Week 6 on the A.T.
As your belief about limits change, the limits themselves change.
~ Terry Orlick
I was wrong about this being the day to catch Maineak. However, I knew that we had to be getting really close to that anticipated first encounter.
Nancy Hamilton and I were very fortunate to stay at the home of Bert Meyers in Cornwall, Connecticut. Homes always gave a very necessary respite from the trail. However, Bert and his roommate had two large dogs and a cat. My sleep was interrupted on several occasions when the animals decided that they also wanted to sleep in my bed. But, at least it wasn't a bear in the wilderness wanting to share my sleeping space!
Day 37 - June 14 - 43.3 miles - 12:25 - Cum. miles 1492.7
From the log - Cornwall Bridge to Holmes Road. Very nice day but not quite as cool or windy as yesterday. Tough day...Terrain was very rocky in stretches...Got lost in Falls Village...Very poorly marked in town...Got lost before Highway 7 in Sheffield and couldn't find trail to go to Homes Road...Tough section from CONN 41 to Jug End Road (16.2 miles)...Took 5 hours...No access and very rocky and steep...Bonked in that area until Nancy met me at Mt. Everett. Nancy saw Maineak at Jug End Road at 12:10 p.m. Maineak ate five pieces of pizza and a sandwich. She told him I was close. Maineak said he had been playing games with me the last couple of days. He told Nancy he only did 30 miles yesterday. I figure I'm about 15-20 miles behind him...Should take 2-3 days to catch him...Today was hard and tough...76 miles ahead of schedule...Stayed in Sheffield, MA.
Considering the entire A.T., the places where it was hardest to follow the trail were in and around towns. Nancy and I had quite a time finding our way in Falls Village and again once the trail left Sheffield. We read and reread the guidebooks and maps but to no avail. Thankfully, someone came along that pointed out the turn that we had missed. In all, I probably ended up running one or two miles further than necessary.
Regardless of our temporary dislocation from the trail, IT finally happened. Nancy had seen Maineak! Nancy had last given me supplies at CT 41 near Salisbury, CT. The next place she could get to a road crossing was at Jug End Road. She drove there after leaving me and that is where she saw Maineak. I was actually quite disappointed that I wasn't the first one to see him. I had dreamed of quietly coming up from behind, tapping him on the shoulder and saying, "Guess who?" After all, it was I who had been chasing a dream and a Maineak all this time!
That section to Jug End Road had been very tough on both of us. I had run out of food and was bonking before Nancy came running to meet me. Bear Mountain and Mt. Everett were two very high peaks for that part of the country (2316' and 2602'), providing for some great views. Posh homes could be viewed throughout the countryside.
As I left Connecticut and entered my 11th state, Massachusetts, I was pleased to have come so far. And Maineak was getting so close...
Day 38 - June 15 - 45.4 miles - 11:54 - Cum. miles 1538.1
From the log - Holmes Road to Gulf Road (Dalton, MA). Nancy Hamilton helped for a while then Bert Meyer for the rest of the day...It got hotter and more humid than it had been the last 3 or 4 days...Bottom of right foot getting better...Arch of left foot hurt last 12-15 miles...A little swelling at the end...Emotions were so-so all day...Saw two porcupines and had to run one of them off the trail...Saw a hen turkey and baby turkeys...Bert saw Maineak when I stopped at 4:05 p.m. He said Maineak was going on 8 - 10 more miles. 82.7 miles ahead of schedule.
Every time I had a good day, a so-so or bad day seemed to follow. I just couldn't get into it. I was not motivated and was extremely pleased to have the day end. I really did not want to run as much as I did but the last few miles were either downhill or on pavement through town, leaving me no choice.
During the trip I always tried to finish the day with a downhill. That way, I would always start the next morning with an uphill, allowing me to get warmed up by walking before I started any serious running.
Day 39 - June 16 - 40.7 miles - 10:54 - Cum. miles 1578.8
From the log - Gulf Road to VT 9. Felt pretty good early...Trashy trail most of day...Figured I'd catch Maineak at 2:00 p.m. Caught him and David Blair at 2:20 p.m. at Congdon Camp and walked with them to the end. They walked very well. It was very nice walking with them. I think Maineak was going on 14 more miles...Day went fast... Spirits were very good all day...Caught Maineak after 1574.6 miles...88.3 miles ahead of schedule...Prospect Mountain into North Adams - hardest downhill yet.
This was the big day that I had been waiting for: the day I would catch Maineak. The miles went by very quickly as I thought about that prospect. The adrenaline was pumping!
Bob Dion of Readsboro, VT met me as he came running back on the trail, having started in Cheshire, MA. Bob ran with me some during the day and I stayed at his log home that evening.
Early that morning I went over the summit of Mt. Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts (3491'). The summit was the first in the nation to have a pay-for-observation tower, built on the spot now occupied with the distinctive War Memorial. This memorial resembled some kind of temple or mosque that you might encounter in the mid-East. This mountain provides extraordinary views of northwest Massachusetts as well as parts of New York and Vermont. The summit is a bird sanctuary with climatic conditions similar to northern Canada. Auto road races are usually held between May 15 and December 7.
Shortly before noon I reached the Massachusetts/Vermont border. Opening the register found at the border, I found Maineak's card. On the back of the card, he left the following message: "Hey Prof. Horton. Let's rock and roll to the Big K". The big K was Mt. Katahdin, but was he challenging me or just being friendly? Time would tell. But for now, I had to concentrate on what I was doing. At this point the A.T. actually follows the Long Trail for 101.3 miles to Maine Junction. It had been completed in 1911, more than 10 years before the A.T. was even begun. On I pressed.
All day long I had been seeing one large set of footprints and one slightly smaller set. And then suddenly, IT happened at 2:20 p.m., 1574.6 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Maineak and one of his crew, David Blair (Lone Wolf), were stepping out of Congdon Camp; an enclosed cabin with bunks and a wood stove. The camp is ten miles north of the Massachusetts/Vermont border on the A.T.
It is difficult to explain my emotions at that moment in time. I had never seen Maineak in person, only pictures. I had thought about him daily for 1500 plus miles. I could easily recognize his handwriting from the registers. But I had never seen him face to face. He told me before the trip that he was 6'1'' and 220 pounds. He didn't look more than 190 pounds, if that. He looked like a fit athlete.
(Click here for a picture of this first meeting.)
There was a lot of joking that went on between the two of us at that time. We left camp after a brief exchange and headed to VT 9 (Near Bennington, VT) which was my days destination. I decided to walk the remaining 4.2 miles with them. I ended up sandwiched between the two of them on our trek. Our conversation was brisk, as was our pace, and I soon felt as though I had known Maineak for years. It also amazed me by how fast he could walk and talk. There was not a single moment of silence in those 4.2 miles. One of the three of us was talking the entire time. I don't have any memories of what that section was actually like. A sudden downpour prompted me to "suggest" that we stop; one shouldn't hike in the rain! He just laughed! I think both of us felt like brothers and compatriots in that we had been together, yet separate, chasing the same dream...56 days on the A.T.
My day ended at VT 9 and Bob again took me to his home for the night. Maineak continued up the trail. I could hardly wait for the next sunrise to begin the chase anew
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