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. To recap from my last adventure, I was meeting friends for an annual week backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. The trip would be led by my hiking friend, Rocks. I had opted to hike 20 miles extra miles over 3 days before meeting the group on the first day, a Saturday late in June. That early adventure was over and done, and I was ready to hike with my friends. This trip took place June 22-28, 2019.
Day 1, Saturday, 3.9 miles
The plan was to meet the group in Manchester Center, Vermont, shuttle cars and drive to our starting point at VT 12, where I finished my pre-group solo hike the day before. My legs were feeling pretty good, with a few aches and pains but nothing major.
Day 2, Saturday, 9.9 miles
I was up and out of camp by 7 AM. Rocks beat me out by 30 minutes or more. That happened every day. No matter how fast I moved in the morning, he was always out long before I was able to leave camp.
An hour or so later, I took a blue trail to the Lookout Tower, but it was literally a ladder nailed to the side of a house, with a small widow’s peak at the top. I opted to stay on firm ground and turned around heading back to the trail. Peppermint and Billie Goat later reported that they went up the ladder, and the views were great. At mid-day, we saw 2 elderly trail maintainers searching for fallen trees to cut up. They were driven to the trail by an even older trail angel who was waiting at the parking lot for the maintainers to do their work. Peppermint, Billie Goat and I took a break there, eating lunch and chatted with the trail angel. Smiles soon arrived, and sat down for a long break, to follow us later or so we thought. At one point, there was literally a ladder on the trail, nailed to a huge rock, and we needed to walk up it, and over the rock. It actually turned out to be easier than it looked, and soon we were looking down from the top.
That night, Smiles did not show up at Stony Brook Shelter, our camp spot for the night. We had no cell bandwidth and discussed our options and the possibility of Smiles being hurt somewhere on the trail. We knew Smiles had an alert system, so he could call for help if needed. Rocks decided to hike out early, try to get bandwidth, and see if Smiles had sent any messages to him. If there were no messages, Rocks would call Smiles’ wife and if needed, 911. Oh the joys of being the leader.
Day 3, Monday, 12 miles
An hour after leaving camp, Rocks had cell phone bandwidth. Smiles had opted out and caught a ride back to his car after lunch on Sunday. The trip had become too difficult for him, and no longer was fun, so he opted out. In later discussions, we agreed with him. This definitely was an endurance contest but the rest of us were enjoying the challenge.
By 4:30 PM, I made it to Churchill Scott Shelter. It was a long, hot day. Lots of rain was expected the next day but we thought it might not rain until late afternoon. Boy, were we wrong.
Day 4, Tuesday, 10 miles
We all woke early, with of course, Rocks being the first one out of camp. I was out by 6 AM and hiked solo as I usually did. By 10 AM, I had hiked 4 miles and was at Cooper Lodge Shelter, an old stone building with boarded up windows and old wooden door. To me, it looked like a great place to stay overnight. Others later told me it was like staying in a dungeon, run over with mice.
At some point, closer to the shelter, I heard the Peppermint fell and hurt her ribs. I kept going, knowing she was with Billie Goat and from what I heard, at Cooper Lodge with others who could assist if needed. I was in no shape to hike back to the Lodge to help her. I needed to get dry and take a break.
By mid-afternoon, I made it to the shelter, and met up with Rocks. There we discussed, over and over again, the Peppermint getting hurt scenarios. In none of those scenarios did we think she would ever continue hiking in the rain, so we were very surprised when suddenly, Peppermint and Billie Goat were there, under the shelter’s eaves, trying to avoid the rain. Eventually the rain stopped. We each debated where to sleep that night. After Billie Goat saw a mouse in the shelter, Peppermint and I opted to set up our tents nearby, and hope for the best. There was one more brief storm, but fortunately for Peppermint and me, our tents were dry.
Day 5, Wednesday, 15 miles
Most of us started out by 7 AM. Peppermint was feeling some pain but well enough to continue hiking. We offered to carry some of her pack weight, but she declined. Our first stop was to cross the nearby creek that was overflowing from the prior day’s rains. The water was up to my knees and a bit scary, but Peppermint, Billie Goat and I made it through OK. I changed to dry socks afterwards, which turned out to be useless. There was so much water on the trail, and so many springs and creeks overflowing along the trail, that my dry socks quickly become wet socks.
Rocks had planned to meet his brother at Route 103 for a break and snack, then return to the trail. When I arrived, the decision had been made that those who wanted would skip over the next 6 miles, and instead go to lunch, returning to hike the last 1.5 miles to the shelter. I opted to continue hiking, and not join the others, as I did not want to leave a hole in my trail miles.
Minutes after they left, I hiked over a tall suspension bridge. Then I needed to rock climb over some very smooth, damp and steep glacier rocks, when oops, I fell on my right arm, hard. My first thought was Rocks will be so mad if I get hurt minutes after leaving them! Fortunately only my ego was bruised. My arm was fine.
Some of the miles they skipped were beautiful and easy, some were not. They were resuming the hike back at VT 140, 1.5 miles to camp. Those last miles were a steep incline up 500 feet, and then a grueling 0.3 hike to the shelter. Rocks sent me multiple text messages about the water at camp, so I pushed to make miles, hoping to get to camp before dark, and ran low on water. When I arrived, I had no water left and was so tired. Fortunately, the group helped me out. Rocks gave me water to drink and Billie Goat filled my water bottles. They also saved me a large spot to set up my tent. I called it my tent suite. It had its own broken picnic table, trees to hang a clothesline and lots of private space. The group has also talked to Mountain Calf, a thru hiker at the shelter area with the same type of tent as mine, about giving me some pointers. So while I set up my tent, Mountain Calf showed me how to perfect the pitch. His help was invaluable, and will keep me dry in the future when it rains. At this point, another South Jersey hiker, Coach, joined our group.
Day 6, Thursday, 10 miles
I left camp at 7 AM with Peppermint and Billie Goat. Rocks and Coach had left earlier. I hiked most of the day solo, stopping at Little Rock Pond to admire its beauty, finding a small bench for a short break. Then at some point, I needed to cross a creek, by either climbing down and up its bank, or using a perilous looking 2 log bridge. It was very scary but I used the log bridge, and lived to talk about it. Later in the day, I passed by 2 rock gardens with cairns. The creations were amazing. I added a small 3 rock cairn.
Day 7, Friday, 15 miles
The plan was to hike to Bromley Shelter for a 13 mile day, then stay overnight, hiking out Saturday to VT 11, another 2 miles. At the top of Bromley Mountain, I caught up with the others. We took group photos and discussed the plans. Hiker hunger and a strong urge for a shower were calling my name, so I discussed with Rocks my alternative plans. I would hike out the remaining miles to my car, stay at Green Mountain Shelter, get cleaned up, stuff myself with food, and meet them the next morning at 8 AM, back at the road, to help with the shuttle. By mile 14 for the day, I was beat and had to keep cheering myself up, with the lure of the shower and food. By 5 PM, I made it back to my car, and was soon at the hostel, getting clean and eating real food. An hour later I was clean and at the grocery store, again buying my favorite ice cream and other snacks, then back at the hostel, indulging myself and sharing my ice cream with other hikers.