We had been camped out in the McDonald’s for nearly three hours now. We were busy charging our phones, ordering gear online, and fielding the disgusted looks of patrons who wandered too close to us and caught a whiff.
Lazy as it was, we were actually quite productive that morning. Stumbleweed had contacted Big Agnes and had a new tent pole on the way. I called Altra and inquired about the sizing of their Lone Peaks 2’s compared the Superior 2’s I was replacing. In the end I went ahead and replaced what I had.
Ladybug worked out the logistics of having his winter gear sent in, and I too had some phone calls to make in that regard. AWOL had misprinted the address of the outfitter in Hanover, NH I was trying to mail to, and UPS had placed my shipment on hold.
A half-dozen McChickens down, and feeling lethargic, I heard Sasquat mention that he needed to take a trip to the outfitter in town. Eager to take a walk, I offered to join him. My pack was actually at the outfitter’s, as they had offered to keep it there for me while I made my town errands that morning. While the ladies working the morning shift at Eastern Mountain Sports were accommodating and offered great service, the men on the afternoon shift had much to learn about customer service.
Sasquat purchased some Darn Tough socks, which are the beloved standard foot-underwear of AT hikers everywhere. Made in Vermont from a blend of synthetics and merino wool, you will not find a better hiking sock. Their warranty is iron-clad, offering lifetime replacement in the event of wear, which justifies the sixteen to eighteen dollar price per pair. Both pairs I took on this trip are hole-free after 900 miles each, and I’ve owned them long before the AT.
Hikers like to talk, but we found the conversation here to be curt and impatient. Essentially shooed out of the store, I grabbed my pack from the front and left. As we made our way back to the golden arches, we stopped to chat with two Long Trail hikers. They warned us that previous Nobo’s had pissed off every hotel owner in town. Supposedly all of them refused to accept hikers. I was refused at two hotels down in Virginia for the same reason.
Safely back at our wifi enabled base of operations, we found the Long Trail hikers to be correct. Every hotel in the guidebook was either “full” or coming in at $50+ over the listed hiker rates in the book. One property remained, and it seemed the least likely of all to be hiker-friendly. An indoor and outdoor pool, golf course, etc. The guide book did not list pricing, but instructed us to call instead. Sasquat made the call.
“Fifty-five a per person? Okay… We each get a queen bed? Oh cool, the house is on the green. So, we’re getting a house to ourselves then? Right on! Well thank you!”
We could not believe our ears. To the Palmer House we walked. Of the group, Ladybug, Sasquat, Gandalf and I decided to take up lodging. The property had long since seen its full glory, but it was still very nice. The ladies at the front desk mused at the opportunity to see the faces on our IDs versus how we looked now. The surprise on their faces put a smile on ours, a badge of honor for our long miles and months.
Sure enough, they gave us a house to ourselves. Two double rooms with a shared wrap-around porch. It was the best lodging value I had had on trail. Gandalf and Ladybug took one room, and Sasquat and I took the other. I opened a closet and was delighted to find an iron. I produced the North Face button-down I purchased in Waynesboro, VA, and set to work. Just because I am hiker-trash, does not mean I need to look like hiker-trash all of the time.
Sasquat emerged from the shower, saw my task and raised an eyebrow. A thru-hiker ironing a shirt? I can understand his surprise. While I hate this activity in normal life, the two or three times I got to iron this shirt on trail left me with a sense of pride, and frankly, control of my situation.
Soon enough we found the loaner clubs, and were on the green hitting balls. I’ve never played golf before, but Gandalf was a patient teacher. He’s also a fellow iaidoka.
“Why aren’t your wrists breaking? Oh I see. Dirty Girl, stop holding it like a katana…”
We had a lot of fun. Ladybug made a beer run, and we made our way around the course with a large brown paper bag full of Budweiser. After nine-holes we were pretty buzzed and feeling quite satisfied with the place. We went out for food and called it a night.
One of the best things about the AT, is that you never know how a day might end!