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Boo Boo & the Wildcats

Appalachian Trail – August 21, 2013

Boo Boo and I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, finally, I could 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 walk south. It appeared his wife began reading my journal when I started hiking at the end of the summer. I’m not sure she had sent me some encouraging messages, but she 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) came towards me and asked if I was Lucy LuLu. He had a military look, 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 discovered he 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 saw me, he began grinning.   You would have thought we long lost friends. We embraced in a big smelly hug and started chatting like long-lost friends for about 15-20 minutes. Then, we sat on our packs, took all the obligatory pictures, and yacked away, making up for time never lost. (The image below is why I cannot support camera timers.)

Me and Boo Boo in the Wildcats

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).   Do 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 I wish I’d had longer to get to know.

The day was a classic White Mountain day, full of strict 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, frequently muttering as I searched for a handhold and did not look down. The trail is a trail until you hit the White Mountains. Then, 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 going to 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. Windswept land, with small gnarled spruce, containing crystal clear ponds between high barren mountains. Only, maybe a little lower than the Alps.

Looking down on Carter Hut from the Wildcats

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 place 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 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 wanted to clean up and take care of himself.

During lunch, we decided to head for the Gondola that ran down the mountain. My goal had been to carry six days of food so I could hike for one and go back into town—the best-laid plan. The Gondola gave us the ten miles we had planned for the day. I called Bruno from the top of the mountain, and we rode down the hill in the Gondola, where Bruno picked us up so Sandman could address his wounds. Sandman picked up Epsom salts to soak and clean up on the way.

I leaned back and relaxed as we shot down the road, knowing I would soon have to force myself to eat more town food.

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