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AT 2017: Day 125, Stratton Pond Shelter to Manchester Center

Ooo-woo-wee, wild night is calling

Hike with Gravity

Stick, Becky and I felt the tug of town today. We didn’t have far to go, which made the town’s pull that much stronger.

We were headed to the small, tourist town of Manchester Center, Vermont. Not that we were planning to be tourists, but we knew it would be a good place to resupply and enjoy some town food.

I hoped this would also give me a chance to replace my backpack, which has been falling apart for the last 250 miles. In that regard the day was a disappointment, but there were many other reasons why this day became memorable.

Date
Weather Cloudy, then partly sunny, with a high temperature in the low 70s
Trail Conditions Mostly mud for the first four miles, then drier conditions
Today's Miles 10.5 miles
Trip Miles 1,650.7 miles

As we packed and prepared to leave Stratton Pond Shelter, more laughter was shared about the fireball that erupted last night from Becky’s stove. Skywalker, Spills and the other campers here agreed Becky had earned a trail name — Torch.

These were the first of many laugh-filled moments we shared today.

Once we hiked the short side trail back to the AT, we only had another tenth-of-a-mile to reach Stratton Pond. A small stream here provided a source for refilling water bottles.

While we were here, we chatted again with Chris, the caretaker of the camping facilities at the pond, which are managed by the Green Mountain Club.

We also heard and saw a loon. This was the first time I had heard the call of a loon since the last time I was in Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota.

There is no sound like that of a loon, and I just stood quietly to hear it a long as I could.

The trail was just as muddy as yesterday, which was not a surprise considering the rain we’ve had lately. In some spots, there was no way to avoid walking through the wide tub of thick goo.

Later, though, the trail became less muddy. This was unexpected.

For about 4.5 miles, the trail passed through Lye Brook Wilderness Area. Much of it was on remnants of old railroad grades and logging roads. This seemed to help keep away the mud.

In one case, the remnants of a road were still obvious. A wilderness area is supposed to be roadless. In this case the road served as a boundary to the wilderness area.

By 11:30 a.m. we reached a spot called Prospect Rock. This was an overlook to a wide valley. Manchester Center could be seen in the distance.

From there the trail continued for nearly four more miles before reaching a highway. We had heard this was an easy spot to hitch a ride into town, and that turned out to be true. We didn’t have to wait long before a woman stopped and offered to take the three of us. She said her son had completed a thru-hike a few years ago.

She agreed to take us directly to Mountain Goat Outfitters so that I could look for a new pack. I spent nearly an hour there looking over the inventory of packs and trying on a couple. Unfortunately, the store didn’t have the right pack in the right size for me.

I was able to buy a sit pad, though. It was a replacement for the one I lost in Pennsylvania.

Manchester Center is just one part of the town of Manchester. Several citizens, including the owner of Mountain Goat Outfitters, have been working to gain designation from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy as an Appalachian Trail Community.

It seems to be a good fit, and in fact, it's surprising Manchester wasn’t already an official trail community. It has a natural affinity to outdoor recreation, thanks in part because the fishing and hunting retailer Orvis was founded here in 1856.

Another large business located here is Burton Snowboards, which originated in Jake Burton Carpenter's barn near Manchester in 1977.

An unverified statement in Wikipedia says the land around Manchester was originally "better suited for grazing than tillage, so by 1839 about 6,000 sheep roamed the pastures and hillsides." That may have been true then, but today the only flocks you'll see here are those of tourists. They come here to graze at trendy outlet stores and restaurants.

We didn’t. After we left the outfitter store, Stick, Becky and I walked a few blocks to a Price Chopper grocery store.

I called Green Mountain House Hostel to see if there was room for us to stay there. They were already full, but the owner told me about a woman who has recently started renting rooms to hikers.

When I called Jen, she told me she wasn’t a true hostel. She rented bedrooms in her house while her kids were away at college, but she didn’t provide laundry facilities or meals. This seemed sufficient for our needs, and Jen agreed to pick us up whenever we were ready.

After shopping for our next few days on the trail, we lugged our groceries to McDonalds. We hadn’t yet had a real lunch, so this was an opportunity to get something to eat and organize our purchases.

Then in a surprise text message we got word that Pippi and Mechanic were in town. We agreed to meet for dinner in a few minutes at the Firefly Restaurant.

Yes, we had just eaten at McDonalds, but now we were walking to another restaurant to eat again.

We thought nothing of it.

It was fun to spend time again with Pippi and Mechanic. As we sat on the restaurant’s patio we struck up a conversation with our waitress. She seemed to appreciate us because there weren’t any other patrons in the restaurant.

The conversation turned to joking about keg stands and other partying exploits. This led Pippi to egg on the waitress about doing keg stands here. Before long she was letting Pippi and the others guzzle beer from a tap.

Notice how I said “the others.” I declined to join in these shenanigans. I appreciate good beer too much, and see no point in slurping bad beer.

About the time these hijinks began to wind down, Jen called to check if we were ready to be picked up, and arrived soon after.

When Torch, Stick and I got to Jen's house we discovered Van Man and Darrin were also staying there.

I had met Van Man way back in Tennessee. He was still shuttling Darrin, and hiking with him whenever possible.

By the time my head hit the pillow in Jen’s daughter's bedroom, I was ready for sleep and it came quickly.

It had been a fun day and a wild night.

And every thing looks so complete
When you're walking out on the streets
And the wind, it catches your feet
Sets you flying, crying

Ooo-woo-wee, wild night is calling
Ooo-woo-wee, wild night is calling

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