AT sobo part 15 – Where we lose some friends but gain others
We all loved Vermont, agreeing it would probably always be our favourite state; especially for its famous cheese that we had rammed deep in our packs. It’s important to keep fat consumption up on the trail for energy, and cheese is a great way! The hiking stayed interesting throughout the state which is good, because sometimes walking gets very boring.
It was a treat to hike through closed ski resorts, with the chair lifts hanging silently still in mid air. I went to the wide netting that’s strung out under the chairs to catch dropped skis and poles (or people!) as they ready to ski off in the winter, but we used them as sunbeds to lie across in starfish shapes and gaze at the view. I then did a bit of retro blazing down into the town of Manchester. Retro blazing is where you look at maps and find alternate routes instead of the AT, but that lead to the same place. A lot of the time these lesser-used routes are actually the old AT, which has been re-routed to make the trail more difficult over time. It’s fun to walk quieter trails where there are only remnants of blazes and you have to use your maps, and I always like to stray off the beaten path.
Manchester was a sweet but expensive town. We piled into two small motel rooms with people sleeping all over the floors, but it’s an effective way to save money. Some people come on trail after saving for a long time and have to be very careful in order to complete the whole hike. One to the top three reasons that people don’t finish is that they run out of money. The other two are injury and real life situations which need people’s attention. I saw a few of these happen, such as illness of family members and businesses issues. You just always hope these people will get back on and you’ll somehow see them again. It’s heartbreaking to see someone forced off trail when they don’t want to go.
At the motel I was introduced to the game of Cornhole! My trail name had been ‘Cornwall’ for a while because I wore my St Piran’s flag with pride and was ALWAYS raving about home. In the end I changed it, because people kept mishearing and calling me ‘Cornhole!’ This word has, in the past, been a rude slang rude for a bum (argh! See why I changed it?!) but it is also a super fun game where you have two boards with a small hole in each one, set at a distance away from each other. The boards are set at a forty five degree angle and you have to stand a set distance away to try to throw bags of corn into the hole. The one with the most on the board or in the hole wins! It was great fun, and I need to introduce it at home.
Manchester was where Hambone got picked up for a week’s family holiday back in Maine. I was bereft when he left, as we had been a team for so long and I knew I was going to feel lost without him. He would be back on trail in about nine days, but by this time we could be nearly 200 miles ahead of him and it would take weeks to catch up, even at his swift pace. It was tough saying goodbye. We all got a hitch quickly from the local gas station and I had to look the other way as our pickup drove out, tears streaming down my face. I loved my new crew already, but I was missing my buddy hard.
The next few days were reminiscent of Maine; stunning sunsets over beautiful lakes and rivers aplenty. I navigated having to filter water from a stream with a dead fish in it because I had no options (ridiculous really, as all the lakes have dead fish in them – I just don’t see them!) and I started to properly stand on my own two feet in wild without my right hand man. The next standout Vermont experience was entering what is jokingly known as the ‘Glastenbury Triangle’. It is well documented that in this area, many people have disappeared…forever. It’s a spooky forest with confusing signs that lead you in circles and mean that you never quite know which direction you’re facing. Phone service is limited and I hiked it feeling sure I was going to get lost and end up wandering the woods for weeks alone!
Thankfully we got to the summit and epicentre of the ‘Triangle’ unscathed. The Firetower there was so high that when we got to the top with plans to sleep up there we were absolutely frozen by the wind and chill that wasn’t present below in the woods. The views were indeed incredible, but I happily enjoyed them for just twenty minutes before descending and setting up camp. Of course; no one disappeared overnight, and we made our way out of the ‘disappearance zone’.
Our next town we came to was called ‘North Adams’, where I booked us all an Air B&B to relax in. We ended up staying for two days as we were exhausted. Our host was totally enchanted by the crew; Smudge, Stump, Mandolin, Wag and Captain, and he had also holidayed recently in Cornwall! He wanted to chat all things Falmouth which was amazing for me, because I was missing home a lot. He then kindly drove us all over town for resupply and beers. Eventually he hustled us down to MOMA, convincing us we could simply not be in the area and l not go!
MOMA is the Museum of Modern Art; the biggest in the USA. He got us all in free by explaining we were thru-hikers and then toured us through the exhibits, as both he and his wife are passionate artists. What a treat, but it doesn’t sound like hiking does it?! The thru-hiking experience had been so brutally physically hard up to this point that I was a little bewildered at how civilised things had become. I knew I needed to go with the flow though, as the trail is an ever evolving journey with continuous challenges, and occasional luxuries which needed to be grabbed with both hands when they arrive. I was over a quarter through this adventure with the hardest most dangerous miles done, so now was the time to rest when I could; longer mile days were looming.