July 6, 2011

3/4 finished!

Hello folks at home!  Upstate here.  Loop and I are now in the 12th of 14 states on the trail--Vermont.  It's a magical land of Cabot dairy products, Darn Tough socks, Long Trail beer and the biggest mountains that we've seen since Tennessee.  11 states and 1600 miles down; 3 states and 581 miles to go. I'm writing this morning from a hiker inn (Green Mountain House) in Manchester Center, VT.  The finer-things of town have become somewhat of a regularity over the last week or so (much thanks to Loop's parents, Bob and Pam), and I think that it's safe to say that Loop and I have gone completely soft!  Let me catch y'all up...

After breaking the house record of most-blueberry-pancakes-eaten at the B&B in Kent last Sunday (the previous record was 12--Loop ate 13, and I ate 17.  We definitely stopped for politeness sakes--it would be bad form to raise the bar out of reach for future guests!), Loop and I reluctantly said goodbye to Pam and Bob and headed back into the mountains.  Doing big miles on the first couple of days out allowed us to really slow down and enjoy most of last week.  Nice weather, lazy mornings (with lots of reading, coffee, shelter workouts and inevitably, 10am-move-out-times) and relatively easy hikes seemed to be in endless supply.  The famous "Upper Goose Pond Cabin" in Massachusetts offered bunks in a fully-enclosed room, pancake breakfast and a comfy porch with rocking chairs (it's really like an oasis in the mountains--a cabin in the middle of nowhere with a wood stove and a caretaker who paddles pancake supplies across the enormous pond in a canoe).  We spent our evening reading by the light of an old gas lamp and listening to our new friend "Six String" picking on his "Man-taur" (Mandolin that's tuned with six strings like a guitar--it's got a pretty neat sound).  Our morning swim in the freezing-cold, spring-fed pond ended up being quite a workout for our arms that haven't been used much over the past 15 weeks!  More relatively easy days led us to Dalton, Mass. where a local resident, Tom Levardi, lets hikers camp in his yard for free.  Rather than a quiet lawn hidden somewhere in town, we arrived (much to our liking) to a regular old hiker party right on Main Street!  Friends that I haven't seen since Damascus, VA greeted us with hugs and smiles as we dropped our gear and added 3 more tents to the Hooverville/Tent City already erected in the yard.  Among the ranks were Malarky (Ireland), Shepherd (England), Burly (Lookout Mt, GA), Jukebox, Maniac, Estero, Legion, Hot Sauce, Fuzzy Navel, Tigerlilly and about ten others that I hadn't met.  Tom had actually opened his house up (due to the large amount of hikers) for folks to sleep, shower and do laundry inside.  Once again, the generosity of people out here is beyond description.  We enjoyed a good night's sleep on the comfy grass, and a huge breakfast at the town diner the next morning.  We couldn't resist stopping by the gas station on the way out of town for a box of Entemann's cake donuts and a half gallon of whole milk (second breakfast).  We ate them with new friend "Sunny Side" in the mulch bed right beside the store, and left town feeling rather sick.  Nothing we aren't used to though!  A short day's hike led us down into the town of Cheshire, Mass. where we met Loop's parents (again!) for lunch at a sandwich shop (and Ice Cream!) and a ride into Adams for a stay at the Mt. Greylock Inn.  After grabbing a shower and sitting around in plush bathrobes for a few hours, we were treated to a meager dinner of sushi, blackened sea bass and a bunch of other simple, roughin'-it hiker-type foods!  Are you starting to get the picture?  I'm serious, we've gone soft.  Our resolve is ruined!  We've been spoiled past the point of any return, haha.  I justify all of this treatment by telling myself, "Enjoy it while it's here because the next 550 miles are going to be pretty rough and devoid of any of the finer things."  There's no denying it though--we've probably been more pampered than any thru-hiker of history.  We ate a large breakfast of eggs, fresh fruit and french toast in the morning, before being dropped-off with Bob to hike the 8-mile ascent of Massachusetts' highest peak, Mt. Greylock.  Pam met us at the top with a picnic lunch, and we enjoyed our last few minutes together before saying our final goodbyes and disappearing once again into the mountains.  Four days of tough hiking (and a very rude awakening to the reality that the trail still exists and is as harsh, hot, muddy and bud-ridden as ever) led us down into Manchester Center to pick up a mail drop (thanks Caboose!).  The town was actually about 6 miles off of the trail, so we had to thumb a ride.  Richard, the man who whipped his Subaru over to offer us a ride, not only drove us into town, but also drove us around for ten minutes, giving us a free tour and dropped us off at the PO on the outskirts of town.  As if that wasn't enough, he showed back up ten minutes later and said, "Hey fella's, I'm heading back into town if you guys would like a ride."  Simply mind-blowing.  I've learned a bunch about myself, and about a thousand other things out here, but I feel like I've gotten a Ph.D in generosity.  It is amazing being on the receiving end of someone who's chosen to pick their head up from their own affairs, see someone in need and give so freely of their time and resources.  Very humbling.  If we pay attention, we've probably all got the opportunity to help someone out (even in a simple way) every day.  So, I'll leave you with that to think on!  Awfully profound for a simple hiker, I know.  As Caboose mentions in her note below these photos, thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your continued prayers and support.  You folks make the miles worth hiking!  We'll keep knocking out the states and miles, you stay classy.

Lunch with the Cookes
Bob, Loophole, Upstate & Mrs. Pam 

Delicious Cape Cod chips with free beer from local package store (yes, they will give thru-hikers a free beer of thier chosing!)
Delicious Cape Cod Chips [one of our sponsors] & FREE beer from a local package store. They let the thru-hikers take their pick from any beer in the store!  

Mt. Greylock Inn in Adams, MA
Mt. Greylock Inn, Adams MA 
the boys stayed here during their 2nd visit with Bob & Pam

Upstate & Shepard
Upstate & Shepard
[Mike told me that he barely escaped a mullet that night...I kindly reminded him of his dreams of a sweet, beautiful, flowing pony-tail...hahaha]

New Friends
new friends, Six String and Sunny Side!! [Upstate's loving the furry companion...Loop appears to be loving Sunny Side! Haha, he's gonna kill me when he reads this!]

Loophole & Upstate back at it
Loophole & Upstate 
gettin' back after it!

this is very similar to the "Lemon Squeeze" that we experienced in New York..I'll let your imagination run with "Lemon Squeeze" - just know, we were the lemons. 

Friends & family, thank you for your continued support. I've enjoyed talking to some of you about my adventure & telling you stories that I'm hearing from the boys. Please keep the prayers & support coming! They are so close to the end! (: And we definitely couldn't have taken this adventure on without y'all!

Mike Martin or Brock Cooke
General Delivery
Hanover, NH 03755
Please hold for thru-hiker
Expected Date of Pick-up: 7-11 or 7-12


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