Appalachian Trail – River Crossing
Appalachian Trail – August 5, 2013
Doors started slamming downstairs at 4AM, and I dozed fitfully between jarring cracks of noise. One particularly loud slam was followed by loud voices, around 5:00AM. I threw off my covers, thrashing around in them angrily, as I tumbled from the bed, and quietly peered out between the lacey curtains. I actually saw some crazy hiker leaving, missing the Shaw's breakfast. This was beyond my understanding. Instead of getting back to bed, I headed for another shower to try and remove any dirt and grime, remaining after the prior day's scrub. I also wanted to beat any early birds that might use up all the hot water. This was an old home, and a hostel. It probably did not have the largest tank.
It was still pretty early when I finished getting dressed, so I quietly left the house, and headed off through town, hobbling along on my stiff, blistered feet. I wanted to find some band aids and tape before the next leg of the hike. It was still too early for most stores to be open, so I kept walking down main street, looking for any store that might be open for business. I finally came to a gas station and convenience store, and purchased their last two boxes of band aids. There appeared to be about 8 band aids in each small box – about enough for two days. I frowned as I contemplated this next section, already trying to figure out how I could convert my duct tape to band aids without taking off the first 4 layers of skin on my feet.
Breakfast was fantastic! I had four, maybe it was five, of everything – eggs, bacon, pancakes, toast. Again, other hikers that had been out much longer marveled at my appetite. I enjoyed chatting with the other travelers at the long communal table while I ate, but did not linger after I finishing. It was announced that an early shuttle was leaving, so I stuffed down one last pancake, and ran up stairs to grab my pack, and head out to the car.
After getting dropped off at the trailhead parking lot where I had been picked up, I took a few minutes to get my pack situated. My body was thrilled to have gotten 20 hours of weightless, walkless rest, and I was ready to hit the trail, bright eyed and broken tailed. My tail bone was the only member of the family pretty irritated to be hiking again. I tried to take pictures of the three massive bruises on my fanny, but they are not located in optimal snapshot locations, and I hesitated to ask others to assist in the picture taking.
US 15 provided a delineation for trail conditions. To the north of US 15 was the brutal 100 mile wilderness, with it's dark middle earth forests, and eternal dampness, filled with mosquitoes, roots, rocks and a constant covering of moss. South of US 15, I picked up a new leafy, dry park like trail I had not seen before. I wound my way along it thanking the powers that be for this dry, flat den.
A few miles in I passed a lean, pale NOBO rounding the corner. He looked familiar, and I suddenly realized it was “White Out,” a Nobo thru I had met in the RPH shelter in CT, when section hiking earlier in the year. I had shared some pizza and soda with him and another hiker. It was great to see him finishing up the trail. Over the course of the day, I saw 10 NOBO's. Some blurred past with a quick hi, but a few stopped to speak. Monkey, Sweat, Bunny, and Dundee were the only names I recall.
About an hour later, I looked up to see two Golden Retrievers charging towards me. A woman called back the female golden, but the male ignored her and barked loudly as he established an aggressive stance in the middle of the trail. I just stood and waited as the woman approached, wanting to give him no reason to further press his position. They were beautiful dogs, and once the woman arrived and said hello, they were very friendly. I love most any animal, so they both got a good rub as they bounced around me joyfully.
The woman's name was Meg Wilson. We chatted for about 20 minutes. She had a book coming out on 10 female thru-hikers, she had followed them down the trail the prior year…a very friendly and interesting woman. She had also left awesome trail magic (my first of this hike) at the next road crossing….beef sticks, the best fresh blueberries I've ever eaten, cookies, etc. Down south it is common to come across what long distance hikers refer to as “trail magic.” It can be as simple as a cooler of sodas, and as elaborate as a full blown cook out that lasts for several days. When I first started hiking NOBO in 2005, I would come across it at every road crossing, for the first 2-3 weeks.
There were two river crossings over the course of the afternoon, neither especially difficult. I wear trail runners, so I just wade across and let my shoes dry as I continue walking. I wear Salomon trail runners. I love the one pull laces, larger toe box, and ruggedness of the shoe. I've tried most every trail runner, and this is my favorite. The last crossing actually had a rope stretched across the river to use. A note in my book says it can be dangerous when it rains. The rope cut across at an obvious place along the bank, but I followed the AT on around the corner, and crossed a small channel, climbed up over a small spit of land, pushed though some brush, and finished by wading across a second channel. It appeared much easier than wading across the deep river, using a sagging loose rope to hold me above what might be a swift current.
I continued on across several bogs, and followed what appeared to be a dry creek bed for several miles, hopping from rock to rock. This was strenuous, and my legs got tired, so I stopped to rest on a fallen tree, after a bit of hopping. This break did not last long though, as my tail bone was going to have none of that sitting stuff.
I had planned to stop at Moxie Bald Lean-to, but there were a few people already there, so I said hi, and headed down towards the lake and campsites. I find that out here I'm not really comfortable around groups of people. I prefer to camp on my own, and putz around camp in peace and silence before settling in for the night.
The lakes here in Maine, or ponds as they call them, are absolutely beautiful and virtually empty. I am always amazed at the wilderness, that so few people see, that exists in this country. I walked down to the lake and found some rocks to crawl up on to make dinner. They were flat enough to sit on comfortably as long as I listed to the side off my tail bone, and I stayed for about an hour, looking out at this beautiful lake with absolutely no movement on it. The temperature dropped quickly, so an hour was about it for me. I headed back to my Hexamid tarp, to snuggle down under my Nunatak quilt for the evening.