Day 108. See ya later Vermont, and nice to meet you New Hampshire. Fortunately, the start of NH is the same nice terrain as VT, so I’m not too upset for the change. Soft trails, switchbacks, and some great views in this first day. Not to mention, I’m closing in on 400 miles to Katahdin, and I can’t believe how fast the miles and states are rolling by now. Just a few more weeks and this long journey is done. I still have a ways to go, but New Hampshire … wow, it feels like I’m nearing the finishing line.
I was a bit bewildered when I woke up this morning. Wha? Where am I? What’s that a funky smell, that isn’t me for once? Ah yes, the Blue Barn. I did sleep well, though only after I decided to lay my underquilt below me like a sheet to appease my fear of bed bugs … or worse. And even with that layer of permethrin soaked protection, I still jumped off the dirty mattress as soon as I woke. Let’s just say, I graciously appreciated Linda the Trail Angel’s hospitality, but I won’t be adding this to the list of places to return to.
I cooked breakfast, filled my water bottles, and headed out of town. Today’s hike was great, though during the 20 miles, I walked about 15% of it on town roads. Three towns actually, as the trail goes through West Hartford, Norwich and Hanover in this stretch. The first had nothing of interest, just houses and roads along the river, but the other two were big towns.
Norwich and Hanover lay on opposing ends of the Connecticut River, which acts as the border between Vermont and New Hampshire. Norwich has a few hiker friendly amenities (brewery, general store, post office, etc.), but Hanover is the real score. Hanover is home to Dartmouth College, and therefore is a huge college town. And the AT walks right down Main Street, through campus.
Hanover has everything you could ever want and more. Restaurants, grocery, bars, outfitter, pharmacy, bakeries, hotels, movie theater, you name it. Heck, I even walked by a J. Crew and North Face store. And it’s extremely hiker friendly. The guidebook recommends you to first stop at the Dartmouth Outdoor Club, a campus building that hosts all the outdoor activity student groups, where you can leave your pack while you tour town. However, it is unguarded, and at risk while there. I subscribe to the “never leave your pack unattended” theory, so checked out the building and then walked on.
Also, did I mention that it was PACKED on campus? Apparently this is reunion weekend, and the town is overflowing with alumni. I could barely walk down the street, it was so congested. And I felt bad, because they all looked so clean and well dressed … but were forced to walk next to the garbage can of a man that I look and smell like. However, everyone was very nice. I was asked about my trip a few times, and even offered a free donut and pizza slice just for being a thruhiker (I eagerly accepted both). I reveled in the town a bit, but knew I did not belong today, and exited just as quickly as I entered. Thanks Dartmouth, but I have mountains to climb.
The next 10 miles of trail appear to be maintained by the Dartmouth Outdoor Club, as their bright orange signs helped direct passage for me the rest of the day. I am sure the hiking here is very popular, so the signs help maneuver around the many crisscrossing dayhikes to take. I’m happy to say I did not go the wrong direction today! My favorite sign was at the end for Moose Mountain Shelter. It even had a nice drawing of a moose and a map of the shelter amenities. Nicely done Dartmouth, nicely done.
Tomorrow is another short day, only 18 miles or so with some great views to sit and enjoy. I chatted with two Southbound section hikers today that raved about everything they saw today coming in from the North. Holts Ledge, Smarts Mountain and others. With the nice weather expected, it should be a good day. The view from Moose Mountain today wasn’t too shabby either though (photo above).
Reflective note … I’m not ready for this trip to end, but I’m definitely counting the miles left instead of the miles walked. It’s not because I want this experience to be over, but I believe I am ready to complete it all the same. I find myself looking forward to the end of the day’s hike a bit more than the act of hiking lately, a subtle but important change. I guess life has been on hold for a long time now, and there are things post-AT I’m looking forward to that are just around the corner. Lately, at night, I spend time thinking about that more.
In that vein, this week will be a nice “stop and smell the roses” section. I have some tough climbs ahead of me for sure, before I even get to the Whites, but I’ve also reduced my daily miles average to under 20 a day. This way, I’m sure to get to Franconia Notch on Thursday, and I can get off trail right before the Whites for the wedding in Pennsylvania as planned. It will be a nice break, and I’m looking forward to spending time with my wife and our friends.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)
- Start Mile: 1738.9
- Start Time: 06:45
- End Mile: 1759.7
- End Time: 16:20
- Miles Hiked: 20.8
- Miles to Go: 431.2
- Lodging: Moose Mountain Shelter