Appalachian Trail – August 21, 2013
Boo Boo and I were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. I was able to quit asking rough looking, hairy men if their name was Boo Boo, and Boo Boo was able to stop asking rough looking hairy women if their name was Lucy LuLu.
Boo Boo was a NOBO whose journal I began reading when he started hiking the trail at the beginning of the year, well before I definitively determined I would hike south. It appeared his wife began reading my journal when I had started hiking at the end of the summer. She had sent me a couple of encouraging messages, and I’m not sure, but may have also let me know that Boo Boo and I were closing in on each other – me heading south and Boo Boo racing north to the finish.
I was approaching the summit of Wildcat A, when a clean cut hiker (no thru’s are clean cut) coming towards me asked if I was Lucy LuLu. He had a military look to him, with his close cropped sandy brown hair, and shaven, square jaw. I said yes to the potential stalker, as I reached into my pocket for my knife, ready to carve my way past an attack with my trusty serrated Gerber blade. The suspicious, clean shaven man said Boo Boo was waiting for me 100 yards up the trail. His name was Sky Pilot, and I later found out that he actually was former military, hence no beard and neat hair.
I wound my way through the short, stunted spruce, peering through the trees to finally spot a hiker standing with his back to me. He heard me approach, and as soon as he caught sight of me, he began grinning. You would have thought us long lost friends. We embraced in a big smelly hug, and began chatting like long lost friends for about 15-20 minutes. We sat on our packs, took all the obligatory pictures, and yacked away, making up for time never lost. (The picture below is why I cannot support camera timers.)
Most notable about Boo Boo was his sense of humor, his joy at traveling in his current bubble of hikers, and his gentile, clean spoken ways (cough). You know how the book is always better than the movie? Well in this case Boo Boo was better than his journal. I met him briefly, but he was a kindred soul that I wish I’d had longer to get to know.
The day was a classic White Mountain day, full of tough ups and downs. The climb out of Imp Campsite had been a boulder scramble requiring all four limbs, and I had finally just strapped my poles to my pack and started climbing hand over hand, muttering frequently as I searched for a hand hold and did not look down. The trail is actually a trail until you hit the White Mountains. Between the White Mountains and White Cap Mountain in Maine, prepare to do some climbing.
The descent into Carter Notch was a whole other story. As I stood atop the mountain and peered straight down at Carter Hut, two thoughts traveled simultaneously through my mind “cool” and…”crap, this is gonna hurt.” The descent was a bone jarring, knee crunching, drop into the notch between two alpine peaks. I felt as if I was in Switzerland – not that I have ever been – but this is how I imagined it to be. Wind swept land, with small gnarled spruce, containing crystal clear ponds between high barren mountains. Only, maybe a little lower than the Alps.
Once at the bottom of the brutal descent, I took the turn off for the hut, gathered up Sandman, who had picked his way down ahead of me, and we headed to the hut where for three bucks I got all I could eat soup and lemonade, with a piece of chocolate chip cake. The paying guests stared at all of us poor homeless people, as we all inhaled our food, while the staff kept feeding us leftovers they would not have to carry down the mountain.
As we sat at the table eating, the hut supervisor stopped by to ask Sandman if he was alright. Both he and his clothes were covered in blood. Even Boo Boo said it looked as if someone had unloaded on him with a shotgun. There were scabs and sores all over his arms from falls he had taken, and blood running down his arms. His repaired pole had not held up long, and I could tell he really wanted to clean up and take care of himself.
During lunch we decided to head for the Gondola that headed down the mountain. My goal all along had been to carry six days of food so I could hike for one and go back into town. The best laid plans. The Gondola gave us our ten miles that we had planned for the day. I called Bruno from the top of the mountain, and we rode down the mountain in the gondola where Bruno picked us up so Sandman could address his wounds. On the way, Sandman picked up Epsom salts, so he could soak and clean up.
I leaned back and relaxed as we shot down the road, knowing that soon I would have to force myself to eat yet more town food.