Poplar Ridge Lean-to [mile 1228.1; SOBO 209.7]
I’ve been corrupted by Blondie from Canada! Or I should say, he’s had a corrupting influence! So here I am, shelter to shelter again, instead of at the campsite I was shooting for. But it’s all good. The food situation looks OK (maybe a little thin on the ground, but doable) and it’s cold again, so tucked in is fine with me. Brrrrrr.
But I’m way ahead of myself.
Last night was cold! The wind seemed to die down in the hour before dawn. It didn’t go away entirely, but it shrunk to an intermittent breeze (as opposed to the tantrums it was throwing all day yesterday and last night). Still, chilly—chilly enough for me to wear two long-sleeve shirts, my wind shirt, a fleece hat, and gloves when I hit the trail at 6:30.
And… the trail was gorgeous, terrain-wise. Dense forest, but a pine-carpeted floor, as flat as flat gets around here. I whipped out two miles in the first hour. Huzzah! I figured I’d have this 12-mile thing beat in no time flat. Maybe I’d even get a 15! (That’s my equivalent of the elusive ’20.’)
That stopped pretty much when I got to the top of Lone Mountain (where I could have stealthed, by the way; and which, I found out later, was the last known location of Inchworm). After that, the trail headed downhill and became more Mainey: rocks, roots, bogs, and climbs.
At one point I turned a corner and scared the crap out of a guy who looked like Karl Malden and was carrying a hand axe. He cried out! i apologized. I think he was doing trail maintenance. I might have been more nervous if he hadn’t been so startled.
The morning was wanly sunny, and the wind eventually stopped entirely, just when the trail took a sharp technical downturn that eventually ended at Orbeton Stream. A ford! Yay! (Did you hear that sarcasm, there?)
I debated. It looked mostly rock-hoppable, but there was one hop in the middle that looked problematic. The water was rushing over the rock there, and I gave it a 10% chance that at least one of my feet would end up in the drink. Then I weighed the 10% against the fact that for once my shoes and socks were dry, and it probably would be going down to the 30s or 40s again…. No real contest. I wasn’t in any hurry. So I stopped and changed into my water-wading shoes (Tivas now, instead of my old Crocs).
Guess who showed up while I was changing shoes? Emperor! I met him down in Damascus; we both stayed at the Lazy Fox B&B. He’d been doing big miles, so I only saw him a couple of times after that. Turns out that by Pearisburg he’d developed injuries—an overuse injury to the tibialis, and a stress fracture. He was five weeks off the trail, then he flipped at Harpers Ferry. It was nice to see him! He hasn’t been enjoying Maine or going SOBO (because of the lack of people), and he’d been thinking about getting off but decided to get through the Whites. (I think I got that right.) Anyway, I told him there are a few of us in this approximate bubble: NotYet and Billy and Floss and El Flaco ahead, and at least Blondie and Pickles behind. Turns out Blondie isn’t as far behind as all that: he and Emperor and I were all at the same shelter last night. Pickles is temporarily off the trail to meet someone; he’s going to be doing some creative skipping around at the beginning.
I waded into the stream and crossed it without any trouble (but the water was cold!). It was more of a beach crossing than a boulder one, and there was a good chance I might have made it intact anyway. On the other side, Emperor (who’d been able to rock-hop it) told me he’s planning to do as much slackpacking as he can in Maine and New Hampshire. He’s not a fan of Maine!
In the afternoon came a long climb up a sliding board—wheeeee! It started to drizzle. I stopped for a minute to look at my guide, when who should come up behind me but Blondie (the Canadian). He noted that that mountain had been unexpectedly hard (and it was interesting for sure!) and said he was stopping at the next shelter. He doesn’t have his trail legs yet and he’s playing it smart.
He corrupted me! I stopped at the next shelter, too. Tomorrow is Saddleback, and the profile looks like a pogo stick. Does it really matter if I go three more miles? In all honesty, probably not.
While Blondie and I were chatting, another familiar face showed up (with a body attached to it): Jethro. I don’t know if I mentioned him before, but I met him and his group at the last Wayside in Shenandoah. We were waiting for food together and reading the backs of labels. In fact, I think it was Jethro who found fhat 600-calorie muffin. He’s getting a kick out of seeing all the flip-floppers.
That was a weird one, because it literally feels like I met those guys last week. But it hasn’t been a week; it’s been long enough for Jethro to do West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachussetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire! And for me to do part of Maine.
The other weird thing was that today I met a guy who started on April 22. And I started March 7! Embarrassing. Except he didn’t seem judgmental about it. He just said something along the lines of, “Oh my god, I heard you had terrible weather!”
So here I am again, in my tent at twilight while winter creeps in outside. I can hear the brook a few feet from my tent. A tick just crawled up the outside, but the permethrin seems to still be working. The tick got confused and stopped moving, then twitched a little and eventually just dropped off. First tick I’ve seen in Maine.
The mosquitoes were fresh and fierce this afternoon, though, when it turned briefly to summer. I got chewed on a bit before I broke down and DEETed up. Oh, and I saw two toads!
Tomorrow: Some mountains. And probably shelter to shelter all the way to Andover.