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AT 2017: Day 132, Meadow at Mile 1726.6 to Norwich

Roll away the dew

Hike with Gravity

When I awoke this morning, the first thing I noticed was the sky was filled with brilliant colors. They were thrown by the not-yet-risen sun on billowing and swirling clouds. I sat at my tent door and watched them for several minutes as they raced above me.

Then I noticed that everything outside my tent was wet with dew. Though I had tried to pitch my tent close enough to trees to get some cover, which I hoped would keep me dry, that didn’t work.

Everything was as wet as if it had rained last night. but at least there wasn’t much chance of rain in the forecast for today.

Date
Weather Partly sunny, with temperatures in the low 60s
Trail Conditions Many ups and downs, sometimes steep, plus some road walking into town
Today's Miles 19.6 miles
Trip Miles 1,746.2 miles

After eating breakfast and packing my very wet tent, I walked across the dew-covered meadow. On the other side, where the trail re-entered the forest, it immediately began a steady but modest climb.

A short distance later I saw Skywalker, who had camped near a stream. Not surprisingly, the forest canopy had kept him dry.

When I left Skywalker, the trail traversed over several ups and downs. Like yesterday, a few were steep, but they didn’t seem quite as challenging.

I also walked across more meadows. One had especially tall grass. By this time, which was 8:15 a.m., the sun had already been shining enough to begin evaporating the dew.

Where the trail went through forested sections at hilltops the trees were lanky. They didn’t provide a lot of shade.

This was a beautiful day to be on the trail and the temperature was pleasant. Still, I sweated because of the frequent ups and downs.

A brook was located near a road crossing, and though it didn’t seem necessary, a steel cable was strung across the stream. Perhaps there are times when crossing here is more of a challenge, but now it was easy.

On the other side I discovered a bucket of soft drinks. The time was now only 8:45 a.m., but I was glad to find the trail magic and enjoyed one of the drinks.

From there the trail began another climb, but this time I saw something I had not seen in the woods before. For a moment, I didn’t know what it was.

Plastic tubing was stretched from one tree to another, leading down the hill. Then it hit me what this was. This is Vermont, so of course what I was seeing was how maple tree sap is collected.

Until this moment I still had in my head the idea that sap was collected in buckets, but obviously that method is laboriously inefficient for making syrup.

The trail went over a hill with thin vegetation, then descended again into more trees. When the next climb began the trail made a turn. This time, a crudely-made sign stood to warn hikers of the sudden change in direction.

It also contained a humorous reminder: “When in doubt, the AT always goes up.”

Just as with the last climb, an almost-open field allowed for partial views of distant hills and mountains.

After crossing another big meadow the trail followed more ups and downs, then it descended toward the White River. On the other side of the river was the small village of West Hartford.

There’s an Appalachian Trail tradition for hikers to jump off the bridge here and into the river.

When I reached the bridge and saw several rocks in the river, I decided if there had been any chance beforehand that I might jump, there was now no chance.

Okay, who am I fooling? There had never been any chance I was going to jump off that bridge. Seeing the rocks only cemented my resolve.

A house near the bridge was owned by a woman named Linda. A grill was going and next to it more food was stacked on a table. A cooler nearby was filled with soft drinks.

All of the food was for hikers, and the feed was something she does nearly every day during hiking season.

I chatted with Linda a little bit and thanked her for her kindness.

Then I turned to look back at the bridge over the river and saw Skywalker standing at the railing. It was obvious he was trying to build up his nerve to jump.

At first he made a couple of false starts in which he waved his arms in the motion of taking the leap, but then stopped. After 20 or 30 seconds of this, though, he finally mounted enough courage to make the jump.

I waited to leave until after he walked back to Linda’s house so I could congratulate him.

West Hartford didn’t have much else going for it beside’s Linda’s hiker feed. Much of the village was heavily damaged in 2011 by Hurricane Irene. A local park was said to be covered in a foot of mud.

Since then the village residents have rebuilt their public library. A general store located just down the road was repaired, but it apparently had recently gone out of business. The only other sign of commerce I saw was a truck lettering shop. The owner is also said to be hiker friendly.

Leaving Linda’s house the trail followed Vermont Highway 14 for about four tenths-of-a-mile, then followed another road to pass under Interstate 89. From there, the trail returned to the forest and began another series of ups and downs.

While I was at Linda’s house, word was spread among the hikers that up ahead for NOBOs was a hornets nest near the trail. We were told the hornets were especially nasty and that several hikers had been stung.

I remained on alert as I walked, looking for the landmarks we were told to watch for to know when we were close to the hornets.

It turned out to be easier than expected to see where the nest was because someone had tacked a note on a tree. The note warned that the nest was to the right, so I took a wide detour to the left.

I didn’t get stung, but later a hiker caught up to me and told me he had been stung.

The approach to the town of Norwich involved road-walking on Elm Avenue. By the time I reached the end of the street and arrived in the center of town the sun had set.

At this point, I was uncertain where I was going to sleep tonight, but thought I would try to find a church described in the Guthooks app. The church wasn't specifically named, but the information said its parishioners allowed hikers to sleep in the basement. The only thing I knew about this church was it was in a blue building with a red door.

First, though, I decided to get something to eat. I headed to Dan and Whit’s General Store, hoping it was still open.

Thankfully, I discovered it was, so I bought a ready-made sandwich and a drink. After I paid for my food, the clerk told me hikers can get free day-old food. I might have glowered at him if I wasn’t so tired.

At least, though, he was able to give me a general idea of where the church was located, which was just down the street. I sat on a curb outside the store and ate my sandwich, then walked to find the church.

When I found the blue church with a red door I learned it was called St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. There were no obvious signs that hikers were welcome or where to go, though, so I had to look around.

Walking toward the back of the building I noticed a light in a window. It felt a bit creepy to do this, but I peered in the window. With relief, I saw Pheasant Melon, Umbrella Face and Dozer sitting in a room with bunks. I knocked on the window and they pointed me to where I could find the door to enter.

There wasn’t a shower available at the church, but I didn’t mind. After walking nearly 20 trail miles, plus another mile or more in town, I was glad I didn’t have to walk anymore today.

My upper bunk in the basement of the church was warm and dry.

In another time's forgotten space
Your eyes looked from your mother's face
Wildflower seed on the sand and stone
May the four winds blow you safely home

Roll away the dew
Roll away the dew
Roll away the dew
Roll away the dew

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