“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both.
And be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could…”

June 12 – 110
Not much to report today, just had many flight delays and ended up switching from American to Jet Blue to get to NYC. Took me almost 3 hours via subway and trains to get back to NJ…mostly because I was clueless on what I was doing!

June 13 – Day 111
When I got to Coffee Pot’s Dad’s house last night they had already picked up Heavy Weight and I had gotten a text from Hoosier looking for a ride. After waking up early as usual, Coffee and I head out to get Hoosier in the rain, when we pick him up he is shivering from the rain and cold and very thankful for a break off the trail. This is the same approximate area I had met most of my northern bubble a couple of weeks ago and the attitude is similar…they just need a break!

We get Hoosier to the house and he grabs a shower, the house smells delicious since Heavy has made a whole mess of fresh chocolate chip cookies! He has found my weakness, my kryptonite, and I get a glass of cold milk and some warm cookies and enjoy!

Hoosier and I head to an REI, he needs new shoes, and we grab lunch on the way and catch up…I have not seen him since Waynesboro. He was off the trail for a week for a wedding and now is back and going strong.

We get back to the house and relax, Coffee is having dinner with her mom so the rest of us make plans to eat at a local pizza place that also serves good salads. After dinner it is pretty much of the same, we watch a little TV and then everyone hits the sack.

June 14 – 112
Nothing much planned for the day, Coffee drops Heavy Weight and Hoosier back off on the trail and I take a 3 mile walk with Camaro and Chevy. Camaro would still like to get back on the trail and hike the 500 miles south back to Glasgow VA, her knees still hurt and she is waiting for her X-rays from Pearisburg so she can get an MRI. Coffee Pot got an MRI last week and she is done for this season. I continue to keep them both in my prayers.

After our walk we see two young guys walking down the street with back packs and realize these are the German brothers Starsky and Hutch, I have not seen them since Damascus where they got off the trail due to some knee problems. They have been traveling around the east coast until they had to head out in a few days and tonight are staying with us.

Coffee makes a really nice dinner and her dad treats to ice cream at the local shop, he is a really nice guy opening his home to strangers and feeding them as well. After the ice cream we rent a movie and watch it before bed.

June 15 – 113
I wanted to get a jump on my drive up into Vermont to pick Jason up at the Burlington airport, it was a 5 hour drive and I wanted to break it into two days. I cooked breakfast for everyone, said good bye to Coffee, Camaro and the German boys and then headed out for my drive. I leave close to lunch time and I figure there has to be a Chipotle in the area and a google search proves successful. There is one located in a nearby mall so I head that way. I have never seen anything like the traffic at the mall, it is worst then any traffic I have experienced in rush hour in Austin. After eating, it takes me 45 minutes to exit the mall parking lot…fortunately I’m not in a big hurry.

I drive three plus hours of my drive and find a nice rest stop to crash for the night. Jason’s flight arrives early afternoon so I have plenty of time.

June 16 – Day 114
I am looking forward to spending some time with Jason and hoping that he enjoys his adventures along the trail. Jason is the son of a friend and has had some difficulties lately and a two week escape from regular summer in Austin should be a nice break.
He was never a part of my student ministry but did hang out a little with us a few times, the plan to hang with Jason has re-enforced my conviction to continue ministry with teens.

I make a stop at a grocery store for some supplies and head to the airport, although it is an “international” airport it is one of the smallest I have seen! Jason is easy to find and we head out to meet with some hikers in Hanover, VT…home of Dartmouth College, the smallest of the Ivy League schools.

We have plans to meet with Ayce, Chino, Dirty Mike and Coups. We get into Hanover mid afternoon and inadvertently drive through the campus and then head back out to Main St. We hang out at a Starbucks until we hear from Ayce, they are in a small motel just outside of town and we head that way. After visiting for about an hour we head into a town about 5 miles away for dinner, Hanover is very touristy and prices are high, plus there is an all you can eat Chinese buffet and that is right up a hikers alley!

After dinner we sit around the small and crowded motel room and visit while watching some tv. The rooms are ridiculously expense and Jason and I will crash in the van by the trail head. Fortunately we can unload stuff from the van into the room to make room for two to sleep in the van.

We say or good nights and head out, we will be back in the morning to shuttle them into town so they can start their hike. We get to the trail head parking lot and call it a night, fortunately it has been cool lately so the temperature is comfy.

June 17 – Day 115
As always we are early to rise, which I think might be a little new to Jason. Sunrise is just after 5:00am out here and it is fully light by 5:30. We lounge around to about 7:30 and head to pick up our hikers. We drop them off and say good bye, chances are we will not see these guys again. They are scheduled to be done by mid July and I do not know if I will be able to get that far north by then. It is not like I will not see Ayce again, but this is probably the last time as a hiker.

Ayce, Coups, Dirty Mike and Chino at Dartmouth


 

We head out to Ludlow VT to meet up with Witch Doctor and Passover, I had been texting with them since yesterday and they are looking forward to seeing us.

I had mentioned in an early post that being a trail angel out here was becoming more about lifting morale by being a familiar face and not just free food. The northern bubble hikers are getting more and more isolated and you look forward to seeing faces you know. They had decided to get up at 5:00am so they could get a good early start and see us as soon as possible.

We find the parking lot and decide to hike a little south and see if we can meet them part way. About a half mile in we come to a really cool waterfall and stop for some pics and then continue our hike. We get about 3 miles in and then decide to turn around as it is looking like rain and we are not in any rain gear. Right after we get back to the van it starts to sprinkle and about 20 minutes later Witch Doctor and Passover arrive. It is good to see them!

After the customary Mountain Dew we make Witch Doctor a sandwich and as always I have hummus and crackers for Passover. We load up and head to Ludlow VT for another lunch stop, we are in a ski resort area of Vermont and find a nice little coffee and sandwich stop to sit out the rain. We then head to the small town of Chester to stay with my trail buddy Agent D, who I have not seen since early March.

As always it is so cool how people you knew for a few weeks welcome strangers into their home. We get showers and laundry done and then Agent feeds us a rack of ribs for dinner. His wife Heather is very friendly and hospitable and daughter Sally is very cute and fun. They have a kitten named Cody and Passover is instantly adoring the little fellow.

Passover and Cody Kitty


 

Agent D is making a home made Kevlar canoe and shows us his progress in a small workshop in the back. It is funny that the canoe plans call for an 18 foot design but he has scaled it down to 16 feet so it will fit in his shop. We visit for the evening then with everyone being pretty tired we call it a night. Tomorrow we will take them back to the trail then make final preparations for our couple of days on the trail.

Canoe in the early stages of the mold


 

June 18 – Day 116
Agent offers to drop Jason and I off at the trail head and pick us back up in a code of days so we can hike part of the trail. In this area the AT and the Vermont Long Trail are the same so we will be hiking both of them for the about 20 miles of trail we have planned.

After dropping Witch Doctor and Passover off at the trail head we say our goodbyes, again this is probably the last time to see them on the trail, and we head back to Agent’s house for final preparations to start our hike.

Agent drives us back to the same area that we dropped of Witch Doctor and Passover and we start our hike with a four mile climb and a light rain. We make good time to the shelter and are not really wet at all. Jason seems to be enjoying the hike and leads all the way.

There are three other hikers in the shelter, two students who just graduated from high school and an older guy from New York named Uncle Walt. They have been at the shelter for awhile, probably took a zero to dry off, and saw Witch Doctor and Passover as they briefly stopped by. I always discover that Zippy and Diddo stopped for lunch, I have not seen them since Back Step and I stayed with them at the Blackburn Hostel in Virginia.

We unpack our gear and relax a little, Jason is reading and falls asleep in his bag. I am reading myself, just killing a little time before cooking dinner for the night. I wait another hour then wake Jason for dinner. I teach him how to use the stove and we boil water for our Mountain House freeze dried dinners. After dinner I show Jason how to store and hang our food and explain why we take such steps. I think that he is developing an interest in backpacking, or at least hiking, and want to teach him whatever I can. E hang our food bag and then crawl into our sleeping bags as the sun, which has finally peaked out through the trees, begins to set.

June 19 – Day 117
When the sun starts to spill into the shelter no one is really moving and Jason and I have no reason to get an early start. We are hiking 9.5 miles today and we have plenty of time to get there. It is turning out to be a beautiful sunny day and we sleep in to about 9:00 and then start to break camp. We have pop tarts for breakfast and I show Jason how to filter his water. We break camp and start on the trail after saying good bye to our southbound friends.

Jason gets his first good view in the Vermont mountains


 

Jason takes the lead and hikes at a pretty decent clip, we have a lot of climbing to do today and he gets a little ahead of me then waits for me to catch up. He repeats this all morning and it inspires me to give him a trail name. I think this is pretty much what an army scout would do in days gone by so I decide on the trail name of “Scout” for Jason.
We continue our hike and Vermont is showing us some beautiful landscape and a challenging trail. We cross a really cool suspension foot bridge over a roaring stream cutting through sharp gorges that would be any extreme kayaker”s dream. After crossing VT 103 we start a really tough climb called the rock scramble which is pretty much straight up! Jason, who previously thought switchbacks added too much extra distance to the trail now has a fonder appreciation of them! I tell him that this is some of the roughest climbing I have seen on the AT and to confirm that he is doing really well for his first time out.

View after the suspension bridge


 

After completing the climb we come to a really nicely maintain shelter with a green lawn and some flower planters. As Jason goes down to the stream to get some water up walks a trail volunteer, who maintains the trail in this area. His name is Plans Too Much and is actually the first trail volunteer I have met. He is up with his German Shepherd, Cinco de Mayo or Cinco for short, and has an axe to clear some trail. We talk for a little bit about the trail in general, his 2003 thru hike and my work as a trail angel.

We see Plans Too Much further up the trail chopping up a good size tree blocking the trail, hats off to the volunteers that make our hiking possible and more enjoyable!

Plans Too Much, Cinco and Scout


 

We cross over Beacon Peak and continue our hike we are about 7 miles in and feeling it, we get down to Cold River road and we are met with a detour sign of 2.4 miles along the road. We make a decision to hitch to the little groceries store down the road and make a decision from there. Our concern is meeting our deadline tomorrow to met Agent D at the Inn at Long Trail.

We decide to alter our plans and head to the Inn today, we have had a good day and a half of hiking and look forward to the rest the Inn has to offer! We get a ride from a store employee to the Inn and grab a shower and eat our sandwiches we bought from the store.

We spend the remainder of the afternoon and evening in the common areas of the Inn which includes a small game room. We grab some dinner in the little Irish Pub and play some darts, I teach Jason how to play cricket and we play several games.

We head back to our room and call it a night.

Scout playing Cricket a popular dart game


 

Scout plays some pinball


 

June 20 – Day 118
Agent D is picking us up this afternoon, so we are in no hurry. We head down and have breakfast and pass the morning away in the game room and playing darts. After lunch we move outside to enjoy the sun and wait on our ride. Agent picks us up and we head back to his house, stopping at a few hardware stores to pick up some supplies for his canoe that he is building.

Basically the canoe is at the stage of building the mold, which when completed, the Kevlar and carbon fiber layers will be layered onto the mold to create the main body of the canoe. We spend the remainder of the afternoon and into the night helping with the mold. We are applying sheetrock mud to solidify the form and then sanding and smoothing this layer. We are also trying to speed up the drying process so we can move on to the next step. Jason is using a blow dryer and I pass my stove flame over damp areas…Agent is out melting the paraffin wax one of the final steps to finish the mold.

Working on the canoe


 

We roll the wax on with a standard paint roller and it goes on thick and rough, we use the blow dryer and a clothe iron to melt it and make it smooth. We work into the night then call it a day and get cleaned up. It was fun helping Agent with his home made canoe and was interesting to learn about. In the back of my mind I consider that I may try this for a fishing kayak, maybe with my own design.

Agent is wanting to maybe make canoes for a living, like me he is a jack of all trades, actually having a law degree but no interest in practicing law. I think that he craves a simpler life and already lives on 5 acres in a beautiful part of Vermont. I really like Vermont, the mountains are big and the hiking is challenging. If I wanted to live close to the trail this would definitely be one of the best options, not to mention that there are several ski resorts in the area…so trail by summer and snowboard by winter…now if I could just figure out the that whole independent wealth thing I would be set!

We head to bed, we head out in the morning to meet Moose and Wide Load for lunch back at the Inn at Long Trail.

June 21 – 119
We say our good byes and let Agent get back to work on his canoe, he has a deadline and it is approaching quickly! Jason has recommended that we cook some hot dogs for lunch so we need to stop in town for supplies.

We get a text from Moose that they are four miles from our meeting spot, which is about an hour and a half hike. We get everything set up and start cooking bratwurst , sausages and hot dogs with some grilled veggies.

Moose and Wide Load hike in and it is good to see them! We have not seen each other in about three weeks and this could be the last time on the trail. They have decided to stay at the Inn at Long Trail so we will stay with them. As we are visiting, Giuseppe comes rolling in along with his brothers who we have been hiking some of the trail with him. This is the first time I have met Giuseppe, and he is out hiking the trail because he can’t find a job, which is as good a reason as any.

Johnny Blaze, Giuseppe’s brothers, Scout, Giuseppe, Moose and Wide Load


 

We head to the Inn, get checked in a grab showers. We pretty much just hang around visiting until dinner with a quick stop to re-supply in Rutland. Jason had seen an Applebee’s the other day so that is our dinner designation…I think he wants something familiar.

After we get back to the Inn we go down to the game room, Moose, Jason and I play a little Texas Hold Em while we wait on Wide Load to come down. We head into the pub to listen to a little live music, we were hoping to play more darts but the stage is basically the dart area so we are content with the music.

We head back up to the rooms to get some sleep for the night, no early rising tomorrow as no one is in a rush. I visit with Moose and Wide Load some more and they are in much better spirits then last time we met. Moose tells me it is better now that they have slowed down a lot. You would think it would be the opposite and you would want to speed up at this point to get done but slowing down has really helped their spirits and they will still be done before August.

They want to take a road trip with me and we discuss the idea of driving to Florida then on to Texas. It sounds like fun, but will change some of my plans a little, no big deal since nothing I am doing right now is set in stone. We would head south down 81 basically the same way I went north and make some stops along the way to visit with some of the friends we have made along the way. We have a month to work out some plans and we will see what happens, I am on the east coast until August 9th so no rush on a decision.

It’s well pass hiker’s midnight so we all hit the sack!

June 22 – Day 120
We meet for a not too early breakfast and then visit for a little bit before they hit the trail. Jason and I have nothing to do today except head back to New Jersey so we are really in no rush. We say good bye to Moose and Wide Load and then head into the little pub for some darts. After a few games we check out and hit the road. We have a four hour drive to NJ. About an hour outside of our destination we start smelling smoke coming off the engine, I pull over and pop the hood for a look. One of the belts that powers the AC compressor (which is non functional) is smoking and appears to be melting! I let things cool down as I try to figure out what is wrong, best I can figure is the clutch on the compressor is locking up causing the belt to just slip over it and heat up. I thought the AC was off since the last setting I left it in was defrost, but apparently that still spins the compressor so after moving it to the off position we continue down the road. We arrive at Coffee Pot’s mom’s place and reunite with Camaro and Chevy, Coffee is on the trail for a couple of days hiking with Chin Strap and a few others.

The three of us go to dinner and then a movie, we end up seeing Purge, and if that is an indication of the future I hope the Rapture comes first!

June 23 – Day 121
No plans for today and I don’t really want to risk going anywhere far in the van until I have had a chance to have it checked out by a mechanic on Monday. So we spend a lazy day…Jason is texting, I’m reading and Camaro is watching episode after episode of Lost. Coffee and her mom get home at about 9:00 we visit before bed, tomorrow I will get up early and head to a mechanic shop.

June 24 – Day 122
I get an early start to get the van checked out. Turns out that the AC compressor clutch is sticking causing the belts to overheat. Unfortunately the belt configuration does not allow just removing the AC compressor belt as the same belt turns the alternator. I’m hoping that down the road I do not have to replace the compressor just to keep things running. I head back to Coffees house and Jason and I decide to start our New York City adventure.

We grab a train and head to NYC, Penn Station is a few blocks from the Empire State Building so we head over there. It cost about $50 to go up so I have Jason head up while I wait in the lobby area, I will be coming back at the end of July and can see it then.

New World Trades Building – The Freedom Tower


 

Afterwards we start walking towards the new trades center building, I believe they are calling it the freedom tower, you can’t get in but it was cool to see. Jason is tired of walking so we get on the subway and head uptown to Manhattan to stay with some friends. We go out with RC and grab some dinner and then call it a night.

June 25 – Day 123
We head to the Museum of Natural History and spend the morning with all the exhibits. We grab some lunch and decide to catch a movie instead of more site seeing. After the movie we head down to Times Square to see the sites and have dinner.

Times Square


 

After hanging out for awhile we head back to RC’s for the night, Jason is done with the city so we make plans to head back to New Jersey.

June 26 – Day 124
We have a bagel breakfast with RC and family then grab to subway to catch the train back to Coffee’s house. We grab some lunch near the station then walked to her dad’s house, where we just chill out for the rest of the day.

June 27 – Day 125
Coffee’s dad buys us some really good breakfast sandwiches served on a kaiser roll, which brought back childhood memories for me. My parents were born and raised in Queens NY and kaiser rolls and bagels was a Sunday morning ritual at our house.

After breakfast we decide to drive to the Jersey shore and boardwalk, the van seems to be running fine so the 70 mile drive should not be an issue. I make an online reservation for a room and we head out. The drive takes us by NYC and we get a good view of the skyline.

We check in to the motel and head to the beach. It is a nice day and we pretty much just chill out on the beach and watch the people and the waves. After enough sun we head back to the motel and grab some dinner on the way at a diner…we have noticed that nobody seems to serve Dr. Pepper on the east coast…sad.

Jersey Shore Beach


 

June 28 – Day 126
I believe that Jason, like any other teen, likes to sleep in so I spend some time in the morning catching up on my blog and some reading. We head back up to the beach to enjoy the day, then we will head back up to Vermont.

After chowing down on a Subway foot long, we load up and hit the road. We have a 5 hour drive to Burlington VT and have plenty of time to get there. We pass through New Jersey and New York without event but hit a major thunderstorm in Vermont. VANIMAL starts running really rough, missing and stalling. I’m concerned that my faithful steed of 7000 miles of trail support has reached the limits of its endurance.

We limp into Burlington and get a room for the night, it looks like rain for the next few days so we have decided to just hole up in a motel until Jason’s flight on Sunday morning. I suspect that some water got up into some electrical parts and hoping things just dry out on the van before I have to head south.

June 29 – Day 127
Today is a lazy day of watching tv and eating pizza. Jason’s trip has come to an end and we have to leave for the airport at 4:30 in the morning. I am hoping that he had some fun while out here but sometimes it is hard to tell. I just do what I can do and leave the rest to God.

VANIMAL in the rain


 

June 30 – Day 128
Up super early and headed to the airport. The VANIMAL seems to be running fine but I am going to stick around one more day to make sure.

We get Jason checked in and through security, the airport is amazingly busy for so early in the morning and we have a few minutes to hang out at the gate.

Jason’s plane at sunrise


 

After saying our good byes he boards and I head out. I have the room until noon and plan on getting a nap in before checking out!

I hang around Burlington for the rest of the afternoon, seeing a movie and grabbing some Chipotle for dinner. I found a place to park and crash for the night, feeling pretty tired since I did not have much sleep the night before.

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