind, I recognized. Like Krafty and Blackbird I knew I'd see him again even if it wasn't tonight. One night apart wouldn't kill me, it wouldn't change anything either. He'd still be there for me, I'd still see him again very soon. I breathed a big sigh of relief, stretched, and headed back down the Blue Blaze as I watched storm clouds roll toward me across the valley. I hiked my own hike today, I realized, and it felt damn good. I even got to hike with some friends, while still maintaining my own pace and simultaneously challenging myself.
Back under tree cover, I sat on the tent platform and cooked up some Minute Rice, tuna, and summer sausage. A day hiker came up after a bit and began asking me questions about thru-hiking. I spoke with him for a little while, but soon grew tired of his questions and his beer pounding antics. His fourth beer in half an hour seemed a bit aggressive and I didn't feel that comfortable with his questions anymore. I packed up my food, took my cook pot full of my dinner, and was about to go eat somewhere else when Miles showed up! The guy left quickly after that and Miles sat and ate with me.
Miles and I recapped our days and I told him about how I ran into our friends! We decided to just set up at this shelter and move on the next day. It was beginning to get dark with the storm and we figured any part of a storm we could miss would be worth it. That night, Chairlift camped near us! She told us the hilarious story of how she took the chairlift down Bromley, thinking her friends were at the bottom of the mountain, and the chairlift closed before she could take it back to the top. She began her hike back to the top of the mountain, somewhat annoyed with herself, when someone who worked at the mountain pulled up on an ATV and offered her a ride up. Hence the trail name Chairlift.
I slept well that night in the piney forest as the storm rolled in.
Day 166: Mile 1700 | Churchill Scott Shelter
We awoke to POURING rain. Neither of us had much motivation. We were still heavy with resupply, the terrain was so muddy it covered your ankles. I had to stop often to remove mud chunks from my socks to avoid blisters.
We walked through the dreary day to the next shelter. We stopped there and had a snack break. I got water. I called my cousin, who lived in South Pomfret, VT, near where the AT crosses. She said she could pick us up anywhere we wanted! We agreed to meet her in Woodstock two days from our phone call. After an hour sitting in the shelter with two Long Trail hikers, we decided to just set up here. My feet felt like bricks and I didn't feel like dealing with this rain.
We set up side by side on the only tent spot available and prayed we wouldn't flood on this very floodable spot. Later, as evening fell, I woke up to so much condensation dripping from my tent wall that my sleeping bag was damp. I wasn't warm. Everything I owned was wet. I packed as much of it as I could back into my pack and convinced Miles to let me share his tent with him. I left my pack in my vestibule and left my tent up. In Miles' tent there was definitely condensation as well, but not nearly as much as in mine. Bright side, his floor was still dry! He also had cuben fiber so we could wipe it down during the rain storm and remove some of the condensation with a camp towel. A single wall sil-nylon tent will just sag if you wipe it in the rain and gather even more condensation. Thankfully, I escaped the rain inside and outside of my tent that night. Thank god for Miles.