When I arrived in Norwich, VT a few days ago, Boo Boo was in Rutland, VT, staying at the Yellow Deli. I had hoped that my extended stay in the area would allow him to catch up with me. All indications, however, show that he has been delayed by the Twelve Tribes despite my repeated text messages to him encouraging him to resist assimilation by the collective. I’m disappointed, but at least my time in Hanover, VT was well coordinated with two days of rain.
Once I had my fill of faux scrambled eggs, sausage, and waffles at the Sunset Motor Inn, I loaded my gear into the car and headed to the Enterprise Car Rental office to turn in my ride. The A.T. is essentially the sidewalk in front of the rental office, so it was easy to continue on my way after checking in the car. A mile and a couple of crosswalks later, the A.T. parallels the Dartmouth College Sports Complex before returning to the woods.
Before I made it to the woods, I could see a couple hiking a hundred yards ahead of me and, even though I had never met them before, I was certain that I knew who they were. A few weeks ago, Scar was hiking when he came across a couple named Draggin’ and Trooper. Scar and Draggin’ had worked together at his hometown in Indiana before the couple had moved away, and Scar didn’t even know that they were hiking the A.T. Trooper had a self-diagnosed stress fracture in her foot and was hiking with an inflatable boot (which I could see in the distance), so they were only hiking around 10 miles per day. Scar figured that I would eventually catch up with them, so he sent me a text to be on the lookout for the couple. When I caught up with them, I introduced myself and found out that it was indeed Draggin’ and Trooper. Can the world get any smaller?
I ended up walking and talking with Draggin’ and Trooper for most of the day. With my winter gear and a full food resupply on my back, my reintroduction to that trail started with a steep 500-foot climb through an area called Velvet Rocks. As I approached a particularly steep section, I looked down and saw that someone had installed a length of rope and I thought, “This can’t be good!” But in the end, we made it to the top and took a short break among the moss-covered rocks.
For the next few hours, we played leapfrog on a flat trail that took us through the woods and over a long boardwalk. Draggin’ and Trooper wear sandals when they hike, but that didn’t stop them from beating me up an 800-foot climb to the top of Moose Mountain. There was a lovely view at the top of the mountain where we once again took a break to chat.
Draggin’ and I seemed to really hit it off and we really got going on the subject of music. He played trumpet in high school and went to college for a couple of terms to study music and we spent an hour talking about our favorite horn bands and trumpet players. Before I knew it, the time was past 4:30 pm and I still had six miles to go before reaching the shelter where I planned to spend the night. I really enjoyed the company of Draggin’ and Trooper and would have liked to have walked with them for a few days, but their ten miles per day pace wasn’t going to get me to Katahdin in time. Reluctantly, I bid them farewell and continued hiking north.
With the sun quickly headed for the horizon, I hurriedly moved down the trail to try and make it to the shelter at a reasonable hour. Along the way, there was an opening in the trees that provided a view of Smarts Mountain, my climb for tomorrow. While I was trucking down the trail and doing ETA calculations in my head, I received a text from Travis asking me when I would arrive at my next road crossing. I glanced at my navigation app and replied that it appeared that I had already crossed my last road for the day. Travis requested my location, which I gave him, and he told me that I was 1.4 miles from Goose Pond Road. I don’t know how I overlooked that, but when I checked my app again, there it was. Travis then told me that he would meet me there with a lot of pizza and soda, and to bring along anyone I found on the trail. Wow, talk about trail magic!
When I arrived at Goose Pond Road, I looked down the road and saw a truck parked at a small parking area several yards away. Thinking that might be Travis, I walked in that direction only to discover that the truck belonged to Naps, and he and Blaze were resting there after doing a slack pack section. I told them that Travis was on the way with pizza and they too were amazed. While waiting for Travis to arrive, Naps told me that he might be getting off the trail. He was waiting for a callback on a job possibility as a draftsman for a power company near his home that he described as akin to winning the lottery. When the call came, he said, he would have to go.
Travis, Steve, and a lady that worked with them arrived shortly with three humongous pizzas, a cooler full of different sodas, and various other snacks. We all enjoyed this amazing feast on a dirt road in the middle of the woods. Travis has an advanced drone, capable of taking amazing pictures, that he launched to capture our pizza party moment. I mentioned to Travis that I was a little pressed for time to get to the shelter and he told me that if I wanted to do it, he would drive me to White River Junction to stay with him in his room at the Fairfield Inn and then return me to the trail in the morning before he had to go to work.
Soon I was in the car with Travis, Steve, and their coworker and being whisked away to the luxury of the Fairfield Inn in White River Junction. It was such a surreal turn of events that I’m certain that I had a smile on my face for the entire trip. Once we were settled in at the hotel, Travis and I stayed awake way too late talking about everything from careers to song playlists for the trail. It was a magical evening and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know Travis better.
The definition of trail magic is an unexpected, but welcome, gift of food, water, or other act of kindness given to a hiker by a total stranger who expects nothing in return. While Travis and Steve might not qualify as “total strangers,” they have certainly raised the bar on “unexpected acts of kindness.” If someone had told me this morning that I would be spending tonight eating pizza and sleeping in a nice hotel room, I would have told them that they were crazy. Now I’m living the dream.
Date: July 26, 2017
Starting Location: Hanover, NH
Ending Location: Goose Pond Road
AT Miles Today: 13.9
AT Miles To Date: 1,761.6