Spaulding Mountain Lean-to [mile 1220.1; SOBO 201.7]
OK, so it’s freaking winter! And although I thought it might be just me, I just had a NOBO Mainer tell me that he can’t believe how cold it is. And for good measure I checked the weather report (the last thing I do before I leave town is grab a screenshot of the ten-day forecast, just so I have at least some small frame of reference during the week). Last night it was 43 in town, and tonight’s supposed to be 42. Up here at 3000 feet, I’m guessing upper 30s. That’s winter!
I hate winter!
So I woke up in winter at about 5:45, and all I could think about was the fact that five minutes into the day’s hiking I was going to have to take off my shoes and wade through ice water. In winter. Yay! Let me tell you… it took me a half hour to motivate out from under that quilt.
Then this is how the day actually started. Because of the cold, my nose wouldn’t stop running. Snot was just pouring out of me. I eventually just gave up and shoved tissues up my nose to dam the flow. Then I spread out my wet clothes and turned to pack up my tent, and somebody said, “Thru-hiking, I’m guessing?” I jumped then turned around, then remembered I had tissues shoved up my nose. I grabbed them, but I couldn’t do anything about the sandals and rolled up pants and clothes spread everywhere. Awkward! The guy was a dayhiker, and he bolted out of Crazytown as fast as he could manage.
I got to the stream at about 7:15, and lo and behold, I didn’t have to ford it. Some enterprising soul (my new hero) had slapped down a plank over the one stretch that was too wide to rock-hop. I could have put my regular shoes on! And I stopped to do just that, only the shoes were wet and frigid and the socks were wet and frigid, and within a minute both my feet had headaches.
The first two hours were pretty much a rock climb. There was trail interspersed, but as I got higher and higher up Sugarloaf, the trail decreased and the rocks increased, until it was more scrambling than hiking. The descent down the other side was gentler but still tricky in spots. I was moving at under a mile an hour. When I tried to pick up fhe pace I fell twice (slipped on wet roots). So frustrating!
And it was still winter. The sky was overcast, and the wind—the wind howled and gusted all day. I don’t even have a fleece with me (I do have my puffy jacket for camp, but I can’t hike in that). At one point I had on a long-sleeved shirt, my wind shirt, my rain jacket, a fleece hat, a buff, my cap, and my lightweight gloves, and I was still freezing.
Two different NOBOs told me the area between this shelter and the next one (my original goal) was stealth unfriendly. I hadn’t asked them; they volunteered it. So I had to listen. At the pace I was going, it would have taken me eight hours to get to the next shelter—8.30 PM. Too late for comfort, and I’m not risking having to night-hike up here! I already lose enough time playing Find the Blaze.
I’m going to have to reevaluate my strategy for Maine and New Hampshire. Today was supposed to be 13.6 miles. That kind of mileage is unrealistic for me up here, though I feel schmuckish for having to admit it. Tomorrow I’ll aim for 12 (there’s a tentsite right at 12), but I have to be on the trail by 6 AM to maximize the chance of actually making it. Six to 6: twelve hours for twelve miles.
Maine is the most unstealthable state yet. I’ll stick some pictures down there so you can see what I mean.
For now, I’m in my tent wearing just about every stitch of clothing I’ve got (and wishing I had more, plus my winter air mattress). It’s freezing! (Probably 50s, but that wind is relentless.) I hope this dragon of a wind blows the winter right out of the sky! I think it’s supposed to be like this for a few days, though. Honestly, if the wind would stop it would be fine hiking weather.
Maine, you’re stressing me! Stop with the winter!
But at least the bugs are way down! One bite in two days! I’d like to send the bug suit home to make room for my Exped air mattress, which I’m getting in Gorham. Weighs 4 ounces more, but I think it’ll stand up better to the ruthless rocks and roots here.