Telephone Pioneers Shelter, NY to Kent, CT
It was 10:30pm when I turned off my headlamp, tossed in some earplugs and allowed my mind come to stillness, the rise and fall of my chest a soothing lullaby for sleep. I lay in the shelter alone, earplugs only to discourage my sleep from being disrupted by a mouse.
Just as I was about to fall into slumber, I heard a noise. I paid little attention and allowed myself to drift toward sleep again. I was roused a second time by another noise, and the red light of a headlamp.
I pulled the earplugs out, and turned my attention toward the person having arrived to the shelter, and judging by the layout of gear on the shelter’s floorboards, I was optimistic that it was Legend. Legend is a thru-hiker, and also aspiring Calendar Triple Crown hiker,
who started from Georgia early February. I heard about him more than a month earlier, when a section hiker had said he’d met a guy with a fast pace, long stride and a light pack. That was all he had told me, and I hadn’t heard anything since. Until that morning.
It was in a small trailside register that Legend had signed in, but it didn’t include the date, and I feared that I’d missed my chance at meeting the likely only other thru-hiker I’d meet along the Appalachian Trail. By late afternoon, I stopped at a shelter to read the guest book, and judging by his entry, he was moments ahead. I picked up my pace, jogging a bit, too excited for the opportunity to swap stories with another hiker who would inevitably understand what it was like to hike the trail starting in winter.
I crushed some miles, feeling good to pack on a thirty mile day. My body felt strong, and my mind optimistic. When I reached the next shelter, the Telephone Pioneers Shelter, I was a bit let down when Legend wasn’t there, but figured I might have passed him had he choose to camp earlier, or perhaps he might have trekked on, at which point I figured the chances of catching him were slim, especially if he started three weeks after me.
But soon enough, almost in my slumber, does Legend show up to the shelter after having been invited to a spontaneous dinner with a couple of day hikers. I could only make out the figure of a man walking near the front of the shelter when I sat up, fumbling for the switch on my headlamp. “Is that Legend?” I asked. “Yeah, who’s that?” he asked. “It’s Speedstick,” I said. “No way!!! I’ve been looking forward to meeting you,” at which point we dove into conversation.
To keep a long story short, we stayed up for another hour, both equally excited to have another thru-hiker to hang out with and to swap stories. We both agreed it had just gotten too damn quiet and lonely on the trail, not being part of the hiking community that is now leaving Springer Mountain by the herd. We shared stories of the cold, of the snow, and the hikers we’d met along the way. And after realizing we had similar plans for Katahdin, the Appalachian Trail’s northern terminus, we were excited to temporarily pause the conversation and resume in the morning, where we’d wake and pack up with a beautiful sunrise.
It was refreshing to set out on a day of miles with another hiker in tow, and especially because Legend is really easy to get along with. We filled each other in on the history of each others lives, often finding humor in tangents, and we both agreed we haven’t laughed this hard in what feels like months. The miles in the state of Connecticut are not easy by any means, and in fact they feel like the miles way down south, back along the North Carolina/Tennessee border. But with another hiker around, it sure makes it far more enjoyable.
Legend is also from Oregon, born and raised, and now lives in Colorado. He’s hiked the PCT and PNT and spent the last few years working in Colorado as a small-business consultant, but like me, dreamed of the next adventure. He’s a few years younger than me, and does have a good stride, but our pace is very compatible, especially when I get into charge mode. Which I have been enjoying, and which has been good for miles, and which has been enjoyable since we’ve had days of warmth, so much so that we’d describe it as hot and humid!
It’s only been a short few days since, but we’ve packed on some miles and have enjoyed each others company since. We hiked a solid thirty mile day, included several steep ascents with several rocky descents. And we took a few hours in town to stock up for the next 100 miles, which will take us from Kent, CT to Dalton, MA. While there, I ate an absolutely delicious banana-cookie ice-cream in an orea waffle cone, charged up my phone and picked up extra food to supplement what I already had. Not wanting to walk across town, I settled on buying two days of food at the small artisan market which was not cheap, but what a treat to eat wine-aged salami and local cheddar on a bagette, and fresh chickpeas with cucumber, tomato, feta and cilantro for lunches. Legend and I also packed out a six-pack of local IPA for the night, a nice way to celebrate our hikes. Fun!
Well, it’s now past hiker midnight. Plenty to write, so I’ll fill ya in on the remainder few miles of Connecticut.