Stealthing at Little Wilson Stream [mile 1225.5; SOBO 107.7]
Well, I’m four miles short of where I wanted to be tonight, and seven short of Monson. The last three miles took me three hours, and I muffed a stream fording and ended up in the drink. I was soaked again and freezing, so I made camp to get warm and dry.
I fell today. A lot. Yesterday’s torrents seem to have coated all the rocks and roots with machine oil. I slipped on almost every downhill. Mostly I caught myself, but seven or eight times I came down hard on the softest part of me. No harm done except some bruises and scratches, but after a while I lost faith in my balance. I got severely cautious, which slowed me down considerably. On the other hand, it was probably prudent.
Yesterday really wore me out. I woke up late and unrested with sore calf muscles. It was nearly 8 by the time I hit the trail. The sky was cloudy and it was chilly; my clothes were still soaked from yesterday (let me tell you how much I love putting on filthy soaked icy underwear and socks), including my shoes. I think today was the whiplash effect after yesterday: For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction.
Tired, I muddled through the first slippery couple of hours until I came to the first ford. There were three of those on today’s menu, and my stomach was already tied up in knots about them. The rain yesterday has everything fast and black and swollen.
I stood at that first stream for a good five minutes trying to figure out how to do it. There was a rope stretched across, luckily. Then another hiker rounded the bend. It was T, now trailnamed Floss, whom I’d met at the bus station waiting for the bus to Medway! His head was shaved (mohawk) and he had a new pack, but he looks like he’s taken to trail life super fast. Then again, he’s a professional athlete: semi-pro bike racing. He summitted Katahdin in three hours.
I’d decided to just wade in without changing my shoes, but I waited for Floss to go first. He just grabbed that rope and wrapped his legs around it and shimmied right across. Highly impressive! And not something I could do on my best day. 😉
So I wobbled my way over. It was frightening. The round rocks underwater, too big for me to easily straddle, are unbelievably slick. They’re like plate glass sprayed with oil, and in the dark water you can’t see the beginning or ends of them or whether the stream bottom takes a sudden plunge, which it often does. It’s highly unsteady work, and I’m not that steady to begin with. Even with one hand on the rope, one of my legs got swept sideways around a boulder and I almost went in. But I made it to the other side. Yay!
Floss slowed down and hiked with me for a few hours, which was great. I do love to have company! We stopped for lunch at a lean-to. When I checked the register I saw that Not Yet and Billie, plus El Flaco (sorry about the earlier misspelling!), had stayed there last night and would all make Monson by tonight. That made me a little sad. I’m a day behind all my SOBO buddies now. Deja vu. But I’m happy to have met them all—great people, all of them, and I wish them the best for their hikes.
After lunch, Floss speeded off to make Monson. (He’s already doing 18- and 19-mile days.) I continued to flop my way along, pausing every now and then to fall on my ass just in case the ground had forgotten what I felt like. Then I came to the second ford.
This one had a rope, too, but it was too high for me to reach. So I waded in carefully and got almost to the other side when the current and the oily boulders just toppled me into the water. It was scary. One leg smashed into a rock and I jammed a couple of fingers. The water wasn’t deep, though, and I waded out just fine—but me, my clothes, and my pack were all soaked again. An unexpected swim in a freezing stream! Yay!
I upended my pack to pour the water out of the side pockets, then put on my wet jacket and buff for warmth. The sun still wasn’t out, and the breeze had some bite to it. There was one more ford on the menu, though, and I figured I might as well suck it up until that one was finished.
Floss had heard that the terrain between there and Monson was easy, but it actually turned a little technical. I climbed a bit of a cliff, but my confidence was really shot after the falls and the swim, so I was waaaaay slow.
Then I got to the third ford. It was another fast stream with big oily boulders and no rope, but this time I managed to get across without dunking myself. It’s such a crap shoot.
Right on the other side of that stream was a campsite. It even had a rock sofa. The sun had peeked out a bit, so I decided to pack it in and try to dry myself out. What’s with this freezingness? You’d think it was Maine or something!
The shoes and socks are hopeless, but I got everything else down to reasonably damp. Oh, crap! My bra’s still out there!
Moments later, after a painful hobble out to the sofa: Stray underwear recovered! And that’s one more piece of nice dryness for the morning. Good thing I went out there; I forgot my drenched socks were flopped on top of the tent.
Anyway, I hope those seven miles to Monson tomorrow aren’t too bad and the weather cooperates. I want to try to do all my errands in one afternoon, which would be a first for me (and it’s my goal for this SOBO leg).
The Hikers’ Gossip Network is alive and well and living in the north. Here’s what I’m hearing.
Iris from the Netherlands, off the trail. She finished Katahdin then went back to the AT Lodge for a day to recover, then made it a mile and a half into the HMW and decided she couldn’t do it. I heard she’ll be heading south and doing nice bits and pieces of the trail.
Psyche from the AT Lodge: off the trail after Katahdin. I don’t know how far up the mountain she made it, but she started 2 minutes after I did and clocked back in 2 minutes before I did, and I didn’t pass her. That must have been a long day.
That’s 50% of the people who stayed at the AT Lodge with me, not counting the young guy who’d tried the HMW three times. They day he summitted it took him 21 hours; he slept on the mountain.
OleMan at the Lodge is reporting that an unheard of 80% of people he’s dropped off southbound this year have called him for a rescue of one type or another at Katahdin or in the HMW. Happily, I’ve beaten that statistic on both ends of the trail now.
Another hiker fell in the HMW, landed on a rock, and hurt his shoulder badly. Last I heard, he was off the trail.
It’s All Small Stuff, who flipped up here from (I think) Rockfish Gap: off the trail. His mother had a heart attack and he had to get home.
I’m still here, luckily! But one day at a time… and tomorrow is Shaw’s in Monson. I’ll try to hit the trail at 6 in case the terrain is bad.
Looking forward to a shower and some sort of people food!