August 5th 2018
Winturri Shelter – Happy Hill Shelter (mile 1742.9)
21.2 miles
Total miles: 1765.1


It was almost impossible to get up this morning. It was warm and cosy and my eyes were so heavy. I looked at the clock and it said 6:09am. I could push it to 6:30. Then I could push it to 7. And then to 7:30am. No one else showed any signs of moving and we were all waiting for each other. Eventually we let the mats deflate as began packing up. 

When I started to move I felt like I had been beaten up. I had whole body soreness. We left at 8am and began our rollercoaster day. It was so warm this morning I was sweating immediately. It was mostly downhill to the road and the trail came out of the trees and went through some tall grasses, a theme that would reoccur throughout the day. When I got to the road Shred and Jukebox were there and they found out there was a farm shop just 0.2 of a mile down the road. Did I want to go? Definitely. We left a note for Peaches and walked towards the farm shop. On the way we saw a couple of dogs that were cute and then we saw a van and commented on van life. Then Jukebox let out a screech and ran over and said hello to the people. It was Lady and The Tramp. I had met them very briefly in a shelter just north of Damascus but the others knew them better than I did. We stopped and chatted for a while before heading down to the shop. 

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Lady and the Tramp are driving their van around and doing the trail in sections I think. He offered to slackpack us for the day and leave our packs further down the trail but none of us have slackpacked so far so we declined. 

At the farm shop I got a soda and an apple pastry thing which was so good! We all got snacks, dumped our trash and filled our water. All in all a great little stop, but by the time we left and got back to the trail we had been going for nearly 3 hours and we had only hiked 4 miles. It was going to be a long day. 

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The day was a series of ups and downs, much like all the other days. Today the trail was a lot smoother, less rocks and roots and things to trip over so the walking was easier. What wasn’t easier was the grade of the trail and some parts were super steep. Thankfully most of the climbs were shortish. 

We hiked on and the others pulled ahead of me as I struggled my way up one one the steep climbs. This time I caught up to Jukebox on the way down and I tried to sneak up on her. I got really close and it didn’t seem like she knew I was there so I jumped on her and roared and she got the biggest fright. I didn’t realise she had her earphones in. Both of them. I never hike with both in, only one because you’re so disconnected from your surroundings. She wasn’t happy with me but she was laughing at the same time. She was ready to beat me up when I scared her! It was pretty funny. 

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We came to a road crossing and there was the option of walking down the road to someone’s house where we could buy soda and homemade ice cream. But we decided as we had already stopped for 45 minutes at the farm shop we should just carry on. There was a cooler with trail magic in just before the road crossing but there was a big pile of empty cans next to it and I assumed that the cooler was empty. 

I was regretting my decision to not get ice cream as I sweated my way up the next hill. The first half was in the trees and then the second half was open and exposed to the hot sun. I got to the top and there, sitting on a rock, was a single can of orange soda. I looked around but couldn’t see anyone so I took it, felt it was still cold and cracked it open and drank it. It was so good. And at the top of the climb too! 

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I caught up to Jukebox and asked her if she had seen it but no, she hadn’t which was lucky for me! When we caught up to Shred and Peaches they said there had been 3 sodas left in the cooler that I hadn’t bothered to look in. 

We had been going for 5 hours and we still hadn’t done 10 miles yet! It’s normally me that’s the one at the back but today it was Jukebox. I think her new shoes need breaking in a bit but for me it was nice to have a day where I wasn’t always the last one. I seemed to be able to pick up the pace a bit in the afternoon and there was a bit more downhill than uphill which suited me. 

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I hiked with Peaches for a bit and we kept seeing these ropes tied around the trees. Earlier in the day Jukebox had asked me if I had seen the Maple syrup tubes and I said no. I realised that I had seen them and these things around the trees weren’t ropes they were tubes! It was all falling into place! I forgot to take a photo but there were lots of them. Apparently Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the country. 

We went in and out of the trees, through some fields and tall grasses and through some beautiful tunnels where there were two layers of trees. The big tall pines and the spindly baby trees which were about 10ft tall and providing the shade. 

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Peaches sped up and got ahead of me. She was on a mission to meet her friends. I popped out onto the road and there was a half mile road walk into the town of West Hartford which the trail goes right through the middle of. It not so much a town but a series of abandoned buildings. A closed library, an empty general store up for sale and a church which looks like it’s been left to go to ruin. We crossed the bridge which goes over the White River and there were a bunch of people there in the water and jumping off the bridge, and people floating about in tubes and kayaks. 

Peaches decided to get her friends to come here instead of the interstate where she was originally going to meet them. We went over to the Blue Barn with the AT logo on. It belongs to a trail angel called Linda and she lets people stay in there and we heard there is sometimes soda there. We went over to have a look but there didn’t seem to be anyone around. The door to the barn was open and I went into have a look around. There were a couple of beds in there and some chairs, but no soda. It was very hot in there and not a place I would want to spend the night unless it was raining. Their barn and their whole back yard was basically a dumping ground it seemed. 

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We didn’t have to worry about the soda because Peaches friends came armed with a bag full of soda, beers and snacks. We sat under the bridge in the shade and I drank a couple of Mountain Dews and a Dr Pepper, I ate some fruit snacks and a lot of cherries. 

We stayed there for about 45 minutes while Peaches caught up with her mates. We had a discussion about what the next week might look like as we will be going into town tomorrow to resupply. Shred has a new job and he has to leave before the end of the trail, which means he will finish in the next 5 or 6 days depending on when whoever is coming to pick him up is coming to get him. 

He wants to get through the Whites and finish his trip there. After some calculations that would involve doing a 30 mile day tomorrow and then nearly 25 miles a day for the 4 days after that. 

For me to finish on August 31st I need to average 17.5 miles a day and that will also give me time spare in case of bad weather on Katahdin. The Whites and the Presidentials are one of the most beautiful parts of the AT. You finally get above the tree line and it’s not a section I want to rush. I don’t want to do it that fast and I’m aware that the trail is nearly over, I don’t want to make the end come sooner that it needs to because I’ll miss it when it’s over. I am going to take the time I have allowed myself. Plus, we have struggled with the mileage over the last couple of days and we have only been doing 20 / 21 miles! The Whites sound pretty brutal with steep climbs and we get up to around 6000ft again. All the sobos we have met say ‘take your time in the Whites’. 

So it may end up that we say goodbye to Shred sooner than we thought. Jukebox may go with him although she doesn’t sound that keen on the big miles. If she does then I will hang back. I will miss hiking with them but I want to stick to my own plan and I want to maximise my time out here. There are a lot of other people around and I don’t mind hiking on my own either. 

Shred didn’t seem too happy about us not wanting to do the big miles but the decision about his hike is his to make. Does he want to stick with a group or does he want to do bigger miles? He will have to weigh up what’s most important to him. 

So we still had 4 more miles to do to get to the shelter for the night. Peaches stayed with her friends and she will catch us up tomorrow. It was mostly uphill but the first 0.8 were through town on paved roads so that was alright, then back in the forest to the shelter. The hills weren’t too bad and they were broken up by some flat bits but my problem was that I kept getting stabbing pains in my intestines. 

I think I had eaten too many cherries and I was getting a lot of gas building up. I could feel it forming and then it would cause a stabbing pain in my lower abdomen causing me to double over a few times, and then I would release a fart. I was so uncomfortable. I made it to the shelter around 7:30pm. No matter what we do it seems we always get to the shelter around 7:30pm. 

The other two were setting their tents up but there wasn’t a lot of talking going on. I felt a bit of tension coming from Shred and he didn’t say much. I explained my digestive troubles to Jukebox and she said she was feeling the same. She can’t eat gluten, but sometimes does, so I knew she would be able to empathise. 

A visit to the privy lightened my load a bit but I really shouldn’t have eaten all those cherries. It did me no favours. I got into my tent straight away feeling the need to just lie down. I ate the rest of my crisps and the tiny bit of hummus. I still have a whole tub of hummus left. I could see in the privy for the first time in a while as it had a Perspex roof instead of a crescent moon slither for light.

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This is a pretty full pit!

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My hiking clothes which are next to my head really stink. And the gas I’m producing really stinks. And the smell of the privy is occasionally wafting over. Not a great night for smells! Plus there are all sorts of sounds outside. Mostly squirrels and chipmunks rustling about in the leaves I think. Jukebox whispers into the night. ‘Hey Puff, did you hear that?’ ‘Hear what?’ ‘Ok never mind, I though I heard something growl.’ ‘I didn’t hear it, all I can hear are the little ground creatures.’

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Then came the loud snoring from the shelter. We are close to the shelter but not that close. The snoring sounds as if he is right next to me. I am glad I’m not in that shelter tonight! 


Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 89

 

 


 

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