Location: Thistle Hill
I woke up early with the sun this morning. I was completely wet from the early morning dew. I only got out of my sleeping back because I couldn’t fall asleep. The grocery store hadn’t opened yet, but I grabbed a couple Gatorades and a pop-tart at the gas station. I sat on the edge of the soccer field and ate. I counted seven tents on the edge of the soccer field where thru-hikers have been stealth camping when in Hanover. I decided that I didn’t want to wait another hour and a half for the CO-OP grocery store to open at 8:00am, so I left for Vermont. I walked the familiar streets of Hanover. Only a few people were on the streets, getting the Sunday news and breakfast. The morning was cold and fog sat heavily on the town. I passed through the streets without hesitating. Soon I crossed the bridge over the Connecticut River which divides New Hampshire and Vermont. There were no signs announcing that I had arrived in Vermont, but I took a picture of the bridge. Shortly I jumped two deer grazing on the side of the road, one buck with felt on his cow horn antlers and a large doe. I continued to follow the blazes on the road. The trail took me through intersection after intersection of empty roads and delivered me into Norwich, VT. I fell in love with the tiny town. Old homes and ancient trees line Main Street. Historical plaques and markers stood on every street corner. I read them all and then checked out the memorial to those people from Norwich that died in a war, from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 to Vietnam. Many from the small town had perished in war, and many had the same last names. I visited the first ever public grammar school called The Red Schoolhouse. After a quick, self-guided tour of the old buildings and homes, I resupplied at the local grocery store.
I carried my heavy pack down the road and out of Norwich. I followed the blazes on the telephone poles and trees, and my poles clicked the asphalt as I climbed the steep hills. After another mile of road walking, the trail led me into the woods. At the trailhead I found a cooler and inside a person had left a bottle of Chardonnay on ice and plastic cups so that northbounders could celebrate the completion of another state. I decided not to pack up the bottle and carry it to the lean-to to share with whoever might be there that night. My pack was heavy enough.
I enjoyed the slow rolling hills of Vermont. The trail wound easily though picturesque New England farmland and through woods of tall hardwoods. The character of the trail has changed dramatically since I came down out of the Whites. No longer does the trail simply beat up on me. Now it offers me peaceful walks through the woods, the kind of walks I had expected when I began this journey. I did not know what I was getting myself into by deciding to hike the trail. I never expected the bugs, the rain, the climbs, and the rocks to be so treacherous. I never really wondered why so few people complete the trail. If I had known, I may not have begun. Maybe. Now I have the chance to just walk in the woods and through high mountain pastures.
The heat was on today. In the grassy fields, with wild flowers and birds surrounding me, I sweated at the mercy of the unrelenting sun. As I pushed through the high grasses, I could only think about water and shade. I did get some trail magic though. I came across a bin full of packs of crackers. I took one and moved on. The trial eventually put me back onto a road and I had to cross under a couple interstate overpasses. The trail continued to follow the road, and I enjoyed walking through the quaint neighborhoods and by scenic farms. I crossed another automobile bridge and lost the white blazes on the other side of the White River. I found some faded blazes on a telephone pole so I started up the steep hill in the hot sun. Soon the blazes stopped, but I saw the orange-black-orange stripe of the DOC, the group that maintains the trial section. I stayed on the road for miles. Soon I got the miserable feeling that I was lost. I came to some intersections not marked with white blazes. I chose the direction uphill each time. Eventually paved road turned to packed gravel, then gravel to dirt, and then dirt to tall grass. I kept following the DOC blazes. I saw a couple of faded white blazes so I partially thought I was on the trial until I intercepted another. To the left and the right there were white blazes on the trees. I had followed the old AT up the hill. I didn’t know which way to go, left or right. I chose right because it felt like the southerly way. Later I met a couple from Texas, Worm and Kitty. They assured me that I was heading south. Worm and Kitty skipped the Whites because they didn’t like the terrain. They spent time on the coast and have returned to the trail at Hanover. They plan to hike to the Pennsylvania border or maybe Harper’s Ferry and then return to Texas.
I arrived at Thistle hill Shelter around 5:00pm. Already there were several northbounders there. I had planned earlier in the day to hike another two miles to a no longer maintained shelter called Cloudland. It is on private land, but the owner allows hikers to stay. Once I sat on the edge of the lean-to, I immediately realized that I was going to stay. The Texas couple arrived late with the same plan as I originally had, but they decided to stay at Thistle Hill also.