Day mileage: 14.2
AT total mileage: 1,617.0
Time: 9 hours
I woke up in the middle of the night to the unpleasant sensation that something was amiss. Sure enough, my sleeping pad and head were hanging over the edge of the elevated bunk, while my legs dangled off as well, my body restrained by a lone structural 2x4 bracing against my abdomen. Needless to say I spent a bit if time in the dark trying to rearrange myself to avoid falling to my demise in the fully packed shelter. After falling back asleep, I awoke again at a more appropriate time, beginning to pack my stuff up and get ready for the easy 4 mile trek into Bennington where Santa and Rocket Girl would do a resupply, Blue would find the public library to write his family newsletter e-mail, and Legs and I would tag along for the ride. As I left the shelter a light rain began to fall, foreshadowing of the weather that would be present intermittently throughout the day.
The hike to VT Route 9 was relatively simple, made challenging only by wet rocks on the steep descent to the road in the gap below the mountain ridges. It took me about an hour and a half to get to the state forest parking lot, having made a few phone calls on my hike and taking my time as I went along. Legs and Blue had arrived before me and were working on a hitchhike, one that would prove challenging due to being more than 5 miles from town. Eventually after quite a bit of trying, a woman in a small sedan pulled over to pick us up. With a small dog and a BMX style bike already occupying space in the car, there was barely enough room for Deep Blue & myself, let alone Legs and the puppy Naila. At this time Santa and Rocket emerged from the woods, rejoining the group, and Blue and I headed on into town. The woman driving was a young grandmother who was going to babysit her grand kids in town. She spoke (after my questioning) about the state of disrepair the towns locally were in, the poor job market, and the lack of presence of social workers for those who need government funding. We eventually arrived at Wal-Mart where Blue and I hung around after purchasing some small items. I charged my phone for a bit, then hiked the mile across town to Kmart where the rest of the group was able to hitch to. Meeting up with them again, I sat outside the store reading my book as everyone shopped. My only purchase would be an American flag, which I got as a second choice to a Red Sox flag in order to assist with hitchhiking. We left Kmart around 1230 in the back of a pickup truck driven by two high school girls on summer vacation. They were only able to take us a few miles back towards town, meaning a second hitch would be needed to get back to the trailhead. We walked through town to make it back to Rt 9 to at least be on the road we needed a ride on, but had very little luck getting anyone to pull over. This may continue to be the case with northern states. Waiting in a gas station parking lot, I was able to get a guy in a truck to offer us a ride, up until the point that he realized the bed of the truck was too full and he could only take two people. Santa and I had the girls & Naila go, and began trying to get our own ride. Walking down the main streets of a large Vermont town, trying to hitchhike, a large American flag held out between us... We were quite the sight to see. Although the flag didn't secure any rides for us, it got many honks and waves from drivers of all kinds, which I figure is at least a small start. Time shall tell how the flag helps. Anyway, we got a ride from a gas station when, ironically, Finn and Dorothy honked from the car of a local trail angel named Steve giving them a ride back to the A.T. so all worked out.
Back at the road crossing shortly before 1500hrs we began a 2,500 foot climb over 10 miles towards the summit of Glastenbury Mountain. The plan was to hike to the fire tower at the summit, then another 4 someodd miles relatively downhill to a shelter that would end us with a 18.5 mile day on the trail. The climb passed by quickly as we conversed as a group, again back down to the comfortable foursome of myself, Santa, Rocket, and Legs. Around 1715 we stopped for a 'pack break' to relieve our backs, and made note of the storm clouds moving in. It was literally not two minutes later that all hell broke loose, with torrential downpours flooding the trail and soaking us through. We had 2.7 miles left to a shelter before Glastenbury's summit, and we were undoubtedly stopping there instead of pressing on the extra 4 miles to the next shelter. Santa and I practically ran the distance, arriving in 40 minutes, soaked to our cores. As we had quickly hiked along, we yelled at the rain and the thunder, cursed at the mud and the Trail itself, and generally had a great time being soaking wet and having nothing we could do about it. There's a phenomenal motivational phrase on the Appalachian Trail that states: "Embrace the Suck" - basically, there are going to be points where it is plain old awful to be out here, but it's all part of the experience so do your best to make the most of it. About ten minutes into the downpours, we were embracing the suck. All care was gone, and instead of trying to hike around newly forming rivers and massive puddles, we splashed through them, mud flying everywhere as we flew along the trail. We sang songs at the top of our lungs, and I screamed lines from Forrest Gump for no particular reason whatsoever. If you can envision the Jim Carrey movie 'The Truman Show' you might remember a scene towards the end as he's on a small sailboat in a horrible storm, yelling at the sky 'is this the best you can do?!' - it was very much like that. We certainly made the most out of a situation there was absolutely no way of avoiding.
At just before 1800hrs we arrived at the Goddard shelter, a newer one built for 8 hikers, packed to the brim with people escaping the downpours. With ourselves and the girls we had at least four more people to try and fit in, so it would end up becoming a Tetris game to see how many we could fit. We ended up with 12 people and the dog on the platform of the shelter, and Dorothy strung his hammock across the beams of the structure allowing himself a space to sleep without occupying floor space. I cooked dinner quickly, and with a quasi damp set of clothes was tucked into my sleeping bag by 1930hrs. Reading for a bit, I'll try and make it to bed relatively early tonight. I'm absolutely exhausted, despite having done such a short mileage day. I'm hoping that in the next few days we'll avoid stops in town as it really seems to alter the course of the day and the desire to hike.
I'm not sure how far we'll trek tomorrow, but I'm hoping we make up for the few miles we stopped shy of today. The rain will supposedly carry on a bit longer, and we will unquestionably have some challenges in the thick mud and running rivers on the trail that will be present after the heavy rainfall overnight.
You likely questioned the blog title for today... I shall explain. The children's poet Shel Silverstein wrote a poem called 'Glub Glub' that went like this:
He thought it was
The biggest puddle
He’d go splashing through.
Turns out it was the smallest lake –
And the deepest, too.