White Cap & A Dalmation
Appalachian Trail – August 1, 2013
I woke up early this morning, and as I headed past the shelter I saw the section hiker from the previous night. He was sitting up in his sleeping bag making his breakfast. I leaned it to whisper goodbye, since the path went right by the shelter, and to my surprise he began talking to me in a normal tone of voice. His lips curled up slightly at my look of surprise, and I glanced towards the other sleeping hikers. The smirk stretched into a grin as the two sleeping hikers sat up, blinking sleep from their eyes. They were the NOBO's that had wandered in the evening prior, and unfortunately the morning's conversation was appearing to wake them up. Such are the trials and tribulations of communal living.
The terrain started to get a little more “rooty” and rocky, and I had to watch my footing more closely. I also began to climb more as I continued on through the dark, rocky forest. Everything was covered in various shades of damp green, and moss grew over the rocks and roots that saw a limited amount of light. I definitely enjoy the ups more than the downs. I think many hikers will probably agree with this. The impact of me and my pack coming down on my knees constantly is always an adjustment the first few weeks. My poor ole knees just aren't what they used to be. The crazy thing though, is that they adjust. I get water sacks between the cartilage and joints. I really don't know how else to describe this condition. Just below both knees, a large amount of fluid collects, and the pain goes away. I used to think it was a result of damage, and would try to ice them in town, but as hikes continued, they remained, and the pain subsided. I now just consider myself lucky to have a body that over compensates in tough conditions. When I quit hiking, the fluid always goes away.
The stream of nomadic NOBO's and section hikers continued. I met super nice section hikers from KY and TN, and had a nice long chat with them until the mosquitoes rudely interrupted and none of us could stand still any longer. The last hiker was Mountain City, and as both of us danced in place, swatting at the blood suckers, we started laughing and announced at almost the same time that we had to keep moving or be eaten alive. It was fun meeting Mountain City and another section hiker named something Candy. Both of them were doing this last section to finish up the whole trail, which I found impressive. It takes me 3-4 weeks to get through the starting misery. I can't imagine doing that every single year for 20 years!
My feet did a little concerto today as they carried me over Little Boardman, White Cap, and West Peak. It was a long day and they fussed, but quieted down at the amazing views from White Cap. I loved the trail of white blazes over what appeared to be a pathway of rocks that had been lain just for the trail. This was Maine though, and I knew this had to be a coincidence. The maintainers took us straight up and straight down. Forget about switchbacks and stone pathways.
Speaking of White Cap today, as I started my climb, on a very steep section, I glanced up to see a full size Dalmatian staring out from the top of a thirty foot rock. He was sitting majestically next to a tree, amidst some brush. He was beautiful, but as I gazed up at him, and he failed to even twitch, I realized he waas not real. This was further confirmed when I peered closer and saw the rust running down his foreleg, and a metal cable securing him to a small tree. It clearly took some work to get him up there, and I bet most hikers never even notice the regal, iron dog. I wonder why he was placed there? Then I realized – he was probably just too heavy to carry, so some poor NOBO had attached him to a tree with the large steel cable they were also carrying.
I stopped an hour at Logan Brook for lunch, and chatted with a family out for their annual hike up White Cap Mountain. Three generations of the family did this every year, the weekend of their father's birthday…pretty cool. Logan Brook's shelter was fairly simple, and nothing to write home about, but the creek out front had some of the best water on the trail – cold and crystal clear. “Pure as a mountain spring” fit it perfectly, and I scooped some up to mix with my Crystal Light. It did not need filtering, and although I know I will be fussed at for saying this, I will admit I have not filtered water in years.
A few minutes later a young man I had passed earlier came frantically pounding into camp. He gasped out his need for water, and I pointed back in the direction he had just come from, and smiled. He sat with me while I ate and explained he was doing low mileage, headed to GA, due to a bad knee. He said he was going to make up the miles later on in the hike. He said he would see me at Carl Newhall, the next shelter, but I never saw him again. I stayed at the campsites near the shelter, and never actually went to the shelter that night, so there is a good chance he did make it there for the evening, as I heard voices from that direction.
Once in camp, I ate dinner, and decided not to hike any further. I had not stopped earlier because the blood sucking fiends had eaten me up! I laid in the tarp spreading itch cream on the bites, before popping a couple of Ibuprofen and laying back to sleep. I had applied battery acid (DEET) at least 3 times today, and they had still managed to gnaw their way through a substance that ate holes in my nylon fabrics. These Maine mosquitoes and black flies were brutal. I had seen a guy in a full body net earlier, and thought him odd. Now I wondered if he did not have the right idea.