Friday, August 9, 2013


8/6: 10 miles from US Route 4 to Stony Brook Shelter

8/7: 15.5 miles to stream past Woodstock Stage Rd

8/8: 14.8 miles to Happy Hill Shelter

8/9: 5.9 miles to Hanover, NEW HAMPSHIRE! We crossed the VT/NH border on this day. Second to last state, holy cannoli!


Thud, thud, thud THUDTHUDTHUD

"Don't look at meeeeeee!!"

Like most humans, when bade to look away, my instinct is to immediately focus in on the thing in question with laser-like intensity. I looked up from the water just in time to see a tall, muscular, bearded man running as fast as he could down the dock to the lake. He was also naked as the day he was born, clutching his hands over his exposed nether regions. In what seemed like slow motion, Grim launched off the end of the dock, his nude form hurtling through the air over our heads like a fleshy, low-flying 747. On a nearby shore of the lake, two elderly fly fishermen in wader overalls and bucket hats stared at the spectacle in open-mouth shock. All of us in the water had been frozen in surprise and glee. Suddenly realizing the fast encroaching danger, we all scrambled to get out of the way. We dove aside just in time for an explosive tidal wave to crash over our retreating faces. 

In the water was Catch, Cascade, Pretzel, Hugs and I. Lounging on the dock was Dumptruck, Whistle and The Hunger. Our group of 9 had been driven back to the trailhead by Ma Buddha, well-rested and bellies full of raspberry pancakes. We had started hiking around noon, and knew that we likely wouldn't make it very far. Thus we made the best of it, stopping at every view and possible chill-out point. After a few miles, the trail went directly through the well-manicured lawn of an inn that often caters to hikers. There was a long dock on a gorgeous lake, and everyone was looking out at the water wistfully. Someone mentioned the idea of jumping in, and I immediately dropped my pack, ripped off my shoes, sprinted down the dock and hurtled myself into the water. Everyone else followed in quick succession. 

That night, the 9 of us built a beautiful fire, gathered around and played a game we call TASH. If you are female, and if you attended 6th grade at any point in the 80's and 90's, you may have played the classic sleepover game MASH. The title stands for "Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House" and it is fortune telling game that allows adolescent girls to envision a future in which they are married to their favorite celebrity and live in a mansion in Malibu. As an adolescent, I was never very good at the game, as my contemporaries would stare at me in dumbfounded confusion when I would provide my list of preferred possible spouses (Brent Spiner! Patrick Stewart! Raffi!) and places to live (Hobbiton! Tatooine! Sesame Street!). This did not jive well with the New Kids on the Block generation.

One night several weeks ago, as it was raining, Whistle came to our tent to eat dinner and maybe play a game. Whistle and I spontaneously remembered MASH. We decided to change the name to TASH, to stand for "Truck, Apartment, Shack, Hammock" in order to make it hiker-trash appropriate. As our hiking group has now been playing this as a community activity, we have discovered increasingly absurd and implausible possible futures. My favorite thus far has been The Hunger, whose future was thus:

Home: Truck
Location: In an abandoned shopping mall
Spouse: Miss Piggy
Profession: Candied Ham Boxer (we figured this could be some kind of meat-tenderizing job at the factory. We also assumed this must cause no end of grief in the marriage)
Pet: Rat duct-taped to another rat
Terrible malady: Slinkies for arms
Warrant out for arrest: because he has too many cats (we figure they're all after the RatRat)

This and more exciting evening activities can be yours too for the low-low price of hiking 2,184 miles up the Eastern Seaboard!

The next evening's campfire involved the 9 of us playing Mafia. Mafia is a group game of deception, misdirection, accusations and hilarity. It is popular among: summer camp kids, theatre kids, and grown adults living homeless in the Appalachian Mountains. The game lasted for close to 2 hours, ending with an epic verbal sparring showdown between Hugs and Pretzel. We have all been staying up way past our bedtimes and waking up later than usual. It's been excellent.

We had stealth camped in a pine grove just off-trail, so when I woke to do my morning business, I had to find a place to dig a cathole. I went over a little hill, stumbling slightly with the early morning stiffness of legs. I held onto trees as I shuffled along, yawning and evoking the visual comparison of a elderly man in his bathrobe making his way down his front sidewalk. Except instead of fetching a newspaper, I was looking for a nice flat spot to dig a hole and leave a present. I found a little flat spot that overlooked a thickly overgrown valley, that was far enough away from the stealth-camp spot and at least 75 feet away from the trail. I picked up a stick and started to dig a hole.

One stick dig: through the top layer of leaves. Two stick digs: through to the duff. Three stick digs: half-decomposing toilet paper?! I stood up, understanding immediately: I had, by some grace of coincidence, dug up somebody else's cathole.

I stood up and hollered my good fortune to the rest of the gang, who cheered for me. It's like finding a needle in a haystack- when you're not even looking for the needle. I recognize it's pretty gross, but it's cool just for the sheer coincidence of it. How it is possible that 2  people, at least a year apart based on the decomposition of the TP (I could totally work in forensics) would select the exact same spot, especially one so far off trail?!

I re-covered the spot and chose a different one, but my morning elimination was subsequently so much more satisfying than usual.

Hugs, Pretzel and Cascade are actually part of a large, 12-person group called Funky Town. The rest of Funky Town is 1 day ahead of us, and the 3 of them have been adopted into our group as they try to catch up. Funky Town has been well known on the trail, and is a wonderful group of humans that we have crossed-paths with several times, though only for a few minutes. 

We have been inspired us to re-think our group name. Though some of us were originally in Shanty Town, and still are in our hearts, we decided it's time for a new name, especially since we have officially taken on Catch and The Hunger. Also, since we haven't been saying Shanty Town much recently, we felt like re-adopting that name in the wake of a different, well-known Town could feel like we were being copy-cats. We knew Funky Town wouldn't mind at all, but we wanted something different. So, a change had to come. But from where? Where do we find the name to describe our rag-tag band of misfits?

One day, many months ago, Grim called out to Whistle from hilltop to hilltop. She paused, turning around to hear the strange sound:

"Meowzeba!" He cried to the wind "Me-OWzeba!"

It is a nonsense word. Grim is not even sure where it came from. But we have been using it for a variety of purposes since that time (calling out to each other, as a fill-in word when you can't remember the words to a song, as an expletive, etc). And thus, yesterday we decided that our new group name is Meowzeba, but spelled like this:


And it was good.

Hugs, Pretzel and Cascade have dual-citizenship in both Funky Town and M3OWZ3BA! We decided to take a photo of Grim and I holding the 3 of them hostage with squirt guns, and texted it to Funky Town with a ransom note. We shall see how they respond! They also left behind a red rubber dodge ball at a shelter, who I had adopted and named BillyBall. I'm taking him all the way to Maine. 

On Thursday, we all crossed through the tiny town of West Hartford, which has a bridge over a wide river. When Dumptruck and I arrived, it was in time to see Grim launch himself off of the bridge (with underpants on this time) and fall 30 feet into the rushing green river below. The rest of M3OWZ3BA! was on the rocks on the side of the river, also wet from their jumping, and cheering Grim on.

I dropped off my bag, went back to the bridge, and waited my turn as some local adolescent boys surrendered themselves to the dizzying drop and freezing water. I held the railing, curling my fingers over the metal rungs, and watched the river rush by far below. I knew I had one shot at jumping as soon as I climbed over the railing; if I waited for more than a moment, my evolutionarily cautious brain would take over keep me from going for it. 

The time had come, it was my turn. 

"I'm going to scream the whole way down," I called to my cohorts "It's completely involuntary. It just happens."

And before I could stop myself, I clambered over the railing, pushed off from the concrete and spun out into the open air. I twisted as I jumped, so I corkscrewed downward through the 30 feet. My eyes were shut and I was screaming one high, strong, continous vibrato of uncontrollable outward energy. I'm sure the sound was like a tornado siren, a Doppler effect of joy and fear as I whipped around in the air. I spun one full revolution, expecting to hit the water, but I kept falling, my stomach pulling up into my ribs and my voice still on scream-mode. I made it another full revolution before the force of hitting the water slammed my mouth shut, finally putting an end to all that racket.

I surfaced a moment later, breathless and joyful, swimming against the current to reach my family at the shore. 

Sometimes we have to jump.

Clever Girl

Grim went out of his way to get a strawberry rhubarb pie for Dumptruck and I, and protected it from the hungry eyes of other hikers. He is a hero, and the pie was as if from heaven.

Catch catching a dragon fly!

Catch catching caterpillar!

Dumptruck following directions

The Hunger, Hugs, Grim, Whistle, Pretzel and Cascade (Dumptruck in the center). Where's Catch? Oh, he's swimming to the other side of the lake and back again.

Hugs, Grim and Whistle

Look at all that hair!

Whistle tried to pick one flower, and accidentally uprooted an entire plant. Leave No Trace!

What's she doing? Ah, I see, shaving her legs in the river.

BillyBall in the backpack.

"Funky Town, we have your elders. Meet our demands or the ball gets it!


  1. So. Much. Fun. Adulthood is going to be tuff on you, that's a wondrous thing. Great PicS! (wink).

    1. We may get older, but I'm not entirely sure that we'll ever stop being children in some way. At least in the fact that we'll jump off a bridge when our friends are doing it!

  2. Hooray! New Hampshire! Love the dodge ball, and the thought of carrying it to Maine. It'd be awesome to kick it all the way there, but it would go over the 1st cliff and bonk some homeless box turtle (lizard?). Great pics and stories as usual. Over the moon! I hear Freddy Mercury in M3OWZ3BA...see what you can make out of this (besides a hat or a little boat):
    "(Oh, mama mia, mama mia) Mama mia, let me go.
    M3OWZ3BA has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me."

    Love and kisses, Mom and Dad

    1. I told this little tidbit regarding Freddy Mercury to the band, and they all highly approve!

  3. Such an awesome time. So glad you are close to home. The White Mountains next. Fantastic!! Mother Trucker and I just saw your count of days on the trail. As we speak 155. Wow! we said together. Amazing! John I am diggin'the Freddy Mercury!! Lots of love to you and all.
    P.S. mom has adopted two wild cats. She is in her glory. They don't actually live in the house :-) yet.

    1. 155 days! So crazy! I can't wait to meet those wild cats.

  4. Your stories remind me of why I am hiking next year! Hope there's a job for you at The New Yorker when this little adventure is over. Please say hi to Hugs. I did a little trail magic for her back in Virginia. Sisu

    1. Thanks Sisu! You're so kind to say so. I will say hi to Hugs! She's pretty spectacular.