Stratton, Maine [mile 1206.6; SOBO 188.2]
Last night the wind transformed. Sometime during the dark hours the air turned to water, and the sky blasted rain harder than any storm I’ve seen on the trail. It pounded against the tent; no wind, not anymore. Just rain. And you know what? I slept! Strange—very strange—dreams. (Can you say ‘naked luge’?) But I slept. I slept so hard that I didn’t wake up until well after 6.
And it was raining. Not only was it raining, but my tent had leaked at three corners, and the splash-back had soaked the netting. But it wasn’t cold, and it wasn’t windy. Just… wet.
Packing up was a challenge. But I got it done and eventually hit the trail. I knew I only had five miles to go to reach Route 27, then either the motel would come get me if they were available, or I’d have a five-mile roadwalk (and even I can manage 2 mph on a roadwalk). And I remembered from checking the book that the trail was all downhill.
Urrrrnnnnhhhh. The trail was not all downhill. Hikers lie about that, even to themselves.
It was a dark, foggy morning—so dark beneath that roof of ancient forest that it felt like I was night-hiking. And it rained. I started in full rain gear but pulled the pants off when the trail started climbing. Too hot.
The trail climbed. Rock climbing, root grabbing. Then eventually it really did start downhill. And that’s where it got hairy.
These mountains go down hard. It’s like climbing down a ravine filled with boulder-sized rubble, and sometimes slabs of sliding-board rock. Straight down. Then you think you’re at the bottom, and another ravine. And another. False bottoms.
Just about then, the rain picked up. It started to rain so hard that the raindrops felt like hail.
I inched my way down. The roots and rocks were slippery as ice. Often I had to chuck the poles down and hug a tree to lower myself. The worst, though… have you ever sat in a puddle of cold water? My usually tried-and-true buttocks method of cliff descent was painful. I had to sit in cold water to slide down the sliding boards!
By noon or so, I was soaked to the bone. Then the rain slowed down! Yay! The sun came out, wanly at first, then with less shyness.
I crossed that rare beast—an actual footbridge over a stream—and don’t you know, after I survived that harrowing two miles of downhill, on that stinking bridge my feet slipped on the wet wood and I splatted down on my rear end.
It was sad.
Frustration got the better of me. I wanted to know how stinking far that road was from that stinking bridge, and I wanted to know immediately! So I pulled out my trail guide pages, and… the Stratton page was missing. Gone. Gone! I’d lost a page of trail guide. Bad news! One to two days of not knowing where the water was, the shelters, how high the climbs were or whether I had to ford a stream… bad!
I actually pulled out my trash bag and went through all the trash. There were pages in there, but not my page. I didn’t even know whether Stratton was to the left or the right. Not that it mattered much, since sometimes in the SOBO guide ‘west’ is to the left, and sometimes it’s to the right.
But I walked. I had fixes for all that stuff. If the page was lost, I have the guide and the Companion in pdf. I could ask the lady at the motel which way to turn. So I walked. And eventually I hit the road.
Things got better! The sun came out! Sue from the motel said she’d come and get me! My underwear was drying!
While I was waiting for Sue, a local news anchor and cameraman showed up. The search for the missing hiker is in full swing this weekend, and they were doing a story. So they interviewed me, and I hope to god they don’t use the footage. But I do hope they find that hiker. It’s been two weeks. 😦 There’s a note at the grocery store that casseroles are needed to feed the searchers.
But for me (Toads 2, Snakes 0), I’m warm and showered and disgustingly full of food. (The “diner” across the street is actually a very good little bistro-type place.) My laundry is done. Tomorrow I’ll tackle the resupply and fix my gear and get ready for the next leg.
Oh, and wonder of wonders! The tiny little grocery had my 24-ounce Gatorade bottles! So, lady from Katahdin? I can finally forgive you! 🙂
No days on the trail are easy, but a lot of them end up being good.