The next morning they cooked us an awesome breakfast out of their converted VW camper van. Then we all hiked the 8 miles to Cheshire, MA. I picked up a package of goodies from my mom and Gonzo and I had a restful afternoon at a church hostel in town. That evening Mudmouth's parents went all out with dinner. We had salad, steak and shrimp kabobs, ice cream cake and beer and wine.
In the morning we left our packs in the VW van and hiked up to Mount Greylock to meet Mudmouth's parents there. Mount Greylock is the highest point is Massachusetts. When we all reached the top they were there with cheese and watermelon waiting for us. Even though it was not our birthdays, it sure felt like it after a whole weekend of great food!
Gonzo and I hiked on a bit to a shelter and met some young Puerto Rican kids that we had a great time hanging out with that night. Just the day before, my family had returned from a vacation to Puerto Rico, so it was particularly interesting to meet them at this time. One of them had hiked a bit over his summer break last year and had brought a friend this time around.
The next day we passed into Vermont and did a long day in to the town of Bennington. At the state line, we came across our friend Crush and walked the rest of the way into town with him and got a room. On the steep decent into town we met a small group of people who were headed up from the road much too late to get very far. When we reached the road we got a ride from a few guys who were dropping off a hiker named Crazy Frog and they told us to eat at a bar that was having a wing night special. So after checking into a room, we walked to the bar and got some food. And who should walk in but the group of folks walking up the mountain as we were coming down. We invited them to come sit with us and learned that they were all taking a class on how to wood carve birds. They were all women besides an older male, who was the professor. He had written many books on birds of prey and was renown for his realistic sculptures of birds. He has even painted guitars for Santana! We got the back stories of all the interesting women who were taking the class and as the bar was closing up the professor offered to give us a ride back to our motel.
We were slow getting out of town the next day but it was the first day of sunshine we had had in a very, very long time. There was a moment where we were watching a torrential downpour just across the valley from us but the breeze blew it just behind us. Going into town we had lost both Maineiac and Mudmouth and Yardsale but some how wound up meeting up with everyone at the base of a fire tower.
Even though we all agreed we had had a wonderful day, we paid for it the next. We had to hike over a mountain that required a gain and then a loss of 2,000 ft of elevation, typical for the AT, but of course a thunderstorm had to crash down over us just as we began to climb. We had to duck off the trail for a bit for fear of being too immersed in the lightening. It finally let off and we finished climbing to the peak in the rain. I was so frustrated with the trail at this point for being such a bummer all the time that I was being a major Negative Nancy, even to the point that I was so annoyed with Gonzo for rebutting my negativity with encouraging statements. I am so glad that he is here to listen to me whine and cry and release negative energy until I get it all out and feel better. It only lasts about ten minutes but it means the world that he is there to let me dump bad feelings and still only has all the good times to remind me of. If I didn't have him with me on the trail, I know I wouldn't be here anymore.
We ended the rough day at a shelter that required you to pay for the nights stay. This was the first of several we would hit and we decided to take a chance on the fact that hopefully they would take mercy on a bunch of thru hikers who pass by on a rainy weekday. We guessed correctly and there was no caretaker to collect the fee.
The next day we hiked into Manchester Center, VT. We only stayed for part of the day after eating and resupplying, but we got to meet both of Mudmouth and Yardsale's older sisters and their kids. We hung out in a park with them and were even able to take showers in the community center.
Maineiac, Gonzo and I went back to the trail that evening and hiked a short two miles out to a very nice shelter just to get a small start on the next three day stretch to Rutland, VT.
Things were in no way bad through this section. No particularly bad bugs. No rain. There even seemed to be a breeze most of the time. Nothing seemed wrong besides the fact that I am just desperately over hiking and am in a majorly bad funk. I seem to be in a bad mood most any time I am hiking. I wonder why I am still out here besides the simple fact that it is just "too close" to the end to quit. We even hit the 500 Miles to Katahdin sign and while most people celebrated, I loathed that we still had that far to go. I am simply tired of living in the woods.
Maybe the real trouble kicks in when I realize that at least when I am out here torturing myself in an effort to make it to northern Maine, I have a purpose in life. If I were comfortably back in society with a clean shower, a flushing toilet and a cushy bed, I would be aimless in what to do with my life. The higher up the trail I get, the more uncertain I become of my ever quickly approaching "future". I realize that I will probably want some time to rest and readjust and even after I choose a new direction, I know it is not the only choice I can ever make. But still there seems to be the "what next?" question to face on top of the effort of simply getting to the point where what next becomes actually pertinent.
Anyway, we only walked 2 miles into Rutland today and have been here since 10am. That's the only reason I have been able to write an update. Not because of the extra time, but because I finally feel positive enough to not come out only spewing a load of negative, emotionally one sided viewpoints of the AT at you. We are staying at a very nice hostel that just so happens to be run by a very nice group of people belonging to a cult. I do not believe it is actually a cult but people along the AT have given them a bad wrap. Essentially they seem to be Christians who live communally, have Hebrew names, are very modest, extremely kind and caring, all have the same beards and long hair and really, really care about hikers. It's a great place and I know I am fully appreciative of it and will benefit greatly from taking a rest here.
The next stop is Hanover, New Hampshire, where Evan and Katelyn are coming in for a few days to hang out and do trail magic!