Location: Mountain Meadow Lodge
Katharine’s birthday. I left the shelter this morning at a decent hour. I forgot to take the mousetrap with me and I didn’t get the chance to thank MJ for the food. Today was rather uneventful. Not much happened. I hiked 15 miles to Mountain Meadow Lodge, where I am sitting outside at a picnic table drinking a Long Trail Ale and waiting on a chicken and pasta dinner. The chef owns and operates the large B&B, and he has received acclaim for his restaurant and his catering business. I met a pair of thru-hikers who told me about the lodge and that the chef had catered their wedding. The AT crosses through the backyard of the bed and breakfast, so it isn’t hard to miss the lodge and even harder to avoid. I figure I can reward myself unduly for another 15 mile day. After dinner, I’ll push on down the trail and find a stealth site.
I am still excited about all of the things I found that I needed at the shelter last night. This morning, I found a new pair of gel inserts for my boots. They work and fit perfectly. My feet don’t hurt as badly after fifteen miles today as they have on other high mileage days.
I forgot to mention that yesterday I had two new experiences with the Vermont flora, one a pleasant experience and the other a painful one. While hiking through some sunny meadows high on the hills of the Green Mountains, I stumbled across ripe blackberry bushes. Not all of the berries were ripened, but many on the base of the bushes had lost their red color and become plump and soft with sweet juices. I gorged on berries. I’d collect a handful and then stuff my mouth with the berries. During the same time, I had my bad experience with the flora. I stumbled into some stinging nettles. They burned my legs and arms as I spread the venom around my body with my rubbing. I still don’t know what they look like, but I know what they were. The pain, though, was not as powerful a feeling as that of a full stomach of fresh blackberries. However, judging by my sudden stomach attack on the trail today, I may have eaten a bad berry or two.
I am really beginning to love this bed and breakfast. If I had the money, I’d stay for a few days. Perhaps one day I can return here, to Vermont. The state has really taken a grip of me. I love every step through it. Maine had a similar affect on me. I loved Maine for its wild side. So much of the state was undeveloped, with over 90% of the state still existing as forestland. Vermont, though, woos me with its simplicity. Farming thrives here and the lifestyle of the farmer and agrarian society is revealed in everything I see. The old barns, the new barns, contour plowing and livestock. In the last few days, I have crossed countless stone walls, but I’ve also crossed electrified fences. Ladders allow hikers to climb over the fences without being shocked. I have passed through pastures with cows and sheep. At this B&B, the owner allows his sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and cows to graze around the lawn. I enjoyed sitting at the picnic table and watching the animals be.
While writing, the owner of the bed and breakfast brought me another beer and asked if I wanted to join him in the kitchen while he cooked. I accepted the invitation with a chill. The idea of joining him in the kitchen excited me. I followed him through the lodge and into the kitchen. The kitchen was small and cluttered. He cooked on an archaic stovetop and two convection ovens. The equipment was outdated and overused, but the owner, Bill, cooked an excellent meal. At 43, he had five children, two boys and three girls, ages 9 to 22. Bill is in amazing shape. The veins still bulge from his arms and necks and his face looks healthy. He wore a grey shirt that said Bring It in bold letters. He hikes often, and he purchased the lodge this May and he runs it with his wife.
I stood awkwardly in the way of Bill in the small kitchen as he cooked an amazing chicken and pasta dinner. It reminded me of mom’s baked ziti, but it had chicken breasts in it. We drank Long Trail while he cooked. Only one family occupied the lodge that night, a middle-aged couple with two daughters. Bill set their table with fancy china, rolls, and tossed salad. I had watched in the kitchen as he picked through the salad to pull out brown lettuce and I noticed that the date on the chicken was five days expired. He had pulled the refrigerated bread loaf out of the box and zapped it in the microwave. Everything seemed very second rate when I saw it in the kitchen, but when it ended up on table it seemed elegant and high priced. Funny how things like that work.
Bill and I ate dinner together. We shared a bottle of merlot. The four guests ate at a table near ours, and they asked several questions about the AT. As I always do, I kindly answered each question and kept them intrigued with anecdotes. The couple had spent a lot of time outdoors as sailors and cyclists but not much as hikers. They were both professional actors, but I didn’t recognize them from anything. I thought that the woman might have been the teacher from Billy Madison that read the book The Puppy who Lost his Way, but I didn’t ask. They enjoyed my stories just the same.
After an amazing dinner and paying a small tab for my many beers, half bottle of wine, and three course meal, I sent a few emails. The phone was occupied so I didn’t get the chance to call Katharine and wish her a happy birthday. I sent an email though.
I finished my last email and went back into the kitchen to thank Bill and say goodbye. He asked if he could walk with me down the trail in the backyard of the lodge. He gave me another beer on the house and we collected my things to walk to the trail. He helped me find a campsite just off of his property. When we found a flat tent site, I turned out my headlamp and he and I talked in the dim moonlight. He said once that I was a really easy person to talk to. He did most of the talking. He talked about his youth and his life, the things that he missed and those that he still wanted to do. He told me one story that he said he had only told a couple other people ever in his life. I will not reveal it here, but to remind myself it involves a girl from Nashville, leaving Boston as a junior year in college and a Star Trek motion picture in color. It is a very interesting story and I am surprised Bill told me.
After a long conversation, Bill returned to his home, right next to the lodge. I set up my tent on semi-flat ground and crawled inside. The night was cold but bright. Tomorrow night the full moon rises. Tonight I’ll fall asleep to the honks of Canadian geese and lapping water of Kent Pond.