June 17, 2018
Destination: Happy Hill Shelter Today's Miles: 21.10
Start Location: Winturri Shelter Trip Miles: 1742.90
My sleep at Winturri Shelter was good. I shared my little tent clearing in the woods with a partridge.
It strutted around outside my tent and then walked about 10 feet away to settle down. It thumped its wings up and down, sounding very much like a helicopter. It did this a few times, and I rolled around on my air mattress, and then we both went to sleep.
I got on the trail about 20 past six, but before I did I checked my guest book with the little faint signal that I had. Brian had left me a note about being at Thistle Hill Shelter around lunch time, so I made a mental note to stop in. It was time to hike!
The morning was pretty and the scenery varied. It went from hemlock forest to hilly meadow and back. I joked with Dude later on when he caught up to me that it was like Vermont put a new twist on things we had already experienced. Walking through a wet meadow pasture where the grass is overgrown and get your legs and feet pretty soaked - we’ve done that, but Vermont puts the pasture on the side of a mountain, so it’s uphill as well! Dude caught up to me at a particularly pretty part of the trail. I popped out of the forest and was in just this gradual descending meadow with some sparse trees in it. It was almost Apple orchardy feeling. We pushed on, and after a bit Dude was gone and I was hiking solo again. I was looking to hike about 12 miles by noon so that my afternoon would be fairly easy.
As I came up on the Thistle Hill Shelter turn off, I saw a sign in the dirt with sticks pointing towards the shelter that said “Magic>>.” I walked down the spur trail and when I arrived Dude was in the shelter, as well as a man and a woman, and there was a section hiker sitting near a hammock. The man and the woman were Brian and his wife Jill. They had been reading this journal and decided to do a little magic for me and other hikers as well as come meet me! It was pretty amazing that someone would do this. Well, let me back up - I still can’t believe anyone reads this! On top of that, that someone both reads my ramblings and still wants to meet me - that’s a bloody miracle! We chatted for a bit and then they started producing treat after treat. It was incredible! They had little Debbie cake honey buns and cosmic brownies, a special deli sandwich they had brought just for me from their local deli, chocolate graham crackers, power aids - they had even hiked another 0.2 miles down to the water source and brought back water for us so we wouldn’t have to walk down to get it! They had a trash bag for us to empty out our trash, but this was not the Creme de la creme.... In ancient China Emperor Qin Shi Huang had an army of terra cotta warriors created for his own eventual burial. When it was all almost done, he said: “Wait. There is only one thing that can get me safely through to the afterlife.” He then requested a jar of Jif Maple and ensured his god status would come true. That’s right - Brian and Jill actually brought a jar of Jif Maple and a snickers bar to dip in it! I was in heaven. Dude had never tried Jif Maple. He really enjoyed it as well. It was like being a kid at Christmas - all of my food fantasies came true as I sat there on the side of the shelter with black carpenter ants slowly making their way onto my body. There were a lot of them where I was sitting. I put Jif Maple on the graham crackers, the cosmic brownies, and of course, the snickers. It was a trailside bacchanalia!
We all sat and talked while we ate. I got a lot of good info on the Whites that made me feel a lot more mentally prepared. It was also fun talking with the section hiker, Sun, who started in MA and just kept going. I was incredibly grateful for all of the thought and effort Brian and Jill put into the trail magic - it really was amazing and very effective at getting me re-energized and pumped about the upcoming Whites! They even sent me off with the rest of the Jif Maple (thanks guys!!). We took a picture together. Dude photobombed one and I found it pretty funny so I used it for the entry, but I posted the other “normal” one as well. The trail always seems to provide what you need when you need it. I continue to be amazed by the kindness and generosity of strangers.
Dude and I hiked out of the shelter with full bellies, headed for the White River. There was said to be good swimming there. As we hiked over a hill we passed a bench that had “relax and enjoy” carved in it. It appeared to be under some kind of fruit tree. There was a pretty view off in the distance. I think this is quintessential Vermont hiking. We also passed what Brian and Jill had said were maple tree taps. There were a bunch of small plastic tubes that fed into a larger plastic tube that carried sap down the mountain. It was quite interesting looking.
When we got to the river, it was beautiful and clear. There were a good handful of people swimming. Dude and I were pondering the same dilemma. Ideally we wanted to skinny dip so as not to get our hiking clothes wet. There were too many people and the water was too translucent though, so we opted not to swim. Some people were jumping off the bridge over the river into the water. Not me!
We kept hiking to Happy Hill Shelter and when we got there were told by some section hikers that the water source was dry. We decided to look anyway, so Dude and I followed the dry creek bed upstream until we shortly found some puddles, and then a tiny bit of flow. As we bent down to gather water, clouds of mosquitos surrounded us, dying for a taste of that Jif Maple blood. We got the water we needed, but in the end wished we had just carried some in from the last source on the trail a few miles back. At camp, I met a hiker named Dusty Pilgrim. He’s also a Nobo and this was my first time meeting him. He left GA in March. At camp, he was wearing his crocs and a stick went up through the bottom and broke off inside his foot! OUCH!! He is going to get it cleaned out in Hanover tomorrow.
I was so grateful today for the kindness of others, the trail magic, the ability to experience that with other hikers, and the chance to gain some more confidence for the Whites. What an awesome day, and tomorrow I will be in New Hampshire!
#1 - Brian and Jill thanks again so much!!! It was so sweet and thoughtful of you to do all of that and I really enjoyed meeting you!
#2 - there is an Omelette Guy on the trail? Carl, this sounds both interesting and amazing! Sounds like I will see you soon!