Southbound: episode 9
November 7th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White
We told you that we were leaving Dalton, Mass. in the last journal, only not as soon as we expected. After Anna took us to the store to resupply, she dropped us back off at the gas station next to the trail. It was already after noon, so putting in a lot of miles was out of the question. Instead of hiking just a few miles out of town, we decided to visit Rob Bird, a gentleman that has been welcoming hikers into his home for years and is really well known on the trail. We had heard so much about this man that we had to stop in and meet him. He welcomed us in and we felt immediately at home. Rob volunteered his time to drive us to different parts of the trail for “slack packing”. We would hike fourty miles, and all the while end the night in a warm bed four nights in a row. One of the highlights for us was the Skyline Chili that Joe’s family sent, its never tasted so good, Rob enjoyed it as well.
The first day back,the trail brushed by corn fields and mountain sides. We would walk bogs over swamps and river-walk along the Housatonic River for a few miles. We got halfway up Mt. Everett when the snow began and night fell, with just about two miles to go. The night would end cold for what was such a warm day. The next morning began early because we had to make it in to Salisburry for our mail-drop. We felt good about our quick start, our first dark morning night since Katahdin (day 1). We found the sunrise just as we reached the top of Mt. Everett. The trail then followed the Mt. Race ridgeline, completely exposed to the view below. It was a great morning! We came down Race and crossed over into Connecticut, our 5th state! By the time we realize we are here, we will be in New York. This fine state starts with Bear Mtn., the tallest in the state. The mountain offered amazing views of what is past and whats to come. We resupplied and left town fairly quickly to do another 3 miles to our lean-to.
In the past few days we have crossed over,and done countless miles next to the Housatonic River. Having already planned a short day, this worked out to our benefit yet again. We came to the river and its glorious water falls and spent the vast majority of our afternoon enjoying its scenery and the bright sun in the blue skies. That night would be shared with the very first southbound thru-hiker we have met, his name is Early Bird. Still ahead of us, Little Engine, Elipse, and Chase. We have not met these hikers, but have followed them in registers, there have been a few others get off the trail already.
Today marks not only 2 months, but also 722 miles behind us which puts us at one third of the way. We are staying in Kent, CT tonight with a relative of another gentleman that we had met on Mt. Washington. Bill picked us up from the post office and treated us to a nice Italian dinner, then opened up his home for us to stay. He has a wonderful family and he tells some good stories. We feel truly blessed to have met so many wonderful people on the trail, we call them “Trail Angels”. Our confidence is higher than ever, and we owe it to the overwhelming generosity they have provided.
From here we cross into New York tomorrow, and just a few days to Jersey and then a few more to Pennsylvania. It gets tough after that, we’ll be in PA for some time as it stretches 230 miles! The forecast looks good as a heat wave is coming in to give us high 50s to mid 60s for the next week! That sounds sooooo good!
This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post. (maybe spell checked)Epilogue: by: Bryan Wolf
We first found out about Rob during one of our very first weeks on the trail up in Maine. We tried to capture notes and suggestions from Northbound hikers that were not in the guidebook. It seemed crazy at the time but we were told that in Dalton we needed to go the Shell gas station and ask for a man named Rob. It sounded kind of creepy, at least in a underground secret society kind of way. We did as we were told, we walked the street to the small Shell station. It was an old full service station with one attendant working, and he wasn’t Rob. The guy made a phone call though and in minutes a van pulled in to the station. I guess this guy was the filter, he could tell how serious of a hiker you were and if Rob was going to come by.
There was no doubt that we looked the part. Rob introduced himself and was shocked to see anyone this late in the season. Before we knew what happened we were in the van and he was running by a liquor store. He came back with a case of beer and a brown bag. Like he had known me for years, I peak in the brown bag and he had a bottle of Captain Morgan. I told him that we had something in common, that is my go to drink back home. He looked over and told me, “that’s not for me, that’s for you”. This guy can read minds!
As for our friend Early Bird; we didn’t get to know Early Bird all that much, but he still ended up being the hiker we would see the most, and the only other Southbounder that we are sure finished with us. I still occasionally chat with him online. I believe the most interesting thing that he brought to our attention is how he described the mental difficulty of the trail. Early Bird told us about his time in the military and the challenges that he of course faced, but he then said that the AT is much more difficult. I think Joe and I were both stunned by this. He explained that the AT is a choice everyday and therefor harder to keep the mental toughness, whereas in the military he did not see it as a choice. Waking up and getting through the day was going to happen and that was life for him, but on the trail he only has himself to rely on, to get up, to move, to fight on.
This section is incredibly scenic and a bit less challenging than many parts of the AT. The miles are coming somewhat easy for us at this point. It is easy to see what is ahead and feel like there is no question of whether or not we will finish it.