“And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
“The world is divided into two classes, those who believe the incredible, and those who do the improbable.” – Oscar Wilde
The owner of the Killington Motel imports coffee beans from around the world and roasts and grinds them at the motel. I tried his bold Kenyan roast and loved it. I also loved the motel’s all-you-can-eat breakfast featuring blueberry pancakes. My day was off to a good start.
The breakfast came in handy as I powered my way up Quimby Mountain. Shortly thereafter, I was passed by a familiar looking hiker and his dog. It was Pantry, who I had not seen since we shared a cabin in Shenandoah National Park. I love these random encounters with people I met earlier in my hike.
After getting water at Locust Creek, I climbed up to the Lookout, a private cabin with fantastic 360-degree views. The owner lets hikers use it as a shelter. It has a long ladder that leads to a small platform, The Lookout, on top of the roof. I climbed up it for the views and hoped that maybe James Taylor would be up there escaping from a world that’s been getting him down.
I hiked on and, after a 16 mile day, set up my tent near the Wintturi Shelter, mile 1720.7. I was happy to see Pantry there, as I always enjoy watching him pull various ingredients out of his massive food bag. As he prepared some sort of fancy soup concoction, I ate two tortillas with peanut butter and honey. Since he’s known as Pantry I should probably be known as Cupboard’s Bare. As we sat there eating by the shelter, he told me about two interesting experiences he has recently had. First, he hiked with a guy who bought too much at a trail town grocery store and ended up hiking with two large summer sausages duct taped to each of his trekking poles. Ingenious…almost. That night a bear came and took the poles from beside his tent with the sausages still attached to them!
At another campsite Pantry stayed at, an anonymous person called 911 and said that someone at the campsite had a gun. Next thing you know a “mini SWAT team” was on the scene, going from tent to tent looking for the nonexistent hiker with the gun. Pantry had no weapon for them, but could’ve given them dried lentils, kale, and more than a dozen herbs and spices. By the way, they investigated, determined who made the call, and arrested that hiker at another campsite for filing a false report.
Four miles into my morning hike, I reached VT 12, Barnard Gulf Road. I headed .2 miles west off the trail to visit On the Edge Farm, where I ate my first homemade rhubarb pie, along with a chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and Mountain Dew. Loved the rhubarb pie, even though I’m not exactly sure what a rhubarb is. I think they also use it to reinforce steel.
After six miles of roller coastering on a hot day, I arrived at Cloudland Road with plans to make another .2 mile diversion to Cloudland Market. However, this proved to be unnecessary because I hit some Vermont Trail Magic! First there was a cooler with drinks and goodies just before the road. And then at the road, Gas Tank was set up with a full complement of snacks and drinks. A southbound AT hiker, he fell and tore his meniscus in the Whites and decided to provide some magic during his recuperation at home in Vermont. I’m not entirely sure what or where a meniscus is. It sounds like something a woman has or does that might make her grouchy. I will look it up after researching rhubarb and report back on both.
I received word from several SOBOs about an awesome couple, Randy and Linda, who live in a house by the White River in West Hartford. (Not to be confused with Big Steve and Lil Jan, who live in a van down by the river.) This amazing couple feeds and shelters over 1000 hikers each year. I was also told they have a dog who will come after you barking, but will return peacefully to the porch after you pet him. Sure enough, at mile 1737.1, after a 16.4 mile day, I crossed the White River and headed toward the house with the big AT symbol on its barn. I heard barking and then saw Cujo’s grandson charging at me as he slobbered. I quickly jumped out of his way, nearly tweaking my…meniscus? After petting him, he returned to the porch to wait for the next hiker.
Linda and Randy feed hikers breakfast, lunch, and dinner…whatever meal you’re there for…at no cost (optional donation jar). They also offer free lodging in the barn’s mattress-filled loft or you can camp in their yard. On top of that, you can swim/bathe in the White River across the street or even take a 30-foot jump off the bridge into the water. After eating four grilled hot dogs and drinking two orange sodas, I claimed a bed in the barn’s loft, and then headed to the river. I stripped down to my faded, oversized, pathetic, droopy, synthetic underwear and swam out into the rapids. Being full of rhubarb and already having tweaked my meniscus, I opted not to jump off the bridge. I enjoyed a peaceful rest of the evening along with Tough Love, Tin Man, Task Master, and several other hikers. It was good to be in West Hartford, a town flooded and nearly wiped off the map in 2011 by Hurricane Irene. It was also good to meet and receive kindness from Linda and Randy, two of Vermont’s finest citizens.
The trail seemed a tad easier today and I frequently heard the sound of loggers in the distance. I often wonder if they hear me when I fell the occasional wilderness log.
By mid-afternoon I reached the adorable, upscale town of Norwich. Bob Keeshan, better known as Captain Kangaroo, was from there, in addition to many other of Vermont’s wealthiest residents. I headed .1 mile west to Dan and Whits General Store, known for its decent prices, good selection of groceries, and narrowest aisles on the AT. They also give hikers any available day-old deli sandwiches for free, so I downed a free roast beef sandwich after re-supplying. Three of my fellow hikers were asked to help an elderly woman across the street move a piece of furniture, and she rewarded them with some leftover food in the fridge, unaware it had mold on it. Awkward.
After purchasing a 50 cent cup of lemonade from a young man in front of the store, I continued my journey over the Connecticut River…and into the great state of New Hampshire! Any state with the motto “Live Free or Die” is alright by me. After taking and posting the obligatory new state photo, I climbed the state’s first hill right into the bustling college town of Hanover.
I could have spent a week in Hanover taking in all of its sights, sounds, eateries and shops. Instead, I spent about four hours. My first stop was to an outfitter to pick up a package Janet mailed to me. I now have my stove and winter gear again. I then had a free slice of pizza and large salad at Ramunto’s Brick Oven Pizza. I stopped into the nearby Verizon store and upgraded my phone with more storage. Not quite full, I headed back to the main drag and had a large ice cream at Morano Gelato and then two pastries (one free) at Umpleby’s Bakery Cafe. I hit a couple of gift shops which were of course full of all things Dartmouth. On my way out of town, I stopped at the Co-Op food store for a couple of Gatorades and bananas.
The AT goes by the Dartmouth stadium and practice fields and then up into the woods. I hiked about 1.5 miles and then, after an 11.3 mile day, set up my tent near Velvet Rocks shelter. I overheard a fellow hiker tell another hiker that a third hiker he knew had received a goat as a present from his parents and intended to hike with it the rest of the way to Katahdin. I laid in my tent considering the pros and cons of hiking the AT with a goat. There are some upsides, but overall I’d say it’s a b-a-a-a-a-d idea.
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