Little Swift River Pond Campsite [mile 1243.6; SOBO 225.2]
The watchword for today is… squelchy! As in mud.
I passed a NOBO who said if he could figure out how to sell mud, he’d be a rich man.
It poured rain overnight. Blondie was at the shelter last night, along with section hiker Bypass and NOBO Hermes. There was also another tenter who was blasting talk radio, so I’d tucked myself into a forested corner far from him.
This morning I knew immediately that it was one of those days. In addition to the rain, I woke up to a mystery, a deep deep mystery. The stuff sack for my sleeping bag has vanished. Vanished! Last night I unstuffed the quilt; this morning, the stuff sack is gone.
I live in a tent. It’s not a very big tent, but all my gear (except shoes, poles, and water) lives inside with me. There’s nowhere for stuff to go. I’ve emptied every bag, looked in every pocket, and literally turned everything inside out. The stuff sack’s gone!
Remember that glove that went missing in the Smokies and showed up a week later while I was in the privy? Hey, my headlamp batteries kept dying then, too! It’s the return of the haunted hike!
The stuff sack is more annoying than anything else. It’s actually the stuff sack for my Western Mountaineering bag at home. But the day got weirder after that.
I overslept, despite sleeping deeply and having vivid dreams. I lost the stuff sack, which threw my packing system off. I packed up in the rain. But all the while I was thinking about this food issue. I was already stretched too thin, and because of my misreading of the book, I might have to squeeze another day out. I didn’t really have enough food. Oh, I had something to eat for every meal, but the calories were too low.
I thought while I walked, and I said to the trail, “Trail, I need a little guidance here.” I decided if Blondie was at the road (2 miles away) trying to hitch into Rangeley, I’d see if he was willing to stay a night there. And if he was, I’d hitch with him. That way there’d be somebody to hitch back with in the morning. And I could just do a big resupply and skip Andover, which Hermes said is limited and expensive.
But the day got weirder. First I had an emergency call of nature. I threw my pack down, grabbed my toilet paper, and ran onto the woods just in time to do my business. After which I realized I’d grabbed bug spray, not toilet paper. Awkward!
Later a flock of NOBOs passed me, coming fresh from town. I asked where they’d stayed and whether there was a shuttle, and they told me there was a guy down at the parking lot in a red car at that very moment. He shuttles hikers to his hostel.
So I hiked fast.
When I got to the parking lot, sure enough, Red Car Guy was sitting in a lawn chair talking to a guy. There was another guy there smoking, and we chatted. I asked him his advice: push on to Andover with not quite enough food? Or go to Rangeley and lose the day?
His solution was to give me two Mountain House dinners—the big ones! Trail magic! His name is Cowboy and he’s an archaeologist. He’s working on a project to get the whole AT on the National Register. (Register of what, I wonder? I should have asked, but I didn’t want to sound stupid. Instead I’ll sound stupid on the internet.)
I said I was stoveless and he said they reconstitute fine cold. And I know ramen noodles do, so I took ’em and thanked him profusely! That made the decision for me. I can hold out until Andover!
Emperor was in the parking lot, fresh from Rangeley. He looked all clean and showered and coffeed. He said the weather forecast is two days of rain. (Coffee. Mmmmmm. Maybe I should get my stove back.)
My goal today was to get to the next shelter. The trail had some ups and downs, but not bad ones (for Maine). The terrain was pretty good (for Maine)—mostly the big issue was mud. Bogs. Deep sucking mud bogs.
Then, late morning, the inevitable disaster happened. I fell, and it was the second worst fall of the hike (second only to falling off the baby cliff back in Virginia; note that I’ve redefined my notion of ‘cliff’).
I was moving along at a decent pace, not too fast but making good time, when either I slipped on a root or I stubbed my toe and tripped (I’m not sure which; it happened fast)… and I landed right on a root. With my face.
It was horrible. Have you ever been hit in the face with a pitched softball (or is the fact that I have just further evidence of my lack of any athletic ability whatsoever)? This was just like the time I got nailed in the face with a pitched softball. I just lay there for a minute to see if I was conscious. Yep, conscious. So I sat up in the dirt and prodded my nose. Some pain across the bridge, but no blood. I checked my glasses. Not broken.The bridge of my nose was a little swollen and had a little cut. Nothing wiggled in a way that it shouldn’t.
How can I have landed hard enough on my face for my glasses to have cut the bridge of my nose without breaking the glasses? Weird, and lucky. But my nose, thank gods, wasn’t broken. That would have been bad. (Although probably not disastrous; I was only three or four miles from Red Car Guy and a ride to Rangeley—not that it would have been pleasant to walk them.)
What hurts worse are my knees. They smashed into roots, too, so now they hurt inside and outside. My upper lip and teeth hurt. My forehead seems to have escaped. Weird.
Right after that I ran into an old NOBO buddy, a guy named Spoon, whom I met at Partnership Shelter. After we reunionized I asked him how my nose looked, and he said a little swollen and a little cut, but not bad. (I knew that much from my mirror and the phone.)
But I was done. The day started weird and had gone severely pear shaped after that. And I passed a NOBO Australian I didn’t know who mentioned this beautiful campsite and how perfect it was. So I stopped here.
Here I am eating cold Mountain House lasagna. My first Mountain House ever, believe it or not! Pretty good! I washed off the knees and looked everything over, and it’s all within acceptable limits. I’m four miles short of the goal for today, but it is what it is. Maybe I’ll end up being a ‘LASHer’ (the self-proclaimed ‘long-ass section hikers’). I have no clue; but then again, I’ve always tended to fall outside the labels. I’m just hiking until I’m not or until Thanksgiving, whichever comes first. I’ll try to hit the trail at 6 AM and make up the miles tomorrow. Ha!
Blondie showed up a little while ago and gave me popcorn from town. He woke up late (later than I did!) and still managed to hitch to Rangeley (after walking halfway there, four miles), resupply, eat, get back on the trail, and catch up to me. Youth! He’s headed to the next shelter.
So I’m at this official campsite, and they have a spring and a privy. I just went to the privy. And don’t you know, it wasn’t toilet paper in my hand when I was finished, but a baggie full of baggies? Awkward!
This day won’t end!
Edited to add: Found the stuff sack! It was disguised as a trash bag. Maybe now this jinx from hell is over!