Day 107. Today was my last full day in Vermont, and this beautiful state decided to make it a memorable one. I’m going to miss the Green Mountains and their soft needle-laden paths. And to be honest, the mud everyone complains about did not really cause me much trouble this past week. As the bench above instructs, I did enjoy it! But around noon tomorrow, I’ll pass in to New Hampshire, the town of Hanover (Dartmouth College), and my 13 state of this voyage.
So, what was so special about today? There were some ups and downs (pun intended), and it started with an excruciatingly frustrating down. The rain wasn’t so bad last night, but it continued through the morning. About an hour into the day’s wet hike, I arrived at the Wintturi Shelter for a quick rest and to shed a layer. Even though it was cold and rainy, I was sweating through my fleece sweater and wanted to pack it away at least partially dry.
And then, I did the unthinkable. I did the ultimate thruhiker faux-pas. Coming out of the shelter, I went the wrong way.
I’m sure most thruhikers have done this, in fact you’ll probably meet a hiker or 2 named “Wrong Way” each year for this exact reason. But my mistake wasn’t some cute little slip up, corrected quickly and hiked about afterwards among new friends. No, I went the wrong way FOR 2.6 MILES! Ugh, I was so focused on watching my feet and staying dry, that I accidentally went south on the AT from the shelter side trail. It wasn’t until I reached a familiar looking trail sign about a half mile from the Lookout Cabin that I fully looked up and realized what I’d done. 2.6 miles wasted … or “negative miles”, as we lovingly call it in the thruhiker community. It was at this moment that every person and animal in a 10 mile radius heard me scream.
Damn was I mad. Of course, there was no one to be mad at but myself, but I screamed multiple obscenities at the trail gods regardless. Correcting my error meant redoing those 2.6 miles again … and the entire 5.2 mile round trip wasted 2 good hours of daylight. That is what upset me most of all. Now my breezy 23 mile day plan was a near-impossible 28 miles that would yet again go late into the night.
I decided the best remedy for my attitude was to stop shorter at West Hartford, now 17 miles away, and to take advantage of the two farm stands along the way for food pick-me-ups. And, almost as if on queue, that decision turned the weather around and the sun came out.
About 5 miles later was a road crossing and my first stop to the On the Edge Farm. This wasn’t in any of the guides, except for a few comments in the Guthook app at the marker for the VT Route 12 Road crossing. But it was a hiker haven! Fresh pies and muffins, Hershey’s ice cream, candy bars, sodas, meats and cheeses, eggs, frozen burritos and more … not to mention picnic tables, a port-a-potty, water spigot, and trash cans. I healed my emotional wounds with some junk food and lemonade at the picnic table. And during that calming feast, the craziest thing happened. While I sat there, a mid-sized black bear ran across the road, crossed 10 feet in front of me, and jumped into the woods. It happened so fast, I didn’t even have time to stand up, let alone snap a photo. The bear just ran by, scared of traffic and clearly not scared of me. It was surreal, and I’m not fully sure it really happened. It might have been a ghost bear.
Still bewildered (but now much more alert), I crossed the road and headed onward. About 7 miles later, I came to the other farm with goods for sale. This was the much more we’ll-known Cloudland Farm Market, mentioned in all the books. But it was severely unimpressive compared to the On the Edge Farm earlier. They had some homemade soda, beef jerky, cheese, and pints of ice cream, but that’s it. Supposedly a restaurant opens later but I was not privy to that good fortune. So I bought a homemade raspberry soda and sat on the porch while I ate my boring tortilla and tuna packet lunch. Still, it was a relaxing break and beautiful view on this now sunny day. No ghost bear sightings.
At this point, it’s half past three, and I’m still 7 miles from West Hartford. I had fully made up my mind to stop there now, and reading comments in Guthooks again, found there is a trail angel named Linda who lives right on the trail and opens her barn to hikers for the night. I strolled in after 6pm and saw her big blue barn with a giant AT symbol above the doors just after crossing the White River bridge.
Linda, and 5 year old Alice, greeted me immediately with all sorts of delicious treats. Soda, cupcakes, coffee, dried fruit, pasta salad, and more. She filled me on the setup … a room above the garage with old mattresses, a TV set and a large collection of 80s and 90s movies. Walking in, it reminded me of a clubhouse where kids might hang out after school and learn about human anatomy together. It’s dirty and hoarding all sorts of junk, but it’s quiet and comfortable for an evening. I laid out some gear to dry, pushed thoughts out of my mind of what has probably occurred in here, then popped in Field of Dreams from the VHS collection to unwind to. Good movie.
Tomorrow was going to be a 16 mile jaunt through Dartmouth and to the Moose Mountain Shelter. With today’s shorter stop, it will be 20 miles instead. If I don’t do any more negative miles, it should be an easy day. If I pay closer attention to a compass, that is.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)
- Start Mile: 1719.3
- Start Time: 7:40
- End Mile: 1738.9
- End Time: 18:15
- Miles Hiked: 19.6 (+5.2)
- Miles to Go: 452.0
- Lodging: Trail Angel Linda’s Barn