There is something about the prospect of a shower, real food, and beer that can really get me going in the morning. Today I would be hiking a short distance to Norwich, VT, so I even beat O2 out of camp as I headed down the trail. It was another hot and humid day, but that didn’t prevent me from picking up my pace as I looked forward to finishing my hike in Vermont and enjoying a well-deserved “zero.”
The trail from the Thistle Hill Shelter to VT 14 was much like an extension of yesterday. It was downhill and smooth and offered a variety of surroundings from pastures to forests. Once again, I walked through forests where the trees were interconnected with plastic tubing, which highlighted the importance of the maple syrup industry in this area. Despite the increasing temperature, it was an enjoyable hike and I was making really good time.
The A.T. exits the woods when it reaches Quechee Road and begins a 0.4-mile road walk towards West Hartford, VT. Along the way, it crosses a bridge over the White River where it has become somewhat of a thru-hiker tradition to jump off the 20-foot high bridge for a swim. The river is very deep at this point with a moderate current, but since I was by myself, I decided it would be better for me to just continue walking. I found out later that O2 and Blaze took the plunge and O2 reported that it was very refreshing.
After crossing the White River, the trail turns left on VT 14 and continues as a road walk through town. At the Captain Stash Truck Lettering Emporium, there are signs directing hikers to a faucet for some much-appreciated cold water. West Hartford is a pretty little village, but it appears that the only reason for routing the trail through here is to take advantage of the I-89 underpass. Once past the interstate, I finally discovered the location of the often-cited Podunk before returning to the woods in the middle of nowhere.
Norwich, VT and Hanover, NH are on opposite banks of the Connecticut River and it is a very expensive place to live with limited affordable lodging options for hikers. Several of the area residents (probably former thru-hikers) have come together and created a network of private homes which offer hikers a free place to stay. Shortly after lunchtime, I arrived at Elm Street and began the one-mile road walk to Norwich, VT. There was a welcoming vibe to the area as several trail angels living along Elm Street had placed coolers of trail magic by the road. I know that I certainly appreciated the ice cold Coke I found in one of the coolers. As I walked downhill past the million-dollar homes, I couldn’t help but think that I would not want to be a SOBO hiker and walk uphill on this hot asphalt.
At the end of Elm Street is Main Street which leads 1.4-miles east to Hanover. O2 and I had previously decided to take advantage of the hiker rates at the Norwich Inn, so I turned west and walked a couple of blocks to our hotel. The Norwich Inn, which was built in 1891 on the foundation of the original 1797 structure which burned down, features a restaurant and an on-site brewery. Our room wouldn’t be ready for a couple of hours and O2, having gone for a swim in the White River, was an hour or so behind me, so I stashed my pack and spent time exploring the town and chilling on the front porch.
When O2 finally arrived, we went to the Inn’s pub to sample their beers and eat some food while we waited for our room. When our room was ready, we moved in, took showers, and headed to Dan & Whits General Store located next door. The general store has an amazing collection of craft beer (O2 is also a craft beer lover) so we selected some promising brews to purchase. O2 had already decided that he was going to eat at the Inn’s restaurant, but I just stocked up on a pile of food to eat back in our room. Now I’m sitting in the air conditioning, while refueling and watching a movie on TV in what is probably the fanciest room I’ve enjoyed during this adventure.
Date: July 23, 2017
Starting Location: Thistle Hill Shelter
Ending Location: Main Street, Norwich, VT
AT Miles Today: 13.2
AT Miles To Date: 1,746.2