Appalachian Trail – August 7, 2013
I watched as tables began to fill, and people left half empty plates of breakfast food. There are long distance hikers that will actually “recover” what is left, but I have not yet reached that point in my hikes, and try to not take the trips unless I can afford to satisfy my hunger. I waited until there was a lull in the crowd waiting to get food, and then wound my way through the tables, towards the buffet line. I had finished my “carb plate,” and would now slowly fill my protein plate. I carefully stacked small mounds of bacon, sausage, ham, toast (there was an empty spot on the plate), and kept my head lowered as I made my way back to my table. I could feel the staff's eyes following me, and wondered if this was an AYCE buffet or not? It had to be all you can eat. They served hikers regularly, and I had seen other customers go up to pick up this or that random item. I just focused on my food, ignoring the slow creep of paranoia. There was no way they would approach someone this intensely focused on their food.
Breakfast over, I ran upstairs to grab my already packed backpack, and then headed back downstairs to grab a shuttle down to Caratunk. I was dropped off on the edge of the road, and took a path down through the trees, to the river bank. I looked out across the water to see a canoe headed over to pick up waiting north bound hikers. Time crawled the canoe loaded up and headed back over with two NOBOs. Finally making it back to my side of the river, the hikers climbed out, quickly asked me where I had stayed for the night, and headed up the embankment.
The canoe “Ferry” operator introduced himself and had me fill out the “It is not our fault if you Drown” paperwork, and held the canoe steady while I climbed aboard. We paddled across the river fairly quickly, and I held the sides as we scraped up onto the rocky bank. I climbed out, grabbed my pack from the Ferry operator (paddler), and handed him a tip. I'm sure whatever money he made in this job did not provide enough to put towards retirement.
I paused to put on my pack as the next two hikers climbed aboard, and then turned to walk up the beach towards the woods. At the top of the embankment a group of hikers sat clustered together, staring at me. I gave them a big smile, and said hi, with a good bit of boisterous energy. They still just sat staring – a tough crowd. An older gentleman stood and stepped forward, extending his hand, and said hello. We chatted briefly about my stay at the Outdoor Center, and then I headed on up the trail towards the woods, glancing over at the silent pack watching me walk away. It was actually a little eerie. One sometimes sees the distinct separation between SOBO and NOBO when they gather together at shelters, but this was a little weird. Groups can get a little “clicky” after months of hiking together, so I just shrugged to myself, and then turned to wave one last time. They stared…..
The mosquitoes chewed on me throughout the rest of the day, and I wind milled my way down the path, swatting and cursing as I attempted to kill just one or two. It seems I attract any mosquito within a mile radius. I try not to use the DEET unless I have to, since it appears it is slowly eating away my jacket and clothes. I can only imagine what it is doing to my skin, and the poison it is filling me with as it leeches into my skin.
Later, during the day, as I moved through a low area that was especially wet and boggy, I glanced up to see a British couple coming towards me. Just ahead was a water filled bog with several random logs and rocks thrown into it, so hikers could try and keep their feet dry. I watched them fussing around at the edge of the bog, and then begin to rock hop across the mud. Their Border Collie, walking easily around the mud on a log, paused to look back and forth between us. He then came on around, not a we drop on his feet, and sat down near me, watching his owners. If dogs could have talked, he would have said “not too swift but I love them.” The two NOBO's stopped to chat for a minute, and then hurried off to try and catch the river ferry (canoe) before it stopped for the day.
I finally made my way towards my goal for the evening, East Flagstaff campsites. I paused as I passed a very empty West Carry site. Should I stop or continue? I glanced up through the trees. There was still a lot of hiking light left. I could make it to East Flagstaff. As I drew closer to my destination, I heard the echo of young voices, and groaned. All the sites were filled with large Wal-Mart tents, and excited to no longer be walking, teenagers.
I moved on until I saw a break through the trees to the left. Once again, it would just be me and my Hexamid for the night.
The loons are already singing.