Day 123 – Sunday, July 10: Stealth Camp (Killington, VT) to Wintturi Shelter, 16.0 miles, 1,720.7 total AT miles.

It got cold last night and stayed wet. I woke up and didn’t feel like moving – even with the cover provided by the porch, plenty of rain was falling through the slats. I sat in my sleeping bag and ate snacks, trying to get warm.

I finally got going at 8:00am, slowly packing up. We left our makeshift camp at 9:30. We were hiking slowly – it was cold and wet and the trail was a mess. At 11:00, we stopped at Thundering Falls for a quick break. The weather was starting to improve – and all the rain last night made for a pretty impressive display.

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We left the falls and ascended Quimby Mountain, our only real climb of the day. The forest was green and damp, but the weather was cool. After a slow start, it was quickly becoming a great day for hiking. We put our heads down and plowed forward. We assumed Black Santa was behind us – we just didn’t know how far.

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But Greyhound and I were making great time. After taking virtually no breaks all day, we stopped at The Lookout, a cabin with an observation deck on the roof. It was 5:30pm and we’d covered 14 miles on the day – not bad for such a late start.

The sun was intermittently shining through the clouds. I dropped my pack in front of cabin and immediately pulled my tent out to attempt to let it dry. It seems I’ve been doing this a lot lately. I spread my wet socks across warm stones and hung my jacket in a tree. The forecast said that this brief sunny spell wouldn’t last long.

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We decided to eat dinner there – we both cooked outside chatting with a section hiker on the front porch. I mixed a can of buffalo chicken into my pot full of queso Rice Side (my favorite combo so far). I suggested we take our meals up to the observation deck and eat dinner up there. The views were awesome – I could definitely see storms on the horizon.

We hurriedly ate and packed up – the tent wasn’t in bad shape at all. As we were leaving The Lookout, the rain threatened to start up again. But the trail was flatter than it’s been in a while – we started hustling to get to the Wintturi Shelter about three miles away. As soon as we see the sign for the side trail, the skies opened up. We ran down to the shelter and threw our packs inside. I quickly looked around – aside from another hiker already in their tent, we had the shelter to ourselves. Or at least until Black Santa and the group from the hostel shows up.

We found a clothesline and hung up our wet clothes – finally got a chance to put my clothespins to use. We waited around until dark before assuming no one else was going to make it down to the shelter. I hung up my half-dried tent and reorganized my backpack. The last four days of heavy rains have left everything permanently damp – even my external battery feels a little wet.

After eating a good pile of snacks, I finished organizing my backpack and began updating my AT Guide with notes from the past few days. I went to bed tired and kind of ready to get to Hanover, NH.

* * *

We should be arriving in Hanover on Tuesday morning. And, for the first time in a long time

Note: I’m running out of dry bandages for this burn. It still hasn’t completely scabbed over – at least it’s clean and not infected.

Day 122 – Saturday, July 9: Governor Clement Shelter to Stealth Camp (Killington, VT), 14.5 miles, 1,704.7 total AT miles.

It barely rained last night. What a relief! I woke early and started packing up. Black Santa was already up and ready to go. He wanted to get to Killington, VT 15 miles away and stay at the Yellow Deli, a religious commune-type hostel. I wasn’t too keen on the idea. But I needed a plan – we were definitely going to start getting rain soon.

Black Santa sped off – I’d more than likely see him tomorrow. Greyhound decided to save the money and just camp near town. We’d be staying in Hanover, NH in a few days anyway.

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We left the shelter at 8:00 and started climbing up to Killington Peak. We arrived at 11:00 and decided to have lunch in the Cooper Lodge Shelter. It was really run down and full of litter. As we quickly ate snacks, we watched the weather outside deteriorate. It started raining and got a little chilly – I put on my jacket and we took off into the storm.

We paused at Pico Camp at 12:30pm having hiked seven miles on the day. Here the AT deviates from the Vermont Long Trail – I’m suspecting we’ll see a lot fewer hikers moving forward. I haven’t really mentioned it yet, but there have been a lot of hikers out here attempting the VT LT.

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We left Pico Camp and immediately began descending towards US 4 – and what do you know, we stumble across a cooler full of trail magic. We share some watermelon, chocolate and a Coke before pressing on.

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By 4:00pm we entered Gifford Woods State Park and made the quick hike over to the outfitter in town. Greyhound needed a new fuel canister. After she made her purchase, we walked over to the market. I was already running low on snacks and was getting pretty hungry for dinner – Hanover, NH is still three days away. I ended up buying enough snacks to get me there, plus a sandwich for dinner.

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As we’re hanging out in front of the market, trying to decide where to camp, the rain starts up again. I checked the AT Guide for tenting options and came up short – we’d have to hike out of town in order to find a place to camp. I considered splitting a room in town with Greyhound, but restrained myself from spending the money. Plus, the taxi I called never showed up. We set off into the woods, determined to find a place to camp before the rain really started coming down.

As we’re making our way back past the outfitter, I spied a building on the edge of the property. Greyhound and I hiked over and found a large porch hidden on the back side facing away from the road. There was plenty of room to set up tents and the porch above provided good cover from the falling rain. We stayed up until dark. I went to bed listening to the falling rain.

Day 121 – Friday, July 8: Little Rock Pond to Governor Clement Shelter, 19.7 miles, 1,690.2 total AT miles.

I woke up to dampness everywhere. My tent didn’t leak – nothing seeped in from below. I was still soaked from trying to set it up in the rain the night before. Greyhound’s tent fared worse – she had a few puddles seep in. I put on wet clothes and started packing up. We were hiking north by 7:30am.

At 9:00am, we came across a field of stone cairns. Black Santa hates cairns. A brief spat of destruction ensued. I couldn’t stop laughing – the only other person present was a startled day-hiker who kept repeating “Oh no!” over and over again. There was another field of stone cairns a mile or so away – Black Santa went easy on these.

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After all that rain the night prior, the trail was beautiful. I ran across a Red Eft – some sort of a salamander. I’ve been seeing these guys intermittently since North Carolina.

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It was 12:30pm, we had already hiked 12 miles on the day, and the sun was starting to shine. We crossed the Clarendon Gorge and headed down VT 103 towards a restaurant listed in the AT Guide. We came across Qu’s, a little place located close to the trail head. The owners were super accommodating – they gave us drying racks to let us take up their front lawn.

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We sat on the patio and ordered lunch – I ate wings and the meatloaf dinner. The food was exceptional. They gave me so much meatloaf and mashed potatoes, I ended up having enough leftovers for dinner. After about an hour of relaxing on the porch and enjoying our meals, we started packing up our now-dry tents – my socks had even dried out a bit.

Black Santa borrowed the owners van to make a quick run to the local market – when he returned, the three of us set off. I checked my phone before entering the woods – more rain was forecast for tonight. At least my tent is dry now – that’s truly the important thing.

The three of us were looking forward to hitting another AT milestone – at some point this evening, we should be less than 500 miles away from Katahdin. After a few tough ascents leaving Qu’s, we finally started making good time again on the level terrain. And at 7:00pm, we hit the mark – only 500 miles left in this crazy adventure.

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Black Santa sped off towards camp – Greyhound and I lagged behind. When we arrived it was getting dark and looking like it might rain. Black Santa was set up in front of the shelter – and there weren’t any other campsites close. We ended up tenting behind the shelter – there was plenty of room for two tents.

After a delicious dinner of meatloaf and mashed potato sandwiches, I went to sleep. Today was tiring.

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.

Day 119 – Wednesday, July 6: Manchester Center, VT, Zero Day, 1,650.7 total AT miles.

The three of us woke up early – I walked down to the office and grabbed a cup of coffee and a muffin. I also confirmed that we’d be staying another night. The Palmer House is a cool place – not only do they have a stocked trout pond, they also have a 9-hole golf course. When I found out it was free for guests to use, I got excited. Black Santa and I would have to play a round later.

I headed back to the room and the three of us set off. Black Santa needed to accomplish all of the same things Greyhound and I did yesterday (laundromat, outfitters). He set off – Greyhound and I decided to head down to the grocery store for our resupply.

I was very serious about never eating tuna anymore. That meant cans of meat. I know its heavy, but I seriously think it tastes a whole lot better than tuna or salmon packets. I stocked up on regular chicken, buffalo chicken and BBQ pork. I also bought a loaf of rye bread – it seems to last just as long as tortillas or bagels and tastes great.

Greyhound and I were loaded down with bags and tried to find a shortcut through town. We ended up following a small path that followed a creek – and terminated in the side of a dirt hill, probably about 100 feet below the sidewalk we were shooting for. As we made our way up the hill, I stumbled on something sticking out of the mud. I reached down and pulled an old horseshoe out of the earth. It was definitely old and very cool. I decided to keep it.

We returned to the hotel and hung out, waiting on Black Santa to return. About an hour later, he arrived with his purchases and the three of us walked across the parking street to enjoy a round of golf. While we were heading to the first tee, Greyhound watched as something furry fell from a tree. She ran over and called for Black Santa and me to come over. It was a hawk or falcon of some kind. It still was downy in places – it probably fell out of its nest trying to learn how to fly or something.

It hopped around in the grass, flapping its wings – it was definitely frightened of us. I called Vermont Fish and Game to see what I should do. It was determined that, as long as the baby raptor wasn’t in immediate danger, we should leave it alone. So we played golf.

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Black Santa destroyed me – I couldn’t seem to hit the green to save my life. Even Greyhound admitted it was a bad beat. After golfing, the three of us headed back down to Gringo Jack’s for dinner. Black Santa informed us that he wanted to stay at the hostel tonight – there apparently was a hiker he wanted to catch up with.

After dinner, Black Santa headed off to the hostel and Greyhound and I headed back to the room. As soon as we got back, Greyhound connected to wi-fi and received some bad news – her credit card info had been stolen. She spent the next hour talking to her mom, trying to get the fraudulent charges removed. In the end, over $2,000 had been recently spent all over North Carolina. She hung up, knowing she’d have to spend extra time in the morning getting all this cleared up.

We both went to sleep fairly early – I was pretty tired, but excited to start hiking the next morning.

* * *

The burn on my ankle looks horrible. It’s not healing yet either. I’m doing my best to keep it clean and covered.

I think I like these new Montrails. But I’ve said that before about shoes.

Day 118 – Tuesday, July 5: Stealth Camp to Manchester Center, VT, 20.7 miles, 1,650.7 total AT miles.

I woke up very early, probably close to 5:00am. The burn on my foot had blistered, and popped, overnight. It truly looked serious – I was staring at half-dollar sized patch of burnt flesh on the side of my right foot. I put Neosporin on the wound and slapped a gauze patch on top of the mess. I laced up my shoes and was surprised that I could move around as if nothing even happened.

We packed quickly. I choked down a few protein bars and we hit the trail. We high-fived at our early departure – we were leaving camp at 6:20am. Manchester Center, VT lay 21 miles ahead. Despite our multiple detours into towns lately, Greyhound and I had both been hiking some serious miles. We knew we wanted to stay in Manchester Center – I needed to address some serious gear concerns. And I hadn’t had a zero day since Brooklyn, NY.

Our challenge today was Stratton Mountain, some seven miles away. After that, the elevation profile called for an easy 14-mile descent towards the trailhead at VT 11 – Manchester Center was rumored to be an easy hitch.

We set off early and cruised on the easy terrain – at 9:30am, we ascended Stratton Mountain. It was a challenging climb – I felt like I was back in Virginia again. Greyhound coaxed me to climb the fire tower – we got some pretty nice views.

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After having an extended snack, we set off, excited to get to Manchester Center. By 11:00am, we had hiked an additional three miles to Stratton Pond. The weather was starting to warm up a bit – there was a nice cool breeze coming off the water. We ate another quick snack and hiked on.

We stopped briefly at Prospect Rock before making the final five-mile push to town. After an extremely weird hitch (the guy acted like he was being forced to pick us up), we stopped at the Palmer House and checked in to our room. It was a little pricey, but well worth it. There was plenty of room should Black Santa make it into town tonight – regardless, I knew I’d be seeing him tomorrow.

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We both quickly showered and headed to the outfitter. I bought new Montrail trail runners to replace my busted Merrells. I also bought a pair of Patagonia hiking shorts and immediately ditched the Wal-Mart swimsuit.

We headed down to the laundromat and stopped at the New Balance outlet store. I scored a pair of cheap running shorts – looks like my clothes problems are solved. After putting away our clean clothes (and my new purchases), Greyhound and I walked down the street to Gringo Jack’s to grab dinner – we’d both been craving Mexican food for a while.

While we were eating on the patio, a familiar voice called out from the sidewalk. Black Santa had returned! He joined us, immediately ordering dinner and a big, cold beer.

The three of us sat and talked for a while – it feels like so much has happened since last I saw him. I also had to keep reminding myself that this was the first time he was meeting Greyhound – they briefly met in a hostel in Delaware Water Gap, PA.

After finishing our plates, the three of us headed back to the hotel room. Black Santa hopped in the shower while Greyhound spoke on the phone with her mom. After hanging out and watching tv, the three of us decided to call it a night.

Day 117 – Monday, July 4: Stealth Camp (City Stream) to Stealth Camp, 19.4 miles, 1,630.0 total AT miles.

We woke late – making camp and cooking dinner definitely took its toll. We started hiking north at 9:00am. We both lamented our late start – we’re still getting our miles in but hate making camp so late. It’s become a theme, apparently.

We had a difficult 1,500 foot ascent to start the day and took our time – after that, we’d essentially be ridge walking the entire day. Near Porcupine Ridge, the trail leveled off, and Greyhound and I really started making some serious time.

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After hiking hard for nearly three hours, we stopped and had a quick lunch on this huge boulder before pressing on. We eventually reached the fire tower atop Glastenbury Mountain, a full 11 miles away from where we started – we wanted to get there quickly to make up for lost time. After putting our heads down, we finally made it to the fire tower at 1:30pm – we hungrily ate at the base.

I’ve got a thing about heights – a debilitating thing. I’d refused to climb to the top of fire towers the entire hike. Leave it to Greyhound to convince me to climb up. And boy was it worth it! The views were amazing – we were surrounded on all sides by a dense pine forest. Welcome to the Green Mountains!

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We resumed hiked north at 2:00pm. Greyhound noticed we seemed to be in the middle of two AT bubbles – we hadn’t been running into many AT thru-hikers at all. Lately, we’d been crossing paths with folks attempting to hike the Vermont Long Trail. It’s been kind of fun watching these hikers start out on their own epic journeys – they’re just as much rookies as I was when I started the AT. We met another teenager attempting the VLT by himself as well as a couple of college-aged women.

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After leaving Glastenbury, we made great time. We stopped and had a snack at 5:00pm – we still hadn’t hiked anywhere close to 20 miles. As we ate, we decided to tent at the next available campsite past Story Spring Shelter. I made a chipmunk friend.

At 7:00pm we gathered water and started looking for a place to camp. Greyhound took the lead – I was in a crummy mood and she found a campsite quickly. We made camp in record time – given the circumstances, we actually ended up in a pretty decent spot.

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As I was cooking dinner, I accidentally kicked a pot of boiling water (cooking the semi-frozen sausages) over and onto my foot. Despite the fact that I still had on my trail runners, a wool sock and a sock liner, the scalding hot water burned my flesh. I ripped my shoe and socks off, but it wasn’t quick enough. In fifteen minutes, an angry blister had already formed. It was a pretty serious burn. I decided to let it air out and went to sleep after cleaning up from dinner.

Happy 4th of July! We didn’t get any fireworks. Black Santa is catching up.

Day 116 – Sunday, July 3: Stealth Camp to Stealth Camp (City Stream), 17.6 miles, 1,610.6 total AT miles.

I woke at 6:30 to the sound of people hiking and jogging near me. I immediately started packing up. While I did, I heard a voice from outside my tent tell me that I was camping in a no-camping zone. What the heck? I looked up and saw it wasn’t a park ranger like I thought, but a nosy guy walking his dog. I told him I made camp in the dark – plus, that it soon wouldn’t matter, that I was actively packing up. He walked away and Greyhound and I immediately broke camp.

But we didn’t leave. There wasn’t a sign that said I couldn’t make breakfast. Plus, the Vermont border lay only four miles ahead – I wanted to enjoy my entry into the final three states. I made scrambled eggs with peppers and onions and we ate them with tortillas. Very filling.

As we readied ourselves to leave, we noticed we were kind of close to a few homes. We made a hasty exit.

(Fun Fact – We did come across a sign that said “No Camping”. It was about 100 yards north of us.)

We briefly followed an ancient stream before beginning our ascent into the mountains of Vermont. The climbing was a little challenging. I felt like I was back in Georgia – after ascending Greylock yesterday, the mountains have returned.

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At 11:00am, we crossed into Vermont and were greeted with introduction to the Vermont Long Trail. It runs concurrent with the AT for many miles before heading north to Canada where the AT splits east towards New Hampshire.

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We met a pair of hikers – a father and son. He hiked his son in from the trailhead to the Vermont state line to begin his post-high school trek of the Vermont Long Trail just as his father had done for him. It was quite touching.

Having taken our state-line photos, we hiked north. The trail was rocky and beginning to get difficult. I was still wearing my old Merrell trail runners (the ones I had shipped to me a few hundred miles ago). They were looking pretty bad – I just couldn’t gain traction anymore on rocky ascents. I was due for new shoes soon.

We climbed quickly and efficiently, stopping at a pond for a quick snack at 4:00pm – we had only covered 12 miles on the day. I felt bad, but sucked it up and pressed on. We crossed another ferny break in the woods before finally descending towards VT 9 – spilling out onto the trailhead at 6:30. That descent was no joke!

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We wanted to catch a hitch into Bennington, VT to buy frozen sausages for the 4th of July – we figured what better way to celebrate the 4th than with a “freshly”-prepared, All-American meal. Sausages. Unfortunately, the trailhead wasn’t cooperating. We miraculously caught a hitch at 6:30 from an elderly couple heading towards town. The gentleman hiked the AT in the late 80’s and early 90’s – after his retirement. The elderly thru-hiker and his wife were the sweetest couple. We walked into the Wal-Mart at 7:00pm, starting to get concerned about making it back to the trailhead before dark.

Greyhound found marshmallows, I bought sausage and a Wal-Mart boy’s swim suit to replace my worn-out Wal-Mart boy’s gym shorts. We quickly exited and tried our best to get a hitch – no dice. I had spotty cell service and kept trying to call the town taxi for a lift. After one failed connection, we finally got confirmation he’d pick us up. We definitely weren’t getting back to the trail before dark.

As we were waiting, a visibly-intoxicated woman kept trying to give us a ride. It was getting dark when our taxi (thankfully) arrived. The taxi dropped us off at the trailhead – we immediately entered the park and found a tent site next to the river. We cooked quick dinners, and enjoyed a few stove-toasted marshmallows before turning in for the night.

Day 115 – Saturday, July 2: Dalton, MA to Stealth Camp, 24.3 miles, 1,593.0 total AT miles.

I woke early and started packing up – my gear was strewn about the room. I walked outside and stepped into a puddle. My suspicions were confirmed – it did rain last night. I thought I heard storms rumbling while I slept. The rain brought a chill to the air. I returned to the hotel room and finished packing. We left by 8:00am.

Nine miles ahead lay Cheshire, MA – I sent a bounce box there from Cornwall Bridge, CT. It contained the makings for a fairly decent resupply. We made great time, reaching Gore Pond five miles up trail by 10:00am. Despite the overnight thunderstorms, the trail was in great condition.

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I scared a small snake off the trail and powered on. Greyhound and I rolled into Cheshire at 11:30 – I went straight to the post office and grabbed my bounce box. After Greyhound got her ice cream fix in the form of scoops and a milkshake, we stopped at a gas station and decided to buy a few items for lunch. I still needed snacks – my bounce box was dinner-heavy.

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Ever since I stopped making hot lunches (sometime in the Shenandoahs, I think), I’ve been consistently running out of snacks. I can’t seem to buy enough – crackers, cereal bars, fruit snacks, dried fruit, granola bars, beef jerky. Snacks are always the first thing to go.

I got a few days’ worth of snacks from the aisles and joined Greyhound outside to have lunch. I bought a bag of Doritos in hopes I could make little tuna sandwiches, thereby getting rid of some of the excess weight I’ve been carrying around in my dinner bag. Even with the help of Doritos, I couldn’t stomach the taste of tuna anymore.

I searched through my dinner bag (now full of all the items in my bounce box) and realized I was carrying around eight tuna packets that I knew I was never going to eat. Greyhound took two, probably out of pity or thriftiness, I couldn’t tell. I ended up giving the tuna to a nice lady in the parking lot who said she would feed them to her cat.

At noon, we left Cheshire and began the eight-mile ascent of Mount Greylock, the highest peak in MA. This popular trail was exceedingly well-graded and Greyhound and I hiked at a good clip. I passed through beautiful fields before gradually ascending the peak.

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We summited Greylock at 4:00pm and immediately made our way over to visitor’s center. We weren’t interested in the cafeteria – our food bags were full. We went straight for the ice cream and ate snacks outside. We both had to bundle up – here it is July and it’s in the 50s. The tower was being renovated so we decided to press on. Seven miles ahead lay Williamstown, MA. If we hurried, we could get to town and buy enough snacks to finally fill our food bags.

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We entered town at 8:30 – right at sunset. We dive into the nearest grocery store to purchase snacks – I also bought an onion, pepper and some eggs for tomorrow morning. By the time we made it back to the AT, it was dark. We decided to stealth camp at the first spot we came across – and Greyhound found one about half a mile away from town.

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We made camp and quickly cooked dinner. I used some of the pepper and onions in a Rice Side. Today was another busy day. I fell fast asleep.

* * *

I spoke with Savage today. They’re planning on staying on Greylock for the fourth of July. It’s crazy to think they’re already behind. Black Santa is making progress – he’s been matching our pace and often besting it by a few miles each day. I’m certain he’ll catch up soon.

Day 114 – Friday, July 1: Upper Goose Pond Cabin to Dalton, MA, 20.6 miles, 1,568.7 total AT miles.

We woke early and packed quickly. One benefit to tenting at the Upper Goose Pond Cabin is that the volunteer caretaker makes fresh pancakes every morning. I walked down the trail from the campsite with a bag of dried cherries in hand. I asked if the caretaker would mix the cherries in a fresh batch of pancakes – she could use them all, I just wanted a few for Greyhound and myself.

I returned to camp and finished packing up. About 20 minutes later, Greyhound and I returned to the cabin, backpacks in tow, and enjoyed a pile of cherry pancakes and a few cups of coffee. We chatted with other hikers, many of the same faces we’ve been seeing the past couple of days.

Today was going to be a good day – the terrain was relatively flat and I was ready to move. We started hiking north at 7:30.

After a quick descent into the valley below, we crossed US 20 and actually walked across a footbridge solely designed for AT hikers – it was kind of cool. Shortly after that, we officially entered The Berkshires. I didn’t realize it until I ran across a sign fit for a ritzy neighborhood. We hiked on, making great time on the easy terrain.

At 11:00am, having hiked 11 miles on the day, we arrived at Washington Mtn. Rd. and Greyhound immediately insisted we make a quick detour. We made the short trek down the road and found ourselves at the “Cookie Lady’s” house.

(Note: Greyhound is a trail researcher. While I’m busy figuring out which town to stay in, she’s busy updating me of things I’m missing while actually hiking. Had it not been for her, I would have bypassed the Cookie Lady’s house without a thought.)

We strolled up to the front porch and were dismayed to find that the Cookie Lady wasn’t home. We both signed her register and enjoyed a quick lunch on the grass in the front lawn. By noon, the Cookie Lady still had not arrived home and we decided to hike on. It was a little disappointing, but I’m certainly glad I had the opportunity to lunch in such a nice spot.

I let Greyhound take the lead. I noticed I had cell service and saw that thunderstorms were moving in – the darkening skies certainly seemed to show the forecast was going to be accurate. Despite this, our only plans were to make it the nine miles to Dalton, MA. Apparently, Greyhound has a thing for ice cream. She had her eyes set on a local ice cream shop – I was hoping to make it there before the rain hit.

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I took the time alone to make some phone calls. I hadn’t been updating the website and needed to explain why. The truth is I simply was having more fun not writing than I was having while I was writing. It generally takes about an hour or more at the end of each day to update the website – I was enjoying hiking late into the night, going into town. It was a relief to be away from the office.

The trail into Dalton was a breeze – we crossed through beautiful fields of ferns and hiked on some really well-graded trail.

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We arrived in Dalton at 4:30pm. Greyhound got her sundae (and milkshake). While we were walking through town, the rain really started to come down. We took shelter under an awning and I looked through the AT Guide for a cheap hotel or hostel.

Turns out, the place just next door was the cheapest in town. We booked a room and threw our packs inside. It felt like a long day. We browsed the menus and decided to order Chinese – I ordered way too much. After a long shower, I fell asleep watching baseball.