Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to [mile 1078.1; SOBO 59.7]
I saw Billie and Not Yet again! The trail has a sense of humor. They made it to Antlers but started later than I did, so we caught up to each other a few miles in. But sad to say, Not Yet was stung a couple of times by hornets, and his arm is swelled up considerably. They planned to head for a hostel from a road crossing, but realized they’d misread the book: no hostel. But some section hikers spared some antihistamine, bless them. And Not Yet and Billie decided to do a short day. This was the first time I decided to cut my day a little short to match it up to somebody else’s! Usually I have to try to go long, and I fail. Oh, trail; you never do the expected.
So, is New Hampshire versus Maine some kind of thing? Because I’m sensing a little sensitivity when somebody brings it up. Yesterday a section hiker and former thru (two years ago) said Maine was harder because at least New Hampshire has the nice huts where you can eat and sleep. But right now, down in this shelter, is a guy saying no question, New Hampshire is much harder. And he seems a little curt about it. Now, I don’t know if the guy’s doing a NOBO now, but if he is, presumably he hasn’t done Katahdin. I don’t think you can say NH is worse without adding Katahdin into the mix, can you? Any way it goes, I’m anxious and excited to get the job finished.
Anyway, tomorrow the fun starts, I think. And by fun, I mean hellish climbs and rock scrambles. It sounds pretty bad. I guess I’ll know when I get there!
The low-mileage days continue, and I know they’ll get worse in southern Maine. My ultimate cutoff is mid-November. Home for Thanksgiving and looking for work! If I don’t finish by then, I should at least be home in Pennsylvania. Then I could finish in bits and pieces, since technically (according to the ATC) I have until March 6. But I’d rather be finished, yo!
Now, the day: Hot, ungodly humid, and rainy in the morning. The rain wasn’t heavy enough to penetrate the leaf cover much. In fact, it seemed to do nothing but saturate the air. So muggy! And the bugs were bad today. One time something swooped down and tried to take a chunk out of me right through the bug pants, and I yelped! No welt, though. I’m not sure what that was. Maybe it was a mosquito in training, and it couldn’t find the vein.
I hit the trail at 6:15. Three miles in, my Aqua Mira finally gave out. I tried the treatment tablets, and LOL, they turn the water brown! It tastes OK, though. I’m trying to tell myself it’s iced tea. Guess I’ll be using up the last of my Gatorade to disguise the color; I only have a few packets of that, though. They don’t sell it in the packets at home.
I leapfrogged early with a couple of young SOBOS. One of them said, “Are you Karma?” Turns out they’d met Yonder on their first day out. They were super nice, as they liberally DEETed themselves. They were having bad bug trouble. I hope the skeeters didn’t strip them to the bone.
The sun came out eventually, but not really enough to dry things. Is there such a thing as a wet sun? Oh, duh! It’s Maine! Everything here is wet! So, yeah… wet jungle sun, followed by a heavy wind that just moved the moisture and heat around a little and ruffled the trees.
Is Maine the mushroom capitol of the US, by the way? The mushrooms are amazing—red and yellow and orange and brown, growing right on the trail. I think that back in the untrodden woods must be mushrooms the size of Volkswagons.
And here I am. This shelter is beautiful and serene: on a steep hill next to a rocky waterfall. There’s a great area for swimming, but I didn’t want soaking wet clothes tomorrow. I did grab a bottle of water to rinse the sweat out of my hair. And I took a bandana bath in my tent, and it felt like heaven.
I saw more moose poop, but no moose. Also, weirdly, on a big rock at the top of the shelter hill (right near where I pitched my tent) are several moose bones. What does that mean?
And speaking of mysteries, between packing up this morning and unpacking tonight, two of my tent stakes vanished. What is it with tent stakes? They’re like socks in the dryer. I have enough to pitch my tent, but no extras now.
Tomorrow: Whitecap Mountain—the first big mountain in a while (not counting Katahdin). It’s supposed to be steep and rough, with rock climbing.