About the Author: Ann Wolf, known on the trail as Greeter Two for her friendly greetings and suggestions, is a semi-retired, very busy and active senior. Greeter Two is a breast cancer survivor, class of 2016, who refuses to settle down, opting instead to pursue her love of hiking, running and backpacking with dreams set to complete more of the Appalachian Trail, stopping when it no longer is fun or feasible. Follow Ann on Instagram @annwolf123.
To see more posts from Ann, including Part 2 of this adventure, click her name above!
Greeter Two here. In late June, I joined a group from South Jersey on our annual backpack trip on the Appalachian Trail. The leader, Rocks, picks a different section each year, and invites our group to join him, as our time permits. This year’s trip was in central Vermont. I decided to add 20+ miles before the official trip began, and opted to start in Hanover, New Hampshire, and backpack south, solo, to the starting point of the official trip, Woodstock, Vermont. My plans were to backpack this over 3 days, and then meet the others for the official trip on day 4.
Day 1, WednesdayUgh. My phone alarm went off at 4 AM, waking from my comfortable bed at home, to get up and drive to Vermont. By 5 AM, I was on the NJ turnpike heading north. Eight long hours later, I was in Woodstock, Vermont, meeting my shuttle driver. Although he came highly recommended, you never know if they will be a bit crazed for attention or a wild driver, or worse, some combination of the two. So happy to report the driver, Steve Lake, is one of the better shuttle drivers around, very friendly and helpful, and definitely a safe driver. By 1:30 PM, I was on the trail in Dartmouth, New Hampshire, hiking southbound on city roads, passing by stores and lots of college students. Despite the ease of the trail, I missed turns twice, each time having to turn around and hike back. It was hot, and lots of miles were ahead of me. I was beginning to wonder whether my pre-group hiking plans were realistic. Then I was cheered up on Elmwood Road in Norwich when I passed 3 homes that each left out a cooler of trail magic, stopping at one for some candy, all while hiking up a long hill. Hours later, I made it to Happy Hill Shelter, that night’s goal, having hiked 6.6 miles. Mosquitos were out in full force, so I quickly put up my tent, ate and hung out in my tent until falling asleep hours later. My tent was new to me, and as I fell asleep, I remember saying a small prayer that it stayed up all night.
Day 2, ThursdayWow. Wednesday night was a perfect night. I was in bed by 8 PM, woke once or twice for bathroom breaks, and slept in until 5:30 AM. The temperature was in the 60s and perfect for sleeping. I have never slept so well on the first night on the trail before. I felt great and ready to hike miles.
Miles later, while walking through a field with tall grass, I saw a porcupine on the trail, seemingly enjoying the sun. Without thinking, I made noise with my hiking poles and it ran off into the grass, so I missed my photo opportunity. Oh well.
Later, walking through very high tall grass, I felt like I was swimming against the tide. Apparently, the grass was pushed northbound by all of the NOBO hikers, making it difficult to go SOBO. After a while, I looked like someone had thrown a bag of grass seed on me. No worries, it started to rain, and washed the seed away. By 2 PM, I reached Thistle Shelter, that day’s goal. If the weather were better, I might have moved on, but opted to stay, and slept in the shelter that night. An inch of rain was predicted for that afternoon and another 1 to 2 inches that night.
Day 3, Friday
The shelter was full Thursday night, with 7 of us, and noisy. No, not from snorers, but from the rain hitting the metal roof. My ear plugs were no match for the noise, but at least I was dry and getting ready for the day was fast and easy. At 5 AM, one of the solo thru hikers was up and out, so quiet I barely heard her get ready and leave. By 6:15 AM, I was up and out on the trail. I was tired from lack of sleep but my legs were feeling good and my spirit was uplifted by being with so many thru hikers. I was still somewhat concerned that adding 21 miles before the group hike might not have been a good idea. Time would tell.
It drizzled most of the morning, and then was cloudy all afternoon. At some point, my husband sent a text, asking if I was having fun. I remember thinking and replying that not every second is fun. I yearned to see the sun but was feeling good that I was making good time, and injury-free. By 2 PM, I had hiked 8 miles, so I opted to stop for a break at the Back Porch. This is a store run by a local family behind their house, with a great reputation for sweets, good prices, and providing a place to get out of the sun or rain. Having Celiac Disease, I passed up the yummy looking brownies, and opted for cheese and hard boiled eggs, and sat down for a few minutes, giving my legs and back a well deserved break. A half an hour later, I was back on the trail, crossing a creek using a very sturdy cable, and later, chatting briefly with a semi-clad young man hiking NOBO. Hours later, I remembered it was Hike Naked Day. Too bad the weather was too cold for most to want to give it a try.
By 4 PM, I was at VT 12, Woodstock, Vermont, reaching my goal for my pre-group trip. Success so far! My solo, pre-group trip plans were complete. 20+ miles done. 80 to go.
That night I stayed at the Green Mountain Hostel in Manchester Center, near the next day’s group trip meeting point. At the hostel, I met several friendly Long Trail and AT thru hikers. Despite being very tired, I loved hearing their stories and being encouraged to keep going with my section hiking goals.
Unfortunately, one new hiker, attempting the Long Trail (which follows the AT for many miles through Vermont) struggled with a heavy pack, literally not being able to hike any further on the trail, and was aided for miles by 3 thru hikers to help her reach Manchester Center and also stay at the hostel. At one point, they even swapped packs with her, and carried her heavier pack.
Hiker hunger was hitting so I made a quick trip to the local grocery store, for dinner and ice cream. After eating a quick dinner and lots of ice cream, I slept well, sharing a room with 2 others.
Early the next morning, another thru hiker, Mojo, and I helped the Long Trail hiker by doing a shake down of her pack. I started the process, having her put stuff into piles by their uses, and then making suggestions. Mojo was more direct, insisting there was no reason to carry 2 books and 2 fuel canisters. The result was successful – 7 pounds trimmed from her pack. I later heard the Long Trail hiker was taking a break and would continue on again in a week.
By 11 AM, I was up and out of the hostel, and on my way to meeting my friends for the official start of the Vermont trip. Stay tuned for an update about the next 80 miles!