Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Birdcage

     Two shelters before Dalton, MA there's a sign that says to call the BirdCage for a place to stay. 
      At the UpperGoose Pond Cabin, Bob the Elder told us to find Rob Bird and stay with him. When asking how to find him he told us, "He'll find you." 
     A few days ago when leaving Salisbury, Mountain Mike told us to go to the Shell station in town and ask about the Birdcage.  Obviously, that's where we wanted to go.  
     Upon arriving in Dalton, we first walked past Tom Levardi's house.  He's the other guy in town that helps out thru hikers.  His place was clearly marked AND in the Thru-Hikers guide book.  He had hiking poles lining his front walk, a wooden post marking the water faucet, a white blaze on the tree on his front lawn and a sign on the door that says to take off your hiking boots.  However, the birdcage had been talked up so that's where we were going.  We walked past-we needed to do laundry anyway.

As we were walking toward the laundromat an unmarked white van pulls up and an older man leans over to us, points at us with his cigarette and tells us to get in.   As we were told, Mr Bird found us.  He had already found our friends Kyle, Drew and TicTac and we climbed into the backseat with them.   He took us to his house-no as clearly labeled as Mr. Lavardi's.  In fact the only thing that let you know we were at Rob Bird's was the Birdcage next to the front stairs.  As soon as we got in, he gave us clothes to wear (he even had an assortment of ladies clothes) and promptly put our laundry in the machine.  In fact, he did our laundry for us-folded it and everything. 

 When the boys we were with told him they were thinking about heading out after laundry, he told them he'd "slack pack" them.  He'd drive them out 10 miles, they could walk back without packs and then spend the night at the Birdcage.   He told us we could do the same thing tomorrow up and over Greylock (for $20, as it's a long ride).  When we told him that we were in Dalton because we needed to get to the mall and when we asked him about the Bus system he laughed at us tell us the "he was our taxi cab."  He dropped us at the mall when he drove the boys out and then patiently waited for us while we finished up our shopping.  He even drove us over to target so we could pop in and pick up a few more things.

When the boys got home that night, he drove us all over to "Old Country Buffet" and we gorged ourselves.  Then when we got home he pulled out the Guitar, we pulled out our RiseUpSinging and we had a sing along for 3 hours.  Jamie and I were so happy!

The next morning, before we left,  he made us coffee!  His place should be called the Bird Sanctuary-not the birdcage!  OH! Did I mention he had shampoo, conditioner,  towels, q-tips, razors and buzzers all for us to use?  And he had soda in the fridge available anytime we wanted it?   House rules you ask?  That we take a shower and have clean clothes before sitting on the sofa (kitchen chairs are fine) and that you take off your boots.

When I tell people about this man, they are shocked.  He does this for FREE?  Yes.  He doesn't ask for ANYTHING?  Yes.   The questions keep coming!
Why does he do it? How does it benefit them? How does helping others, help him?   Why be kind?
I'll let you think on that yourself.

Rob Bird and the Birdcage

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Appalachian Trail

AT symbolOur First Day heading out the ATRambo.  He stayed with us at the Tea Horse Hostel and then was our guide for the first day on the trail.The TeahorseThe Tea Horse Hostel in Harpers' FerryArriving in Harpers' Ferry
Packging our VitaminsPutting Permethrin on our clothesA second viewCaeser Road Campsite 6.16BreakfastBellvale Creamery with Jamie, Rayo, and Flatlander
A rattlesnakeWildcat Shelter 6.8West Mountain shelter 6.10West Mountain Campsite 6.10VealUpper Goose Pond Cabin
Trailside ZooTom Leonard ShelterThe Mass PikeThe Cookie Lady's HouseTelephone Pioneers ShelterSchaticoke Campsite 6.14

Appalachian Trail, a set on Flickr.

All the pictures thus far! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

AT Day 69 Bob and Kathy's to the Shults/Maislen Houshold

Miles 10
Total: 725
Sights: Hanover, NH

We are in trail magic central. This whole area shines with the love for hikers.   On the road walk into town we passed two houses that had set coolers out for hikers.  One had chocolate chip, banana walnut bread and watermelon. The other had ginger snap cookies and a fancy lemon soda drink.  Then you get into town and they have a guide for hikers to find their way around, all the resources in town along with a list of at least 12 people who are willing to let hikers stay with them.  And, as if that wasn't enough, you can get a free slice of pizza at Ramuto's, a free bagel with cream cheese at the Bagel Basement, a free snickers at the Mountain Goat Outfitters and although it's not advertised-our friend got a free coffee at a coffee shop in town.  But wait-there's more!  The community center has laundry and showers for 5 dollars and they give you detergent, soap, shampoo and a towel!  And then they let you sit in the AC relaxing. That's were we spent all day of the 92 degree weather yesterday.

We finished up our relaxing day at the EBA's Pizza Buffet and then went to meet our hosts for the night. The picked us up down town and drove us out.  Our hosts are dedicated section hikers and their son (not there at the time) was a thru hiker.

Bill and Betsy ended up with 8 of us at their house last night.  They set up their basement and gave us mattresses and pillows. Heaven! Tomorrow, they'll drive us back into town.  Great people and a wonderful night. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

AT Day 68 Bartlett Brook to Bob and Kathy's-Sign Makers

Miles ~10
Total 715

We arrived in West Hartford with 2 plans. 
1. get a package at the post office
2. head out and hike 2 more miles.
Neither thing happened.

1. As we were walking to the post office, a guy in a truck pulled up to make sure we weren't lost as the trail goes in the opposite direction.  When we told him we were headed to the post office he smiled and said "Good! just wanted to make sure" then he drove off-only about 5 feet.  Then he leans out the window and says, "Wait! We have no post office.  It got washed out in the flood-you can see the steps are still there.  Check at the village store."   So we turned around and headed back the way we came to the Village Store.  They gave us the number to the post office in Harford-7 miles down the road.  We called them and had our package forwarded to Hanover.   Mission Accomplished.  Kind of.

2.  While at the store we ran into Old Goose and Dreamtime. They mentioned a house where we could sleep in the backyard-just 3 houses down.  I really wanted to say and Jamie really wanted to go on.  We played rock, paper scissors.  We stayed.

 So tonight we're camped out in Bob and Kathy's backyard.  We took a little dip in the wading pool they sculted out of the stream and we walked back to the village store and played our first game of horse shoes.  Tomorrow we'll hike the 10 miles into Hanover.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

AT Day 67 Stony Brook Shelter to Bartlett Brook trailside

Miles ~17
Total 715

Sights: On the edge Farm Stand

Today felt like a lot of walking. There was nothing spectacular to see and, in fact, if there was I probably would have walked right past it. For most of the day my head was down, i was huffing and puffing and forever marching upwards.

As we got into our last 4 miles 2 hikers huffed and puffed passed us and told us to visit the farmstand 190 steps from the trail. Knowing we had yet another killer climb ahead we popped in for Ice Cream and mountain dew. For good measure we also bought a stick of pepperoni and a block of cheese.  A well rounded and delicious end to our day.

We hiked on 3 more miles during with it rained and we got soaked before finally just pulling off the trail and setting up camp. Hopefully the sun will be out tomorrow.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 66 Killington Peak to Story Brook Shelter

Miles ~14 or ~16 (depending on the book)
total 688 (if we go by 16)
Sights: Killington Sunrise and Standing Bear

The two guide books we are using have some discrepancies between the mileage and it really stresses me out.  Yesterday as we were preparing to hike Killington we checked the book and discovered that one said 4.3 and the other 6.8.   That's a real big difference when your walking up a mountain. Also, for us, it about an 1.5 hour difference too.  Anyway, I know you're dying to know- killington seemed to be only 4.3. It only took us 2 hours. 
So, that was yesterday.  Now today one book said 14 and the other 16. Thank god we didn't check the two in the morning.  As a control freak, it would have ruined my day to not know how many  miles i was going to hike.  This discrepancy thing really annoys me as i compulsively check the book for mileage, now I can't even trust it.

In other news, I met Standing Bear!  Why is this big news?  Well, when I first sprained my ankle, i was told about this character who hiked with two aircasts- one on each ankle.  Today we met him!  As soon as he said his name Jamie and I both immediately looked at his feet and yes, he was wearing the aircasts.  It was like meeting a celebrity.

Note* the Killington Sunrise was equally beautiful. 

Also, for all the hikers reading this, if you get up killington when the ski lift is running, the hikers get a free ride!  (we however, were not in the right timeframe)

Friday, July 13, 2012

AT Day 65 Bully Brook to Killington

Miles ~18
Total 672
Sights: Killington Sunset

I'm writing this from the top of Killington as the sun is sinking below distant mountains.   The sky is a gorgeous peachy pink and the two clouds on either side of the sun look a bit like cranes.  We are really appreciating this beautiful end to the day because the hike today was pretty hard.  We hiked down into and then out of a fairly steep gorge and ended the day with the climb up Killington. (it was killer)

However, there was a lovely shelter on the way that was decorated with Potted plants and was quite beautiful.  It also had a brook with some deeper pools so we could splash our faces. Thank god for that too because today was HOT.  Both of us were completely wet with sweat.  It was a bit disgusting.  It felt great to clean up at the end of the day.

Tomorrow, if we can swing it, we'll try to catch the sunrise from Killington as well.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 64 Peru Peak Shelter to Bully Brook

Miles ~15
Total ~654
Sights:  Baxter Peak, Big Branch Brook, White Rocks

Jamie: It's always harder to get up after consuming liquid calories so we didn't really get ou tof camp until 10 (we also had grits for breakfast which, while delicious take a bit of time to make/clean up).
We had a fairly steep climb up Baxter Peak which offered great views. WE say Whitless, her mom and Jester up there but the mom must have gotten hurt because her father was waiting some miles on.  Around 1pm Shannon was feeling hungry and the Big Branch Brook was just too inviting. We had a great lunch there (we got a red onion in Manchester so all of our meals are more delicious).

For lunch we usually have tuna, deviled ham or salmon and crackers.  Early on, we realized that it is not easy to apply one to the other so no we make "casseroles" by crumbling the crackers into a bag and adding the meat/fish along with whatever condiments we can get our hungry, flavor deprived hands on. 

Knowing that we wouldn't be hitting our 19 miles target today, we just enjoyed hanging by the river for awhile-we even washed socks and underwear while we were there.   We eventually got up and walked the 8 more miles to our shelter for the night only to learn that there was no water, so we continued down to this "Bully Brook" (It stole my lunch money!!)  We found a nice sandy spot to set up our tent and had dinner in the river to avoid the bugs.  All in all, another fine day to be out here.
Side note:   We met two hikers from Amherst-nice young boys.  We mentioned that we were there last week and we talked about everyplace we ate and stayed.  We told them how we were house sitting by puffers pond in Amherst and it turns out that we were housesitting in the house that one of them grew up in!  His parents sold it about 5 years ago. crazy small world.  
Side Note 2:  The kid how's former house we were housesitting in is apprenticing how to tune organs.  Interesting.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

AT Day 63 Spruce Peak Shelter to Peru Peak Shelter

Miles ~13
Total: 641
Sights: Manchester VT

Jamie: We woke up at 5:30 (I really had to pee) and managed to leave the shelter by 7:00.  We hurried the 3 miles to the road and tried out our thumbs ofr our first hitch on our own (our friend, Colonel Angus flagged down our 1st hitch in Palmerton).  We got a little nervous when 3 more hikers showed up doing the same thing but about 10 minutes in a hostel owner picked us up as he was dropping off some other hikers.   Turns out two of the other hikers were on their was to his place anyway so we picked them up as well. 
Manchester is a tourist town but they are well set for hikers.  WE got in by 8:30 and, wanting to stay within our budget for once, we hung out at MacDonalds for coffee until the outfitter opened.  At 10 we headed over there, got our food pick up and Shannon got some new inserts (soles).  We hike Mickey D's again for lunch and then picked up dinner for later at Price Chopper.  We got a ride right out of the parking lot with a guy on vacation with his family.  We made the painful (full pack) walk up Bromley mountain (great views) and then over to Peru peak shelter.  We had sausages and beer-excellent trail food!  We also really like the crew at the shelter. Instigator and Expeditor, Whitless and Wandering and her mom, Jester, Wounded Knee and Julia.   Great night.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

AT Day 62 Story Spring Shelter to Spruce Peak Shelter

Miles 18
Sights: Stratton Mountain

And just like that we're back in the thick of it.  Crazy to think that just a few days ago we were sleeping in beds. 

Today was pretty good. We were a little worried about Stratton Mountain becuase people were asking about the "bypass trail" so we thought it was going to be a killer climb.  Turns out it was pretty easy.  More or less. It was pretty consistently UP but there were switchbacks and and it didnt' take hours. When we got to the top we climbed up the lookout tower with coffee so we could enjoy the view.   We have no idea what mountains we were looking at but it was pretty stunning.  Most beautiful cup of coffee yet.   The day got even better after Stratton Mountain because it was either down or flat for the last 9 miles.   We walked past a beautiful swimming spot on Stratton Pond but we were, unfortunately, strapped for time so we bypassed swimming.  It only we had left before 9am (so much for "trail time"). 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Day 61 Rt 9 Camping to Story Spring Shelter

Miles 18

Shannon:  We started the day with a huge climb but we knew it was coming.  We intentionally camped by the river so we wouldn't have to climb it last night.  Our schedule is getting back into trail time. We woke up at 6:30am and were on the road by 7:30.  Today was so much better than yesterday. We both feel much more trail ready after out 10 days off.
We met a man named Duffer today who's trying to think of his next big life steps. We recommended teaching in Korea.   Just trying to spread the love.

The shelter area tonight is crowded with tents and while we could have slept IN the shelter we heard it's supposed to be cold so we opted to tent.  Our sight is a little bit on a slope but I put Jamie on the downside so I think we'll all sleep OK.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Day 60 Seth Sherman Shelter to Rt 9 Camping

Miles ~11

Shannon:  I was really dragging today. We woke up late and had a leisurely morning with Bliss. We headed out around 10:30am.  I napped when we got to the first shelter and then we stopped 1.2 miles before the next because i didn't want to hike up 1100 feet.  Instead we camped near the river which turned out to be lovely. There were two other hikers here AND a cooler full of soda and snacks!  Perfect end to a tiring day.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Day 59 North Adams Rt 2 to Seth Sherman Shelter

Miles ~7

Jamie: Back on the trail! We are back after 10 days in the Amherst/NoHo Area-great time out there and Shannon had a nice amount of time to recover from her most recent sprain.
We stayed with Bliss last night and she came out with us-She'll walk back to Rt 2 tomorrow.  This morning we woke up around 7, got our stuff together, shopped for food and got on the road.  We hit the trail around noon.
It felt good to be back out after so long, but also a little challenging as we didn't exercise much at all when we were off.  There is a good number of folks here at the shelter tonight and it's been really fun having  Bliss for the day-it would be great to have more friends out with us in the future.  Weather worked out and we just have 13 miles tomorrow.