On day 4, I hiked 19 miles. This was not apart of my plan. I went to bed that night thinking it would all be worth it in the morning when I would wake up to rain.
….it did not rain the next morning or at all. It wouldn’t rain until the night. I vowed never again to let a weather report determine my hike. I was now in a pickle. My hostel reservation was not until Wednesday. It was Monday. Town was 11 miles away with two shelters in between. I decided that morning, I would just chill in the shelter all day and read. I spent the morning chatting with the most sassy male thru hikers. Well, one was very sassy and negative, the others were just going along with it. I didn’t mind the attitude, I thought it was understandable to be a little bit of a negative Nancy when you are in the woods for 5 months. I told them my plan and they were shocked that I would just sit willingly all day.
At around noon, I got bored and decided to try and see if I can move my hostel reservation up a day. They responded by two that that would be fine. I celebrated out loud, sped packed up my stuff and hiked as fast as I could to the shelter six miles away. When I got there, I was not alone. I met a Long Trail female hiker and a thru hiking couple. My interaction with the women was surprising. They were cold, short, and unwillingly to converse. I was disappointed that my interaction with women on the trail so far had been relatively like this. Where was the female camaraderie? Besides the day hiker, I had the most pleasant interactions with male hikers. They were kind, respectful, funny, and generally interested in conversing. Were women on the trail exhausted with the assumption that we should all get along? Did they see me as a competitor? And why had so many women buddied up with male partner hikers? I understand companionship but was confused and generally upset that the many women I met were in trail relationships. What happened to female friendships and partnerships?
I woke up early. That night it had rained, and my rain fly on my tent had gotten soaked. I chose not to sleep in the shelter to test my tent out in the rain. It had succeeded in keeping me dry. I had my eye on the prize, town. I was so excited to be enveloped back into civilization. I had some anxiety about it to. I was hiking to a parking lot, which was around six miles from the shelter I had tented at and about five and a half miles away from town. How was I going to get there? Everyone who thru hiked talked about hitching. I wasn’t ready as a single woman to give that a whirl. I also didn’t want to hike an additional five miles. I was hoping that Uber would work and made a back up plan to call a taxi.
Once I got there, it was around 11. No Uber was available. I ended up calling a cab. Another hiker appeared, disappointed with his hitching opportunities. I told him he could share the cab with me, no charge, it would be my trail magic to him. We hopped in the cab and made small talk on the way to town. The town of Manchester Center was very bougie. I smelled, was weighed down by my pack, hungry and would be walking into an area with the only Armani in Vermont. I sighed.
I made a list in my head of the shopping I needed to do. My water filter squeeze bag had gotten holes in it my last day so I needed a solution there. I also needed to go grocery shopping for food for the next week. And of course, I needed to eat out. I didn’t just hike 58 miles to eat more backpacking food.
I went to the outfitter store first. They had no squeeze bags left. Great, I thought. I was cheap and decided to just buy a roll of duct tape and McGyver it. I also bought some backpacking vegetarian meals. My next stop was a burrito/taco joint called Cilantro. I got a giant burrito and iced tea (something I was dreaming of on the trail). Next, I did my grocery shopping. I kid you not as I was checking out, the bagger put her arm over her nose to shield her from my smell. I ended my errands with ice cream.
As I sat in a sugar coma from ice cream, an older couple came to sit with me. They asked me if I was backpacking, what was that like, how many miles I just did, where was I from. These questions are the precursor questions I learned to answer fast and methodically. I repeated my questions to them. Where were they from and what were they doing in Vermont? It turns out they had sold everything and were RVing around America. Mid conversation, I got offered a free ice cream. Too zonked from the first ice cream, I turned it out. They wished me the best of luck and went on their way. I called the hostel for a pick up, excited for my shower and laundry.
The hiker hostel I stayed at was awesome. It was clean, filled with breakfast foods, movies, books, and many hikers. The first thing they made me do was take off my boots and take a shower. My two roommates were a 75 year old and 60 something year old male thru hikers. The rest of the day, I did my chores really. I did laundry, hung my tent up, called my parents and Steve, talked to the hikers, ate pizza, and spent hours on social media. I had planned to take a zero day the next day and spend another night there. I found out this was minorly unconventional for many section hikers and a lot of thru hikers now. However, I was tired, my feet were blistered badly and most importantly, I wanted to take my time. I was on vacation after all.
I had the intense luxury of waking up and being allowed to make pancakes. I was so excited. I had this huge breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and coffee while chatting with another section hiker. He had just graduated and was hiking north. His feet looked just as badly as mine.
I had almost no plans for the day, except to blog, go to town again, and read.
My flip flops had just broke, another trail casualty. So I headed to town in some camo loaner crocs from the hostel. I resupplied my blister materials, walked around the most expansive and interesting bookstore ever, and ate tacos. Back at the hostel, new hikers had checked in. I wrote blog pieces, talked to a hiker/art enthusiast, and checked my email. The hikers that I met my last night at the hostel, I would end up hiking with for the next few days. The women that was at my last shelter was there, and was a little less cold then our first bump in.
I was checking my email when I saw a reminder email about completely required trainings for school. Panicked, I reread the email. It said they were due the upcoming Monday. I had planned to finish my hike Tuesday. I drew in a breath and let it out. I was screwed and worse of all, this mistake was self inflicted. I was the one that had forgotten all about this and gotten myself into this mess.
I went online and took a look at what was required. I was able to complete half of the materials, but needed a printer/scanner to send over to my supervisor. I did not want to take another day off, so that was out. Instead, I went back to my hiking plan. It was possible for me to finish and be back in the NJ by Monday, but I would need to hike 15 mile days. I called my dad and told him the new plan. Holding back tears, I asked him if he thought this was possible. He said I had done an 19 mile day but had no idea what the terrain would look like or all the various variables that go into hiking. I was tired, anxious, defeated, and also determined at the same time.