By: Marian Van Vlack, Lifetime Girl Scout from Whitesville, NY
Oh, what an adventure! Sunday morning, bright and early, my all-star parents and I loaded up the car and headed out to Connecticut. We stopped along the way for my final meal in civilization and I went all out with a delicious pizza and a milkshake. We got to West Cornwall right where the trail crosses the road around 3:30 and after double checking that I was going the right direction, I was off, leaving my parents behind as I headed into the woods. I only had about three miles until my first campsite and everything seemed to be going really smoothly. Then I came across my first double blaze. The Appalachian Trail is marked using white blazes usually painted on trees or rocks. Two blazes are used to signal that the trail is about to do something different like turn and go a different direction. I got up to the tree with the double blaze and I looked around. Right in front of me was a large rock, to my right there wasn’t much of a trail, and to the left was a rocky assent that could possibly be the trail. I decided to try going up to the left first. I climbed a little bit and looked behind me and I could see another set of double blazes on the same tree, so I figured I was going the right way, but I couldn’t find anything that really looked like the trail. I walked around for probably twenty minutes when I finally looked back and noticed that there was another set of double blazes on the rock that had been in front of me. I looked closer at the rock and noticed there was a big split in it and some rocks near the split that looked like stairs. I knew there was no way I would fit there, let alone squeeze my pack through, but I figured I had to try. To my amazement, I made it through the rock! I could not believe it, but I figured this was just one of the many challenges I would face on the trail, and I was excited to feel that sense of accomplishment and amazement again.
The next day I faced my second challenge of my trip. I had been hiking for a couple of hours when I came across a sign that said the Limestone Spring shelter, which happened to be the shelter I planned to stay in that night, was closed until further notice. I pulled out my map and tried to figure out what to do. There weren’t any shelters or campsites close by, and in Connecticut you’re only supposed to camp in designated campsites. Salisbury was the closest town past the shelter, so I decided to head there and see where I could stay in town. This turned my 9 mile day into a 13 mile day. I wasn’t too excited about hiking the extra miles on my second day, but the weather was nice and the trail was very easy going. I finally made it into Salisbury and I called Maria McCabe. Maria is what hikers call a Trail Angel. She opens up her house for a small fee and welcomes hikers to come and stay. She picked me up right from the trail and took me to her home. I was able to eat what was left of another hiker’s dinner and Maria gave me a soda and made me a salad with fresh lettuce and tomato. I was grateful to have a hot shower and a comfortable bed out of the rain for the night. The next morning I made a delicious breakfast and got a ride back out to the trail. I decided to take an easy day and only hiked about 5 miles up to the shelter on Mount Riga. It started raining just before I got to the shelter so I was happy to set up there for the night. I met two thru hikers who had been out since May and we all had lunch together before they headed out into the rain to put in some more miles. I also met a Ridge Runner named Fables. Ridge Runners are in charge of trail maintenance. They hike along the trail and go to all the shelters and make sure everything is in good condition and help to educate hikers on good trail practices. Fables ended up giving me my trail name, since most hikers go by a nickname on the trail. My trail name is now Bean Scout, since almost half of my gear is from L.L. Bean and I’m a Girl Scout.
My third day was beautiful. The sun was shining all day and I got to watch the sunrise from the shelter which had a great view. I summited Bear Mountain which is the highest point on the trail in Connecticut. The trip down the other side was pretty treacherous because it was steep and rocky and after the rain the previous day, everything was slippery. On the other side of the mountain I hiked through Sages Ravine which was beautiful. I stopped for some lunch with Ohm and Queen who had been hiking for almost 500 miles and another couple named Sol and Sticks who were visiting from Montana and were hiking the Connecticut portion of the trail. Soon after lunch, I passed into Massachusetts, completing the first state on my journey. I hiked up Mt. Race and had a beautiful view as I walked along the ridge. My last hike was up Mt. Everett, which was a long and steep hike, but once I got to the peak, it was all downhill to the campsite. I camped with a few different thru hikers and I got to hear all their stories about their hikes so far.
After only four days on the trail, it was time for me to take a break. I hiked about 8 miles to Sheffield, Mass. where my great aunt and uncle came and picked me up. It was so nice to take a day to rest and recover. I cleaned up, did some laundry, ate delicious food, and decided to get a Camelback so I wouldn’t have to take my pack off every time I needed to get a drink of water. After my day off, I was ready to be back on the trail. The sun was out and I had a great 10 mile hike. I decided that night that I was feeling adventurous and the following day I hiked 16 miles to the Upper Goose Pond Cabin. I didn’t get there until about 8 p.m. and I got the last available bunk, but it was completely worth the long day. I met some really interesting hikers and the caretaker who looks after the cabin. In the morning the caretaker also made blueberry pancakes, which is my definition of a perfect morning. I set out late that day, because it was so rainy, with a whole group of people. I hiked with Red Beard who I had hiked a little with the previous day, a German couple named Kansas and VW, and a couple named Aragorn and Arwin. We had an easy but wet hike. The trail looked more like a stream in some places, but getting to the shelter and having a campfire with a hote meal made everything much better. The next day was another easy hike and we made it to a shelter just before the rain started, even with a stop at the Cookie Lady’s house. Five guys who have been doing sections of the trail for a few years stopped at the shelter a little while later and after that, two more hikers came up from the Goose Pond Cabin, one named K2 who had been at Goose Pond the same night I was. We had a full house and a fun night full of interesting stories.
I had my first moment of fame this morning. Each shelter and campsite has a trail log that hikers sign whenever they stop. As you get to know people on the trail or hear about them, you tend to look for them in the trail log and it’s always a good way to get inside information about what’s going on along the trail. This morning one of the thru hikers asked my name and when I said I was Bean Scout, he nodded as if he had heard of me. When I asked him about it, he said he had seen my name in the trail log. I also met another challenge this morning. The clip on my hip strap on my pack broke. I’ve decided to use duct tape to fix it temporarily, and I’m ordering a new pack which I will pick up in a few days.