Day 120: Tar pits of Maine

Potaywadjo Spring Lean-to [mile 1066.7; SOBO 48.3]

Short day. I did my eight hours, but the heat and the terrain slowed me down, and I happily wasted some time chatting with a former thru (currently sectioning the Hundred with his girlfriend, or maybe it was his wife), with It’s All Small Stuff, and… wait for it… remember that overly advicey guy from way back who criticized all my gear and my hiking habits and my break strategy and my water weight and my clothes, all in the space of thirty minutes? Him, him! He’d jumped ahead from HF. He didn’t give me any advice this time; apparently I have more cred now that I’ve summitted Katahdin. Also, out of the blue, completely randomly, he informed me that I’m not girlfriend material for him because I work too many hours.
It was so shocking that I laughed! I’m so devastated, dude.

This trail is a strange, strange place.

Anyway, he’s a nice enough guy, I suppose, for somebody I’ve only had to talk to twice, and I wish him well with his summit.

This is the information I’ve gotten consistently during the past few days: southern Maine and the Whites are just as hard as Katahdin, and I’m about to get my ass kicked (their words, not mine).

This is where I’d usually insert the bit about how nervous I am, but you know what? After Katahdin, I’ve reevaluated my definition of ‘hard.’ I’m nervous, a lot nervous; but it is what it is. I jumped from eighth grade up to twelfth. I’m going to finish this trail if I have to do it on my hands and knees. Eventually, I hope, I’ll have finished with Maine and New Hampshire. I’m not going to chew my foot off now worrying about something that won’t be frightening me for another hundred miles.

Which brings me to today’s short day. I woke up late and didn’t hit the trail until 7:30. I’m not sure why I sleep well on some nights but not on others; it’s a mystery. I do want to get more in sync with the daylight hours on this end of the trail, which means trying to hit the road at 6:00 instead of 7:00.

It rained last night, but not hard. I packed up my tent wet. It wasn’t raining this morning, but it was humid humid humid. All day I had a sheen of sweat on my arms. I wanted to take off the bug pants, but the skeeters are eating me alive (although not nearly as badly as they would have a few weeks back). After yesterday, my legs needed a rest from being chewed on. Today I offered up my arms for consumption.

Heat, water, and bogs—that was the day. There were supposed to be two stream fords early, but they never materialized. The ground was as flat as flat can be, albeit covered with so many roots that the walking requires care.

But the mud! Long black pits of tarry mud, sometimes with boards or logs laid end to end over them for thirty or forty or a hundred feet. Once my pole sank a whole foot into the black mud. Why is fhe mud so black? Is it rich soil, thwarted from sprouting endless vegetation only by the harsh winters? I’m assuming the bogs are there because of the ground water level.

Saw two toads and a snake! One of the toads looked more froglike, but I’m no toadologist. The snake was just a fast little striped guy, whizzing along.

There were two gorgeous lakes today. That one I mentioned, with its view of Katahdin—probably magical for somebody heading north. The other one I stumbled onto early. The blazing was a little confusing and I found myself right on a beautiful stony beach, with waves dancing up to the shore. I could have listened to their music all day.

I leapfrogged all day with Billie and M, who now has a trail name: Not Yet. We were all aiming for Antler Campsite, which is three miles from here, but I was stumbling and sounding like an idiot to myself, and the sky darkened, and I decided I was probably dehydrated and it was going to rain. I was beat. So here I am, and sure enough, it’s raining! I probably won’t see Billie and Not Yet again. I know the drill: They get three hours in front, then half a day, then a full day… and that’s it. I can’t catch up. But I don’t think I’ll be so… sensitive to it in this direction. It’s one thing to be the lone salmon swimming behind the multitude. Up here, things are looser. Most people aren’t thru-hikers, there aren’t as many people at all, and the folks on the trail have different starting points and ending points and goals. It’s not all a clump, like the NOBO bubble. And there seems to be little judgment about what sort of label to put on your hike, and less competition with the mileage. Except, of course, for advicey guy, who looked at me with woeful shock when he realized I summitted on Sunday and have gotten only this far by Thursday.

Speaking of the NOBO bubble, it looks like Son Driven flipped two weeks before I did, according to the shelter registers. It occurs to me that I’ll miss the people who flip after I did, like Fifteen. Sad! But it’ll be interesting to see the parade of people I knew. I met a lot of hikers, being on the trail for as long as I have been.

So there it is. A shamefully early day, but my gut told me to stop. I’ll set an alarm for tomorrow and try to adjust my schedule. Maybe starting at 6 AM will help with the heat issue. (By the way, I didn’t run out of Aqua Mira today. All is well.)

I’ve been told to enjoy the flatness, because hell starts in about twenty miles.

Tomorrow: Looks flat. I’ll aim to stealth at around 15 miles. We’ll see!

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Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Day 120: Tar pits of Maine

  1. Shari wb

    I love this entry. Thank you for the escape! You could book publish these descriptions.

    From the “not girlfriend material” dude to the lake beach, the bogs and mosquitoes. I was there with you. Cracked up at the dude. Whats with some guys? Haha.

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