Wednesday August 18th, 2021, 0600-1730
Moose Mountain Shelter to Blue Barn, West Hartford, SOBO AT mm 452
3657 gain, 5378 loss
I’m back! In so many ways. First, my fast hiking pace returned and secondly, I’m back in Vermont. I visited about a year ago when I hiked the Long Trail and I just loved everything about the state. I was so happy to return today.
First I needed to hike 11 miles into Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College. The trail goes right through the center of town, the first of such that I’ve come to. It was fast trail, with minimum up and downs. I made it to the outskirts of town by 9 am, 10 miles down. The mosquitoes helped spur me on. I had to run in spots to escape them. I passed some tents but didn’t see a single thru hiker on trail during this time, just a few day hikers. Everyone was still in town. A van dropped off a gaggle at the trailhead just as I arrived, a shuttle from the local hostel.
I did some grocery shopping at a co-op that was right along the route. Prices were high but they had a good selection of items and high quality stuff. I bought some deli items for lunch and proceeded to the city center. Here, Ramunos pizza gives a free slice to hikers. I was also going to get a free donut at a bakery but they were closed.
Having exhausted my free offerings and charged some electronics, it was time to head out. I needed a shower but didn’t want to stay the night anywhere… it’s a pricey area. My plan was to hike another 10 miles to West Hartford where a trail angel, Linda, allows hikers to camp in her yard and upstairs in the Blue Barn. She also hands out treats like soda, beer and snacks. Coffee and hardboiled eggs in the morning are her specialty. Also of key interest is the White river, which is right next to the Blue Barn…shower time.
At the co-op, I met a SOBO lady named Jinx. Just as I was walking out of town, I saw her again and we started talking. As we crossed the Connecticut River, which serves as the border between Vermont and New Hampshire, I mentioned something about going to school in Connecticut. Jinx asked where specifically and I sheepishly said the Coast Guard Academy, not expecting any recognition of this small school. Her face lit up instantly. She was a CGA graduate and officer for 6 years! We ended up walking the whole 10 miles to West Hartford together, learning about all the things we had in common. It was amazing how similar our paths had been…I felt like I had met my younger twin.
At the Blue Barn, we left our stuff and went for a swim in the river. It had been drizzling off and on all afternoon but being so hot, a dunk felt really refreshing. Almost as good as a shower and I got to rinse my disgusting hiker clothes. We sat on Linda’s porch to eat our dinners, taking refuge from the mosquitoes. I had to break down and put some spray on finally, they were so bad.
It was nice talking to Linda about her trail angel stories. Her family had lost everything during Hurricane Irene in 2011. The river flooded and washed away their entire home. They had rebuilt and continued to accommodate hikers. So often, the people that don’t have a lot or have been through terrible tragedies are the most generous.
With such a fun and eventful day, I was amazed to reflect on how far I had still been able to travel. A lot of rain was forecasted for the next day, so many people were getting off trail. But not me, I was eager to walk through the rest of Vermont, again.