This is my original Appalachian Trail journal from 2002 (Edited for grammar).
It includes additions that were written sixteen years later (in 2018). These are in italics.
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Manchester Center, VT to Bromley Mountain
Today’s Miles: 2.8
Trip Miles: 2.8
I find it amazing how trail magic can strike even before I set foot on the trail.
My dad dropped me off at the bus station in Allentown PA yesterday morning, and I rode all day to Rutland, Vermont, where I got a room for the night. The final leg of the bus ride last night was dark, quiet, and lonely with only about five or six passengers, one of whom entertained us all by trying to engage the driver in a particularly political conversation and laying out all his conspiracy theories about 9/11.
I found the conversation fitting, because I am re-starting my journey from the point I left off last year, in Manchester Center, Vermont. I was in a motel room there, glued to the television on 9/11 (And for a number of days thereafter). In retrospect I think I may have continued my hike had I been in the woods when it happended, rather than the way I saw everything live on TV.
I got a late start out of my motel room this morning. Soon I wandered through downtown Rutland to the bus station, where I bumped into Easy Day! This is what I’m talking about when I mention trail magic – I hiked with him for a couple days last year, and now we have this chance meeting just as I was getting back on the trail! He was catching a bus back to his home in Florida, wrapping up a two-week vacation where he hiked the Long Trail here in Vermont.
It turned out that I missed the bus to Manchester Center, so I had a couple of hours to kill before the next bus would come. To kill some time, I caught the movie Signs at the local matinee. Maybe it was a bit creepy to see before heading out in the wilderness, but oh well. The highlight of the movie was actually seeing a preview for The Two Towers.
I finally caught the bus in the late afternoon – it was crowded but turned out to be a fun ride. It felt good to be sitting there on the bus with my adventure gear beside me again. I had my walking stick that was given to me in Georgia, and the stone in my ziploc-wallet that I picked up on Springer Mountain. It’s great to be a hiker again, on the trail again… and it’s only going to get better!
It was fantastic to be back in Manchester Center. I picked up a shirt at EMS, grabbed a bite to eat at McDonalds, and made my way up the main road out of town, toward the AT crossing with my thumb out.
Nobody was stopping for me. The 103-degree afternoon gradually transformed into an evening thunderstorm. I found shelter under an overpass just in time, and let me tell you it was one wicked storm! Hail fell, strong winds blew, and solid bolts of lightning struck nearby. I had some company under the bridge for the duration of the storme. There was a guy driving a tiny antique convertible, and another guy on a motorcycle.
After the storm I started thumbing for a ride again and was picked up almost immediately, by a cool guy in a minivan. He had his young children in the backseat – I was surprised that he would pick up a hitchhiker, but he’s a backpacker and the locals here know a hiker when they see one. He wished me well on my trip and congratulated me on returning to finish the trail.
I am so psyched to be here, now three miles up the trail on the summit of Bromley mountain, complete with an out-of-season gondola and ski shelter. It’s fitting that I spend my first night up here – last year this was the spot where I spent one night and a day contemplating on whether or not to turn around and go home.
There are some friendly southbound Long Trail hikers up here, and I couldn’t help but share my enthusiasm with them. I’m set up to sleep out under the stars tonight, but it’s windy so we’ll see how it goes.
Life is good!
Thursday, August 15, 2002
Bromley Mountain to Big Branch Shelter
Today’s Miles: 13.2
Trip Miles: 16
I ended up moving inside to the unlocked gondola operator’s room last night, when the wind turned out to be too much. All the southbound hikers were gone by the time I woke up at 8am, but I met a northbounder named Wharf Rat when I was packed up and ready to go. He’s doing the Long Trail, but did the AT in ’98. He caught up with me after the first few miles where I stopped at an old water pump, and moved on.
The climb up to Styles peak was arduous on this hot day. I realized it will take some time before I get back into complete chiseled-bad-ass-hiker condition. Wharf Rat waited for me at Peru Peak Shelter where I took a long break, filled up my water, and nostalgically paged through the old register that had entries from hikers I knew last year.
I passed Griffith lake – a beautiful spot – and was hoping to stay the night up on Baker Peak, which was also supposed to have a great view. The view turned out to be pretty good, but unclear on this hazy day. The potential spots to set up a tent didn’t look too comfortable, so I pushed on up the trail, and descended from here to Big Branch Shelter. There’s a gorgeous stream directly in front of the shelter with lots of rocks and big boulders with water splashing over them, and an adventurous, swinging suspension bridge that spans its width.
Tonight I met Autumn Leaves, a southbounder who sleeps in a bed of leaves as a mattress every night and cooks with a homemade wood burning stove. Also here there’s a sobo girl and a local guy, Bluejay, who does a lot of hiking – also two sobo hikers from Pennsylvania named The Hammock Brothers, and Wharf Rat is here too, as the only other nobo. The mosquitoes are biting tonight. Life is good.
NOBO and SOBO are short terms for Northbounder and Southbounder.
It was all-new terrain to me after I descended the north side of Bromley Mountain.
Friday, August 16, 2002
Big Branch Shelter to Greenwall Shelter
Today’s Miles: 8
Trip Miles: 24
The mosquitoes settled down and I got a good night’s sleep last night.
I was the last hiker out of the shelter, after the Hammock Brothers. I started moving at around ten o’clock. After three miles I stopped for a break at the Lula Tye shelter, where there was a register dated back to last year. A fellow hiker from last year, Groovy, had left a message for me that said “Hey Duct Tape, catch up!” Funny that I read the message now… I suppose that I am indeed catching up, in a way.
I descended to Little Rock Pond, which was a perfectly picturesque Vermont swimming hole. I took a break there and enjoyed a Snickers bar while admiring the way the waves lapped up to the shore in this peaceful setting. Eventually moving on, I kept a good solid pace for a while, finding that state of mind that all hikers are familiar with – daydreaming and getting lost in post-trail plans already and what not.
The ascent up White Rocks Mountain grabbed my immediate attention by kicking my butt on this hot day. When I reached the summit I wandered through a sweet evergreen stand. The sky darkened and thunder rumbled in the distance.
I came upon some mysterious rock cairns piled all over the place along the trail and took a break there, checking them out. Somebody must have spent a lot of time piling up these rocks.
The storm felt imminent, so I hurried down the mountain to the Greenwall Shelter. I was thoroughly excited because I was going to get to do one of my favorite activities in all of life – sit in a dry shelter on the Appalachian Trail and watch a thunderstorm – but to my great disappointment the storm never hit, and must have passed me by.
I chose to quit my day early and stay at the shelter for the night, so I had some extra time to gather wood and build a fire. Darkness fell and I began to feel quite sure that I would be spending the night alone when three sobos rambled in – Mohican, Sidewinder, and a girl with a shaved head named Alyssa. We all hit it off and sat up into the night around the fire, swapping our travelers stories about hiking experiences. Life is good.
Saturday, August 17, 2002
Greenwall Shelter to Clarendon Shelter
Today’s Miles: 8.8
Trip Miles: 32.8
Last summer, back at home in Pennsylvania, I went on one of my favorite day hikes up to the Pulpit Rock with my friend Zach. We met two thru-hikers there named Buckeye and Rocky Top, and talked while enjoying the view. I know the local terrain well, so I told them about what to expect up ahead. It was just a nice summer day out on the trail with Zach.
I was the last hiker out of the shelter again this morning – no need to push it during my first days on the trail. My first climb of the day, a relocation up Bear Mountain, really kicked my butt. It was worth it though to sit at the top with that satisfactory feeling of having walked up a mountain. It’s good that I’m getting these workouts now, so maybe I’ll be in shape by the time I reach the Whites Mountains in New Hampshire.
Today was another sweltering summer day, so I took a break after descending to the Minerva Hinchey Shelter. There was a fold-out beach chair there that couldn’t be passed up – something so simple as a chair becomes a luxury on the trail! I filled up at the spring there, which was refreshingly icy cold.
I had a road crossing to look forward to – my first break into civilization of this trip – and the remaining hike to get to it was mostly downhill. I crossed an awesome suspension bridge over the relatively deep Clarendon Gorge. There was a cool-looking swimming hole at the bottom, but there were lots of locals there… and I was set on pushing on to the road and subsequent restaurant.
It was a short walk from the trail, and I was the only one there in mid afternoon. I got two full meals – an open-face beef sandwich with peas, and a philly-style cheesesteak with lots of Coke.
Back on the trail, the climb north of the road absolutely killed me with way too much food in my stomach. I was probably dehydrated too. One part involved climbing up through a narrow ravine with rock walls on each side, and the ascent was rewarded with a nice flat rock at the top with a view.
So I’m relaxing there letting my heart rate return to normal, and who comes trudging up the trail but Buckeye, the hiker I met back at Pulpit Rock in PA! He’s the first northbound thru-hiker I’ve met on this trip – trail magic.
We now have this shelter to ourselves for the night, with a great bonfire going.
A good-natured guy who lives down the mountain apparently likes to ride up here on his ATV with a chainsaw and maintain a huge pile of firewood. This guy was so entertaining, telling us stories about various hikers he met. Eventually he was done talking, fired up his four wheeler, and skidded and rumbled off down the mountain and into the sunset.
“Burn it all!” he said.
Life is good.