South - Day 34

With the Seven Mile Bridge coming up immediately, I awoke early and departed at 3:15 a.m. Back on dry land at 8:45 a.m., the day was turning into a scorcher. US-1 took me over many bridges, through remote areas, and past trailer campgrounds. Brutally hot by 9:40 a.m., I doused my head and clothing at every opportunity, occasionally drawing stares. The cooling effect lasted for about 45 minutes. Passing the last available campground at 2 p.m. with 20 miles to go, I went for broke. The landscape and life around me streamed by in slow motion at 3 miles per hour. By 4 p.m. I was taking US-1 around the US Navy base on the nasty outskirts of Key West and at 5:50 p.m. I was still negotiating fast thruway traffic. Reaching the island proper, I improvised a southern route through residential districts along Flagler Avenue. A woman tourist agreed to take my victory photo. At 8:10 p.m. I posed at the Southernmost Point, then scrambled over the rocks to touch the water.

At day’s end, my t-shirt and socks stiffened like waxy cardboard from dried sweat. My thighs developed a rash from friction with my shorts. Minutes before finishing I chanced upon a youth hostel and signed up for the night. Against all odds, I had found a place. Maybe the angels were looking after me...



South - Day 28

Limping past docks with boats alongside bobbing quietly in the darkness, I approached Pompano Beach at dawn and walked on the sand. Along Fort Lauderdale Beach, the teeming public numbered over a thousand. The road then veered inland, crossing an enormous drawbridge. US-1 became an 8-lane divided highway out in the open by the airport. After cooling off under a bridge abutment, I circled an accident scene, where a friendly policeman recommended the shore route around Miami. A mile later I turned left in Dania on his advice and returned to Route A1A. The Hollywood resort area had a kaleidescope of beach umbrellas and thousands of bathers. The road narrowed dangerously in Hallandale Beach where I scooted underneath bushes and between driveways. Then city streets and beaches for a few more miles.

My injured ankle might not take me far, but after several miles of shuffling I could walk almost normally.
In Fort Lauderdale Beach, a dalmation dog wore a red bandana around the neck and sunglasses rakishly perched on the nose. Shortly afterwards, a flock of multi-colored parrots flew into the tree above me.
Joel the Concierge in Sunny Isles got me a room farther ahead. At Days Inn, the lady at the desk told me to take the elevator to my room. That round-trip ride was my only mechanical transportation for 34 days.



South - Day 16

At 4:15 a.m. I departed for the Florida border. Safety grooves all the way, and no breakdown lanes afterwards. Second breakfast in the pleasant urban town of Hilliard. Further on, US-1 took a long, wide arc to the right through vast, open, flat farmland, where I had a close call involving a tire blow-out (see page 6w25). After an early lunch in Callahan, I went through a long, hot, tedious stretch into the outlying districts of Jacksonville. The backfire of a passing wrecker truck, making me jump in the air, renewed the warning to be careful. An hour later, a car with boat trailer in tow barreled down the highway at me, overlapping the breakdown lane. The volume of traffic forced me to adopt the policy of walking facing the traffic unless there was a curbed sidewalk. The landscape reflected changing commercial patterns. Old 1950s motels had disintegrated, leaving only their signs. New motels had been built on nearby highways. Fortunately the Shakir Motel, inside the 295 beltway, had a super-clean room for me.

With itchy, sweaty, hot feet, a tightening right calf, and sunburned face, I gratefully showered.
Hammock Hanger (AT day 33) visited me with chicken and pizza. Departing, she said, "Oh, I brought a quart of ice cream, but it's probably too soupy now." I decided to have a taste. Twenty minutes later, it was all gone. Welcome to Florida!



South - Day 4

At 10:25 a.m. I finally got out the door and immediately saw a restaurant around the corner. A message painted on the windows read, “We support our troops.” The decor had dimly-lit dark colors, clean tables, and a buffet of various freshly cooked foods laid out next to the kitchen. A short black man wearing a knit scull cap welcomed me as a tall, young black woman walked into the kitchen. Then an older black woman, who evidently just finished preparing the lunch buffet, put on her coat and exited the front door with purse in hand. “Could I just buy a piece of chicken?” I asked, thinking of the miles ahead. “Sure,” the man said, “That’ll be $1.50. Make sure to take some bread.” Pleasantly surprised, I helped myself to some freshly baked cornbread. “Do you have some water? There’s some spring water over there,” the man said. I gratefully filled my water bottle, thanked him, and made my way to the door. The young lady called out from the kitchen, “Have a good trip!” or words to that effect. Chicken never tasted better. What a blessing to stop at the House of the Lord!

Waking without a headache for the first time in ten days, but still coughing, I studied maps and got a late morning start. Amazing hospitality at a local cafeteria. Picking up food along the classic Athens center, I negotiated Route 78 southeast up a big long hill with strip malls. The urban sprawl led to massive supermarkets and parking lots on the left. A brand new retro car-hop on the right. The road abruptly condensed into two country lanes. I sent gifts home from a country store at the next junction. At darkness, I inquired at a video store in the small town of Crawford and eventually found a bed a couple miles away.

The owners of the local B&B had gone out of town, so Melanie at the video rental store was calling laundromats and such places to find me a place to stay. Her little son played hide-and-seek with a dachsund while another lady cross-examined me about my wedding band. Unaware of television reports about fugitives, I joked, "My wife said to come home soon, but not too soon!" Then they sent me across the street to eat, where I had salmon and met 70-year-old Rose, who had seen "everything but Mount Rushmore." Sure enough, she described my little New England town to me. Back at the video store, Shirley came in during a shift change, and offered to put me up. No, I didn’t need a ride. When I arrived in the dark, her daughter Kim let me in. While I lay on the cozy shag carpet watching the New England Patriots qualify for the Super Bowl on TV, Shirley's pregnant grand-daughter and her husband visited with Kim. A clean stars-and-stripes flag, neatly folded in a triangle, resided in a corner display case of my bedroom.



North - Day 28

During breakfast a wave broke against the rocks, sending a huge white plume fifty feet in the air. At first, massive hills on my right kept me in shadow for distant stretches while bright light shone on the water. The whitecaps of large rolling waves blew streams of mist for 20 or 30 yards, forming rainbows. 55 mph winds challenged my balance and foot placement like the most difficult trail. The road passed several interesting village inlets that offered some shelter and sunlight. Anse Pleureuse provided a big morning meal. In Manche-d’Épée the road finally turned inland, where a daredevil driver nearly clipped me from behind. At Madaleine a grocery manager forwarded me to Paradis de Jude et Diane in Rivière-la-Madaleine. The elements had drained the force from my legs and mind. I slept for an hour, feasted for dinner, and then slept another ten hours.

A lady in a convenience store mentioned the winds. Then she wrote “90 km” on a piece of paper for clarity, because in French you say “60-30” to mean “90.” People paid me compliments, “You must be in good shape.” I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders, thinking that chest congestion could still stop me. Only two months earlier I had been sick and overweight, so I hoped they were right.



North - Day 24

After a gentle downhill grade for a couple kilometers, the trail arrived at magnificent waterfalls feeding Rivière Duvivier. Then began an arduous 3-hour climb up Mont de l’Ouest, part of the same ridge I had been running the prior day. The trail afforded magnificent views of valleys back to the northwest before passing by a side trail leading to the peak. After cresting other satellite peaks, the trail followed a ridge along Lake Matane before descending steeply to the shore. I was too “beat” from recent exertions to be grateful for this cool, cloudless day. Stumbling out of the woods at 3:30 p.m., I found hospitality with the hunters at Chalet Matane #1.

At dawn I awoke to a glorious light raking across the treetops from the right. Nature paused in a delicate balance of breezeless, cool conditions with ice forming on the water. Already I contemplated getting another layer of fleece for warmth at night. Departing quickly to generate heat, I heard a crashing sound on the opposite shore. Emerging from the woods came a huge bull moose — the counterpart of my nocturnal wildlife encounters. On more than one occasion during the day, I heard moose scatter from the trail ahead before I arrived.



North - Day 16

It took an hour of walking to shake the chill of a heavy fog. Turning right from Ch. Robbinsville Rd., I strode up the steep incline of Route 17, and stopped for a snack at Art & Pat’s convenience store, remade from a filling station. Good-natured customers bantered. I departed as a full-fledged member of the “Liar’s Club.” The mist began to burn off around 10 a.m. Changing my clothes out of sight in a ditch, I stepped into a pointed branch and narrowly avoided an eye injury. Was a guardian angel named Pamola actually watching over me? Turning left near Dawsonville, I enjoyed views of waterfowl, beaver dams, a beautiful lone horse, and a bald eagle casting its shadow across me. The road walk along the Restigouche River featured brightly painted houses. Reaching Matapédia meant walking away from it along the river in order to reach a great highway bridge and return on the other side.

On this short hiking day I collected my maildrop at the post office, shopped for food and bought my passport to the Québec trail system from David Leblanc. In the Motel Restigouche restaurant Pete Dube indicated that hikers usually complete the Québec IAT in 25-27 days. After dinner I washed clothes in the sink.



North - Day 7

Chores and errands took me until 10:30 a.m. After glimpsing ducks in a dammed pond upon leaving town, I climbed the ski trail at Mars Hill. The route took an undulating, puddle-filled dirt road to an isolated communications tower on the northern summit. A new trail descended the hill to Knoxford Road. Next, the barricade at the New Brunswick border. A rough 4-wheel-drive route went along the border strip. Emerging from the woods, the strip had views of patchwork-quilt fields on the U.S. side. After about 7 miles, it became unmaintained and descended into swampy areas filled with water run-off. I tied my shoes around my neck and waded through hip-deep water where wooden ramps floated randomly. At other points I followed meandering bypass roads or soft-shoed through marshes.

Returning to higher elevations as darkness fell, I watched a boy ride an ATV out onto a field on the Canada side to dig up some potatoes for dinner. After passing an abandoned border checkpoint, I bedded down on the edge of a Christmas tree farm, falling uncertainly asleep to the barks of a dog in the valley who simply KNEW I was there.



North - Day 0

On the Helon Taylor trail at 6:10 a.m., I carried 35 pounds excess weight on my body and in my pack. Reaching Pamola Peak in 4 hours, and falling behind schedule, I experienced shortness of breath. Sore legs and a body tired to the bone. Dizziness. I conceded defeat at 10:30 a.m., a mile short of my intended starting point on Mount Katahdin. A young Polish couple would have helped get my pack up the technical climbing section on the Chimney, just a stone’s throw away, but I wasn’t feeling well enough to cross the Knife Edge. “Go home,” the trail told me. I stumbled 3½ hours back down the mountain, and started walking on the sandy access road. The same luck, which frustrated my climb earlier in the day, now propelled me home to Massachusetts. To Tricia’s astonishment, I walked in the door at 10:00 o’clock that night.



AT - Day 97

The temperature fell near freezing during the night. Dirty Boots and I got up before daylight. Percalady, Tweety Bird, Mijobi, and Sunshine joined us for breakfast and gave us an encouraging send-off. A magnificent, clear day dawned as we hiked by flashlight. The trail was benign. The elevations didn’t bother us. We just slowed a little for them. To our amazement, the landmarks and trail crossings flew by sooner than expected. The temperature held at 40 degrees on the shady side of Springer Mountain, but hiking warmed us. With the moon still showing in the blue sky to the west, we reached the plaque at 9:45 a.m., much sooner than we expected. I walked across the rock in disbelief. Could this really be it? Hugs, pats on the back, and congratulations followed. We celebrated quietly for three quarters of an hour, feeling elation and relief. Nothing could intervene now.

Dirty Boots and I arrived at Amicalola Lodge at around 1:30 p.m. When I called home, Tricia exclaimed, “How’d you do that? Yesterday morning you were 40 miles away.” Counting the approach trail, she was nearly right. We feasted at the buffet while waiting for our rides.
Dirty Boots later wrote, “Hello Pasta Man — Mr. Linguini, it sure was great to finish together in style... the trail seems so idyllic a place now that I’m not walking 15+ miles a day.”



AT - Day 85

Cool 40-degree conditions greeted us, but did not dampen the warm company. Toby reminded me of Romans 8:31. After a brief stop at Roaring Fork Shelter, I was on my own again, crossing Max Patch with clouds scraping across the bald mountaintop. It was a mystical event, reminiscent of Saddleback Mountain in Maine, warning me to be humble. As I descended Snowbird Mountain, identical twins Hel and Emmadog came striding athletically uphill. Hel advised me, “Be nice to yourself. Take a day off.” Continuing on the long downhill, I found that I could eliminate the knee complaint by trotting. The trail led across Pigeon River and Route I-40, then over a big bump to Davenport Gap. I ate a big dinner at Mountain Momma’s. Nobo section hikers Woodbadge and Ovenbird shared the honeymoon cabin with me and supplied tips about the trail ahead. My maildrop had shoe replacements.

Taking Hel’s advice, I looked for opportunities to take half-days off the trail. I called them “Be nice to yourself” days in her honor. The twins completed the AT in two section hikes, according to the grapevine.
My knee complaint pretty well went away after today, but I continued taking the medication, since it had been prescribed for up to a month. I did not realize it was ten times the normal dose of ibuprophen.
Ironically, the knee injury taught me how to run on smooth sections of trail, with an ankle trotting motion, like skipping rope. This trail running subsequently helped me gain time on long downhills, and incidentally caused lingering soreness in muscles immediately above the knees.



AT - Day 77

After 7 miles, the trail reach-ed Vandeventer Shelter with its picturesque view of Watauga Lake. The trail wound through ups, downs, turns, and road crossings to the earthen Watauga Dam and the deep ravine off to the right. The trail bordered the heavily-used picnic area before crossing Route 321 and ascending by pleasant switchbacks to Pond Flats. Contrary to the profile map, the trail became rugged while descending Pond Mountain to Laurel Fork Gorge. The landscape assumed an untamed, prehistoric character. A steep climb out of the falls led to a railroad bed passing through dramatic, hilly terrain to Dennis Cove Rd. Arriving at Kincora Hiker’s Hostel after 5 p.m., I went out with proprietor Bob Peoples and section hiker Neutron for groceries. After consuming most of a large pizza, a good hunk of steak, and a pint of ice cream, I still felt hungry. Go figure.

Bob told me the story of one person’s transformation into a thru-hiker. Pointing to the white waste basket in the bathroom, Bob said, “See that 5-gallon pail there? A guy walked in here with all his possessions in that pail. A sheriff in Georgia had told him to follow the white lines on the trail north, and not to come back. I swapped him a pack for the pail, and he went all the way.”



AT - Day 65

Woken at 4 a.m. by cool air, I hiked by moonlight, then flashlight into Daleville by dawn. After obtaining my maildrop at Econolodge and a buffet breakfast at Shoney’s, I climbed the rocky trail past buzzing powerlines to Hay Rock with its view of Carvin Cove Reservoir. After ups and downs, the trail offered westerly views of the valley, with hawks soaring above. The trail ducked off the ridge at Lamberts Meadow Shelter, where I got murky water from a stagnant stream, then rose to Tinker Cliffs. Up and down, up and down to McAfee Knob, with a view back. Up and down, up and down to Route 311, the road to Catawba. Mistakenly stretching the day 6 miles over a sawtooth ridge with more ups and downs, I cried tears of desperation. In the dark I descended to a cow pasture at Beckner Gap, crossed shoulder-high growth on Sandstone Ridge, and emerged from a pine-covered rise at Route 624. I walked a half-mile uphill to 4 Pines hostel at 9:30 p.m., where Joe Mitchell’s wide-eyed young son opened the door.

The best of days and the worst of days. High mileage in dry weather over demanding terrain with less daylight. Magnificent views for inspiration and a bad choice of water. Excitement, solitude, exhaustion.
In hindsight, I would reschedule Daleville as the two-thirds point in my southbound time-line, with segments of 600, 900, and 700 miles taking 33 days each. Truthfully, most hikers have had enough after 1,500 miles. Completing the remaining 700 miles may be attributed to determination.



AT - Day 53

In the dark of night, Sweatbucket returned from the privy, tripped over his hiking poles, and fell partly on top of me. I woke up with a start, reaching out in the dark and backing off. In the morning, he apologized, adding with a smile, “You were pretty scared there.”

Sweatbucket took his time in the morning. He had a maildrop in Waynesboro, Pa. Across the Mason-Dixon line, I stopped in PenMar County Park for a soda. I visited High Rock on a blue-blaze trail at the advice of a local dayhiker. The AT continued past varied fields, woods, and powerlines. A rocky section near Camp David made me ask, “Would pioneers even take this trail?” The roadway became soft and sandy near Pogo Memorial Campsite. Nobo Mars commented, “Everybody is a section-hiker until they finish.” His words rang hauntingly true. Late in the day, I stopped at the beehive-shaped rock tower built in 1827, honoring George Washington. At dusk I pulled up short to dine and spend the night at Dahlgren Campground with section-hikers Dr. Dick, Phil, and sobo Caboom. I slept on a picnic table. Other campers came in loudly at midnight, walking back and forth with flashlights.

I curtailed my hiking plans in order to meet Caboom, a Canadian nicknamed the “Queen of Trail Magic.” She could ask a stranger for water or directions and soon get a ride or sleep on a screened-in porch. Poof! No bugs at night!



AT - Day 44

Despite a late breakfast and an hour’s drive back to the trail, I made good progress on the long-ridged Kittatinny Mountain in Highpoint State Park. In Culvers Gap I lunch-ed on pastries at Worthington’s Bakery, served by a courteous, but distant lady. Did she see too many hikers? Kittatinny Mountain continued on a long, dry stretch over old gravel roads past Rattlesnake Mountain. Within earshot of summer communities, the trail split the gap between Crater Lake and Long Pine Pond, then diverted onto rockier paths. Search was sitting and enjoying the ambience of the woods when I caught up to him. We cheerfully hiked together and found a water pump at Blue Mountain Lakes Road. The miles through diverse green woods and pleasant dirt roads glided by easily, so we reached Mohican Outdoor Center by dusk. To my surprise, Mark, Odette and Donny (trail angels from Maine) met us there for a cookout.

Staying at the Pomeroys’ was not the only miracle to happen. My cross-country hiking style came together at the time of staying with them.
Search had the personality of a philosopher-poet. He had written in a shelter register about the “Sobo Void.” I knew what he meant. The solitude of the wilderness maybe desirable for several hours at a time, or overnight, but after a week without company, most hikers enjoy some conversation during a break or mealtime. Communication does more than share useful trail information; it stimulates the mind.
Search loved cycling. He meticulously described for me the ballet-like beauty of a chain of cyclists, how they take turns in the lead, then peel off, dropping to last place in line. Each conserves energy by drafting behind the others.



AT - Day 38

A heavy ground fog hung over the field in front of the shelter. I must have been bushed the previous night. All the hikers ate and left. Moving slowly, I departed last. The up-and-down trail moved pleasantly through a rural area near the CT/NY border. Emerging from the woods to descend along open cornfields in the heat of record-breaking temperatures, I passed the AT railroad station. The trail made a short climb and descent to Dover Road, site of an ancient oak tree and a house providing water to hikers. Nobo Growler and I relaxed on the lawn under maple trees, drinking ice water and letting the brunt of the heat wave pass. During the next 8 miles I took a dip in Nuclear Lake. I could hear but did not find hikers happily swimming there. I spent the night alone at Morgan Stewart Shelter. The Saturday morning pickup of my maildrop at the Bear Mountain post office was now at risk.

At the shelter, somebody had left a collapsible container of water on the front of the floor, which leaked down a board to the ground. Several yellow-jackets buzzed around the trickle, which I took to indicate the drought in the woods.



AT - Day 30

Descending Stratton Mountain at sunrise, I startled a bear, then met a moose three minutes later. At Story Spring Shelter, Wee Willie and Easy-Does-It stopped for a while. The trail passed a beaver pond, then passed through a well-worn section, and ascended Glastenbury Mountain, which has a firetower. A procession of nobos came through, including Vacilando, Satan and trailjournalists, Rocky & the Bedouin. The latter two traveled in a group of five. I attempted to increase my pace on the tedious ridge along Little Pond Mountain, but the rocky path caused me to stumble and bang up my ankles. Many nobos, plus a few LT end-to-enders, were staying and camping at Melville Nauheim Shelter. The names Homeless and Unemployed belonged to a middle-age, Midwest couple who sold their home and quit their jobs to hike the AT. Their humor lifted the spirit of everyone around them.

Wee Willie, Prince of Whales is a self-proclaimed blue-blazer. He hikes 6 to 10 miles per day, preferably around big mountains. He proudly wears a T-shirt, painted with a big blue blaze, that his friends gave him. He heads out into the woods each spring, as far as the trail will take him on his terms. Wee Willie knows all the places where the AT previously took a level route.
Most of the Internet journalists maintained their online journal at Trailjournals.com. I felt that I knew some hikers, like Little Bear or Hammock Hanger, before ever meeting them.



AT - Day 21

Wolly Hood offered to clear the tables for me, so I departed without breakfast. Mooseleg had slept on a ledge at the falls, and we headed out simultaneously. We hiked over Zeacliff, Mount Guyot, and South Twin to the new Galehead Hut, where Mole had already arrived. On the “rollercoaster” path near Gale River Trail, a young woman carried a heavy load to a trail crew campsite. At the Garfield Ridge Campsite entrance, Wanchor lounged on a bed of rocks and ferns, while bantering nobos lined up for spring water spilling out of a trough. After a visit with a ranger on Mount Garfield and a Scout group looking for water near Garfield Pond, I climbed Mount Lafayette. The cell phone frustrated me again. I dragged myself along Franconia Ridge, down the boulder-strewn Liberty Springs trail to the bike path in Franconia Notch, thence to the payphone at the Flume.

Weakened after missing dinner and skipping breakfast, I gritted my way past Mount Lafayette on a lacking diet of candy bars. I dragged myself to the Flume parking lot, but couldn’t get a ride into Franconia. Strangers took me for “hiker trash.” An older couple answered my appeal for help with, “Not today, thank you.” In frustration I replied, “I just hiked 20 miles in the mountains.” The lady answered, “Do you want us to call the police for you?” I finally reached Tricia on the payphone. She contacted Rick and Judy, who were holding my maildrop, and they came to get me. Months later, Judy commented, “You seemed to be walking on air, like you’d been holding your breath for a long time.”



AT - Day 1

Tricia brought me to our reserved shelter at Katahdin Stream Campground in glorious weather, so I climbed Mount Katahdin early, departing with a day pack at 11 a.m. The trail went flat for a mile, up for 3 miles, then flat for another mile. A bright sunny sky with billowy clouds made for a perfect start. Lakes dotted the landscape, both north and south. At the summit Brooks shared a cup of water and Beth Ann took pictures with my camera. I officially began my sobo (southbound) hike at 2:45 p.m., when I headed back down the mountain. The round-trip took 6 hours and 50 minutes. After dinner, Tricia and I brought food over to nobos (northbounders) in the shelter opposite us, who were finishing their thru-hike on July 4th.

The nobos held a 45-minute clinic on thru-hiking for me. The Beast talked about lengthening your stride to hike 30-mile days. Leave room in your shoes to prevent jamming your toes on downhills, he said. Transient was continuing home on the International Appalachian Trail. Listen to your body, he said. When your mind flashes “Snickers,” that’s your body telling you it’s time for a snack. Lone Wolf (from Utah) had intense excitement. Use anti-bacterial Neosporin for everything, he said, including when “your butt cheeks get chapped from too much climbing.” He said he’d broken out crying from too much time alone at shelters. Then he joked, “Your worst predicaments will make you laugh the most… afterwards.”



Long Trail - Day 17

Lacking water, I climbed up and over Jay Peak on a dry breakfast, and found the next spring at Laura Woodward Shelter. The trail approaching Shooting Star Shelter featured the most rugged single descent of the journey. It seemed to drop 2,000 continuous feet. During a rest and a hot lunch at the shelter I met a southbound day hiker, then a pair of high school young men briefly stopping there. They seemed to observe my weary determination. Near Route 105 a well-conditioned, gritty man with close-cropped white hair and a 55-pound pack congratulated me in advance. The final section of the trail rolled through endless hills of dense foliage almost like a bad joke, reminding me of all the obstacles I encountered in the northern section. Reaching the border at 4:40 p.m., I nearly overlooked the monument located behind a rock.

The Journey's End trail became tame and flat, offering all kinds of camping opportunities. So I realized that the Long Trail had been placed in the most dramatic landscape, featuring lots of ups and downs on purpose. Reaching Journey's End Camp, I celebrated with a pair of section hikers for five minutes. By foot and by hitching, I reached the Buon Amici Motel in time to meet and dine with another pair of hikers, James and Melissa, who got me to Massachusetts the next day.
The Long Trail end-to-end hike averaged 16.5 miles per day for 17 days. A modest pace on rugged terrain.



Long Trail - Day 16

After a bumbling start, I descended through the rock formations of Devil's Gulch and ate breakfast looking down at the cloud rising from the nearby lake. Soon Rita W. came up the trail to join me for the day's walk. We crossed Route 118 and hiked to the peak of Belvidere Mountain, observing prevalent tree damage from Hurricane Floyd. From the tower I could see the asbestos mines on the southeast slope, a landmark Rita had previously pointed out from Lincoln Peak. We noted unusual rock stratification around the pond just above Tillotson Camp. Eating lunch at the camp, we watched a rain system enter the valley to the south. The rain overtook us as we hiked, and surprisingly seemed to thunder and circle around us. Rita stopped to wait for her ride at the unpaved Route 58, while I headed for Hazen's Notch Camp to make dinner. When the rain let up, I attempted to reach Route 242 by dark. There was a lovely twilight around Domey's Dome and Gilpin Mountain, but I misjudged the time. Two more hours of hiking with my dim light remained. I tarped alongside the trail somewhere near Jay Camp at 10 p.m., and turned in after 11 p.m., still fairly wet. My pace averaged 1.3 miles per hour for 16.5 hours.

In the early morning I got some water at the spring, filtered it, and knocked it over. So my departure dragged on and otherwise went awkwardly.
At night it took several attempts of walking up and down the highway to find the trail on the north side and the nearby shelter, but the occupant didn’t want to share it because of “a leak in the roof.”
So I reluctantly tarped, feeling squeamish after my soggy night near Killington Mountain. I slept pretty well. A breeze coming down the mountain made me reach for my thermal underwear and fleecewear for hands, neck, and head.



Long Trail - Day 3

We hiked through some remarkable beaver ponds and terrain to Story Spring Shelter, ate breakfast, prepared lunch, and filled up at the beautiful spring. Climbing Stratton Mountain, I felt discombobulated and could not find an efficient rhythm. My pack was too big, and the contents kept slipping to the bottom. I stopped to wash in a river, only to get bitten by many bugs. Laboring slowly, I ate lunch from my pot while walking and fending off insects. Andrew hiked strongly to the top, then waited an hour for me. After chatting with the caretakers, who monitor the summit from a cabin, we aimed for 13 additional miles to Routes 11/30 where Andrew had parked his car with our food. The gently graded trail, routed through carpets of pine and subsequently through lush foliage, permitted a sure-footed pace. We ran for the last 3 miles, bypassing some beautiful waterfalls. This time I arrived 5 minutes before Andrew. We rewarded ourselves with a dinner and night at Johnny Seesaw's Country Inn, where we showered and washed the sweat off our gear.

We never saw GPS and Smartwool, who detoured by gondola from Stratton Mountain for lunch in the ski village below. The pleasant caretakers at the wooded peak said that many northbound AT hikers call an end to their thru-hike here. Meanwhile, somebody who had run the LT from Massachusetts took a break nearby.
A group of dayhikers with a similar itinerary to ours churned straight through mud in heavy boots and vaulted over puddles with hiking poles. Andrew spent most of the day keeping up with them, except for my slowing him down. We missed them by 15 minutes at day’s end, according to a person waiting in the parking lot.



Long Trail - Day 2

We got up early and hiked through some rolling, abandoned farmland. We crossed Route 9, bathed in a river there, then hiked up to a ridge trail. Andrew went ahead, and I caught up to him at Goddard Shelter as a downpour started. We prepared some food, the weather cleared, and we went up the fire tower at Glastenbury Mountain. Next, we hiked a long up-and-down meandering section of old trail and forest. The shelter logs indicated that GPS and Smartwool were just ahead of us, so we tried to catch up. I slipped on a slanted rock, fell on my elbow, and learned not to hurry too much. As darkness fell, we tarped on a shelf above the trail in a bed of ferns, 2 miles before Story Spring Shelter.

GPS and Smartwool were a pair of lady hikers who kept an online journal on the HikeVermont website maintained by Rita W. Together with them and a few others, I maintained some records about preparations and results.
Later I kept similar records on the HikeVermont site for my AT thru-hike, since I was an alumnus of the Long Trail by then. This online activity seemed novel to me, as Internet communications had only recently broken through.



Long Trail - Day 1

My 18-year-old Scouting friend Andrew and I waited out a rainshower, then started up the Pine Cobble Trail in Williamstown, Mass. at 10 a.m. After a rocky hill, the forest along the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail was lovely and gently graded, but had a certain sameness about it. As we approached a massive boulder, a young woman with a fairly heavy pack and bug-bites on her legs came toward us. After swapping trail information, we started off on our fresh legs. She lingered, watching us go. Further along we saw our first beaver dams. After dining at Congdon Shelter with several AT hikers, we pushed on until dark, then tarped for the night.

Dining at a picnic table beside Congdon Shelter, a southbound hiker confessed to us that he hadn’t been prepared for long-distance hiking. He said he had thought he was ready, but he found he wasn’t and took some time off near Killington. His buddies called out to him that that they planned a long-distance “death march” for the next day.
My pack weighed 16 pounds, including a base weight of 8 pounds plus 7 pounds of food and 1 pound of water. I later reduced my food ration by about 1 pound. Although Andrew’s pack weighed 35 pounds, we each had a footprint of about 175 pounds.