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Hard Limits

On Memorial Day Weekend, Zach and I decided that this would be another good opportunity for him to hike. With the extended weekend, we discussed making this trip an overnight one with two days of hiking. The destination was the town of Hanover, New Hampshire.  This is the home of Dartmouth College.  

Zach is usually apprehensive walking through towns where the trail runs through. But this one he really wanted to experience. After our goodbye, I quickly drove off, eager to find a cozy place to "set down camp" for the next 4 hours.  I drove through the town, which was buzzing with activity from Dartmouth. I'm not sure what was happening on campus, but while driving the downtown area I started to have flashbacks of move-in and move-out weekend at my previous employer, Johnson & Wales University.  This was always the best of times and the worst of times for a college employee, and I found comfort in the fact that I am not in that business anymore. As I drove through campus, my nostalgic anxiety quickly passed, and I realized that Zach forgot to get his sandwiches out of the cooler. 

I drove around town looking for him for about 15 minutes. He walked very quickly through town and when I finally did spot him, he was almost to the bridge to cross the river to Vermont. I started honking my horn and soliciting propositions to my husband on the sidewalk. Needless to say, he wasn't surprised when he turned his head and saw me yelling out the window. I pulled over, gave him his sandwiches and then left Hanover to hang out in White River Junction, VT.

I wanted to make sure I stayed somewhere in the middle of where Zach was hiking in case he decided to stop at an earlier point or if there was an emergency. I ended up going to Piecemeal Pies, a relaxed hangout for locals, next to the train tracks in White River Junction.  The cappuccino was good, there were plenty of electrical outlets, and it was an open kitchen environment. But it was loud, busy, and there wasn't enough comfortable seating. I was craving a "cozy" environment, and was really looking forward to checking in at the hotel that afternoon.  

Zach's goal for this day was 22.8 miles.  After doing some research, Zach had told me that Vermont is one of the toughest states to hike in.  There is 150 miles of trail with elevation ranges of 400 to 4,010 feet.  I dropped him off at 11:00AM and the approximate time for pick up was 7:00PM.  After a moderately productive morning/afternoon, I headed to our hotel in Lebanon, NH. This hotel was right next to the airport, which was a highlight for Zach and I. The freshly popped pop corn in the lobby was also a bonus.

After I unloaded the car, I noticed the storm clouds in the distance, and I was reminded of my concern about Zach hiking during a thunderstorm.  On the trip up, I had mentioned this, and he reminded me not to worry. He would be fine.  I was concerned but decided to console myself with a trip to the New Hampshire Liquor Outlet. This is ALWAYS a highlight when we are up in this area, and I spent 45 minutes contemplating what wine and vodka I was going to bring home. After I left the store, the storm was just rolling in. I arrived back at the hotel just in time for the downpour.

At 6:00PM, I checked the pick-up location travel time. My GPS said that it would take 30 minutes to get there. I started out, determined to get there early, so Zach did not have to wait.  The journey up to the pickup location were mostly major two lane routes and paved back roads. The road that I was going to pick Zach up on was dirt and gravel. It was around 6:35PM when I arrived. I parked in what looked like an old driveway for a rundown farmhouse, and waited. 

While I waited, I pulled out my book that I was reading. I ended up finishing it and by this time, it was around 7:30PM. I continued to wait. I then found a scrap piece of paper and did some strategic planning for my business. When I finished this, I checked the time. It was now 8:25PM. I started to worry. I also checked my cell phone, and the screen was now saying that I did not have any service. 

At this point, it was almost 2 hours after the rendezvous time, and I was starting to become increasingly more concerned regarding Zach's safety. He had mentioned that if he was more than an hour late, start to worry. I started to regret returning the hiker tracker from Bass Pro Shops.  The one we did purchase was $450, and required a costly subscription to operate. I realized that without cell service, it would be useless and I would not be able to track him anyway.  I was also concerned that he had gotten off the trail earlier and was trying to contact me because it was getting dark.  

I waited around for another 10 minutes and then drove 5 miles south to where I could get cell service. I tried calling him......no answer. So I left a voicemail. I called him again......no answer. So I decided to turn around and go back to the pickup location. As I'm about to pull out onto the road back, my phone rings, and it's Zach! I answered the phone,  "Hey, are you ok?" Zach answered, "Yes, I'm about a mile and a half away from the pickup location." I respond, "Can you get off the trail early, because it's getting dark." He responded, "No, I'm really close, just go back to the pickup location." 

Being the obedient support vehicle, I drove back to the pickup location and waited. By this time, the locals who lived on this road started taking notice of me. One guy actually stopped to see if I was ok. Another, who was passing by in his truck, noticed my license plate, and that I was a "flat lander." He decided to throw me the bird. I was also parked in a location with tall grass and big trees......the perfect breeding ground for spiders and insects. For anyone who knows me, I have a major case of arachnophobia. After sitting in this spot for what seemed like ages and having every species of spider in Vermont crawl over the windshield of our car, I saw movement in the woods. 

I looked closer, and IT WAS ZACH!!!! I turned on the car, and was so excited to see him that I hit the gas a little too hard and spun the wheels of our Volkswagen Jetta. The farmer who owns the land, probably won't be too happy with the tire marks I left in the grass. But he was probably the same guy who flipped me off.....

Zach got in the car. He looked and sounded exhausted. He had been running the last mile of the trail to try and make it to me by dark.  On this part of the trail there were a few interesting encounters with animals and humans. There was a porcupine, gigantic hypochondriac acid spraying millipedes,and a mushroom hunter singing to herself to scare away the bears. 

Zach has almost accomplished 50 miles of the trail! We are still rookies, by all means, but have learned some valuable lessons. 

1) Start hiking a 20 mile hike earlier, especially in New Hampshire/Vermont. 

2) 22.8 miles is a HARD limit with all the elevation changes. Just on this part of the trail Zach climbed 15 mountains/hills which have a combined summit footage value of 20,593 feet.  

3) We will not be using the ridiculously priced hiker tracker. We will try to find and use walkie talkies. Until then, and if we find a brand that can be used, we will just do this the good old fashioned way of a rendezvous point and meeting time. 

4) Mole skin, good socks, mosquito nets around your head, and bug spray are essential. This trip took its toll on Zach's feet. Even with his comfortable Red Head Brand Co. hiking boots from Bass Pro Shops, he ended up with sores between his toes.  Ticks are also a hazard while walking in the woods, and we found a large wood tick crawling on him before he showered.  On our way home we stopped at Bass Pro Shops and got him mole skin, and a mosquito net that will hang on his hat. Our next investment will be Insect Shield clothing and good hiking socks. The clothing actually prevents mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and fleas from getting onto you, and is surprisingly reasonably priced. 

After the hike on Saturday, Zach decided he should probably take Sunday off.  So we decided to do a little sight seeing around the area. Here we are at the the Quechee Gorge and the VINS (Vermont Institute of Natural Science).  

With the summer finally here, Zach will be hiking more often and I'm very excited to continue to share our journey with you. If there are any suggestions on walkie talkies that are reasonably priced (under $500), and have a long range (at least a 20 mile radius), please share your suggestions with me. 

Our next hiking plans will be in Connecticut or Massachusetts. Stay tuned!

Here are the pictures from Zach's hike!

Another cool thing that he came upon was this Little Free Library. Zach and I are Rotarians, and we just finished installing three for our Rotary Club Service project a month ago! It's so cool to see this network of LFLs even on the AT! 

            The LFL on the AT Trail

           The LFL on the AT Trail

         One of the LFLs we installed a month ago with our Rotary Club!

        One of the LFLs we installed a month ago with our Rotary Club!

Tarah WarnerComment