Currently sitting at the Kid Gore picnic table...
I gotta finish up talking about last night before I move on to today. The hostel was very quiet, like quiet hours were in effect. Four people sat in the living room, reading and sitting silently. I never thought I'd be one to say this, but I come to hostels to talk and watch TV!! I couldn't do either, and I felt like I might as well be on the trail. At least when I'm hiking, I get to walk and make progress while I don't talk to anyone. When it gets quiet and I'm not on the trail, my mind gets to worrying. I started to wonder about what the trail had in store for me. I worried I would get lonely, that I would get too deep inside my own head and have to quit. It's not productive at all, and it's especially not something I want to be doing on my rest day. Luckily, Don's Brother looked over and asked me where I was from. Thank you God. We got to talking and then his hiking buddy, Banzai, joined in as well. He asked me some insightful questions about the Whites. I asked him what I had to look forward to about the trail ahead, and I shared my fears. He's one of those guys that are easy to talk with. He shared a story about a day when he felt like quitting, as well as why he is able to keep going when he's down. Everyone out here has to find their own reason and have it at the front of their mind for those bad days. So in the end, I guess I wasn't worried. I was worried about worrying.
Jeff the Ohioan hostel owner was set to drive us to the trailhead at 8:30 this morning. I made sure I got the most out of my extra morning time. I ate three bowls of cereal, hastily packed my bag, and plopped down in front of the TV. I quickly flipped between channels of interest for 45 minutes. I got my Sports Center, news, and local weather on the 8s. It was really nice. Then Jeff loaded us in the car and I was hiking once more. Early on, I passed a couple families and then their collective group of kids. I'm always amazed that kids aren't creeped out by me. I guess they see through the dirt and beard. I'll be fine as long as kids don't judge me; people staring out from the windows of United Colors of Benetton can think whatever they want.
I had lost my terrain profile for the first part of the day, so I was flying blind. Luckily, the trail was extremely nice to me. The miles flew by faster than ever before. Maybe it was because I wasn't obsessively checking my guide. Whatever the reason, I wasn't complaining. But in general, Vermont is very soft. It feels like everything is cushioned. The climbs aren't too steep, and the descents are smooth enough to allow you to pick up speed. I got to Stratton Pond and really needed to redo my horrible packing job from the morning. The bag was slumping off, pulling hard against my shoulders. In general, you want most of the weight coming through the hip belt. This awkward positioning made it a pretty painful first ten miles, but I didn't feel like stopping. After re-packing my pack, all the weight was low and against my back. It must have been my best packing job ever. The pack was so compact and it felt great to wear. I was ecstatic. I went up to the top of Stratton, the mountain where Benton MacKaye originally conceived the idea for the Appalachian Trail. I climbed to the top of the lookout tower and snapped some pictures before the wind threatened to blow me out of it.
The rest of my day was pretty easy as well. I did meet a couple of southbound Long Trail hikers who are pounding out miles, even more than me. They're on a tight schedule, so they have to get to Massachusetts by Sunday. That coincides with my plan, so I hiked with them for a while until I got to Story Spring Shelter, where I stopped to make an early dinner as a break before I continued on to the next shelter. They pushed straight on, and I met them here after an hour. My longest day yet! I see how these northbounders can cruise when the miles come this easy. Massachusetts is on my horizon!