Location: Spruce Mountain
I woke up at Lost Pond Shelter after the northbounders staying there had already eaten breakfast and packed their gear. They were three older hikers who all needed their time in the mornings. I jumped up at 7:30 on the spot and was packed before they knew it. I ate my usual Pop-Tart and Balance Bar and moved out of camp. I left around 8:00 am. I wasn’t sure when I left whether I would hike to Manchester Center today or just stop on Bromeley Mountain and then resupply tomorrow. When I left camp I was hauling. Up-hills weren’t a problem, down-hills weren’t hurting my knees. Quickly I realized that I could probably be at VT Route 11 in the middle of the afternoon.
I knocked out ten miles by 12 o’clock. 10 x 12 we call it. Nothing could stop me it seemed. I was snacking on Balance Bars as I hiked and I had plenty of water. As I was climbing to the peak of Peru Mountain, and as I was just nearing the summit, I rounded a blind corner in the green bushes and came face to face with a bull moose. He chomped on leaves by the trail, breaking tree branches with his big head. He saw me round the corner and flinched. His rich chocolate fur filled the trail. His ribs bulged and his felted horns moved easily through the tangles of brush that his face was buried in. I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. I froze, not in fear, but in excitement. I watched him eat casually. He’d munch on leaves, take a couple of loud steps and eat more leaves. I could have poked him in his ribs with my pole, but I decided not to do it. He grazed, nearby don’t forget, and I watched. After about five minutes, I was bored and stiff. I had a mission to accomplish today. The moose had moved to a patch of bushes a few feet off the trail. He seemed indifferent about my presence. I knew that he was watching me with his big saucer eye on the side of his head. I took one step and he whipped his body around and faced me. I squatted a bit with my poles out like two swords. I wasn’t sure what I was planning, but a roll to the right or left seemed like a good evasive maneuver for a charging moose. He lowered his head from eight feet to six feet and I stood squared off with a moose one thousand pounds heavier than me. This time, I froze out of fear. He pawed a bit and blew at me once and I could feel the spit in his hot breath. His powerful hoof broke every branch it dragged across on the ground. It didn’t take me long to realize that I had no intention of trying to intimidate the moose in this standoff. I just wanted to make good time. I relaxed my body, though tensely, still not sure if this moose was as tame as everyone says that moos often are. I relaxed and began to move uphill. One foot in front of the other with my eyes on the giant beast. No poles clicking on the rocks and roots. I stepped deliberately but gingerly uphill as the moose’s horse-like head followed me until I disappeared around another switchback in the trail.
I continued down the trail excited and refreshed. Just days ago I remarked to someone that every day I move south, my chances of seeing another moose reduce. The last moose I saw was in the 100 mile wilderness, and that moose was on the other side of a pond.
I made ridiculously good time today. Having left at 8:00am, I had completed the 15 miles to Manchester Center just after 2:00pm. My left knee bothered me a little towards the end of the stretch. Still, however, I took the time to see the sights. At the top of Mt. Bromeley, I climbed the fire tower to get a 360̊ view of Vermont. It was a little hazy, but I haven’t had a view like that since the White Mountains.
When reached the highway, I hitched for only 10 minutes or so and got a ride from a man in an F-350 flatbed truck. He dropped me off at the EMS outfitter because I needed a guidebook. He asked if I wanted him to wait around town and he could take me back to the trail. I said no because I planned to spend a few hours in town.
First things first. I went to the Pizza Parlor and polished off a medium pepperoni pizza. The place was a rip-off though. They didn’t take credit or debit cards and they didn’t have free refills. After lunch, I bought an ALDHA guidebook and filled up on denatured alcohol. All overpriced. Then I went to Price Chopper and resupplied. I got some great stuff. The other hikers at the shelter are jealous of my bagels, snickers bars, Teddy Grahams, and Goldfish. No fresh fruit by accident. I made a few phone calls on an overpriced phone card and then it was time to go back to the trail as I had promised I would.
Manchester Center was an absolute mess. The place is the outlet capital of New England probably. Every name brand had an outlet there. To compound that, this weekend is the annual sidewalk sale. The sidewalks were crowded with people and merchandise. Traffic was a small town’s nightmare. In addition, Orvis is having some celebration this weekend at the American Museum of Fly Fishing, which is located in Manchester Center.
With all the people, I knew it would be hard to hitch a ride. I didn’t know where to stand. On what corner, at which light, in the sun or in the shade? As I tried to decide, a man called me to his station wagon. I ran over to his car in the parking lot. I got in and thanked the old man at the wheel. ‘It’s gonna cost you fifteen,’ he said. I got of the disguised taxi. I would at least try to hitch before paying a cab driver three dollars a mile. As I approached the crosswalk at an intersection, a white truck stopped at a red light and didn’t move when the light turned green. The driver slid the back glass open and told me to get in the bed. The horns had already begun blowing so I leapt into bed and rolled around a bit as the man accelerated.
He pushed that little pickup to the limit. The truck lunged with every gear change. He ‘dropped the hammer’ on everyone on the highway and tailed cars when boxed in. I gripped the smooth surfaces of the bed as he sped. He tried to yell to me though the back window. He knew I couldn’t hear him so he turned full around and yelled ‘Tunes, man!’ and pointed to his CD player. He cranked up the volume to what was probably a deafening level in the cab but I couldn’t hear anything in 70 mph wind. He dropped me off at the trailhead and I went to the side window to thank him. The first thing I noticed what that his face looked like he lost a fight last weekend. Then I noticed that his teeth were as yellow as margarine and that a cigarette smoldered in a plastic ashtray that looked like it had been screwed to the center console. The man was nice though, he wished me luck.
When I got back on the trail, I thought I might just find a tent site as soon as possible. However, I met another SOBO, my first in a while. We had met weeks before today, but I can’t remember. Her name is Laces, and she was heading to Spruce Mountain shelter. I decided that I’d go also even though I was lugging a ridiculously heavy pack and wanted to eat some of the weight out of it.
I arrived at Spruce Mountain after a few grueling miles. I ate a couple mini bagels with peanut butter, a Snickers bar dipped in peanut butter, and several dozen Teddy Grahams dipped in peanut butter for dinner. Good stuff, lots of calories. The shelter here is more like a hut. It has a wooden sliding door, glass paned windows, a wood stove, and a table. It looks like it would be comfortable in the winter and like a place I would like to own. I had planned to sleep inside, but after a few minutes of one old man’s snoring I moved to a picnic table outside the hut. The night is clear. The stars are out in full.
I finished 18 miles today with a 3½ hour layover in town to resupply. Not too bad by anyone’s standards. Tomorrow it is either 18 or 23 miles. Laces is going 23. We’ll see how I feel when I get to 18 miles. Goodnight.