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 understand that there has been some sort of power outage in the Eastern U.S. When discussing this with some other thru-hikers, our first reaction generally was, “What’s electricity?” No, really, I hope that any of you affected by the outage were not negatively so. And as an added benefit, I am sending this email redundantly to NYC, Cleveland, etc. via Town Crier.
Yes, greetings indeed from just outside the beautiful Green Mountain National Forest.
It has again been one of those two-part stories regarding the weather:
- Massachusetts was a total and complete wash.
- Vermont started that way, then has turned beautiful.
It rained 12 of the first 13 days of August for me. This allowed me to practice some skills I hadn’t yet out here, such as swimming and mud wrestling; seriously, Trail conditions were terrible, because the maintenance clubs simply can’t cut trail to drain that sort of moisture. After a while, multiple shelter registers included comments asking: Are we back in Virginia?
However, while my boots never dried fully inside or out during those 13 days, and while it was generally too humid for clothes to dry unless you slept in them (and I did on occasions), I didn’t actually get rained on too many times. The rains came in spurts, and especially in Vermont so far, there are frequent shelters, so I was able to time several hikes such that I was watching the rain from under a roof.
Where is Mothman?
- I’m sitting in the study of college buddy Chris, who with his fiance Krista are doing their “Hose Down the Hiker” responsibilities. Real mattresses are nice. Shoutout to Chris and Krista.
- I’ve been up Mt. Greylock in MA, meeting local Trail maintainer and legend Kay Wood, who was vacationing with extended family. Two nights earlier, I had stayed in the Kay Wood Shelter.
- I entered Vermont, the third-to-last state, where for over 100 miles the AT overlaps with the Long Trail, the nation’s very first long distance hiking trail. After my next mile, the trails diverge: the AT turns right at “Maine Junction,” heading east into NH , while the Long Trail continues north towards Canada.æ At about 260 miles, we have taken to calling it the Short Trail.
- I “nearo’d” (sounds like “zero;” in this case, hiked only 2.7 miles before calling it a day) in a town called Manchester Center, an outlet center and generally a good place to drive your BMW. For the first time in my life, I saw a couple wearing tennis shoes and sunglasses and pressed shorts and such, and carrying bags from the Polo outlet, crossing a street at a crosswalk after a dump truck had stopped for them; and I felt more like the DUMP TRUCK DRIVER just based on appearances.
- On Friday night, I stayed in a shelter near Killington Peak; there was a side trail (a “blue blaze”) 0.2 miles long and 500 vertical feet up to the summit, where Vermont got its name in 1763 (“Verd-mont,” or Green Moutain, I am told). While the air still had enough moisture in it that I was unable to see into Canada (which you can on a clear day, along with five surrounding states), I was rewarded with a beautiful sunset — my second on the Trail so far! — before scrambling back down to camp before dusk. It says here, though, that while Killington is a beautiful place to hike to, Okemo is the superior skiing mountain. Ski Okemo.
- Have been hiking mostly with Pace, Stripe, Takereasy, Skittles, Journey, and a couple of section hikers. We’re sort of at the crest of the “tidal wave” of hikers who must have all zeroed a bunch in Dalton, MA because of the weather. Mello Yello, CMo, Hepcat and Kodiak are about a day ahead. I plan to catch them before North Woodstock, NH, as they are spearheading an outing to the Whale’s Tale Water Park there next Monday.
- Hit a few more milestones, passing the 75% mark on 8/11 and the 1,672.6 mile point (leaving exactly 500 miles) on the way to Killington. I should be in NH in two days, and into the White Mountains (featuring our first section above the treeline) in another four. This is what’s known as the “hard part” of the Trail, so there’s still time for me to drop out! However, only since escaping Painsylvania, we are statistically more likely to finish than to not.
Everyone I’ve been with has pretty much the same mindset, conflicted. On one hand, we’re ready to go home; we have been walking a long time, we’re tired and sore, and we miss such things as Starbucks (that’s me), sofas (me again), drinking cold sodas with ice out of real glass (that was Monster Button), and so on. On the other hand, NOBODY I’m near is planning to do this Trail ever again, and we can’t believe that the experience is nearly over. (Strange to think “nearly over” and “500 miles to go” at the same time, isn’t it?) It’s worth noting that I have met a few hikers who have done the AT multiple times — Lion King, who’s on for the fourth time since 1998 and is “filming a documentary;” d=rt (pronounced “dirt”), who since graduating college in 1996 has worked winters and hiked summers, completing I think almost all of the scenic long trails once, and started the AT with his sister Supastar (she’s off — Lyme); Baltimore Jack, a self-described “Trail legend” who this year is attempting his eighth thru-hike in the past nine years — we are unsure what exactly his motivations are. They also tell us that we will experience something called “Springer Fever” (Springer Mountain being the south terminus) next March, with the urge to return being almost irresistible. I plan to resist the urge on my sofa, alternating sips of a cappuccino and perhaps a cold soda in a glass.
Belated shoutout to my oldest friend Jeff (we met in kindergarten), who day-hiked with me the 10 miles out of Bear Mountain NY. And thanks to all for your encouragement and thoughts.
More news from New Hampshire in the coming weeks….