Editor’s note: This is a reprint (with Jim’s permission) of an email from Jim Heaney sent during his “through-hike” of the Appalachian Trail.
I’ve pulled into a “secret shelter” at the home of a certain business proprietor here in town; he opens his home to 7 hikers each night. with shower, laundry, internet, HDTV/DVD. I dare say, it’s better than my home in DC!
On August 1, it started raining again; rain like I haven’t seen since, well, Virginia in May/June. I’m reminded of a postcard that Mello Yello wrote to a coworker at one of the Atlanta REI stores (REI being a nationwide outfitter/outdoors store): “Eric, Rain gear doesn’t work. Stop selling it.” With the exception of one day when it was only cloudy, it has rained every day since; coinciding with my entry into Massachusetts, which I now think is the worst state on the Trail. I’m two days from Vermont, the first of which has me climb Mt. Greylock, the state’s highest peak, so there is still a chance for the state to redeem itself. However, up to now, there have only been two vistas, a few high ponds (one of which, Upper Goose Pond, was very nice), and lots and lots of swamps (with the accompanying mosquitos). Mosquitos tend to go for the elbows and shoulders (they sting through clothes), and I found one day that my left elbow was swollen and hard to move from the bites I had suffered.
And while the mosquito problem may dissipate soon, the rains are forecast for the next seven days. (Today of course is nice since I’m not hiking anymore.) Weather like this tends to group us up towards the towns and other dry places to stay, so I’m actually in the middle of a “tidal wave” of hikers now. The night before I stayed at the Upper Goose Pond Cabin ($3 for a bunk, but includes all-you-can-eat pancakes and a swim in the pond), there were 19 hikers staying; it holds 14. The night I was there, there were 24. These are some of the biggest crowds of hikers I have seen on the Trail—and remember, at this point, there are something like 25% of those who started still left, so it’s similar to there being almost 100 people in one place in Georgia. I got into town early this morning after a 3 mile day, and still I was the 5th person here.
Actually, about six of the guests the night I was at the cabin were Southbounders, who I just started to see in New York. Southbounders start at Mt. Katahdin in Maine, usually in June, and make it to Springer Mountain in Georgia by November (of course adjusted for speed). They have about 100 miles of walking before they get to the “hard part” of the Trail, roughly the south half of Maine through most of New Hampshire (which of course I have coming up). Respectively, there are usually only a hundred of them each year.
Trail news is about the same. Nobody of note has dropped off or been injured in serious ways. I’m still in and around the same folks; Stonehenge is ahead now, although I saw him with his friends Fish and Red Gator, who are hiking the Vermont Long Trail (which shares 100 miles with the AT), when I pulled into town. I ran back into Pace, who I’ve known since just out of the Smokeys, as I got back on in Kent. And Trace, 1/3, Bull, Tunnel Vision and I just did a world of hurt on the Old Country Buffet in town this afternoon!
Well, I’m keeping it short today so I can go watch a movie. Have a good day everyone!