“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” – Albert Pike
“Great men are rarely isolated mountain peeks; they are the summits of ranges.” – T. W. Higginson
I made my way counter-clockwise back around Stratton Pond and rejoined the AT northbound. It was a warm, muggy day but what slowed me the most were the opportunities to forage blueberries and raspberries. I love snacking on them in the wild but that does slow my pace considerably.
I realized it had been 27 days since my last zero day so I decided to take a zero in the wonderful, 4-season resort town of Manchester Center, Vermont. After a 10.5 mile day, I arrived at the trailhead and stuck my thumb out. Immediately, a driver (Mr. Pike) who was about to exit the parking lot waved for me to come over and gave me the 5.4 mile ride into town. Thank you, Mr. Pike! I instantly fell in love with this quintessential New England town. It has all sorts of shopping, ranging from outlet stores to small gift shops. My sisters would love this place. It also has restaurants, ice cream parlors, bookstores, and coffee joints. Throw in a grocery store, movie theater, historic buildings and barber shop…all within easy walking distance…and you’ve got yourself a great town for visiting hikers.
I began my afternoon with a delicious pizza at Manchester Pizza. Next, I crossed the street and got a haircut after apologizing to the barber for my dirty hair and smell. She said she couldn’t smell me but I don’t think that’s possible. After a nice summer buzz cut, I went next door to do laundry. In the corner of the laundromat was a hiker changing area with loaner clothes to wear while you do laundry. Yes! Those are the little things that really show a town values and is attuned to the needs of its visiting hikers. I found the manager and told her that and she appreciated the feedback.
After doing laundry I headed up the hill to the Palmer House. Awesome hotel! It’s nicer than most places hikers stay, but I was due a decent place and their hiker rate made it reasonable. The hotel features indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a par 3 golf course, tennis courts, trout pound, and a great breakfast. After showering I walked down to Gringo Jack’s for some steak and shrimp fajitas. Yum! I went to bed clean, full, and looking forward to my day off in this neat little town.
I had a good hotel breakfast with a fellow hiker named Freebird from Georgia. He chose the name not so much for the song, but more for the idea that he is free out here to think and learn and grow. After breakfast I walked into town to do a little shopping and then had a pasta lunch at Christo’s Pizza. It was good, but would have been a tad better had they not charged for soda refills. I then stopped by the Mountain Goat Outfitter in search of a new set of earbuds to replace the set I lost. The only available ones were small purple ones that are “designed especially for women.” I bought them anyway. Had that happened earlier in my hike, I might have earned the trail name Ladybuds or Soft Lobes.
I spent the rest of the afternoon at the Roubdabout Cafe, drinking coffee, blogging, and eating a salad. After some dessert at Scoops Ice Cream, I headed back to the Palmer House. I finished off a great, restful day talking to my wife, sons, and dad on the phone. It makes it easier out here knowing all is well on the home front. I gave them an update on how I was doing. However, I couldn’t bring myself to tell them I was now using small purple Lady Earbuds, designed especially for women. I would rather them think of me as a Mountain Man.
As I made my way toward the grocery store, a car pulled up next to me and offered a ride. The driver hiked the AT a few years ago and she figured I could use a lift. After loading up on groceries, I went to a traffic signal and stuck my thumb out. Within just a few minutes, Cheryl stopped and gave me a ride to the trailhead. Manchester City gets two thumbs up in my book for being a hiker friendly town.
I went right to work with a 1300-foot climb up Bromley Mountain. For the first time in my life, I was hiking up a ski run in the summer time. I tried to picture the scene in the winter with snow on the ground and downhill skiers zooming by me. At the summit I stopped for first lunch with several other hikers and then took a short rest on a ski lift chair.
I descended Bromley and then climbed Styles Peek where I saw another snake. By late afternoon I arrived at the beautiful Griffith Lake. I considered tenting and swimming there, but they only had wooden tent platforms (I prefer the earth) and I still had daylight and some gas in the tank.
A few miles later, after a 14.8 mile day, I arrived at Lost Pond Shelter and set up my tent. I was joined by Freebird, Gametime (from Massachusetts) and 17-year-old Black Hole, a southbounder from California. At the entrance to the camping area were two large tents full of 10-12 year old girls and two chaperones from the Plymouth Girls Club. I enjoyed talking to them and learning about their program and wilderness section hike. Later, a couple of the girls came down to the aspiring thru-hiker tenting area and said, “We have a ton of leftover rice and beans that we don’t want to pack out tomorrow. Do you guys want some?” “Yes, we would,” I answered for the group and just like that, the leftovers were gone.
I was not able to get a picture of all the girls because that requires parental permission. However, I got a picture of their chaperones and thanked them for the delicious rice and beans. Their generosity made me feel like an honorary member of the Plymouth Girls Club. So moved, I returned to my tent and donned my small purple earbuds, designed especially for women.
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