Long-Distance Walking, Mountains, USA
Comments 6

Cookie-Cutter Wisdom on the Long Trail

Vermont. Les Verts Monts. The Green Mountain State. I can’t sum up hiking there any better than the mysterious Mr Hammonds, whose book I found referenced in a Vermont shelter, as described in a previous post:

There is room enough for civilization in regions better fitted for it. It has no business among these mountains, these rivers and lakes, these gigantic boulders, these tangled valleys and dark mountain gorges. ~ S.H. Hammonds, ‘The Vagabond Spirit’

LATE-JUNE, 2006

We’ve been seeing the gentle side of the state, mostly, with a couple of knee-busting exceptions like yesterday’s Killington Peak, when the Appalachian Trail brings us to the intersection with another — older, wilder, more mysterious — trail. Extracts from my journals follow:

The beer [a can given to me by ‘The Newlyweds’, unwisely downed before the climb] was great while the buzz lasted…

..but put me in a slow dreamy state for much of the descent to Route 4. I came to ‘Fast Lane’ eating at a shelter side-trail, where I too rested and gulped down about five cups of Gatorade, rather dehydrated after the beer and the morning’s climb.

Well, I was pretty tired when I crossed the road, the sun had come out, there was a final section of weedy undergrowth spread in a vast monoculture across the hillside…

..and I caught Fast Lane again at Maine Junction, where the Long Trail splits and goes up to Canada:

Main Junction -- my Blue Period

We hiked together the final mile and a half to the Inn, , where we found ‘Cedar’ in the bar finishing a burger. ‘Firefly’ was late — he’d gotten lost on a side-trail, and the N’Weds must have reached the road and hitched to Rutland and a Christian hostel there…

A fat guy in a white beard and ponytail asked us to raise our arms and sprayed us with Febreze to render us fit for human company. We found this very amusing…

We drank — FF and I, anyway. Cedar left to backtrack to Morgan Tucker Shelter, having committed to finishing the A.T. for now. After a few Long Trail Ales and a burger, I was ready to stay there the night, but couldn’t get FF to commit to sharing a room till he finally said okay, if I would commit to doing the L.T.. The decision had already been made; the beer just made it official. I was going.

Fast Lane left to camp across the road and we retired to the splendour of Room 25 and its shower and soft beds…

Breakfast was good if not quite of hiker dimensions: several coffees, juice, blueberry pancakes and sausage. We got our photo taken by a quiet old guy, ‘Bear Bait’…

The famous inn doubles as a ski lodge in winter

..who was excited to learn that he only had to average nine miles a day to reach Katahdin in time.

Backtracked to the junction, made our first steps in the new direction. Stopped at 0.4m at Tucker Johnson, where Cedar had left us a sweet farewell note — I will miss his optimism and goofy laugh…

There were a couple of good views of Chittenden Reservoir…

..and the blue ridges and peaks beyond:

The trail so far is definitely “wilder” than the A.T. to this point, narrower, often obscured by blow-downs and branches leaning across that you have to shove through or duck or push aside; white blazes are rarer and the path is already far more of an up-and-down experience than we’ve been used to of late…

The huts here are old and gnarled and tell their own stories. Water is noticeably more prevalent as well; I seldom treat mine for the rest of our journey to Canada. Most days I can just scoop it up right there near the trail:

Dave Blumenthal & Green Mountain Club

Our decision to detour off the “super-highway” of the A.T. is quickly vindicated. I know nothing about the L.T., except that it pre-dates the A.T., and am thriving on the spontaneity, becoming good friends with Firefly. Sometimes we hike close and talk till the point of exhaustion. Other times I let him race ahead — he’s much younger and stronger — and catch up at the next shelter.

I really feel that I have undertaken a journey into the unknown. When we do get back on the A.T. much more of the pack will have caught up, which is a worry, but on the other hand we will be even more primed for the arduous walking ahead in New Hampshire and Maine…

Our first day on the Long Trail and some “trail magic” — aid or food left by locals — seems like a positive omen. This magic comes in Chinese fortune-cookie form…

..and mine gives me something to think about as I plough on through the mud and wet undergrowth:

*****

It’s only now, after extensive research (five minutes of googling*) that I discover that my prize was not merely a cheesy New Age aphorism, but a piece of wisdom attributed to the British author Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682)…

Browne with his wife Lady Dorothy Browne

..whose Christian faith exuded tolerance and goodwill towards humanity in an often intolerant era [Wikipedia].

What a well-travelled maxim it was, now that I think about it: the mid-17th-century British sage’s words finding themselves, 350 years and thousands of miles distant, being quickly digested along with their American mock-Chinese flour-and-sugar host, by an Australian hiker stomping through backwoods Vermont…

*****

Meanwhile, outside, the wondrous mountains wait, indifferent…

* I’ve also discovered that fortune cookies emerged among Japanese-Americans, with no connection whatsoever to traditional Chinese cuisine.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

Next post: Nothing says “DANGER” like a cute Japanese squirrel 

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6 Comments

  1. I loved this post with the characters you meet along the way of what’s overall such a great adventure. That’s a nice touch about the quote as well. Something said or written from so long ago suddenly popping up in your hand. I love those little details which make your posts so interesting to read, rather than stale method of ‘distance travelled/gear/etc’ which many blogs have…

    • Thanks Greg, yeah, the characters, the history and psychological details are what make big walks interesting for me. I try to write stuff I’d enjoy reading. Your own blog is always entertaining and a variation on the standard hiking site as well.

  2. Liked it too. If we carry all those wonders within us, does it mean we can quit hiking and forego with relief all those cheesy burgers and skanky shelters? Only joking, of course.

    I try to avoid beer during the day when hiking. It can make you feel so flat, tired and dehydrated after the initial buzz has worn off, as you indicate. Sadly, though, I’m easily persuaded.

    • Yeah, one of my walking heroes, the Englishman Alan Booth, called beer “gasoline for the feet” when he walked the length of Japan. I used to love one on a hot afternoon when I was road-walking, mountains and strenuous stuff is another matter.

  3. Great photos. Visiting for the first time, I was intrigued by the Japanese for “goat”. Traditional TV antennae (and other antennae of similar design) are known as “Yagi” antennae after the Japanese scientist who invented them. I wonder if his name was “goat” – or whether it’s just a similar sounding word that can be anglicised as “yagi”?

    • Hi Dominic, thanks for the compliment and the very intriguing comment. I did a bit of quick research and it turns out that Yagi Hidetsugu was his real name (surname first in Japanese style). But his yagi, although pronounced the same, is composed of the characters 八 (“ya”) — meaning eight, and 木 (“gi” or often “ki”) — meaning tree. So he’s Mr Eight Trees.

      My nickname, 山羊, is the Japanese yagi consisting of 山 (mountain – “yama”) and 羊 (sheep – “hitsuji”) – literally mountain sheep, since the Chinese didn’t have a single character for goat.

      But my first thought was that maybe the “yagi antenna” was called that because 羊 kinda looks like an antenna! Nope…

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