Day 89 – Flat on Back

Start Milepost: 1606.3 Time: 06:00081117 - Fire Tower - Glastonbury Mtn
End Milepost: 1625.0 Time: 14:55
Miles hiked: 18.7
Miles to go: 564.8
Weather: cloudy
Temps: 40’s°, High 70’s°
Blue Side trails:
Overnight: tent
Map: Click on map pin

Scamper introduced me to the phrase Flat on Back (FOB) while she was volunteering this summer at Kids Across America Kamps in the Ozarks of Missouri. She meant tired; real tired. I’ve literally been there several times on this hike. Once, thinking I had successfully passed underneath a fallen tree, I attempted to stand upright again. Bam. I was on my back like an upturned turtle. Laughing, I rolled to one side and got to my feet. Today it was different. Following behind Relentless, aka Papa, I stepped on a rock and tried to stop while he selected his next rock. My rock was sloped, so my heels fell below my toes leaving me trying to bend forward. I could not, so I fell on my back into the Vermud. Fortunately there was no rock to bounce my head on. But there I lay – immobile. I could neither roll left or right; it took Relentless to pull me up. Funny. Dangerous.

081117 - Dinner ViewThere was nothing remarkable about today’s hike except that we entered the Green Mountains – territory at one time for Ethan Allen whose exploits I read about as a child. Our introduction to the mountains was one heck of along climb. Relentless made it look easy. I kept my breathing rhythmic and never lost sight of him.

Rain is due in tonight so we had attempted to set our tents appropriately on rocky terrain with tree roots aplenty. We will resume hiking in the morning once the rain passes through which is supposed to be around 06:00.

Knowing that rain was approaching we had supper at five o’clock. All food was then placed in a bear box near the shelter. It is now 18:00 so I will pretend I am no longer hungry.

Future hiking days are under review. We will attempt to slack pack near Killington, VT. I was last near that town in 1973 – on a weekend of skiing with classmates.


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Day 88 – Relentless

Start Milepost: 1585.9 Time: 05:58081017 - Sunrise
End Milepost: 1606.3 Time: 15:45
Miles hiked: 20.4
Miles to go: 583.5
Weather: sunny
Temps: 40’s°, High 70’s°
Blue Side trails:
Overnight: tent
Map: Click on map pin

The Greylock Hostel where I stayed last night was rather unique. It had space for nearly twenty hikers; there were only three occupying bunks. The bunk-room was above a sunroom porch that also served as a presentation room. There was a guest speaker not unlike those at Len Foote Hike Inn. Once the speaker concluded his presentation, the attendees adjourned to the adjacent dining room where loud conversations were the norm. Any hiker upstairs in the bunk-room expecting to go to sleep before 21:00 is a loon. But it was a very clean and efficient hostel. No frills: shower and a bunk. Don’t try to open the windows – they don’t. Don’t try to hang your clothes and a towel in the one-person shower rooms; the hooks are insufficient. Don’t drop the silver-dollar sized piece of soap; if you do, it will shatter.

Relentless, aka Papa, led the hike again today. He relentlessly climbs hills without stopping. About all I saw all day were either the place where my next foot would step, or where Relentless’ feet were. Often his feet were out of my view as he climbed swiftly up the mountains. That left me with my rhythmic breathing, racing  heart and pounding boots trying to stay in his proximity. Great fun!

For the most part, there was little to see all day once the rising sun was photographed. We are now in Vermont 081017 - Welcome to Vermontwith the Green Mountains our area of activity. Many hikers refer to the state as Vermud due to the countless portions of the trail that consist of swaths of mud pits with an occasional stepping stone tossed into it to tempt hikers to use them without slipping!

I also passed the 1600-mile point without noticing it. Perhaps it was mudded over. While it is also notable that there are less than 600-miles to go, it is also irrelevant.

We took less than an hour of breaks to drink delightful colas left trail-side in North Adams, eat lunch and hold several, brief conversations with SOBO hikers.081017 - Beaver Dam

I am still working thru my change in diet. Today was the first time I recall not having a PopTart for breakfast. I went with a breakfast square and a protein bar.  Not too long afterwards I went for peanut crackers. Later still I ate Honey & Oats bars, a Cliff bar and then lunch consisting of bagel thins and tuna salad out of a pouch and a snicker bar. Afternoon snacks included another Cliff, peanut crackers, Honey & Oats bars and another Snicker (double). Supper consisted of a Mountain House stew and M&M peanuts. Papa’s diet does not include the bagel and tuna or the Snicker bars, so I have no clue how he manages with just Cliff and protein bars. All said, I still did not eat all the food allocated (purchased and carried) for today. Nevertheless, think eating is more fun than hiking, but I can’t do the former without the latter.

Camp tonight is beside a creek that helps drown out voices from the shelter population. Skeeters know we are here and made supper a quick event. Papa had pulled up a rock and we dined together – a first shared supper for me since last winter.

Tomorrow will not be as long or as tough as today although as fatigue continues to build, we have to be careful not to slack up on step placement even early in the day.

And the iPhone battery charging process continues to delight me. Good for morale!

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Day 87 – Grey Lock Mountain

Start Milepost: 1568.7 Time: 06:00080917 - Memorial 2
End Milepost: 1585.9 Time: 14:57
Miles hiked: 17.2
Miles to go: 603.9
Weather: sunny
Temps: 40’s°, High 70’s°
Blue Side trails:
Overnight: hostel
Map: Click on map pin

We began the hike to the highest point in MA from the town of Dalton. We had a short 17-miles to cover and had all day to complete it. So, we hiked .2 miles off trail for Dunkin’ Doughnuts and Gatorade. We spent an hour there. At lunch time we rested for 30-minutes. After resuming the hike we heard from two SOBOs that there was trail magic ahead. I did not hold my breath that it wound still be available three hours later when we would be in the area. Were we ever surprised! A mom and dad from MA had met their hiking daughter at a parking spot one mile from our destination. They had a full blown party going for any hiker passing by. Wraps, cookies, grilled items and drinks. We spent thirty minutes talking and enjoying their spread. We could not thank them enough 080917 - JaxDad and Papafor their generosity.

We made quick work of the last mile and were delighted when that climb proved to be far less challenging than expected. With another early end to the day we rested a bit. We visited the MA memorial to her war dead and climbed its tower to get a 360 degree view of the terrain for miles.

080917 - SupperWe ate hiker dehydrated meals instead of paying $37 for a hostel/hotel meal; we did not want to carry any more weight than necessary for tomorrow’s.

We planned out the days between now and 20 August when Papa leaves. The schedule will put me a day farther along the trail than I had planned. Only five of those days will be in the 20 miles per day category. The rest will be 15 to 17.

We are in the Greylock hostel. While impressive and accommodating, the room has no windows that open. It is stuffy. Three of us will have to wish we were camping in our tents outside.

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Day 86 – Dalton

Start Milepost: 1548.1 Time: 06:00IMG_6904
End Milepost: 1568.7 Time: 14:20
Miles hiked: 20.6
Miles to go: 621.1
Weather: cloudy,
Temps: 40’s°, High 70’s°
Blue Side trails:
Overnight: motel
Map: Click on map pin

We left the Upper Goose shelter at our/my regular time and headed for Dalton.  Few hundred meters into the hike I went to hang my cap on the snap link where I had hung since February. The link was gone. I reached for the one on the other side. It was gone. Color me livid. Later I went for a drink of water and found my bite valve and discovered it had been substituted with one that leaked air. That was particularly annoying so color me frosted. Fortunately I had an old valve that was functional.

At noon  we met two Pittsfield Hiking Club members who gave me a spare link and gave Papa a spare pair of boot laces. They also gave us useful info for securing slack packing when I get to the White Mountains.

The day’s 21-mile hike was spent in the forest and as a result there was no opportunity to take any photos. The picture of the shelter itself was provided by Papa.080717 - UGPS 2

We hustled to get to town before the PO closed so that Papa could retrieve his resupply box.  We covered that distance in good fashion.  Dalton sits right on the trail so it was easy for us to reach the Shamrock Inn where we had reserved a room. After quick showers, a PO visit and coordination for laundry service we called Tom for a shuttle to get groceries and a visit to Verizon to get my charging problem resolved. Tom’s name was found on the Inn’s info board.

Tom, we found out, was a volunteer. He required no payment and took no fee. He had been supporting hikers for 37-years! He ran the two of us to the stores and waited each time for a total of an hour. He was wonderful. At each store he gave us the store shoppers card to help save money. Incredible.080817 - Supper

After chores were completed we had supper: burgers, fries, beer and lemon cake. It was a longer supper tag we wanted, but there were but two waitresses for a very busy and popular place. Upon returning to our room we had once more found no time to relax. It was time to repack and get some sleep.

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Day 85 – Trailing

080617 - Red BarnStart Milepost: 1532.3 Time: 06:12
End Milepost: 1548.1 Time: 14:20
Miles hiked: 15.8
Miles to go: 641.7
Weather: cloudy, rain
Temps: 40’s°, High 80’s°
Blue Side trails:
Overnight: shelter
Map: Click on map pin

After seeing Papa last night we exchanged greetings and plans for today. He proposed an early wake-up and early start. When that was defined as 05:30, I concurred. At 05:15 I woke and figured I may as well pack and go. And I did but not before speaking with Papa who had been hiking slowly when I was with him in NY. I did not want to be slowed; I was doing a fine job of that on my own. He said he’d be ready shortly and I advised that he would catch me soon enough. Perhaps!

And he did. At the first watering point he caught up and we hiked the rest of the day together. His pace uphill is faster than mine. His level-terrain pace is slower. We are about equal going downhill. We are well paired.

My original plan for today was to go 1.5-miles farther to a motel just off trail. His was to get out of forecasted rain sooner at a shelter.  We went with his plan after I could not obtain a motel reservation.

Our plan for tomorrow is to hit the trail at about 06:30 and not wait for the pancakes that the shelter (with a rare caretaker) is known for. Waiting for pancakes would delay our departure by an hour. We have a 20-mile day ahead of us and he wants to get to the post office. Done. He had a motel room reserved said late this afternoon.

Since he had been doing long distance section hiking for three years, he will leave the trail in 20 August at his third section is complete.  I may be with him until then. Thus far however we have not compared daily distances, but if today is an indication he won’t short me on distances!  And I may have to pick up my uphill pace.

I will also adjust my diet after learning his calorie count, food choice and frequency of snacking. Seems I may be getting only half my supper quantity of calories. His meals are dehydrated at home and sent out. The supper meal is 900 calories; mine is about two-thirds if that. We weigh about the same and our packs are within three pounds.  Calorie counting to follow. Have also discussed calories with others. Something to consider and act upon while shopping tomorrow at the grocery.

Morale much improve although the phone is still not charging properly.

Trailing? Yep, I trailed Papa all day long like a puppy except uphill. When going uphill I trailed by more!



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Day 84 – Morale Busters

Start Milepost: 1514.2 Time: 06:22080617 - East Mountain View
End Milepost: 1532.3 Time: 15:45
Miles hiked: 18.1
Miles to go: 657.5
Weather: morning rain, sunny
Temps: 50’s°, High 80’s°
Blue Side trails:
Overnight: tent
Map: Click on map pin

My stealth camp last night was worth the risk of bears and the possibility it was not approved. I slept well and was back on trail easily. A boost to morale came with the new, waterproof boots that let me start the day in the rain and arrive in camp with dry socks. Whoohoo!! Another morale boost also came with the winter quilt that allowed me to sleep very warmly on the first of cold nights in months. It was 45-degrees in the morning. Double Whoohoo!!

080617 - Wooded TrailThe day was uneventful with rocks, hills, bends and turns just like any other hike day.

A morale buster was the lack of suitable water points. Most were nasty looking. I got a refill from a trail magic site early in the day that got me to a full 3.5 liters. The next water point was .3-mile from camp. That was about a fifteen mile gap in water to guzzle. At the final water hole there was not enough of a flow to collect in the water bag.  I resorted to scooping the water out of the pooled spring with the bottom of a SmartWater bottle. I have carried that piece of gear for 80+ days for that use. But my was it good water! The bottom of the bottle is otherwise used to store my headlamp so that it does not inadvertently get switched on inside the pack.

The biggest morale buster was the determining I had a failure of the iPhone to take charge from the external storage unit and I was left with 41% charge that fell to 36% as I tried to resolve the issue. I concluded it was related to an OS upgrade the previous night.  The problem all but eliminated contact with Scamper, blogging, weather updates, my schedule and GutHook. Those are listed in priority of impact. And I was left with wondering how to continue hiking without a purpose.

080617 - Shays Rebellion Monument

Shay’s Rebellion Monument

I continued to resolve the problem at lunchtime and gave it lots of thought throughout the day. I found no resolution so I set up camp, had supper climbed into my quilt. Just because I was in the quilt did not preclude thinking. I got the phone out and got a one percent battery increase in about five minutes of charging. Good, but not great. I sent a quick text to Scamper and then let the phone charge overnight expecting a 50% charge by morning.

The day was then in the books and I closed my eyes. I opened them twice; once to greet a young Marine and once to greet Papa who I had not seen for a day or two.

Morale will improve or bad things will continue.

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Day 83 – Smiles

Start Milepost: 1499.3 Time: 07:00080517 - 1500 1
End Milepost: 1514.2 Time: 16:15
Miles hiked: 14.9
Miles to go: 675.4
Weather: warm, breezy
Temps: 50’s°, High 80’s°
Blue Side trails:
Overnight: tent
Map: Click on map pin

One morning shortly after starting my assignment at the Pentagon, I was walking the outer ring towards my office when I observed a woman walking in the opposite direction. As was typical, she wore tennis shoes while heading to work and put on her less comfortable shoes when she reached her office. I greeted her with a Good Morning and to my great surprise she looked over at me and smiled the brightest smile and greeted me as well. To me it was remarkable how little effort it took on my part to brighten someone’s day.

080517 - WaterfallSo it is on the trail; greet someone and look for a smile. To get a smile from someone always puts a smile on my face and my trail day is enhanced. OK, it doesn’t take much to brighten the hike!

Of course there are other ways to make me smile. Recall that I have mentioned Chris Perry and his smile in every video he posted last year during his thru hike. I think of him every day when I see another climb. Since I reached CT and now MA, I have another reason to smile. It goes like this. I start on a gentle (!) incline up a hill and often can see a patch of sunshine at the far end of the incline. I smile because that means the climb won’t be too bad. Sometimes I smile minutes later when the Trail takes a turn and the patch of  sunlight vanishes. That last smile is to remind me I am not thinking like the crafty ATC clubs that lay out the trail.080517 - Sages Ravine

I also smile at the end of the day when I finally reach camp. The day is done. Cooked. In the books. (Except at the NY state campground. That day my response was grrrr.  Or words to that effect.)

Scamper makes me smile with stories of the Beagle Boys. As an example, this morning she managed to close the pantry door on Michelob and he took the opportunity to snack in the dark.08517 - Mick's snack - 2

Dottie a trail angel brought a smile to my face this afternoon when she offered me a cob of corn. It was fresh off the farm wagon this morning and still warm from cooking hours later. It was sweet corn. She also had ice cold well water and stories about her 187-miles on the AT that ended with a fall and a case of vertigo that would not go away so she left the Trail at Fontana Dam.

A young hiker from CA made me smile at our lunch stop with a view with his ability to offer pithy replies to my queries about why his day starts at 10:00 and ends at about 20:00. Or his remark about not liking bread on the trail because it gets mashed. He does carry sleeves of Ritz crackers. What is not to smile about that?

080517 - Bear Mountain - Rock Observation TowerAnd I smile when hikers ask, Where’s Jack. My response is generally, At work, which draws a smile from older hikers (and often blank looks from younger hikers who appear to disdain work. I smile at them!)

Last evening I learned that a hiker in the “hostel” with me graduated from Starr’s Mill HS and Mercer University, both from which Jack graduated several years earlier. And his parents live in Peachtree City, our hometown. As Scamper noted, small world. I only know his trail name: Dice.

Share a smile with someone today.


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