Day 120 – Thursday, July 7: Manchester Center, VT to Little Rock Pond Shelter, 19.8 miles, 1,670.5 total AT miles.

We woke early as planned and headed into town. I couldn’t get ahold of Black Santa – I was sure I’d see him at camp tonight as he was catching a ride back to the trail from the hostel. We packed quickly – Greyhound needed to attempt to clear up the fraudulent charges to her credit card before we left town. We stopped at the gas station for some last minute snacks and then to McDonalds for breakfast.

In Pearisburg, VA, Savage, Black Santa and I caught an unexpectedly fast hitch simply by standing by the exit of a fast-food restaurant, kinda near the drive thru. I hoped the same would happen here. It didn’t take long before a station wagon quickly pulled in to scoop us up. I sat in the back seat.

But this wasn’t any ordinary hitch – we were quickly informed by the driver that she preferred to play a special CD for hikers. She asked if we were easily offended. I was intrigued. The CD starts playing and this nice lady starts singing. The songs are all vulgar, comedy-style songs – middle school Cool Dad would have probably liked them. They were mostly about “boobs” – I don’t feel comfortable going into further detail.

As were pulling up to the trail head – the lady politely informs us that she wants to perform a little song and dance routine. Why not!? Greyhound and I hop out of the car and watch as this lady performs an entire vulgar song complete with suggestive body movements. It was hilarious! We politely thanked her and left. I was speechless – it took a while to get it out of my head and focus on the day ahead.

Our goal was to make it to Little Rock Pond – I was fairly sure I’d catch up to Black Santa there. But that lay almost 20 miles ahead. Three miles up trail, we summited Bromley Mountain and hung out by the ski lift for a little while – it was 11:30am. We both put our heads down and cruised.

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At 1:30pm, we stopped at Styles Peak to have a snack. And then the coolest thing ever happened. A chipmunk darted out of the bushes and started gathering crumbs extremely close to Greyhound’s foot. He wasn’t afraid of people at all. I told Greyhound to feed him a cracker – she tried but he skirted off into the bushes.

A few minutes later, he popped out again – this time he shot up a boulder and right next to my shoulder. I slowly moved my arm towards him, holding a cracker. He ran up and grabbed it! He held it with two hands in the air and took a few bites before scurrying off. I wish I could have gotten this on film.

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Riding high, we set off. I had cell service and made a few calls. I also checked the weather – there was a near 100% chance of thunderstorms, due to arrive that evening. The clouds were already starting to build as we crossed Baker Peak at 4:30pm – camp was still seven miles away.

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The trail was rocky and rooted – and slick from a recent rainstorm. But it was very pretty out. Even though I knew rain was on the horizon, I was lulled into a false sense of security by the beautiful late-afternoon sun. The trail was very pretty.

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We were less than a mile away from camp when we felt the first drops of rain. We started booking it. As we approached Little Rock Pond, we came across clusters of tents – and sure enough, we found Black Santa’s tent with plenty of room to set up ours.

The rain was getting heavier. We scrambled to set up out tents. As soon as my rainfly was tight, I threw my pack in and began trying to dry everything off. At least it wasn’t cold. Because I’ve got a double vestibule tent, Greyhound came over and utilized my extra space to cook dinner.

Note: Cooking dinner in a tent is dangerous – we both kept the vestibules partially open. Still probably not too smart. We did get to enjoy a hot meal at the end of a long day.

Black Santa was hanging out with some hikers he met at the hostel the night prior. As I was cleaning up, he returned to his tent. The three of us talked for a while before passing out.

Author: Chris Kummer

Hey y'all - Cool Dad here. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to thru-hike the AT. It remained a nagging thought for nearly a decade - then it got loud enough to warrant my attention. So I quit my unfulfilling job(s) in Seattle and commenced hiking north from Springer in the spring of 2016. And I'm exceedingly thankful I did. The people I met, the things I saw, the gross foods I ate - not a day goes by without fondly remembering life on the trail. If you've already thru-hiked a long trail, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're thinking about tackling a long-distance hike, do it. Do it now. I'm probably gonna do it again...

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