I don't know what made "Shake Down" ever want to hike with me again. After our crazy week in NJ, only a trail addict would come join me again. The second night of our week together in NJ, we didn't make it to the shelter I had foolishly imagined we could reach in one day. So, as night rolled in, we decided to set up camp on top of Rattlesnake Mountain. The only water sources we passed were dried up mosquito pits, meaning we had to camp without water. Our little tent sat on top the rocky bald peak of the mountain. When a thunderstorm rolled in around midnight, we could only laugh, loudly and fearfully. We could not have picked a more vulnerable campsite.
We survived the night, and we made it into a town the next day to rest and recover. Unfortunately, the Forest Motel was not what we envisioned. The "manager" picked us up from the trail. She was old, her back seat was filled, totally filled, with toilet paper, paper towel, and tissues. She said she was homeless. Nobody loved her except her cats. And her cats were dying. A doctor had stabbed her with a needle in her 50s, and when she tried to sue him for the damage he caused, the doctors, the lawyers, the government, her whole family, turned against her. Now she was 70, constantly in pain, and alone. We tipped her generously, and then rushed into our room. We almost began talking about mental health issues, before we realized she was in the room next to ours and could definitely hear our conversation. Instead, we talked loudly about what a great place the Forest Motel is. I felt exhausted.
The motel reminded me of "Fargo." The bed head-board was a plain 2x4 nailed to the wall. A few fading and wrinkly posters were screwed into the wall, just in case somebody tried to steal them. The place smelled like a nursing home. Mirrors were everywhere. They were positioned in bizarre places in our room. They were outside on the motel and surrounding buildings, on the trees, on the rusty swing set near the parking lot. It was very, very creepy.
Our luck changed, thankfully, for dinner. Across the street, a 5 star authentic Italian restaurant allowed us grungy hikers to dine. The spectacular food and wine restored us, and recharged us for our re-entry onto the A.T. We slept deep and hit the trail early the next morning.
In light of that crazy NJ week, I don't know why "Shake Down" would ever leave her house again, but she ventured out with me again, a third time, totaling about 94 miles this year!
"Shake Down" and I reached Bennington, VT last night. We both fell in love with it. Bennington is a funky and wholesome town. The posters and business cards in the South Street Cafe advertise yoga, massage, folk concerts, bluegrass jam sessions, "Center Yourself" pottery classes, and dog classes.
Bennington knows second-hand clothing stores are better than first-hand. Bennington houses have porches and rocking chairs. Bennington has carrots, broccoli, and squash in Mexican burritos. Bennington doesn't answer cell phones. Bennington doesn't like facebook, or computers in general.
When I think of Bennington, I will remember the car I saw on main street today: a yellow VW Bug painted with flames like a Hot Rod. It's quirky and artful.
Now, I'm off again, to Rutland, VT to meet my brother Calvin! I hope to run into "Split Pea" aka "Teen Wolf" aka "The Prince" in the hostel there (a friend from NJ), and to see Emily H in Hanover, NH sometime after that. In the words of "Stambler" (a fellow Steady Ambler), "This trail keeps washing me off and filling me back up."
Thank you, A.T.