Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In Which Catch is Wet All the Time

8/2: 12.7 miles from Stratton Pond Shelter to Bromley Shelter. At this point we collected The Hunger! If you have been reading this blog from the beginning, you may remember Donnie, who we lost in Erwin, TN because he twisted his ankle. Well, Donnie is The Hunger now! And he caught us! It fits, because he can eat and entire large pizza without breaking a sweat. He says that there's no such thing as losing the ability to eat once you're full; it just loses some of the joy.

8/3: 14.5 miles to a campsite just before Big Branch shelter

8/4: 15.9 miles to VT 103 and hitch into Rutland, VT. We stayed the night at the Yellow Deli Hostel!

8/5: 17.4 miles to US Route 4. We stayed the night with Mad Hatter, and he slack-packed us over the daunting Killington Mountain.



First of all, for concerned readers: Whistle has purchased a hiking poncho. It is featured in several of the below photographs. Apropos, I want to issue a redaction in regard to my previous post: Whistle did not send home her rain jacket, it literally disintegrated because it was over 10 years old. It was leaving thousands of little bits of itself stuck to her skin every time she peeled it off of herself. I had the misfortune to smell the shredded bits of the old black jacket, and the aroma was like the inside of a bag of raw meat left in the summer sun for 4-6 weeks. Furthermore, it wasn't even remotely waterproof anymore. Throwing it out was the right choice.

Second of all: Catch hasn't had rain gear since the last time it snowed 4 months ago. He is what is known as an Ultra-Lite hiker, which means that he carries the absolute bare minimum. His entire backpack with full food and water weighs less than 9 pounds. He has no tent. He sleeps on a blue tarp in an itty-bitty sleeping bag, and usually aims to stay in shelters on nights that it rains. He has only 1 pair of tiny red shorts, and at most 1 shirt at a time, which he replaces when the previous shirt crawls its way desperately off his body in the dead of night and throws itself into the mouth of a bear somewhere. He has no stove. He sustains his incredibly abundant energy by eating thousands of calories of dry ramen noodles, trail mix and crackers. In spite of all of this, he is still astoundingly generous with what he does have, and would surely win a kindergarten sharing contest. In short: he's a boss, and it's a miracle he's still alive. 

One night we camped next to a beautiful river with huge smooth stones and crystal clear water. As soon as we arrived, Catch scrambled down the hill to check out the river. He is very agile, and I've seen him climb rocky mountain stairs by hopping upward with both feet together, like some sort of insane Trix rabbit. He was standing on one of the smaller rocks in the river when his feet suddenly went out from under him and he fell directly into the freezing cold water. He was wearing his only set of clothing and hiking boots. But, further establishing himself as one of my new favorite people, instead of being upset that half of his 10 posessions were suddenly soaking wet, he just started laughing at himself, sitting in the water as the river flowed around his waist. Later, as we built a fire to dry out his clothing, Catch pulled off his shoes and dumped about half a liter of water out of each one (photograph below). 

Catch was mostly dry when we all set up to go to sleep, and he lay down in his sleeping bag on top of his tarp. We all cozied into our tents, lulled to gentle sleep by the white noise of the river flowing by outside. We were full from dinner and feeling happy and loved. The Hunger had figured out how to roast a clif bar in the campfire, and all the boys had delighted in the soft, warm treat. Whistle and I looked on with increasing horror, as both of us have developed a visceral reaction to clif bars. We've eaten too many. But sitting around the campfire in the chilly New England evening, pine needles under our feet and nary a bug in the sky, we were so at home on the trail.

Catch woke up at 1am, utterly soaking wet in his sleeping bag. Apparently a nice, calm, gentle rain had started. So calm and gentle in fact that it didn't wake up anyone. The Hunger, Dumptruck and I had already put our rain flies up before going to sleep. But everyone else (Grim, Whistle and Catch) were exposed to the elements. Whistle also woke up wet in her tent, and called out "Raaaaain!" which woke up Grim and Catch. Catch sat up, enveloped in the wet embrace of a soaking down sleeping bag. I asked him the next day how this sort of thing makes him feel. He laughed, and said that it's his own choice to be irresponsible and not have a tent or rain gear, so he long ago accepted that hiking the trail means being at a basically constant low level of dampness. 

For the concerned reader: Catch is getting his rain gear and tent back before the white mountains.

On the 4th, we stopped at an overlook just before town, and could see a storm rolling in across the valley. We raced to the bottom of the hill, but to no avail, as it began to hail pea-sized bee-bees of ice down onto us. We shrieked and laughed, leaping down over rocks and flying down the muddy mountain. About halfway down the hill, we passed a family of 10 people, all huddled under a tree in summer clothing and thoroughly drenched. The younger generation was clutching the older generation, and the older generation was clutching beers. We took brief refuge under the tree with them, commiserating, and then fled on to the road crossing. The rain and hail stopped just as we arrived.

Whistle crossed the street and stuck out her thumb. Less than 15 second later, a large pickup truck pulled over. The passenger came out and stumped over to us, letting down the back of the truck so we could all clamber in, shivering and wet. 

"Sorry, we're wet, stinky hikers," I said to the big-bellied man with the mustache.

"Dun wurry," he slurred, "Yer stinky, I'm drunk, we'll get along jus' fine."

Whistle got into the cab of the truck, and through subtle signals ensured us that the driver, at least, was not intoxicated. They drove us into town, all of us in the open back of the truck huddled together for warmth. They dropped us off in the grocery store parking lot. Just as we were hopping out, I looked up, and to what did my wandering eyes did appear: a familiar face.

"Mad Hatter?!" I called out in surprise. 

Mad Hatter is the older gentleman who hiked the trail many years ago, and still spends a lot of time doing trail maintenance. He was the one that gave Dumptruck, Apollo and I the 2-hour ride back to our trail head after Hard-Core. He looked up in surprise, and broke into a grin, hugging Dumptruck and I in spite of our wetness. He said he already had a bunch of hikers at his house for the night, but he offered to slack-pack us the next day and then we could stay at his house the next night. Serendipity, coincidence, trail magic, call it what you will. I say it was just pretty damn cool.

We stayed the first night at a charming little place called the Yellow Deli Hostel, where the bunk house felt like summer camp and the breakfast in the morning was fresh, amazing eggs and salsa. We got terribly lost trying to find our way to Mad Hatter's house, because even though we navigated our way here from Georgia, without white blazes we are utterly hopeless. But find it we did. He then brought us to the trail head, where we hiked the 17.4 miles up and over a beast of a mountain. Mad Hatter had said that we could tell any other NoBos that they could also stay that night at the Hatter household, and thus we collected Hugs, Cascade and Pretzel.

Mad Hatter and his wife, Ma Buddha, are exceptionally generous and kind. After slack-packing us, they made us a huge dinner and gave us some of Mad Hatter's delicious home-brewed beer. I don't know what the odds were for me to see Mad Hatter across a parking lot, but it was a pretty amazing thing.

Clever Girl

Whistle has acquired a second name: Ralph. She is named this because she has thrown up 8 times thus far on the trail, for myriad different reasons. We call her Whistle Ralph, and in shelter logs I now draw her musical notes barfing.

This is one of the adorable orange salamanders. They're called Red Efts!

The Hunger, Dumptruck, Catch and Grim

Whistle perching


We are here. Look how far we've come!

Catch's jacket is his sleeping bag liner.

The pond I stepped into.

I balanced this rock!

Whistle being majestic.

Catch pouring water out of his shoes.

It was like this when we got here. I swear.

Catch's attempt at rain gear.

This is how we party.

From right to left: poncho, poncho, tarp.

Getting face painted

I painted this velociraptor onto my face using my reflection in my iPod. Not my best work, but successful given the circumstances.

Grim being adorbabblez.

The Hunger!

Insane rock scramble.

Danger: you're about to ski off a cliff.


  1. Concerned mother and father are SO happy to see the pretty new blue poncho! We continue to hope that Whistle will choose to acquire a pair of hiking boots before the next, inevitable, snow storm.

    CleverGirl, thank you for your beautiful words and pictures:-)

    Love to all,
    Mama Whistle

    1. Thanks Mama Whistle! She's taking very good care of herself, I promise! :-D

  2. Bucket load of pics! Love all of them. Stories about Catch are great...he's the homeless homeless guy! Doesn't even have a tent. Love the minimalist approach. Your writing per norm carries wonderful messages on many levels. So proud of all of you...keep on keeping on! NH and the White's are next...above tree line. See you soon! Love, Mom and Dad

    1. He has just now gotten his winter gear back. Just in time, too!

  3. This is LOST!!! Boooom! ;) So awesome to read how yall doin! A little disappointed though, that Catch got rid of his Pawling shirt! Keep the good work up!

    1. Lost, we talk about you at least once a day, and how much we miss you and your incredible humor. We love yoooouu!!