6.8 miles, 1742.1 overall (Trail angel’s house, Hanover)
As I’m preparing to go to sleep in the evening I can hear something moving around in the distance. It slowly gets closer. I think for a second that it could be a hiker, but the sound is coming from off the trail. As it gets closer it is distinctly walking and it is larger than a squirrel. Finally I get the snot scared out of me when a deer, realizing I’m here, snorts before turning and bounding off. I can just make out the white of its tail as it leaves. Evidently very mad that I was in its path, it stops every few feet to snort again before continuing on. The episode reminds me that I’m not the largest animal in the woods out here.
In the morning I get up and packed quickly. I only have a few miles into Hanover and they are mostly flat or downhill. I pass a couple of southbound section hikers who got an early start from the next shelter. Apparently there were a lot of southbounders there last night, probably making the minimum trip out of town to the shelter. They must be late risers though because I never pass them on the trail this morning.
The miles pass quickly even without listening to anything today. A few times it begins to sprinkle and, just before I reach the road, it seems like it is going to pour. I stop to put my pack cover on and when I do the rain immediately stops. It seems the cover worked!
At the road it is a long downhill into Norwich. I pass cute houses with well-manicured lawns and realize I’m in an area with money. At one house I count room for 7 cars in its 2 garages, 5 in one and 2 in the other. It makes sense that there is money here since there is an Ivy league school in the town next door. I hope that this translates into great treatment of hikers rather than disdain for them.
On the road I pass a house that has a cooler out and a dish on top of a stool with a sign that says trail magic. I leave a thank you note as I take a gingersnap cookie from the dish and a sparkling lemonade from the cooler. The lemonade is surprisingly refreshing as I make my way into town. Pretty soon I’m hanging a right and heading out of the small town of Norwich and across the Connecticut River into New Hampshire. On the bridge I make sure to grab a picture with the VT/NH sign and on the other side I grab a picture with a sign for Hanover.
It is odd how we picture things in our heads differently than they actually are even when we have the advantage of seeing pictures. I have seen in other blogs and trail journals several photos of hikers crossing the bridge into New Hampshire and for some reason I always pictured it being larger. I also pictured the VT/NH plaque to be on the end of the bridge, not in the middle. As I cross the river and watch a rower sculling downstream I wonder how I could have pictured it so differently from reality. In truth most of the things on the AT are this way. I have not had the advantage of seeing all of them previously in pictures but often when I have I still sense a difference when I arrive myself.
I walk into the town and notice that classes must be about to start at Dartmouth. Students are walking the same direction I am on their way to campus. I pass what must be houses that are rented out to students. A girl finishes her run up ahead of me and I see her duck into a house. Moments later she is outside again, pulling on a shirt and walking ahead of me. Even after a run she smells good to my super duper thru-hiker sniffer which has become so attuned to the perfumes of soaps and detergents we wear so much without thinking about them.
Once I reach campus I go to the building that houses the Outdoor Club. The data book says I can stow my pack there while I do errands around town. I’m hoping I can also get a tour of the campus, or at least a map to show me where the key sights are. However nobody greets me when I walk in. I stand around for a minute, hoping to get noticed by some sort of welcoming committee or by a student who takes pity on me. Another hiker named Low Gear is here and suggests I try stashing my pack downstairs. I go down but there is no obvious place to leave it. I’m disappointed and decide I can see Dartmouth some other time. I leave the building and head to the outfitter where I know I’ll be greeted well and can probably leave my pack.
The outfitter is in the downtown area. I walk down the sidewalk along the trail and people smile to me, a sign of a good trail town. At the outfitter I place my pack down and ask about breakfast options. I’m directed to Lou’s which I’m told can be pricey but has the best breakfast in town.
At Lou’s I find the prices to be reasonable. For around $13 I get a coffee, french toast, scrambled eggs with cheese, home fries, bacon, sausage, and an English muffin. It is just the right amount of food for second breakfast. I’m somewhat sorry I plan to hike out tithe next shelter today because I won’t get to eat here again tomorrow.
My appetite satiated, I return to the outfitter to get my mail drop. I don’t need much since I entered town with 3 extra dinners already in my pack, so some of the food ends up going in the hiker box. The rest finds its place in my pack. Having performed everything that was required in town I consider getting the free food offered at the various restaurants. The bagel shop offers a free bagel but I eat one every day so I’m not excited by this. The pizza shop offers a free slice but t isn’t open yet. I decide to get cleaned up instead.
I walk to the rec center to see about a shower and laundry. The lady there is nice and soon I’m clean with my laundry in the washer. Low Gear and the Lionkillers arrive while I’m waiting. I play cards with the Lionkillers and we end up getting some leftover hamburgers and veggies from the senior center down the hall. I leave for a while to walk across the street and do a bit of shopping at the co-op, picking up a couple bagels, some tortillas, some additional snacks, and a fruit drink to have while in town.
By the time I’ve done my shopping, finished my laundry, and packed everything up it is mid afternoon. I only plan to hike out a mile to the shelter so I dawdle, waiting for it to cool off. While I wait the other hikers are arranging free night stays at the houses of trail angels. The rec center provides the list of names and numbers of people in town willing to host hikers. It is tempting, but I had planned to hike out. I do decide to stay in town for dinner though, even though this means I’ll be carrying an extra one. I hike back to town with the Lionkillers and P-squared for the pizza buffet.
I end up eating more than I thought I could at the buffet. The restaurant has Trivial Pursuit cards Ina box at each table and we pass the time trying to answer the questions. While eating it engine to pour outside and, although I probably could have already been at the shelter by now, I’m still thankful to be dry. I decide to go ahead and try to find a trail angel to stay with. Everyone else has been having luck with a woman named Betsy but it is good practice to try different people. I call a random name on the list and get no answer. While I’m calling the second random name the first calls back but, worried I might hang up on the second, I ignore it. The second never answers and, after waiting a few minutes, I try the first again. Still no answer. A third random name, same result. Tired of the game I call Betsy. She answers and informs me that I’ll be the 8th hiker she’ll be hosting tonight. Although it is a lot of hikers she doesn’t want anyone to be left out in the rain. We are to meet her at 8:00.
We kill the time by going by a coffee shop. I get a medium coffee and when I respond to the cashier that yes, I am hiking the trail, he tells me it’s free. I love Hanover. We sit outside despite a light drizzle and wait for 8:00. At the appointed hour we are at the meeting place. Two cars pull up, one a Prius driven by Betsy and the other a small Honda driven by her husband. Into these cars everyone piles, packs and all. A short time later we are at Betsy’s house which turns out to be right on the trail in Norwich. It also turns out she had trail magic placed outside today and I missed it. Oh well, more for someone behind me I suppose.
We all stay downstairs in the basement where several air mattresses have been inflated for us. It is cozy with some very plush carpet that I find my feet enjoying very much. We stay up for a little while talking to Betsy and her husband but it is already late. I head downstairs and turn in early. Tomorrow I am supposed to be in the early car back to the Appalachian Trail.