August 04, 2015
I woke before sunrise and packed as the sun started to bring forth the forest from the grey night. I wanted to get a head start on my friend because he was a big miler. He was pulling 30 mile days, and I knew he’d have to wait awhile at the road if he got ahead. I wandered downhill quickly and waited ten minutes until he appeared.
We wandered out to the road and stuck out our thumbs. After a few minutes a car pulled up. I was doing him a favor because a lot of male hikers don’t get picked up quickly without a female friend. The driver told us that she stopped because she saw me and the bandage on my leg. I laughed silently at the predictability.
She drove us to a lovely breakfast place. It was beautiful. This was a nice part of Vermont, so the restaurants and shops were on par with a fancy ski resort. The restaurant had little lace curtains, flowers, wooden shutters and stained glass lamps. The cream and jam came in tiny ceramic vessels. It was a caricature of “Vermont” in a room.
And there we were…stinky, dirty, stuffing delicate omelets into our mouths as quickly as possible.
It was a full-house of hikers. I didn’t know anyone, but my friend was chatting everybody up. Everyone was friendly, but slightly reserved about seeing a new face this late in the game. These guys were bubble hopping, so I figured they should be used to it.
I spent the day wandering around town eating. I threw my poles in a public trash can, along with my weekly zip-lock of trash. I hunted down some patchouli oil and shared with my friend. I really can’t remember his trail name as I never saw him again after Manchester Center.
We grabbed some sandwiches to pack out and grazed at the grocery store for awhile. I helped my friend get a hitch back out to trail and dipped out at the last minute to send home the remains of my tent.
I tried to get a hitch back to trail and was taken to the limits of town. The lady I bought patchouli from was on her lunch break and this was as far as she could go. So I waited for another car to stop. Then, it happened. A car pulled over and waved to me. The driver was an older woman with a great big grin on her face. She rolled down her window and told me she had a code for hitchhikers. Thumbs up or OK meant I wanted a ride, but thumbs down meant I had taken a ride from her before and wished to resend my request to hitch.
Now this should have been a red flag.
I ran over, threw in my pack and hopped in. She turned to me and said:”I’m the dirty old woman, you might have heard of me.” “I’m harmless, but I enjoy dirty mock up songs and I will be playing them as we drive up the mountain.”
I was a little alarmed, but more so…intrigued. Was she going to play me south park songs? Porno music? Was I being punked?
As we started driving she put a song about Mrs. Claus castrating Santa Claus. It was terrible. The songs got progressively more graphic and she sat there, eyes barely up to the steering wheel, thick glasses, elbow dancing as she grasped the steering wheel.Every so often she would flail her elbows up and down and turn to me to sing loudly…as we continued up to trail I started panicking. I started to have flashes of paranoid thoughts. “What if she doesn’t take me back to trail. What if she really is a pervert?” “I’m gonna end up strung up in some serial killer house somewhere with a bunch of missing hikers in ball-gags.”
I watched her rubber chicken earrings dangle as she bobbed her head and rolled her eyes to and fro.
“She can’t be for real. This has got to be a persona. She’s just being a trail character looking for some trail fame.”
Then she put on a song about mammary glands and started juggling her breasts.
I could see trail! The pullout for trail was moving towards me in slow motion. I wanted to open the door and roll out into the woods.
When we stopped she continued to play this music and sing and make crude gestures. I hopped out as politely as possible and grabbed my gear. She turned the car off as I was making for the woods, waving goodbye.
“I think I can walk faster than her.”
An adrenaline rush had swept over me as I ran away from the road. I looked behind to make sure I wasn’t being followed. I heard footsteps and a figure emerged down the trail. As she got closer I could see her neon spandex clashing with the surrounding forest.
The obnoxious hiker from Stratton Pond strutted up triumphantly.
She was all smiles, and I must have looked a little pale. We hiked together for awhile as I told her about my experience. I felt super harassed, but the story itself made me laugh even in the wake of terror.
Then Spandex (I don’t know her name) told me a story about her night in the storm. She stopped at that shelter that was a mile off trail when it started raining. Not long after a south bounder showed up. Evidently one thing led to another, and she was ashamed that she didn’t even know his real name.
I wasn’t too surprised by any of this, but she added…”I feel sorry for everyone else in the shelter.”
ohhhhhhhh. Bad etiquette. I tried to hide my disapproval with laughter. Actually it was pretty funny because I wasn’t there.
“Best trail magic ever.” she exclaimed and bounced off ahead, never to be seen again.
I spent the next hour sifting through absurd thoughts and wondering about human sexuality and single parenthood.
I arrived at the first shelter out of town. It was mostly empty, kind of dismal. Eventually Slow Ride walked up and told me about Bromley Ski Hut. It sounded fun to be on top of the mountain, so I decided to eat my sandwich, get some water and wander up. I was enjoying camping on peaks so I could watch the sun rise and set each day. It was such a different way of hiking completely based on celestial bodies.
I figured that the shelter at the bottom might be crowded because south bounders hadn’t seen much water for several miles. As I was returning from the watering hole, a figure emerged from the shelter and stopped dead.
I looked up to see Tortoise standing, almost frozen, staring at me. I stopped dead and took a moment to overcome my disbelief. Tortoise left Hot Springs, Tn with Roadrunner way back in April. I felt like I was seeing a ghost.
We both had suffered injuries that took us off trail. We both were not so sure we could finish. The drama that had been haunting me since Bennington seemed to be understood by this one person. It was moving to see him again. I was really hoping we might hike together because we had similar hiking ethics and experiences, but he was still faster than Captain Hobbles. I lost track of him after a couple days.
I had given up keeping pace with anyone at this point because I wanted to get there. No other hiker was going to pull me along.
I went up to Bromley Ski Hut and watched a black cloud roll over the mountains. I set up on a bench inside and chatted with Slow Ride for a few hours. Later in the evening I met Mina and JP who told me a story about this girl having loud, stinky, hiker sex in the shelter they slept in last night. Unwilling observers, captives of the storm…they were so disgusted, but I couldn’t help but laugh. Never have I felt so validated by my decisions.
Day 1 out of Manchester Center and I packed up yummy food to the Bromley Ski Hut. I met some Long Trail hikers named Mina and JP today. Slow Ride told me about the spot and we all watched the sunset together. We also got up and watched the sunrise. To my surprise everyone actually got up. I don’t think I’ll see any of them again.
Manchester Center and Bromley Ski Hut
There’s a bubble passing through. So many eyes, and I don’t care. I’ve given up- given too much to give anything more.