Day 122: A map and both hands

Logan Brook Lean-to [mile 1089.8; SOBO 71.4]

Here’s a sobering thought: I still haven’t completed 50% of the actual trail miles. But guess what? That’ll happen tomorrow (I hope)! Subtract the two intermission weeks and you have four months since I started. If the second half takes just as long, my end date will be November 21. LOL. That would be OK. I’m looking forward to sitting at my sister’s house for Thanksgiving dinner and having the end of the trail to celebrate. I’d have to quit that week anyway, finished or not. So here we go. Wheeee! Hey, if I finish, it will have been a four-season hike. That right there’s a dubious distinction! 🙂

I met a guy tonight who started March 2. The faster hikers are finishing up now. This is so interesting! And you know what’s like a breath of fresh air? Looking in the trail registers and not recognizing any names! It had gotten so depressing before; kind of like looking through old yearbooks. Oh, I did recognize one name in the register here: Goatman! He was the dude from the day of the pissed-off rattlesnake. He signed the register here on 6/21; that’s a fast hike.

Last night the heat finally broke at 7:00 PM with a thunderstorm like gods hurling boulders. The rain roared. I hope anyone still coming down Katahdin was OK; I imagine they would have been near the bottom by that time (although I heard of two guys just last week who couldn’t make it down in time and slept on the mountain).

It didn’t rain all night, though, and my fly was only half wet when I packed up this morning. I tried to get up at 4 and hit the trail by 5:30, but i just couldn’t do it. I think 6:15 or 6:30 is about as far as I can push.

Anyway, it was cooler this morning! What a relief! Except it was just as humid as ever… you could cut the forest air with a machete, if they weren’t too heavy to carry. By midmorning it had heated up again, and the trail was becoming increasingly overgrown. Plus there were some blowdowns from last night’s storm. I started to feel like I was bushwacking, and I had to take off my bug pants to keep them from being destroyed.

Of course, later in the day I had an AT first (for me): I got lost. Then I ended up doing actual bushwacking, which was a lot tougher, and, in fact, something I’m not good at at all.

Here’s what happened. The trail climbed a small mountain. At the bottom and the top were signs saying the trail had been rerouted in 2010. I got past that, came to a spring that was in the book, and kept hiking. Hike, hike, hike… and I came to a lovely pond with no blazes whatsoever.

I was stymied. I walked on what looked like a trail all the way down the right side of this pond, or small lake, until the trail ended. No blazes. What’s worse, my ‘sense of trail’ was tingling hard that I was off the trail. So I backtracked to the last blaze. And lo and behold, I spotted a double blaze a few feet away in the middle of a jungle of blown down pine trees, weeds, branches. Deep squinting uncovered another blaze deeper into the jungle. At that point I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. If I was in the wrong place, nobody was going to stumble along and find me. It’s the Hundred-Mile Wilderness, fer crying out loud. So I girded my loins and gritted my teeth and freaking bushwacked for a quarter mile, following these blazes and hoping they led to something like actual trail. Then the path widened and who should come trotting along from the left? Not Yet and Billie! They had no trouble finding the correct blazes. That’s when I realized I must have been on three-year-old trail.

But listen! While I was bushwacking, I saw moose prints in the mud! They were HUGE. Those are some big hooves, man. I feel like that joke about the blind men feeling the elephant; I keep seeing bits and pieces and relics of moose, with no moose.

Oh, I did see three toads and two snakes today. Toads are winning.

I lost about an hour with that fiasco, so I ended up stopping just short of White Cap Mountain. Just as well, really. I don’t know if the regular Maine mountains will have stealth sites up top, or if it’s all rock. I’m glad to be able to test the waters, with fresh legs. This afternoon was a climb, and my Achilles is sore.

Speaking of waters, I had to ford a stream today. That’s really quite scary. Not Yet and Billie showed up while I was changing shoes, and they went first. Not Yet had long enough legs to rock-hop, but Billie and I couldn’t make all the jumps. I watched Billie basically scoot over, rock to rock, on her rear, and I thought that looked like a perfect strategy. So I copied her.

The fordings are rough because the water’s fast and the streambeds are littered with slimy boulders. And the water’s dark, so you can’t see where you’re putting your feet. It would be very easy to slip or be toppled over… and of course, you’ve got a 30-pound pack on your back. I’ll be happy when that part of the trail is finished.

But you know what I said to myself when I gritted my teeth and moved through that scary water? “You, sir, are no Katahdin!” And then the ford was finished.

It’s actually chilly now, here in my tent as the birds sing in the twilight forest. Not Yet and Billie are up at the lean-to. I don’t think anybody else has arrived, at least not from this direction. (The shelter is on a rocky mountain; the tent sites are few and spread out.)

Tomorrow: White Cap for realz.

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Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Day 122: A map and both hands

  1. Marge

    You are becoming so fearless!! “You, sir, are no Katahdin!!” I love it!

  2. Shari wb

    “Both hands”?

    • There’s an old joke about somebody getting lost/being clueless: ” He couldn’t find his ass with both hands and a map.”

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