Southbound Moments


The trail snakes around like a game of Chutes and Ladders, so that sometimes I wonder if we’re going backwards or forwards!

September 1, 2017

Whimsical rock sculptures along the trail near White Rocks viewpoint causes us to pause in appreciation.  Someone had a lot of time on their hands!  It makes me think of building with blocks when our son was very young.  What fun!

September 4, 2017

Yesterday Jay and I hiked to the town of Manchester Center, and enjoyed sitting out a day of pouring rain in the comfort of an old-fashioned guest house called Sutton’s Place.  Today we had planned to take a day of rest, but the weather forecast called for sun today and more rain tomorrow.  So we decided to slack pack 17 miles, from the other side of Stratton Mountain back to Manchester Center.

We were picked up by a shuttle at 6:00 a.m., driven on small back roads for 45 minutes around Stratton Mountain, and let off at the AT trailhead.  The sun rose while we were in the car, a huge orange ball of golden fire, glowing through the trees!


The top of Stratton Mountain was still in the clouds when we reached it, three miles later.  Wind gusted above the tree tops, blowing foggy shreds past the lookout tower.  The view from that tower is famous for inspiring the creation of both the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail.  But today, no inspiration was to be had from the view!  

There is also a caretaker’s cabin on top of Stratton Mountain.  Jay and I met the caretakers, Jeanne and Hugh, in 2011 when Jay first thru-hiked the AT.  We were delighted to meet them again.  Jay told Jeanne how she had educated him about the Bicknell Thrush.  I think she was charmed that he remembered so vividly, for she invited us into their tiny cabin, “just to see what it is like.”  It was a cozy space, an original “tiny house”.  I felt honored to get to see it!  Jeanne and Hugh have been caretakers on top of the mountain since the 1960s.  They feel that their job is to protect the mountain and educate hikers.  They do a great job!

September 6, 2017

After taking a zero day in the town of Manchester Center, VT, and watching the rain pour down, we begin hiking today in a ‘hard mist’, the kind of rain that soaks in sooner than one would think!  It is now that I truly appreciate the shelters along the Appalachian Trail.  We take an early lunch at Story Spring Shelter, then an early dinner at Kid Gore Shelter.  After feeling the rain hitting our hoods all day, it is a relief to sit inside a dry shelter, and watch the rain soak the ground outside!  Also, it’s nice to be able to eat without fat water drops splashing upon ones raisins or chocolate bar!

September 7, 2017

Tonight we chose a very scenic campsite, overlooking the town of Bennington, VT.  Evening-tinged blue sky arched directly over us, while out in the valley, we could see a thunderstorm raging over the town.  About the time we were settled inside our tent, the edge of the storm caught our airy perch.  Lightning flashed just a few miles away.  Wind battered our tent in a frenzy, tearing out one tent stake!  Tent fabric whipped around my head as the tent pole fell across my body.

I cowered beneath the pelting raindrops until Jay shouted in my ear, “I’ll hold the tent pole while you go outside and pound the stake back in.” 

I wasn’t sure how I got elected to plunge into the rain, except that the stake was on my side of the tent.  Too shell-shocked to argue, I obediently unzipped the tent, submitted the upper half of my body to a bombardment of dagger-like precipitation, and grabbed the tent stake as the wind tried to whip it into the bushes.  I used the panicked force of adrenaline to shove that stake deep into the grass and dirt, then wriggled backwards into the dry ‘safety’ of our abode.  Whew!

We lay and listened as the rain and wind slowly moved down the valley, and I finally fell asleep to the gentle patter of water drops as the storm subsided.


September 8, 2017

We’ve been hiking in mixed rain and sun for three days now.  Lots and lots of mud!

Great salamander and toad weather!

Three days of wet feet are beginning to cause problems.  Though our feet have many calluses, soggy socks rub the tops of our toes, causing oozing sores and blisters.  I think of the soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam, and wonder how they coped.  Perhaps wet feet were not a priority on their list of problems.  The sores on our feet, however, are getting to be too extensive to ignore.  Tonight we use antiseptic wipes to clean our feet, and tomorrow we’ll wrap our toes in duct tape and band-aids!  The true solution, however, will be some days of sunshine!


 September 9-10, 2017

The weather begins to dry out today, hooray! 

We climb to the top of Greylock Mtn, tallest mountain in Massachusetts.  The sky is dramatic, clouds playing hide and seek with the sun.  A war memorial, a beautiful tower with a spiral staircase, graces the top of Greylock.  I must admit, more than half the fun of the memorial is climbing the stairs, around and around and around!

We stay on top of Greylock, at the Bascom Lodge, for the night, enjoying a hot shower, fresh clean sheets, and a chance to dry the mud off our shoes!

Breakfast is fun, discussing hiking and diet with two other hikers, Mary and Jane.  When it is time to leave, Jay discovers that he is missing his hat.  We look everywhere, but with no result.  This is serious, as the wind is cold outside, and a hat is essential.  Thankfully, Mary and her son, Kevin, come to our rescue, giving Jay an extra hat they had packed.  Once again, trail angels work their magic on the AT!  (Please see our Trail Angels page in the menu for a little more on this part of the story.)

The climb down Greylock is beautiful, with blue sky and sunshine!  I can see the mud drying as we walk upon it!

We cross a corn field, then find wild apple trees littering the trail with ripe apples.  We can’t resist, and collect about a dozen.  Massachusetts wild apples taste much more delicious than Nevada wild apples!  With fresh fruit in the back of my pack, we climb Cheshire Cobbles, a lovely, gently graded, loop trail which shares the AT.  We stop and sit on the granite boulders, eating apples and enjoying a beautiful view!

September 11, 2016

The incredibly gorgeous weather continues with a beautiful sunrise through the trees.


It’s too cold to eat breakfast when we first get up.  We decide to walk for a while.  After about two miles, we are rewarded with the most beautiful breakfast spot, a quiet view on Gore Pond, still waters reflecting azure sky and fall trees.


September 12, 2017

Once again it is too cold to eat breakfast when we wake.  We hike about an hour, and come to a trail angel’s house, The Cookie Lady.  She sells boiled eggs from her farm, as well as sodas and candy bars to passing hikers.  She also gives away fresh-made cookies.  We eat boiled eggs and oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies for breakfast this morning.  But the best part of the meal is the beautiful setting – food for our soul!

September 14, 2017

Salamanders and frogs begin to be seen on the trail again.  We know this heralds a change from sunshine to wet weather ahead.  Fortunately, we’re a day away from the town of Great Barrington, MA.  Perhaps we’ll get lucky, and have our resupply and rest day as it rains!

A Series of Moments

A description of separate moments from the last ten days of hiking:

June 11, 2017

This morning we left Front Royal, VA, hiking into a green tunnel of beauty.  A couple miles into the day, Jay and I came around a bend in the trail, to see a doe calmly grazing.  A fawn looked out from under his mother’s belly, peering at us from between her back legs.  The doe turned her head toward us, took a few steps away, then continued grazing.  The fawn butted his mother’s side, and the doe walked a bit further down the trail.  We followed slowly, wondering if we could get a picture.  This continued for several minutes, the doe and fawn always several yards in front of us, but staying on the trail.

Finally, through the trees, we heard a noisy group of hikers approaching from the north.  The doe decided she’d had enough, between our quiet stalking and the chatter of a larger group.  She lifted her head, and took off eastbound through the trees.  Only problem was, the fawn ran west!  After a few moments, the doe appeared back on the trail, looked at us in indecision, then followed her fawn.  A few seconds later, they made one last appearance, now both headed east together.  Hurray!

Stalking an unconcerned doe and her fawn.

Later today we came across a hiker feast – mulberries, wild strawberries, and black raspberries – all ripe!  We paused several times to pick handfuls.  Yum!


June 12, 2017

A very hot and humid day.  Yesterday Jay tried keeping cool by laying in a creek.  Today we decided to take a two hour siesta at Rod Hollow Shelter.  The shelter and privy were very clean, the grounds very shady.  It was lovely to lay on flat boards, with no bugs biting, a small breeze occasionally cooling our skin.  Yes, life is good on the AT!

We passed 1,000 miles today!  Hard to believe I have hiked that far!


June 13, 2017

Another hot, muggy day.  We reached the David Lesser Memorial Shelter in the heat of the evening.  Our skin felt covered in about four layers of sweat and insect repellent.  We took our water bottles half mile downhill to a lovely cold spring, filled them up, then walked a good ways from the spring and took a shower using our water bottles.  Aahh, what luxury!

June 16, 2017

Today the trail came to the Washington Monument.  Not the monument in Washington D.C.  This Washington Monument was built in 1827 by citizens of Boonsboro, MD.  On July 4, over 500 people marched from the public square for two miles up the mountain to create the first stone monument to George Washington.  What a way to celebrate our nation’s holiday!  The forty foot tall observation deck is reached by a circular staircase through the center of the tower.  I felt I was climbing inside a medieval castle as I ascended the wedge-shaped stairs!


June 17, 2017

This evening Jay and I crossed the Mason-Dixon line!  We’ve left the southern Appalachians behind, and are now officially in the mid-Atlantic states!  We camped just a mile further, beside Falls Creek.



June 18, 2017

The most notable event on this hot and humid day was our stop at Deer Lick Shelter.  Inside the privy, Jay saw a HUGE spider!  About the size of my palm, it lurked high on the privy wall, waiting for its prey.  Yikes!


June 19, 2017

At 12:45 p.m., the stifling humid heat finally broke with a roar and a bang!  Lightning flashed, thunder boomed, rain poured in sheets!  Within a matter of minutes, the trail transformed into a small creek.  Though we didn’t mind walking through rain, or splashing along a trail posing as a creek, the lightning did make us nervous.  It seemed rather dangerous to be ankle deep in water as lightning sparked all around.  So we stopped at the first semi-flat clearing in the woods and set up our tent as the rain poured.  Today’s two hour siesta happened inside our tent, listening to the splatter of raindrops and waiting for the thunderstorm to pass!

Once the storm was over, we emerged from our flimsy shelter, packed up, and kept on hiking.  About dinner time, we came to the official half-way point of the AT!  What a milestone!

We’ve done it! 1,100 miles!