At 5:15 AM the pond, all its inhabitants and visitors were still in slumber as I made my way around its muddy banks. My goal for the day was to get to Manchester Center, about 11 miles away, as early as possible for a “town day.” A town day refers to the things you do in town – eat, do laundry, check e-mail and resupply. I was feeling low. My feet seemed to be dragging at best in hot, heavy boots with a pack too heavy with unnecessary things. At one point I even considered just turning around and going intro Stratton instead. I stuck it out and let the early morning mist of the forest refresh my spirit. Then I met “Floater.”
Floater is 67. He set out to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail as his first backpack, ever. He had come from Virginia to Vermont, on his way to Maine and would then turn around and go south from Virginia to Georgia. When he started, Bruce paid someone to hike with him for a week because he didn’t know the first thing about it. He didn’t know where to set up his tent or how to use a stove. One night, he woke up in his tent and it was raining. He then realized that he was floating on his thermarest mattress! Hence the trail name… Bruce “Floater” reminded me about what it means to be on the trail. Not that I could put it into words, but he reminded me about the uncertainty of it all and made me question our desire to set out on such a path.
By 12:30 PM I was standing on the side of the road with my thumb out. About four cars later, a man in a hunting uniform and three white maltese dogs picked me up and deposited me in town. Just a few minutes later, I ran into Hobo, Bison and Groom. It felt so great to see them! We went out for Italian food and decided we would all head to Big Branch the following night. I spent the night at the Green Mountain House, a hostel for thru-hikers ran by Jeff and his wife who had thru-hiked the AT some time ago. Jeff was kind beyond words and stocked the freezer with pints of Ben and Jerry’s for us!