19.5 miles, 1735.3 overall (Stealth camp)
I don’t sleep incredibly well. When I hung my food I wasn’t completely satisfied with it. I didn’t have much choice as there weren’t many other options for branches to hang it from, but as I went to sleep I worried that I would wake up to find my food gone. Each noise during the night wakes me as I think it is a bear getting my food. I’ll make sure to hang my food better when possible, but this also makes me realize something else about Vermont – it has incredibly noisy forests. As I go to sleep I can hear squirrels and chipmunks scurrying about, small twigs and branches falling somewhere in the distance, frogs jumping around, weird squeaks that I don’t recognize, and of course the rain. I wonder if I’m simply not used to the noises of New England forests.
I expect that as I’m leaving camp around 7:15 that I’ll be one of the last out but I’m actually one of the first. It appears the others may be heading to the nearer shelter only 12 miles away rather than pushing on to the next one 20 miles away. I get moving and the first few miles are an easy downhill to a road. On the way i already pass a few sobo’s who got an early start. At the road is a farm which sells ice cream, vegetables, pies, basically everything a thru-hiker could want. I arrive at the road at 8:30. The farm doesn’t open until 10. I consider waiting but it is too long and I want to make some miles today. Bobcat passes me while I’m deciding what to do. I push on disappointed.
The next several miles are annoyingly bumpy. We go up a few hundred feet so that we can go down a few hundred feet. Some of the uphills and downhills are through fields. The day is hot and I don’t appreciate having to walk in the open sun through chest-high grass. I much prefer the woods. We are rewarded for our work with a couple pretty good views though so it isn’t all in vain.
Eventually I reach a road crossing with another opportunity for food. This time I don’t arrive before the place opens though because it won’t open at all today. It operates 5 days a week and I’ve arrived on one of the other two. Blast! I am frustrated with my lack of foresight here and have to console myself with a reminder that I am doing more miles today so I can get into Hanover early tomorrow for elevensies.
A couple miles further I reach the shelter that the other hikers will likely wind up at today. I stop for lunch and catch up to Bobcat. I also meet Chicken Feathers and Princess Doah at the shelter though they are on their way out so I don’t get to talk to them long. The privy at this shelter is unique and worth mentioning. Imagine a small gazebo, just large enough to fit a toilet into, with plywood panels from the waist down and bug screen from the waist up. It is a new design that allows a 360 view of the woods and, perhaps, a breeze while providing some privacy.
Thankfully the miles after the shelter are mostly downhill. I make some good time and pretty soon I’m walking into West Hartford. In another sign of apparent lack of planning I didn’t even realize I was going to be passing through a town today. As I check the data book on the way in I realize this town has a store right on the trail! It turns out that although I was disappointed with both earlier opportunities for stuffing my face I won’t be disappointed a third time.
At the store I catch up to Bobcat again as well as Chicken Feathers, Princess Doah, and the Lionkillers who I haven’t seen in several days. Inside is a deli and a bit of a convenience store. Although I’m tempted to get a sandwich from the deli I remind myself that I am already carrying about 3 more dinners than I need and getting a sandwich would only cause that number to increment just as I’m about to get another mail drop in Hanover tomorrow. I settle for a root beer and an ice cream sandwich, choices which are also easier on the wallet. I sit inside to take advantage of the air conditioning while I eat. It is another hot day in Vermont, something I thought I had left behind back in the mid-Atlantics. Still, a hot day in Vermont only reaches 90.
Before I leave I also eat a Snickers out of my snack allotment for the day. I anticipate I’m still going to have a few extra snacks when I get into Hanover so it is worthwhile to stomach another one now. I briefly consider staying in town where several residents let hikers tent in their yards, but it would add miles to tomorrow’s hike. I force myself to put my pack back on and get going the last 4 miles to the shelter.
I am actually not wedded to getting to the shelter, but I do want to get past West Hartford. In the data book there appear to be a few promising locations for camping spots on the way to the shelter. Since I’ve heard the shelter doesn’t have any water I don’t have much motivation to get there, especially since it would mean carrying my water there. I decide that if I find a nice spot after filling my water that I’ll take advantage of it. I soon do find a spot that, though not established, is so obvious that when I stop to examine it I find a tent stake left behind by someone else. If it was good enough for someone else it must be good enough for me! I pitch my tent, throw my bear line, and cook my dinner. I’m in my tent by 7:30, even earlier than usual. This bodes well for getting out early tomorrow and I’m excited by the idea of second breakfast in Hanover.
Tomorrow I plan a half day of hiking. I’ll do about 7 miles into town. The Dartmouth Outing Club allows hikers to stow their packs so I’ll drop off my stuff and head to breakfast. I’ll take some time to see the Dartmouth campus before heading out of town, stopping at the rec center on the way out for a shower and possibly laundry. I know it has only been a couple days but the hotter it is the more yucky I feel. Besides, I can get a shower and laundry for $5. You can’t beat that with a stick. So tomorrow I’ll hike a mile out of Hanover completely clean and ready to tackle the beginning of the Whites in a few days on the Appalachian Trail!