Location: South of Minerva Shelter
My first 20 mile day. Finally, I had the determination to pull the miles. Actually, it wasn’t just 20 miles I hiked today, but nearly 22 miles. I crossed several mountains including Killington at over 4000 ft. I don’t feel exhausted after the miles. I am tired, but not completely beat. I wanted to push a couple more miles to the shelter, but my left knee was telling me to stop. So, I crossed VT 140, filled up at the stream, and then hiked out of the notch and found a stealth site just off the trail. The mosquitoes are terrible at this altitude, so I’ve set up my tent. I would have slept in the open if the bugs weren’t so bad. I didn’t put my rain fly on my tent. I’m only using the mesh, for several reasons. I want to be able to see, and defend if need be, my food bag. I also am fairly sure that it won’t rain tonight because it is such a pretty evening. I hope, I hope, I hope it doesn’t rain. Also, I met a man on the trail about a half mile on the other side of VT 140. He wasn’t hiking in my direction, but something just did not fit.
I can say exactly what it was that did not fit. As I was coming down the mountain, I saw him from about fifty yards. I can’t remember if I saw or heard him first. As is usually the case, the person coming downhill sees a person coming uphill first. As I approached the rather large man, I noticed he had several grocery bags around his feet. His pack was wider than his wide body and taller than the top of his head which measured at well over six feet. He wore a Tilley hat. His arms were outstretched with palms up and the first distinguishable words I heard were ‘Don’t ask me. I didn’t do it.’ I said ‘Do what?’ His head snapped forward and he said, ‘Going to Georgia?’ I had already noticed, and had become fearful, that no other people were around him, not unless they were tucked into the high bushes on either side of the trail. The man and his numerous grocery bags filled the narrow path. ‘Yeah, I’m going to Georgia,’ I answered, ‘and I’m trying to make the next shelter by dark.’ He pressed his big body against the bushes and ushered me through with his fat arm. I passed in a hurry and looked back only to see him start talking again.
As I climbed down into the notch my body was spent. I found great campsites but thought that I might have an unwanted visitor, specifically the schizophrenic, show up at my tent. I crossed the highway. I wondered if maybe he might be afraid to cross the street, then I’d be OK. Then I came to a river. I put that in between me and the man. I thought to camp there. But, I saw a flight of manmade stairs and figured maybe he is afraid of stairs also. So, anyway, I’ve put several obstacles between me and the man. I’ve left the fly off my tent so that I can make sure I’m not snuck up on, and I’ve got a wooden club next to my tent in case I have to club a crazy man.
I’m losing daylight in a hurry. For the rest of my trip, the days will get shorter and shorter. I’ll probably end up doing a lot of night hiking as I move south. Tomorrow I’ll try to get up earlier and hike another twenty miles. The shelters aren’t helping me though, as they are spaced at 17 and 23 miles. We’ll see how far my body will let me go. Damn, the noises are beginning in the night woods. Sticks are cracking and leaves rustling. I moved my food bag earlier tonight. I thought it was too close to my tent. Hopefully I won’t have any animal visitors tonight.
This afternoon I stopped as a great restaurant a half a mile off of the trail, The Whistle Stop. It is an old train station. It was a worthwhile one-mile round trip to eat the sirloin burger and fries. After eating my meal, I ordered another order of fries. They brought me a dinner plate full of fries. Fries stacked several inches high. I ate nearly all of them with ketchup. Barrett would be jealous. The meal was so filling that I only had a Power Bar and some Nutter Butter bites for dinner. The meal made it tough to climb out of Clarendon Gorge. I didn’t think I’d make it to the top of the mountain. I did though. I paid for the meal twice, once at the restaurant and once at the Minerva Hinchey privy. I nearly stopped at the Minerva Shelter at 18 miles, but I decided to push further. I will try to do that more often.
I don’t know if me mentioning Worm and Kitty, the couple from Texas, was recently or not. They started at Katahdin but bailed on their thru-hike because of the difficulty of the Whites. They had returned to the trail after several weeks on the coast. I met them at Thistle Hill, about five miles in from the road. It was their first day back. Word on the trail has it that they abandoned their hike once again the very next day.
I am still feeling positive about yesterday’s major decision to remove alcohol from my life. However, I have my doubts as to whether it can be fully achieved. My life still has many years ahead and I still don’t know how they will be spent or the circumstances that will be. Therefore, I will focus on a smaller goal. I will not drink alcohol on this trip. That doesn’t seem so daunting a task. I will take sobriety in small steps. I will try to remain true. I will not, however, beat myself up for drinking. If I become angry when I drink or after I drink, I may injure myself or someone else. For now, I will say that if I do drink, I will only rededicate myself to the task of removing alcohol from my activities. I will not reprimand myself for my actions, but should be ashamed of myself for inaction after my mistakes. Certainly I will not blame others for my actions. My actions are because I make them so.
I have already eliminated one powerful, addicting substance from my life, nicotine. My mind and body are better in all senses of the term healthy because I have decided to quit smoking. I have eliminated nicotine from my habits. I have discarded once crutch, a crutch that helped me pass the time, release tension, and also destroy my lungs. Soon I will discard the second crutch, alcohol. The crutch that helps me socialize, enjoy my time, and also destroy my liver and kidneys. All in due time I will be a much healthier person, no longer reliant on harmful drugs.