When someone heard I intended to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, I was often asked, “Are you going to do it by yourself?” Many who asked seemed surprised when I told them I intended to hike alone.
I’m not sure why this was such a common question. Did they think I would be lonely or that being alone would be scary?
My guess is the question is based on the anxiety of the person asking the question. The truth is, the trail is not a lonely place. It’s occasionally crowded, in fact.
|Date||Thursday, August 17, 2017|
|Weather||Mostly sunny with a high temperature in the mid 60s|
|Trail Conditions||Well-maintained trail over rolling, mostly easy terrain|
So far on my hike I’ve only spent four nights truly alone, where no one was within view or earshot. Each time I was totally comfortable and at ease.
Until two days ago, I’ve hiked with Stick more than not.
Now I’m back to hiking alone and I’m enjoying it. Not that I’ve been reliant on him or anyone else, but I appreciate relying solely on my own skills and decision-making.
While I was taking down my tent and packing up my gear this morning, I heard someone shout, “Gravity!” It was Mechanic and Pippi. They had just arrived at Cooper Lodge after stealth camping nearby last night.
We decided to hike together up the short side trail to the top of Killington Peak, which is the second highest mountain in the Green Mountains.
The morning was chilly, but the sky was sunny. The trail to the summit was just two tenths of a mile. The climb was steep in a few spots, but because we had left our packs near the lodge, it wasn’t difficult.
The view from the top was clear and beautiful. We had the top to ourselves for several minutes before some day hikers arrived. They had walked over from a chairlift at a nearby ski resort.
One of the day hikers offered to take our picture.
Though I’ve been glad to be more alone, I was happy I could share this time with Pippi and Mechanic.
The descent from Killington Peak was easy, much more pleasant than the ascent had been yesterday.
Along the way, I passed a handmade mileage marker with a correction written in the dirt. Considering this was written on the ground, I’m not sure why it couldn’t have been put in the correct spot.
Today, as with most days, I met hikers heading south. Some were SOBOs (southbounders), hoping to hike all of the way to Springer Mountain in Georgia.
Sometimes we would just say hello to each other and sometimes we would stop to chat. There was no particular reason for why we would stop or not, but in one case in which we did, an odd coincidence was discovered.
In this case, I happened to stop to talk to a young couple, who told me their trail names were Big Boss and Mumbles. As we were chatting I discovered they were from Oak Ridge, the same town where I live.
This chance meetup solved a mystery that occurred several weeks ago when my wife took a package to the post office. She was sending it to me in Port Clinton, Pennsylvania. When she took it to the counter, the postal clerk mentioned that a week earlier someone had sent a package to his son on the Appalachian Trail.
We figured out today that person was Big Boss’s dad.
About 45 minutes later I caught up with a day hiker. He told me he had completed a NOBO thru-hike in 1978. His trail name was Hunchback Nun.
We walked together for a while, and Hunchback Nun told me about his thru-hike. In some ways it was a much different experience for him than my hike because he didn’t have the advantage of ultralight gear or cell phones.
Because of our conversation, I failed to notice when we walked past Maine Junction. This was the spot where the Long Trail splits from the Appalachian Trail. It was a good thing he was going in my direction. This would be an easy spot to go in the wrong direction and not realize it.
I’ve read where hikers have failed to see the signs and turned to follow the Long Trail. The real problem here is you could easily go a long way without realizing your mistake because both trails use a white blaze to mark the path.
As Hunchback Nun left to take a side trail back to his car he offered to take me to town. I thanked him, but declined. Logistically it made more sense for me to continue in my direction so that I wouldn’t have to hike the same miles back to the trail tomorrow.
Looking through gaps in the trees, I could see Killington Peak, where I had been a few hours ago.
At the bottom of the descent, the trail went through Gifford Woods State Park. I could have stayed here because there were showers and other facilities for thru-hikers, but I wanted to go to an outfitter store in the town of Killington to see if they had a replacement for my broken pack.
When I reached Vermont Highway 100, it took only a few minutes to walk to Base Camp Outfitters. The Honeymooners and Skywalker were there when I arrived. Unfortunately, there were no suitable packs for sale here. I was told it was too late in the season for the store to carry large backpacks.
When I left the outfitter I headed up the highway about a quarter mile to a general store and deli. I bought a large sandwich for dinner and was able to resupply for the next three days on the trail. Despite only needing groceries for a short amount of time, it cost me nearly $100 to buy them here.
Killington Motel was just a couple tenths of a mile farther down the road. Thanks to a hiker-friendly rate of $75, this looked like a good place to stay. It turned out to be a great place to stay. The room was clean and well-appointed, and breakfast was included.
After cleaning up, and organizing my food and gear, I ordered a backpack from REI. I set the delivery destination for Hiker’s Welcome Hostel in Glencliff, New Hampshire, where I expect to be in one week.
For hiking solo, tonight was the first time today I was alone. It had been a good day.
In case you’re wondering, here’s an explanation about the reference to "buck dancer’s choice” in today’s post:
Buck dancing is a folk dance. It’s also known as foot-stomping, clogging, or jigging. The term's origin depends on the source you wish to cite. You could say its origin is African-American, Cherokee, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Peruvian, or all of the above.
For the purpose here, as well as its most common definition, buck dancing is a dance for one. In its simplest form, the dance could be described simply as moving your feet in time to the rhythm of the music.
In one definition, a buck dancer’s choice is a solo dancer’s own style or choice of dance.
It's a buck dancer's choice, my friend
Better take my advice
You know all the rules by now
And the fire from the ice
Will you come with me
Won't you come with me?
Wo-oh, what I want to know
Will you come with me?