Thursday August 19th, 2021, 0620-1800
Blue Barn, West Hartford to Stony Brook Shelter, SOBO AT mm 479
8622 gain, 7257 loss
Some days are just about doing miles while listening to podcasts and music. Today was such. The remnants of tropical storm Fred ensured all day rain. Luckily it didn’t really start until just after I’d packed my tent. I had coffee courtesy of Linda, enjoying my breakfast under the protection of her porch. When I set off, there was only a slight drizzle to contend with, so it wasn’t too hard to leave. I envied the NOBOs, who had a mere 10 miles to go to reach Hanover and more dry spaces. I had 37 miles before the next town, Rutland, where I hoped to finally get a shower and do laundry. The river swim did wonders but I needed some soap in this situation.
I planned to do at least 20 miles this day, which would put me at a nice private cabin that allows hikers to crash. The walking was pretty easy starting out, with wide soft tread and even some switchbacks. I’d heard the areas around Hanover were nice because Dartmouth college helps maintain the trail, as well as using it for their own enjoyment, as it should be.
Then I started going through lots of farm fields, which left me absolutely drenched from all the grass and wildfowers I had to push through. Some of the fields were incredibly overgrown, head-high. With the predominant flow of traffic going the other direction, the thickets were laid so that they opposed me. I felt like I was wrestling wet scarecrows.
I passed 35 NOBOs today but not surprisingly, it was pretty quiet for large chunks of time and space. They almost always come in waves of 6 to 8 (the size allotment of most shelters), so it doesn’t seem like that many overall. Not one had an umbrella, all looking at me like I was the funny one. Poor dears, they just haven’t figured things out yet. I don’t know how anyone can wear rain jackets and ponchos in this heat. I would be miserable. I managed to keep the umbrella up all day, so my upper half stayed dry and I felt very comfortable in only my dress.
I found coolers of soda at several road crossings. I stopped to have a Mtn Dew at the first, marveling at how the name so perfectly fit the scene. Water was pouring off my arms and hands as I drank it, while an overflowing stream gushed past. I chatted with a NOBO that happened to arrive at the same time, detecting a familiar accent. Turns out he was Cuban but from New Jersey, not Miami. I respected him for embracing the conditions. He was wearing only his shirt and shorts, soaked through and through. He had his phone in his fanny pack, same as mine, but I worry about it getting wet in there, even with my makeshift shelter. It’s supposed to be water resistant but not much stands up to this kind of rain.
Another advantage of heavy rain is that it keeps the mosquitoes down. I like to imagine them trying to chase me and getting obliterated by a rain drop. Ha ha! We both toasted the lessons and hardships to be experienced walking in the rain all day and went our separate ways. It was kind of a beautiful moment aside that stream. I then took lunch under a roadside parking lot kiosk, where yet another cooler of soda was stationed. There I talked to a couple. The guy had hiked the Long Trail last fall and we figured we must have passed each other then too. He also knew the 2 trail angels that had left the trail magic at this spot…they had also done the LT last fall. Small world.
I got to the turn-off to the cabin, a mere 0.1 mile up the hill. This was said to be a nice place, with 4 walls, windows, and a door. By all accounts, I should have stopped. But it was so early, that stubborn stupid part of me said to keep walking. So I did. There was a shelter in another 8 miles that I hoped I could squeeze into, making it a much shorter walk to town the next day. This was of course a mistake.
I went about 10 miles in the final stretch of the day without seeing anyone. This meant one or both of two things: NOBOs were staying put in town because of the weather or the ones that did leave were all stopping to stay at the shelter. I didn’t even need to go to the shelter to find out. While collecting water at the nearby stream, a girl told me it was already over capacity. I knew getting in after 5 would probably mean this. Even stopping before 3 or 4 pm doesn’t ensure a spot. So many people seem to do a half day or less in this kind of rain. Some were probably even spending a second night. I call them shelter rats.
I wish that the number of miles a person walked in the rain dictated who got priority in a shelter but it doesn’t work that way. So I set up my tent in the rain, resigned to spend a pretty damp night inside. At least the rain had subsided a bit while I pitched. Unfortunately, within an hour, water was coming in through my floor due to the puddle that formed after I pitched. Nothing I could do about it but to mop up what I could and use my thermarest as a sort of life raft. The canopy of my tent was at least still waterproof, so I stayed dry on top my pad. The AT… definitely the most uncomfortable and problematic trail I’ve ever done. But I guess I’m learning some new skills.