This day was to be a tough day, filled with spills, pills, and sharp, craggy hills. It started raining steadily around mid-night, and continued until 1PM. That was ok though, because I love sleeping under a tarp or tent in steady drumming rain. I sleep 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 though, the deep sleep was followed by constant slipping and sliding over greasy, granite rocks and slick as 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 teenage daughter that said they completed the 100 Mile wilderness together every year. 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 to camp with on a chilly, rainy night.
I also remember soft spoken NOBO thru Jericho. We chatted for a few minutes, and he wistfully told me that 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 third mountain, forcing me to crouch behind a rock until the lightning had passed. This was still better than being trapped on wide open nothingness in Colorado, and having to sprint across bare, grassy hills as I watched the thunder storms 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 really dirty, smelly guys. I guess they were trying to dry out their poor little thin, white, hiker bodies.
As I climbed up and out of the shelter area, my fall occurred 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 to think was “oh hell, this is gonna hurt.” Their 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 a 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 slowly move and do a bone and limb check. I was gonna have some bruises, but sitting here on that rock, I knew my butt was really going to pay the price. I could feel the pain radiating out from the butt bone, and through both cheeks.
I slowly and carefully stood up, my pack trying to strangle me with it's chest strap, and stretched my hands all the way up. I'm 5'11 and the rock was still about 12 inches above my finger tips. 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 was then able to drag myself over the edge of the ledge, thrashing through the bushes, to roll out onto the trail with absolutely 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.
I spent the evening camped at the base of forth mountain, or maybe third? It would seem that with literally tens of thousands of words in the English language, we could better name mountains in our oldest of ranges. In between the numerical mountains, I turned to follow a little side trail to what appeared to be a hunters camp. It was a perfect camp site. It is what I consider a “stealth” site…unseen from the trail. I have noticed other hikers refer to any camp sites not in 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 tail bone probably came close to qualifying me.
I crawled into the Hexamid, took some ibuprophen 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.