Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Trail Magic

When Matt and I were hiking on Saturday we made a stop at the Thistle Hill Shelter. We had already had lunch at the Cloudland Shelter but there was no shelter book there and I always like to read and sign the book.
The Thistle Hill Shelter did not appear on my map but that may be because my map is from 1995! I tried to buy a new guidebook and map set in Hanover but the book store was out and wasn't planning to reorder because a new edition is in the works.
But, about trail magic. There were three people at the shelter when we arrived (a fourth, a southbounder arrived soon after we did). One hiker, a northbounder, was staying for a few days because he injured his toe. The other two, Pippi and Hamburgler, were just finishing up lunch. They told Matt and me that they were planning a 23 mile day because they wanted to get to Hanover. They still had about 14 miles to go which seemed like a lot to do before dark. We discussed the various services available in Hanover. They were hoping to find something indoors because rain was forecast again (it had rained heavily the previous day). Matt offered the use of his guest room if they couldn't find an indoor place elsewhere. They were grateful and said they would consider it.
Matt and I set off for West Hartford about five miles further north. We knew that Pippi and Hamburgler would be passing us because they were through hikers and much stronger than I am. Indeed they did come by not too long after we left the shelter. And, it did rain, rather heavily. There are a lot of open meadows on the trail in this section--between Route 12 and Route 14 in eastern Vermont--so we were not protected by the tree canopy. When we arrived in West Hartford we found Hamburgler and Pippi in the general store enjoying hot sandwiches. Matt and I bought ice cream and sat down to wait for DH to pick us up.
DH came along in about ten minutes and got an ice cream himself. I could see that Pippi and Hamburgler were thinking hard about the nine additional hiking miles to Hanover. We suggested they drive in with us, find a spot indoors, and then meet us again in the morning so we could drive them back to West Hartford. They thought for a few minutes and agreed that would be a plan.
We dropped them off in Hanover and they set off for a fraternity house that is known to put up four through hikers every night. Matt reminded them that they could crash at his place if the fraternity was full.
DH and I went back to the campground where our tent had dried out enough for us to sleep in it. Matt jumped on his bike and rode home.
This morning we decided we should have breakfast at Lou's in downtown Hanover. It's the place where all the through hikers go to get a big meal when they arrive in town. We had a great breakfast and spent some time reading the NY Times. Just as we left the restaurant my cell phone rang. It was Pippi. They did sleep at the fraternity house and were just about ready to go back to the trail. We took them to the Hanover Outfitter where they left their packs and drove them back to West Hartford leaving them at the general store.
We spent the morning doing errands and went back into Hanover for a late lunch. There on the street were Pippi and Hamburgler. They had finished the nine miles and were picking up their packs and supplies to continue on to Katahdin.
What a great couple! And, what a pleasure to be able to deliver some trail magic. Through hikers really appreciate it whether it's cookies left in a cooler by the side of the trail, a drive into town, a chance to sleep for free in someone's home. All of these things are a treat for hikers who only have their packs and their feet.
Pippi and Hamburgler assured us they would pay our kindness forward and I know they will. And, it gave me great pleasure to provide some trail magic myself.

Cloudland Shelter, Appalachian Trail, Vermont

Cloudland Shelter
Originally uploaded by rallaronson
My nephew, Matt, and I have been section hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont. It's a beautiful area and we've been fortunate to have DH to drive us to the trail heads and pick us up at the other end. The weather has been warm and muggy with intermittent showers. Under the tree canopy the rain has not been much of a problem, but back at the campground our tent was absolutely swamped one night, forcing us to sleep in the car. We now have everything fairly dried out and we'll be moving on tomorrow. Camping is great, but camping in the rain loses its charm pretty quickly.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Confederation Trail

DH and I have been on Prince Edward Island for the past week riding the Confederation Trail. It's converted from the old railroad line that ran from end to end on the island. We had hoped to bike with our friends Joe and Tink from Princeton, but Tink had a serious biking accident a week or two before we left home and they had to cancel.

We started our trip in Charlottetown, the captial of PEI. We stayed the first night at The Rodd Charlottetown, an old Canadian railroad hotel that has been lovingly restored. On the advice of an AMCer we met in Maine, we took in the dinner theater there, a musical called The Nearlyweds which was hokey but fun.

Monday, July 7

We got up early on Monday morning, had breakfast and moved our car to a parking garage nearby. Our ride to Tignish, the eastern end of the trail was scheduled for 9 AM. At 9:20 we called the outfitter, which is located in Missouri of all places, and were told the van was running late. At 9:35 our driver appeared, loaded the bikes and our bags, and drove us to Tignish.

We had lunch at M and J's Bakery and set off for Alberton where we were scheduled to spend the night at the Hunter House Inn. The trail is well groomed with a surface of crushed gravel. We rode 14.6 miles including a short spur to Alberton and some road miles to reach the inn. Diane and Phil were great hosts and the room was lovely. After we showered and dressed for dinner, Phil drove us to the Boat Store in nearby Northport, on the water, where we had a good seafood dinner. Although Phil offered to pick us up after dinner, we decided to walk back to the inn. It was a bit further than we realized, but we made it.

Tuesday, July 8

After a good night's sleep we had a delicious breakfast at the inn and set off on the road, back to the trail and on to Bideford. We stopped in O'Leary for lunch at Vinny's Restaurant and then biked on to Ellerslie where we left the trail to ride to Bideford and Hilltop Acres B & B. Total mileage for the day was 34.5 miles. Wayne and Janice, gracious hosts who have biked the entire trail themselves, drove us to dinner at The Doctor's Inn. This was a special treat. We were the only guests at dinner and the meal was cooked to order based on the choices we had made the day before when we made the reservation. DH had scallops and I had sole almondine. There were many courses and plenty of wine. We finished off the meal with strawberry pie. Strawberries are in season on PEI during July and over the course of the week we had them for dessert in many variations.

Wednesday, July 9

We had a simple but ample breakfast and hit the road back to the trail. We fought a strong headwind all morning. This was one of the longer days, 36.4 miles and we were relieved to arrive in Summerside, our planned lunch stop. Wayne had recommended that we eat on the coast at Sharky's and we had great seafood again. We were establishing a pattern with DH nearly always ordering the lobster roll while I had PEI mussels. We took a walk through downtown, looking for a book I had enjoyed at Hunter House with sketches of the locomotives and cars on the old PEI Railroad but were told by a book seller that it was hard to find on the island. We got back on the bikes and set off for The Home Place in Kensington. We misread Henry's directions and rode quite a way off course before asking for directions at a local home improvement store. Back on track, we found the inn, quite close to the trail. On Henry's recommendation, we ate at the inn.

Thursday, July 10

Kensington to York was to be our longest day and we were a bit concerned when it started to rain before breakfast. Fortunately, there were two or three short showers but no real heavy rain. We put our rain jackets on a few times and then took them back off because it was too warm. Up until now the weather had been almost too warm so we were glad the showers cooled things off. We stopped in Hunter River at the By the River Cafe for lunch and then continued on to York and the Little York Inn. Total mileage for the day was 38.2

Our material from Henry didn't say anything about dinner that night. When we arrived in York, Robert, our inn keeper told us he could have made dinner if he had advance notice. We hadn't know this. York is not far from Charlottetown and he said we could take a taxi into the city, but we were reluctant to do so. Robert suggested the alternative of eating at an informal resort nearby that he could drive us to. We took him up on this and had a good but rather expensive dinner at the Stanhope Beach Resort. When we were finished eating, the waitress called Robert and he came back to fetch us.

We noted that Henry said we might be able to get lunch at Mt. Stewart and we asked Robert to confirm. He called the cafe and found they don't open before 2 PM. Robert offered to make us bag lunches and we took him up on his offer.

Friday, July 11

While enjoying great conversation and a wonderful breakfast with two other couples at Little York B & B, our luggage pick-up was announced. It was only 8:45 (we thought luggage had to be ready at 9 AM). We rushed from the table to finish packing and brush our teeth while the driver waited patiently at the front door of the inn. If breakfast is not served until 8 AM which was the case at most of the places we stayed, it's not possible to have the baggage ready before 9 AM at the earliest in our opinion.

Today's ride was 30.1 miles total including "the prettiest 11 kilometers on the trail" between Morell and St. Peters. But, before we got there, we went through the mosquito capital of PEI, Mt. Stewart. A mile or two west of Mt. Stewart we biked through a protected wetland area. As I rode I began to experience painful bites on my neck, back, arms and in my hair. It was about 11:30 AM when I arrived, a bit ahead of DH, at the Mt. Stewart Public Library. I parked my bike and immediately was attacked by about 100 mosquitos. I ran in the building to find the librarian and the adjoining shop owner who laughingly told me there had just been "a hatch." They invited me to stay inside, use the free internet service and eat my lunch. I kept an eye out for DH who arrived soon thereafter. He didn't come in the building at first and the two women told me it was because he was busy spraying himself with insect repellent. He soon joined me and we spent about two hours there checking e-mail and reading parts of the N Y Times.

By the time we were ready to continue on our way the mosquitos seemed to have left the scene. We were happy to have the bag lunches because the cafe, across the street from the library, did not open until 4 PM according to the posted signs. We made an additional stop at the Morell train station, now an information center and then rode the 11 kilometers to St. Peters. There were indeed lovely views.

We were relieved that our directions to tonight's inn were a bit off. It was five kilometers closer than Henry wrote and it was right off the trail, not three kilometers away. The Greenwich Gate Lodge in St. Peters was more like a motel, but the room was large, clean and comfortable. We had a fish and chips dinner next door at Rick's and slept soundly.

Saturday, July 12

Breakfast at Greenwich Gate was from 7 to 9 AM, much to DH's delight. It was billed as a continental breakfast, but it included oatmeal, toast, fruit, juice and muffins, more than enough to energize us for the relatively short 22.7 mile day to Souris. Today involved taking one of the spur trails and it was well worth it. The Matthews House Inn is a Victorian beauty. Kimberly and her husband were wonderful hosts and our room and the entire house for that matter were beautifully furnished with antiques. We arrived in time for lunch and headed over to the Blue Fin, within walking distance of the inn. We had a great seafood lunch and headed back to check in. I took my usual afternoon nap while DH read and relaxed. We went back to the Blue Fin for dinner and then had a good night's sleep.

Sunday, July 13

I awoke this morning feeling rather sad that our ride was nearly over. Today was a particularly short day, only 15.8 miles. Again, the weather was beautiful. After a breakfast of cereal, scones and omelets we set off for Elmira, the end of the trail. Kimberly had called ahead for us and told us there was a cafe at the train station/museum in Elmira. We arrived around noon and had lobster rolls and ice cream. There were plenty of benches for us to sit on while we waited for the shuttle to arrive. The driver was actually 15 minutes early. He loaded the bikes and we drove to Souris to get the luggage and then on to the Snapdragon B & B in Charlottetown for our last night on PEI.

The Snapdragon is pretty upscale and we have a beautiful room on the second floor with a large deck outside. We walked into town, had another seafood dinner at a small restaurant at Prince and Water Streets, called Prince and Water, and spent some time amid the tourists down on the Quay where there was live music. As we walked back, we realized we could liberate our car from the parking garage (closed on Sundays but with no gates) and we drove it back to the Snapdragon.

Breakfast is scheduled for 8 AM tomorrow and then we will load the car and head to New Hampshire. I can't say enough good things about the Confederation Trail. The surface is wonderful, the accomodations were very good and the people here on the island are very pleasant. All in all, we had a wonderful time.