3.4 miles, 1493.9 overall (Salisbury, CT)
Around 6:30 I wake and start packing. It is supposed to be hot today and I want to get into town long before the heat arrives. I eat my breakfast and while I am eating the non-social guy in the tent from last night gets out and packs up. He is ready to go before I finish eating and, to my surprise, comes over to say hi. He is an older gentleman and introduces himself as Snag. We talk a bit and I find out he is also from Virginia (Lexington to be exact) and that is where he started hiking. He is planning a flip-flop, returning to Lexington after he summits Katahdin and hiking south to Springer. After a minute he leaves, explaining that he is slow so he’s sure I’ll pass him soon enough. He is right on that account. Once I finish eating I wave to Tipsy and Fetch who are just getting moving and I head out. I climb up the shelter side trail, along the cliff face, and just after rejoining the AT I catch Snag enjoying a view over a field.
On the way in to town today I don’t bother listening to anything. It is only 3 miles and it is almost all downhill. I do observe a few interesting things though. The first is a rock called the Giant’s Thumb. It is a huge rock sticking up out of the ground that I notice on my own but then refer to the data book for the name of. It is quite peculiar and is aptly named. Second, I am starting to notice the benefits of my beard. Besides the obvious flavor-saving feature, it also doubles as an insect bite preventative and a screen for keeping bugs out of my mouth. Sunscreen also hasn’t been necessary on the lower half of my face in quite some time. I think these may be some of the reasons thru-hikers grow their beards – at least, those who are able.
When I get to town it is still early. I plan to stay at the house of one of the two women in town who put up thru-hikers. One is named Maria and the other is named Vanessa. I chose to stay with Vanessa because of the added benefit of in-house laundry rather than a laundromat. I told her a few days ago that I planned to arrive early in the afternoon. It is still before 10. Rather than arrive early I decide to hunt for second breakfast.
Salisbury is an incredibly small town, even smaller than Kent. It only takes me a few minutes to walk around and see all of the shops. My two restaurant choices seem to be a coffee shop or a small French restaurant. I take a quick look at reviews for the restaurant online and find that it isn’t incredibly hiker-friendly so I head to the coffee shop. I put my pack down outside and head in.
On my way in I am immediately greeted by a woman who asks if I’m hiking the trail. When I answer yes she slips something into my hand and tells me to buy myself a coffee. I smile, thank her warmly, and slip it into my pocket, expecting it is a dollar or two. It feels rude to look to see how much it is and I am preoccupied with trying to maintain enough space from the other guests so they don’t have to smell me. When I finally decide on the sandwich I want and order it with a coffee I pull out the money she slipped me to find a $10 bill! I look around for the woman but she has already left. I can’t believe how generous she was, and rather than a coffee she ends up paying for my entire meal.
While I’m eating a few people come by and say hi and ask if I’m hiking. Eventually one sits down next to me. He is dressed in hiker attire and I learn that he is a section hiker named Snakeman. He is almost done with this year’s section, having only about 20 miles to go until he gets off the trail in Great Barrington. He stayed at Vanessa’s house last night and says it was nice. We wind up talking for about an hour, ordering refills on our coffee. Just before Snakeman leaves to hit the trail Snag walks in and sits down with us and I get to talk to him for a while. He had breakfast at the other place in town and says it wasn’t bad. Turns out Snag is a recently retired lawyer with two sons. He seems like a great guy to sit around a shelter and talk with so I’m disappointed he wasn’t outside his tent last night. With his slow pace I doubt I’ll get to see much more of him on this trip.
I tear myself away from the coffee shop so I can go get clean. It is just before noon so I figure I should be able to check in. I find the house easily and knock on the door. Vanessa answers and once I introduce myself she ushers me in and straight up to my room which she was just finishing preparing. It is always reassuring to see someone putting clean sheets on your bed! Once she’s done I head for the shower and wash up. Then I bundle all of my laundry and she takes it to make it magically clean again. While I’m waiting for clean clothes I inventory my food, grab my mail drop and add it to my pack, and clean up a few items. I also charge my phone and battery while I get caught up on writing and other electronic things. Vanessa offers me a beer from the fridge while I wait so I sip on a Budweiser.
By the time my clothes are ready I’m hungry again. I dress and head out to the French restaurant with the hiker-unfriendly reputation. I order a summer vegetable casserole with a coke. It is reasonably priced and I don’t notice any problems getting served, but this may be due to the fact that I’m clean. From here I head to the grocery store to grab the items I still need (bagels, peanut butter, instant mashed potatoes) as well as getting a pizza, beer, and ice cream for dinner tonight since I can use Vanessa’s kitchen. I also head to the liquor store across the street to see about a replacement for the Evan Williams. I don’t see anything appealing that I could drink straight (no mixers on the trail!) but at the last minute I consider a port and decide I’ll try it out. It may not work with the heat that’s expected this week but it’s worth a shot.
I return home with my bounty and add it to my pack. I’m not excited about my pack weight since I have almost 6 days of food now, but I know tomorrow will be a short day and at the end of the 6 days I’ll have some time off. The rest of the night is spent at Vanessa’s kitchen table doing nothing other than eating my pizza, ice cream and beer and poking around on my phone. It is nice to be able to make myself at home in a real house. The only thing Vanessa’s place lacks, besides terry cloth robes, is wifi so I’m not able to download more audiobooks. I’m in bed by 9, hoping to get up early and once again beat the heat on the Appalachian Trail.