It’s pretty surreal. I’m in Vermont, lying in my tent during a rainstorm. I can hear the muffled voices of Gandalf, Boobytrap, and Tumbleweed nearby. I think Ladybug is asleep, and Sasquat is camped out of earshot. That I’ve made it this far, and that I’ve spent the past twenty-four hours with this particular group of people again amazes me. I’ve known them all for well over a thousand miles. Miles are the best way to quantify the duration. Days. Weeks. Months. They feel much longer out here.

Three people I’ve hiked over eight hundred miles with went home last week. All of them have helped me get through tough days. All of them are part of the reason that I’m still out here.

Many days ago in one of the shelter logs, I drew a tea cup with “Kava” on the paper tea tag. Next to it I left a note telling Firebird that I missed her. I had been sipping some that night, and thought about the many other things she had introduced me to. I knew she had taken some time off trail, that she was a few days behind, and would probably stop here in the near future.

Sadly, she was one of the three who left last week. I wish she could be here tonight, with this group, in this place.

The shelter nearby is full of Southbounders, a problem we’ve never faced before. We started hitting the legit Maine-starter Sobo’s in New York. Before then I ran into many who identified as such. Upon further investigation however, I learned that they had actually started in New York or New Jersey. The shelter crowd tonight is so energetic and enthusiastic; Pennsylvania hasn’t taken the wind from their sails just yet.

They’re a kind bunch though, having made room for us to rest and escape the cold deluge for a few moments. We used that time to regroup, and wait for a break in the weather to pitch our tents. That break never came. Adept after four months of practice, my Protrail went up in about forty-five seconds. It rarely goes that well, but the ground tonight was a Goldilocks mixture of soil; hard enough to hold the stakes, but soft enough to drive them in hand.

All said and done, maybe three tablespoons worth of rain made it in. Not bad at all. I closed myself in the vestibule and stripped. I was thankful to have the cold clothes off of my skin. I was equally thankful that it was still relatively warm today.

In an effort to shave weight, I left my rain gear with family in VA. At the time, lows were in the 70’s, highs were in the 90’s, and hypothermia wasn’t a factor. Tonight however, I would have been in bad shape if it were just ten degrees cooler. At the moment I have a fleece sweater and a 55-degree bag for warmth. I did have the foresight to pick up some cheap synthetic long-johns, but with altitude increasing and fall looming, I need to get my real winter gear back.

Sasquat has been having stomach issues for days, and Gandalf started running a fever this afternoon. On the way out of Williamstown yesterday, I vomited a few times out of nowhere, but felt fine later. There must be something going around. We kept walking.

We cleared thirteen miles today. We’ve been keeping our minds occupied by playing a hiker version of Dungeons and Dragons, with Ladybug as DM. Instead of rolling actual dice, we call out a number, and our success depends on a number the DM has in mind. Ladybug is a wonderful, boisterous, and creative DM.

Dirty Girl: “I cast volley!”
Ladybug: “Roll a D20!”
Dirty Girl: “7!”
Ladybug: “All arrows miss, and you, Gandalf, and Boobytrap are now being charged by fifteen very angry, very slimy, very well armed Goblins!”
Boobytrap: “I cast fog!”
Ladybug: “Roll!”

I’m fairly certain all passing Sobo’s, and perhaps even Tumbleweed think we’re out of our minds. To be honest, we probably are by now. But hey, it helps the miles pass!

Tomorrow looks like more rain, but hopefully everyone will be feeling better. Vermont is known as “Vermud” among thru-hikers, and it starts at the state line. I just got a text from my Aunt, and my all important rain jacket will be on its way to Killington soon. I’m under 600 to Katahdin now.


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