June 19. I woke up late again, seems to be a trend since I got out of Pennsylvania! I had set up my tent on the tent pad the night before but it was a little slanted so I didn't get much sleep while trying to stay in the middle of the tent all night. One thing is for sure though, CT and MA have been much better on shelters and camping than NJ and NY were! In NJ and NY it felt like the shelter locations were oddly spaced and it made it hard to hit them at a decent hour at night. In CT and continuing on into MA there seem to be lots of options for shelters and tent sites, and even the tent only sites have a privy! As I packed my gear I noticed slugs crawling all over my tent and my shoes. They were leaving slug slime everywhere and I was trying to pull them off my stuff. As I got out of my tent I must have sat on one because when I put my tent away I noticed a big slime and guts spot on the bottom of the tent...lovely. Oh well, not much I could do! I folded it to the inside, stuffed it in my bag, and headed on my way! The first two mountain climbs were tough. On the way down I caught up with a guy I hadn't seen since Gatlinburg! We talked for a bit and then I headed on. He said he had been putting in some big miles but now he was slowing down...he wasn't sure he wanted to finish so soon. This would be a popular idea as I caught more and more people, lots of them seemed to be slowing down as to not finish too soon. I crossed a valley, only about 6 miles long, but it was an interesting mix of feilds, grass lands, river banks, pine forest, and road crossings. Twice today I started walking towards the nearest town to find a deli or restaurant and twice I talked myself out of it. It wasn't the food I was actually craving, I wanted a soda. I don't even drink soda at home, but out here on the trail I crave it bad. I told myself I'd be passing through Dalton tomorrow and could get one then. As I walk through the woods I can often hear the fast chirps of a baby woodpecker coming from trees along the trail. Today I stopped to listen and look at a tree with lots of holes and in no time I watched to mother woodpecker drop off food in the hole and fly away, pretty cool! On the last climb up to the shelter site I planned to hit I noticed that someone had dropped some granola on a rock. I looked closer and saw 3 ants, all hauling a piece of granola backwards in different directions. It was interesting to see the struggle to make progress with this huge piece of food...I wonder now as I am in my tent if they finally got it back to the ant hill... Just under 25 miles today and in bed early. Hope to get some good rest and get back at it tomorrow!
June 20. I woke up decently early today and hit the trail a little after 7. I am still not starting as early each day as I did in Pennsylvania but I am working on it! I started out on spider web patrol for sure...first one out of the shelter. I walked for a few hours and, as predicted, it was going to be a hot day. By 10 AM I was walking through a valley and my thermometer read around 90. Later in the day I'd see it in the mid 90's. I passed a group of people hiking to the Upper Goose Pond Cabin, a very nice shelter where hikers could take a swim in the pond and the caretaker makes blueberry pancakes for breakfast. A nice dip in the pond sounded nice but I pressed on with a goal to have a day off in a town by the weekend! After those hikers it was a bit lonely on the trail. I must be between bubbles of hiking groups, I knew several fast hikers were just ahead of me, including Tarzan, I had seen their names in the log books, signed from earlier in the day. It was a long lonely hike today. The only sounds were the birds, the trees creaking as the wind blew them and they rubbed together, and the flies buzzing around my head. When you are alone in the woods sometimes the trees or the flies can sound like voices, but if you look around, it is just you. I was lonely enough to give Amy a quick call from the top of a mountain, and that gave me some energy. I passed a shelter at 5 PM and the one lady staying there said I was the only person she'd seen today. I walked another 2 miles to the "Cookie Lady" and right on cue as I walked up to the house she came out with 3 fresh baked cookies for me. I talked with her a bit while her husband mowed the lawn, I filled my water, and headed out. I had about 7 miles to go to the next shelter. About half way there I was tired and decided to stealth camp. I started setting up my tent and realized there wasn't enough space for it. I moved on and finally made it to the shelter just before 8:45. It was a 33.5 mile day and I was beat! I was the only person at the huge 10 person shelter, I guessed that everyone else in the area had headed into town for the night. The shelter was nice, but the bugs were bad so I swt my tent up. It was a hot day and would probably be a hot night. I fell asleep thinking about a town day coming up soon!
June 21. Today barely felt like a day on the AT (except for that 3,000 foot mountain I climbed...). For example, typically on the AT I don't get to have a large coffee, a Coke, a root beer, an orange juice, an ice cream bar, and a BLT sandwich...but I did today, all in one day! I started out at the shelter 3 miles from Dalton, MA. No one else showed up after me so it was a nice quiet night. I woke up around 6 and laid there for awhile, looking at the guide book, weighing my options. Finally I started packing and I strolled down the hill and into Dalton. I stopped in a local gas station to get coffee and another day's worth of food. Before I did any shopping I scoped out an electrical plug behind the building and plugged in my phone to charge. I wonder if that will change when I am done with the AT... Will I still walk into restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and gas stations and instinctively look for an outlet? I looked through the gas station food selection and poured a large coffee and somehow purchased $27 worth of junk food! About the healthiest thing I could find was a pack of crackers...needless to say I was disgusted with my food, and even more disgusted with the price! Typically my food resuppy cost has been about $10-$12 per day, but this bill shattered the records! In some of these small towns you just have no other options. I walked through town and out on the trail, it was going to be another very hot day. The past two days were so hot that even the rocks on the trail were sweating, which made them very slick! About a mile into the trail I caught up with two other hikers taking a Pop Tart break, and one of them was the other Tarzan! We finally met and talked a bit, but as they started hiking again they really took off...man, these guys were fast! In a few short miles we came to another town, Cheshire. This was a much smaller town but I had caught up with Tarzan and Fancy and we all walked down to the local hardware, pharmacy, lawn and garden, candy, grocery, you-name-it store. I bought a Coke and an orange juice, an ice cream bar, and a box of raisens. I sat out on the front steps and took it all down and the guys left and started up the trail.
Random Trail Thought: If the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland appeared on the branch of a tree beside the AT, what would he say to me?
From town we climbed just shy of 3,000 feet up to the top of Mount Greylock. It was a long slow climb for me, especially in the heat. When I finally made it to the top around 4 PM I found Tarzan, Fancy, and Rat Bucket in the lodge dining room eating real food! I quickly ordered a BLT and a root beer before they closed the restaurant and loved every bite of that sandwich! Tarzan and Fancy left to shoot for the Vermont state line and I hiked a few miles with Rat Bucket until he stopped to stealth camp at a great lookout point with a fantastic sunset view. He was carrying a guitar with him and he has had thru-hikers signing the face of it so I added my "Tarzan" signature to it. As I left him the trail shot down 2,000 feet, fast. It was a pounding downhill but it brought me to Williamstown and North Adams. The trial dropped right onto a small town street and I walked through at 7 PM on a Thursday night. People were outside grilling dinner, a baseball team was practicing, everyone was out enjoying the warm summer evening. These are the times I miss being hime. It reminded me a lot of growing up in Berne, Indiana and the warm summer nights there. It also reminded me of the small town feel of Carpinteria, California where Amy and I were living at this time of last year. From this point I could have walked 0.5 miles either way for more town food and another soda but I decided I would pass, I wanted to make it to the campsite soon and get off my feet! A few miles up I found the campsite and pitched my tent. I was tired, a tough 28 mile day, but tomorrow is a town day!