Ok, ok, I’m sitting on a comfy couch in a hiker hostel with wifi and want to share my first couple of days experience! It has been a weird six days to say the least.
I didn’t hike because of or for anyone but me (that will be a later post). But I have been thinking a lot about Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild. On her first day, she talks about how scared she was to be alone hiking. And then, she realized if all she had was fear she would never enjoy herself or her trip. So, she repeated to herself that she was not afraid constantly until she believed it. As silly and cliche as this is, I started doing it my first day. I’ve repeated it so many times along with other phrases like “I am strong” until I really believe I am strong, I am not afraid and I can do this. Cheesy right? Unfourtantely, this is not a lie and it really has been working for me.
Anyways, let’s get started with August 4th, my first day on the trail!
So, had a really rocky and late start to the day. Steve and I took a mini vacation in central Vermont before the trail. Originally, I had planned for us to leave at around 8:00 am, but then the night before Steve locked his keys in the car. Womp! So, we didn’t end up leaving the town till 10:15 which means I didn’t get to the trail until 2:00 ish. I started in Williamstown, MA by just putting a parking lot coordinates in that crossed the AT. When we got there, we couldn’t find it and we’re very confused. After some searching, we found the white blazes and it was time for me to head off.
Immediately, when I stepped out of the car, a grumpy old Boston accented man told me it was going to rain all weekend and wished me the best of luck. Cool, great. Even funnier, as Steve was driving away, three southbound male hikers asked me how the last mountain was. With Steve smirking in the car next to me, I sheepishly told them I literally just started. We wished each other happy trails, Steve drove away and I was alone in MA.
The first day I planned to hike 7 miles to the shelter. A ton of SOBO (southbound) hikers passed me by. The funniest interaction was some backpacking youth group. They let me by and as I walked a snarky little boy wished me an sarcastic good luck. I knew the upcoming incline was going to be a lot but did it warrant sarcasm? After I tackled it, I understood why I got shit, those kids must have been pooped.
Even though I saw a lot of day and SOBO hikers, I saw no NOBO (northbound) hikers my first day which I thought was odd. Even odder, when I got to the AT shelter it was empty. This has never happened to me before. I was beyond shocked. Preparing for rain and because I was alone, I decided to pitch my tent in the shelter for extra protection. One hiker did end up staying that night. He was an old Texan who could not stop moving the whole night. Between him and the insane thunderstorm, I got almost no sleep. Still, I was happy and proud. I hiked 7 miles starting in the late afternoon and got to the shelter before dark. And I had crossed the border and was in Vermont!
The old Texan left before me and I was alone at last. I began making back up plans for weather and decided to stop at the next shelter if it was bad. If it wasn’t, I was going to stop at the original shelter I had planned on, which was 14 miles away.
On the trail to the closest shelter, I passed brooks and ponds. A solo female hiker bypassed me and we chatted about weather and town. When I got to the shelter, there was the old Texan, and a couple reading a book. The weather had held out so I figured I could camp where I am initially planned. There was a tiny thought in my head that said I was crossing Bennington, so if I wanted to end this, I could do it today. I pushed that away and kept hiking.
About 1.5 miles away from the parking lot to Bennington was my shelter. I walked around the parking lot and was immediately followed by a male day hiker. It felt weird and unsafe. My spidey senses were tingling. He seemed like the type of guy who played it nice but was actually really weird and controlling. He asked me where I was going, where I was ending, all basic questions that felt off. I tried to keep it vague. I walked away, he hung back, and I figured that was the end of that.
Unfourtantley for me, the mile to my shelter was all uphill. I was not ready for it. As I was dragging myself up the hill, I heard people behind me. There was the creepy day hiker again AND the old leap frogging Texan. Never did I feel so happy to leap frog with an old man! The day hiker passed me and me and the Texan struggle bused it up the hill. He said some Texan (probably not Texan) proverb that went something like, “What’s the difference between a rest while your out of breath or hiking while out of breath”. Legit, this keeps me hiking uphill now.
At some point the Texan, and some other NOBOs passed me. I was alone and that freaking weird day hiker was walking down now. He stopped to talk again, I was short. I knew my senses were right when I let it slip I was ending in Vermont. He looked and me said in a minorly confrontational tone, “You told me you didn’t know where you were stopping”. Thankfully, the conversation ended, I kept hiking, and he walked down.
When I got to the shelter, I was glad to see lots of hikers (men and women) there. I wasn’t happy to find no bear box. This was the second night where there was either no bear box or it was locked (this was a recurring theme in Vermont). All the trees were terrible for hanging but I tried anyways. I tore a branch down when finally a southern male hiker told me to just hang my food in the shelter and his dog, Aspen, would watch it for me. After such a long day with weird male experiences, this one left me grateful.
Stay tuned for more on days 3-4…