The morning arrived all too quickly and we awoke to ominous dark gray clouds. We decided to enjoy a nice breakfast in Bennington, VT before I would hit the trail. We picked the Blue Benn Diner, a 1940's style diner with a wonderfully varied breakfast menu. It was one of the best breakfasts I've had on the trail.
By 10:30 I decided I'd delayed as long as possible. It's getting harder and harder to put myself back on the trail, but I'm still doing it. The thought of possibly having to hike in a downpour didn't help much, but I finally hit the trail and began the stone stair ascent up out of the VT9 gap.
Amazingly enough, the rains held off all day and the cloud cover really helped to keep the temps much cooler than the forecasted 85-90 degrees. No views to speak of due to the weather, but it was worth not melting out there.
I climbed the fire tower on top of Glastenbury Mountain. I'm not a big fan of heights and I knew there wouldn't be any view, but I wanted to climb it anyway. There's a sign at the bottom warning that no more than 4 should be on the tower at any time--not your sturdiest of fire towers. At the top I gripped the railing and could feel the platform swaying as the winds pulled at me. The view was of swirling mists and fog broken only by the ghostly forms of the spruce trees below poking up through the clouds. It was a wonderful feeling to be up there alone, as if I were the only soul in the world.
I'm at the Kid Gore Shelter and I'm actually staying in the shelter, which hasn't happened in months. There just really aren't any decent tenting spots in the area. I'm here with HatTrick, Dingle, Raintree, Sourwood, Brooster, and Cape Town Jenny. All are northbound thru-hikers. Cape Town Jenny is from South Africa and is going to have to leave the trail for a day or two in Killington, VT to try and get an extension on her visa. I hope she's successful. Some of the other foreign thru-hikers have not been so lucky.
The morning started as a cloudy one but a north wind soon cleared the skies and if felt like a cool, crisp autumn day. The trail was gorgeous and I couldn't wait to get to the top of Stratton Mountain to enjoy the view. At the top of Stratton, which is 3936 feet, there is a fire tower that give full views of the surrounding countryside. I was lucky enough to hit it when the caretaker was up on the tower. He pointed out mountain peak over 120 miles distant! I was able to see Mounts Greylock and Glastenbury, where I'd just come from, and, even more exciting, I could see where I'd be traveling to over the next few weeks: Bromley Ski Area, Killington, Moosilaukee, and even as far away as Mount Washington! It was an incredibly clear day and the view from Stratton recharged me.
I decided to go a little further than the Stratton Pond shelters. Stratton Pond is a picturesque New England lake surrounded by trees. Micah and I basked in the sun on some rocks along its shore, but I didn't want to camp at the most heavily used site along the AT in Vermont, nor did I want to pay $5 for the honor of pitching my tent. I ate an early dinner along the shore and rested my feet a while. We then moved on another couple of miles until we crossed the Winhall River and entered the Lye Brook Wilderness, where you can pitch a tent for free :-)
I had no problem hitching a ride into town and decided to stay at the hostel at the Zion Episcopal Church. The church hall was to be filled with a weekly bridge club gathering until 11 pm, so all the hikers decided to tent out back.
FireBall showed up later in the afternoon. We enjoyed walking the streets of this little town, which seemed to have an endless number of outlet stores. We hit a deli for a late lunch, then Ben and Jerry's, a bookstore, and some other interesting little shops. I purchased _The_Education_of_Little_Tree_ by Forest Carter. It was a book Aquaholic had recommended to me a while back. At the P.O., I had letters waiting for me from Andy, Grandma, and Spriss.
There are a good number of hikers here tonight: Brooster, Cape Town Jenny, Dingle, HatTrick, Sourwood, Raintree, Easy Rider, Baby Steps, and Artesian Fish. Today is Artesian Fish's birthday. I picked him up some Sourpatch Kid candies in town and I think Easy was taking him to a nearby saloon to celebrate.
We all had to run some errands around town and then we all piled into the truck to head back to the trail. We dropped Dingle and HatTrick off where they had left the trail and then it took another half hour to get to my starting point.
It was already after 12 by this point and I was in a little bit of a rush to hit the trail. Here's where I made my big, fat, stupid mistake--I decided to switch back to boots. I had gotten my boots resoled since switching to sneakers and I noticed that they felt a little different. Ding! Ding! Ding! -- I should have listened to those little warning bells. But oh no, these were my trusted, beloved, well broken in boots. I just had to get used to the feel of them again. Ding! Ding! Ding! As I waved goodbye to FireBall and headed up the trail, I had this tremendous urge to run down the road after him and get my sneakers back. Ding! Ding! Ding! I should have listened to my urges and all those little alarm bells.
Here I sit, a piddling 5 miles up the trail. My boots are sitting in a corner of the tent looking awful smug and evil. My poor feet are propped on a pile of clothes throbbing and whimpering and looking all together beaten and pitiful. I have blisters on the fronts and tops of most of my toes and the bones in my feet feel like they've been crushed together in a vice-grip of a handshake.
I'm not a happy camper right now. I'm going to have to get off the trail as soon as possible and change my footwear. I'm going back to sneakers!!
The radio is predicting rain, high winds, and unseasonably cold weather to move in tonight. Anywhere from 1-2" of rain throughout the day tomorrow-- great!
I did a lot of stretching, sit-ups, pushups, reading, and even watched a mosquito on the wall of my tent for a full 30 minutes. Paul, the caretaker here, was kind enough to invite me over for some coffee and hot chocolate. His tent is as big as a small room and the thought of getting to move about and enjoy a hot drink swayed me to brave the rain. I haven't had my stove with me for a few weeks now and today was the first time I really missed it.
I finished _The_Education_of_Little_Tree_. It was an excellent book and had me laughing and crying before I was done. Paul and I did a swap on books afterwards. I gave him the _Little_Tree_ book and he in turn gave me a book called _Woman_Warrior_ by Maxine Kingston. I'm glad to have something else to read.
I hate that I'm losing some hiking days because of all this, but I'm just going to have to cancel the day off I had planned for this weekend and suck it up. I'm planning to try and hike out in my Teva sandals. I don't think it will be more than maybe 6 miles before I can get to a road that's big enough to hitchhike on.
At one point the Lake Trail traverses a steep rock face on a wooden walkway. To my left was a wall of rock. To my right was a single metal railing about 3-1/2 feet up and then nothing as the rock face fell away a good forty feet below. Under foot were extremely slippery wooden boards. I hate heights and I know I've mentioned it before. I had one hand gripping the railing, one hand clutching my walking stick, and I was proceeding at a shuffle.
Sure enough, just as I thought I was going to make it, I slipped and couldn't catch myself. My feet shot out from under me and my legs went towards the abyss. I landed on my left hip with my legs dangling over the edge of space. My body continued to move towards the edge, sliding across that slick, wet surface. I don't know how, but my left hand released its hold on my walking stick and gripped the left edge of a board just in time to keep me from plunging off the edge of that walkway.
I layed there, barely breathing, for a few seconds and then gathered enough sense to roll myself over onto my belly and inch my way back on to that blessed piece of walk. I lay there with my face pressed against the wet wood. I could feel the grain of the wood and a light drizzle pattering on the side of my face, and then I got violently sick.
I was in such shock from my fall that it took a few moments for the immensity of what just happened to hit me, but when it did it sent me reeling. I could barely move. I was too terrified to get back up. I continued to lay on my stomach until I could feel some of the trembling in my limbs let up. There was no way I was going to try and stand on that surface again, and I couldn't turn myself around on that narrow walkway. I was facing the wrong direction, but that surface was still slick enough for me to slowly slide my body down the planks to the end of the platform, a mere 30 feet away. As I felt the end of the planks hit my thighs and my feet touched the solid earth beneath, I just broke down hysterically.
I eventually rolled over on my side and righted myself to a sitting position. I think I sat there for about 15 minutes feeling sorry for myself. I just kept thinking over and over again that the trail had won. It had beaten me. There was no way I could continue. I didn't know how I was even going to get to the next road, forget about Katahdin. All of these thoughts were just swirling in my mind until I just felt too overwhelmed by them all and went numb. I stood up on extremely shaky legs and stumbled off down the trail with the intention of just getting to that road and getting off the trail.
Micah was so anxious and worried about me. He had seen the whole thing and knew that things weren't right. As soon as I fell, he was at my side licking my face and shoving his nose at my ears. As I continued down the trail, he was continuously poking his nose into my dangling hand. I could barely muster more than a little pat on the head for him. I knew that if I stopped to hug him, I would probably break down again.
I reached the road in a daze and just stuck out a thumb. I stood there for over 45 minutes. I didn't realize how long it had been until a car pulled over and let a man out that was carrying a gasoline can. He'd run out of gas and had gotten a ride just seconds before I got to the road. He'd been standing at that same place trying to get a hitch for two hours before a friend that knew him finally stopped to pick him up. He'd seen me coming down the road as they pulled away. 45 minutes later he came back with his can of fuel and there I was, still standing there with my thumb out. He only lived a few miles away, but I explained to him my boot problem and that I needed to get to a big town like Rutland to try and fix the problem. This guy offered to drive me 30 miles out of his way to Rutland, he bought me some coffee, and then waited until I could find a hotel that would allow dogs. He then hand delivered me to the hotel door after having spent half his day off trying to get gas for his car. I will always remember this man's kindness.
We went to the farmer's market in downtown Rutland. I really enjoy visiting farmer's markets when I travel in other areas of the country. I just love the variety of vegetables, flowers, baked goods, and other products that you find. Of course maple syrup was the big thing here, but there was also a surprising number of organic food growers. We bought blueberries, fresh-baked breads and muffins, and a little pie called "Aldaberry". I think it would have been a lot easier to figure out what it was made of if they had spelled it "All-da-berries". It sure was good.
We then drove around looking at the old New England churches and covered bridges in the area. In the afternoon we went out to Clarendon Gorge for a little while. The AT passes over this gorge on a suspension bridge. I hadn't yet reached this point of the trail before I got off yesterday.
More rain moved in this afternoon. I stopped by the PO to pick up my mail in Killington. I had care packages from Gus and the DeCroixs as well as letters from Bubbles, Tom, Kojac and Michael Houser.