25 June 2021. Day 78. 13.6 Miles + 940.5 Miles = 954.1 Miles. Lake Stratton Shelton to Bromley Mountain. Camping in the Ski Area (tent-3)

06:43. Near Death of My Hiking Poles

My hiking poles have taken quite a beating on this journey. I’ve always used Black Diamond poles and I’ve been more than pleased with them. Unfortunately I had thrown them into the back of my pickup truck and then tossed a load of firewood on top of them forgetting that they were there. Result? One bent pole. I broke it attempting to straighten it in my vise. The hike was about to begin so I went to Adam Shick at Twenty Eight West in Walhalla and he special ordered a set of Mountainsmith poles. They have served me well but once again my own misuse has led to their death. It turns out that there is a point in time that you need to change the tips before you wear into the pole itself….. otherwise the replacements won’t fit. On this morning I planned to hike into Manchester, Vermont and replace these tips.

06:53. Lake Stratton

The night before there had been hikers swimming in this lake but on this morning it was serenely quiet. I worked my way around the lake and soon found myself climbing from the upper end. We were now on the lookout for moose especially since I had seen several piles of moose scat.

07:29. Three Quarters of the Way There

An acknowledgment that we were crossing the 3/4 way point of the 2,193 mile trail. It was made of white birch tree bark.

07:45. Vermont Streams

In order to get into Manchester I was going to have to hike a mile and a half down 1,000 + of elevation and then hitch a ride into town. I wasn’t too excited about that…… especially the thought of doing it in reverse on the way back. But……. Hawkeye was already on the way there in order to get the very same water mouthpiece that I had needed awhile back. I had sent mine back via Scott and Wendy.

09:06. Storm Damage

The trail, like our equipment, takes a major beating. Storm damage is constantly degrading trails and damaging bridges.

09:30. The View into Manchester, Vermont

The beginning of my hike down into Manchester from Prospect Rock. It looked like a large task for a couple of pole tips. I began the descent and then another large chunk of a mile on top of that to reach the highway. As I was about to cross the highway to begin my hitching attempt a woman pulled up next to me and rolled down the passenger window. “Do you need a ride into town?” I hadn’t even used my thumb yet!!!! I gratefully put my gear on her back seat and jumped in. She brought me right to the outfitter shop telling me that she had recognized my Clemson hat.

THE HAT!!!!

I walked into the outfitter shop. The woman behind the register immediately asked me if I had found my Clemson hat or I was actually a part of the school. I told her that all five of my children had been involved with Clemson. I was immediately welcomed to the store. At that point I met the young man responsible for the hiking equipment. He was the one who informed me that my poles were worn well beyond tip replacement and they did not have section replacements without ordering them. 15 minutes later I was the owner of a new set of Leki poles and they were shipping my Mountainsmiths back to South Carolina for induction into the Garland Hiking Hall of Fame.

Hawkeye was nowhere to be found so I ended up at a deli with yet another sandwich. They evidently don’t sell vegetables north of the Mason-Dixon Line unless you’re cooking at home. I was once told that I could go to a Chinese Buffet because it would have broccoli on the line. As I was sitting there a young girl walked by me and said hello telling me that she was a 1991 graduate of Clemson. I responded, “1970”. She smiled and moved onto her table. Once I had completed my meal I wandered back down to the highway in order to begin the task of hitching a ride back to the trail head and climbing that stinking mountain. A hitchhiking rule is that you can pretty well know that anybody in a Mercedes, a Lexus or any car of great value is not going to stop to pick up some scraggly looking dude who smells like last weeks garbage. However if you see a pick up truck, a jeep, or a Subaru your chances increase substantially that you might get a ride. The first vehicle who came toward me was a Cadillac. No way! I thought this Cadillac is not going to stop . There were five cars behind the Cadillac so I had my thumb out but never paid any attention In a moment I heard a horn behind me and turned to find the Cadillac sitting on the side of the road with its trunk lid lifted. I gratefully walked toward the vehicle. Once I went to the door it was the young lady from the deli who had graduated in 1991. “I saw your Clemson hat” As I got into the vehicle she said “oh my, I’ve left my wallet back on the green at the restaurant. I’ll drive you up to the trail head and then go back and get it.” I told her that she really needed to get the wallet now and then drive me to the trail head. She said, “Oh no, this is Vermont it will still be there”. I told her that I was impressed with her confidence but I would feel better if she went and got her wallet first. She agreed so we turned around and drove back to town to the green which was filled with people. There beside the chair that she had been sitting in was her wallet. Her confidence was rewarded. Her name was Lisa and she drove me back to the trailhead for the beginning of my 1,000 foot climb. My Clemson hat had been recognized and rewarded three times in one small Vermont town. Hours later while hiking miles away I realized that my hat was no longer on my head or my pack. I have no idea where it ended up unless it’s in Lisa’s car but it served me well.

I think in everyone’s life there is some article of headgear that is memorable. I had a plastic coated hat while at Clemson that I could tie to my head while driving my Austin-Healy while the top was down; I wanted to keep my Vietnam bush hat forever until my German Shepard Pax tore into little pieces; Whitney and I spent a wonderful family day with her Mom and Tory at Stone Mountain in Georgia. It was highlighted with hats; and now my Clemson hat would be added to the memorable hat list.

18:08. Snowmobile

We don’t see many of these signs in South Carolina.

19:45. Climbing Mount Bromley

The final climb of the day involved hiking to the top of a ski lodge on Mount Bromley. As you might guess the climb was nearly straight up and strewn with rocks. I found myself wondering what would happen if the snow was too thin when I hit one of those rocks with my ski poles as I came barreling down the mountain. I could see the tops of heads of other hikers who were already set up for the evening at the top of the mountain. . Those tops of heads became my goal as I attempted to push a little more strength out of myself to finish the day’s hike.

19:56. Sunset on Mount Bromley

It has been a successful day. I had managed to overcome the extra 4 miles of climbing to get into Manchester. I had brand new hiking poles. I had met three people who were familiar with Clemson. Yes, I had lost my hat but I made it to the top of Mount Bromley and now I was going to get to sleep at a beautiful location on top of the ski slope. I put my tent up and crawled onto my air mattress. As I lay there I listened to the sound of a guitar being quietly played on the other side of the open ground. Below me protected from the wind I could hear people laughing as they were sitting around a campfire that they had built for the evening. It wasn’t long before I drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow I would “hike on” but now I would sleep deeply.

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