This day was going to be tough, filled with spills, pills, and sharp, craggy hills. It started raining steadily around midnight and continued until 1 PM. That was ok, though because I love sleeping under a tarp or tent in steady, drumming rain. I slept lightly, startling awake at the slightest noises in the woods, but the steady thrumming of the rain over my head canceled out the sudden noises and lulled me into a deep sleep. Unfortunately, the deep sleep was followed by constant slipping and sliding over greasy granite rocks and slick glass tree roots. I quit counting after several falls, one of them a little crazy. That was the fall that stopped the counting.
The Hexamid did a great job with the rain, and I woke and packed quickly, propping the umbrella over the pack as I packed it with gear. I swung the pack onto my back and attached the umbrella handle to the shoulder strap, using the bungee cords meant for water bottles on the ULA pack. I always feel like I have on blinders in my rain jacket hood, but with an umbrella, I am cooler, and everything is open. I got several comments, my favorite being “sweet umbrella” from the teenagers. I felt so hip and cool. Thankfully, they saw none of my less-than-graceful falls.
My favorite couple of the day was the father and a teenage daughter who said they completed the 100 Mile wilderness together yearly. Even in the rain, they seemed to be having a good time out here, smiling and laughing as they walked, unlike other groups of teens I had passed earlier that appeared as if they were being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment as they tromped along in their 70-pound packs. I really felt for their guides and counselors. I’m sure they would be a joy camp on a chilly, rainy night.
I also remember soft-spoken NOBO thru Jericho. We chatted for a few minutes, and he wistfully told me he was sorry the journey was finishing. Every other thru-hiker I had met was “ready to be done.”
Upon reaching the top of the rock slide before Chairback, the sun peeked out, and I immediately exploded my pack all over the rocks to dry out the contents. I am a sun opportunist, and I was glad I did, as it poured again later. This was the same storm that caught me on top of the third mountain, forcing me to crouch behind a rock until the lightning passed. This was better than being trapped in wide-open nothingness in Colorado and sprinting across bare, grassy hills as I watched the thunderstorms roll in behind me. I always had an image of that old video game “Frogger.”
The next lean-to was packed when I arrived, and I had to weave between the mob of half-naked men and boys as I made my way up the trail in front of the shelter. I had hoped to stop for a break and a snack, but I’m not really fond of crowds, and as a solo female hiker, I’m even less fond of half-naked male crowds. It was like a locker room with filthy, smelly guys. They were trying to dry out their poor, thin, white hiker bodies.
As I climbed up and out of the shelter area, I fell as I rounded a curve. I have clip poles, and I guess the clip on the outside pole flipped open just before I placed it down. The pole in my outside hand retracted as I placed my weight on it, and all I had time to think was, “oh hell, this is gonna hurt.” There was nothing to grab as I flew head first. All my momentum was moving forward, and the next thing I knew, I was plunging through brush and branches to come to rest, sitting at the bottom of an 8-9 foot rock face, straddling a small tree. I had to have done a perfect flip to land in that position.
I sat there stunned, empathizing with Bill from Katahdin. My butt bone immediately began aching. I began to move and do a bone and limb check slowly. I was going to have some bruises, but sitting here on that rock, I knew my butt would pay the price. I could feel the pain radiating from the butt bone and through both cheeks.
I slowly and carefully stood up, my pack trying to strangle me with its chest strap, and stretched my hands all the way up. I’m 5’11, and the rock was about 12 inches above my fingertips. I could not climb up the flat, rough rock and turned to examine the small spruce tree beside me. There were no climbing branches, but I was able to scooch up between the tree and the rock face, dragging my pack up behind me until I was able to throw it up over the edge of the rock. I could then drag myself over the edge of the ledge, thrashing through the bushes, to roll out onto the trail with no grace. That was definitely one of my crazier moments, and even though it could have been much more serious, the only thought running through my head was, “thank god those boys did not see me.” As always, my ego was running high.
Did I spend the evening camped at the base of the fourth mountain, or maybe the third? It would seem that with literally tens of thousands of words in the English language, we could better name mountains in our oldest ranges. In between the numerical mountains, I turned to follow a little side trail to what appeared to be a hunter’s camp. It was a perfect campsite. I consider it a “stealth” site unseen from the trail. I have noticed other hikers refer to any campsites not in the middle of the trail as stealth sites. I find that interesting as I see nothing stealthy about a site five feet from the trail. It is rather like walking past a “stealth” highway.
I looked forward to cleaning up and scraping off my mud layer. Even more entertaining would be counting my bruises. This would end up being about an eight bruise section….the highest ever being an eleven. I have yet to have a broken bone section, but my tailbone probably came close to qualifying me.
I crawled into the Hexamid, took some ibuprofen to sleep, dried off and rebandaged my feet, and curled up in my quilt. I was worn out and very sore. I knew I would sleep well and wake up stiff.