Appalachian Trail – August 18, 2013
I thought my last day in southern Maine – bring on the Gauntlet as I stretched out under my quilt, listening to the pops and creaks of my battered body. My muscles were stiff and sore as I mentally counted down in my head. I always had to pump myself up mentally before I threw back my quilt and quickly put on my down jacket, which was often substituted as a pillow, followed by my bright Pinkish-red (I can’t spell fucia) fleece hat. The down was flat and matted, but at least it would be warm as it puffed up around me while I chewed on a, typically Raspberry, Pop-tart.
I grinned as I smacked on a mouthful of pure, gummy, sugary jam and dribbled crumbs all over my quilt. It was a freakin town day! I was headed into Gorham, NH, so throw what you had at me, Maine. I was about to enter my second state! Maine had been a beautiful and rugged state, making a SOBO start very challenging and rewarding, and it felt good to finally be crossing a state line. Some hikers think the Whites of New Hampshire are the most challenging part of the trail, but I don’t think they hold a candle to the ruggedness of southern Maine. I was also about to encounter a Maine Moose, making this section more memorable.
Wildlife sightings are one of my favorite parts of these hikes and also one of the reasons I prefer hiking solo….less noise. I tip-toed over a bog bridge before Gentian and about had a heart attack at the same time the bull moose right next to me had his. I had been watching the plank bridge in front of me – focused on not losing clothing again, to the murky black bog, when I heard a “large” noise and slowly looked up. Mr. Moose was only a few feet away, and we stared at each other for a second or two. Then, I swear I saw his eyes widen before he whirled and leaped over the plank ahead of me. He was a giant and awkward creature, but he could move!
I watched as he ran alongside the bridge, ahead of me about 40 feet before turning to look back. There was a look of shock as he realized I was still following him. He repeated this same action three more times as I strolled behind him, leaping back and forth over the bog bridge. Occasionally, he stumbled over the bridge, and I was scared for him as his long, gangly legs collided repeatedly with the hard logs/planks. This went on for several minutes, with him constantly looking back to stare at me before charging ahead again in a frantic panic. I had slowed to let him get ahead, hoping he would turn off into the woods, and finally, at an intersection, he went straight, and I turned right. It was a wonderful experience, and I had 6 or 7 great photo ops, but wait, my iPhone was DEAD! I had failed to charge it in Andover, ME. I marched on disgusted, hoping he had not hurt himself too much.
Since I did not get a picture that day, I’ve included a picture of my moose from the Continental Divide Trail. I will have to say that the AT moose was much skinnier and more skittish than the CDT moose, but I probably would be, too, with humans chasing me repeatedly.
That day’s hike was nice. Not much exertion was required, and the AT spit me out on the road with time to spare for the day. I walked out to Rt. 2, where there was a hostel I had heard many good things about, but I wanted to head into town. This would be my first zero days with no hiking, and I had a lot of chores I needed to do, so I bypassed the hostel and stuck out my thumb, where a retired military chaplain picked me up rather quickly. He was from VT but vacationing in Gorham with his family. We chatted on the ride into town, and time flew by quickly. He was a super nice guy.
The Chaplain dropped me off at Hiker’s paradise. It was a motel with a hostel attached to a tiny restaurant, out of which they served breakfast. I had stayed here in the past and was surprised to see it still run by Bruno and his wife. They and the motel had weathered time in about the same manner here in the brutal northlands, and it was good to see both again. Bruno and his wife were always charming, and I enjoyed chatting with them. I put my stuff in my room, took a shower, and then headed off to wash clothes and try to rent a little car for the next day. This was a spread-out town; I would probably need to run over a city to get a car.
Fortunately, I found an Enterprise willing to bring me a car. Let the chores begin!