Stealthing somewhere after Horseshoe Canyon Lean-to [mile 124.5?]
Breakfast at Shaw’s was great! French toast (no pancakes this time), eggs, sausage, bacon, home fries, all you can eat. I’m actually a great AYCE customer for the restaurants because I can’t eat all that much in one sitting. I’m the gal who makes it possible for somebody else to come in and wolf down four helpings of everything. Not that any of that matters, because nothing’s quite as boring as a hiker’s food diary. So let’s move on. Oh, I did drink about a pot of coffee. Town treat!
Sue from Shaw’s got us back to the trail at about 9:15: me, Flaco, and two young section hikers, a pair of women, who don’t have trail names yet. (I suggested Maps for one of them because she kept whipping out her map to look things up; it was highly annotated.) Flaco and the women got out in front immediately and I never saw them again.
It rained all day. The forecast was for dire storms, but apparently the really bad stuff hit slightly eastward, so the local prediction was downgraded considerably. Still, there was a river ford today, and I was nervous as hell about what the rain might do to the water level.
The mosquitoes apparently didn’t get the memo that they’re supposed to stay inside in the rain. (Very ironic, given that I was just telling Blackbird last night that they haven’t been bad. D’oh!) They were beastly. I got chewed up. They attacked in herds and left multiple bites at a time. One time I slapped my leg and killed three of them. Did you ever read that Grimm or Anderson fairy tale “Seven with One Blow”? Sort of like that. Er… well, nothing like that at all, really. But it came to mind.
I had my rain jacket on (for warmth, mostly; the forest in this chunk of woods is mostly deciduous, so the canopy kept the rain upstairs like thousands of tiny umbrellas), and that kept the skeeters off my arms. My legs, though… I finally broke down and DEETed them, even though the river crossing was coming up.
I hiked all day waiting for that river crossing. I passed a couple of northbound section hikers who said the crossing wasn’t bad and the water was only up to their calves. Well, let me tell you… here’s the issue. I’m not really super short, but I’ve got disproportionately short legs. When I got to that river, finally, the water was well above knee level on me. This, of course, has me very nervous about tomorrow’s ford, which those guys said was harder and had a water level up to their knees. That’s probably upper thigh for me. And the guide says tomorrow’s ford can be dangerous in rainy periods. Whee!
But I’m ahead of myself. One day at a time! I finally got to today’s ford—the East Branch of the Piscataquis River (tomorrow is the West Branch). Being a compulsive categorizer, I tend to put the fords into two categories: beach fords and boulder fords. The beach-type fords are wide and shallower. The rocks on the bottom are smaller, from baseball size to marbles, just like you’d find on a stony beach. The water is slower moving, and in general you can see the bottom. The water can still have unexpectedly deep pockets (it’s hard to look down into clear brown water and judge the depth with any precision; today, halfway across, I put my pole in and almost lost my balance when it went a foot deeper than I thought it would). The rocks on the bottom are still round and slippery as oiled glass.
The other type of ford, the boulder type… those are the ones that really scare me. The water moves fast and hard with a lot of weight behind it. The ripples and waves and little rapids obscure the bottom, and the water’s usually dark or black from the churning of the riverbed. You can’t really see what’s down there. A lot of the steps are taken by feel. The boulders are too big for me to straddle, and their rounded edges mean I can’t wedge against them; my legs slip right around them as though they were greased pigs. And the poles are nearly useless; they slide off the rocks, too.
I think tomorrow’s ford is a boulder ford. Today I was thinking, though, that this has to be a skill set. It has to be possible to get better at it. So I used the easier beach ford to practice, and I figured a couple of things out.
First of all, I can slow down. I haven’t been going fast by any means, but I can stop thinking about walking and just go one step and not move until I feel entirely stable in that position, if that’s possible. It’s just cold water; nothing bad will happen if I stand there for ten seconds between steps. Second, instead of pushing my poles as though I were walking, I can lift them vertically out of the water to minimize the ripples (ie, so I can see better) and to keep the river from trying to snatch them, which makes me fumble at them, which affects my balance.
Tomorrow’s ford has a rope. I can’t do that shimmy thing, but maybe I can figure out some better way to use it. If I can reach it.
Anyway, bleh. I’ll be so glad when that part’s done.
I got across the beach ford just as the rain was stopping. A couple of miles afterward I came to the shelter I’d been aiming for, but Flaco and the women had gone on. (Not Yet and Billie passed through yesterday.) The shelter was empty. It was getting late in the afternoon. Normally I probably would have stopped there, but the area seemed to be more amenable to stealthing than the Maine terrain has been, so I decided to push on and hope to find a site in a bit. A mile is a mile, right? Especially for us low-endurance types.
I made it just about a mile, I think, and found this site close to the trail. There’s a waterfall rushing in the background (as usual, in these Maine nights). The skeeters chewed me up while I was setting up. Tomorrow will be bug pants time. And the timing was good; the rain seems to have resumed out there.
And here we are! A couple of firsts: the pushing past the last shelter (a first for Maine, although I was doing it a lot before Virginia), and the nero resupply day. I might be getting better at this; I’m pleased! Progress is progress!
Tomorrow: The ford two miles into the day, then a steady ascent followed by what looks like a steep climb to Moxie Bald Mountain.
Ford. Grrrr. Still, a good day! 🙂