You never know when your five minutes of fame are going to happen. For me, Zach, and Stephanie, it happened as we were climbing out of the back of a woman’s pick-up truck after hitching from VT 12 to Woodstock’s Mac’s Market for our resupply of food for the next two days of hiking.
As Zach and I were stashing our packs against the side of a building, a patron of the market walked out the automatic doors, spotted Stephanie and said, “Hey! You’re on the front page of the paper!”
The man proceeded to show us the front page of the Valley News local newspaper with this picture:
Below the picture was a blurb written by Jennifer Hauck:
“From left, Zachary Wells, Megan Johnson and Stephanie Wells, all of Gainesville, Ga., return to hiking the Appalachian Trail in West Hartford, Vt., after swimming in the White River on July 21, 2015. Hiking the trail from north to south, the trio go by the trail names (from left) Treasure Hunter, Artemis and The Bookie. ‘We are walking home,’ Zachary Wells said. His mother, Stephanie, is hiking sections of the trail with the couple.”
We were so excited about our newfound celebrity status as people continued to recognize us in the store and even the next day on the trail! Of course, we had known there was a possibility we would be in the paper. Ms. Hauck had approached us the day before, as she writes, in West Hartford after Zach and I had jumped off that bridge and the three of us had taken a mid-day swim in the river. She said it might be in the paper, it might not. But there we were the next day, on the front page no less!
Our fame is not the only serendipitous occasion we experienced with Zach’s mom that day either. When we met Ms. Hauck, we had just left a Trail Angel’s house. As we were walking down the main road (and only road) of West Hartford, preparing to turn onto the bridge, we heard a bell sound and a shout, “YOU WANT SOME SODA?”
Um, yes. Yes we do please.
Linda and her husband Randall can mostly be found on their front porch during thru-hiker season. Their son completed the trail years ago and ever since they have been giving back in the forms of cold soda, pancakes to those who pass in the morning, apple pie for afternoon hikers such as ourselves, and allowing hikers to tent in their yard or take shelter in the barn. Even after their house and town were destroyed by Hurricane Irene four years ago, the family which has been in West Hartford for generations rebuilt and kept on contributing to the community and hikers. They are a beautiful example of the incredible people found along the AT. Their generosity was greatly appreciated on a hot day of hiking. Linda even let us borrow towels for swimming in the river!
Back in the woods, Stephanie’s presence with us seemed to draw more unexpected and peculiar encounters…
Unicyclists on the Trail! How random and totally cool! These guys were actually able to solve a little mystery we’d been pondering as we walked as well. There are tubes running along the trees in the forest with valves attached to them. Turns out, they are gathering sap from the trees to make the famous Vermont maple syrup!
We also, of course, got to experience some real Vermont beauty in this stretch.
Although, it did rain on us three out of five days we all hiked together. The first storm was the nastiest weather we’ve seen the entire time we’ve been out. Zach was having a fit about hiking in a lightning storm while carrying metal poles in each hand.
We completed just over 40 miles as a group. On our last night out, we had a lovely camping spot off the trail between two streams.
I think this wonderful time on the trail can be partially attributed to one of the best things about hiking with Stephanie: the change of pace. Lately, we’ve practically been zooming down the trail. With Stephanie, we get to actually take notice of the remarkable things around us. Brightly colored mushrooms, crazy fungi growing out of logs, trees growing straight out of the rock… we’d been missing those things recently. And enjoying these things is part of what its all about. This week has been a gift to me and Zach as his mom lent her eyes, ears, perspective, and conversation to our hike.
So please, Bookie, come and slow us down again soon.