While hiking in Vermont on a trail near Killington, Suzanne and I saw one hiker with a cucumber in his belt… rather odd, we thought. Then we saw this cooler with freebies of veggies and cold drinks that some good-hearted souls had left for thru-hikers. Gifts like this are called “trail magic”, and are greatly appreciated by perpetually hungry long-distance hikers who average 15-20 miles per day over often very rough terrain. Dory and Mucosa, the benefactors of this trail magic, must be very thoughtful and kind-hearted folks.
I was almost able to grant some trail magic myself the other day. I was driving down the road with Rudy and Gretchen in the back seat when I saw a young male hiker with a big backpack hitch-hiking in the vicinity of the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I stopped to give him a lift, and in the rear-view mirror I saw him signal his dog to come up out of the weeds. It was a 60 lb pit bull! As he walked up, I said, “Sorry, but I have two small dogs in here that would go berserk if your dog got in.” It was an “Isn’t that interesting” moment.
Congratulations to Colette Sasina, who correctly identified the Noble County Courthouse, in Albion, Indiana, in the July 22 blog photo quiz. Colette wins lunch for two with Der Blogmeister and His Lovely Bride upon their return to The Villages. Well done, Colette, and you don’t even live in Indiana!
The next contest involves two types of flora; this beautiful orange variety was sighted by our Trail Slogger in Vermont, on the Long Trail. The mushrooms(?) were seen on the Mount Martha Trail in New Hampshire. What are they?
My Lovely Bride loves waterfalls, so of course when I saw Thundering Falls on the map near Killington, I steered our trusty car that way and we hit the trail. It was a pleasant hike in, much less rocky and muddy than the Long Trail had been. This made MLB very happy, and as the saying goes, “Happy Wife, Happy Life”…
What would not have made MLB happy was this shelter on the Appalachian Trail. We were day-hiking this section, so sharing the shelter with 6 smelly, sweaty guys and maybe a porcupine and some mice was not in the cards. I’m not saying that her idea of roughing it is the Hilton, but these accommodations were definitely not “on her programme”, as the Brits say. (The piece of line hanging down next to Suzanne is for hanging your food bag out of reach of rodents and small mammals.)
Our time in Vermont at an end, I dropped Suzanne off at the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire, so she could fly back to The Villages and spend a week with her mom. She and Ruthie have the same birthday, August 1st, so every year they spend that week together, while Rudy, Gretchen and I hike, play poker, drink beer and smoke cigars… (well, maybe not the last activity, anyway). Suzanne seemed to like the birthday flowers that the puppies sent her. Somehow my piece of her birthday cake never made it back to me; maybe the TSA inspectors ate it.
The White Mountains of New Hampshire are impressive, steeply rising to 5,000-6,000 feet, far above the lower valley floors. This was the view on I-93 headed north to my campground in Carroll, NH.
I used this time to hike, bike and hike some more. On a hike near the Ethan Pond shelter in Crawford Notch, NH, I met three delightful and lovely young women from Oz, Muddy Duckling, Fire Bear and Red Back. They live in Perth, Western Australia, one of my favorite places Down Under. They are thru-hiking the AT, and have only 350 miles to go until they reach Mt. Katahdin, Maine. We laughed about running into the same weird thru-hiker (who shall remain anonymous) hundreds of miles apart; he has a reputation for smoking in the shelters, passing out due to heavy drinking, mooching food and asking other hikers (me among others) to boil water for him, since he wasn’t carrying a lightweight stove. Your trail reputation travels quickly in this relatively small community…
Most of the trails in the White Mountains are not the pine needle-covered, relatively smooth paths one is used to in less mountainous terrain, or even in most parts of the western US. Rather, they are rocky, steep and often rooty, as was this part of a trail I hiked on the flank of Mt. Madison. Going up is hard enough, but coming back down is much worse, mostly due to the slippery roots and rocks and the chance of taking a dive head first. Fortunately, I took these sections very slowly, and only slipped on my butt a couple of times, with no serious bruises.
This sign is designed to give day hikers pause as to whether they are really prepared for the sometimes extreme weather for which the White Mountains are infamous. Mt. Washington for decades held the record for highest winds in the US, 231 mph. It can be 70 degrees at the bottom of the mountain and snowing on top. Unfortunately, we didn’t have good weather on the day we planned to visit that peak; we’ll save that for our next visit.
While the pups and I were at a campground in New Hampshire, Suzanne was marrying her sister back in The Villages. WHAT??? Okay, here’s the deal. Suzanne officiated at her sister Janice’s wedding to Steve Gray, seen here to Suzanne’s left. Her mom Ruthie, brother Brent and his wife Cheryl are to Ruthie’s left. The newlyweds spent a three day honeymoon in the Orlando area before returning to their home in Delaware. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Gray!
Finally, I have a strange story to relate. Our 2012 model year car needed a periodic oil change, so I took it to a small, one-lift garage. I waited in the garage bay on a folding chair while the mechanic set to work. The only other vehicle being worked on was a 1975 Chevy truck, which was quite rusty and getting a complete facelift. After about 15 minutes, the owner came up to me and said, “Well, you’re a special customer!” I asked why, and he said, “Well, we don’t usually see late model cars here, and your car takes synthetic 0W20 oil, which we don’t stock, but I think there may be some in the next town. I’ll just drive over and get some.” He departed and I asked the mechanic, who was standing idly by having a smoke, “You know, I could come back another day. Have you already drained the oil?” He replied with a smile, “Oh, yes. You’re stuck here now.” I masked my feeling of impending doom, and simply smiled back and said, “I’m sure it will work out just fine.” We chatted for about 20 minutes, mostly about the long weeks of -30F winter temperature and snow too deep to plow (“Oh, it’s not so bad… it’s a dry cold.”) Then I asked if I could use the shop’s rest room. He pointed outside and said, “It’s around the corner in the shed but it’s just for peeing.” Entering the shed, I found a wooden pallet placed in front of a circle of rocks about 2 feet in diameter with a pile of sand in the middle; it gave off the pungent odor of, well, you know. Fortunately, the garage owner returned shortly after with the oil, the job was completed and I departed with a deeper appreciation of life in rural New Hampshire.