Puffer Shelter to Richmond, VT
October 4, 2007
LT Miles – 11.5
Total LT Miles – 88.9
Extra Miles – 0.6
It’s a quiet, peaceful morning at Puffer Shelter.
The register is filled with comments from northbound hikers regarding the climb up Bolton Mountain, to the south.
I also see comments about the brown water from the nearby stream. Yes, it is tinted brown. Yes, I cooked with it last night. Yes, I am drinking it untreated, and hoping the color is a natural occurrence…
Bolton Mountain is no big deal – the summit is only a half mile from the shelter. For northbounders, however, it’s a long way up… which means a long way down for me! The sun is bright today and casts clear shadows along the ridge.
I unexpectedly come to a place called Harrington’s View, and enjoy a mid-morning snack in the sun. My mind drifts into “hiker mode,” and I daydream my way down the trail.
I guess I’m 24 hours too late for Mount Mansfield – the views must be spectacular from there today.
I go a third of a mile downhill off the trail to check out Buchanan Shelter and take another snack break. Somebody left two old GMC newsletters in the register box. I’ve never seen one of these before, and the editions make for excellent lunchtime reading.
The forest floor is blanketed in ferns and occasionally spotted with wide, spreading trees.
I continue in daydreaming hiker mode.
The trail steeply descends into Bolton Notch. Numerous creeks and muddy areas saturate the footpath. I see two snakes within a five minute walk of each other.
There’s a series of beaver ponds on the far side of the notch. I stop at one for a break and a snack, and hope I’ll get lucky and see a furry brown mammal.
Suddenly I hear a sharp rustle away in the woods, followed by what sounds like a bird intermittently chirping. This goes on for a few minutes, so I step into the brush to investigate. I’m nearly on top of the sound and see nothing, only to be shockingly confronted with a two-headed monster!
I watch this event for about a half hour, resisting the initial urge to help the frog. It’s one thing to see somebody feed their pet snake, but another experience entirely to naturally stumble upon this after living in the woods for over a week.
It’s been nearly 24 hours since I’ve seen another human being. I just watched all the life of this frog get wholly consumed into another.
It was there, and then it was gone.
The food chain at its best.
The idea to take some video doesn’t occur to me until after the fact.
From the ponds I climb up to a small ridge. The south side affords a fine view of Camel’s Hump.
Tomorrow I will walk the distant ridge. I’ll start from the far upper left of the photo above, and then continue across the frame to the right over Camel’s Hump.
…and maybe someday I’ll live in that house. 🙂
At Duck Brook Shelter I encounter a pale man who appears to be in his forties. He doesn’t give a trail name, doesn’t respond well to conversation, and is vague about his starting point on the trail and ultimate destination. He carries unusual gear (Like a large short-wave radio), and doesn’t seem altogether “with it.” He’s polite, courteous, and probably harmless, but I’m sure to keep my wits about me and make tracks. He thanks me multiple times because I won’t be staying the night at the shelter. (?)
A little later I hear something big moving in the woods, off to the left. I reach for my camera – hoping that it’s a moose – only to see a hiker trampling through the underbrush!
This is how I meet Early Rizen, a northbound end-to-ender, and he isn’t very happy. “My dog went bushwhacking after a rabbit,” he says, “And came out of the brush without his backpack!”
Dogs get to wear backpacks too, and apparently this particular dog got his stuck to a branch or something and lost it, so poor Early Rizen is wandering all over the forest trying to find the pack.
“Your dog looks so happy.”
“Well he won’t be happy when he gets no more doggie snacks! No more beef jerky! You hear? What did you do with that pack?”
No answer but a wagging tail. Heh. I aid in the search for about ten minutes, but it’s futile. I also warn Early Rizen about the weird character ahead at the shelter.
“Great,” he says, “As if my day hasn’t been strange enough already.”
Vermont Route 2 appears out of the woods. I prepare to hitchhike into Richmond – three miles away – but a woman pulls over and beats me to it.
“Do you need a ride to town?” she asks.
During the ride she tells me about how she’s been bagging the New England 4,000 foot peaks. Whenever somebody tells me this, I ask about the mountains with no trails, where you have to bushwhack and follow herd paths to the top. It makes for interesting tales.
The first thing I do in town is resupply at the small local food store, buying a couple days’ worth of provisions. Next at a pay phone I call Mama Bower’s B+B, which offers a good price for a night’s stay with a great reputation for catering to hikers.
I get the answering machine. I linger outside the gas station for about half an hour, and try again.
Another half hour. It’s cold and dark out.
“Hi, do you have a vacancy for tonight?”
“Sorry, we’re all full.”
The only other option for lodging in town is another bed and breakfast, but it’s $120 per night – over double the cost of Mama Bowers. There’s no motels, no campgrounds, nothing.
So now I’m a vagrant in town in the cold and dark, wishing I was in the woods so I could sleep wherever I please. I consider going back to the Long Trail to camp, but I don’t want to hitchhike in the dark. I don’t particularly care to walk Route 2 in the dark, either.
So I begin walking around town, looking for a park or church or schoolyard or someplace I can hide out for the night. A cop drives by, and turns around and doubles back, probably to get another look at me.
I choose to beat him to the punch by flaggin him down. I launch into explaining my situation:
“I’m hiking The Long Trail… all the lodging is booked… blah blah blah… is there anyplace I can set up my tent where nobody will bother me?”
He says the town park should be okay, even though it’s against local ordinances, as long as I get back where nobody can see me. He’s actually very friendly and accommodating.
So I set up my tent in the corner of a soccer field. It’s the only time I’ll use my tent on this trip. The mowed grass is oh so comfortable, and I leave the rain fly off, yielding a wide view of the clear, star-filled sky. Isn’t there something about a schoolyard game-field that brings out the youthfulness and romanticism of us all? Ah, just another night “on the trail.”